Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent: Waiting

There are seasons when Christmas comes swooping in...bringing with it, goodwill and cookies in the oven and rushed preparations for special worship services and goofy photos of big dogs in little holiday hats...

And then there are seasons when Christmas comes trodding in...bringing with it hesitation and a bit of heaviness and unfinished projects and when by the 9th, we feel lucky to have ornaments on the tree because we're too tired to do much else...

That has been this season.  A season of bitter cold.  And taking other peoples grief and making it my own. A season of bareness and even bleakness.  And disorientation. A season of "lasts" and final breaths and an underlying anxiety that can neither be tamed nor defined.

I suppose that's okay.  It's certainly not preferential. But it's okay.

Because this season will pass.  As they do. And there will be new life that will shoot out of this charred stump of time.  And really, that's what we hope for each Christmas.  We hope that the promises of God mean something.  And that God's constant task of recreation will include us.  And that this new Presence will inspire that still, small spark that lies a bit dormant in this moment...

And we hope that the journey isn't done.  That joy and peace and love remain. 

'Tis the season...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fancy Pants: Mushroom Soup

When I was 12 or 13 years old, my mother signed me up for an etiquette class at the Dillard's department store.  For four Saturday’s in a row, myself and three other young teenage girls gathered in a small back office to learn how to cross our ankles when sitting in a chair and how to properly introduce ourselves when greeting an adult.  We were taught which skirt length and pantyhose combo would garner the most respect, and how to curtsy.  I kid you not.  They taught us to curtsy. 

Twenty-five years later, I have never once, had to use my vast knowledge of the curtsy.  But I suppose if I ever meet the queen, I’ll be glad to have that information in my back pocket. 

Anyway, on the final Saturday, we were taken up to the housewares section and seated around an elegantly decorated table, set out with the finest wedding china and stemware allowed by Dillard's management.  And around each plate, was an assortment of forks, spoons, and knives.  Then we spent the afternoon learning which fork was appropriate to use for specific functions and which spoon, if used improperly, would get us kicked out of the fanciest of restaurants.  I muddled through.  Had a hard time caring much.  

I knew I wasn't fancy then, as I do now.  I’m still not confident in my fork choosing skills... and it's probably a testament to my high fluten lifestyle, when I admit, that I consider it a fancy dining establishment, when they have cloth napkins instead of paper.

But last night, I channeled my inner fancy pants, and made some of the best Mushroom Soup I've ever tasted.  Seriously. 

What you'll need:

1 Medium/large sweet onion, sliced
2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil (whatever you need to make sure those suckers don't stick)
Black pepper
3 Cups sliced mushrooms (I used the cheep-o's...just your run of the mill, white mushroom...called Monterey)
1 Cup chopped mushrooms
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Cups beef broth
1 Can full fat, coconut milk

What you'll need to do:

Melt your coconut oil in a large pan.  Throw in your onions and pepper.  Just barely caramelize the onions (3-5 minutes on medium-high heat).  Add the mushrooms and stir to coat.  At this point, add a bit of olive oil; just enough so that everything gets a nice little sheen.  Let simmer, stirring occasionally (5-7 minutes....I took this time to check Facebook... wherein, I was sucked into the vortex of namecalling and fingerpointing.  Good times.)  Add beef broth and bring to a boil.  When a boil has started, pull down the heat to a simmer and let it do its thing for another 5-7 minutes.  Add the entire can of coconut milk and stir to fully incorporate.  Bring it back up to a hard simmer and then you're done.
Cell phone, photo disclaimer:
it looks really "greasy" here.
It's really had cooled considerably
and I hadn't stirred it much.
It's really worth trying, despite the poor photo!

It's a cloth napkin kinda soup.  I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Possibility: GF Chocolate Brownie and Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

Brett, my husband, turned 40 last week.  There was a long period…maybe 4 or 5 months…where he was NOT handling it well.  He would grumble about the months passing too quickly and snarl “it’s just a number” and roll his eyes at his little brother’s attempt at “age humor.”  Especially when it threatened to included a collapsible cane and a subscription to AARP.  I thought he was overreacting.  And told him as much. 

But now that his birthday has passed…I’m starting to get a little nervous.  Because I realize…I’m right behind him.  Creeping along that well worn road of “unmistakable adult,” where I no longer get carded for a glass of wine and must set regular appointments with my stylist to cover the patches of gray hair that insist on reappearing each month. 
It boggles the mind, to consider the fact that our lives could very well be, half over.  And at the very least, the most exciting, full-of-possibility, pain-free half of our lives.  I say that, with a bit of humor...but I work in the aging church...where most of those I minister with, have long given up trying to cover their gray hair and wistfully remember the "good ol' days."  I hear litanies of pain and listen for laments of lost freedom and humdrum.  And even I want to shout to the new college freshman, "Don't forget this really is the best...everything is in front of you.  Every possibility.  Every turn and every fork in the road.  Every love and every loss.  Every exploration and every hesitation." 
But even as I type that...I know that it's a's a choice to decide that "possibility" is no longer in your vocabulary. 
So, rather than freak out or settle into a serious state of depression… I’ve started my own version of a bucket Possibility List.  I’ve got things like “be an extra in a movie” and “spend the night in a tree house” and “take a pottery class” and "eat more (really) good chocolate" – you know, frivolous fun stuff!  But then I’ve got other, more intentional things, like “be a more active presence in the life of Alzheimer patients“ and “volunteer regularly at Hope Haven“ and “work to change the systems that keep people food-insecure.”  This list has already taken me out of my little, comfortable box that I live in…it's brought fear and the unknown back into my life.  In a good way.  And I like it. 

