Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Music, Mustaches, and Musings

I have a love-hate relationship with travel season. I love getting out of the office, I love the change of pace and independence of travel season. I hate being away from my hobbit hole and the people who anchor my daily life. I love working at a pace that forces me to do a 60 minute task in 20 minutes. I hate being so busy that work invades what little personal time I do have so that I have to decide if I should do laundry or go out with a friend and laundry wins because it is the only time in the next 8 days when I will have 3 waking hours at home. It is an interesting season that pulls at the rhythm of my life in ways that I don't always see coming. 

One of the effects of all this independence is that, for a time, I see my own city differently. I see all possibilities of places to go and just how close it is to Lakeview, Evanston, Naperville, or Milwaukee. I have recently been in touch with the limits of my needs to sleep and eat and rest and be alone, so it is easier to decide to go out until 12:30 on a Tuesday.  So I am more prone to local adventures. It also means that when I am home, I am enamored of the idea that it is my home. I get to stay. I get to form and mold this place to fit my needs for home and comfort and beauty. Naturally this means buying a zebra print chair, curtains, and metallic accents. It also means that, for a time, I enjoy things like dishes, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Cooking is a great creative outlet. So, this year the return to living at home has taken two forms: a concert at the Metro, and a a smoky, comforting, fall meal. 

My newly found friend, who I knew for a week as Mustache Mark, but who is actually named Johnny, has impeccable taste in music. So, when he told me he was going to a show in Chicago with not one, but two Irish bands with a folk flavor, I decided to drag my roommate along and check them out. You should, too- Foy Vance is amazing! Just unspeakably good amazing in all of his mustache rocking, playing a guitar with a bow, wrangling a crowd, Irish accented glory. This return from travel season brought a good reminder that I live in one of the best cities in the U.S. for feeding my love of live music. 

The second result from this post travel homecoming rush? Cooking. Not only do I get to decide what to eat and when, but I have the time and resources to invent something new.  This is one of the simple joys of being home. A trip to Mariano's, some Pinterest inspiration, and a new recipe emerged. This, of course, gets posted to instagram, and now, by popular demand, the fruit of my post travel season homecoming rush. 

Smoky Gnocchi, Sausage, and Kale

2-3 sausage links. I used something involving feta and spinach, but I recommend something with a little more kick.
1 Bunch of kale - chopped
2-3 cloves garlic- finely chopped
1 Pkg gnocchi
4 Tbs butter
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/8 cup? Half and half
1.5 cup shredded smoked Havarti - I used this. It was really smoky, so you might want to temper it with another cheese.
1/4- 1/3 cup Hefeweizen

Brown sausage with olive oil in large pot.
Remove, scrape browned bits and by all means keep those in the pot.
In same pot, Add chopped garlic. Stir frequently, do not let it burn.
Once browned, add butter. Once melted, Add chicken stock, beer, and half and half, Salt, pepper, and Red chili flakes to taste. Stir frequently.
Once simmering add uncooked gnocchi.
Let simmer 4-5 min
Add cheese, kale, and sausage

Of course I recommend that you enjoy this with the rest of the Hefeweizen while listening to Foy Vance. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On the Dangers of Blogging


I have said a lot lately that blogging is a big conversation, and while I never saw myself speaking in a public forum about my love life, I have done so. Let me tell you it was scary and exhilarating and, at points, confusing to have such a personal subject out there on the internet. Oddly enough, this post is not really about singleness, but more about my recent experience of blogging. 

Over the last few days I have seen the blog post above floating around Facebook, and it has generated a lot of conversation. Her post is not only about a common experience, but also about how people interact with a part of her life that is deeply personal. What she communicates so well in this post is that sometimes something so personal can feel very public. Being out of place with what we feel we ought to be doing can often make us feel like we are subject to the commentary of others. 

I've gone and made something public that I never thought would be. In the midst of all this I hear other people sharing their stories and thoughts- finding a place to use their own voices to talk about something that might be on their mind or heart. It can be easier to write a comment or an email and send it off into social media where it is several steps removed from face to face communication and there are advantages to that. Written communication, when focused correctly, zooms in on ideas. We can talk about the nuances of something that is shared across miles, crafting our thoughts, honing them to say what we want to say. That can be a very good thing. 

