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Saturday, February 26, 2011


Unrest in Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Algeria, Egypt.... the list goes on and on. Every day when I listen to the news, I also pray. This is huge and crazy stuff, and I have no idea (nor does anyone else, if they're honest with themselves) where this is headed.

One immediate result I see already is a rise in gas prices. As I zipped home from Providence Hall on my scooter last week, I saw that Arco listed $3.79 for unleaded, and $3.89 for premium. Yikes. And the predictions are that prices will only go higher, quickly.

I just looked at my credit card statement... since January 29, I have spent $12.64 on gas. I will add that I also used the bus three different times because of rain. I buy 10-ride passes for the bus, which discounts the price from $1.75 to $1.10 per ride. So I have spent $15.94 on transportation in the last month.

Forgive me if it sounds like I'm bragging. That is not my goal. It's to make the point that we have to work hard on finding and using alternative means of transportation. Yes, it can be inconvenient when it's pouring rain, and yes, it's chilly on that scooter in the morning (so I bundle up in layers and look like the Michelin Man) and yes, I have to skip some things because I need more time to get from place to place. I got caught in a downpour while running errands on my bike last week -- and while I got muddy and sopping wet, I also felt like I was 10 years old and it was a hoot.

I googled GasBuddy.com. It's goal is to help consumers find the lowest prices for gas. But I was stopped by its first sentence: "The USA consumes 400 million gallons of gasoline every day." This is crazy-making! It cannot be just about finding deals. We need to look long and hard at our habits and make some changes.

Matthew Sleeth makes some great suggestions in his book Serve God, Save the Planet:
  • Use your bike for short trips.
  • Combine trips. Think you’re not driving a gas guzzler? The average U.S. family car travels about 15,000 miles each year. This adds up to 5.8 tons of greenhouse gas pollution and $2,222 in gasoline. If you have two family cars, that’s $4,444 in gasoline alone.
  • Visit the grocery store only once a week.
  • Use public transportation instead of your car once a week. Just start there.
  • Have someone over for dinner instead of going out.
More suggestions can be found here.

Lest I sound like I am nagging, I will stop there. I quoted Mr. Sleeth on Oct 10 of last year, and I will quote him again:
If you appear smug or holier than thou, you will be a positive witness to a party of none

'Nuff said.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rain Ramblings

I ran into this quote today, by Bono of U2. For more thoughts, go here:
My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean?
What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion.
Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Curl Up with Comfort Food

Rain is in the forecast again for this weekend. I don't care -- we need the rain, so no complaints here.

But this sort of weather calls for food that warms your belly... and perhaps because you have some extra time since you're cooped up indoors, you can make this (though it isn't time-consuming or hard.) This, or my recipe from the long weekend, are worth hanging on to.

One of my students actually used the exclamation "My lands!" today... and that phrase fits perfectly as a response after having a spoonful of this stew. It is outrageously flavorful. And a little different, which I'm chalking up to its Ethiopian inspiration.

If you don't have the spices this stew calls for, go to a local international market and pick them up. Then start cooking more Indian, Thai and heck, Ethiopian dishes. I had all of these spices on hand and it made for one deeeelightful dinner. Leftovers, after the spices get to percolate even longer, will be EPIC. It will also serve as a handy go-to option, if you are one to keep a can or two of garbanzo beans on hand, along with a bag of potatoes... both of which I have around regularly. Garbanzo beans (or chickpeas, I guess) are great for making hummus, vegetarian tacos (seriously, try it), minestrone soup, or simply as a reliable protein source for any Indian dish. Yes, I'm trying to sell you on the ugly little buggers...

Full disclosure: I got this recipe from the Whole Foods weekly newsletter... it's becoming a keeper


Chickpea stews with flavors similar to this one are often made in Ethiopia using ground roasted chickpeas or even split peas. Here, the method is simplified but the stew's sweet, fragrant spice mixture, which Ethiopians call berbere, remains. If you're in a hurry, omit roasting the chickpeas and simply add them to the stew after they've been rinsed and drained. This recipe was inspired by a Whole Planet Foundation microcredit client who runs a chickpea roasting business.


