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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Classic New Music

Yeah. "Classic" and "New" -- it's possible.

Just heard about this upcoming release, and it has a limited shelf life online, so check it NOW. There is a new Crosby, Stills & Nash album coming out on June 2.

You read that right.

It's called "Demos," and it's being streamed in its entirety on NPR's All Songs Considered for just a couple of weeks. These are some of their most classic songs in their simplest forms - a guitar and a voice, most of the time. But if you like Justin Vernon and Bon Iver, Guggenheim Grotto, Sam Beam and Iron & Wine, even a lot of M. Ward's stuff, you will LOVE this music. If you're young (um, 30 and under?) you might think CSN are just part of your parents' music. Give them a listen. They made their debut at Woodstock. Incredible, wonderful stuff to hear. I'm not just being sappy and sentimental.

Hard to pick a favorite on this album for me - listening right now as I write this, I would nominate "Love is a Gentle Thing." Post your own vote here.

While you're at it, save the Exclusive First Listen link as a bookmark. NPR posts new albums they like, right before they are released, and streams them for a week or two. I'm all about free, GREAT music....

I will also make a plea for my favorite music magazine, Paste. They are falling on hard times, like many printed publications in this economy. Go to the Campaign to Save Paste link and make a donation, big or small. You will then have access to some outstanding downloads donated by artists who love Paste and want to see the mag make it. Did I mention I also like CHEAP, great music? More importantly, I love Paste. They do a fantastic job getting behind the scenes, giving long & thoughtful interviews, and not giving in to the hype. They also slide in some cool Christian musicians under the radar. Shhh...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sign up NOW for Fairview Gardens Summer Season!

Now is the time, my friends. If you've been wondering if you want to buy a share of Fairview Gardens, wonder no longer. Just try it out for the next 4 months. There will be no going back, I warn you!

If you go for it (summer is THE BEST season), make sure you mention me 'cause I get a $25 gift certificate for every new recruit. Love that discount, I gotta admit. Consider it a contribution to my well-being :) and um, YOURS!

Summers are full of strawberries, tomatoes, apples, figs, cucumbers, nectarines, artichokes, avocados, cilantro, basil, onions, peppers, to name a few.... need I say more??

Here are the "deets" from Jen herself:

Tomorrow is the last pick up day for the CSA Spring Share. I wanted to say thanks for a great season, and I look forward to seeing/meeting you next season.

Since the summer season starts next week, please let people know that they should since up as soon as possible: online, by calling the office, or by paying at the stand. If unable to sign up before next week, continue to spread the word and let prospective members know that they will be reimbursed for the week(s) missed

The farm stand is open 7 days a week from 10am to 6pm.
Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens
598 North Fairview Avenue
Goleta, CA 93117
P: 805.967.7369 F: 805.967.0188

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Westmont Mayterm class

Well, I've been teaching my class for a week, so I wanted to give you a brief update on what we've been doing...

I've got 11 students, and they are serving in a cool variety of ways:
  • Habitat for Humanity - supporting the staff and learning how a local chapter runs
  • Providence Hall High School (2 interns) - student teaching
  • Local churches (2 interns) - one student is leading the 5th/6th ministry, another is assisting with church worship and music for children
  • A Rocha creation care ministry (2 interns) - these students are reviving the organic garden on campus at Westmont (located behind the tennis courts). The goal is to grow some produce for families in need and also offer a hands-on gardening experience for the children of those families
  • The Village (3 interns) - this is a tremendous project on Santa Barbara's Westside. The Turner Foundation purchased a large and crowded apartment complex that was rundown and full of "activity" that was not safe for families. They renovated the apartments and interviewed each new tenant family in order to cultivate "buy in" on the goals of the community. During Westmont's Spring Break this year 45 students served for a week there, running after school Kids Club, installing a play structure, painting and repairing areas of the building, praying daily throughout the neighborhood. Out of that group several students opted to remain for the summer to maintain some of the ministries they started, and 3 of them took my course.
  • Arts outreach - one Fine Arts major is shaping an arts outreach program that I hope to continuously staff with art students from Westmont. As more and more elective programs get cut from school budgets, we hope to still let children at The Village experience the arts and see how God designed us to be creative.
We are studying various aspects (both practical and theological) of ministry that I have learned over the years. So far we have talked about incarnational witness, relational ministry, and how to preach the gospel with words and authenticity.

