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Monday, August 31, 2009

Hurry Curry

I try to talk about significant spiritual issues on this blog, my favorite music, or occasional writing in a vulnerable vein....

But BY FAR the most comments are not in response to any of my attempts at depth. Instead, I receive the most comments related to the recipes I post! Oh well.

I will keep trying to post that "other stuff," just for my own entertainment, I suppose ☺

Here's a standby recipe I have used for years. I found it in the LA Times, back when papers got delivered to your porch. It's a keeper. This is perfect for those I-have-half-an-hour-and-no-idea-what-to-make-for-dinner moments... and like it says below, it's also great as a cold leftover or picnic option.


2 onions
3 tbsp butter
2 c cooked beef, lamb, chicken or pork (or nothing)
1 apple
1/2 c golden raisins
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp flour (I am now gluten-free, sadly. Instead, I use soy flour, and I've used cornstarch in the past)
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c half and half or plain yogurt (or coconut milk)

I also have used bell peppers, potatoes, celery, mushrooms, cauliflower... Whatever vegetables sound good to you. I also like to add cashews to it right before serving, along with grated coconut if you want. THIS IS ALSO REALLY GOOD AS A COLD SALAD. If you make it cold, slice up some grapes in it as well. Oh man, I'm getting hungry.

Cut and peel onions into large chunks. Melt 1 tbsp butter in skillet over medium-high heat and sauté onions until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Place onions in bowl and set aside.

Cut meat into bite-size pieces and set aside. Peel apple and cut off 4 wedges. Discard core and cut wedges in half. Add raisins - and nuts. Set aside.

Place broth in small saucepan and heat until simmering. Turn off heat and let it sit on burner.

Melt remaining butter in 2 1/2 qt saucepan over low heat and KEEP AN EYE ON IT. Watch butter melt - don't let it brown. Tilt saucepan till butter coats bottom of pan. Sprinkle flour and curry powder over butter. Using large spoon, stir constantly all over bottom of pan until all three are blended well. Now slowly add broth, stirring constantly with whisk so mixture blends well. Turn heat to medium and stir until thick, smooth and creamy - about 3 minutes. Stir in salt to taste. Add at least 1/4 c half and half or yogurt if it's too spicy for you. Add meat, apple, raisins & nuts and continue to stir and cook sauce for a few more minutes.

Pour sauce and meat mixture over rice, couscous, quinoa or baked potatoes. Sprinkle coconut, chutney or a little yogurt or sour cream on top. Eat a lot.

Serves 4

Saturday, August 29, 2009

All I Need

Reading this simple quote this morning. Humbling that despite its simplicity, it's taking me a lifetime to understand.

God wants us to know that when we have Him we have everything. ... A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)

At the same time, I am now reading in 1Corinthians daily, and this verse leaps of the page this morning:

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1:7)

Every day, when I head out the door, I do a quick check of purse, backpack, or pockets -- "Do I have everything I need? Keys, sunglasses, wallet, cell phone..." May I leave the door each day knowing that I already have what I really need.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Featured Article - YAY

I'm grateful for YM Today, who is featuring one of my articles in their newsletter this week. YMToday is produced by the Center for Youth Ministry Training, which partners with Memphis Seminary.

The best part is that THEY contacted me for my articles. I have had to pound the pavement pretty hard these past few months to get my writing looked at, so it was pretty cool when they found me. I like that better :)

On another note, yesterday I started back officially at Providence Hall High School as the Campus Pastor. This week the faculty and staff are having in-service meetings all week. Our new student orientation is this Friday, our Back-to-School BBQ for the entire Providence Hall community is this Saturday, and Convocation is next Tuesday, Sept. 1.

So my "new life" juggling several ministry projects is in full swing. I'm grateful and very excited. Thank you to each of you for your care, interest, prayers and support. It's been sweet to hear already from several recent youth group graduates as they get going in college, and also from some of the current Providence Hall students as I prepare to be with them weekly again. I have a great life!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


How do you describe it when music is just so GOOD? I cannot say why I like certain music. I just do. There are distinct qualities about it -- but they are not in the sounds or genre so much as in the effects they have on me. I know I like a song when I hit PLAY six times in a row, and am still not sick of it. I know I like a song when I wake up singing it the next day. A song really works when it makes me stop everything and just listen. It's like I experience the music more than hear it. It rings somewhere inside of me, vibrating, echoing, resonating.

When a song expresses feelings and thoughts and experiences far better than I could ever do so myself, then it practically owns me.