So here's to checking things off the Possibility List...starting with "eat more (good) chocolate" and Brett's birthday cake...

What you'll need:
Gluten Free Brownies:
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Cup white (or brown) rice flour
1/4 Teaspoon salt
Peanut Butter Mousse:
1 Cup heavy whipping cream, cold
10 Ounces cream cheese...or like, a package and a half, at room temperature
2/3 Cup powdered sugar
2/3 Cup creamy peanut butter (the stuff I used, had added I cut back on the powdered sugar just a smidge) 
Chocolate Ganache:
4 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
½ cup heavy whipping cream

What to do for the Gluten-free Brownies:
Preheat oven to 350*.  Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl mixer.  Add eggs, water, and vanilla, mixing well.  Add cocoa and incorporate well.  Add flour and salt, mixing until smooth and a little glossy.  Divide between two 8 inch round cake pans that have been buttered and lined with parchment.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.

What to do for the Peanut Butter Mousse (besides drool):
Whisk the whipped cream on high until stiff peaks form.  Set aside (I put mine in the fridge because it was so bloomin' hot in the house..."enjoying August" is not on my Possibility List). In a different bowl, gather cream cheese, peanut butter, and powered sugar together, whisking on medium speed, until fully incorporated and fluffy.  Add whipped cream and whisk on medium high until peanut butter mixture and whipped cream are fully incorporated and the texture is light and fluffy and tastes the way you think heaven might taste.
What to do for the Chocolate Ganache:
Break up your semi-sweet chocolate and put it in a small-ish bowl.  In a saucepan bring cream to a boil. Once the boil starts, pour over chocolate. Let sit for about a minute or until your patience runs out.  Whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.

And then assemble.  Layer...or, if you don't care about presentation...just take a big spoon, scoop up a bit of brownie, a glob of mousse, and dip the tip into the ganache...and eat to your hearts content.

You'll note: There are Reeses Peanut Butter Cups on this concoction...they are Brett's favorite candy...but they completely ruined the flavor profile (Gaw...I'm fancy.  Or spending too much time watching the Food Network).  I would suggest leaving them off.  Or replacing them with chopped Snickers bars.  But that's only because those are my favorite. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cost: Trayvon

I wrote this for the blog I maintain for the church I serve... but thought I'd share it here too.....we all need a little prayer and a little hope and little Divine today.  May this Sunday morning, be wrought with blessings...

When a child dies at the hands of another...especially at the hands of costs us. 

Sure, it costs money and air time and news space and all those bits of "cost" that actually, somehow, manage to benefit someone else...someone other than the one who has died (namely, lawyers and networks)...

But it costs human beings...who have been knit so intricately together, by the Divine strand of costs us our spirits.  It costs us that little glimmer inside that says "God is bigger than this" and we start to ache in ways that are insatiable.  We start to glance at others with a shroud of suspicion.  We start to believe that humanity is just as "bad" as we've been led to believe.  We start to pray a little less.  Shout alleluia a little less.  Fall on our knees a little less.

And God weeps.  God weeps for Trayvon and all the children who have known a violent death at the hands of another.  God weeps for his mother and all the mothers who grieve for children who were snatched from their embrace sooner than they could have in a million years, dreamed.  God weeps for those who take another life and snuff it out, as if their hands did not possess the Divine thread.  God weeps for those who seek "justice" in ways that beget violence.  God weeps when we turn our heads from that which startles us or makes us uncomfortable...or when we ignore the violence that we have a hand in perpetrating.  God weeps when we lose heart...when our souls fail to sing...when our eyes dry with apathy.  God weeps...

Yes.  God weeps this day. 

But let that be enough.  Let the Divine Tears take our jadedness and our exhaustion and our grief and our fear and our that we might rise above it and be who we have been called and ordained to be.  That is...let us be and act and react as those who are knit together by the Divine...created and sustained by the Divine...called GOOD by the Divine...and sent out by the Divine.  Let us be those who are life-giving and not death-dealing...justice oriented and not ego oriented.  Let us act in ways that require great feats of love, rather than disdain or apathy or listlessness.  Let us react in ways that are grace filled and not retaliation minded. 

Let us, dear Lord, be the people of God...

