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Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Want to be a Philippian

I have clear memories of my visit to Philippi on a tour of the ministry of the Apostle Paul that I went on through Turkey and Greece in May 2005.

Though this isn't my photo (thank you, interweb), it really does look like this... the ruins of the ancient church in Philippi, that is.

I was reminded of this visit this morning as I was reading in the Book of Acts, chapter 16. I'm reading it in The Message -- not terribly scholarly to be sure, but for me, Peterson's paraphrase captures the excitement and wonder and terror that must have been felt as the events he is describing were happening.

I have read this chapter many times because I especially love the Book of Philippians, and to hear the story of how the church got started is a thrill. I have also taken on the "founder" of the church of Philippi, Lydia, as my hero -- clearly someone who was a gifted businesswoman but also "known to be God-fearing." Peterson writes that she "listened with intensity" and a trusting heart, and then hosted the church in her home until it grew.

On the tour I visited the river site where it is thought that Lydia was meeting with some friends for a prayer meeting when Paul and Timothy arrived -- and where she was then baptized after "listening with intensity" to the Gospel message.

You have to read the story for yourself to really grasp the thrill of it all: dreams, riverside baptisms, vicious beatings, earthquakes, more conversions, festive meals, bold standoffs with the powers-that-be, great friendship. Exciting stuff.

It would take many postings to list the reasons for my fondness for Philippians -- future postings, perhaps.... but today I embrace this passage most heartily:
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
As I press on through the highs & lows of life -- hard work, friends with cancer, broken-hearted grief, amazing students, partnership in the gospel, personal challenges -- this passage reminds me to give both my head and heart to Jesus. No holding back. Dive in, get messy, be vulnerable, keep moving forward -- even when there is deep fear. As you forge ahead, you walk through those hard things, and get on the other side of them: more mature, deeper, wiser, more full of love and true joy.

To "listen with intensity" and then believe with a trusting heart, like Lydia, is the most important decision of one's life. Yet it is not just a one-time, mountain-top experience; it works itself out each day, in the small things. I finish with these words, that pushed me to keep reading all this wonderful stuff in the first place:
We too often fail to realize, however, that people who say that they want to find God in life have to work every day too to bring that Presence into focus, or the Presence will elude them no matter how present it is in theory. (Joan Chittister)

Look for the Presence each day.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Polenta Skillet Pizza - updated

I had to post this one again. I have made it a few times since the first time I posted this in October 09, but have never been completely satisfied with the polenta crust.

But I tweaked it tonight, and it worked perfectly, in my humble opinion. The photo above is from the original post. I ate tonight's version far too quickly to take a photo.

I got this originally from the Oct 09 issue of
Vegetarian Times.

2 tb olive oil, divided
3/4 c instant polenta
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe Quick Pizza Sauce (see below) or PESTO - both are great

Potential toppings - a short list:
  • 1 3.5 oz log goat cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into rings
  • fresh tomato
  • fresh avocado
  • Gouda cheese
  • olives
  • fresh basil
  • sauteed mushrooms....

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (New pointer: put iron skillet in the oven without oiling it, just to get it hot, while the oven is preheating).

2. Combine polenta, salt & 3 cups water in saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook 5 minutes or until polenta is thick.

3. Remove skillet, brush bottom and sides of 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 tb oil. (It will sizzle - be careful)

4. Spread polenta in prepared skillet, set in oven, and bake 20-25 minutes, or until beginning to brown on all sides. (The hot skillet makes the polenta immediately have a crisp bottom crust - awesome!) You want the crust crisp, but not burnt.

5. Remove skillet from oven, spread polenta with sauce (red or pesto). Place other toppings (unless you are putting tomatoes, fresh basil or avocado - wait until the pizza is cooked). Drizzle with remaining oil. Return to oven.

6. Bake 10-15 minutes more, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Top with shredded parmesan cheese.

I'm already dreaming of future toppings ... kale, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, feta, eggplant, mushrooms, roasted garlic, red onion...

