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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pleasantly SuPerb Pasta (More Manna From Heaven)

In the spirit of continuing to rejoice in what I receive daily (rather than focusing on what I want or think I "need") I patched together a pesto recipe tonight for dinner that turned out quite well.

Rather than using the standard basil / parmesan / olive oil / pine nuts recipe, I improvised - this is what I had in my fridge, freezer and garden:

Soif's Pesto
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup arugula
1 cup basil
(you can fudge with these amounts; the goal is to get 2 cups of these greens)
1/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese

1/3 c olive oil
1/4 c walnuts (frankly, I like walnuts more than pine nuts in pesto - it makes it a little less rich)
3 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh rosemary
(we have it growing outside - just strip the leaves off the stem)
1/2 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp parsley

The key to successful pesto, I have decided, is our nifty inversion blender, AKA the Cuisinart Smart Stick (lame name, great product). I could do an infomercial on this gizmo. My friend Claire Carey turned me on to this baby - it's awesome for smoothies, it's amazing for making soups creamy, it makes hummus in a snap, and it's my BFF when I'm making pesto. It's worth the investment. Use your Bed Bath & Beyond coupon and splurge. You won't regret it.

Place the greens in the cup of the blender and whip 'em up till they are finely chopped (about 3/4 cup at a time). Add 1/3 of the nuts and garlic, blend again. Then add 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese, then 1/3 of the olive oil. Scrape down the sides of the container, then repeat the "1/3" cycle again and again until the nuts, garlic, cheese and oil are mixed in.

Mix into cooked pasta, and garnish with fresh diced tomatoes and a bit more parmesan. Yummmmmmmm. I've made pesto in the past with kale, chard, even beet greens. Take some risks. Go crazy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Work and Effectiveness

I'm reading a lovely book called Monastic Practices, by Charles Cummings. I discovered it when I was reading a book during my sabbatical titled Benedict's Way - and a particular passage from the Cummings book really resonated with me. (P.S. If you're looking for a good book to jumpstart your devotional life, go with Benedict's Way. I read through it twice during my sabbatical.)

I've only gotten through the first three chapters of Monastic Practices. I don't want to be in a hurry when I read it. The chapter on Work has stuck with me the most so far.

I usually have a tremendous need to get a lot done. I like being efficient. I like making lists, and checking things off those lists. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes after a big project is finished. I would not say that any of those things are necessarily bad... but they are deceptive in the ways I look to them for identity and success. This section from the book spoke deeply to me in this regard:
Jesus on the cross was in the position of one who could achieve nothing, who was totally unproductive. With his hands nailed to the cross, he was the picture of absolute powerlessness and uselessness. But simply by being there 'for love, and with trust in God's help,' Jesus redeemed the world. He redeemed us more efficaciously when he was powerless on the cross than when he was traveling about, preaching and working miracles.
My employment is a valuable thing. I have greatly enjoyed nearly everything about the jobs I have had. But I must remember that my greatest work does not come in what I do, but in who I am. Because that, more than anything else, shapes who I am eternally.
So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. (Colossians 3:1-4, The Message)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran, not The Gloved One

I was gripped last week, and early this week, by the news coming out of Iran. Then our silly news feeds starting focusing more on ridiculous, hopelessly shallow stuff like Mark Sanford's affair... and now we won't hear about Iran for more than 2.5 seconds with the death of Michael Jackson.

Major in the majors. Think about what's going on around the world. Here's a post I read yesterday that helped me understand a tiny bit more about what's going on in Iran. I get this info weekly from ea.org. Get in the habit of praying daily for the suffering church. It really shapes me spiritually, and helps me participate in God's greater work around the world.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 010 | Wed 24 Jun 2009




In 1989 the father of the Iranian Revolution, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, died without a successor. His rightful and designated successor, Grand Ayatollah Hussain Ali Montazeri, had been sidelined in 1988 for protesting corruption and human rights abuses. At that time Khamenei was President, Mousavi was Prime Minister and Rafsanjani was Speaker of the Parliament. They were secure because they had not protested the purges and massacres! Possibly because Rafsanjani thought Khamenei could be easily controlled, Rafsanjani convinced the Assembly of Experts to appoint Khamenei as Supreme Leader even though he was not qualified for the role. However, after Rafsanjani became president the two men started to clash. Rafsanjani's power base was the business class, so he supported business, the elite and economic growth.

