30 June 2006

A dubious fellow

I don't think I believe Enrique on PBS' Dragon Tales. One day he's from Colombia (should be said with a Columbian accent.) The next he's referencing murals in Puerto Rico. One day he's teaching Emmy and Max songs about hot chocolate in Espanol. The next he just so happens to know Ord's dragon painting song sung because it's supposedly sung by his abuelita.
I'm not falling for it. It seems to me that he's a too convenient, all-purpose Hispanic character. Has he ever even been to Colombia? How come he never references drug cartels or the overwhelming problems with poverty? And if he knows about hot chocolate how come says he's never seen snow?
It's all a little too convenient, if you ask me. I'm keeping my eye on that Enrique.

29 June 2006


Ok, well, I owe some of you a rather extensive apology because I've not been languishing in post-dental-procedure pain this week. Turns out that my dentist won't extract teeth from a pregnant woman, though this pregnant woman didn't find that out til I was in the chair and sufficiently steeled to face major dental angst. Turns out that the dentist refers pregnant woman to an oral surgeon instead and that the oral surgeon is terribly busy and important and cannot possibly fit me in until mid-July which gives me plenty of time to steel myself for both dental and insurance co-pay angst.
So, the reason I've been observing the requested reprieve is five-fold, at least.
  1. I'm punky
  2. I'm really bloody tired
  3. A toothache, insulin-induced hypoglycemia and progesterone cream have created a distinctly moody and quite unattractive version of me
  4. I've been feeling quite sorry for myself
  5. I've not really much to say other than *big sigh* "Poooooooor meeeee!" *swooning*
So again, many apologies for those of you who have actually been praying for me and my teeth i.e. Dawn. I so appreciate your concern. This is when I wish I had one of those little emoticons who blush. Doh.

28 June 2006

Recipe: Favorite bread, soaked

The other day, Annalivia and I accompanied Dennis to the Quad Cities and while he was in class, we went to a hoighty-toighty grocery store in Iowa. I was so excited to see that this grocery store had a wheat mill to grind one's own flour! (The extra dollar tacked onto the price of everything in the store must cover the cost of the mill).
Anyway, I ground my own hard white winter wheat and came home to try it in bread. It's amazing how different fresh flour smells! That in and of itself should tell me something.
The end product of this recipe experiment, aided by the info Dawn posted about soaking bread on her site, prompted me to go get more fresh-ground flour yesterday. So, this recipe, which I used to make only at the holidays, has now had two trials in its soaked form and is wonderful, and has thus become everyday bread for us.

Honey Oatmeal Bread
2 cups buttermilk or yogurt
6 1/2 cups whole grain flour (I use 5 cups whole wheat and 1 1/2 spelt)
1 c. oats
Combine and allow to sit overnight.

The next day combine:
1/4 c water
1/4 c honey
1 T yeast
Allow to bubble

Mix in separate dish:
1/3 c melted butter
1/4 c honey
2 t salt

Add the yeast mix and the butter to the flour mix
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Mix it all up. Knead in another cup of flour (again, I use spelt) if necessary.
Allow to rise til double, then punch down and form into two loaves (if using loaf pans, grease/ butter well). Gently slash the tops and allow to rise til double again.
Combine 1 T water and egg white before baking and brush tops. Then sprinkle with oats. Or you can use butter and sprinkle with oats. Or leave it unsprinkled.
Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes. Remove from pans to cool. You can brush with oil again, if you like a softer crust.

25 June 2006

Begging a reprieve

We had a wonderful resurrection celebration for the beloved church member who passed away this weekend, but at the risk of being way too whiny, it has been four days of really deeply emotional shepherding for me. And tomorrow I'm having teeth pulled, so I am going to extend my apologies now for frivolous or non-existent posts. I appreciate so much your comments and I promise I will emerge sometime this week, hopefully with clarity and some small insights to offer. Many blessings, friends!

Those "other" Christians

Once again, I have been reading about one part of the Body of Christ attacking another part of the Body for not being Christian enough. When I read such things, my stomach ties itself into knots and I feel such anger and frustration. Why do we insist on tearing each other down in order to feel better or more superior about our points of view?
In the last month I have read two brilliant ruminations on how to handle issues of disagreement within the Body of Christ. I don't have permission to reprint them here, but I'm going to do so anyway and beg for forgiveness later.
This first one is from Molly Aley, a brilliant theologian who wrote in a forum discussion dealing with a hot topic...
Scripturally, we aren't told to "be God," sure, and yet, in a sense, we ARE told to "be God..." in that we are told to be His manifestation to the world.
We are told that WE are the body of Christ--that WE are His expression in the earth now. The Body is what moves, the part that involves ACTION, the part that makes manifest whatever it is that the Head wants, right? And we're different members/parts of that Body, or so says Ephesians...
So it makes sense that some of us are going to see things differently...we are different parts of the body, called to different things and yet ALL of us called to obey the Head, whatever it is He tells us to do. Not all the parts will look the same, in other words, even though all might be obeying the Head.
When I walk, my hands do an entirely different thing than my feet do...yet both are expressing the wishes of my head. I'm glad my feet don't grump about how my hands aren't doing the right thing, simply becuase the hands aren't acting like feet!
This means we might not all look the same, even though we all might be obeying the Head! Some of us will be the arms embracing the sinner no matter WHAT, while others of us might be called of God to point out sin (SO THAT we can lead the person into the freedom of obeying God, not just for the sake of pointing out sin).
I think the key is being very in tune with the Spirit.
Because sometimes we're going to personally FEEL like ramming a ton of (deserved) judgement down a person's throat for whatever reason, and yet the Spirit is going to tell us to shut our mouths and to just love on them. He knows what they need and when they need it, so obeying Him is best, even if it's hard to hold in the rant, and hard to just lovingly bless them in kindness at that moment! HE KNOWS, and He knows exactly how those actions are going to impact them for the good.
... And other times, speaking up for righteousness is going to be the LAST thing we want to do, but the Spirit is going to tell us to open our mouths and share His truth, painful as it may be, unpopular as it may make us, difficult as it might sound. But the Spirit knows when a firm word is needed, knows that it is just what should be said at that very moment, and knows how to frame it just right. He knows that it is the best thing for that person's heart, right then, period. In which case, obeying Him by speaking the hard word is the most loving thing we can do for that person.
In other words, this is an area I personally walk very careful in, when it comes to judging the actions of fellow Christians and when it comes to making blanket statements myself.