There's some music out right now that hits me this way. I won't say much about it. Plain & simple -- I like each artist very very much.

The new Swell Season music (Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova -- from the movie Once): go to NPR Tiny Desk concerts -- but make sure you select the "Watch Now" option. It is spellbinding. How could this music possibly be better than the music from Once? Stunningly - it is.

The new stuff from Sondre Lerche (soundtrack from Dan in Real Life). Norwegian dude, fantastic music. He has a new album titled Heartbeat Radio that is coming out Sept 8.

New artist -- he's a Christian -- who has a nice, unique, not-Nashville-overproduced-Christian-pop sound named Ben Rector. Favorite song is "After All."


Monday, August 17, 2009

Chile Rellenos - Yes You Can!

I got this recipe years ago from LA Times, and it has never let me down. The opening sentence won me over...
"Trying to make one of your favorite dishes for the first time can be intimidating..."

Chile Rellenos are my usual "go-to" dish in Mexican restaurants because I love them SO MUCH. I never thought I could make them myself. But this recipe gave me confidence. The key thing to keep in mind is in the final sentence: "The secret is just following the recipe."

MARIA'S CHILES RELLENOS (I have no clue who Maria is...)

"Canned Anaheim peppers come only in a large can; use leftovers diced and mixed in with scrambled eggs or added to an omelette."

(Psssst: Can, shman. I roast my own peppers. Who knew it was so easy??)

1 can (1 pound, 11 oz) can roasted Anaheim peppers

(about 8 peppers. Again, go for it & roast yer own)
1/2 lb jack cheese
3 eggs
1 tb flour
salt, pepper
oil for frying
1 cup bottled chipotle salsa
(or use my tomatillo recipe from Aug 15)
1 cup Mexican crema, plus more for serving
(I usually find this stuff near the pickles in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.
No idea why pickles and crema are close together)
cilantro for garnish

1. Remove peppers from can. Cut cheese into 3 x 1/2 inch strips. Carefully stuff each pepper with cheese, filling peppers as much as possible without tearing. Set aside.

2. Separate eggs. Place yolks in small bowl and beat lightly to break them up. Stir in flour and salt & pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. Pour about 1/4" oil into large skillet and heat over med high heat. Sprinkle water into oil when you want to know if it's ready - it should sizzle.

4. Beat whites in bowl with electric mixer on med high until stiff peaks form -- about 3 mins. Gentle fold in yolks into whites.

5. Dip each pepper in eggs to coat evenly, then slide into oil. Cook until puffed & golden brown -- about 2-3 mins per side.

6. While peppers are frying, combine salsa & crema in small saucepan and heat over med low heat until heated through -- 4 to 5 mins.


1 cup bottled salsa (I like Pace Picante)
1 cup water
1 cup rice

Combine salsa & water in pan, bring to boil. Add rice, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer till rice is tender.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wimpy White Girl Salsa

In my haul from Fairview Gardens this week I got a whole pound of green tomatillos. What strange little buggers. I have never, ever purchased or cooked one. Shame on me.

On the other hand, I always opt for green salsa at a salsa bar because my taste buds are cowards. So in keeping with my "manna approach" to life (i.e., I want to accept what is given to me, rather than be focused what I think I need or want), I made my own green salsa today.

After a little persistent googling I found a recipe that I knew I could handle. It was embarrassingly easy. I am a convert to these little aliens vegetables. This salsa is G-O-O-D. I poured it all over an omelette tonight for dinner. I plan on using it soon again on homemade chile rellenos (stay tuned for that recipe) in a couple of days too.



  • 2 pounds tomatillos, husked and cut in half
  • 3 green tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 mild chile peppers, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 5 sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Place the tomatillos, tomatoes, oil, chili pepper, shallots, cilantro, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the tomatillos have softened. Pour into a blender, and puree until smooth. Chill and serve.
Side Note: I went and saw Julie & Julia today. Totally delightful film. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to eat an entire menu's worth of food by the time the credits rolled...

During my camping trip last week I read
My Life in France by Julia Child, which was one of the books the film adapted. If you want to continue, and expand, the way you felt after watching this movie, READ THIS BOOK. I could not put it down. It is simply wonderful. I do not aspire to be Julia Child and I will never have more than one recipe per week on this blog. But I was enchanted by this fascinating woman who didn't find her "life's calling" until the middle of her life. Hmmm....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pray for our friends who suffer

Since 2000 I have tried to be committed to praying for fellow Christians around the world who suffer horribly simply for being believers. While there is a lot of confusing information flying around, I have found a website that appears thorough and reliable: EA.org.