1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (I have cardamom seeds around for chai... make sure you shell them first)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (I hate carrots. I used some turnips instead)
Flatbread or rice


Preheat oven to 450°F. Stir together paprika, salt, allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cayenne, fenugreek (if using) and ginger in a small bowl; set spice mixture aside.

Toss chickpeas with a tablespoon of the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Roast chickpeas, stirring occasionally, until somewhat dried out and just golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and chopped ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in reserved spice mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until spices are toasted and very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes more.

Stir in broth, potatoes, carrots and reserved chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are just tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover pot and simmer until stew is thickened and potatoes and carrots are very tender, about 25 minutes more. Ladle stew into bowls and serve with flatbread (or rice) on the side.

P.S. I added some chopped cilantro on top, along with some yogurt, before serving.


Per serving: 400 calories (80 from fat), 9g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 710mg sodium, 66g total carbohydrate (10g dietary fiber, 8g sugar), 13g protein

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The 90's are Back... or Whatever

I have mentioned a podcast I listen to weekly (NPR All Songs Considered), and they came through with a TREMENDOUS show this week...

If you are a child of the 90's (as are many of my friends) or you are too young (blast you!) but love so many of the songs from this era (grunge? hip hop? alternative? rap? strong female vocalists?), set aside 90 minutes, put the kids to bed, put on some good headphones and follow your bliss as you enjoy this link. Yes, there is a panel of commentators on this podcast, but they are FANS, so I didn't find them annoying. And then you hear music from Jeff Buckley, Nirvana, Neutral Milk Hotel, Collective Soul, Radiohead, Lauryn Hill... I must stop. There are so many.

(Fun extra: they have all the original videos on this link as well... stroll down MTV memory lane and have a good laugh.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February Favorites 2011

This holiday weekend has been wonderfully relaxing and full of favorite things... some of them won't surprise you... cooking, riding my bike (had an especially fun ride getting drenched to the bone on Saturday), reading on the couch with a latte close by, and watching NBA Basketball (the All-Star Game Dunk Contest was insane this year).

But to drill down a bit deeper, here are some of the specific things that I am enjoying these days...
  • Abuelita Chocolate: I've picked up the new habit of dissolving 1/8 tablet of Abuelita Mexican chocolate in my milk before I steam it for a minute in the microwave... then I pour in my espresso that I brew on my stove, a habit I started after my first visit to Italy in 2006. This makes the BEST mocha I have ever had. Period.
  • The Cloister Walk: I picked this up at the Borders closeout downtown before it closed. I'm fascinated by Benedictine spirituality, and this book profiles Kathleen Norris' 9-month experience worshiping with Benedictines. A good, creative read. Next book on the list to read is one I received for my birthday: The Blue Parakeet.
  • The Prayer Circle: My friend Megan turned me on to this album. I don't know I missed it when it first came out in 1999, but this album is transcendent. It's called "A Choral Symphony in 9 Movements." I put this on when I'm writing a lesson for my Foundations class at Providence Hall or just writing a long letter to a friend. Put it on, sit on the couch and close your eyes. Absolutely lovely.
  • Fleet Foxes ~ "Helplessness Blues": Go to this link and download the song. The harmonies, the lyrics, the production of it is beautiful. It sort of reminds me of old Simon & Garfunkel stuff, but it's also brand new.
  • "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars: No apologies here... occasionally a pop song gets in my head and goes on "repeat." I am addicted to this song.
  • My Dansko clogs: Oh my heart. These things are a dream. I wear them EVERYWHERE. My poor housemate was so sick of seeing my one pair that she got me another pair for my birthday.
  • Cottage Cheese Pancakes: I found this recipe in December, and I still am making them at least once a week. With raspberries, they are ridiculous.
  • The Book of Hebrews in The Message: I am using the devotional Common Prayer, and am currently in the Book of Hebrews. There is such good news in this book. Read it and smile with joy, relief, and praise.
  • My cat Oliver. Recently my friend Cameron mocked me for not blogging lately about my kitten. Have no fear, I'm not done talking about my fuzzy friend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Black Bean Soup = Happy Belly