One of the more exciting goals for me in this class is not only to serve local ministries by training and providing gifted students to them, but to also help these ministries work together. We plan to have the Westside interns bring their Latino youth up to the A Rocha garden to work at it. I also hope that interns from Providence Hall can bring students to work at the garden, and in turn meet the Westside... We've also talked about bringing in the church interns from this class to meet the children at the Village and invite them to youth group activities... This warms my little networking heart :)

Many thanks to those of you who have prayed for me about this class and asked me about it. I'm enjoying the adventure of it, and trusting that Jesus will open doors if he wants me to continue in the fall.

I was reading this morning in 1 John 2 in the Message, and these words stood out most:
Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father. This is exactly what Christ promised: eternal life, real life!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Beet" Ya To It!

If I post a new recipe here, I usually wait till Thursdays, when I go pick up my share at our CSA. But this one can't wait...

I have mentioned here previously how I want to gratefully receive the "manna" (see Exodus 16) that God provides to me in this season of less-than-full-time employment. That means that at least once a week I look in my crisper and pantry and say, "Well Lord, what are we gonna make tonight?"

And thanks to internet (or interweb, as my good friend The Pastor Reverend Karl says...) I can just plug in various ingredients and voila! I get to venture into the unknown. Yes, you can even step out in faith in the ways you eat, people...

Tonight I looked in the crisper and saw 5 Fairview Gardens beets and a leek, along with the ever-present package of Costco organic pasta in the pantry. I found a recipe with some potential, and added a bit of my own flair. (Props to my friend Steph for convincing me that beets are worth it.) Here goes! (Sorry I don't have a photo. The camera on my phone is broken.)


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 leek, sliced

3-5 raw beets, peeled & cubed

2 1/2 cups rainbow rotini pasta (or let's be honest, whatever you have...)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons rosemary, minced

2 tablespoons parsley, minced

Kosher salt

2 tb shredded parmesan

PROTEIN - optional: add a cup of diced chicken, 3-4 pieces of chopped bacon or 3 oz of shrimp. I put in the shrimp. Yesssssss.

1. Toss beet cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and rosemary. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Place them on a sheet lined with foil and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Stir them periodically with a spatula. (PS cutting beets while they are raw is a much less messier business.)

2. As beets cook, drop butter and remaining olive oil in a wide pan on the stove. Add leeks & minced garlic. Cover and allow to cook until they soften and begin to brown, approximately 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

3. Meanwhile, start a pot of salted water boiling on the stove. Drop in pasta and cook according to package’s directions. Drain and set aside.

4. Once beets, leeks and pasta are done, mix to combine. Add more garlic if you want, and parsley (and protein?) and toss well. Salt to taste, sprinkle parmesan right before serving.

¡Muy Deliciosa!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Music Musings

I haven't talked about music here for awhile... I've let myself get busy. And today's post is a bit of mash-up of various things I'm listening to. But I like it all, and love the comments you send my way as well... so here goes.

All Songs Considered on NPR - "The Band I Love Is..."
This week's podcast is a good one. Just tune in and have it in the background for half an hour. They asked listeners to tell them about bands they like who other people haven't heard of. It's a great collection of music -- although I will chime in that I had heard of most of the groups, so they aren't exactly sleuthing through the dark music clubs around the world -- but it's great stuff. I especially like Marching Band, Augie March ("One Crowded Hour" is just a GREAT song), and a new group called Fanfarlo that has a Sufjan sort of sound.

