Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Gourmet Living, Act 8:
OK, so yesterday morning I get extra ambitious, and I tell Rebekah she can look up any recipe - unrestricted - and I'll cook it for her for our Tuesday date-night treat.
Well, she pulls out this three-page, single-spaced article from "COOK'S Illustrated" magazine that detailed "Rescuing Baked Ziti: Transforming this tired Italian-American classic into a dish worth making..."
There were whole sections on "the right degree of al dente", side-bars on cottage cheese, details on "recipe diagnosis", instructions on "the special sauce", etc. etc. I learned more about making a perfect tomato sauce than I'd ever imagined!
Believe me, I'll never-ever see Baked Ziti as a "throw in some noodles and sauce with cheese on top and you're done" easy casserole dish again! By the time I was ready to begin I had measured and set aside a pound of cottage cheese, some lightly beaten eggs, fresh grated Parmesan, crushed and chopped garlic cloves, fresh oregano, leaves I harvested from a basil plant, cornstarch, heavy cream, various tomato products, and diced mozzarella.
The sauce started with my "releasing the aroma from the garlic" via sautéing in olive oil; then I started to stir in some tomato sauce - it just got better from there!
I went shopping at 3:00, started work on the dish at 4:00, and served the MASTERPIECE at around 7:30!
"BUT THIS IS LENT...?" you say. "What happened to all the self-denial and asceticism?" Well, first off I've never believed this time of the year was about imposing hardships on ourselves. I'm much more excited about this "Gourmet Living" concept I've been touting.
The reason Jesus came was/is to set us free from the stuff that separates us from a full and vibrant life. Me spending several hours to make something wonderful for Rebekah that we could enjoy together, fits with my understanding that love is about giving and life is about living. That's Gospel if ever I heard it!
Peace and Joy! - DEREK
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
- Here, by way of a brief aside, I'll voice my opinion that Jesus did not come into this world preloaded with infinite knowledge and abilities - kind of a "GOD-version7.7". Instead, it's my opinion that Jesus had the opportunity - and the responsibility - to live and learn and grow and develop with the same reality-based constraints that we all have to contend with.
Monday, February 22, 2010
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? - John 14
Lent - Day 6 - Church Rocks!
So you want to give up something for Lent, do you?
Try this- Give up the need to be right!
- Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 2
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Lent - Day 3
The true test - as I intimated in yesterday's blog - of a spiritual life that means anything in the long run is - well - the long run! Has this week's sudden rush of intention, going into Lent, yielded yet to the difficulty of sustaining forward progress? Or are we waking up every morning with our desire to follow Jesus, daily, trumping the temporary distractions that can so easily steer us off course?
I was reminded of that in a potentially overwhelming sense this morning, when the first email alert I read (while walking Scout) was the sad news that my cousin - Linda Andrews - had died during the night. This was not unexpected, since her prognosis had been grim since around Thanksgiving; but the passing of someone you love always hurts deeply.
Just yesterday morning I had made the decision to fly to England and see the family (She's my dad's sister's daughter). I purchased my tickets by noon, and just a few hours later she was gone. Linda, just in her mid 40's, was a beautiful woman, both inside and out, someone who's vibrant sense of life and "live-it-out-loud" application of faith was very much the heart of her immediate family.
Solemnity: And so here is a day that engages the deepest meaning of Lent's primary focus - and that is the powerful truth that Christ's signal achievement at the Cross was/is an understanding that eternity is held in every moment; life, death, and - sometimes most poignantly - the transition between the two.
I sensed this acutely, and I've written about this before, during a wonderful conversation I had with Linda and her husband, Dave, via Skype the first week of December. I used the idea that it was difficult to tell anymore where Linda ended and God began...
I can't do any better - at least not today - than to paste in some words from that post...We prayed together at the end of the conversation, and I wish we all could have taken one-another's hands. But it was interesting how prayer itself linked us inexplicably, and I could barely speak through the tears. It was as if a different kind of conduit had opened up the moment we began to pray..
So there is communication and then there is communication. The content was necessarily deep, but something else happened when faith entered the equation. "Perfect love," Jesus said, "takes care of all fear." and "Have courage - take heart; I have overcome the world."I've said before that my cousin Linda is a cool lady, full of grace and strength. Well, she'd say it isn't her, that the grace is all God - and even more the strength part. But that is what happens when you don't really know anymore where you come to an end and where God begins.
I' m thankful that, as who Linda is becomes more and more defined by eternity than it is by time, my cousin's faith is something that we all can embrace, and that God's powerful presence is all about the fullness of life.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
- She practiced
- she prepared
- she took the lift to the top of the mountain
- she waited her turn
- she made her way to the starting gate
- she readied herself
- she shot out onto the track...
- Adrenaline flowing, her goal in mind, her route memorized, her purpose clarified - the skier bolted onto the hill, hit the snow, teetered for a moment, and fell to the side of the course less than one hundred yards into a two mile race.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
- "I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."