Such wisdom!
Another incredibly gentle theologian, Ann V. discussed the conundrum of not knowing exactly what to think about these difficult topics on her blog, Holy Experience. As usual, her words are so eloquent and illustrative of the emotion that accompanies this wrestling we engage in. I'm editing her post for space, but please consider jumping over to her blog to read "Importance of Theology... and Childlike Faith."

I am troubled. Deeply so.... Reformed, Emergent, Post-modern, Evangelical, Calvinism, Arminianism, Catholic, Protestant. Authors with stamps of approval, pastors that pass muster, churches deemed orthodox, conservative, Biblical,godly…or not. Interpretations, translations from the original, concordances. Stances, positions, posturing. Sifting, sifting, sifting. Everyone so sure.
And I am sure too.
Certain of the Cross and Your saving Grace. Unwavering about Your Sovereignty. Confident of Your sacrificial love that saved me, a sinner.
But the rest, Lord, the secondary issues? I confess it in a wavering whisper:
I don’t know...
I am sure of You… but theology? All the Details of Doctrine in which I so easily find myself entangled?...
I want a clear understanding of You. And, seeing as everyone apparently has, intentionally or by default, a theology, is mine simply bad and muddled? I pray it is not so.
I don’t know about…well, You know all the things I don’t know about. And You know how everyone else seems so entirely certain, with flocks of disciples nodding in agreement, buoyed by the loud voices of assurance and confidence.
But what of humble voices?
Unassuming voices that can only whisper, “I do not know for certain, but I do know One who does know. For certain.” Perhaps there are less ears and hearts attuned to tentative voices. Little matter. It's about meekly following the One who is all-knowing. "And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." ~Micah 6:8
...I am like a child tentative about so much… but so sure of You.

Oh, if more of us would simply take time to think about the "other" as beloved of God. Oh, if more of us were willing to admit that we don't know, that we aren't sure. Oh, if more of us were willing to extend the grace to be unsure to other pilgrims on the way. Oh, oh, oh...
Thank you, Molly and Ann, for such amazingly heartfelt, transparent and inspiring confessions of understanding. You have reassured this grieving heart.

Recipe: Breakfast puff

This is a great and SUPER easy recipe for a wonderful breakfast treat. We have found it perfect for Sunday morning pre-church because it can be made the night before. It goes by different names -- Dutch Puff or Yorkshire Pudding are the most common.

Breakfast Puff

4 eggs
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or spelt
1 cup milk, buttermilk or milk with 2 T yogurt (not more than a cup)1 T vanilla
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Add eggs, flour and milk to blender and blend. If you want to presoak grains, you can do this the night before and stick it in the refrigerator.
Before you cook it: Preheat oven to 425. Allow oven to get hot then stick a square baking dish in the oven and allow it to get hot, then melt the butter in the pan in the oven.
Pour the mix (whisk it first if you refrigerated) into the hot pan. Close up the oven and let it cook about 20-25 minutes.
The key to this dish is a very hot oven, a very hot pan, and very hot oil. As long as these three elements are in place, it will puff up into a beautiful souffle-like creation. If the oven isn't hot enough, it may just take a little longer to cook.
You can also mix things up by adding apples or peaches before pouring into the pan. Or you can take it into the savory realm by omitting the vanilla and adding sausage. It is wonderful with maple syrup and equally as grand with homemade berry syrup. This recipe serves four, but it can be easily doubled and cooked in a 9 x 13 pan. Delicious stuff.

23 June 2006

Timeless lessons I've learned in the last 24 hours

I won't mention how I know these things...
1. Be careful when using the phrase, "Just let me know what I can do," when speaking to a frantic and harried CWF (Christian Women's Fellowship) chairperson coordinating a funeral dinner for 100.
2. Do not be surprised when said chairperson calls back to ask if ye can make potato salad for 100 people.
3. When married to an engineer, it may be best to ask him to slice fresh baked bread, lest ye end up with tapered slices that barely hold together on one end and are overly thick on the other.
4. When married to a husband who professes to be proficient at boiling eggs, allow said proficiency to be demonstrated rather than randomly deciding that said eggs have "probably boiled long enough", lest ye end up with soft-boiled eggs for aforementioned potato salad.
5. When attempting to make potato salad, bread, and pancakes at the same time, try focusing on one recipe at a time, lest ye end up with three times the amount of baking soda in said pancakes and one less egg than said pancakes require, thus requiring the flushing of said pancakes down the garbage disposal.

22 June 2006

With all her toys...

With the vast array of toys available to her, Annalivia would still much rather play with a dishtowel, a pillow, and a can of tomato paste. Throw in a magazine she can rip up, and some books she can look at, and that is one happy little Bug.