Thanks be to God...


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

FYI: A New Blog

I'm managing a new blog these days...for the church.  There will be a few of my musings, as well as, denominational information and updates, for those of you who are into that sort of thing....

If you're interested in popping over there, you can find it at:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Red: Rhubarb Pie

Just out of seminary, my husband and I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona… he to serve a church in the area, and me, to serve as the regional minister of youth and children’s programming… which meant, among other things, that I coordinated our summer camping program. 

Now for those of you who have grown up in an area where you enjoyed camping as a family… count yourselves lucky.  Ten years of Girl Scouts turned me into a fire building machine… but they were skills lost upon the folks of Arizona, as most of those kids that came to camp, had never even seen an open flame, let alone sung songs around a campfire or given God thanks for the sweet gooey goodness that is a s’more.  And all that’s because, the entire state of Arizona is under some level of fire danger at any given time, during the hottest months of the year.
The church camp was about 3 hours north of Phoenix, nestled in the midst of an area of Arizona, that was part coniferous forest and part desert… as many lovely, awe inspiring evergreen trees populating the sky as there were unique and awkward cacti at your feet.  And as the summer drew on and the days between rain events grew… 22 days, 36 days, 54 days… both the evergreens and the cacti would strain under the desire to draw what little moisture might be in the dry ground, upward, with little success.  And each summer… those of us in leadership at camp, spent a good portion of our time, tied to the local news radio, monitoring which way the mighty rush of wind might blow… and if it would bring with it, tongues of fire.

The youth that gathered at that camp, were thankfully, almost always blissfully unaware of this threat of wind and fire in their midst. They would run and play, and sing song at the dinner table, make new friends, flirt with another, and reconnect with old friends whose lives only intersected once a year.   

But one summer, as bags were being packed and the final day of camp was winding to a close…  the winds… they changed. And were bringing with them, fire.  Suddenly, tearful goodbyes, turned into tears of fear.  Parents rushed up the mountain towards the camp, praying they would make it back home before the roads closed. Leaders allowed cell phones to be out as boy and girl alike, made frantic calls to loved ones who were waiting in church parking lots, hoping, praying that their children would be safe and make it home in the church vans that they had entrusted them to...
Group by group, one by one… youth and leaders waved goodbye with worried looks in their eyes.  And I waved back… mirroring their worry, as I waited with the final few youth to find their rides and head home.  Soon, it was just me… and one camper.  Waiting. 

I don’t normally condone a one adult/ one child situation… but this day, it seemed prudent to send the other counselors and adults home, to race the flames that now… though not visible, were making our eyes water and our nose hairs tingle.    
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the girls mother showed… with a quick wave and a mouthed “I’m sorry”… she spewed gravel out behind her wheels in her hurried attempt to outrun…

The wind and fire.
And within minutes, I too was in my car… heading south on the road I had traveled so many times before… when I came to the first barricade.  The flames were dancing across the road now… I could see them.  They were real.  Red, orange, white, and black.  And above it, a red cloud of smoke.   A Fireman motioned for me to turn around… directing me to head North… to go a different way...and I did as I was instructed…

And then I felt it… the heat… the amazing, overwhelming heat.  And the weight upon my chest, like being in a sauna for too long… and that’s when I realize that I was now, driving parallel to a wall of flame.  Just like that… with a simple shift in the wind, the forest full of mile high trees and carpets of cacti, which I had just driven through, was being reduced to charred remnants of what was…

Wind and fire.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were gathered together in one place.  And suddenly there came a noise from heaven like a mighty, rushing wind, and it filled the building where they were sitting.  And there appeared something like tongues of fire, distributed to all and resting on each.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, as the Spirit gave them speech.” Acts 2: 1-4

That's Pentecost.  Unpredictable.  Urgent.  Dancing.  Destroying.  Awe-inspiring.  Weighty.

And so, in honor of Pentecost, here's something red (the liturgical color of Pentecost) for you.... Rhubarb Pie.

What you'll need for the crust:
2 Cups almond flour 
1/4 Teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Egg
What you'll need for the crumble top:
1/2 Cup GF flour mixture
1/4 Cup almond flour
1/3 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter (cut into bits; if using salted, go ahead and cut the salt back a bit)

What you'll need for the filling:
6 Cups rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons cornstarch (be aware, this is tricky for some GF an alternative, is arrowroot)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350*.  In a food processor, pulse almond flour, coconut oil, salt and egg together until it starts to come together and form a ball. Press the crust into a 9 inch pie pan firmly; this isn't a crust like your granny used to's not pretty, but it'll get it done.  Then bake it at 350* for about 8-10 minutes or just until it starts to brown.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. With your hands, a pastry blender, or if you're lazy like me, your paddle attachment on your Kitchen Aid, work the butter into the dry ingredients until clumps form. Keep this chilled until you're ready to use it.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss well to evenly coat the rhubarb with the dry ingredients. Transfer this mixture to the pie shell.  Swoon over how pretty it is.  Scatter the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the pie.