New Music
I'm so glad that favorites of mine have new albums out. Look for a new release (um, finally) from Mat Kearney today. Last night I listened to new music from Iron and Wine that was SO mellow and nice. I feel like he is a new millennium version of Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Glen Phillips and David Wilcox: I went to this great concert in late April with my dear friend Maddie. It was wonderful and in a very cool venue (Mavericks Saloon in Santa Ynez). No big insight here, but let's just say that live music is where it's at. Glen Phillips has a new band (WPA) and an album coming out soon - he's definitely changing his sound and pushing himself musically. I like where he's headed. Look for an album in the fall -- best of all, he's teaming up with the Watkins from Nickel Creek. And David Wilcox.... wow. No words are adequate. Unreal. He is a consummate musician and songwriter. I must say that he sort of blew poor Glen out of the water with his musicianship (he had a different tuning for every song, and just did it while he was talking. Ridiculous). But Glen is recovering from surgery on his arm, so ....

Not to brag, but I have tickets for the Fray on July 31 and U2 in October at the Rose Bowl. Yessssss.....

One more time...
Finally, I have to mention a song that I had in a post last week. Just let it sit there as a tab in your browser and play it over and over. It is a lovely vision of what God is calling His people to do.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Life

I am reading 1 Peter 1 today, and it is a glorious, tender gift.

Pause. Breathe. Be quiet. Read expectantly.
1-2I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!
A New Life
3-5What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you'll have it all—life healed and whole.

6-7I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

8-9You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don't see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you'll get what you're looking forward to: total salvation.

10-12The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah's Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!

A Future in God
13-16So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy."

17You call out to God for help and he helpshe's a good Father that way. But don't forget, he's also a responsible Father, and won't let you get by with sloppy living.

18-21Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

22-25Now that you've cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God's living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That's why the prophet said,

The old life is a grass life,
its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
God's Word goes on and on forever.
This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.

Further blessings in my devotions today:
Make sure that you let God's grace work in your souls by
accepting whatever He gives you, and giving Him whatever He
takes from you. True holiness consists in doing God's work
with a smile.
... Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)

This song last night in a worship service stunned me with its vision and its beauty:
Let the Church Rise

(Verse 1)
We are alive filled with Your glorious life
Out of the dark into Your marvelous light
We are waiting with expectations
Spirit, raise us up with You

Let the Church rise from the ashes
Let the Church fall to her knees
Let us be light in the darkness
Let the Church rise
Let the Church rise

(Verse 2)
Moving with power,
Bringing Your name to the earth
Singing Your praises, lifting up glorious songs
We are moving with His compassion
Spirit fill our hearts with You

Let Your wind blow
Let Your wind blow
Let Your wind blow
Revive us again Lord

words and music by Israel Houghton and Jonathan Stockstill
© 2006 Sound of the New Breed (adm by Integrity's Praise! Music)/BMI and Integrity's Praise! Music/BMI

May it be so, Jesus. May it be so.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Empty and Full

From Henri Nouwen:
Emptiness and fullness at first seem complete opposites. But in the spiritual life they are not. In the spiritual life we find the fulfillment of our deepest desires by becoming empty for God.

We must empty the cups of our lives completely to be able to receive the fullness of life from God. Jesus lived this on the cross. The moment of complete emptiness and complete fullness become the same. When he had given all away to his Abba, his dear Father, he cried out, "It is fulfilled" (John 19:30). He who was lifted up on the cross was also lifted into the resurrection. He who had emptied and humbled himself was raised up and "given the name above all other names" (see Philippians 2:7-9).

Let us keep listening to Jesus' question: "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" (Matthew 20:22).

What do you need to empty from your life?

What is giving you that false sense of being full, sort of like a big sumptuous meal? Even though you may enjoy it at the time (and there is really nothing wrong with that), you still wake up the next day hungry again. It satisfies for the moment, but not for the long term.

What are you afraid of?

Matthew 16:24-26...
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


My whole schedule - heckfire, my LIFE - was thrown off by this fire, so I haven't had my wits about me to blog, exercise, sleep... sadly, I retained my capacity to eat, as usual. I even eat when I have the flu. Pathetic.

Anyway... I made something last week, pre-fire, that was so darn good and I cannot believe I'm going to admit it to you.

