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Friday, October 30, 2009

Fried Food on Fridays in the Fall...

I'm in a bit of a food coma right now.... I just fried up 7 chiles rellenos (I'm linking my recipe) and I had some batter left, so I fried up some zucchini as well! These are not my photos, but they are accurate representations of what the finished product looked like... I'm already starting to dream up what else I could fry up in the egg batter of chiles rellenos: mushrooms, butternut squash, sweet potato, onion, potato, eggplant, polenta... Fried Food Fridays might need to be a tradition!

Other fall favorites for me right now, in no particular order:
  • acorn & butternut squash
  • crisp air
  • jackets & sweaters I haven't worn in months, so they feel like new
  • scarves
  • the smell of baking bread (I found a gluten-free bread machine mix at Lazy Acres that tastes great....)
  • using a blanket on my bed
  • NBA season is back!
  • UCSB soccer games
  • coffee brewing in the morning (OK, I like coffee in the summer, winter and spring...)
  • pumpkins
  • candles
  • a cat in my lap
What are your favorites?? Let me know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

U2? Me2?

I think that personal stories on big arena concerts often smack of "nyah nyah, I got to go and you didn't..." so I'm going to do my best to avoid that. As my friend told me today, "I'm seeing all the traffic on Facebook today about U2 and it sort of disgusts me..." I get it.

BUT I have to tell you a couple of funny things that happened... not on the way to the Forum, but at least at the Rose Bowl. (Corny... sorry....)

So, me and 96,000 of my BFF's went to The Concert. It wasn't Woodstock, but oh baby, it was pretty great. Stupendous, actually. All the hype about the staging and how it makes the crowd feel like they are each having their own intimate concert experience with the band... well, it's true. My last arena concert experience was, um, before you were probably born -- I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd, Peter Frampton and Santana at the Oakland Coliseum at a "Day on the Green" concert in 1977.

(My friend and I were most likely the only sober people there that day. Crazy time but unforgettable concert. Freebird for half an hour, Oye Como Va when it wasn't old school, Peter Frampton making his guitar talk.... ah, the seventies....)

Given that I hadn't seen a huge concert for over 30 years, I was easy to impress, right? Sure, you could say that, but oh my goodness, the whole night was impressive. Admittedly, I sat for much of the Black-Eyed Peas. I knew they'd play Let's Get It Started. Wut wut bomb diggety. Fergie does her little sexy dance moves thing and I was very ho hum about it, as were most around me.

But I'm not gonna lie to you -- when they brought out Slash and sang Guns 'n Roses' Sweet Child of Mine, I was standing and singing loud with everyone else. It was a rush. Flat out entertaining and fun.

But nothing beat U2. I run out of superlatives. Just a couple of funny observations...
  • I found it odd and hilarious that the U2 360 was presented by Blackberry, and um, there was no cell coverage the whole night, and limited texting. Granted, with jillions of people there, all devoted cell phone users, that must have maxed out all the little antennas in the greater LA basin. But Blackberry was not terribly impressive as a result. They handed out freebies and told every Blackberry user (me being one of them) that I could download the entire new U2 album onto my phone. So what, if I can't even make a phone call for 10 hours, let alone check email or find my other friends at the concert.

  • The night was Celebrity Central - no surprise. We're in LA. Duh. Cindy Crawford walked down our row and did the "excuse me excuse me" thing past us to get to the floor. That was a trip, mostly because of the reaction that created in every man within 10 seats of us. Ridiculous. But it gets crazier.... not only did we have stellar seats (thank you Ruth!!) four rows from the floor, we managed to sit next to (yes, I really mean, NEXT TO) the one tunnel of the 38 Rose Bowl tunnels through which all the celebs would use to enter the concert after they had a little personal meeting with the band. So right before the show starts, David Beckham passed about 10 yards away from us. Then Barbra Streisand. Then Rick Warren! My friend Ruth yells out, "Hey Rick! Thanks for all that you do!" He smiles at us, says thanks and waves. And not two minutes later, he walks up the steps (our seats are at the top of these 10 or so steps) and asks, "What section is this? I'm trying to find my seats." He was with his son. We tell him, then Ruth says, "Hey, we both love Jesus and we heard you speak at the last Urbana." I'm just nodding my head like an idiot. Overly starstruck at this point by the parade that has just passed us. Rick cracks a big smile and says, "Then let's take a picture!!" We both had our cameras out -- his son says, "I'll take 'em!" They were incredibly fun and nice about it. So yes... I did not meet Rick Warren at a pastors' conference, or any such spiritual thing. I met Rick at U2....
  • My favorite line of his was after we took the photo he said, "Just think... I hugged Bono 4 minutes ago, and now you're hugging me. Ain't that great!?"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Listen... again

If your every human plan and calculation has miscarried, if, one by one, human props have been knocked out, and doors have shut in your face, take heart. God is trying to get a message through to you, and the message is: "Stop depending on inadequate human resources. Let me handle the matter."

... Catherine Marshall (1914-1983), Adventures in Prayer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rainy Days

I'm still up in Seattle through Friday. Yes, most days it has rained. Last night I finished up a youth ministry consulting project that was yet another great time of learning and listening.

