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Monday, March 30, 2009

New Music Monday, March 30, 2009

One little editorial comment before I mention the new music I like this week... I started this blog about a month ago (Feb 28, 2009) and I just want to thank each of you who poke your heads in periodically and read for even a few moments. I'm having a lot of fun with it, and it's wonderful to find various points of connection with all the different circles of people I know. Thanks for reading. Many special thanks to those who have passed on opinions, comments, pointers, feedback, or even a casual "loved your blog" in an email. These all make my day. Thanks.

Now on to music...

I'm going to throw you a curveball. I landed on an artist - who is actually a modern composer - this weekend who I am very intrigued by. His name is Arvo Pärt and he is Estonian and let's be honest, I'm not 100% where that is (somewhere among the "stans" in the former USSR I'm sure)....

I subscribe to Paste Magazine, which is absolutely fantastic and it reviews all manner of music, books, video games, film and culture. I curled up with my new issue on the couch this Saturday after a nice long bike ride, and read the music reviews.

When it got to my new BFF Arvo, it said,
  • Pärt continues his sacred investigations with homegrown choir and orchestra...
  • Pärt’s music fulfills a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion…
  • His later works imbued minimalism with religious fervor…
  • Pärt’s gaze penetrates the crease between earth and the heavens…
Clearly, this is not your average fresh-outta-Nashville-overproduced-Christian music. It sounded like it could be beautiful.

So I hunted around on the web and found this on last.fm:
Pärt is often identified with the school of minimalism and more specifically, that of “holy minimalism” or “sacred minimalism”. He is considered a pioneer of this style, along with contemporaries Henryk Gorecki and John Tavener.
Um, I have no idea what "sacred minimalism" is, but I wanted to find out.

So I went to these websites. The music really resonated with me:
Do not be daunted by it initially - yes, it's choral music, sort of classical and all that. Stop scrunching your nose!

Pärt has said that his music "is similar to light going through a prism: the music may have a slightly different meaning for each listener, thus creating a spectrum of musical experience, similar to the rainbow of light."

This is not "cleaning-your-house" music or something to have on in the background while you file stuff on your desk... this is music intended to be listened to through good headphones in a comfortable chair. It has so many layers and textures and harmonies and threads... I ordered a CD rather than a download because I want to make sure to get the liner notes and understand as much as I can about what is being played and sung. His latest album has five compositions about the Book of John, and he often dedicates music (requiems, mostly) to those killed through political injustice.

On a lighter note... here are some other artists I like the sound of - the free sample CDs from Paste have songs of theirs on them.
  • Kate York
  • Loney Dear (I love the Swedish music scene right now - Jens Lekman is a favorite)
  • Jeremy Messersmith
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  • Okkervil River
  • Michael Franti & Spearhead
  • Rosie Thomas
All for now. Have a good Spring Break, you lucky dogs who get one!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

That THAT, Mrs. Rivas!

So I have many dubious accomplishments in my life. Here's one of them:

I was the first girl at McKinley Jr High School in Redwood City, CA to take (and complete) wood shop.

Not a big deal in 2009. But in, um, 1974 (shoot, it was that long ago?!), girls took home ec and boys took wood shop. Period.

I threw a wrench in the works however, by FLUNKING Home Ec in 7th grade. Yep. Because Mrs. Rivas, the teacher, only helped the girls that already knew how to sew.... how does THAT make sense?? So she poured all her attention and cooing affirmations (no, I'm not bitter) onto her precious students who could make Jiffy pattern dresses while poor Kelly-with-the-bad-Mrs.-Brady-shag-haircut-and-glasses-who-couldn't-sew was left to her own devices. And got a flunking grade for the saddest-looking pillow on the planet. And I was so shaken by this experience that I then went on to flounder in the cooking portion of the class as well.

I was devastated - not really because I couldn't sew (although all THE cool girls could), but because I could not get promoted out of jr high without this home ec requirement. I was a very good student academically (thank goodness), so they were motivated to figure out a solution. Thus the move into wood shop. Which terrified me because Mr. Hamilton, the teacher, had missing fingers on one of his hands - which does not promote confidence in a wood shop teacher, if you follow me...

Anyway, I survived, I made a lovely jewelry box (which I still have, thank you very much) and a set of bookends. I am woman, hear me roar!

That little tale brings me to today, where I can say that I would pass home ec with flying colors now - ok, maybe not flying colors because I still do not sew but people, I can COOK!