21 June 2006

Soaking stuff

Since I figured out that I'm not a big fan of sourdough for anything but toast slathered in butter or french toast slathered in syrup, I've been trying to figure out how to soak grains for bread and also use yeast. But I wonder, according to HRH Sally Fallon, quick rise yeast insults (I think that was the word she used) our grains by forcing them into an unnatural process of rising too fast. So what do you do if you just really love the taste of homemade yeast bread? Hmmm?
Well, I'm bound and determined to figure it out, so I'll let you know if I do. Or someone else who has already wrestled with this could just let me know... hint, hint, Dawn...
In the meantime, here is our family's favorite pancake recipe -- nutty, delicious, soaked and actually good for you. I always triple it and freeze any extras, though they don't ever stay frozen for long!
Whole Wheat Pancakes a la McStew
3/4-1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat germ, ground flaxseeds, linseed, etc.
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 T. rapadura, sucanat or brown sugar
1 T vanilla
1 T oil (I use olive or sometimes coconut)
1 egg beaten

Mix whole wheat flour, and wheat germ, if using with buttermilk. Cover loosely and let sit for up to 24 hours.
Sprinkle remaining dry ingredients over the wheat mix and mix with wire whisk. Mix wet ingredients in separate bowl and combine with flour/ buttermilk/dry ingredient mix. Mix with wire whisk til just combined.
Cook on hot griddle. Makes 8 pancakes at approx. 113 cal/pancake 2 g fiber/pancake.

Sending another one home

A beloved church member passed away during the night. She had struggled with a battle against diabetes for years and had lost her mobility, her dignity, even a leg in the course of events. Last night she died peacefully in her sleep.
I had called yesterday to see how she was doing and asked if I could come see her this afternoon. I just had NO idea that she had gotten so bad.
I feel like I failed this family. I should have gone to see her yesterday. I just didn't understand.
Then this morning, I didn't get their call at 7 to tell me she had passed. I called them back when we got up at 7:30, which is a full two hours later than we've been getting up lately. They declined to have me come over and be with them.
I feel terrible, and though I need to apologize, I don't want this family to feel like they need to minister to my regret before I'll minister to their grief. Ugh.
This woman was such a dear person and also such a difficult person sometimes (like all of us, right?). She was so loving towards everyone and also terrified that they didn't love her enough. She always believed the best in people and also saw and wrestled with the worst. She had a faith that was strong one moment and non-existent the next. But, my goodness, did I ever love her. And I'll miss her greatly.
And at the same time, I know she is Home now and she is not in pain. She is no longer bound by a sick body. Her favorite hymn was He Touched Me and I know she is saying, "Something happened and now I know, he touched me and made me whole."
Much love always, Barb.

20 June 2006

Oh what a beautiful mornin'

It is a gorgeous morning here in northern Illinois. It is actually cool outside -- 58 degrees right now. Annalivia is reading to herself Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See. I've yet to get dressed and feel as though this would be a perfect day for a great cup of Lil's fresh-ground coffee, but I think I'll go for some ice water instead. The birds are singing and the sun is filtering through the trees in the backyard catching the sparkles of the dew on the ground. It's just a lovely mornin' and a great day to be alive.

19 June 2006

Submission for 21st century sinners

This last Sunday's sermon question was "Why does the Bible tell women to submit to their husbands?" I added... "And husbands to submit to Christ?" because, truthfully, I think these two acts of submission need to happen concurrently.
The sermon went well, but afterwards a middle aged guy came up to me and jokingly said, "Well, I sure heard a lot about husbands submitting to Christ, but not a lot about the women submitting to the husbands!" He said this in a hot kitchen that was full of women who were making him breakfast, so he skedaddled pretty fast!
Later an older woman said, "I wish you would have spent more time on how husbands should submit to Christ instead of spending so much time on women submitting to husbands!" She wasn't joking.
I think submission is just one of those things that we'd rather apply to other people, but the truth is -- any relationship requires submission. Whether husband and wife, parent and child, friend and friend, we have to be willing to carve out a space within ourselves to allow that person to inhabit. And any good relationship will have both parties respecting that space that is created with love, trust and kindness.
I think the idea of submitting is so hard for women my age because we've been told that not only should we have it all -- children, husband, career outside the home, friends, volunteer work, church AND a size 8 figure, to boot -- but if we DON'T "have it all" we are some sort of massive failure. Whatever it is that we think WE'VE created, we want to hold onto with all of our strength!
The thought of willingly giving up part of ourselves to let another live there is indeed counter to almost every message we receive from the world, and to a great extent, from the church (shame on us!). Pick up any women's magazine or parenting magazine, and you'll find abundant advice on how to pamper yourself, indulge yourself, treat yourself, take time for yourself... It is a good thing to take care of ourselves, but for goodness' sake, what if we took the time we wanted to spend indulging and devoted just a tenth of it to doing something totally unexpected and kind for our husbands or children? I bet we'd feel a lot better about ourselves.
It's not easy to give up part of ourselves, but this is the essence of our calling as Christians. "Take up your cross and follow" implies making a big ol' place for Jesus in our lives. And, well, he already made such an enormous place in HIS life for US that he was willing to give up his life!
Ephesians 5 begins with Paul telling the church at Ephesus what they should do to be imitators of Jesus. He addresses the temptations of the flesh and the temptations of the spirit and then tells us how to imitate Christ in our households and in the human relationships that are most important to us.
What I think is challenging for me as a woman, is realizing that my husbands' spiritual giftedness, while not the same as mine, is absolutely essential for our family. It's essential for me. I want it. I need it. And I think our family functions better when I allow him the space to lead spiritually when he wants.
I was listening to Family Life Today the other day -- it's not a program I listen to very often -- and an evangelist named RV Brown was on the program. You can listen to his interview here. It was wonderful! He has written a book called Step Up to the Plate, Dad. He talked about the ducks-in-a-row effect, as he calls it; if a family has a mama getting up and getting her children to church, praying with them, and teaching them about Jesus, it is possible that family will be Christian. But the MOMENT that the father gets on board, that the father takes ownership of his responsibility to submit to Christ and lead the family with the kind of love that he himself desires, that family's chances of succeeding in discipleship are astronomically higher.
In the mainline church church, where I was born and bred and where I serve and believe I belong, the concept of submission is SO hard for us both male and female. Submission is about giving up power, about letting God be God in the world, in our church and in our families. And if there's one thing that makes mainliners squirm, it's talking about the power of God.
But submission is something that we need to talk about and reclaim. It must be said-- it is true that many women were long denied the love and respect that Paul reminds men to give their wives. And if a person is abusing another person and doing everything BUT imitating Christ, they've lost the privilege of being submitted to. The church needs to insist that men and women find relationships wherein they are loved and valued and defend those who are not.
But sometimes I think the pendulum has, in general, over-corrected, and in being empowered to live as full people in God's love, I believe we women took some power that belongs to men away from them. And, let's be honest -- I think some men abdicated that power willingly in favor of less responsibility. I was reminded of Psalm 127 when I was thinking about how to build a family, a household that is more than just nominally Christian, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."
It's time to delve back into these scriptures that teach us how to imitate Christ. I hope we can come to a point where we see women and men for their unique giftedness in Christ instead of insisting on their same giftedness.
It is my prayer that I will continue to submit, even though it is incredibly hard and counter-intuitional for me to do so. I pray I will continue to turn myself, my marriage, my family, and my calling over to the ways of God.