Bake until the rhubarb is bubbling and the crust is browned, about one hour. If the crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Cool completely (or at the very least, until you can't stand it anymore) before serving.

This is my first time EVER, to make rhubarb anything....and I LOVED IT!!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did...all two, extra large helpings.  With ice cream.  And an extra spoonful, when I was putting it away tonight (you GOTTA clean the spoon off).

Oh, who am I kiddin'.  I had three helpings and I liked it.

Tomorrow's another day to find the gym....

Might the Spirit surprise you today.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Snow Days: Cutie Cake

I mentioned that my husband and I are doing this elimination diet, right?
Well, we're still on it.  (We cheated one, really cheated with butter and sugar and maybe even some wheat flour*...and decided just to start over.  It's better for us and we feel more energetic and blah, blah, blah...)
This past weekend we had one of those rare winter May...where neither of us had anything to do and it was snowing/sleeting/freezing, so we stayed in our sweats all weekend and watched DVR'd episodes of The Following and Modern Family. And ate Cuties.  Like a three pound bag, in two days.  For the second time, since we started this food-body exploration.
They are our addiction.
My guess is, when your fingers are stained've had one too many.  Interventions are forthcoming.
But until then, here's a Cutie Cake. Because I gotta get my Cuties however I can and I hear that the quickest, easiest way to get the Cuties into your system is through baked goods.  And your parents won't ever even know. 
What you'll need:
6 Eggs
1/4 Cup coconut oil (melted)
1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon coconut milk
2 Tablespoons raw honey
Juice from 2 Cuties
Zest from 2 Cuties
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Cup coconut flour
1/4 (+/-) Cup shredded coconut
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 More Cuties for the juice
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8x8 pan with coconut oil or line it with parchment paper.  I wrestle with parchment paper for some reason.  And, I like any way that will allow me to add more fat to my cooking. Mix the eggs, coconut milk, honey, juice, vanilla, orange zest and coconut oil together.  Add in the coconut flour, coconut, baking powder and salt.  When well combined, pour the batter into your greased pan and bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  But be careful not to can get a little dry. Then, while it's still warm, go ahead and juice two more Cuties on top of the whole thing!  And enjoy!

* That little asterisk, is for a peculiar turn of events.  We attended an event called Forks and Corks, where restaurants from all over the KC Metro area come out, serve their best stuff, and all the proceeds go to a local food bank.  We go every year.  It's a blast, but not really one of those events where you can take your time and ask each chef what each item, is made with (flour, corn, etc.).  So, I always load up on meds, inhalers, and Tums and take my chances (I'm not reckless...I don't eat pastries or pasta, but you never know what's tucked into something).  Anyway, I accidentally ate a large spoonful of cake (not realizing what I was ingesting) and....I didn't react.  I think this elimination diet is allowing my body, in all of its inflamed ways, to chill enough, that small doses...I might be able to incorporate wheat back in to my diet someday?  I don't know?  does that just sound like "bad science?"  We'll see.  Fingers crossed. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hotdog Mayhem: Coconut Custard Cake

Today, is Sunday.  And in theory, what is most memorable about the day, should be our celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day, our worship of the Lord, and the beautiful opportunity we are granted, to come together and find our center in the Spirit. 

But the only memory I, and SEVEN other people will walk away with from this day, will be the fact that we spent 70 minutes talking about hotdogs.  Three packages of hotdogs.

Said packages of hotdogs, which were set aside for a youth event, disappeared over the weekend.  It wasn't the end of the world.  I went and bought three new packages of hotdogs.  For a whopping total of $4.87 (I splurged and went for the good ones!).  But you would have thought the world was ending. Really, seriously, ending.

So for 70 minutes, seven people discussed:

Who could have taken our hotdogs?
Why would they have taken our hotdogs?
Were the hotdogs properly identified?
Who decides where hotdogs are stored for optimum security?
How will we recoup all that money we lost?
How do we secure our hotdogs in the future?
What should the "Do Not Eat Our Hotdogs" sign say?
What would the proper placement be, for said sign?
How should we move forward after this blatant breach of trust?


I don't.  I don't care if someone eats our hotdogs.   

I wish I did.  But I don't.

And we wonder why people are leaving the church? 

Maybe...and I'm just throwin' this out there...but MAYBE it's because we're talking about hotdogs.  And not how Jesus Christ calls to us and bids us to be co-workers for Kingdom in the world.  Or how God gives us name and claims us as good...but we don't always act like it.  Or how the Holy Spirit seeks us out and guides our hearts to others. 

Maybe people are leaving the church...not because they don't "get it" or love baby Jesus...but because we spend 70 minutes talking about hotdogs.  And not what matters.

So, here's 70 minutes well spent.  Or at least, spent doing something that will nourish you.

Coconut Custard Cake.  Let's not talk about it...just make it, enjoy it, and give thanks that you've been fed.