QUICK PIZZA SAUCE (save this recipe - I really liked it)

1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 tb finely minced onion or shallot
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red wine or red wine vinegar

Combine ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt & pepper if desired.

FRESH PESTO a winner!
2 cups basil packed (can use 1 cup arugula or cooked kale -- take some risks. Trust me it tastes great)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tb walnuts or pine nuts
1/4 c grated parmesan
3 cloves minced garlic

Put ingredients in a small food processor, 1/3 of ingredients at a time. Pulse until smooth, add more ingredients.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Got Stone Fruit?

"Stone fruit" is a weird term. Sure, I know it refers to fruit with big seeds or "stones" - peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, etc. I get that. But the word "stone" with "fruit" takes away the fresh yumminess of these fruits. Biting into a fresh peach is one of those top "YESSSSS!" experiences in life. But calling it a "stone fruit" makes it sound like it's gray and filled with gravel or something...

But I digress. Nothing new. Regardless of my deep-seated hang up with the term, I have discovered a glorious way to use said stone fruit.

Yes, I prefer it to eat them all au naturel, just as the Good Lord made them. But I can also burn out on them quickly. So it's good to have options. Other than dicing them up and freezing them for smoothies, this is my new favorite - thank you Everyday Food magazine (really, thank you Martha, who of course calls peaches and friends "stone fruit") and thanks too to Fairview Gardens for this week's pound of nectarines (which were a "scosh" small for plain eating... I'm not complaining):

Stone Fruit Compote
In a small saucepan, combine about 3/4 lb coarsely chopped stone fruit, 2 tb honey, pinch of coarse salt, 3 tb water, and 1 small cinnamon stick (other options: 1 wide strip lemon zest, 1 star anise, 2 allspice berries).

Cook over medium high, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft (10-15 mins). Transfer to jar and let cool. To store, cover and refrigerate, up to 2 weeks).

I put the compote on Greek Yogurt (Voskos in my new favorite brand) and it is perfection.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Eggplant Burgers

THIS is going on the menu list for this week. Oh yeah.

Eggplant Burgers

A delicious late summer meatless grill or make it under the broiler. You might need a knife and fork to eat these hearty sandwiches.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons oil

2 teaspoons wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Whisk together in a small bowl.

1 large eggplant

Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch / 5-mm thick slices to make 12-16 slices. Brush with the oil mixture. Place on grill over medium-high heat. Close lid and cook, turning and brushing occasionally with remaining oil mixture, until tender, 5-10 minutes. Remove from grill. (Eggplant slices may be cooked under the broiler or sautéed in a frypan until tender, 4-5 minutes per side.)

8 thin slices provolone, Gouda, or other cheese

2 tomatoes (thinly sliced)
or 4 large pieces roasted red sweet peppers (SIS p. 167)

8-16 leaves fresh basil

freshly ground pepper

Place a slice of cheese on 1 eggplant slice; top with another eggplant slice. Top with 2 tomato slices or a piece of roasted red sweet pepper, then 2-4 basil leaves. Top with third eggplant slice, then another slice of cheese. Top with fourth eggplant slice. Repeat to make 4 stacks, adding a grind of pepper at the end (optional). Place on grill; close lid and cook for about 2 minutes, turning once.

4 crusty rolls or 8 thin slices sturdy bread

Drizzle balsamic vinegar on inside of split rolls. Or brush the bread with olive oil, toast it on the grill and lightly rub a cut clove of garlic over the toasted surface. Add vegetable stacks and serve immediately. Or allow to cool, wrap tightly, and refrigerate several hours or overnight, allowing flavors to blend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Feelings and Identity

This needs no intro. Fantastic, wise, beautiful words that God used to remind me of great truth this morning. From Henri Nouwen... go to henrinouwensociety.org to sign up for daily quotes.
What We Feel Is Not Who We Are

Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings. Mostly we have little control over these changes. It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us. As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God's beloved children.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hop on the Bus, Gus -- C'mon, just try it!

