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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Favourite Raita

Raita is a yogurt condiment to top off your curry (I can post how I make curry another time - we had it for supper tonight). It also works nicely as a different salad dressing if you're up for something exotic. It's very easy to make. We never have any left over.

1 cup plain yoghurt (full cream is good)
1/2 a cucumber - grated (or a whole mini cucumber)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. coriander
a sprinkle of garlic powder (the one time I don't use fresh!)
1-2 t. lemon juice

Mix it all together - add more of what you like or less of what you don't! I can eat it by the spoonful.

How I Met Sam Part 31

And there was evening and there was morning - the first day of being friends.

Don't take that as sacrilegious. It was the creation of something new - and I believe God declared that it was good...

I remember going to Church the following morning and seeing Sam through new eyes. Before he had been a stranger. Now I was beginning to know him. He got up to speak during the Breaking of Bread service. I noticed how when he talked about God he spoke candidly without pretense. He didn't dress up his language or use high theological terms. And in fact, he didn't even have a prayer voice. You may not know what I mean, so I'll explain. Some people talk to you normally in whatever manner is their style, but when it comes time to pray, they adopt a whole other vocabulary and tone. Their speech slows down in reverence. Their words become carefully chosen. I believe this is all out of a sense of respect towards God and I won't knock it - perhaps even I do this? I can't tell - I don't listen to myself pray, but I know God does, and I'm sure He doesn't really care if I use nicer vocab when speaking to Him! At the same time, Sam was not that way. He was direct and simple and expressed thoughts of sincere worship towards Christ in the remembrance of Him. It was beautiful. And I knew I was losing control of my heart in this situation.

At the same time, my heart had somewhat crumpled on the night of the burglary. I don't know a better word for it - withered, dried up, closed up? What term could best describe me at the time? I can't say. It was like unreality and trauma and happiness and fear all wrapped into one.



How I Met Sam Part 30

It was the first weekend after the burglary that we had had the awful talk.

He had arrived on Saturday and my Mom had driven with me to pick him up from the train. I had decided to go to visit the youth group I had attended when I was a teen. So he came with me. Afterwards we had been invited to a barbeque at my Filipina sister's house (Elizabeth). They hosted a BBQ every weekend for all their friends on the roof of their building (where they worked and lived). Actually, Elizabeth wanted me to meet a 'friend' who she was hoping to set me up with! I was very thankful to arrive WITH Sam, and to have an excuse to not visit too much with strangers. I met the guy Elizabeth wanted me to meet, and said, 'Very nice to meet you,' and that was it. I have knack for being curt on first introductions.

We went home afterwards having enjoyed our visit with friends and Sam meeting the Filipino crowd who so hospitably welcomed us.

That evening we talked a lot and it was very late at which point, tired and emotionally exhausted my stomach gave in to its churning.

It was hard to spend time with Sam knowing he really didn't like me in that way. But it had been my intention to walk in all things by faith (even though I often fail at this endeavour). So as I continued to spend time with him, I trusted that God would oversee our friendship and take it where He willed.

And sure enough, He did. And I didn't even have to wait that long!

Part 31 - Click Here!


Feta Omelette


Trying to avoid carbs in the morning, so this is one of my favourite things to eat:

1 piece of bacon
1/2 shallot
1-3 mushrooms (depends on size and if you like mushrooms)
1-2 eggs (if Andrew is going to 'share' with me I do 2)
Grated Cheddar cheese
1 T crumbled feta cheese
Sprinkling of Cavender's Greek Seasoning

Put the bacon in the pan 'til it's done how you like it.
Take out the bacon and put the sliced shallot and mushrooms in to saute in the bacon grease.
Beat up your egg or two. Sprinkle in Cavender's (or any seasoned salt to substitute).
Once the shallot and mushrooms are done enough, pour the egg in.
Sprinkle the feta and cheddar on. Crumble your bacon piece over it.
Once solid enough but still runny, turn over half to make a half moon shape.

Slice up 1/2 Avocado.

Lay completed omelette over top of the avocado. Crumble more feta on top.

Goes nice with a cup of Ruby Red Grapefruit juice.
And a cup of coffee or tea.

Yummy Breakfast!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What and Why I Read

I read on a wide variety of subjects. Not on everything however. I tend not to read much on technology, computers, chemistry, math (my brain gets dizzy any time numbers are present - thus you won't see lists of statistics supporting what I write!), fluffy fiction (as opposed to purposeful!), and very rarely biographies. Sorry to disappoint the biography crowd out there. I just find often they are either too inspirational and my cynicism makes reading difficult, or they are too condemning and fail to highlight both the good and the bad in a person. I did read the required biography of D.L.Moody and found it was worthwhile, and once in a while I will stumble on something and read it by accident. Enough of the biography discussion.