18 June 2006

Two sides of the same coin

We had a lovely Father's Day here, mainly heightened by the discovery that Littler McStew will be joining the family in Feb. 20. I had actually gone to see my ob/gyn on Thursday to see about medicine for getting pregnant. God is pretty amazing.
We are now experience that crazy mix of elation and fear that accompanies such a wonderful occurence. Annalivia is at the age when correction is an semi-hourly occurence. She'll be two when number two arrives, or shortly thereafter. Will we be able to communicate to her that the necessary discipline she will receive is not because of the new little? Will we be able to communicate our love for both children? Will we be able to communicate our love for each other while taking care of two littles? I know the only answer is "grace of God (and the creek don't rise)", but I still think of all these questions.
Anyway, we're in good company. Sister Lil and bro-in-law Jake will welcome #2 in January. Good friends from Kansas will welcome a surprise #3 at the same time. Who knows who else will join the ranks? It's good to be alive.
Here's our Father's Day pic 2006. Keen eyes will notice our color coord- ination (i.e. the trim on Annalivia's dress matches the stripe in daddy's shirt and mama's dress ;) ). Once again, in our family pictures Dennis looks wonderful, Annalivia looks suspicious and me and my chins are trying to muscle everyone else out of the pic. Oh well. This is who we are...

17 June 2006

Excessive use of jazz hands

I saw a hilarious commercial tonight on mute, so I don't really know what it was about, except that it involved a lots and lots and lots (read: "prodigious use") of jazz-hands. I think it was for some new chocolate bar; all I can say is that the office portrayed therein is exactly the kind of place I'd like to work.

16 June 2006

Small triumphs in the quest for health

I've experienced several small triumphs in the ongoing quest for health here at Casa McStew which I feel like I should share here, because... uh.... where else would I share them?
  1. We bought a reverse osmosis system! Hurrah! It's not actually installed yet, but we got the system from Menards for less than $140 and it looks like it is actually really good. Not as great as Culligan, but we have college debt to repay, so...
  2. I managed to make sourdough bread. I managed to make a sourdough starter, first of all. Then I managed to make five loaves of sourdough bread. Then I managed to remember that I'm not a big fan of sourdough bread. Actually Dora Sue Davis of Lancaster, Kentucky makes THE best bread in the world and it happens to be sourdough. Back when I was a seminarian she offered me some starter and foolishly, I denied her. Now I'm half tempted to make the 12 hour trip just to get the starter. But she's coming to her neice's wedding in August in Eureka, so I think I'll just ask her to bring me some. It's appropriate to ask such a favor after completely losing contact with someone for five years, right? Thought so.
  3. The progesterone cream I've been using is helping with a number of issues, none of which anyone here would like to read, but which some of you can infer because you're regular beneficiaries of my abundant TMI policy.
  4. I think this liquid kelp is working on me, too. Of course, I'm up to 12 drops a day and my BBT is still 97.2, but I feel better, I think. I think.
  5. I finally found a natural deodorant that works! Yep, after trying 8 different kinds, I have finally found it and the best/ worst part -- it was 40% off in a closeout at our health food store, so now instead of costing 3 times as much as Degree, it's only twice as much. I'm going back to buy up all the rest (Aubrey Organics E plus high C, fyi -- I should have known from the music-nerd tie-in that this would be the one.)
  6. I told my doctor about self-medicating with progesterone and liquid kelp and she was fine with it. I love my doctor. Adore her. And I feel better having confessed to her and having her approve. I need to work on my need for approval, but in the meantime, I feel good about not deceiving Dr. Stone.
  7. I brought back my Living More with Less book from the office and ordered a More with Less Cookbook from eBay and am feeling very positive about the direction we've been moving. We're inching -- or perhaps more accurately, centimeter-ing, our way towards being more responsible citizens of the Kingdom.

Yeah, things are going well. I continue to pray for stamina and patience. For me, these things go hand in hand. But we are better -- I feel it! And that's a darn good thing.