Last week I posted some thoughts on taking the bus and what a stretch that was for me when I tried it in 2008 or so... I posted it to set the stage for this rant... er um, post.

I don't want to start an argument, but I for one am so sad about the oil spill in the Gulf. It's the largest man-made environmental disaster in history. I suppose we could picket BP. On my recent trip to Alaska I saw a ginormous BP skyscraper in Anchorage and glared menacingly at the building for several seconds. I sort of doubt they noticed, unfortunately...

Yes, they bungled this on many levels, and the finger-pointing will go on for years, but I know it's not completely their fault. Actually, when I finally get honest, I have to take some responsibility myself.

HUH? Yeah. Actually, you do too.

We are addicted to combustible engines people. Planes and automobiles, especially. And this is not sustainable behavior, by any stretch of the imagination. Worse, it's completely self-absorbed.

This is not going to be some statistic-filled sermon about global warming or carbon footprints... have no fear. I simply want to ask you to cut back on your personal auto travel. I'm not asking you to just sit at home and watch documentaries, or sort your silverware. I'm not saying it's admirable if you junk your current vehicle and go for a hybrid. I'm just pushing for one concept: LESS. And then MORE.

Just ponder for a moment what the effect would be if every person you know would drive one less errand per week, and/or take public transportation at least once a week. I don't know how many gallons of gas we would avoid using if this happened, or the decrease in parts-per-million of carbon thrust into the atmosphere that would occur if we drove less. Duh. You know it would have a massive, huge, gigantic impact.

Please know that I am putting my money where my mouth is. For the last two weeks I have taken the Bike Bus to work at Providence Hall, for a total of 5 trips so far. I'll admit to the downsides right away:
  • I have to get up a half hour earlier.
  • The unexpected -- I got a flat tire today. (Thanks Mo, for picking me up. Just fixed it at home.)
  • The bus doesn't come to my house, nor does it drop me off at work.
But come on... SO WHAT? It's just not all about me.

Upsides - yep, I know you're dying to hear them:
  • I save money. If you buy tickets in bulk (10 tickets), the trip only costs $1.10 per ticket.
  • No parking issues. At Providence, which is located downtown, I have to find parking beyond the 75-minute curb limits that surround us.
  • I get exercise. I am riding my bike more, obviously.
If you've known me for awhile, you know that I have been riding my bike regularly since 2003. So why is this different?

Thanks for asking. Three weeks ago I heard an interview of Mark Bittman on NPR. He's a fantastic food blogger on the New York Times. I have used many of his recipes. He was being interviewed about his latest book titled Food Matters. He calls his readers to "conscientious eating," by eating more sustainably, seasonally, simply, yada yada. All that stuff I've posted about on this blog too...

But he made a fascinating comment (I hope I don't completely get it wrong....) that stuck with me. He's apparently written at length about how we need to simply learn how to be hungry again. The interviewer asked him to expand on this thought. Bittman essentially said, We think about sex several times a day, but we don't follow through on those feelings the majority of the time.... yet when we think about food many times during the day, we think that's somehow different, and think it's fine to fulfill our desires immediately. We all need to learn how to be hungry again.

This got my attention. It's very obvious, yet it just made sense. Then I took it one step further and thought to myself, This applies in other areas of my life. Where?


I thought of this one. Driving. Why do I think I need to get to everywhere I am going according to MY schedule, by myself? Why can't I try to fit in a bit more with the rest of the human race?

Today, in Urban Dictionary, the following definition popped into my inbox:
Congreenient: The practice of recycling, or being green, only when convenient. A person who only recycles when it is convenient to do so.
If you already recycle, compost, bring your coffee cup to Starbucks, only use reusable shopping bags -- good for you. Then it's time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and keep the momentum going. Take public transportation. Ride your bike. Combine your errands into one trip. When planning a trip, try taking the train...