It's Friday, I'm done with a long week, it's pouring rain, and a luxurious three-day weekend awaits... for me that means making a big ol' pot of soup to kick off a few days of nesting and resting. Ahhhhh....

So I rooted through my latest issue of Vegetarian Times, the pantry and the crisper to figure out what to make. I came up with this recipe, though I varied it according to what I had on hand (because my lands, I wasn't going out into that rain!)

Serves 2-3

1 medium onion (or 1/4 cabbage, which is what I had in the crisper)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 cans black beans
3 medium potatoes, diced
1 tb vinegar (recipe calls for white wine vinegar, I used apple cider vinegar)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
2 tb diced cilantro
cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa or diced onion for garnish

1. Sauté onion (or cabbage), bell pepper and garlic in a little olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until vegetables soften.

2. Transfer to blender, or use my BFF Cuisinart Smart Stick to blend in the pan, and purée till smooth.

3. Add beans and some water -- purée to the consistency you prefer (I like mine on the thick side).

4. Add potatoes, vinegar, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, cilantro and salt. Simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes.

Remove bay leaf and top with garnish. This soup would be good with crusty bread, rice, cornbread, or tortillas. Have a great long weekend!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sanctify Me

Since 1999 I have gone with high school students monthly to serve at the local Rescue Mission. We visit with the clients during dinner or after the meal, then present a humble little chapel service. I have loads of great stories about poignant, moving, sad, frustrating, awkward and downright funny moments from these times.

Here are some the things that our students wrote last night on their Facebook pages after returning home:
another successful night of worship and fellowship at the rescue mission
Rescue Mission was really good tonight.
Rescue mission was amazing. Missed everyone who didn't come though.
Got to talk to some REAL people tonight at the rescue mission. Such a great experience! God is LOVE.
I find it odd how when i go to the rescue mission to help out i some how end up getting more out of it. I genuinly love those people. By far this has been the best and most meaningful valentines days i think i will ever have..
The Rescue Mission was amazing. I was humbled. It made me see how blessed I am. Thank you Jesus!
After all these years, it has practically become a reflex for me to go....


Sadly, the opposite is true. As the time approached to head over, I faced a familiar dilemma: every time I go to the Rescue Mission I have to talk myself into it... I am mortified to admit that. I should want to go, right?

I could take up a whole lot of space here analyzing why I hesitate each time. But if I think about it, I also drag my feet before going to a high school sporting event, or weekend camp. Sure, Rescue Mission pushes me out of my comfort zone big time. But just like when I arrive at the gym to watch yet another basketball game, I feel great about being at the Rescue Mission once I get my sorry self there.

It's just that painful little half hour before I'm supposed to leave. Where I am waiting to feel like going... and I just don't.

Last night I decided, rather than will my way into going, that I would pray my way into it.

I recited a prayer that I have very slo-o-ow-ly been memorizing the last 2-3 months, sentence by sentence. It comes from a book a friend of mine wrote with a couple of other friends of his.

Pause briefly. Read this. Take your time.

You will see how the words washed over me, wave upon wave, speaking Truth and shaking me out of my apathy. I was blessed, and reminded why I am grateful for God's persistence with me. I am a broken vessel, but ever so slowly, I see him gaining ground in me. It is a long and tedious process, and I am blown away by how He never gives up. Hallelujah.