Recipe: Pink and brown look good on us

I made a really good supper tonight, stolen, sort of, from Daisy Martines of Daisy Cooks! on PBS. I say, sort of, because I was half-watching the show the other day and half-listening to this recipe and I was fully inspired. However, I couldn't find the recipe online at all, so I'm half-claiming this as my own ingenuity. It's deliciously flavorfull, full to the brim of fiber and incredibly, incredibly low on fat, which is not a bad thing. Best of all, it can be made in stages and though it takes a long time cumulatively, it is really easy.
Pink Beans and Brown Rice
1 lb dry pink beans (or you could use red)
6 cups filtered water
2-4 cups sofrito (recipe follows, if needed)
olive oil
1-3 T salt
lots of green olives (I used one medium jar)
2 1/2 cups brown rice
stock of your choice (at least 1 quart)
First, cook the beans using your chosen method. I let them soak in 6 cups water overnight, pour off said water, and put the beans and six cups new water in the crockpot on high for 1 hour and then on low the rest of the day. When beans are done, don't drain. If you use canned beans, crazy fool, go ahead and rinse off the beans.
Heat olive oil -- as much or little as you want -- in a large, heavy pot on medium heat. Pour sofrito into hot oil. Add the green olives and pour in some of the olive brine. Mmmm. Cook it up in the oil til you can't stand it and just want to jump in and swim in all those wonderful fragrances. If you are going to use and unsalted stock, add quite a bit of the salt. If you are using a salted stock, add less.
Then, pour in beans and bean liquid and add 2 1/2 cups rice. Then (and this is Daisy's trick) take a wooden spoon and put the end of it into the liquid just touching the rice. Take it out and hold up your fingers to the liquid line. You need two fingers worth of liquid over the level of the rice. Add stock to make up the difference.
Let this lovely mixture boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reaches the level of the rice/ bean mix, then cover it and reduce the heat. Let the liquid absorb at a low simmer. When you uncover, it will be deliciously wonderful. Even husbands who swear they don't like "ethnic" food yet have been strangely receptive to falafel, groundnut stew and tabbouleh lately, love it.
This makes a whole heck of a lot of rice and beans, fyi, which is great for large families... or small families who will now have to search out unsuspecting family and/ or church members to hoist leftovers upon them...
1 large tomato
1-2 large onions
6-8-20 garlic cloves (less if you're crazy and dislike garlic)
1/2 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 cubanelle pepper or banana pepper
1 bunch cilantro
In a food processor, place tomato, garlic, onion, peppers, cilantro. You may want to cube everything into similar sized pieces. Whirl away til it is a lovely fragrant mush. Use in any or all latin dishes. (It freezes well, too!)

14 June 2006

The best sound in the world

Annalivia is lying on the floor with her daddy laughing hysterically as he makes her stuffed kitty cat meow at her.
Is there any better sound than the loves of your life laughing with abandon? I don't think so.

The what and why of the Trinity

Some of you already know that my big stepping-out-in-faith venture for the summer is to preach a series of sermons based on questions asked by members of my congregation. I told folks they could ask pretty much anything, but I reserved the right to clarify, re-word, or divide questions as necessary.
Well, the first of these sermons was last week on the Trinity. It happened to be Trinity Sunday for the liturgical churches throughout the world, so the questions, "What is the Trinity? And why is it important for Christians?" were timely.
I have read that it is an old joke that on Trinity Sunday, the minister stands up and preaches a sermon that neither the minister nor the congregation understand. I have to admit, I felt a little like this was going to be the situation for us, also.
The thing is -- the Trinity is on one hand incredibly easy to explain and on the other hand, incredibly difficult to explain. It is both simple to understand and deeply complex and complicated.

At its base, the doctrine of the Trinity is pretty simple.
  1. God exists as three eternal persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
  2. Each person is fully God
  3. There is one God

Of course, trinity is not found in the Bible, though, as Christians, we believe it is clear that the three separate persons of God are mentioned even from the earliest scriptures in the Old Testament. The ruach (breath, wind) moves over the waters; the Creator brings all things into being; the Son of course, is identified in the baptism stories where the Holy Spirit is also present as well as the Father; Jesus sends his Spirit after his resurrection; the Spirit arrives at Pentecost as fire and wind...

We've used all sorts of things to explain the Trinity more fully i.e. The Trinity is like an egg in that an egg cannot be complete without a shell, white and yolk. Or the Trinity is like water which is still water even when frozen, liquid or gas. Or the Trinity is like me who is Dennis' wife, Annalivia's mother, and the pastor of First Christian Church, but is still April. Or, my favorite, the Trinity is like a perfect piece of cherry pie where the flaky crust envelopes distinguishable cherries held together in an ambiguous but delicious goo.

Even the littlest kid can get these things, but it's when one tries to explain deeper that words fail us.

That's when this great quote from Evragius, a monk who lived in Pontus in the 4th century, comes in very handy, "God cannot be grasped by the mind. If God could be grasped, God would not be God."

Which is, I think, the real reason that the Trinity is important to Christians; it tells us what we know about God, but more than that, it reminds us that God is beyond human understanding.

The Trinity reminds us that no matter how much we think we know about God, no matter how much we've read the Word, no matter how much we seek God in prayer, no matter how many sermons we hear, we can NEVER fully understand God.

That is SO crucial for us to understand because if we COULD draw a box around God, like our friend, Evagrius said, God would not be God.

For many people, the inability to understand God, to grasp God, leads them to reject the whole notion of God or it is terrifying to them. I understand the inclination to reject what we cannot understand, to turn from what is larger and greater than ourselves. I understand the inclination to limit God to our understanding because a really, truly BIG God means giving up a lot of our "power" which I don't really think we have in the first place.

As Christians, we must remind ourselves that we believe in a God WAY, WAY bigger than our human minds. We believe in a God that is WAY, WAY bigger than human life. We believe in a God who is greater and more expansive than anything any of us can even imagine. We, in fact, must believe beyond our belief.

We do this because we pray to the Father hoping with fervent hope that He hears and knows our inward parts and our needs and desires in ways that haven'occurreded to us yet. We do this because we surrender our lives to Jesus asking him to lead us in paths that we cannot and will not choose when left to our own devices. We do this because we trust the Spirit will gift us and empower us with courage and faith and love and joy and gentleness, etcThatat definitely do not live within us of our own invitation.

This MYSTERY is CRUCIAL to our faith, absolutely CRUCIAL and as Christians we must keep it and even INSIST on it, because there are always people who will try to tell us that God is containable and that God is attainable. From the very beginning of our scriptures, a serpent lays a trap for an unsuspecting woman with the promise that she will be like Yahweh and that has continued throughout our history.