Today through Friday I am meeting with various people about Eden Reforestation Projects, speaking for fifteen minutes on Thursday with a couple hundred pastors and church leaders about ways for them to partner with us. Tomorrow I am going to meet with a camp to see if we can dream up some ways to creatively work together as well -- that as people get away in the forest above Seattle, that they would also consider rebuilding a forest for the poorest of the poor in Africa.

Today during a walk along the water in a park in SW Seattle (no rain today!), I found myself still reflecting on this paragraph from a collection of letters of C.S. Lewis that I read last week holed up in the cabin during my vacation -- I took the photo of the lake one of the days we were there, from the back porch:
I am certainly unfit to advise anyone else on the devotional life. My own rules are (1) To make sure that, wherever else they might be placed, the main prayers should not be put 'last thing at night.' (2) To avoid introspection in prayers - I mean, not to watch one's own mind to see if it is in the right frame, but always try to turn the attention outwards to God. (3) Never, never to try to generate an emotion by will power. (4) To pray without words when I am able, but to fall back on words when tired or otherwise below par.
Each one stuck in my mind for different reasons. Which one stands out to you?

Friday, October 9, 2009

To Infinity & Beyond!

Tomorrow I head off for several adventures. I'm ecstatic and exhausted and ready to go, all at once. First of all, I will be gone for two weeks, and I haven't been gone that long in quite awhile... to try to get everything gathered up into some sort of pretend "there, I'm finished" sort of order is giving me fits! As the White Rabbit says in Alice in Wonderland, "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!"

However, my day got a little brighter when I received an unexpected present in the mail from Colleen Shallenberger in Denver, CO. The photo to the right shows my new prized possession -- a Swedish Fish cap! How great is that?? Thank you so much, Mike & Colleen. I will wear it loud and proud on this trip and ever after.

Where am I off to?
  • A week of much-needed vacation in Olympic National Park. Renting a cabin on a lake and looking forward to sleeping, reading, hiking, reading, eating, touristing. In no particular order. Since I excel at all of these endeavors, I am quite giddy about it.
  • Directly afterward, I am heading into a youth ministry consulting project for 3 days in the Seattle area through Youth Ministry Architects. I'm stoked to meet yet another group of great people who want to serve their young people as best as possible. This week I also received confirmations from two other churches who want to be coached. When it rains, it pours.
  • Following the consultation, I'm taking another 3 days to work with the Free Methodist conference in the Pacific Northwest. I'll be meeting with some pastors who are already advocates for Eden Reforestation Projects, and then speak on a larger scale with all the pastors in that particular conference on Oct. 22 about Eden. This conference of over 45 churches wants to commit to supporting Africans in restoring their environment and breaking cycles of despair. Good for them.
Speaking of Eden (do you like that seg├╝e?), I was stoked to hear today that we have planted 11,802 trees so far through our recent partnership with Simple Shoes. We have one more week (till Oct 17) to spread the word on this. Go to this link and watch a 1 minute video on how to let as many of your friends as possible know how a few mouse clicks on their computers can plant at least ten trees in Africa.

We also received approval this week from our board to go to Urbana International Missions Conference as an exhibitor. This will be my fifth Urbana, but my first as an exhibitor. I am already praying we can connect with so many others to join us in this.

I will miss my cats, CA weather, Fairview vegetables, my bike and my big comfy bed... but I'm grateful for the doors opening up in these next two weeks. I read 2 Corinthians 9 with a group of high school student leaders at breakfast this week, and these verses express this week perfectly for me:

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
I am blessed beyond measure... today I had lunch with a young student who is chomping at the bit to raise up a worship band who can lead and serve their peers -- yet he knows he still has so much to learn. Yesterday I had lunch with another former student from nearly 25 years ago who is now running a youth group of 40 students. Earlier in the week I had coffee with yet another former student who is now a pastor. I am speechless at the privilege of getting to see "the rest of the story" in the lives of others I have known and worked with. I have received so much, and am ready to keep being a cheerful giver.

So I rejoice in the past and also run toward the present. Thanks for running alongside.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Providence Hall retreat

Last week I went to the Providence Hall annual retreat. Granted, I had secretly hoped when I rotated out of the role of youth pastor that I would be DONE with camp. I went to camp at least four times a year since 1984... yes, even my basic math skills tell me that I went to camp over 100 times... geesh. I've paid my dues, right?!

Regardless, last week I somehow found myself driving up San Marcos Pass in my 1997 dirty Subaru wagon with the bumper sticker "Junky Car Club" on the rear window, packed full with 4 students and all their luggage. After a stop at Cantwell's for Swedish Fish (naturally), we headed off. Despite temps hitting at least 90 degrees, we had to drive with the windows rolled down and the AC off because poor little Subie can't get up the hill with all that weight if the AC is on. Some things never change.

Yes, I still hate sleeping on a twin-sized bed with a plastic mattress and yes, a cabin full of girls swearing to me "we're gonna stay up all night talking!" is sort of torturous, but the conversations with them, the laughter, the time and space to really talk and listen and be with God is still awfully great. I am grudgingly grateful that God insists, on a regular basis, that I go past my self-imposed lines in the sand. This is what faith and selflessness and service and surprise is all about.

I won't ramble on with lots of stories... but these photos do a good job of capturing our time together. I am inordinately blessed.