Look at what I made last night for dinner. I'm proudly holding the recipe I used from Vegetarian Times to make Deep-Dish Skillet Pizza. Not only did it look just like the photo in the magazine (how often does that happen?!), but it tasted splendiferous, in my oh-so-humble opinion. So here's the recipe. Go crazy.

serves 6
PREHEAT oven to 475 degrees

1 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 pkg dry yeast (1/4 oz)
3/4 c whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tb flax meal or ground flaxseed
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt

Dissolve brown sugar in 1/2 c warm water in large bowl. Stir in yeast, let stand 5 minutes, or until liquid is cloudy & bubbly. Stir in whole-wheat flour, 1/4 c all-purpose flour, flax meal, oil & salt. Knead 2 minutes while adding 1/4 c flour. Oil separate bowl, and turn dough in oil to coat. Cover, let rise in warm spot until dough doubles in size -- about 45 minutes.

2 tb olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tb)
8 c loosely packed kale (I used chard)
1 c slikced mushrooms
1 tsp ground fennel seed
2 tb neufchatel cheeze (I used mozzarella)
1 c crumbled feta cheese (4 oz)
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tb chopped fresh oregano or basil

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, and saute 2 minutes. Add kale, cover, and cook 15 minutes, or until kale is softened, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and fennel seed, cook 7-10 minutes more, or until all liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, stir in neufchatel cheese (or wait on the mozzarella so it doesn't get globby....)

Oil bottom and sides of a 12-inch cast iron skillet. With floured hands, pat & stretch dough over bottom and halfway up sides of skillet. Let dough rest 5 minutes. Spread kale mixture on dough; scatter feta, tomatoes, and oregano or basil on top. Place skillet directly on oven floor, bake 15 minutes. Remove carefully from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Breathe Deep

I took today off... but only from email. I spent the day reading and writing. Two brief statements stick in my soul today. They are not necessarily related, but they each speak to different rhythms beating in my life.

There is no situation so chaotic that God cannot from
that situation create something that is surpassingly good.
He did it at the creation. He did it at the cross.
He is doing it today.
Bishop Handley Moule (1841-1920)

A pretentious, showy life is an empty life;
a plain and simple life is a full life.

Proverbs 13:7 (from The Message)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Recipe, March 26, 2009

That's right, it's time for another organic, seasonal AND tasty recipe. This one comes to us courtesy of Vegetarian Times, the magazine subscription I received for my birthday from Steph and Claire (thanks ladies!). I made this last night for dinner and it was... spectacular, if I do say so myself. It is incredibly flavorful and filling. Don't be a hater about fennel either - it's as weird looking as kohlrabi, and you might be put off by its subtle anise (licorice) flavor when it's raw, but it gives this recipe a cool flair.

I served this over brown rice. If you want to do that, remember to get it started at first, since it takes quite a bit longer to steam than white rice.

serves 6 | vegan | gluten-free
(all of that might sound boring to you, but it's not!)

3 tb vegetable oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 lg fennel bulb - halved & thinly sliced
1 lg onion - halved & sliced into half moons (my housemate hates onions, so I substituted shallots, which aren't as pungent in flavor and... "effect")
1/2 head cabbage - cored & thinly sliced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or hot sauce of your choice
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
2 tb fresh lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala or curry powder

Heat oil in wok or deeper skillet over medium heat. Add fennel seeds and cumin seeds, and saute 30 seconds. Add fresh fennel and onion (or shallot), season with salt, and saute for 5 minutes. Add cabbage into pan, turn down heat to low and cover. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until cabbage has cooked down, stirring often.

Add cayenne pepper, cover and cook another 20 minutes, or until vegetables are browned and carmelized. Stir in garbanzo beans, lemon juice and garam masala, and cook 5 minutes more until beans are heated through. Serve over rice.

I topped this with a little plain yogurt, but you don't have to.

P.S. Not to brag or anything (OK, maybe a little), the other recipes I'm using these next few days from this February issue of Vegetarian Times:
  • Bread Pudding
  • Deep Dish Skillet Pizza
  • Fettucine with Three-Herb Pesto & Kale

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thank you Providence Hall!

Nearly every Tuesday and Wednesday since January 13 of this year I have had the privilege of teaching the "Christian Foundations" class at Providence Hall. My time there came to an end today as the school winds down for Spring Break. A new instructor will be stepping into this position after they return - the school likes to rotate the instructor for this course, in order to expose the students to as many teachers and viewpoints as possible.