Even our fellow Christians have been tempted to box God. We THINK we know God from His Word, but we cannot ever fully know. The apostle Paul reminds us in I Corinthians that we are ALWAYS seeing through a glass darkly. One day we shall see in full, but that day is not right now, so we must constantly, constantly seek and re-seek the guidance of the Spirit in how we live, teach and preach the Gospel, lest we think we have it figured out and become idolatrous in our self-satisfaction. Mystery is what keeps us seeking. Not knowing the mind of God is what keeps us turning towards Him.

So what is the Trinity? It is our way of expressing what we know about God.

But more importantly, Why is it important to Christians? Because it reminds us how little we understand about God and how very much we have to learn.

13 June 2006

Recipe: Portable pumpkin oatmeal

Putting off writing anything of substance, here is the latest culinary brilliance to come out of Kitchen McStew.
Portable Pumpkin Oatmeal
4 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour, smelt, or kamut (I used smelt)
4 c water
1/2 c yogurt or buttermilk
3 eggs
6 T melted butter
2/3 c brown sugar, sucanat, or rapadura
1 1/2 c pumpkin
2 t vanilla
1 T baking powder
2 t cinnamon
1 1/2 t salt
1 apple chopped (optional, but highly recommended)
For maximum digestibility mix oats, grain of choice, water, and yogurt or buttermilk the night before. Cover and let sit at room temp for 8-24 hours.
Whisk together eggs, butter, sugar, pumpkin and vanilla til well blended.
Sprinkle baking powder, cinnamon, and salt over oatmeal mix. Blend gently but thoroughly with wire whisk.
Add pumpkin mix to oatmeal and whisk til just combined. Add apple if desired.
Pour into 24 greased and/ or lined muffin tins. Muffin tins can be quite full, as this does not raise much.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or til the oatmeal is slightly puffed and moist, but does not look wet.
Remove and let cool a while. If you did not use papers, these will come out of their tins very easily if you let them sit a bit.
I made these because we had a partial can of pumpkin that needed to be used and we LOVE the baked oatmeal recipe from Annie that forms the base of these goodies. They are not as dry as a muffin -- more like an oatmeal (hence the name), but they freeze beautifully and the Bug will eat them right up, so they are winners with us!

11 June 2006

A Where-I-am-from contest!

I've been thinking about the hundred different ways to write a Where I am From poem since I posted mine here last month (or it's re-posted in its entirety in the first comment on this post.)
Now there's a contest that you can enter by clicking here. Check out all the info, then write your entry, and if you don't mind, post a link to your poem in the comments here, too. And if you aren't going to enter the contest, just consider using this poem as a spiritual exercise of awareness.
It's a great thing to realize that wherever you're from, God's been there, is there and will be there, too!
I'm reposting this here to qualify for the contest. Sorry to be repetitive...
I am from rolling farmland thick with the scent of fresh black earth, heavy with the humidity of summer trapped in the cornfields, lit with the light of Orion's belt and the haze of the Milky Way.
I am from the fishing hill and walks to the creek, the paper tree and new kittens hidden in hay, a treehouse and dancing to Madonna's oldest songs.
I am from brick buildings and ivy, tall oaks and lilacs, leaf-catching and sorority serenades.
I am from yards of peonies, tulips, irises, roses, daylilies, a crocus bow, lilacs and moonflowers, spring beauties in April, and fire-red maples in the Fall.
I am from Main Street picnics, patriotic parades, whiffle ball games, bocce ball and jump-rope in the basement, manger sets and New Year's sleep-overs, conversations and tea around the kitchen table.
I am from division and reconciliation, fear and forgiveness, longing and love.
I am from conversations in the candlelight, confessions at camp, and calling in the mountains.
I am from regret and redemption, naivete and knowledge, faltering and faith.
I am from long-houred returns, gleeful giggles, complex scenarios and common dreams.
I am from thick glasses and a shaved head, shy smiles and bold suggestions, giddy acceptance, ever-deepening respect, and overwhelming desire.
I am from whispered prayers and fervent hopes, newborn cries and soft skin, sparkling eyes and peals of laughter.
I am from my quiet Guide, my prescient Listener, my dawning Assurance, the Gifter of all that I am, all that I have been, and all that I will ever wish to be.

09 June 2006

Edifying music and random thoughts on the day

It is 7:30 in the morning here and I'm drinking this wonderful coffee that Lil gave me that I ground myself waiting to call Jimmy who is probably otherwise engaged and listening to Vaughn Williams accompanied by Annalivia on the xylophone. Why those English composers didn't incorporate the six-note xylophone into their compositions, I'll never know. They were missing out.
I haven't posted in the last few days, but it's not for lack of trying. I crafted a brilliant post on immigration reform and then lost it when blogger.com went down. Scurvy curs. Of course, reverting to my seminary days, I was researching as I went along and didn't save often enough, so now, in order to arrive at similar brilliance, I'm going to need Annalivia to take another long nap, which probably isn't going to happen anytime soon. So. Apologies for nothing of real relevance on here.
We've been up since 5:45, but yesterday, theBug slept until 8:30, even though I got up at 7 and moved her back to her own bed. Then she took a three hour nap starting at 11. And went to bed at 7:30. It was amazing. Of course, consequently, she was awake at 5:30 this morning, but there's nothing like a day of real rest to give one a hope for the future.
We've been listening to my new cd A Vaughn Williams Hymnal this morning and over the last few days. It is lovely. Annalivia sometimes stands in front of it and sings with it. Pretty precious. We alternate it with the Kings of Leon so we can dance like crazy fools. I think she prefers Kings of Leon, but it's too early for that now. I wonder if Kids Bop will ever make a version of the Kings of Leon cd. We'll need to stop listening to it when she can recognize what the words actually are saying.
This afternoon we're going to go see my friend Amy and her new husband Jim. They are expecting a baby in November so I'm taking them tons of Annalivia's toys that she never plays with and some other stuff I hope they'll like. What I'd really like to do is give them all the stuff we bought that we only used half of and won't use the other half, but that'd be a little rude. With the sistahs, I could do that, and actually do. But with friends, well, it's just cheap.
Well, it's time to call Jimmy and wake him from whatever reverie he's in this morning. It's 7:45, for goodness' sake! Time to wake up and get on with the day.