Here's an example of what I have recently read (only completed books listed here):

1. Hana's Suitcase
2. In My Hands
3. The Amish Way
4. Mao's Great Famine (1948-1952)
5. And Thereby Hangs a Tale
6. The Emperor of All Maladies
7. The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do

...among others I forget...

The genres I tend to read are, in no particular order:

2nd World War History
Biology and science (Physics occasionally)
Chinese History
Amish Culture and Society (non-fiction)
Oppressive Cults (why people stay, leave and how)
Fundamentalist Groups (and the pursuing of free thought)
The Brain and Memory, Cancer, Diabetes
Anything Controversial or opposing to my viewpoint
Theology - specifically the Doctrines of Grace
Popular Books (to see what all the fuss is about)
Marriage, Parenting, and family books
Psychology (can be frustrating at times)
Nutrition and Quack promoters of such

- Probably other genres I can't think of just now...

You'll notice not much room for fiction. Nothing against fiction, just I find the real so much more fascinating. At the same time, please don't bristle at that statement. Fiction can be extremely real - it can show what poetry and prose cannot. I just have a hard time finding it sometimes. Non-fiction is often concrete (though much of it proposed as non-fiction really is fiction - takes a discerning reader to catch this). Fiction can bore into your soul and catch you unaware! Maybe you have some good fiction recommends for me - add a comment and let me know.

Here's what I mean about defining vs. demonstrating. I can write poetry about a topic we all understand to some degree: Grace:

'Grace 'tis a charming sound' I once did hear, and longing still for more,
My heart drew near to soak it in; To drink from that deep store.
It was my soul's delight I found to joyfully partake
Of blessed truths reserved for those whose hungry hearts did ache.

Grace not only charmed the thoughts, and bound up broken hearts -
Redemption too was found therein - it left soul-branding marks.

I'm marked as one "By Grace was Sought, By Grace Arrested, Freed."
Grace captured my soul's filthy rags - By Grace I now believe.

Could Grace be lauded without thought of what it cost our God?
To condescend in human form - and walk this barren sod?

Could be we awed without a thought for loving sacrifice?
For grace to charm we must take in the awful, painful price.

By blood redeemed, by Christ set free, by death I am revived.
His life for mine, His grace defined goes farther than my thoughts can reach!
To think that I of all the world should be the one He seeks!

Grace charmed and wooed and won my heart
And now no longer free to roam -
I bind myself to His great cause
To make His glories known.


Or, we could write it theologically in such a way:

"In Grace the work of God is done whereby we see an unregenerate soul languishing in the pallor of sinful emptiness, longingly searching the vast array of the world's offerings of pleasure, knowledge, meaning, and ideals, only to come up empty again and again. In grace we find this wandering soul athirst for a drink he knows nothing of - flitting from well to well - of friendship, of religion, of systems, of fame, of mysticism, of hobbies and interest, of entertainment, of following the 'heroes' of the world. In grace we see this soul lost and sought and confronted with his aimless path of life and having been found by the One Who is Himself Living Water; we see this one receive the Saviour whose death brings life; We see him drink deep from the well of Truth and Grace. In Grace we see the work of God that devoid of any assistance or empowerment from the recipient, He lavishes blessings of inheritance belonging to the Son, onto the one whose thirsty soul finds satisfaction at the well of such grace. Grace bestows without merit or reward on the one whose efforts fail, whose virtues wither and whose righteousness does not exist. Grace does not bestow based on the desire or power or action of the recipient. Grace is all of God and none of me."

Both in poetry and theological treatise we define and know by the telling - we are told what grace is. But often for the soul to take in truth, the heart must be tricked into seeing, and this is where story comes in.

I wish I could demonstrate this for you. I could try to write a story depicting Grace and Redemption. Many have done this - Francine Rivers, Dostoyevsky, C.S. Lewis etc. (moderns, classics, theologians - many genres do well at depicting grace). I'm not much for writing fiction (yet) so I'll leave you with those for examples.

Perhaps in telling some of the stories of my life I hope to paint for you a picture of the grace of God in my life.




Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roast Beef and Shallot Mushroom Sauce

I made this for supper tonight - with baked new potatoes and Mom's great coleslaw.

Roast Beef:

Sirloin Tip Roast

Marinate in:
2 minced cloves garlic (sorry I can't stomach the jar stuff - go with fresh!)
1 T minced fresh ginger
1t. soy sauce
2 T any viniagrette/Italian salad dressing you like
1/2 c. red wine (I used the Cabernet from Aldi)
1 T. olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Rotate so it gets all the marinade all over it. Marinade as long as you like - a couple hours is good.

Roast in oven however long you usually like it - I like it a bit on the rare side.