Each week I use it to pray daily for whichever country they highlight, with a world map in front of me. I circle that country's name to remind me that I have prayed for them. In reviewing my current map, it is profoundly tragic to see how many places around the world where followers of Jesus are suffering horribly.

Please look over the unbelievable ways that Christians are suffering in Vietnam right now:

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 017 | Wed 12 Aug 2009



As reported in the Religious Liberty Prayer bulletin of 17 September 2008 (link below), a prayer movement erupted in Vietnam's Catholic Church in December 2007 after Vietnam's religious liberty advocates, mostly Catholic priests frustrated by years of futile political activism, simply asked the people to pray. And pray they did. In Hanoi, some 10,000 Catholics came onto the streets to sing hymns and pray for religious liberty. They held flowers and crosses, and candles on dark nights and umbrellas on rainy days. The Hanoi prayer vigils for religious liberty have been the largest public demonstrations Vietnam has seen since the Communists came to power. As the prayer vigil movement spread, the clearly rattled Government lashed out with a virulent anti-Catholic propaganda campaign in the State-run media while blocking access to at least six major Catholic news agency websites. The authorities also started physically attacking the vigils -- beating even women, publicly shaming young children, arresting priests and their lawyers, and demolishing church properties. But despite abuse, slander, beatings and imprisonments, the public prayer vigils continue.

The parish of Tam Toa in Vinh Diocese (300km south of Hanoi) is a historic parish for Vietnamese Catholics. Founded in 1631, it quickly became the largest parish in the diocese, running a convent, orphanage and school. A beautiful Cathedral, opened there in 1887, was destroyed in an American bombing raid during the Vietnam War. The parishioners, whilst unable to rebuild the church, continued to meet and worship at the site in the open air until March 1996 when the Communists seized the property and declared it a War Memorial. Ever since then, the church has been seeking the property's return. The parish has over 1,000 parishioners.

On Monday 20 July, a team of Catholics was erecting a cross and temporary shelter at the site when they were confronted by some 100 police. Using tear gas, stun guns and batons, the police brutally beat the Catholics into submission. About 20 were arrested while others were made to sit on the ground where a Communist vigilante group was given permission to beat them. One of the wounded, Father Paul Nguyen Dinh Phu, suffered broken ribs and head injuries. When Father Peter Nguyen The Binh visited Fr Phu in hospital he was beaten and hurled from a second floor window. Fr Binh is now hospitalised in a coma. On the night of 8 August, all 178 parishes in Vinh Diocese held simultaneous processions that saw some half-a-million parishioners come out onto the streets holding candles and signs calling for religious freedom. According to several reports, many locals came out and applauded the Catholics for having the courage to stand up against tyranny. Standing in solidarity with Vinh Diocese were some 3,000 Hanoi Catholics who held a simultaneous prayer vigil at the Thai Ha Church. The next day some 2,500 Catholics in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) held a prayer vigil in solidarity at the Redemptorist Monastery.

Meanwhile, as reported in the RLPB 009 of 17 June 2009 (link below), Vietnamese Protestants have been experiencing escalating persecution ever since December 2006 when the US deemed Vietnam's religious liberty reforms sufficient to be rewarded with Permanent Normal Trading Relations status. Communist authorities, who will not register Protestant house churches, are raiding and breaking up house church meetings on the grounds that they are unregistered and therefore illegal. Pastors are beaten, publicly denounced and sentenced to 're- education' while members are fined and terrorised. Church leaders say the harassment is so widespread that it must have approval from the top level of the central government and be part of an unofficial policy to stop the spread of Christianity.

During raids on Protestant house churches, not only do the police confiscate property (from hymn books and Bibles to motorbikes and cash), they also tend to be very violent. Compass Direct reports that the Agape Baptist house church in Hung Yen province, led by Pastor Duong Van Tuan, was raided several times in June. On one occasion police assaulted Pastor Tuan's wife, Nguyen Thi Vuong, seizing her by her arms and repeatedly banging her head against a wall until she collapsed unconscious.


* God will build and sanctify his Church through these trials.

* Those praying in prayer vigils will be drawn to put their faith in
Christ alone -- as our one mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), Great High
Priest (Hebrews 4:14), and divinely appointed Head (Ephesians
1:22,23); may all idols be brought low and may God alone be exalted.