What you'll need:

4 Eggs
2 Cups light coconut milk (canned, not the boxed drink)
1/4 Cup coconut oil
1/4 Honey
1 Teaspoon vanilla
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Cup coconut flour
1 1/2 Cups unsweetened coconut

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 350*.  Lightly grease your 8x8 or 9x9 cake pan with a bit of coconut oil. 

Throw all the wet ingredients in your mixer bowl and mix until really well incorporated.   Add the flour and baking powder.  Mix it.  Don't over think it, don't wonder why, don't question the motives of the coconut flour.  Just do it.  Then add the coconut and mix that in too.

Bake for 45-55 minutes until a pick, poked into the middle of the cake, comes out clean.

Try a bit while it's still most egg based, custard-y type'll be good, but the flavors really take off, when it's cooled.  And enjoy.

It might just be the best 70 minutes of your day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Flood Gates and Food: Sweet Potato and Poblano Pepper Hash

Last week wore me out.  Emotionally.  Physically.  Spiritually. 

And on Friday night, I needed comfort food.  Hearty, spicy, fill me up, comfort food.

Several weeks ago, Brett and I went on this "elimination diet" that required us to bid farewell to the good things in life.  It's a long list, but includes things like eggs, butter, corn, and sugar.  All things I would marry, if I wasn't already.

I'm good with rules...if I can't eat something because it's the "rule," I simply won't eat it.  No cheating.  No nibble off of a corner.  No real longing, even.  It's why being allergic to wheat, really hasn't been too bad. 

Oh sure, there have been days when I've writhed around on the floor as Brett sunk his teeth into a donut or craved a piece of cake so bad, that I ended up eating three pounds of unsatisfying chocolate and peanut butter in an attempt to satiate.  But for the most part, the rules don't bother me.

So eliminating foods, hasn't been the issue. 

Adding them back where I've run into troubles.  The theory is, you eliminate all the foods that are "known allergens" (i.e. dairy, corn, wheat, soy, peanuts, sugar, and eggs) and then, after a three week "cleansing" period, you add one food back, each week, and measure how you feel. 

Well, now the rules have been loosened.  And it's like Niagara Falls over here. Flood gates. Open.  Everywhere.

"Oh, I can eat eggs...well then, that means I can make cake and omelets and pancakes and scrambled eggs and......"

So it's why, having never made a "hash" in my life, I decided to do so....because I could. (And admittedly, I was heavily influenced by the contestants on Chopped...they always seems to be making a hash, of some sort.)

You will not be disappointed.  It's spicy and rich and whole and delightful.

I present to you, the keeper of the gate: Sweet Potato and Poblano Pepper Hash.

What you'll need:

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Large sweet potato (scrubbed up real nice, like it's about to meet the in-laws for the first time.)
2 Poblano peppers (sliced)
1/2 Red onion (diced)
1/2 White onion (diced)
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like it spicy, so do this "to taste" but remember that the addition of eggs and later, avocado, will temper the heat a bit.)
2 Garlic cloves (minced, or in my case, squeezed out of a convenient bottle.)
Dash or two of paprika, cumin (go light on this), salt, pepper
2 Large eggs
1 Avocado (diced)
4 Tablespoon cilantro (chopped)

What to do:

Heat coconut oil in your skillet over a medium heat. Add the diced sweet 'tater (I leave the skin on) but be aware that coconut oil seems to have a serious splatter factor, so take caution. Let that cook up a bit, adding the pepper flakes, garlic, and other spices while you're waiting around.  Then add the onion and poblano pepper. 

Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 5 minutes, until the potatoes begin to soften (that lid lets you "steam" the 'taters, getting them soft and fluffy). Now stir before they start to really stick to the bottom and continue to do so, until you've reached the desired softness (I like my sweet potatoes to have a bit of a I don't cook them as long as some folks.)

Crack two eggs on top of the hash. Seriously, don't be shy here.  Just put the eggs right there on top of the potato/pepper mixture, making sure that you don't break the yolk (the yolk will add a sweetness to the dish, that you wouldn't yummy).  Cover with that tight fitting lid again and allow the eggs to cook another 4ish minutes until the whites are set. Serve immediately topped with the fresh cilantro and diced avocado.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Body: Act and React

About a month ago, a 20 year old in our congregation died.  He was remotely connected...grew up in the church...but as most young adults do (heck, as most older adults do), he found his respite and wholeness in places outside of the church.  But still.  It took the breath out of me. 

It made my body ache for the mother and the father, nodding and smiling, eyes glazed, as 100's and 100's of by, to pay their respects at the funeral home.  It made my teeth hurt, to watch this young mans little sister - eight years old - play with her "funeral toys," seemingly unfazed by her surroundings. And my heart ached for the grandmother and grandfather who sat in the pew, just in front of the pulpit, that very next Sunday.

Grief is a full experience.  There are stages.  Sure.  But when grief hits hurts everywhere.  And there are no "stages."  It just hurts.