Recall a few posts ago ("Manna from Heaven") when I used cooking as a spiritual exercise in being grateful for what I'd been given? Last week gave me yet another opportunity with the BUTT-load of carrots we've been receiving from Fairview Gardens, our lovely CSA.

Those who know me long and well know that I am the Great Hater o' Carrots. Bleah bleah bleah. Hate 'em cooked, raw, juiced. Bleah. Yes, I am willing to eat them in carrot cake, but puh-lease, you can't even taste them -- especially with some delightful cream cheese frosting.... mmm....

But I digress. I WANT to and NEED to be thankful for how God is providing bountifully and creatively in my life these days. And for the last three weeks at least we have received a very large bunch of carrots in our weekly share from Fairview.

What to do, what to do... my housemate Ruth can only eat so many carrot sticks for lunch, and I'd already made one batch of carrot bread and while it is perfectly wonderful, my hips do not need more carrot bread...

So I was left to being a grown-up and learning how to eat carrots in a more adult fashion. I dug out a recipe from Fairview last year and forgot that this was THE BOMB to the BOMB. Yes, I'm saying, admitting, even celebrating a dish made with carrots. It is REALLY good, all you Fellow Carrot Haters out there. Try it. The texture of the soup is worth the price of admission - the recipe sheet calls it "velvety." I agree.

1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
3 tb peanut oil (I used sesame oil)
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tp crushed ginger
2 c chopped onions
1 1/2 lb carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds (equals 4 cups) (PS - I didn't have quite enough carrots, believe it or not, so I used some roasted butternut squash I had in the freezer. This quite possibly made it even better!)
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lime peel
5 c (or more) chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp lime juice
Plain yogurt (for garnish)

Grind coriander and mustard seeds in spice mill to fine powder. Heat oil in heavy large pot over med-high heat. Add ground seeds & curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add ginger; stir 1 minute. Add onion, carrot, lime peel. Sprinkle with salt & pepper; saute until onions begin to soften - 3 minutes-ish.

Add 5 cups broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to med-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender - about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in blender until smooth. (OR IF YOU'RE REALLY FORTUNATE, use an inversion blender right in the pot!)

Return soup to pot. Add broth if too thick. Stir in lime juice, salt & pepper to taste.

Can be done one day ahead of time.

P.S. I fried some slices of polenta in a pan the next day for lunch with a tsp of olive oil, then poured some leftover soup on top of it. Glorious. I'm telling you, this soup is GOOD. Velvety, I might add.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Life Together - what is it?

Fresh Air host Terry Gross talked yesterday with Amy Poehler about her new show Parks & Recreation (the obvious reason of the timing of this interview), but also about her time on Saturday Night Live, especially during this last election (side note: Poehler gives some outstanding backstory on her UNBELIEVABLY hilarious Sarah Palin rap, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen…)

It was the last few minutes that got me though, where Poehler talks about why she still likes to do stand-up comedy. Pay attention:
Amy Poehler: It (stand-up) always feels exhilarating, in a good way… but you have no control over what is happening at the same time… I still perform because that feeling of being a little dangerous is still exciting for me and I think it’s good as a performer to keep making sure you’re not getting too comfortable …

But it’s also a social thing, kind of the closest thing I have to a communal religious experience where you just meet up with people you love and do something together and there’s someone there witnessing it and hopefully, y’know, you kind of feel different after… um, and I think that my experiences doing improv have certainly provided me, like, a kind of a… spirituality, I guess, in a way… that maybe, y’know, I wouldn’t have otherwise…. (voice wanders off)

Terry Gross: It’s really been a pleasure talking with you…

AP: Yeah, thank you… (You can tell she’s pretty nervous and thrown off by what she just said)… I can’t believe I ended on the word “spirituality” – I can hear the eyes rolling in cars across America (smiling, sarcastic tone).

I’m really thrown by how deep that last part was, Terry. I really want to leave you with something that’s not so deep (nervous laughter), but oh boy… it’s too late. What am I gonna do.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, but it is a message for the church all the same.