Khamenei's power base was 'the masses', so he supported the clerics, the poor and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Khamenei and the IRGC brought Ahmadinejad to power in 2005 specifically because he would serve their interests. With Ahmadinejad in power, the IRGC have been able to extend their control over much of the Iranian economy and pursue their own and Khamenei's regional ambitions.

So, at the heart of the present troubles is a power struggle between the Khamenei-IRGC-Ahmadinejad camp versus the Rafsanjani-Mousavi camp. Both camps are in the conservative block and all those involved are Islamists -- none of them are counter-revolutionaries. The Ahmadinejad camp is ideologically driven and committed to exporting Revolution, spending billions of petro-dollars through the IRGC on foreign adventures in Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon and beyond to establish regional hegemony. The Mousavi camp on the other hand, though equally Islamist, wants less belligerence and good international relations so it can focus on domestic issues and the economy. The largely young, urban intellectuals who have been protesting in the streets of Tehran are simply embarrassed by and frustrated with the present regime and are desperate for change. One analyst described Mousavi as merely a 'balloon' that had been 'inflated' by those determined to express their anger against Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Independent analysts both inside and outside Iran believe that election fraud has taken place. However, this does not mean that Ahmadinejad would not have won the election anyway as he is enormously popular and is virtually worshipped by masses of rural poor who greatly appreciate his generous handouts. It is widely believed Khamenei and the IRGC wanted not only to guarantee Ahmadinejad's election but to provide him with a powerful mandate. The ruling regime had every intention of retaining power. As opposition started to mount even before the election, a senior official from the IRGC, Yadollah Javani, warned that the Revolutionary Guards would crush any attempt at a 'Velvet Revolution'.

Khamenei and Ahmadinejad control the guns and have the support of a clear majority of the 86-member Assembly of Experts (AoE). When Rafsanjani (who heads the AoE) recently approached the AoE -- possibly in an attempt to de-legitimise Khamenei -- his daughter and four other relatives were arrested. The Khamenei-Ahmadinejad-IRGC camp will retain power for the time being. Meanwhile, discontent, desperation and disillusionment are mounting.


* the hunger of Iranians for openness and answers will grow as many of them start to question what has gone wrong there and as they search for a better way; may many find answers in Jesus Christ. (Generally the protesters still hope for a pure Islamic State. They believe that Islam is the solution and that the present regime has merely diverged.)

* God will wonderfully protect and preserve his besieged Church as persecution will doubtless escalate when the regime moves with rage and force to repress or even purge those who oppose it or are perceived to be a threat.

* the Holy Spirit will breathe supernatural courage into the Iranian Church, so believers will witness with courage, conviction and authority; may every word of witness be blessed with every believer a prophetic voice and a light shining in the darkness.

'For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.' (John 3:17 ESV)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words ... never really speaking to others.

... Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together [1954], tr. Daniel W. Bloesch & James H. Burtness, Fortress Press, 2004, p. 98

What keeps you from hearing God -- in other words, what is noisy in your daily world?

Do you make room for silence in your life? How could that happen this week?

You'll never "have time" to do this. Just do it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another Article Published

Yeah, so it's still a novelty for me to get published, so you're gonna hear about it :)

Go to Youthworker Journal for July/August. This is the digital version. I believe I'm on page 40. Look for a longer online version to come.

Thanks for being a faithful fan :) The topic may not be terribly gripping for the average person, but for us youthworkers, it's a big deal.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ministry Momentum

Fun stuff continues to unfold... I will have better details in the days to come, but want to keep my friends up to date. Here's the latest:

Youth ministry projects: June 7-10 I was in Norfolk, Nebraska and this past week I was in New Lenox, Illinois. I spent the whole week working with a great church on their next steps for a growing youth ministry. They just had to change the driveway entry for their church, so they commemorated that change with a new, um, "catchy" message that we decided to take a photo of...

Just like my time in Nebraska, I left my week very encouraged after being with faithful people plugging away for years without a need for acclaim. I was also grateful to get to use my years of youth min experience to bless an entirely new group of people. Consulting is fun for me because it builds on stuff I like to do: connect quickly with new friends, take in a ton of information in a short amount of time, write a lot in a creative way, and think on my feet. I was definitely ready to come home to sunny CA after going through muggy Midwest thunderstorms, but the trip was definitely worth it. I come away from both projects with the churches liking what we had to offer. They asked me and my partner for these projects (a gifted youth ministry prof from Grand Rapids and all-around fun lady to work with named Lynn) to continue to work with them. Yesssssss.