Unfortunately, as image after image of Boston and Iran and Pakistan and North Korea and South Korea and West and Iraq is flashed before our eyes, we forget to feel.  We forget to feel the sting of death in ways that propel us to be and act and react differently in the world.  And we shut down.  We let congress handle it, with their bombs and their politicized statements of regret.  We let the news media tell us what is sad (a 20 year old, Boston, West) and what is not sad (Iraq, North Korea).  We let our ministers and our priests pray for us because somewhere in the back of our minds, we assume God must be behind this, and that gives us pause.  We let the anonymity of Facebook and Twitter teach us what we should believe, if we love Jesus... or are good Americans... or support our troops... or love babies and puppies.  We let those around us "tsk" and say "what a shame" in hushed tones, because words escape even the most talkative. 

We shut down. 

It's too much.  The body aches.  The mind short circuits.  The soul weeps. 

Here me say: This is normal.  Let it happen.  Really.  I know it's hard.  But really, let it happen.  And changed by it, be propelled by the pain, act and react differently today.

Give blood. Practice patience. Really listen to another. Extend a hand, when it would be easier to walk away. Love deeply and tell someone the reasons why. Live peace. Recycle.  Dance with a child.  Pray even when you're not sure how to believe.

And let your body ache.  Feel.

Then maybe, we'll begin to see the world differently. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Running: Boston

I ran for two minutes today.  Not because I needed the exercise (even though I do), or because it's part of my routine (even though it should be), or because I'm super fit (even though the "two minute" proclamation assumes great fitness *sarcasm*)...but because for me, it hurts.

I am not a runner.  I've never been a runner...even when I was super fit and super body just doesn't like to function at speeds greater than 3 miles per hour. 

But I've been and am, passionate about certain things.  Like the church (though it infuriates me).  And ice cream (even though it's the reason I should be running).  And photography (even though I don't have the proper tools).  I love to travel (even though we don't get to do much of it).  And I love animals (even though the one laying on my foot right now, is snoring so loud I can't concentrate).

And so I get it.  A little.

I get what it means to love something so much, that you're willing to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to put your money into your gear, rather than your house or your car or your stuff.  I get what it means to find joy beyond description when you've gone a little farther or done something a little different, one day.  And I understand what it means to set goals and enter contests that you know you'll never win.  I know what it's like to call strangers "friends" simply because your hearts beat for the same passion.  I get it.

And that's why our hearts ache for those in Boston today.  And will, for some time.  As those who found their passion on the streets, urged their limbs to do the unimaginable, matching each breath with the pounding of rubber on find themselves wracked with new fear and find themselves with limbs that don't work the way they used to and find themselves clinging for breath, period. 

And so today, I ran for two minutes.  Not because I should (even though it's probably a good idea). Or because I love it (because I really don't). 

But because today, there are those who can't.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Church: Intentionality

One thing most faith communities struggle with, is intentionality.

It wasn’t too long ago… maybe 50-60 years…that the intention of the mainline Protestant church was to provide community. So folks would get together for worship, bridge club, youth group, and CWF to find their community. Their best friend sat in the pew next to them and their children played together.

Then, in the 80’s, as those children grew up and the “best friends” grew older, the churches intention was to make us “better people.” The self-help industry had taken off and churches claimed “making us feel good” as their primary task. So preachers taught studies titled “10 Steps Through Jesus, to a Bigger Bank Account” (I’m not making that up) and The Purpose Driven-ish Everything.
By the early 2000’s, as church membership began its exponential slide, the intention became membership retention. Panic sort of set in as churches were left with oversized recreation centers and office complexes. We started battening down the hatches and stopped sharing our resources and the intention became self-preservation.

And now it’s 2013 and churches EVERYWHERE are wondering what their intention is? How do we answer the “why church” question?
We’ve noticed that “self-perseveration” isn’t working. And we know that the church isn’t about us, as individuals (we only have to read the Bible in a cursory way, to get that much) and making sure we “feel good” (though a by-product of our faith and participation in community, often makes us feel good…it’s not the objective). And it doesn’t take much to notice that we’re finding our community on the soccer field sidelines, the book club, and our business networks.

So what is our intention?
I don’t know the answer to the question. I don’t. I mean of course, I have some thoughts on the matter…but the “why church?” question, HAS to be answered by the people of God, the community that has gathered and called this place or that place, church.

The church is changing.  That much is sure.  But even the most seasoned...and the most youthful...pastors and leaders, don't have a clue what that looks like.  So maybe it's time to define our intention.  A new intention.  A God intention.  Then maybe the rest will fall into place.

Because as beautiful as this is...

It can't be ALL there is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday Weeding: Church Love

My phone has become my permanent camera.

It hasn't always been that way. I used to have a fairly decent camera, which Brett won, and dutifully handed over to me.