Slice and serve with Sauce below:

Slice 2 shallots
Slice an 8 oz (or more) box of fresh mushrooms (canned doesn't cut it) - I had some crimini (baby bella's) and some regular button mushrooms
Saute in 1 T butter (I try not to use too much because I like the flavour of the shallots and mushrooms to shine, not the butter). I had a little left over bacon grease and added a bit which gave a great flavour.
After they're quite nicely sauteed, add 1/2 c. of the same red wine used in the marinade. Boil it down a bit - however much you like.
Sprinkle on a generous shake or two of Cavender's Greek seasoning (this appears in almost everything I make that is savory!)

Serve over sliced Roast Beef!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Acceptance

Today in our Sunday school we were talking about the importance of acceptance - how God accepts us, and how we, in turn can be such a blessing to others (specifically our spouses, if married) by our acceptance of them.

I shared with the class how I had seen this demonstrated yesterday between Caleb and Priscilla. They were having an argument about a book Priscilla wanted from Caleb which he was withholding from her. In her anger, Priscilla burst out with, "Caleb, you're SO selfish and greedy." This deeply hurt him. They battled back and forth for a while, and finally Caleb said, "Fine, just have it then - if that's what you think of me!" He then teared up and expressed his dismay by saying, "I can't believe you with think to say of me that I'm selfish and greedy - that you would say that of your own brother!"

We talked with Priscilla and got to the root of the issue - her jealousy and desire to have what was his. Then we asked her what she should do about the things she had said to him. She proceeded to apologize to Caleb, and he gladly accepted. He was happy to release his book to her, not to win her approval but because of it.

I was surprised to see how deeply he was hurt by Priscilla's opinion of him, and how unbearable it was to him that she looked down in disapproval on him. It very much mattered to him how much she esteemed him - and when it was negative he was willing to give in and do anything to win her back.

The further surprising thing was that for the rest of the afternoon - over 2 hours, he invited her up to his Lego loft (a very privileged invitation I might add!) and show her all his creations and tell her the entire Star Wars story from start to finish complete with Lego figures and creations to demonstrate it all. They played happily together that whole time - bonding and sharing time doing Lego's and telling stories. I brought them some Kool-Aid and snacks and they thought they were having a party!

Upon the foundation of their reconciled, accepting relationship, they were able to engage in cheerful, bonding play together - appreciating each other as friends and peers. The crucial element in all of this was acceptance, affirmation and esteem.

We all need these in our lives. When we receive rejection, criticism and dishonour, we inwardly cringe and suffer and hide from the onslaught. How might we bless others if in all our relationships, but especially those closest to us, we extended the same grace, acceptance and love that God has shown to us?

I am not saying we deny the failures, gloss over the uncomfortable realities of each others faults and weaknesses or extend praise falsely for the mere goal of pleasing another. God does address all of these in our lives, as He should. But I do think that growth occurs with a healthy foundation of trust and acceptance: Can I trust you to accept me when I fail? Can I trust you will not blast me with all my faults when I let you down? Can I trust you to love me in spite of my unloveliness?

I hope so.

And I hope you can trust the same things of me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preaching Part 2

A Word about the Preacher

Before continuing, let me add the side-note that it is not merely the text of Scripture that matters in preaching, but the one delivering the message as well. In order to integrate the mind’s understanding of the Word and the heart’s response, the one delivering the message ought to have first encountered similar delight in preparation to deliver the message. In her book, Storytelling Laura Emerson says, “Be wholehearted and enthusiastic. Don’t tell things without making them real.” Emerson taught that “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Impression precedes expression…When you are intimate with the characters and the sequence of events and catch the spirit of the narrative, storytelling will become the spontaneous outpouring of this experience.” Obviously there is more to Biblical preaching than storytelling. But these thoughts could be true of preaching – the impact of preaching will be far greater if the one delivering the message has first become intimate with the text of the Living Word, and has found personal nourishment in its pages.

“The storyteller needs Love of God. For if one has love of God in one’s heart it will follow that he will also have love of his fellow man. For without love we become as “sounding brass or tinkling symbols.” (Insall)

“What my people need most is my personal holiness.” (Bonar, quoting M’Cheyene, 258)

No one can give expression to more than is in his own soul.” - S. S. Curry

Obviously it is a serious and important task to deliver God’s Word to the minds and hearts of a gathering of believers on a regular basis. The responsibility to receive the Word is neither solely on the hearer’s shoulders or those of the preacher. Spurgeon was once asked about the secret of his ministry. He paused for a moment and then said, simply, “My people pray for me.” Perhaps the lives of the hearers and the powerful impact of the preaching would be deepened if the matter of faithful prayer on behalf of the preacher was seriously considered.