Draw us into your love, Christ Jesus : and deliver us from fear.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Our Father…
Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our brothers and sisters throughout the world, who live and die in poverty and pain. Give them today, through our hands, their daily bread and through our understanding love, give peace and joy. Amen

Blessed are the poor.
For theirs is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are the hungry.
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the meek.
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
For they shall see God.
Blessed are those who mourn.
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the merciful.
For they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
For they are the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness and justice.
For great is their reward.

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bidst me come to Thee
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever. Amen.

Let us go forth to be the Body of Christ. May we become the hands and feet of Jesus to everyone we meet.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rescue Me

This has been a busy week... between traveling to So Cal twice this week for consulting projects with the Free Methodist Church of Southern CA, fighting (mostly losing) a cold, and my birthday, I was on the move. While I loved every single part of my week (well, not the cold), it feels good to sit still and reflect.

I continued my series on the Book of Psalms with students at Providence Hall, and as always, to prepare for a study like this blesses me perhaps more than anyone.

I was told by some students that they were recently praying that we would in fact grow in prayer as a school. So this study of psalms seems like an answer to those prayers.

As I told them, it's pretty simple: we can only grow in learning how to pray by… PRAYING. That is easier said than done though. It’s difficult to concentrate during prayer; it’s difficult to find others to pray with who are ready to pray. It’s difficult to know what to pray about.

So I suggested that we learn from the longest book in the Bible, the book of Psalms, which is God’s prayer book.

Psalms is unique in that it’s the only book in the Bible where people’s words are directed to God, rather than the rest of scripture, which is God speaking to us through the various authors.

Even better, we can’t see any particular organization in the five books of the Psalms, other than they are sometimes grouped according to authorship. I've learned that the psalms were a living, open book during the entire Old Testament period, from Moses to after they return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.

Just like our emotions and experiences with God are all over the place, so is each book within psalms. My hope for my students is that as they become more familiar with Psalms during our series that they will learn how to use the prayers to shape their lives of prayer, and more importantly, make that prayer life BIGGER.

In the series we are walking through 7 different genres in the psalms. The first one we examined are known as HYMNS. In other words, these psalms simply thank God for who He is.

The next type of psalm we looked at were psalms of THANKSGIVING, which might seem somewhat similar. But thanksgiving psalms are written about specific things that God has done for us in answer to prayer. And as we give thanks, we are also invited to bear witness to others about what God has done.

We then read a psalm of thanksgiving...

Psalm 30

A psalm of David. A song for the dedication of the Temple.

1 I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
3 You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.

4 Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

6 When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
7 Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

8 I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

We then spent some time in small groups asking ourselves a simple question of one another: When was a time that God rescued me? When was a time that I cried out to God and He answered my prayer?

As I asked those questions of the students, I had to turn the magnifying glass on my own life as well. I recalled two different times when I have felt called to leave after significant years (one of thirteen years, another of fifteen years) of commitment and ministry. These were agonizing decisions. I could not describe how I finally discerned that it was time to go. But as I reluctantly stepped away both times and jumped into the abyss of "what's next," God caught me. He didn't solve everything and tie it all up in a bow... but he was palpably there.

Then I read Psalm 30 as my own story. This is one of the greatest powers of scripture in my mind. As Tremper Longman says, we learn not only about God as we read the Psalms, we learn about ourselves as well. As I trace my fingers across words that have comforted millions for thousands of years, I still manage to feel known and understood personally. My own struggles and joys are given words that express my plight better than anything I could come up with myself.

O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Eat Your Spinach!

Being home from the Philippines means one thing for sure... I get to cook again!

Today I have been laying low because I'm fighting a cold (thank you, Providence Hall students!), so I was ready for some comfort food.

One of my favorite dishes at Indian restaurants is saag paneer. I've tried a few times to make it myself, and my version has never quite matched up. But I dug out an old recipe I'd missed till now and I'm happy to say, I hit the jackpot. Yessssss.