The same distance that makes it possible to talk about ideas across the miles also makes it possible to forget that we are talking with people about ideas. It is easy to see what someone writes as just what someone write and it is, essentially. But it is also personal. Each person speaks out of their experience and motivation. And we live in a world where sharing your opinion is common place. This makes a live possibility that our ideas and opinions will personally impact someone miles away, without understanding for their context. That also is what it is, and by participating in this global conversation, we are opening ourselves up to that possibility. I think it is important that we talk about ideas with compassion. Absolutely, let's talk about it. I think that we will be missing out on one of the biggest opportunities of our time if we were to shy away from these conversations. 

You might be thinking that this post is a reaction to feedback from those who have read this blog or responded. It is not. Everyone who has interacted with me about my blog has been respectful and kind, for which I am very thankful. Truthfully, I wrote about things that were on my heart and mind and I found out that they are on many hearts and minds, and that surprised me. I want to enter into this medium and participate in the larger discussion, and you actually want to talk about the same things. I was not prepared for that. My quiet little blog has been not so quiet lately and that has been a learning curve for me. These thoughts on social media are fruit of my internal learning curve. I am learning first-hand that social media is a strange blend of public and personal. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

32 and Single: Realistic Expectations?

One of my favorite things about blogging is that it is a big conversation. I recently posted a short commentary entitled 32 and Single: A Response to "How I Know My Wife Married the "Wrong" Person." Many of you responded on Facebook, over email, or in person and I enjoyed hearing your thoughts. Thank you for sharing pieces of yourselves. I am surprised that the most popular topic of conversation has been about doing the work involved in marriage. While I have many thoughts about this, there is one piece of feedback in particular that I keep coming back to. A friend of mine pointed out that it might be unrealistic to look for a man who is ready to do the work of marriage, but instead to look for someone with the character qualities that are the building blocks of this kind of work. At first, I thought she was splitting hairs, but she pointed out that things like admitting you are wrong, apologizing, and being open to confrontation, and even counseling, are things that are much more socially acceptable for women.

I think her point might connect to gender based social norms. Why is it that we praise a man who is going to become a counselor, but catch our breath and pause when a man we know mentions that he is going to counseling for his own benefit? Why is emotional and mental health something that might be more acceptable for women? Is it? Really? Even if that is case, marriage is one of the hardest and best things that I have seen and as such it seems like it is one of those circumstances where it is okay to hold out for this quality. Personal, internal growth is one of my deepest values, and I hope that should be enough reason for me to wait for someone who can meet me in this place.

But is it? Other pressures and voices vie for my allegiance.You are getting older and there will be less opportunities out there. Don't back down from being yourself- you are only going to attract someone who isn't afraid of a strong woman if you are acting like a strong woman. But don't be too intimidating. Don't be too hard, or too soft. What, if anything, about this is available for compromise? Isn't marriage at least partly about compromise? All of those voices feel thin. They don't have the meat of the Spirit.

As deep calls to deep
Now you, who began with the Spirit, how do you think you can continue in your own strength?
Love one another deeply and from the heart
Do not lie to one another... since as member of the same body, you were called to peace

The Spirit challenges me and calls me forth in such a way that I have to be the most full version of myself in order to answer. These voices ask me to leave something substantive behind to "get a man." The voice of the Spirit calls me to bring all of myself and my values and to be transparent and honest with others. Listening to those other voices feels like a lie because they ask me to hide some of my fire, complexity, and fear. I think that I need to hang onto all of those things in order to honor the depth of the Christian life. So, yes, I think I do want to wait for a man who is capable of doing the work of marriage. And I think there is merit to the idea that the work of marriage-things like apologizing, owning and working through one's dysfunction, challenging others to be the best version of themselves- is more socially acceptable in women. What do you think?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Wrong Questions

For months now many areas of my life have been in flux - my boss took a job in New York; my roommate of three years got married; I left my church of thirteen years to join not only another church, but a totally new denomination; two of my dear friends and co-workers left to have a family and move to another state. And I complained. I am complaining.