Saturday, February 13, 2010
- Dancing aboriginal nations, moving non-stop, joyful, with arms open wide in welcome.
- Crowds of athletes ecstatic simply to be there, together, already having received the only prize that means anything at all.
- Cheering and excitement, people celebrating the extravagant joy of simply being alive, of being together.
- 60,000 spectators caught up in the fun... and hundreds of millions more, worldwide, wide-eyed in wonder at the potential beauty of the human experience.
- I got the sense that 99% of these folk weren't at the Olympic Games to win so much as to participate.
Friday, February 12, 2010
This morning Scout and I walked past a family loading up children for the ride to school. The dad was standing by the back door, yelling: "WHY DON'T YOU HAVE YOUR JACKET?" The exchange quickly escalated, becoming louder each each time the ball crossed the net into the other court...
- "I DON'T NEED A JACKET!"
- "IT'S GOING TO BE 30 DEGREES!!"
- "I'M NOT COLD. I DON'T WANT MY STUPID JACKET!!!
- "FINE THEN!!!!"
So the guy climbs into the front of the car and slams the door. I notice he's wearing a t-shirt.
When I meet with my men's study group Wednesday evenings (affectionately known as "The Men's Room") so many concerns and prayer requests center around difficulties in relationship. Guys struggle to be the right kind of parent, to communicate to their wives without tripping over themselves, to be more open about their inner lives, to move their relationship with God beyond a perfunctory nod of the head, to own the moral courage to lift themselves out of "the way things are" and to blaze a new trail - be it at home, at work, on the freeway, at the gym, with their friends at church...
But we live in this conflicted world. Too many people find themselves defined by what they are against, who they are at odds with, what makes them angry, disappointed, frustrated. It's almost as if the world wakes up in the morning with a chip on its shoulder and gets out of bed daring anyone to do so much as breath on the precarious balance that holds it in place.
But listen to these words of Jesus. Jesus who is The Way. This Jesus who we say we follow. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33
The point of a discipleship that lives in the truth of Christ's teaching is to get up each morning and believe that Jesus really has "overcome the world"!
Our opportunity is to infuse all of our relationships with grace.
So there I was, thinking about the family still screaming at each other as they pulled out of their driveway. And I continued on my long walk, practicing my morning devotional initiative. Then - clear as a movie screen - God places this image in my mind of what Kingdom Life really looks like. It helps of course that the image was, originally, a movie that I watched back in 1984.
You may have seen the movie - "Places in the Heart" with Sally Field. The screenplay, set in the Great Depression, tells the story of a young mother trying to make her farm work against seemingly insurmountable odds. Her husband had been murdered; there's deep grief, horrible racism and an attempted lynching; people behave dishonorably, others do the right thing; a terrible tornado hits; infidelity rears its ugly head; throw in greed, manipulation, oppression, hope, belief, yearning...
But the image that played out in my mind is that of the closing scene. At first it looks like a simple communion service at the community church; the bread and the wine served as the pastor reads from scripture. Some people (I can remember quite clearly over 25 years later) got up and started to leave the theater because they sensed it was the end... and they thought they got it... and so they were done.
But Rebekah and I were mesmerized because, subtly, the scene shifted and suddenly everyone was there. The widow, the man who shot her husband, her husband himself, the racists, the young man they tried to lynch. Black and White - Rich and Poor - Just and Unjust - The Living and those who have passed on.
These people were serving one another, sharing the bread and the wine, demonstrating what is possible when we live out loud in terms of Grace and Forgiveness and Peace and Reconciliation - all wrapped up in the word "Redemption..."
It was a picture of what Kingdom Life really looks like. It was an image of what is possible when we follow Jesus. It was a picture of real prosperity - prosperity of heart and of mind, and of soul.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
When I got up this morning it was dark, cold, and clear. So I bundled up and headed out - with Scout - for our walk. Up in the sky and to the East, gently scalloped layers of cirrus clouds were forming, stretching out in a fan-like shape from the hint of promise of the rising sun.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Colossians 4:2-6 (NRSV)
"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should."
Monday, February 8, 2010
- First is the simple fact that I read the Bible every morning - typically via the Upper Room daily devotional (linked via this image).
- The second way is via the ever increasing accumulation of Bible passages that have seeped into my subconscious mind over time - this is a continual process - then, sometimes, circumstance or related readings or the deliberate prompting of God's Spirit bring items from this repository to the surface.
- Another contributing factor is my concentration on God's word every Sunday. Messages from Rebekah and Tim from the pulpit, passages from my Sunday morning study group, insights with my friends on Sunday evening.
- My mid-week Men's Bible-study group always gives me a lot to chew on.
- Additionally, my privilege as a writer is to include Bible-references in much of my research and - like any good line of inquiry - one verse leads to other sources, leads to more reading, unwraps additional scripture, opens up more thinking etc. etc.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Sally has travelled the world doing documentary film-making, then more recently with Help International, a Christian relief and development agency. More and more she has moved into interacting with people based on their spiritual needs and she has some amazing tales to tell!