So I was actually fortunate to get to stay so long, and I am so grateful. I fell in love with the students & faculty at Providence, and I will always smile when I think of this group. I also many fond memories of Karate Kid ("wax on, wax off"), Daniel-San, GPMC (you KNOW who you are!), manuscript method, art projects at the desk in the hall, the "shuns," and my really fun subbing day in Humanities, where we took field trips to visit my Buddy scooter :)

I hope you learned a thing or two about leadership from our time in Philippians, and more about what you yourself believe from our time in the Apostles' Creed. I sure did!

To paraphrase the Apostle Paul from our study in Philippians,

"I want YOU to know Christ..."

Philippians 3:10

Great love to each of you. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your community for these weeks - thanks especially to Dr. Wilson for your help, and to all the faculty. You are so wonderful! I will come by to visit again soon.

P.S. This photo of Chad - he is laughing - not barfing :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Living in the Present is Hard to Do

Hum today's title to the tune of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do..." :)

Sorry, that's really lame.

I am at such an intriguing period in my life. I have always lived in the context of a full schedule with a big pile of responsibilities, a ton of relationships to manage, and a long-range calendar.

But since November 08, during my sabbatical and now in this time of waiting and exploring in terms of "what's next?" in my calling and career, I am now living one day at a time. It is as if I was driving 65 mph on the freeway, and was somehow able to shift the car into reverse. After coming to a screeching halt with a lot of dust and noise, the car is slowly moving, creeking and crunching, in this new direction.

Today's reading in my Diary of Readings begins to touch on what this about-face feels like... it's written by some priest who died in 1751 named Jean Pierre de Caussade:
Let us then think only of the present and follow the order of God, let us leave the past to His mercy, the future to Providence, striving peaceably all the time and without anxiety, first of all for salvation; and for the rest, let us leave its success entirely to God, casting on His parental bosom all our vain anxieties….
This says to me that I cannot keep dwelling on "what if's"... I have to trust in God's plans, and not try to make things "work" or "succeed" on my own power.
Happy the persons who, in order to become more recollected in God and more disposed to prayer, are able to banish constantly all this waste of the spirit, retaining only what is in the strictest sense necessary for the present which so soon passes, and for the future which will not be what one imagines and perhaps will never come.
Quit wasting your time on worry and trying to change things you cannot change. Peel away the fluff and the junk that you fill your time with, and simplify. Be prepared for things to not turn out the way you expect them to - be open to God's imagination, which is far better than yours.

I looked up de Caussade's bio online, and it said he was a spiritual director for a community of nuns. This is the sort of advice he would give to them:
De Caussade's perennial advice was to welcome whatever was given in the present moment as flowing directly from God. Such abandonment to God is the heart of the spiritual life. And though we might not always get the things we want, we will have peace. Why? For God is peace, and we will always have God, who is our innermost being.
That just makes my head hurt trying to understand it. But I am thankful that the Spirit slowly peels back the layers of meaning in my soul. May it be so during this time of my life -- and always.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Not Much New Music Monday... March 23, 2009

I was gone all weekend, speaking to some really great students involved with Friday Night Live clubs from all other Southern California. I had a fantastic time with them - they were friendly, fun, willing to speak up, laugh hard and take risks. I pray they will "Just Say Yes" to the real things in life, and not settle for less...

On Mondays I usually talk about new music I'm listening to. But I haven't had time to check out some new music I've gotten. So I'm just going to list what I'm listening to right now. I believe you will not be disappointed by:
  • William Fitzsimmons - the dude has a trippy beard and his bio on his website is pretty intense. I really, really like his music. I play it over and over and over....
  • Shelly Moore Band - good worship music that is clean-sounding and not over-produced. Good, raw sound.
  • Caedmon's Call - I've talked about them before. Amazing.
  • Avett Brothers - Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I like it when I can hear the lyrics. They have great guitar work, and fun acoustic sounds overall.
Off to bed. Still tired from the weekend.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Habits - always a work in progress

This morning in A Diary of Readings, this struck me:

Could the young but realize how soon they will become
walking bundles of habits,
they would give more heed to their conduct
while in the plastic state.

William James

I agree. Although I do pray that at my not-so-young age that I am still in a somewhat "plastic state." I would say that my sabbatical (Nov 1, 2008 to Feb 1, 2009) was an exercise in cultivating and deepening some habits - old ones and new ones.