I highly recommend that you make the effort to find paneer cheese for this recipe. If you live in Goleta the Good Land, you can find it at my absolute best source for all sorts of spices and international ingredients, Indochina Market. From spun rice noodles to Cadbury chocolate to tamarind paste to paneer, this place rocks.

If you can't get it, tofu is a good substitute (speaking for myself, that is. Housemate insists paneer is a crucial ingredient).

Saag Paneer
serves 4

1/2 lb packaged paneer cheese, sliced into cubes
flour for dusting (I used GF flour and it worked great)
3 tb olive oil
2 onions, peeled, halved, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & minched (or 1 tsp crushed ginger)
1-2 green chiles, stemmed & thinly sliced (or your favorite hot sauce ~ add according to your taste)
1 lb fresh spinach, thoroughly washed
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tb half & half (I used plain yogurt instead)
Enough rice for each person...


1. Start rice.

2. Lightly dust paneer cubes with flour. In non-stick saucepan, heat 1 tb oil. Sauté paneer cubes on medium-low heat until they turn a shade darker on all sides.

3. In another pan, heat remaining 2 tb oil. Add onions, garlic, ginger, green chiles and sauté, stirring constantly for 5 minutes over medium heat until onions are soft.

4. Add spinach and water and simmer till spinach is wilted (cover the pan). Let cool slightly.

5. Pour contents of saucepan into blender or food processor and process into coarse puree.

6. Pour puree back into saucepan and add salt, garam masala and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat to blend flavors.

7. Add fried paneer and half & half (or yogurt), and gently simmer over low heat for 5 more minutes. Serve over rice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I'm back at Providence Hall, teaching in my Foundations of the Faith class. After some prayer while I was away in the Philippines, I changed my lesson plans, and decided to spend the month of February studying the Book of Psalms with them.

This idea was prompted in part by a book I read on my flight home by Kathleen Norris entitled The Cloister Walk. It's a memoir of a year when she participated in the daily life and rhythms of a Benedictine monastery. I could go on and on about the book, but this is the quote that triggered my reconsideration of my lesson plan:

“You come to the Bible’s ‘great book of praises’ through all the moods and conditions of life, and while you may feel poorly, you sing anyway. To your surprise, you find that the psalms do not deny your true feelings, but allow you to reflect on them, right in front of God and everyone.”

After my great week with the students at Faith Academy, I was reminded that we can never talk enough about how to cultivate a devoted, earnest life of prayer. This quote confirmed that hunch.

In preparation for this series, I went to a trusted resource. My friend Tremper Longman, in his book How to Read the Psalms, say that there are roughly seven different types of psalms. I thought it would be great to walk my students through these different types in order to learn more about "God's prayer book." Ultimately, I also want us to experience the prayers together as well.

So on Tuesday we started off with the type most people probably think of when they think about the Book of Psalms ~ Tremper calls this type the "hymn." As he describes them,
Hymns are easily recognized by their exuberant praise of the Lord. The psalmist pulls out all the stops in his rejoicing in God's goodness. His praise is exuberant because the psalmist is very conscious of God's presence.

I then shared with them the 3 structural pieces that scholars detect in the psalmic hymns:
  1. They begin with a call to worship.
  2. They continue by expanding on the reasons why God should be praised.
  3. Hymns often include, and sometimes conclude with, further words of praise.
Then we looked at Psalm 113, and used the psalm as a guide to prayer:

Psalm 113

1 Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD, you his servants;
praise the name of the LORD.
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?

7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.

Praise the LORD.

There is almost nothing more enjoyable to this old youth pastor's ears than hearing the hum of many students in prayer. I encouraged them to be as honest with God as they are with their friends, and walked them through a couple of examples.

I think at least a few of them got that. Well, one of them sure did... I overheard him thank God for "ice cream, and baseball." Smile.

During lunch, one of the junior girls called out to me from her circle of friends, "Kelly, how cool is it that a few of us have been praying that we could learn how to pray more at Providence Hall, and then you bust out with that lesson today?"

Indeed. How cool is that?