Basically every day I am upset that these are the changes I have and not the changes I want. Why isn't my career taking off? or moving at all in any direction of my choosing? or at all? Why am I still single? How does eHarmony work anyway? Why am I without active or real connection to youth ministry? Does God still have a plan for my life that involves any of these things? Did I hear that wrong? Am I still hearing God?

Am I still hearing God? That is probably the first real question I have asked in months. It is a life-giving question that leads to another question for me- What is God doing right now, and how am I supposed to respond or be involved? Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 

I have all this free time. I am in the midst of many mid-level changes. No, they are not the changes that I desire, but this is where I am. Since there is no such thing as wasted time with The Lord, then what do I do with the circumstances that are right in front of me? God, what are You doing and what should I do? I have not been listening to You, not for months. I have been too occupied with wondering why I am not where I think I ought to be and making sure You know that I am not happy. How foolish I have been- how wrong to stop listening, to stop seeking You for who You are already are and not who I want You to be. You will not be changed, manipulated, or cowed. You Are who You Are. I love that about You and I love You for it. 

I have been wrong, and I have put all my energies into the wrong places for the past few months, maybe even years. I have been asking all the wrong questions. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Luke 2:1-40 Human Reaction to the Supernatural

Luke 2:1-40

I am having a hard time with this whole thing- angles and prophets and people told what will happen before they die. I realize that is a bit the theme of this chapter, but, really? Really? There are three distinct stories that mingle the natural and the supernatural, three sketches of responses and reactions.

The shepherds are just going about their blue-collar jobs in the middle of the night when a group of angels appears in the sky. I know that would shock me and get my attention for sure. I can't remember the last time angels appeared at my job, let alone singing and announcing that the savior of their nation has been born and is in a manger not too far away. If there had not been angels I am sure they would have thought there was just a crazy person wandering around. I know that I would have thought that. And, to their credit, they go to see. I mean it when I say it is to their credit. It would have been easy to either right the whole thing off or to have been so stuck on the angles singing and announcing things that there would have been plenty of reason to stay- but they got it, they left and went to see this baby. I admire that.

Simeon is one of my favorite characters in scripture, and I love that God tells him he will see the Messiah
before he dies. There is so much mystery in that! Why would God do that? Especially because Simeon is old, and does not appear to do anything with the information other than rejoice and prophesy. Of course, that is enough, but it feels like not quite enough. It is the Messiah, the Savior, the birth of the person at the center of so many hopes, dreams, and promises. So, really, just a statement in the temple? Shouldn't there be a conference and teachings and books and podcasts and telecasts of this event? I suppose it was big enough that Peter knew about it, told Mark and now it is in this document passed down from generation to generation. That is something. And he says amazing things- he seems to really get it. "My eyes have seen your Salvation... a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel." He gets what so many others seem to have missed at various points- that Jesus is the point of Israel and that this is a message for the whole world, the glory of Israel for the Gentiles.

Anna, like Simeon has a more subtle, internal prompting. The shepherds had a concert in the sky, Simeon is moved by the Spirit, and Anna is already there because she is often there. Here are three very different circumstances under which people received news of what God was doing. I would like to think that I am more like Anna or Simeon and that I can respond to the move of the Spirit or see God in my daily life in such a way that I would see His actions and piece of His plans. I am far more likely to need a concert in the sky - especially these days. Part of the reason I am bogging about Luke is to give myself some kind of accountability to read Scripture. I am that rusty, that far from being anything like Anna or Simeon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Luke 1:26-80

Yeah, I bet she went quickly to another place- the woman is pregnant, engaged, and insisting that she is a virgin.

There is a shared thread in these two stories, other than the obvious miraculous birth, they both involve people who are put in hardship and uncomfortable, undesirable circumstances and they come out with a profound understanding of the situation that they are in. Both Mary and Zechariah voice an understanding far beyond their circumstances. Mary says that "all generations will call me blessed" and that "He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy as he spoke to our fathers to Abraham and his offspring." At the very least, Mary sees herself as part of that story, but what I would guess is more the case, she understood, at least in part, the role her circumstances were playing in the work of God in the world and in the cosmos. That is a big deal, and rare for a human to grasp.