I'm tilling the soil of my heart to root these habits down deep:
  • Daily Bible reading. Supposedly a given for Christians, but it's so easy for this to become mechanical. We engage our eyes, maybe even our minds in some ways, but with our hearts left behind, it can become merely an item to check off of a daily to-do list. Consistent, expectant reading each day has nurtured an appetite in my soul for this. I find myself craving it each day. Glorious. And if the trend of I'm too tired to get up and do this starts happening more than one day in a row, then I'm doing too much and need to go to bed earlier. Period.
  • Reading at night. It is beyond tempting to just flop on the couch after a long day and turn on something on TV. There are enough decent shows out there that it can become so easy to commit certain nights to certain shows... While I'll confess a definitive commitment to watching The Office on Thursday nights, I'm seeking to spend 2-3 nights a week in a quiet house, reading books, sometimes writing.
  • Daily exercise. My brain, my lower back (I hate admitting that), my heart... all of me needs a walk, a bike ride, or some dose of Vitamin D. Even a half hour. I try to ride my bike 4-5 times a week, but on the days I know I won't get that in, I put on a pedometer and make myself find 10,000 steps in a given day. Dorky, and proud of it!
  • Cooking at home/Eating seasonally. Again, in the rush of life, it's easier to pick something up on the way home. But I'm being won over to the Slow Food lifestyle - where I'm not only cooking at home, but using recipes (versus opening a frozen pizza, putting it in the oven and calling that cooking!), carving out time to slow down and not eating in a rush. Since I belong to Fairview Gardens, I'm also trying to eat seasonally - so yes, I would rather eat red peppers every day of the year. But I have to wait for them to be in season - which grows anticipation and patience in me. Buying food from Fairview makes me be more creative - for example, tonight my goal is to find a recipe that uses chard, leeks and turnips. Scrunch your face and say eew, or realize that spices and simmering can rock your world. I just found "Country Chicken Stew" - stay tuned.
Do you see a theme? I'll put it out there - I'm trying to DO LESS. We are too busy. I resonate with James' phrase walking bundle of habits, and on my sabbatical I realized I didn't like some of my habits. So I am praying for change and working at it, bit by bit.

And you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thought for the Day

Good writing should help readers to “become less alone inside.”

D.T. Max, writing about the work of
David Foster Wallace, March 9, 2009 issue of New Yorker

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Parent Phorwarding Phenomena?

OK. To quote Ricky Ricardo, 'Splain it to me, Lucy!

Why do our parents love to FORWARD emails? Don't get me wrong.... I'm fortunate in that the majority of the emails my mom forwards are actually somewhat interesting - they are usually related to politics, cute animals and corny jokes.

But I guess I'm just thinking out loud here... why is it that she doesn't really send originally written emails? She primarily uses email to simply forward emails written by other people. And oh, it's my absolute FAVORITE when one of the people she's forwarded to (and yes, that is usually a bunch of her friends from college on up to today) hit Reply All. Yes sirree, good times indeed.

I have had four people tell me in the last two days - all different ages - that their parents do the same thing. And I wasn't polling - this came up in casual conversation.

In fact, these friends each have separate folders in their email programs set up specifically to store the forwards from their parents. So that when that parent calls to find out why they haven't "replied" to the email (and tell me why we would, since it's simply a FORWARD and not an actual piece of direct communication), they can go to the folder and say, "Oh yeah, Mom, here it is right here...." I swear that I do not have a separate folder for such things. I am a GOOD daughter.

I say it again: 'Splain it to me, Lucy!

But I cannot fight it. It is like taxes and gravity. So in the spirit of parent-forwarded emails, I must end today's post with the latest forward my mom sent to me this week. Yes, I sort of went pale when I saw the title... keep in mind it was from my 73 year-old mom:

"Pole Dance"

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Music Monday, March 16, 2009

Just got a cool email yesterday about a new site called Brite Revolution. It's a music website committed to social justice - if you join for $4.99/month, you get two new songs from a great selection of artists, and 10% of the proceeds go to various social justice orgs, most of which serve in the name of Christ.

My two songs this month were by Caedmon's Call and Randall Goodgame. Caedmon's is probably my favorite Christian band. They consistently produce utterly outstanding music AND significant and authentic lyrics. Their song Table for Two probably is the best summary of my life ever written. I'll just leave it there.

My other off-the-charts, can't-say-enough-about-'em bands right now is The Welcome Wagon. These two folks - a married couple, Vito & Monique Aiuto - pastor a church in Brooklyn and are friends with Sufjan Stevens. Their music is winsome and totally fresh. I read an interview of theirs in Paste Magazine and was intrigued. They did not disappoint upon further inspection. Check 'em out. (PS I sorta wish I had a name like "Vito Aiuto," don't you? Or even "Sufjan"?)