I've done all these regularly in 2010, and it has worked out just fine. Sure, it takes a bit more planning, and sometimes I have to not do something exactly at the times I was planning on it because I have to adjust my timing according to bus or train schedules, but big whoop. There have been plenty of benefits. I've gotten in good conversations with people on trains, in buses, at stoplights on my bike or while riding on the road. I've decided to make a little more effort to engage with my community, and be a little nicer to creation. And to have my day not rotate completely around me and what I want to do.

Here's a quote I read this morning (July 24) that builds on this line of thinking:
In a culture totally given to individualism, what relationships we may be betraying by selfishness and what it would take to cure ourselves of the self-centeredness that requires the rest of the world to exist for our own convenience. (Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict, p. 128)
I want to grow in selflessness. In a crazy way, riding my bike and taking the bus helps me to do that. Try it out for yourself.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Holy Frijole Mole!

Got this recipe from Fairview Gardens, best darn CSA around. Using my green beans and fresh basil from the share I received this week.

I just made it and oooooohhhhh baby! I have one great little lunch to take to work tomorrow -- scooping up this stuff with some FoodShouldTasteGood chips. O Happy Day!

Recipes for Green Beans: Frijole Mole

This recipe is from an inspirational book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. You can eat this dip with crackers or in wraps. Make sure you steam the beans thoroughly.

  1. Steam green beans until tender.
  2. Saute onions over medium heat in oil until transparent.
  3. Combine beans, cooked onions, eggs, basil, and lemon juice in food processor and blend into coarse paste.
  4. Remove puree to a bowl and combine with enough mayo or yogurt to hold mixture together. (Note from Kelly: I used Trader Joe's White Bean Hummus. Very good if I do say so myself)
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
(Last chime from Kelly: I cut this recipe in half - using only 1 egg - to make just enough for me. This made plenty. I'm not really into sharing....)


"Silence has two functions. The first effect of exterior silence is to develop a sense of interior peace. The second value of silence is that it provides a stillness that enables the ear of the heart to hear the God who is 'not in the whirlwind.'

The constantly blaring music, the slammed door, the ceaseless, empty chatter in the hall, the constantly harsh voice all break the peace of the heart and agitate the soul. Day after day, month after month of them thickens the walls of the mind until it becomes impossible to hear the talk within us that shows us our pain and opens our minds to the truths of life and the presence of God...

We say we do not have the time to think, but what we actually lack is the quiet to think. Yet, until we are able to have at least a little silence every day, both outside and in, both inside and out, we have no hope of coming to know either God or ourselves very well." Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict, pp. 124-125.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Logic is Finite

I just read these this morning. A great balance of what it means to feed the mind and the soul:
"Every logical position ... will eventually lead into trouble, and heresy, and chaos. Every logical position is fully consistent, but coherence arises from the human mind, not God's. The human mind is finite and cannot grasp eternity, and therefore the finite mind sees the infinite as not graspable coherently. If we could grasp it all coherently, without contradiction, we would be God. The person who insists on being logical to the end winds up in a mess. I am not saying that we should not be rational. I am not anti-intellectual. I am saying that the intellect by itself is helpless to arrive at total truth.
... Kenneth L. Pike (1912-2001), Stir, Change, Create, p. 44

"Prayer without study is like a soul without a body," the rabbis say. St. Benedict clearly felt the same way... It is necessary to understand the Scriputures before it is possible to pray them. It is essential to be steeped in the Scriptures before it is possible to exude them... the idea of groundedness in the spiritual life should make us stop and think. We're all busy. We're all overscheduled. We're all trying to deal with people and projects that consume us. We're all spiritually thirsty. And, we're all responsible for filling the mind with rich ideas in order to leaven the soul. Prayer, contemplation and spiritual adulthood don't happen by themselves. We have to work at them.

... Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict, p. 115

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hop on the Bus, Gus -- Part One

(I first submitted this little ditty to my church's monthly journal a couple of years ago. My newest bus musings will come sometime soon in Part Two, but I wanted to set the stage with my original thoughts. Read on...)
My life changed dramatically in May 2003. What happened, you ask? That year our church pursued a study on stewardship titled Keeping the House in Order: Studies in Biblical Stewardship. We looked at the implications of our faith in terms of caring for the earth, disciplining our bodies, using our minds and spending our money and time in a godly fashion.
Out of that study, I decided that I could grow in my discipleship in all of those arenas by driving my car less and riding my bike more. Some reasons are obvious. Clearly, I saved money on gas by riding my bike. I greatly improved my fitness as well, which obviously helped in the stewardship of my body. And since I rode my bike, I wasn’t contributing nearly as much to my carbon footprint, better caring for God’s creation.
But as I rode nearly every day of the week (my goal was to drive my car no more than once a day), I also realized this affected the use of my time and my mind as well. I was not able to do as much each day because I could not book appointments and errands as closely together. This in turn forced me to look at my nearly obsessive need to be efficient and effective, and to lay my approach to work at God’s feet. I also saw how much more I thought and prayed about the various things I was talking about in those appointments as I rode to and from them on my bike. If I got into my car, it was far easier to tune out and listen to the radio, or make phone calls. Riding my bike as an alternative form of transportation caused me to learn far more than I expected.
As a result, I became a devoted bicycle commuter. My old friend Matt Steele fondly called me The Sweaty Pastor. I will admit to a few drawbacks… a flat tire or two at an inopportune time, a collision on the bike path that nearly broke my nose and probably broke a rib (it was not my fault -- a nine-year old took me out with his new mountain bike!), and of course, a bad case of helmet hair a good part of the time. But overall, it was definitely worth it.
What surprised me though was that this lifestyle shift did not stop there. I discovered that a commitment to green living is never exhausted, because one’s awareness enlarges daily. Progressively my housemate and I started composting, recycling much more, conserving water, shopping organically, and only using reusable grocery bags. In 2007, I joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm and now only buy and eat locally-grown produce and eat it seasonally.
Some time after May 2003 however, it became cool to be green. I suppose this came about for a variety of reasons – the popularity of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, the improved availability of hybrid vehicles, ever-increasing gas prices, and various celebrities pumping up the issue. I was sad to see a spiritual discipline become a pop culture trend! But I pressed on, helmet hair intact. I thought to myself rather smugly, At least I started doing all of this before it became so ‘popular’!
But then green living was everywhere. Hipsters were riding fixed gear bicycles, but still looking like they had just stepped out of an Urban Outfitters catalog. Starbucks started a World Water Day. Rock stars were buying carbon offsets to make up for the conspicuous consumption of energy used during their concert tours. And pretty soon, there seemed to be no sacrifice whatsoever in going green. It became less a decision of conviction and more of an issue of style! As I read on the blog Stuff White People Like,
Recycling is a part of a larger theme of stuff white people like: saving the earth without having to do that much…
Rats! A quick scan through the various topics highlighted in this hilarious blog confirmed my worst fears РI had become a clich̩!
I pondered how I could reconnect my stewardship decisions to their roots. Thankfully, it did not take long for me to do so. One Saturday I needed to take my bike to the shop for a big overhaul – a complete replacement of my drive train, which is an all-day job. I wanted to ride my bike to the shop, but could not find a friend to pick me up from there. Slowly, it dawned on me that I could just take the bus home.
I shuddered. I had not taken a bus since I graduated from college in 1983! What is my hang up with taking the bus, I thought to myself. A recent Q&A in the local newspaper on public transportation summed up my subconscious reservations:
What would it take for you to use mass transit?
  • If the time between two different buses was shorter, that would encourage me to take it more.
  • If it was more convenient. . . If it (went) through specific areas instead of just going up and down one street.
  • It would be nice if it was nicer. It's kind of gross.
  • If they came and picked me up at my house.
I was embarrassed by these answers when I saw them in print. They were utterly ridiculous and shallow. Of course we would like the world to revolve around us… but that is not reality! I was humbled when I realized that I took the bus every time I traveled – whether it was New York City, St. Louis, Rome, Antigua (Guatemala), or all over Turkey and Greece – but I was somehow too proud to take it in my own town?! Then I became determined to take the bus.
To be honest, it took me awhile to figure out the right schedule, but soon I came up with the routes I needed. I ended up taking the bus four times that week. There were a wide variety of people on my bus rides: mentally disabled adults, college students who did not speak English to each other, elderly people, people in wheelchairs, people with tattoos and body piercings, several folks who appeared to be mentally ill, and a few who looked to be homeless. Sometimes I was the only white person on the bus. I have lived in Santa Barbara since 1979, and cannot recall the last time I went out and about and did not run into an old friend or someone from church. However, on these bus trips, I did not see one person I knew. And that made me sad.
I still want to limit my impact on the environment. I still want to spend less money on material consumption. I still want to exercise more and use my car less. I still yearn to be less consumed with myself and my own need to feel efficient. I still want to make time to listen and to think and to pray. And I have learned that all of those things happen not just as I ride my bike, but when I take the bus. And the bus has one distinct advantage over riding my bike: it is definitely NOT cool.
On the bus something else happens – I enter a world I am less familiar with, a world where people do not expect the bus to come to their front door, and where they are not taking the bus out of environmental concerns. Rather, the bus is the only means of transportation available to them. Just as Jesus left the comfort of heaven to bring the gospel to our world, I want to leave the comfort of my world and enter the world of those folks right here in town.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:16-19)