This coming Monday I'm on the road again, but just for two days. I will meet with a key contact at Fuller Seminary to talk youth ministry, then head over to Azusa to meet with staff connected to a new ministry connection: Eden Reforestation Projects. I will post more details soon about this, but I will say for now that I AM VERY VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS ORGANIZATION! (Yes, I'm yelling). I will work with them in several ways. Like I said, I'll take more time soon to share details. It connects my passions for social justice and creation care. I am so fortunate to get to work with something that is so profoundly effective and needed.

After these meetings, I head over to another So Cal community to start a new pastoral coaching project. This is really enjoyable for me and different from the youth ministry consulting. I've got two pastors here in town that I'm already working with, and have been recently asked to begin with at least one more church for now, with others to come. Rather than help an entire church change their youth ministry infrastructure, in coaching I work solely with the lead pastor to evaluate his or her main talents and how to make those work best within their ministry context and their church staff.

Then I get to finish up my travels, at least for awhile. July will be filled with follow up on everything that has come down the pike in the last month: planning for Providence Hall in the fall, weekly coaching with pastors and Eden Projects, and writing. Fabulous.

I have another article coming out in Youthworker magazine for July -- I'm waiting to hear from them as to the link so you can see it. It's on the extremely gripping topic of Campus Access. It'll change your life. Stay tuned.... Hoping to have another article posted soon as well.

Thanks for checking in periodically to hear what's up. Know that I am grateful each day, rejoicing in the small ways I am learning how to trust. As I have shared with so many, it's funny how you can't learn much about faith unless you actually put yourself in situations that require... faith. There you have it. STEP OUT. Take risks. Be willing to be in unfamiliar territory for more than 37 seconds. Pray daily. Build your day around time with Jesus, rather than the other way around, and go from there.

All for now. Talk soon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Let the Games Begin

For the last few months I've been praying and waiting, waiting and praying, to see what's next. First of all, I think I've realized that I'll never really know "what's next." But I do know that I can put one foot in front of the other, and do the next thing that feels right.

So starting in June, there will be some adventures and opportunities that are going to stretch me - but I think they are also going to fit me well. This last week I went on a consulting trip to the town of Norfolk (pronounced "Nor-FORK" thank you), Nebraska, pop. 22,000, hometown of Johnny Carson. On Monday I flew into Omaha -- did I mention that I have never been to Nebraska -- rented a car and drove northwest for two and a half hours through miles and miles of corn and soy fields, and past a whole lotta cows. Early on I pulled in to a Dairy Queen, and just for grins I asked them if they made their burgers "protein style." The woman in the booth said flatly, I'm sorry, I've never heard of that.

That's OK, I said, and took my burger and fries and headed on road. I made a few phone calls to catch up with friends as I drove... and the calls would drop about every fifteen minutes. Later I was told that the cell towers are not too close together out in Nebraska, because there just aren't that many people to merit the coverage.

I spent three days in Norfolk for Youth Ministry Architects with another consultant to assist a church there in searching for a full-time youth pastor. I met some really great students, and some very dear church members. Warm, godly people who, as my friend Cameron Carey tells me, wear sandals, black socks and look you in the eye when they meet you. I fell in love with them, and prayed for them this morning as they press on in loving Jesus. My favorite was an elderly woman named Sonia on the search committee for the new youth pastor. When I explained how different members of the committee could collaborate through using Google Docs to craft the job description, she interrupted and said, Honey, I got dial-up! I doubt I can use those Google Docs. I loved it.

Next week I head out to another town an hour outside of Chicago for the same sort of work. And then starting on June 22, I will start meeting with a few lead pastors in Southern California one-on-one to coach them through strategic development for their churches. This will be through the Free Methodist Church. I've been coaching one couple all spring already, and that has been a real pleasure. A couple of other projects are in the hopper as well, and I will post some details about them soon.

But I want to end with yet another great section from the Book of Matthew that I sat with today. Jesus sent out his disciples with these words (again, from The Message, chapter 10):
"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously...

"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

"When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.

"When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way....