Zechariah, too, must have had lots of time to contemplate while he was mute for roughly 9 months, and also voices an understanding of his specific circumstances having a place in the story and work of God. "He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us ... to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.. .and you, child (John) will go before the Lord and prepare his ways to give knowledge of Salvation of His people in the forgiveness of their sins." Forgiveness of sins? That is astounding, and it is certainly quite something to know about your child when they are less than 8 days old. Sheesh.

And all of this is in the midst of messy, very human, and generally strange social circumstances - an engagement + pregnancy through unknown circumstances, being mute, an elderly couple with a child, a pregnant young woman leaving home to stay with relatives. There was much, much confusion. I am sure.

I think that most of the time when I have read this story, I have been so focused on proving to myself that the miraculous is possible and actual that I missed the human element here. And missed some of the wonder of Mary and Zechariah grasping more than their situations.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Luke- a social experiment in spiritual disciplines

My church, which I have been woefully inadequate in attending because of weddingextravaganza2013, is currently teaching through Luke. I believe that this is what is in the lectionary for ordinary time, but seeing as I am new to liturgy, "ordinary time" is a new idea to me. In order to lean into this time I am going to embark on an experiment in spiritual disciplines. It sounds much more exciting than it is. I am simply going to to read through the book of Luke and try to come to the story itself with a blank slate. While I will never be able to fully get away from all of the background I already have, I would like to try to read it for what it is: an account.

My goal is to reflect on what I am reading in as raw a form as possible. I hope to learn and unlearn and relearn some things about Christ and, through that process to learn a few things about myself. I am in a spiritual funk of sorts and I think that a regular spiritual discipline will be good for me in this time. That is where you come in- there are three things I ask of you. One, I need you to help me simply by reading. Since reading scripture is something that has historically been challenging and dry for me, I am hoping to come to this with a sense of freedom in my thoughts. I think that posting several times a week and just having you out there to read it helps hold me to both the regularity and authenticity of this endeavor. Two, interact. One of my favorite things about social media is that it is social- this only works if we are talking about it over email, over coffee, on the phone, on facebook, on twitter, or on a blog. I have already enjoyed the conversations spurred by my last post about singleness. Those conversations have already challenged and encouraged me and, I hope, spurred on many other conversations for other people. Three, bear with me. This is intended to raw, which makes it somewhat vulnerable- personally, grammatically, and theologically. We are all a work in progress.

Well, here goes.

Luke 1:1-25

This is such a practical undertaking "to draw up an account of everything that has happened among us." It feels like a news story or a journal entry or a blog. And some part of me wants to think of it as more believable because of that, but I find it hard when in the next breathe Luke says, with all practicality "there was an angel standing at the altar." It seems both to make perfect sense that he would just state this, just matter of fact, and it seems that there should be more drama and more build up and more description of the supernatural to make it more believable.

Here there are such human reactions and circumstances- a couple who wants to have a child and can't conceive. I also love Zechariah's reaction to this news "give me a sign." It is akin to "prove it to me," and "what assurances do you have that I am not crazy and that I can trust you?" And then the angel makes him MUTE? What is that? Seems a little harsh, and then he goes home and has sex with his wife? People are funny. Elizabeth also has a very human reaction to finally conceiving a child. "This the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, and took away my reproach among the people." It is about her personal journey, her relationship with the Lord and her connection to her history as a Jew (I think that is what the Genesis reference is about-someone correct me if that is wrong). Such a very normal, human reaction. Gritty. This whole episode is bazaarly gritty and supernatural all at the same time. Strange.

Monday, June 10, 2013

32 and Single - A response to "How I Know My Wife Married the "Wrong" Person"

A few days ago, I read a blog post about marriage "How I Know My Wife Married the "Wong" Person." He brings up several good points, and started a great discussion. Let me be another voice in this discussion Yes, I think that there is a powerful myth that one should find their soul mate and I agree that this myth needs to be debunked. Yes, I think this myth can be a contributing factor to why people are waiting longer to get married. It is not, however, the only story. Tyler says "singles (and married people) are searching for a super-spouses that simply don't exist." He also mentions that this expectation is contributing to later and fewer marriages. I have not looked into that research myself, so I am just assuming that is true. As with all research - that is not true in every case.