Saturday, July 10, 2010


(Written one night during my recent trip to Alaska)

As I write this I am sitting at a small desk in front of a window overlooking the Kantishna Valley in Denali National Park in Alaska. The view is simple and completely compelling. A green belt of wilderness spreads out broadly, filling my window, with a river braiding through it in several different directions at once. Birds sing and trill sporadically. Dandelion fuzz floats through the air, glowing and glistening as it reflects the strange solstice sunlight of Alaska. It is 10:20pm, yet with the sun high in the sky, beating down on us with a steady heat, it feels like 5:30 at home on a lazy summer day. What a bizarre effect it is, this never-ending summer light way up north.

I will have difficulty sleeping tonight. Not because the accommodations are not comfortable, or because it is noisy or crowded around me. Instead, I will probably not sleep much because it is so lovely here. I can’t stop looking at it. I can’t stop savoring the view and really, the whole of it all. These are one of the few times in life where you cannot hold on to it tightly enough. As much as I will want this to last for a long while, it simply will not. Like trying to hold onto a fistful of sand, the tighter you squeeze, the more quickly it trickles away. If I try too hard to hang on to this, by taking photos or oohing and ahhing over and over about how beautiful it is, I will actually lose it.

I have one other distinct memory like this. One night, five years ago, I was on a tour of Turkey and Greece, tracing the travels of the Apostle Paul. The trip brought us one night to Assos, just below the ancient city of Troy. Assos is a remote fishing village perched on the Aegean Sea. The tour bus stopped outside the town, and we had to walk in, because the roads, as much as you could call them that, were far too narrow and uneven to allow for a bus. As we stumbled over the cobbles, I thought I’d walked into a time warp. Life had essentially remained the same for centuries.

We ate well that night – fresh baked crusty bread, earthy red wine, an endless array of olives and hummus and feta and lamb and fish and roasted vegetables. I was so outrageously full I could barely breathe. Yet when dessert came, I refused to miss it. It was some sort of baklava, I’m sure, or lovely custard. As I finished, the food coma made me almost dizzy. I clambered up to my tiny little room to go to bed and found the full moon reflecting on the absolutely still Aegean Sea, boring a laser beam right into my room. The moonglow was stunning. I sat at the end of my bed, leaning onto the solid, plastered windowsill almost all night. I simply took it all in -- the water, the moon, the silent night, the soft marine wind, the smells, the timeless nature of the town. I shake my head still as I think about it. It rests in my memory fondly, just as this one from Alaska will, as a complete sensory delight.