Off Topic P.S. If you lost any sleep over the near tragic toaster oven experience reported yesterday, rest assured all is well again in my kitchen. Got a great deal on a new t.o. at Kmart, along with a replacement fire extinguisher. Phew. Still gotta figure out why my smoke alarms, which go off when I snuff a candle or one of us takes an extra steamy shower, did NOT go off when I actually HAD a fire. Hmmm.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Homemade Potato Chips - Part Two

Um, so.... IF you make the potato chips I wrote about on March 7, just one more "little" note....


I was cravin' some of them today, so I whipped up a little cookie sheet of my chippies and thought to myself that it would be more efficient in terms of energy to cook 'em in the toaster oven - smaller oven, less heat needed, etc. Whether or not that's true I have no idea. But it sounded very green and smart.

So I turned on the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. Then I went into my home office to do some email.

After several emails and a little surfing on the internet, I could smell them cooking and thought YIPPEE they are ready, and headed back out to the kitchen.

And they were in flames.

Yep. I'm not exaggerating. This was a orange-flames-coming-out-of-the-toaster-oven-needed-a-fire-extinguisher-and-now-a-new-toaster-oven experience. Seriously.

Go ahead and giggle as you picture me walking quickly in circles, trying to stay calm as I thought through my options in quick succession:
  1. throw water on it - oh wait, it's an electrical appliance plugged into the wall
  2. grab the burning tray with an oven mitt - oh wait, that might light my hand on fire
  3. use the "I think it's expired and I've never used one" fire extinguisher that I actually have
Clearly, I opted for #3.

So let's review:
  • Own a fire extinguisher
Now I'm on to the internet to price some toaster ovens.... and fire extinguishers....

Podcasts Anyone?

I'm really curious as to how many of you listen to podcasts. I've become quite hooked on them, and listen to at least one every day. In fact, I barely watch TV anymore - I'd much rather listen to a podcast, especially when I am walking, riding my bike or traveling out of town.

Here's a list of the ones I listen to - I subscribe to all of them through iTunes. Please share on this blog as to what podcasts you listen to by posting a comment below. Thanks!
  • A Prairie Home Companion's News from Lake Wobegone - he just makes me laugh.
  • Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac - I mentioned this yesterday. I don't get something out of it every day. But I find myself learning a lot from it over time. I've also learned about or been reminded of some great authors here.
  • KCRW's Left, Right & Center - this is a stimulating roundtable on politics. The various members' comments annoy me at times, but I take that as a good sign. The whole thing gives a decent flyover of the issues of the week .
  • KCRW's Today's Top Tune - good exposure to different kinds of music.
  • New Yorker: Out Loud - I am an addicted subscriber to the magazine. It's fun to hear interviews of the writers.
  • NPR: All Songs Considered - I've mentioned this before in this space. This is intelligent commentary on all sorts of music. My favorite is when they invite an artist to guest DJ and play some of their greatest influences. Totally cool.
  • NPR: Sports with Frank Deford - this guy is an old crank, but very articulate. He gives a great spin on sports and culture. And he's a classic fan.
  • Paste Culture Club - only once a month, but it's a good supplement to All Songs Considered. It expands on that month's issue of Paste Magazine, which is an outstanding music & culture magazine that I really enjoy.
  • This American Life - perhaps my favorite. It's an entire hour, but it is luxurious in its telling of stories. It's nearly impossible to describe, but it's always fascinating. It's so real and honest that sometimes I feel like I'm eavesdropping on someone's life. Funny, weird, intense, different.
Yes, this is sort of a long list, and it takes me a week (and exercising every day) to chip away at it. But it keeps the pot stirred mentally. I dig it all.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

You Just Never Know...

I receive Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac everyday through email and podcast. I get to hear a little poetry everyday, and fun trivia about writers, politicians, celebrities, and historic figures in general. I think Garrison Keillor is a genius at whatever he does.

Today's entry had this paragraph, and I found it delightful.

It's the birthday of Albert Einstein, born in Ulm, Germany (1879). He was taught at home for a while, and when he finally went to school, his teachers thought he was developmentally disabled. In high school, one of his teachers tried to expel him because all he did in class was sit in the back of the room smiling. He finally dropped out at the age of 16.

I can relate a bit to this - I was shy, awkward, glasses sliding down my nose, terrible at kickball, desperate to fit in but completely unable to for all of elementary school and jr high. I have to admit, I wish I had been sitting in the back of the classroom smiling. What a great image.

For me it was more like I sat frozen in my seat, completely self-conscious and afraid to say a word. (I know, I know, difficult to imagine now!)