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't connect with some of these words as I head out on these projects. I am so grateful. His care is so creative -- and surprising in the turns it takes. I wake up each day and try to just have open hands, keeping my eyes wide open to see what he'll bring my way. As he counsels the disciples, my goal is to Travel Light. Amen.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Treasure Hunt

In December 07 I delivered a sermon on the wonder I felt at reading the Bible for the first time at age 15. I had just gotten a 70's-looking New Testament and quickly landed on Matthew 6. The wisdom and depth of the words stunned me. I had had no idea that the Bible could actually speak to me about the daily details of my life. I have never been the same since.

I came to that same section this morning, not thinking about that time in 1976. Nevertheless, the section still blew me away - and best of all, in a very different sense. Back then, my problems were very real to me - parents, friends, boys, peer pressure, fitting in. Today in 2009, my thoughts seem more adult (and boring?), fixed on mortgage, pension plans, health insurance, career...

I picked up Eugene Peterson's The Message, coffee in hand. Soon I rejoiced in these poignant words. Please get comfortable. Take a deep breath. Invite the Holy Spirit to use a phrase or a section to take you where you need to go. Ignore my questions if they distract. The bolding is what spoke to me. I kept that formatting in there just to give you a sense of where I am these days: grateful, settled, praying with open hands - but still rehearsing the basics. Shoot.

A Life of God-Worship
19-21"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

22-23"Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

24"You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.

25-26"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

27-29"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

30-33"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

34"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Like me, you may need to read this more than once.

If I admit what I think about the most, then I know where my treasure is. Where is yours?

Are you fussing about what food is on your table, or what clothes are in your closet? If not clothes or food, are you fussing about other material possessions? What would it mean for you to take a season off from acquiring anything?

In America, our first question when we meet someone is "What is your name?"

Invariably, our second question usually is, "What do you do?" We tend to define identity by name and occupation. When it comes down to it, who are you? How can you "unfetter" yourself from your job description?

My favorite line from today's section is Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now... What is he doing in your life? Share it with someone today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Proud Scooter Owner

Okay okay, I'm so comfortable with myself that I'm willing to share a link of something that COMPLETELY mocks me. I read this today on Stuff White People Like.

Enjoy. Mock away. But admit you're jealous of my Buddy scooter :)
Within white culture, your choice of transportation method says a lot about you. For example a Prius says you care about the Earth, a bicycle shows you REALLY care about the earth, and a bus shows that you are probably not white. But these three options are not the only viable ways for a white person to get around, they have literally dozens of choices including Volvos, old Mercedes that run on vegetable oil, Subaru Outbacks, and Vespa Scooters.

As it stands, every single white person on earth either owns, has owned, or is dreaming about owning a Vespa Scooter. And why not? They are Italian, feature vintage design, low emissions, make the rider look more sophisticated, and they carry a little bit of risk. In fact, were it to have a liberal arts degree and a steady income, a Vespa scooter would possesses every important quality that a white person looks for in a spouse.

In addition to these superficial qualities, there are some very practical benefits to white people. Namely, scooters are perfect for gentrifying neighborhoods which are often short on parking and heavy on people who are impressed by Vespas.

If you are in search of a fun game, a white person who has recently purchased a Vespa can be a source of tremendous entertainment. Step One, get them talking about their Vespa (easy). Step Two, start asking them why they didn’t save money by getting a Honda or Suzuki that gets the same mileage. Step Three, see how many of the following justifications a white person will use during the ensuing rant: environment, parking, urban lifestyles, union labor, writers, fuel efficiency, Roman Holiday, study abroad, and being into Vespas before other people.

Finally, the Vespa has produced one of the great paradoxes in white culture. Vintage Vespas are infinitely cooler than newer ones, but the vintage models produce more pollution than most automobiles. If you know a white person going through this dilemma, just say something like “the amount of energy and carbon used to produce a new scooter will probably cancel out the emissions from your vintage one.”

Problem solved forever.

I will tell you -- not defensively, of course -- that I do NOT own a vintage Vespa, ahem... I own a Korean knockoff manufactured in 2007 with low emissions, thank you very much.

I will also gladly share with you my reasons for buying it ANY TIME you want :)... OK, I won't make you wait: environment, parking, urban lifestyles, writers, fuel efficiency, I look cool driving it, I get the "two wheels down" sign from Harley riders, and DUH I was so into scooters before other people. Double Duh.