* God will expose the ugly truth about the cruel brutality and
corruption of atheistic totalitarianism, and its inability to
produce an equitable, free and peaceful society.

'Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: "Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name's sake have said [scoffed], 'Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy'; but it is they who shall be put to shame".' (Isaiah 66:5 ESV)


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I just got back from a camping vacation in a national park. This has been an annual tradition for ten years and hoo boy, do I love it. It's very "other," and that makes me nearly cling to it. But I have to admit that it also sort of surreal. I mean, what if all your neighbors decided to live on their front lawns for a week? That's what camping feels like to me. The lives of everyone around you are turned inside out. It's worth the price of admission just to sit and watch THAT business...

Granted, no one is totally on their game... everyone arrives tired, a little frayed from the drive, and possibly a wee bit carsick from the winding roads on the way in... but at least it's a level playing field. We ALL feel that way!

I just sit back and baldly stare in fascination. My research cannot be considered conclusive, but observations from these past few days suggest that during camping, moms tend to be very tense, dads just enter their own little zones, and kids become feral pyromaniacs.

As to the dads, my theory is that they tap into their hunter-gatherer roots. They will often sit at tables for hours and try to fix infrequently used pieces of camping equipment. They can endlessly fiddle with strings and stakes to adjust tents (a task that is never truly finished). They will figure out innovative ways to chop wood (let's be honest, it's not a big need in the suburbs). Meanwhile, the kids go berserk. Apparently there is some unwritten rule in campgrounds that parents do not have to supervise their own children. Despite a wealth of ways to get fantastically injured, children are simply running madly everywhere: riding bikes the wrong direction on the roads, making games out of gathering sticks and pine needles, burning anything and everything in the fire, and tromping obliviously through everyone's sites (namely, MINE).

And then there's mom. Poor mom. What can you say? She is just trying to keep everything relatively clean and in the right place. I'm not sure that moms truly have "fun" when they go camping. Their goal is simply to survive, and try to keep everyone fed.

Despite all these commonalities during the daytime, nighttime is when the differences between these front-yard neighbors become glariously obvious. For me, it is a given that camping at night means sitting peacefully around the fire roasting marshmallows, reading by headlamp or playing solitaire next to the lantern. However, my fellow citizens may believe just as firmly that nighttime at the campground equals loud storytelling, repetition of the same jokes over and over, and a healthy enjoyment of alcohol. How do I argue with them -- this is America, Land of the Free, Home of "If It Feels Good, Do It."

For example, we had some neighbors for three nights this week whom my friend dubbed "Children of the Corn." They seemed to be in their first or second year of college, and had mouths like crusty sailors. I believe in those 3 days I was able to fill my lifetime quota for hearing the F-word. Their conversation was unendingly inane; they were continuously unkind to one another -- their "humor" bordered on abusive. They narrated their every move for anyone within 100 yards to hear. I knew when they were making quesadillas, I knew when they were making a fire, I knew what fantasy fiction books they were reading and what each character was like. I did not like these neighbors.

My frustration for them, however, was only exceeded by the large family on our other side, who had their group split into 2 campsites -- grown ups in one and unsupervised teenagers in the other. The young people were allowed to yell and play whiffle ball with complete abandon into the late hours. When my friend said to one of them as they walked by our site, "Could you ask your friends to stop yelling?" near 10pm, we heard them relay the message to the crew. One responded with, "Did she say it nicely?" I mean, honestly. Kids these days.

However, before I sound like the Grumpy Old Men on the Muppets, I will emphatically argue that the good outweighed the bad. The smell of bacon in the morning, as the coffee is brewing, cannot be beat. I never tire of s'mores each night. Peaceful afternoons reading after a long hike were deeply relaxing. Despite one near disastrous night with a deflated air mattress, I slept well, awaking each morning to the creek outside. I smile to myself in the bathroom each morning as I see the parade of sleepyheads walk in to brush their teeth, all with major bedhead. No one cares what they look like when they go camping. All for $20 a night. God Bless America.

I come home with only a few mosquito bites and legs slightly stiff from a tough hike yesterday. It was wonderful to go off the grid and live with no sense of what time it was. My biggest concern was over what to make for dinner. I read for hours each day and stared into the fire with no need to accomplish anything. It was a perfect camping trip.

What time is it, anyway?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Take Inventory

I'm reading in 1Timothy this week, and today's chapter has always spoken into my life. Take a few moments.