I am 32 and single. I want to be married. I am sure there are many contributing factors to my current relationship status. The search for a super-spouse is one of them, but, by no means, the primary one. At many points I bought into the idea that I am looking for a soul mate rather than a flawed, lovable, respectable, person. Absolutely I have done that, and it is likely that I missed some quality men because I was in that state of mind. But that is just one factor -one that I have become aware of and I am working on correcting. Let me tell you a little more about this journey for me, and to unpack a few more of the reasons I am not married- at least a few of the reasons I can see.

Desire to be with someone who can do the work of marriage. The more I learn about the reality of marriage, the more I realize that marriage is full of hard work. I have yet to meet someone with whom I can see myself doing this level of work. I know that some of that is my fault- I waited until my late 20s to go to counseling and learn what it is to see and sort out my own dysfunction. Doing the work of marriage requires a level of self-knowledge and sacrifice that I can only think about doing with someone else who knows how to identify, own, and begin the process of sorting through their own junk. I want to be with someone who is capable of the work of marriage. I don't want a perfect person, just man who is willing to admit his dysfunction and who is willing to be with me as I work on mine. In my experience this commitment to emotional and mental health is deeply lacking in the church. I am not saying such men don't exist- they certainly do. I am saying that in my experience they are rare, and I am willing to hold out for one.

Simple math- fewer opportunities. I have not been asked on a date by a Christian man. I don't say this to garner pity or to throw Christian men under the bus. I know many godly, bold men who pursue women well. This has not yet happened in my life. I also know plenty of other woman who could echo that refrain. One of the effects of elevating marriage is that dating becomes an institution with too much pressure. I can only imagine that the already intimidating task of asking someone out becomes so much harder when marriage is looming somewhere around the 5th date.

In his book, After the Baby Boomers:How Twenty and Thirty Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion, Robert Wuthnow states "Church attenders age 21 through 45 are disproportionately female." He goes on to unpack those numbers, noting that the majority of church attenders in this age group are married. He gives many more details, but the fact is that there are less men around to meet. Less men to meet, less opportunities. Simple math.

I am sure there are other reasons people are getting married less frequently and later in life. I know there are more reasons for me, but these are the two that popped to mind. More significantly, these are two that have less to do with wanting a super spouse. One of my favorite things about blogging is that it is essentially a giant conversation, so I wanted to add my voice to this conversation and share a different point of view.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lauren Schwaar Is My Hero

Meet Lauren
Today I miss Lauren. There is no one in the world quite like Lauren Schwaar. She is priceless, hilarious, tender-hearted, pleasantly sarcastic, humble, patient, a fantastic listener, and actually human, just like the rest of us. Last summer (two summers ago?) I played sand volleyball every week with my church, and I would always try to be on Lauren's team, not just because she is a kick-ass athlete and made the rest of us not-so-great athletes look better, but because Lauren is a team player. She genuinely wants others to achieve what they can, and she wants to be there to help make that happen.

I am not a great athlete (shocking, I know) I am however, irrationally competitive. So, sports are a stage for frustration. One week I had enough - enough failure, enough irritation with myself for being the weakest link, and enough angst to stubbornly not quit. While in between  matches, I took out my angst on trying to serve overhand - mostly so I could hit that ball with all of my might and to try my hardest to get something right without being in the way. The ball went under the net again and again and again, and Lauren lobbed it back to me again and again and again. We never talked about it. I did not ask for help, and in fact I did not really want encouragement or coaching. I needed the space to be upset at my lack of athletic ability. I still have no idea if Lauren knew all of this.  She is one smart cookie, and I would guess that through her years of basketball that she knew what state I was in, she saw a need, and a way to meet me in that place. She simply did what she does- she was there, letting me be how I was, quietly helping me get past my own frustration so that I could get better. There was little hope of ever learning to serve overhand, but there was realistic hope that if I could work out my frustration that I would have more fun.