05 June 2006

Recipe: Pretty awesome pitas

Today is a baking day -- one where the air conditioner remains off and the oven remains on. So I'm making the most of it with sandwich bread, pita bread, pumpkin et al. muffins and my new favorite breakfast food- baked oatmeal. Of course, I planned poorly and started the oven not remembering that two recipes call for eggs. And the egg-man won't bring eggs until this evening when he picks them up from his aunt after work. Oh well.
ANYWAY -- point of all this -- the pitas I made today are WONDERFUL!! So, so, SOOOOO much better than the kind you buy in the store. I used the Montana Wheat Lil gave me for my birthday. It is a very soft, fine wheat. I usually like my whole wheat a little nuttier and coarser, but this wheat makes a great sandwich bread when mixed with spelt.
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup yogurt
1 T honey
2 t salt
1 1/2 T olive oil
3-3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 t yeast
Put in bread machine on dough setting in order stated or if mixing by hand, mix water, yogurt and yeast. Add honey, salt, olive oil. Incorporate flour, knead til smooth. Cover and let rise til double. Punch down and divide into 8 parts. Let rest for about 10 minutes. Form into patties about 1/4 inch thick. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle on med. high heat for about 5 minutes. Cook each pita about 3-4 minutes on a side -- they will puff up if skillet is hot. Prick any large pockets of air to make an even surface. You may have to turn down the skillet as it gets hotter -- I start on med. high and move to med.
These are SO good. Now I'm empowered to try tortillas later this week! Wow.

04 June 2006

Making space

Yesterday, for the first time since I moved into the parsonage five years ago, the living room/dining room was empty.
Dennis and I had decided to shampoo the carpets that had not been cleaned since I moved in, and really, hadn't been cleaned before that for goodness-knows-how-long.
I woke up at 6:00 to the sounds of grunting; Dennis was single-handedly moving all the furniture into the guest bedroom (which just happens to be across the hall from our room). I was in grumpy-wake-up-mood and not very nicely asked him to close the door since the Bug was snuggling with me expecting that we'd get up in a couple of minutes. Well, an hour and a half later, the Bug and I emerged sleepily to see NOTHING in our living/dining room.
The thing is, it was AWESOME!! There was no junk, no mess, no stuff that we've been needing to deal with that we've just shoved into the bookcase to await the perfect time (which, strangely, never seems to arrive). Of course, all of said junk, mess, stuff was crammed into a much smaller room, but nevertheless, we tasted freedom!
Yesterday, after shampooing carpets and letting them dry, we moved the furniture back into the room, but not all the furniture. And we rearranged the stuff we had. I also took the art off the walls and the few knick-knacks we had, we haven't put back yet.
I'm not sure much of it will come back, actually. There are a few things like the woman pot Roo made that needs to come back. And the photos of the family are great, instructive entertainment for Annalivia.
But I find myself wanting to divest of our stuff. I don't know why, really. Most of the things we haven't moved back are things I used to love. I guess now I just love my people more and since things don't love me back and yet do take up a lot of time and energy, they are on the losing end of this choice.
A while ago, Ann V. had a post over at Choosing Home wherein she mentioned that she had walls and windows as her decorations in her house. I've thought about that a lot lately (an aside -- it's kind of amazing that one person can be so dern inspiring!). Anyway, when Dennis and I went to Kentucky on our engagement trip, we stayed at Shakertown. We both loved the simplicity of that place -- the way the architecture was the decoration. Of course, both of us thought it would just be IMPOSSIBLE to live without all of our things. But, as I get older, and well, poorer, thus being unable to afford the cleaning lady, thus being much less tolerant of things that must be dusted myself, I find myself thinking that not only would it be POSSIBLE, but BLESSED. How much more cool is it to spend time with loved ones rather than cleaning? Granted I live in a 1950's ranch-style house right now where architecture is not a strong aesthetic pull, BUT someday we won't. And wherever that is, looking at the glory of creation will be much more edifying than French advertising posters.
Anyway, we have succeeded at making some space -- both mental and physical-- here at Casa de McStew. Of course, there's a back bedroom now stuffed to the brim, but we'll deal with that later.

Fire, wind, and warblers

Today is Pentecost and I am up WAY, WAY too late finishing up last minute things for church (read: putting the finishing touches on a sermon).
Every Pentecost, my little congregation arrives in our red clothing and tries to be as charismatic as an elderly mainline congregation can muster. I've a feeling that it will be our hymns that will redeem our attempts tomorrow. My favorite Spirit hymn, Sweet, Sweet Spirit will be the first of the day. Of course, our hymnal has it about three whole steps above anyone over-50's early morning singing voice, but we'll manage and our voices will be magnified somewhere by the rushing of wind. Happy Pentecost!

"There's a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place and I know that it's the Spirit of the Lord.
There are sweet expressions on each face, and I know they feel the presence of the Lord.
Sweet Holy Spirit, sweet heavenly dove, stay right here with us, filling us with your love.
And for these blessings, we'll lift our hearts in praise.
Without a doubt we'll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place.
There are blessings you cannot receive, 'til you know him in his fullness and believe.
You're the one to profit when you say, "I am going to walk with Jesus all the way."
Sweet Holy Spirit, sweet heavenly dove, stay right here with us, filling us with your love.
And for these blessings, we'll lift our hearts in praise.
Without a doubt we'll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place."