This is joy – something so astounding and powerful in the feelings it creates. We cannot help but smile as it wells up in our memory. At the same time, we are slightly shaken. The experience is so strong we can hardly absorb it, and the power of it nearly knocks us over. We are not built to handle its full effect, but it's irresistible! So we squint, inhale deeply and dive in, grateful and thrilled and scared. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, "All joy...emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings."

These are tastes of heaven. To quote Lewis again, "Joy is the serious business of Heaven." Every so often, ever so briefly, God pulls back the curtain and give us a peek. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living,” it says in Psalm 27. These deep draughts of eternity are meant to feed us as we press on in the heaviness of now.

Wait for the LORD;

Be strong and let your heart take courage;

Yes, wait for the LORD.

This is how Psalm 27 ends. We are able to wait when we get these glimpses of the "not yet." May I savor them and linger on how deeply they satisfy me. Especially when I have to plod forward through conflict and loss, cancer and fear. This life is not all there is, I will remember. I am meant for more.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bengali Zucchini Curry - easy and delish

Picture this... it's 5pm, and you're trying to figure out what to make for dinner. You've got zucchini (lots of it, let's be honest, it's summer) and cilantro in your crisper. They look good, but your brain can't come up with something that sounds substantial enough to call "dinner." What's a girl to do?

Thank you interweb.... this was easy and so darn good.

  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • 2 potatoes, cubed (I keep a 1-lb bag of organic potatoes on hand)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with liquid (I always have a box of the Costco organic cans on hand in my pantry)
  • 1 tsp turmeric, divided into 1/2 tsp portions
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided into 1/2 tsp portions
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (or more, if you're a hothead)
  • healthy pinch of sugar
  • 1/4 c minced fresh cilantro, more for garnish
  • 1/2 c. water
  • olive oil for frying
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • warm na'an bread or rice


  1. If you're eating this on rice, start the rice.
  2. Place zucchini and potatoes in a large bowl and marinate in 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric for 5 min.
  3. Heat oil (I used 1 tb oil - the recipe I found did not specify... go with what feels good to you!) in a sturdy pan and fry potatoes & zucchini on medium-low heat for 5-6 min till golden brown. Remove and keep aside.
  4. Add more oil (1 tb?), add in the ginger paste, cumin, turmeric, 1/2 tsp salt and chili powder. Fry for 2 min and add in the tomatoes & liquid from can. Fry well for 5-6 min and add in the vegetables. Add in the sugar and water and cook till done (when potato chunks are soft).
  5. With 5 minutes left, mix 2 tsp cornstarch with 1/2 c water till blended. Stir in to thicken sauce.
  6. Garnish with minced cilantro.
  7. Optional: top with sour cream, unsweetened coconut, raisins and chutney.
Hello, amazing leftovers.


I read this quote this morning. I was left asking myself, "How much do I conform to the world's ideas of influence and power? How much do I fear the power of evil and allow myself to be intimidated by it?"

Sit on these words. They rocked me.

What we call the meekness of Our Lord is more than an aspect of His character: it is its fundamental principle. There is nothing in it of the "inert door-mat"; it was, and is, the practice of uncompromising and unyielding love, the exposition of a new technique in dealing with evil.

I believe it to be the
business of Christians, especially to-day, first to realize, and then to proclaim, this revolutionary technique as the only way to peace and justice. It won't be easy, for meekness has little "face value" compared with armaments; but, if the Cross means anything at all, it is the vindication of meekness as the most dynamic and explosive force that humanity has ever known.

... Donald O. Soper (1903-1998), Popular Fallacies about the Christian Faith, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1938, p. 76
See the book at http://cqod.com/r/rs447