I sure am glad Jesus grabbed me by the back of the collar at 15 and got my attention. He set me free in so many ways. I wasn't even looking for him - heck, I didn't even know he was there. Glad he was looking out for me. I'll never understand how all that works, but I'm relieved from where I stand. Phew.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Fluff

Today's entry will be "lite" - March Madness starts this weekend and it's stinkin' beautiful outside -- so I will not be sitting in front of my computer logging a long blog entry!

I subscribe to a daily email from UrbanDictionary.com, and there were not one but TWO good entries from this week:

Social Notworking:

The practice of spending time unproductively on social-networking websites, especially when one should be working.

Joe - Hey, Mark is constantly updating his Facebook status, does he not have any work to do?

John - His company obviously doesnt realise how much Social Notworking he is doing!



Being inundated and exhausted trying to be on top of all your email 24/7 with your handheld mobile device

Now that I have a BlackBerry, I feel obliged to attend to all my email day and night, it makes me feel BlackBuried


Have a great weekend. Get some rest. Go slow. Sit in the sunshine. Let yourself get bored by keeping it simple. Blessings on you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Recipe, March 12, 2009

I'm trying to keep up the rhythm of a recipe each week... this one is fast, simple, and flexible. Sort of like me :)

This is a "oh my gosh, it's 4pm, I don't know what I'm making for dinner and I don't want to spend money eating out" dinner


1 small onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup baby carrots, sliced into rounds or strips (I hate carrots, so I don't usually put these in)
1 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
1/2 cup fresh spinach, cut into strips (or whole leaf frozen) (I've used cabbage or kale as well)
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks (optional)
1 small can beans: pink, kidney, or white (or garbanzo beans)
1 15-oz can stewed tomatoes (I buy these in 12-packs @ Costco to always have on hand)
1 can vegetable broth
1/3 cup barley (or tiny elbow macaroni, or quinoa)
1 tbsp olive oil
Cooking spray
Spices to taste (oregano, bay, basil, salt, a bit o' hot sauce, caraway seeds…)

On high heat, saute the onions and carrots in cooking spray a few minutes, stirring often. When onions begin to turn transparent, add the zucchini (and peppers) and quit stirring. Allow the zucchini to brown slightly.

Add the broth, the stewed tomatoes (undrained) and the beans (undrained). Add barley. Bring to a boil and simmer until grain is cooked. Add spinach when soup is nearly done, so it does not overcook.

This soup lasts well but thickens over time. To keep the proportions working, add more broth or stewed tomatoes. Serve with toast on the side, or if there is enough broth, tear up bread and put it in the soup.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I get a quote from Henri Nouwen every day (OK, maybe not Henri Nouwen himself, but y'know... go to www.henrinouwen.org and select "Free E-Lists" to subscribe.) Today's reading is striking. During my sabbatical I really tried to cultivate the habit and spiritual discipline of listening.

Which is surprisingly difficult to do. Not just because we live in a busy, noisy world. My head and heart are very noisy as well. I'm always thinking, worrying, wandering, planning. I'm rarely still.

Yet I have always taught students and adults with whom I am working in youth ministry to learn how to truly listen to those we are loving and serving. Too often, we don't listen as much as just stop talking. While the other person is talking, we are either formulating a rebuttal to what they are saying, trying to figure out a way to get the conversation back on ourselves... or we are daydreaming. Nice.

Listen to what Nouwen says about this - what strikes you in this? Leave a comment.

Listening as Spiritual Hospitality

To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.

Lovely. Thank you Jesus.

Then I picked up where I left off in my current reading of the Book of Job. Look at what showed up today in Job 40:3-5 (The Message). Yikes.

"I'm speechless, in awe—words fail me.
I should never have opened my mouth!
I've talked too much, way too much.
I'm ready to shut up and listen."

Got it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Free Music for You... and a P.S.

Just got this link from Twitter (aren't I just so-o-o-o high tech) and it's a good one.

Go to http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101438331 and get 10 free songs downloaded into your iTunes - a sweet sampler from the upcoming SXSW (South by Southwest) music fest in Austin, TX.

Groups I'm most excited about in this sampler... Avett Brothers, Blitzen Trapper and The Decemberists. But I also LOVE free music, so it's happy day all the way around. Try to follow SXSW - I hear about a lot of good music from podcasts I get from this festival.

Funny PS for the day: normally on Tuesdays and Wednesdays I teach at Providence Hall in the morning. But I got bumped today because they had a special speaker. When they asked me to adjust my schedule this week for this special speaker, I envisioned some great missionary or Christian athlete. The usual, right?

