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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tagine (Huh??)

I started this blog about four years ago, and had all the great aspirations one has (if they are willing to admit it) about doing so: writing insightful posts that generate loads of comments, building readership, creating buzz. I really can't believe I thought any of that could happen.

However, I am really grateful for those who check in now and then and read my meanderings, but it certainly hasn't generated anything other than an occasional comment... and here's the funny part: I write about youth ministry, theology, social commentary, spiritual disciplines, and once in awhile an update on what I'm doing professionally. Yet hands down, I get the most comments (and traffic) by far about my recipes!

In fact, lately my "readership" has really jumped, but only because a few months ago someone "pinned" one of my recipes on her Pinterest page, and that has gone viral (at least by my limited standards). Hilarious.

That being said, here is my latest recipe. I made it last night and practically ate the bowl, it was so good. I got it from a fantastic cookbook called Simply in Season. I have mentioned here before that I try to eat seasonally, but even though this recipe is titled "Autumn Tagine," I had all the components sitting in my crisper from local produce. One caveat however: I opted to use butternut squash instead of sweet potato, because that's what I had. Perfecto.

Tagine (tah-ZHEEN) is a Moroccan stew named after the traditional heavy clay pot in which it is cooked. This colorful vegetarian version made one tester’s 11-year-old exclaim, "We should have this every night!" Adjust the amount of crushed hot chilies to suit your family’s tastes. Serves 6-8.

2 cups / 500 ml onion (diced) - OK, another substitution = I used leeks

In large soup pot sauté in 1-2 tablespoons oil until soft, 4-5 minutes.

6 cloves garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon ginger root (peeled and minced)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon pepper
1/4-1 teaspoon crushed hot chilies (optional)

Add and stir for 1 minute.

3 cups / 750 ml sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into 1-inch / 2.5-cm cubes) - like I said, I substituted with butternut squash
2 cups / 500 ml cooked chickpeas
11/2 cups / 350 ml vegetable broth
Add and bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat. Simmer 5 minutes.
1/2 medium head cauliflower (cut into 1-inch / 2.5-cm florets)
2 cups / 500 ml peas

Stir in cauliflower, cover, and simmer until vegetables are nearly tender, about 12 minutes. Add peas, cover, and simmer until hot, 2 minutes. Serve over steamed couscous or rice, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro (optional). I also find that Tagine is Tasty when Topped with some Toasted nuts. I should make a T-shirt that says that!  :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013


It feels so good to sit still and breathe deep after a week packed-full. Due to scheduling, these past few days (since the evening of January 25) have been non-stop with a mission conference, interviews for Summer 2013 intern candidates, and continued work on the Wesleyan Theology training course for leaders. And wherever I could I would squeeze in time for studying my class on the Torah.

Throughout these events I detected a thread that wove through them all. Throughout the Santa Barbara Mission Conference we were blessed by multiple speakers, and the one who rocked my world the most was Brenda Salter-McNeil. I had heard her speak before at Urbana 06 and Urbana 09, but getting to know her a bit and hear from her up close and personal at this conference was incredible.

I cannot begin to encapsulate all that she said, but she spoke prophetically from Isaiah 6 and 11 about "stump ministry." After all these years, I think I have tasted of what it means to get whittled down to a measly stump. I was reminded in new ways that God sides with the broken-hearted. We must cling to Him as we wait for a future we cannot see.

That would have been enough to feast on, but slowly I saw the thread emerge. I went to hear Brenda speak at Westmont Chapel on Monday, January 28, and she taught powerfully on the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. She called us out as we heard the oft-told story in new ways. She helped me to see how I have been the priest and the Levite, who crossed to the other side of the road to avoid the mess of the man beaten by bandits, more than the Samaritan. In the same way that we walk past trash on the ground, we walk past the "mess" around us, thinking someone else will deal with it. As God has sided with me in my broken-heartedness, I am called to sit with others in theirs. Ouch.

In my reading for the Torah class, we have actually spent these first four weeks on Genesis 1-11. Given that we need to study the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, you would think we would get going! But this has been time well spent. This week I read through the tragedy of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, and saw things I had never seen before. Naturally I have been troubled by the strangeness of this story -- why does God prefer Abel's offering to Cain's? In the past I have thought about it, then shrugged my shoulders and given up. But as one of our texts tells us, God has a "penchant for what is not highly regarded." She goes on to break down the Hebrew meaning of the name Abel and Cain. "Abel" apparently points to "what is lacking in worth" and "Cain" is "connected with productivity, with creation and acquisition." In other words, Abel denotes "worthless," but then we are told "the entire Bible shows a God who is on the side of the 'Abels'." Later she says that God has a "preference for what is weak and not able to protect itself." 

WOW. In the past, when students and I have discussed scripture and the repeated instances of God working through the unlikely (David, Samuel, Mary, Paul, to name a few) I have always repeated what I have been taught: that God prefers to use the unlikely because then the evidence is clear that he is at work, and the results are not due to the natural abilities of the person in the story.

I won't say that I have been wrong, but this really is only half the tale. God is powerful and sovereign, but I know that he is not an egotistical tyrant who wants to make sure we know who is in charge. He is a God of mercy, grace and unending love. And as we receive such gifts, we are transformed by such tender and amazing love.

Then, we are called. As the textbook continues, "God's penchant for what is weak and 'worthless' must be imitated by the ones who walk in God's ways." Will I walk past the suffering around me, or will I allow it to make my own life messy?

I can't say that I reached the end of the thread this morning, but in my reading I came upon Psalm 27, and things felt clear:

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble? 

2 When evil people come to devour me,    
when my enemies and foes attack me,    
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though a mighty army surrounds me,    
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

4 The one thing I ask of the Lord—    
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,    
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.

May we all live much more by faith than by fear. May we take risks and love others in the same ways we have been loved by the insanely foolish and persistent love of God.