I have no idea what is going on in this picture, but there is a llama and that is awesome
And I did, because Lauren was not afraid of my angst, and she was not afraid of my poor athleticism and she was willing up to her ankles in both. Lauren is a steadfast friend. This quality carries over into many, many parts of Lauren's life and I am excited to see what God will bring about through her and in her. I miss you, I love you dear friend, and you are my hero. ;)

Doesn't she just look like a boss?
My point is further illustrated by my search of Lauren's facebook to steal pictures of her. (Calm down, Lauren, they were already on the internet and you have more facebook friends than I have blog followers) 1. It was not east find a picture of Lauren by herself. 2. In almost every picture I did find Lauren was doing something crazy badass or just crazy like running, hiking, jumping off of heights, or pretending that she is upset by being hugged, squished, or in other ways celebrated by others. 3. There are a bazillion pictures of Lauren, all posted by other people. Laruen. is. awesome. And no, darlin, I don't have a back-up super hero.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

sometimes good things hurt

Sometimes it hurts to press into a good thing. I want to stay at this church. It is alive and tender, and it is a healing place. And I want to be actively involved in youth ministry. I cannot have both. The tension pulls at my heart, and I need guidance. Your voice, Your answer is what I want and dread. Neither choice is complete, but the one You have lead me to is full.
I wince at Your compassion; I am tender and unable to hold back the tears that come when my pain is not hidden from the soft, knowing touch of the Spirit who is my shepherd. Though I still feel shy and unknown by people around me, I hear Your voice, leading me by still waters, restoring my heart.
Now I am faced with a greater challenge to step forward yet again with that internal courage to share with others - to enter into this church body.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Church Search- Church Without Teenagers?

Every time I see Josh Garrels, I walk away with something new in my spirit, some way that my soul was challenged, filled, or usually full to bursting. Annie and I saw him and Mason Jar Music Sunday at the Athenaeum Theater, which is a lovely venue and reminds me of the Goodman Theater in Waukegan. Half of the show, a feature-length film- The Sea and In Between, ended with a call to enter into other's passions and gifts, and therefore enter into each other's joy. What a beautiful, godly call to community.

That seems like a gap in my life. Am I entering into the joy of those around me? Am I sharing myself in the way that I ought to be? What are my passions and am I sharing them?

I am passionate about teenagers and about youth ministry. I am currently without an outlet for those passions, and I feel like small pieces of myself are withering. I ache to walk with adolescents as they discover their thoughts about God, truth, themselves, community, and spiritual reality. I have been volunteering for over ten years and this is the longest stretch I have gone without being actively involved in some form of youth ministry. Here is the kicker- there are 2, count them, 2 adolescents in the church I have been attending. 

Can I really contribute to this body? Since some very deep parts of myself are enlivened in youth ministry, does that mean that I won't be able to fully contribute by listening deeply to others? And what about sharing my joy? Will I really be alive and awake and bringing all of who I am to this particular church? Am I able to give all of who I am when so many parts of me already feel atrophied? 

Do I leave what I am building to start the searching part over, looking for a church where I can get involved in their youth ministry?  The thought of going back to the searching process is heartbreaking; it was so grueling and hollow. Are there other ways to bring more of who I am? Is there a challenge in this for me? A growth edge? How long might that take and what does that mean in the interim? I can't know what is next and it has already been a process to get here, How much longer do I want to be a volunteer without helping to form and change the way they are doing youth ministry? And how long do I wait? 

Sigh. If I am not actively involved in youth ministry I fear I am walking away from part of my calling and functional design. That seems like a loss not only for me, but for whatever it is that the Lord is going to do with this seed that falls to the ground and dies. So if I need to walk out my calling, where does this particular church body fit in? I really like this church and there is something alive, and good, and nurturing  and challenging here. 

But can I enter in, really enter in?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Church Search - A new layer of questions

Even though I have been attending the same church for a few months now I still feel in many ways that I am without a church home. I still feel the loss of knowing and being known by those around me. I feel the strangeness of not knowing what to expect from week to week and where I fit into that rhythm. I find that it is still challenging to remember people's names, let alone have a meaty theological conversation or pray for one another. I miss being an established and involved church member.