Then we went to Colorado.
I took 10,000 pictures of the place where God lives (the mountains).
Came home depressed but glad to have captured a bit of the Divine on digital film. 
Only to lose all but 15 photos somewhere between plugging my camera in to the computer and bringing up the photo folder. 
It was not my best moment. 
There was serious gnashing of teeth.  And a few choice words.  And wailing.  And blaming.  Even though Brett was at work when this all transpired.

Like I said...not my best moment.

So since then, I've stuck with my phone. 

Anyone with an iPhone, knows you won't be Dorothea Lange or Ansel Adams...but I figure, you put a fancy Istagram filter in my hands...I'm gonna be satisfied and feel pretty dang fancy while I'm messin' with those little magic buttons.

So, I have loads of photos on my camera and no where to put them.  (Though as a sidenote, I've had good luck with PostalPix, when it comes to printing out Instagram and phone photos, in case anyone is interested.)

Time for some Wednesday Weeding.


1. ...and to dust you shall return.  2. ...if you love me, feed my sheep.
3. ...poured out for you.  4. ...a hen gathers her chicks...
5. sweet are your words to my taste... 6. ...let light shine out of darkness.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Homies: Otherwise Known As Friends

I've been lucky enough to have some really great friends in my life.

In grade school, it was my friend Erin.  She was a military kid who lived just a few blocks and few right turns away from our apartment in Colorado Springs.  She loved stationary and Scottish Terriers and her mom made these Chocolate Chip Cookies that were round and puffy and tasted like ice cream (I know, weird, right?).  We were in Girl Scouts together and had pre-teen disdain for the same people and crushes on boys that were best friends themselves.  She hung out with me, even when I flew over my ten-speed bike handle bars and split my lip open, looking hideous and weird (especially when my Father drew a mustache on the bandaid that covered my stitches).  And the day we left Colorado Springs to move to Missouri...I cried real "loss" tears, probably for the first time. 

Then in Junior High, it was my friend Amy.  I was still considered the new kid and she had been separated from her friends when everyone split off to new schools, so we were sort of in the same boat.  In 7th Grade, we had every class together and our lockers were right next to each other.  She loved clothes (she had the BEST clothes) and cats and her mom always had Little Debbie Snack Cakes around the house.  We muddled through Junior High band together and had teenage disdain for the same people and crushes on boys that didn't know we were alive.  She hung out with me, even when I wasn't very pleasant to be around and consoled me, when I was grounded (which was pretty much throughout Junior High).  I never thought I'd find another friend like her.  She was phenomenal.  Still is, for that matter.  And together, we journeyed to High School.

In High School, we met Melissa and Monica (who happened to be twins) and for four years, we were giggling, note-passing, hair-teasing, boy crazy, inseparable friends.  And in college, I met Shane and Lesley and Mindy and Sarah.  Shane would give away these hugs that would change your whole outlook on life. And Lesley made me appreciate Texas a little more, with her Texas shaped pasta and Texas shaped heart.  Then together, Mindy and I figured out what it meant to turn into adults.  And I stood by Sarah as a bridesmaid and watched her marry the man she almost chickened out of dating. 

And then in Seminary, I met Melissa.  And my husband.  But Melissa was my roommate and my confidant and my theologian, long before Brett was my boyfriend.  We shared communion on our back porch and on Thursday's we ate brownies and ice cream while glued to ER and Friends.  I loved her dad as if he were my own and grew to appreciate coffee because of her influence. We cried when Bush Jr. was elected President of United States and decided to switch rooms at 2:00 in the morning during finals week, one semester.  She taught me to play Gin Rummy and how to think, holy.

Since then, friendships have been hard to come by.  New ones, anyway.  When you work in the church, there's a weird, fine line that you hesitate to cross.  Because when you make a choice to jump from that "professional/pastoral" relationship, into friendship, and that person tells you about their failing marriage or their porn addiction or their spiritual's hard to know which hat you're wearing.  Are you listening as their minister?  Or as their friend?  And many might say, "there shouldn't be a difference...".  But there is. There absolutely is.

So, it's nice to find a friend outside of the church...and I've been lucky enough to find a friend in Kristen.  In ten years, I think we've been within hugging distance...three times?  But when she writes, she speaks to my soul. She struggles and hopes and loves and prays and gives name to all those 'things,' in ways that inspire.  She makes a nice, deep black coffee using a french press when you visit her and has the most impeccable taste.  She likes frozen custard maybe as much as I do (though the jury's still out in the Andy's vs. Tedd Drewes saga), is a small business advocate (including mine!), and she stirs my creativity when I find myself dry.  And she's done all of that, through her blog, third story(ies).

Which... is up for an Apartment Therapy, Homie Award. 

So please, affirm friendships everywhere...check out her blog and vote for my homie...otherwise known as, my friend.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Part 2: Love Is Kind

The next year, Brett knew he had some making up to do – we were a good year and a half into our dating career together… so a hug and a slice of pepperoni was not going to cut it this time around.  To make everything easier, we had decided that we would make the gifts, right…because that always goes well. 