This isn’t rocket science I know, but she’s revealing some poignant things: that people want to belong. They want to laugh -- hard -- as a way to cope (if you listen to the segment, she says some very touching things about living and performing in NYC after 9/11). They want to be with people they love and feel a real connection through an experience.

Don’t worry. I know front and center that church is about God, not us. Church is worship, not therapy. And I want it that way. But church (Sundays AND during the week) is the best place for us to live life the way it was meant to be lived. Church should be a lovely, gripping, completely engaging and redemptive drama where we each have a role and get to act out our pre-fall life together with Jesus – what theology calls creation intent.

I hear the hunger for that in Amy Poehler’s words. She tastes of it through the communal experience of improv. And oh how I want the church to reach in to her and that world…

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Article accepted!

In the midst of the misery of yet another local fire, I have a very small thing to celebrate...

Today I got word that an article that I submitted to an online journal titled Provocations was accepted. While I am not compensated financially for this contribution, I am thrilled about this.

is produced by The Trinity Forum, a Christian think tank, whose mission is “Contributing to the transformation and renewal of society through the transformation and renewal of leaders.”

If you read it now, it's right on the home page as the lead story. Yay!

My hope and desire is to submit essays to them periodically that will be conversations about famous and popular literature and how these works talk about bigger questions of faith.

Even more, my prayer would be that these essays could spark spiritual conversations with some of your well-read friends. Please let me know if you're able to use this essay (and others, I pray!) in that way.

The title of the article is Travels with Charley -- and God: Reflections on an Unresolved Life.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

God's Generosity - Do you agree?

From Nouwen today:
God is a god of abundance, not a god of scarcity. Jesus reveals to us God's abundance when he offers so much bread to the people that there are twelve large baskets with leftover scraps (see John 6:5-15), and when he makes his disciples catch so many fish that their boat nearly sinks (Luke 5:1-7). God doesn't give us just enough. God gives us more than enough: more bread and fish than we can eat, more love than we dared to ask for.

God is a generous giver, but we can only see and enjoy God's generosity when we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. As long as we say, "I will love you, God, but first show me your generosity," we will remain distant from God and unable to experience what God truly wants to give us, which is life and life in abundance.

Leave a COMMENT: How has God given you "more than enough"?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Don't Be Disappointed

Signposts on the Way to God
Henri Nouwen

How do we know about God's love, God's generosity, God's kindness, God's forgiveness? Through our parents, our friends, our teachers, our pastors, our spouses, our children ... they all reveal God to us. But as we come to know them, we realise that each of them can reveal only a little bit of God. God's love is greater than theirs; God's goodness is greater than theirs; God's beauty is greater than theirs.

At first we may be disappointed in these people in our lives. For a while we thought that they would be able to give us all the love, goodness, and beauty we needed. But gradually we discover that they were all signposts on the way to God.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I started reading the Bible at 15. Over thirty years I have read the Bible. Lots of underlining and highlighting. I even had epiphanies at times. In seminary I wrote long papers and often ran out of space before I ran out of things to say. In working with youth I have taught hundreds – perhaps thousands -- of Bible studies. But I would say that until I took a sabbatical last fall, I did not crave time in God’s word.

Seriously. It wasn’t torture, by any stretch. But until last fall it was simply a good discipline, like vitamins; something that was helpful and good once I got into it.

After three months of sabbatical rest, where I woke up each morning to Bible study… out of that time there is now an appetite in me -- where now I love to read the Word like I love to eat donuts or sleep in on Saturday mornings. It’s a hunger that cannot be satisfied by anything else. I’m sad it took so long, but I am glad I am there.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Religion Found And Lost"

I listened to this on NPR yesterday and was fascinated.

"Religion Found and Lost" on On Point with Tom Ashbrook. It takes about 45 minutes to listen to, and I was very intrigued. I don't want to give away too much, but I think you too will be surprised by what caused this guy -- William Lobdell, former religion writer for the Los Angeles Times -- to walk away from religion.

Take a listen, and post comments here -- I was especially saddened by how disappointed he was in how the church dealt with his doubts. Do you agree with his assessment? How could we respond differently?