It is challenging to get plugged in at a new church, and I find myself asking if I really want to go through that work. It is work -I have to keep putting myself out there, and there is the natural in between stage before there is interaction of depth. And it is work to get through that stage, and I am not sure I am going to stay long term. And there are no teenagers in this church. That is a fairly big obstacle.

Since I am not plugged in, it would be easy to leave and just go somewhere else, but that is a wearying thought. How on earth do people switch churches? How do people get through this with their sense of Christian community in tact? Or do they? I am already tempted to throw in the towel and I have fairly good social skills, and a healthy measure of boldness. I have to gear up every week to try to break into what is going on in the church. People are very friendly, and easy to talk to, for which I am very thankful. But what I am really craving in a church is to serve and to grow with others. And that takes time and effort. Is it worth it here? Would it be worth it somewhere else?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Liturgy and Duplicity - Palm Sunday

We came into the sanctuary singing, waiving our palm branches and declaring "Hosanna, Save Us!" There was joy. Ten minutes later,  we read about the betrayal of Christ, and we yelled out "Crucify Him! Release Barabbas!" Our Deacon said "You might well be wondering what happened. You might feel jarred, and I urge you not to rush past that feeling." One of the things that I find most freeing about liturgy is that it allows me space to bring so many of the facets of my relationship with God. Because I can, indeed, in one morning, enter joyfully into the reality that Christ is King and I can turn my back on Him, cursing. I find the liturgy creates space for many sides of my nature as a sinful believer.

I find that when I have space to acknowledge my own frailty and failing that it is easier to choose to live in love. When I can honestly acknowledge my own inclinations towards evil and selfishness, it is easier to make the choice to turn from them. Previously, I felt a need to eradicate them and there was a tyrannical element to this need. I felt I had to make it so that there was no evil in me to turn from, so I found myself focusing on the sin. When I can see my sin for what it is it gives me the space to acknowledge that it is mine and that I am in some way bound to it, and that I need Christ in order to be free.

And I do. Come, Lord Jesus, and take away the sins of the world. The body of Christ, broken for me. Thanks be to God. The blood of Christ, spilled for me. Thanks be to God. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Texas Tomato Broth and Roasted Veggies

Yes, Texas. Well, not because it has anything to do with Texas itself, but because the whole time I was in Texas I kept craving this dish. Somewhere in my heart I decided that roasted veggies in tomato broth would be amazing, hearty, healthy and delicious. Of course this could only be served over some quinoa. I was frustrated at every restaurant- why didn't people have this on the menu? After all, we were in Austin, the home of all things hipster and healthy. Then I came to my senses and realized that I could just make it once we were home. So,  I did. And. It. Was. Amazing. Let me say it again- it was amazing! But, of course, I made it up in a flurry of creativity, and I did not write anything down. This was a major misstep. Has anyone else out there ever done that?

Luckily, I was able to find the two recipes I adapted and recreate it in all of its original thyme-covered, savory, tomato-based glory. My mouth is watering. The best thing about this is that it combines all the best of  a recipe from Emeril (don't I feel cool) that involves come citrus and the comfort from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. I love all things Smitten Kitchen. Seriously, check out her blog. And her cookbook. I read mine cover to cover because I am a nerd like that.

Okay, here we go.

Texas Tomato Broth and Roasted Veggies

2 medium zucchini
2 medium squash
The key here is consistency. You want to make sure that they all roast the same.
Toss in olive oil, the place on cookie sheet. season with seas salt, thyme. I don't know how much thyme exactly, but it should look like this:

Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 350.
You know they are done when they have a little resistance when poked with fork.

1 medium carrot
1 stalk celery
1 medium onion
I recommend doing a fairly small/fine chop on these as you are going to puree them with an immersion blender.
Season with sea salt and 1 tsp thyme.
Saute until the onion becomes translucent.
Add 3-4 cloves finely chopped garlic.
Saute for 1 minute more.
Add 1/2 c. white wine. I recommend a fruity, citrusy chardonnay, but really whatever you have is fine.
In fact, the first time I made this I did not have white wine or vegetable stock and simply used water.
Reduce by half.