"So who is the special speaker?" I ask absent-mindedly as I'm checking my calendar...

"Dennis Miller."

I pause. I cannot have heard that right. Former-host-of-SNL-Weekend-Update Dennis Miller?? I ask again, and funny, I get the same answer. Yes indeed, turns out I got bumped by THE Dennis Miller. Could be my one brush with greatness. I say this Goleta youth pastor just squished six degrees of separation down to about... 2.5?

Monday, March 9, 2009

New Music Monday, March 9, 2009

True confessions: this music isn't really "new," exactly. It's not that new in terms of its release, and it's not new to me. But maybe ... it's new to you?

I love sharing the music I'm listening to. That's about it.

1. TEN SHEKEL SHIRT http://www.tenshekelshirt.com/
This group might be familiar to you. You may have sung songs by them in church - Meet with Me, Healer, and Unashamed Love are rather well known.

I loved their album Much in 2001, and played it to death. In fact, I don't have it anymore - I kept loaning it to people for them to hear it. If you have it, could you get it back to me?!

They came out with Risk a couple of years later, then they disappeared. I wondered where they went (just like Jennifer Knapp, hello?!), and late last summer they finally reappeared. I think it was worth the wait. The album is titled Jubilee. Turns out they were busy pursuing social justice issues for a few years, which is totally impressive.

Their music is not like much of Christian music - predictable and over-produced. Their lyrics are solid. The title song is my favorite right now - these lines are from the chorus:

I breathe in peace
And exhale songs
Of newfound love
For the place I belong...

I mean, seriously... so good.

2. JOHANN JOHANNSSON http://www.johannjohannsson.com/
I heard this guy on KCRW's Today's Top Tune podcast http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/tu and was immediately hooked. I hit replay SIX times. Seriously. The song was Fordlandia - which is 13 minutes long on the album, but the sample I heard was only six minutes.

The music is instrumental, ambient, electronica, but sort of classic at the same time. He uses looping and synthesizers and string quartets. It's soundtrack-for-your-life type of music. I never get tired of it. I like this album the way I liked Moby's Play. It's that good. Give it a listen.

I have others, but I'll hold out till another time.... the Lakers are on!

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

John Baillie's A Diary of Readings is a banquet of great devotional writers. I would recommend it highly.

Here is a portion of what I read this morning:



WHAT, Lord, is the trust which I have in this life, or what is my greatest comfort among all the things that appear under heaven? Is it not You, O Lord, my God, Whose mercies are without number? Where have I ever fared well but for You? Or how could things go badly when You were present?

I had rather be poor for Your sake than rich without You. I prefer rather to wander on the earth with You than to possess heaven without You. Where You are there is heaven, and where You are not are death and hell.

You are my desire and therefore I must cry after You and sigh and pray. In none can I fully trust to help me in my necessities, but in You alone, my God. You are my hope. You are my confidence. You are my consoler, most faithful in every need.

Book Three, Chapter Fifty-Nine

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Work of Writing

William Boyd, Scottish novelist and playwright, said about his work habits:

"I try to put in a good eight hours a day. Often I write in libraries. I don't have to be inspired. I don't need total silence. I don't worry about writer's block, which I think is a self-fulfilling prophecy. ... I do enjoy writing. I know some writers enjoy the invention but find the writing an endless night of the soul. I don't.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Homemade Potato Chips

No recipe earlier this week, because every 3rd week our friend Steph gets the Fairview share.

But 4605 Granada Circle is not living without Fairview produce, no sirree! We just made our own potato chips - baked. And we used one of Fairview's purple potatoes, which are so pretty.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Use a big grater or a food processor (or a really sharp knife - but I don't trust myself) and slice the potatoes very thin. You don't want to see through them, but maybe a little.

Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray, then lay out the potato slices. Spray them lightly again, then sprinkle Lawry's Seasoning Salt, or garlic salt, all over 'em.

Bake for 15 minutes. Nice and crunchy. Much lower in fat. Unless you dip them in ranch dressing.

Empty Hands

It's unkind to a poet to only insert a stanza of their work, but due to the general lack of patience that most of us have with poetry, here is only one from a poem I read this morning. It is my prayer during these "what's next?" days.

My spirit bare before Thee stands;
I bring no gift, I ask no sign,
I come to Thee with empty hands,
The surer to be filled from Thine.

Dora Greenwell

Friday, March 6, 2009

When Do I Pray?