Turn off your phone.

Turn off the music.

Pray and ask God... What do you have for me today?

Then listen.

Read it again. Pause.

Which of these challenges stand out to you? Sit on that. Don't wander off.

Stay there and let it sink in. Talk to him more about it.

Keep listening.

...Have a real conversation with him.

1 Timothy 4

Teach with Your Life
1-5The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they've lost their capacity for truth. They will tell you not to get married. They'll tell you not to eat this or that food—perfectly good food God created to be eaten heartily and with thanksgiving by believers who know better! Everything God created is good, and to be received with thanks. Nothing is to be sneered at and thrown out. God's Word and our prayers make every item in creation holy.

6-10You've been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you'll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we've thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We're banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers.

11-14Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don't let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.

15-16Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hello-o-o Aloo!

It's Saturday night and I have to admit, I'm really pleased with myself. I just made a great meal for dinner. If you like Indian food, you're fond of spinach and potatoes, you're insecure about cooking, or heck, you're just hungry.... this is your lucky day. I got this recipe from my new issue of Vegetarian Times... thanks again to Steph and Claire for the birthday gift that keeps on giving!

P.S. I think this recipe would be the perfect "I'm-tired-from-work-and-don't-know-what-to-make-and-don't-want-to-have-fast-food-or-breakfast-for-dinner-AGAIN" sort of meal. And the leftovers would be delicious.
Aloo Palak (Spinach & Potatoes)
serve 4 | vegan | gluten-free

Two 10-oz pkg of frozen spinach (or 1 16 oz. bag of frozen Trader Joe's spinach), thawed, drained, liquid reserved

2-3 medium potatoes (I used Yukon gold), cubed

2 tb garlic powder

2 tb curry powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt

cayenne pepper if you want

3/4 c light coconut milk (again, at Trader Joe's)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Stir together spinach, 3/4 cup spinach liquid, potatoes, garlic & curry powders, cumin, and salt right in the 9 x 9 baking dish.

Cover with foil, bake 45 minutes.

Start pot of brown rice then as well.

When done, remove from oven. Stir in coconut milk and transfer to serving bowl.

I topped mine with some apple/cranberry chutney and roasted cashews. Na'an bread would have been terrific as well. I bet you could easily make this with several additions or variations:
  • cauliflower
  • tofu
  • squash
  • fried egg
  • slices of garlic
  • onion, roughly cut
Tell me how it goes.

I Surrender All

I've been reading in the Book of Joshua for the past couple of weeks, and today's final chapter stops me in my tracks.

Joshua 24:

13 "I handed you a land for which you did not work, towns you did not build. And here you are now living in them and eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.

14 "So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment....
From my prayers in response...

"YOU have given me everything... life, breath, food, home, friends, health, my whole story. I can take no credit whatsoever. I want to fear you and worship you in total commitment. That is my sole calling. Praise you Father. Thank you for your amazing provision -- down to the tiniest detail. I would like to think down deep in my bones, and not just on the surface of my heart and words, that I know that you did it all. May I not take any credit personally, verbally, or emotionally. YOU ALONE are God. I am completely dependent, completely unable to continue without your power.

I am listening to I Surrender All.
All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give

I will ever love and trust Him

In His presence daily live

I surrender all

I surrender all

All to Thee my blessed Savior

I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender

Lord I give myself to Thee

Fill me with your love and power

May your blessing fall on me

I give you my heart and mind. I hear this song and I am so moved and stunned. I remember singing this song at the top of my lungs in my car in 1997 through stinging tears as I realized I would have to let go of the plans I had for my life....

The greatest, gentlest kindness of all is that you are patiently allowing me to even think that I'm "giving" it back to you. I never had any of these things in the first place.... The process is one not so much of giving it all back to you as it is admitting that I have never had anything except you. As Job said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I'll return'...."

Joshua 24:

19-20 Then Joshua told the people: "You can't do it; you're not able to worship God. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He won't put up with your fooling around and sinning. When you leave God and take up the worship of foreign gods, he'll turn right around and come down on you hard. He'll put an end to you—and after all the good he has done for you!"

21 But the people told Joshua: "No! No! We worship God!"

22 And so Joshua addressed the people: "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen God for yourselves—to worship him."

And they said, "We are witnesses."

23 Joshua said, "Now get rid of all the foreign gods you have with you. Say an unqualified Yes to God, the God of Israel."

24 The people answered Joshua, "We will worship God. What he says, we'll do."