Which of course, lends itself nicely, to a Friends reference:
So anyway, at around 6:00 that evening, I show up at his door in my pj bottoms and a t-shirt, and knock slightly, on the door.  Knock, knock. No answer?  Knocking a little louder and still finding myself standing out in the cold, I opened the door slowly… as smoke came rolling around my ankles and down the front steps, sensing an escape rout.  

Adequately alarmed, I peaked inside to hear the sounds of pots and pans being thrown about, just as Brett walked around the corner, dressed dapperly in a pressed button down shirt, which was now splattered… with what I can only hope is marinara sauce… and I quickly see that this evening, is not going as planned. 
There was a fair amount of consoling and ramen noodles to be had, as together, we tidied up the kitchen, saying farewell to charred asparagus and dried up chicken.  And then… it was time for presents.
Now, I’m not ashamed to admit it… but one of my "Love Languages" (to borrow a popular phrase used in a marriage counseling book of the same title) is presents or gifts – giving and receiving presents makes me feel loved, valued and embraced.  There’s just something about the idea of someone taking the time and the energy and the resources to find that perfect “thing” that will make me laugh or smile or cry that really tugs at my heart… so when it was time for us to open the presents – homemade and heartfelt presents… I got pretty excited. 

For Brett, I had put together a scrapbook of our time together, including pictures from every outing we’d had together, all our friends, places that were important to us as a couple….I had worked for weeks on this scrapbook and was thrilled with the finished product.  And more importantly, he was thrilled.  He oood and awwwd the appropriate amount…flipped through each page…commented, exclaimed, and said "thank you."
And then he handed me my present. 
It’s one of those things, that a decade years later, I really wish I had kept, just so I could show it to you today…so you too, might be able to soak it all in.  But basically, as I sat there in the middle of a smoke filled apartment, I unfolded a marinara spattered piece of posterboard with a picture of Brett’s face in the middle – a picture he had taken at Walgreens earlier that day --  and “I love you” scrawled on the bottom in red Sharpie.

Aaaaaaaaaaand, with that...sweet old Cupid was officially banned from our calendars. 

Paul says "love is kind."  And I think that's true. Love laughs as billows of smoke signal a ruined dinner while it acknowledges the sentiment behind the charred chicken.  Love wipes down marinara spattered walls while the other is in the shower, just so you won't be reminded of a "failure."  Love says that years later, you'll still remember that poster board and jab the other in the ribs and playfully roll your eyes, but still recall it with a smile. 

Love is kind.  At least it has been for me.  

There's probably a part check back soon!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Part One: Love Is Patient

Valentine’s Day is a mere two weeks away, and if you hang out long enough in the card section of WalMart, you can see the panic starting to set in.  Actual beads of sweat line the foreheads of lanky teenage boys and rosy cheeked girls, stand wide eyed with their hands full of sentimental options.   I just can’t muster up too much excitement about Valentine’s day anymore.  It lost its appeal somewhere along the journey.  The commercialization, the frenzy, the sub-par floral arrangements.  It no longer says “love” to me. 

But it hasn’t always been that way.

That first Valentine’s Day when my husband and I were dating...well, I figured Cupid had landed on our doorstep and it would be rude to deny sweet ol’, adorable Cupid all the chocolates and candy hearts and presents wrapped in red wrapping paper, that he deserved.  So Cupid and I set off for the mall. 

In my shopping bag went Brett’s Favorite Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter hearts, a beautifully written card that spoke of my unending and committed love, a small stuffed teddy bear holding a puffy heart that read “life is only bearable when you’re around”… and the crowning glory… a deal-of-the-century, end of winter sales, black leather coat.  If they gave out awards for Girl Friend of the Year, I would surely be snagging one this year, I thought.
The big day arrived and Brett invited me to come over to his place at 6:00.  Knowing few details….assuming it was all a big surprise…I dressed in my finest and headed over to his apartment… I knocked and he greeted me promptly, at the door. 
Taken aback to find him dressed in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, I ignored it and figured he simply hadn’t yet donned the appropriate attire for our big night out on the town. 

Excited about sharing presents, we settled into the living room couch to open the Valentine loot.  First I handed over the card.  Then the Teddy Bear. Those chocolate hearts!  And then… that coat. That beautiful, handsome coat. 
To which, he briefly oood and awwwed, said "thank you"…and setting the coat aside, turned on the television while simultaneously uttering the words, “pizza should be here any minute.”

The Bible says that "love is patient." I'd say that's not entirely true. 
I figure love is challenging and expectant, hurried and all dressed up even when it's just pizza night.  I think love is found in the harried brush of anothers lips as you head out the door and the fleeting grasp of a tiny hand, that soon will leave her parents behind.  And love is demanding because it trusts the other enough to be so.  But patient?  I don't know.  
Stay tuned for part two, of this sordid love story...