This what I used, isn't it pretty? The woman at the store tried to sell it to me because it was named after a song by Train. I bought it anyway.
Half 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups veg broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves

Simmer forever. 1-2 hours. stirring occasionally.

After it has simmered to your satisfaction or time table, add:
Juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup orange juice

Then use your immersion blender and blend until smooth and then blend some more.
No one likes chunks of celery.

Roasted veggies
Remaining canned tomatoes

Serve over quinoa with fresh Parmesan  I suppose you could serve it over rice, or something else, or *gasp* nothing, but then I should warn you that it will not be the glorious meal I imagined in Texas. It is, after all, TEXAS Tomato Broth and Roasted Veggies.

You might note that there is no quinoa in my picture. Well, that is not entirely  true. The project I was working on this evening exploded into something much more detailed and time-consuming than I thought and in an effort to get something done, I started this post. I got almost all the way through and realized that I did not have a picture of the finished product, so I took the 1/8 cup quinoa I had, and put cold broth over it. So, the post is completed, and there is quinoa- barely. But it is done, dang it. Something has to be done this evening. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lent Failure?

Is lent about failure? We will fail, not just at giving things up, but at our own attempts at being remotely worthy of God. Maybe that is part of why we ought to give things up, not because we should punish ourselves, but because attempting to give something up shows us just how broken we are. In the past I have viewed lent as a competition with my sinful nature. What can I give up? Can I master this part of myself for 40 days? If I failed, then I just gave up altogether.

But what if the point is to fail? When I fail, I run into the reality that I am broken, that I cannot, in fact, master any one part of my sinful self for 40 days. I need a rescuer.

What do you think? Is lent about failure?

You might want to check out this post in light of the last post about lent.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My First Ash Wednesday

This evening I participated in my first Ash Wednesday service. It is so lovely to have the space to come face to face with my humanity and with the extravagant, blunt reality of the gospel.  The woman who spoke summarized it well when she said that we are both very small and very significant.

I felt small. I felt the weight of my own brokenness  I cannot come to God, I am not even capable of fully wanting to come to God on my own. Yet, I yearn to be completely loved and completely forgiven, but not to repent. I don't want to pay the price involved in really acknowledging how I have sinned. The last thing I really want to do is to own that I have neglected to forgive others, to care for those around me, or to honor God the way He deserves to be honored. This requires facing the knowledge that I am small, so very small. So small, in fact, that I cannot even face the depths of my own failure because it is too much affront to the comfort I think I am entitled to. I think that if I try hard enough that I might be able to humble myself just enough to really repent. Then the reading from Isaiah breaks through loud and clear.

Is that the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?Is it to bow the head like a bulrush and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

I am small, indeed. But here I am anyway, drawn to the tenderness of truth and love that reaches out to confront me with the reality that I am wretchedly stuck, but not without great hope. I want to come to the Lord that demands something deeper and more than my efforts at understanding my own sin. I want to come and be loved and healed and set free, but I am just so incapable of doing even that. My thoughts are given shape by the psalmist.

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. Turn your face from me, Oh God. You desire truth in the inward being, therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. 

Jesus. Jesus who offers to take on all my sin, to become my sin because He knows that I am that broken. In that invitation there is love - love that shows me that I am created. I am a being that is temporary, dependent. This reality breaks the illusions that I can in any way make myself ready for lent. It reminds me that the great freedom of the gospel is that Christ loved me when I was still His enemy, and that today is no different. I am small. And I am not without great worth. I am significant. Why else would the creator reach out and love, at great personal cost, the created? I must mean something. We must mean something.

These two realities must be kept together. To be small only is to berate myself and to never see the value that God places on me. To be small only can, I think, lead to the danger of legalism. To be significant only is to elevate myself to a place where I am in danger of forgetting the need created by my brokenness. I experienced so much joy in these two things being paired together so beautifully in the service. I am small, wretched, and stuck; and I am precious, worth a great price, and well-loved. I am ashes, and to ashes I shall return and I repent and trust Christ. I think that I am starting to see why this is the beginning of a season, there is much to unpack and absorb.