02 June 2006

Hilarity in stardates

As a former fan of Star Trek the Next Generation, I want to refer anyone interested to this hilarious blog. Scroll down to Laundry Breakdown. One of the most hilarious things I've read this week. If you aren't at least a closet Trekkie, you'll probably want to skip this recommendation. Sistahs, you'll want to read this and listen to this hilarious Picard Song. Make sure your speakers are on. It's a little long, but funny.

On being "real"

I was listening to the radio the other day and a speaker said, "God doesn't want you to be perfect. God wants you to be real."
That which is real could be the start of pretty much any ontological discussion. Real, according to dictionary.com is "Being or occurring in fact or actuality; having verifiable existence; True and actual; not imaginary, alleged, or ideal." True. Actual. Verifiable. Genuine. Authentic.
I realized as I thought about this, that I have a problem being a real Christian. Because for me at least, being an authentic Christian is very complex. And I find that I have a hard time representing the complexity within me to others.
Very often, rather than just letting myself be me, I instead take the cues of what- kind- of- Christian- I- should- be- today from the folks around me. For example, I am LOVING hanging out at the Choosing Home Forums and have been SO incredibly inspired by these women who, well, "choose home." But I am not *using terms with which I'm uncomfortable* a "conservative, evangelical" Christian. Not even close, really. And sometimes I feel like I'm representing myself as different than I actually am.
I love being with my church people and even leading them sometimes(!), but I'm not a wise sage when it comes to policy and practice. Not even close, really. And I CERTAINLY am not aBible scholar, though I know I should be. Sometimes I feel compelled to represent myself as both sage and scholar, when really I haven't a clue of what to do or where to go to find the answers
I love crazy irreverent humor. I love to make fun of myself and some of the most joyful moments in my life have been laughing raucously with others who will laugh at themselves. I am not a saint. Not even close. Nor am I a comedian. And to pretend to be otherwise isn't honest either.
I'm finding as I move into 31 that I am dissatisfied with being a chameleon, but also dissatisfied at being uncovered as a weird creature without category -- a platypus, if you will. I find myself wishing I was like the brilliant, faithful women at CH, or the amazing pastors and preachers I've known and know, or the hilarious commentor on the BBC. Without the superlatives, these things are me -- wife/momma, pastor/preacher, commentator. It's silly to be envious of not fitting into a category, but I still wish, wish, wish there was one for me.
It seems so immature now that it's in writing, yet I sense there are others (all of whom may be related to me) who struggle with this, too.
I guess the solution is simply to be more honest and seek answers to my existential queries in prayer. After all, I guess God knows my category and loves the reality of me, even if I'm not sure about me yet.

Just when ya think you're unique

Holy cow, Dawn is right! [Edit -- not "holy cow" because Dawn is right *oops!* "holy cow" because of the following info.] There apparently is a long and varied White Rabbit tradition beyond the reaches of the McClure family or even the Eureka High School bandos. Crazy.
Anyway, I googled "rabbit first month" and was shocked to find all sorts of info. Here's some.

WHITE RABBITS ON THE FIRST OF THE MONTH - "In some parts of Lancashire and the adjacent counties, it is unwise to shoot a black rabbit. This is because they were once believed to be ancestral spirits returning in that form. In Somerset, white rabbits are said to be witches. That anyone really believes this now is improbable; nevertheless, white rabbits are not popular as children's pets, and they are usually left severely alone, and are not shot. A luck-bringing custom found all over Great Britain is to say 'Rabbits' or 'White Rabbits' once or three times on the first day of the month. It must be said early in the morning, before any other word has been uttered, otherwise the charm loses its force. In some districts it is considered necessary to say 'Hares' or 'Black Rabbits' when going to bed on the night before, as well as 'Rabbits' or White Rabbits' in the morning. If, however, the speaker becomes muddled and says 'Black Rabbits' on rising, bad luck will follow. The looked-for result of all this is variously given as general good luck during the ensuing four weeks, or the receipt of a gift within a few days." From the "Encyclopedia of Superstitions" by E. and M.A. Radford, edited and revised by Christina Hole, Barnes and Noble Books, 1996. First published in 1948.

That's a little too weird for me.

I guess there are others who also view this as a big game. However, apparently there are people who are even more retentive than we who have codified rules. For example...

Here are the basic rules for White Rabbit.

  1. Full credit will only be awarded for live contact. This means either meeting in person or speaking to the other person on the phone.
  2. Contact will be determined based upon the time where the individual is residing when contact is made. In other words, if I'm in Wisconsin and I'm calling you in California, I can only get points if it is 12:00 a.m. or later in California.
  3. Contact must occur between one second past midnight on the first day of the month and midnight of the 11:59.59 on the first.
  4. Partial credit may be awarded for unusual and creative contact. This could include items such as flowers, balloons, sky-writing, dancing messengers or other similar efforts.
  5. The receipt of the special message must occur prior to 11:59.59. Contestants are bound by honor to report receipt accurately.
  6. Faxes, e-mails and letters will not be considered valid contact.
  7. January 1 of each year will count for double credit.
  8. Contestants must be of age to enable them to initiate contact in future months. In other words, it's no fair to white rabbit a new born. The winner each month is entitled to gloat during the remainder of the month.
  9. It is not legal to disguise your voice in order to make other contestants believe that they have reached a party other than yourself.
  10. In the event of any question over the interpretation of these rules, final determination shall be made by a mutually agreed upon, neutral arbitrator.

I think I personally prefer a loosely codified set of ambiguous rules so as to allow the sisters/participants to create and/or refute a rule as befits the particular charge being levelled by another, more sinister sister/participant. It's just more fun.

My daughter o' the boy-hair

Victim of her mother's scissors and her own propensity for wiggling. Poor child.

01 June 2006

The rabbit that is white

Well, it is the first of the month and knowing that Marissa will get an automatic update, I feel compelled to say, "WHITE RABBIT!"

The advantage of having a barista as a sistah...

is that one has access to really good coffee. Really good. Yum. Thanks, Lil!