Read this slowly, once or twice, for its truth to sink in. Be patient with the language - it's a little fancy-shmancy because it was written in the 18th century -- but it's worth your concentration.

"Are we not of the number of those who... have no object in their prayers but temporal benefits, those who pray earnestly for the fatness of the earth but never ask for the dew of heaven?

Events & circumstances awaken our religion, as though there were no need to pray to God except in illness & sorrow. As soon as affairs take a turn for the better and the danger is past, our devotion vanishes; the most we think of doing is to thank God for the successful end of our troubles; after a short act of gratitude we forget Him, and think of nothing but our pleasures....

God is forgotten as soon as our needs are supplied, as soon as our evils are averted and our blessings secured.
Jean Nicolas Grou

How much do I pray about my life in Christ vs. the concerns of my everyday life? Ouch.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Privilege

During my sabbatical I was able to read read read, to my heart's content. Now that my sabbatical is over and I'm back to "work" (yeah, ok, so I'm not really sure what 'work' is yet, but I manage to keep very busy...) I still want to be reading.

The other night, while cleaning out my bedside table, I found a book I haven't looked at in years. It's a treasure. I'm sure you can still find copies on Half.com. It's titled A Diary of Readings by John Baillie. It's a collection of longer quotes, one for each day, "gathered from the wisdom of many centuries... suited to engage serious thought." Baillie also wrote A Diary of Private Prayer, a wonderful devotional.

Here's a portion of today's reading. It's lovely.

I have known what the enjoyments and advantages of this life are, and what the more refined pleasures which learning and intellectual power can bestow; and with all the experience that more than threescore years can give I now, on the eve of my departure, declare to you... that health is a great blessing, competence obtained by honorable industry a great blessing, and a great blessing it is to have kind, faithful and loving friends and relatives; but that the greatest of all blessings, as it is the most ennobling of all privileges, is to be indeed a Christian.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Music Monday

I got some Amazon gift certificates for my birthday, and I'm finally getting around to spending some of 'em!

About 3 months ago I discovered how great it is to download music from Amazon instead of iTunes - it's cheaper and Amazon doesn't put the lame whatever-you-call-it limitations on the way the music comes to you. It's easier to transfer between cd's and computer and iPod and all that yada yada. (Now mind you, I don't buy music and give it to others, if that's what yer thinkin...)

ANYWAY, on to my new purchases that I am just loving....

M. Ward "Hold Time" http://www.myspace.com/mward
I came through the back door to M. Ward. I liked what I had heard on a Paste sample CD of this new little group called She&Him about 8 months ago, and got their CD. Then Justine Wieland, one of my favorite music junkie pals, got tickets to a She&Him concert and let me join her and then BAM I was hooked. And then I lamely figured out that um, M. Ward is WAY more talented than just this little side act thing he was doing with Zooey Deschanel...

So discover M. Ward if you haven't already. Check check check out these lyrics from "Fisher of Men" off his new album. They are so great and complicated and not predictable. How refreshing. And get over it if you don't like the jangly Johnny Cash sound. The lyrics are crazy wonderful.

He tied a feather to the hook for to get you to look
And by the time you know what took you, you already took
He's got a line in the water, he's a fisher of men

He put the thorns on the rose for to get you to bleed
And by the time you know what stuck you, the pain's in deep
He's got a line in the water, he's a fisher of men
He's got a lot on the line, he's a fisher of men

He's a fisher of men and he's wise as a prize fighter
He's like a soul miner mining souls on down the great divide

He put his name in my verses and his name in the hook
Before I knew what I was cooking, it was already cooked
He's got a line in the water, he's a fisher of men

And he put his name in my chorus like the dark before the dawn
So that in my hour of weakness, I'd remember it's his song
He's got a line in the water, he's a fisher of men

You can also get a live concert of this album on one of my favorite podcasts, Live Concerts of All Songs Considered http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15681603 Which you should be taking advantage of if you aren't already.

Bon Iver "Blood Bank" http://www.myspace.com/boniver
Just like M. Ward, and let's be honest, almost all music I listen to, I discovered Bon Iver (pronounce "bone ee-vare") through Paste magazine. I fell in love with "Skinny Love" and "Flume" immediately. Check out the full first album if you haven't - "For Emma, Forever Ago." his first album.

I don't want to say much about it. It's just like soup and warm bread - Bon Iver music is comfort food. Dense music, layered harmonies, acoustic and electric - not too much of either, complicated but intriguing lyrics... the music just sort of wanders around the house and makes it feel relaxed and restful. I like it. Nuff said.