With that in mind, the words of Peter the Apostle are appropriate:

“Whoever speaks, let it be as one who speaks oracles of God…by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11

How I Met Sam Part 29

After the episode where Sam was talking about his longings I knew I was in a bit too deep for comfort. At that point we hardly knew each other and he was not even considering me as an option! I still believed that I would always be single and trusted God to help me engage in this friendship wisely. Until this point I had avoided friendships with single guys because it seemed always to lead to trouble. But when you are thrown into circumstances such as we faced, there was so much to talk about and process and I trusted that God was in control of the friendship that was now growing. As we talked and our friendship grew, we began to discuss our ideals for marriage.
So I met Sam, liked him, and initially he didn’t like me in that sort of way. He said so plainly. Do I have to tell you how? No, I'll keep that shameful discussion to the recesses of my memory, hoping to forget it. All I'll say, is that Sam tried to be clear without insulting me, but succeeded only in the former effort! (Of course I didn't take offense and let him know, but he was stumbling over words and I had to both be disappointed and amused at the same time). Unlike some, I do tend to hang on to my sense of humour in most situations, and this was no exception.

So here we were in the relationship - enjoying each other's presence and friendship but having established that at least for his part, he was not interested in pursuing anything more. It put me in a bit of an awkward predicament. I had developed strong convictions about having friendships with guys. I didn't want to be entangled and I didn't want to risk. Call me a coward (okay, I'll call myself a coward). But we were somewhat alone in a sort of new environment with traumatic experiences fresh in our memories and no close person to talk to. I think God created this situation to put us together, because otherwise, there would be no Caleb, Priscilla, Timothy, Andrew and...? (to be announced come September).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Preaching Part 1

Preaching in the Local Church

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2

The New Testament here commands that the Word be preached in the environment of the community of faith, namely, the Local Church. The ‘Ekklesia’ or ‘gathering’ of believers is to be a community that revolves around the teachings, person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church gathers out of obedience to the Lord, primarily to remember Him in worship. As worship is the purpose for the Church gathering, preaching can be seen as a part of corporate worship. Preaching is not to be merely thought of as an activity, where one speaks and the many listen. Rather, the preacher, and the hearers ought to be worshiping at the very point of what is being said. As John Piper puts it, “Preaching is worshiping over the Word of God – the text of Scripture – with explanation and exultation” (The Supremacy of Christ in Preaching, Piper, 9). Taking a general definition of the word ‘worship’ to be ‘ascribing worth to’ this would mean that the activity of preaching is basically ascribing worth to God through the text of Scripture.

Worship can only occur when two things happen. Firstly, God must make some revelation of Himself to a person. Secondly, that person, in response must initiate a genuine act (whether internal, such as the thoughts of the heart, or external, such as bowing the knee) of ascribing worth to God. Jonathan Edwards clarifies this by saying that, “God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: 1. By appearing to…their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations which He makes of Himself…God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.”

Because preaching is the proclamation of God’s Word, which is a revelation of God Himself, worship ought to be the result, both in the immediate heart-response and the ongoing changes in the life of the hearer. If, after learning something of God in His nature, one does not respond in worship the hearer has then become a mere intellectual student of God, and missed God’s purpose for Him in receiving the Word. Learning something of interest or intellectual stimulation is never the purpose of Biblical preaching. The Bible may be used in preaching that leaves the hearer with more information than he had previously, but the Bible may also be used to teach a literature class. Neither of these uses constitutes Biblical preaching. An integration of the mind and heart is essential for the Word to take root and bear fruit in the life of the listener. The preacher must take care to draw the mind into the examination of a text, as well as the heart, especially in calling for a response to the text. Often a call for response is unnecessary when the text plainly, often painfully, makes it clear that a response is expected. There may be no need to ask for a response when the text powerfully speaks for itself, as it is expounded.

The word ‘preach’ used in 2 Timothy 4:2 is the Greek word ‘keruxon’ – literally to ‘herald’, ‘announce’ or ‘proclaim.’ This is not the same as the word for ‘teach’ or ‘explain.’ Piper goes on to say,

“I call this heralding exultation. Preaching is a public exultation over the truth that it brings. It is not disinterested or cool or neutral. It is not mere explanation. It is manifestly and contagiously passionate about what it says… The reason that preaching is so essential to the corporate worship of the church is that it is uniquely suited to feed both understanding and feeling. It is uniquely suited to waken seeing God and savoring God. God has ordained that the Word of God come in a form that teaches the mind and reaches the heart.”

Thoughts on Worship

I have a genuine heart for worship. I know, people say that all the time. But what does that mean? It means different things to different people. For me, it means that I desire God to be honoured, glorified, in all I do. When it comes to music and how it is used in a Christian gathering I also desire that God be honoured. I want Him to be centre – not me, not anyone else, not anything else (the music, the performance, the polish, the externals) – but Him. That said, I don’t need to be the one at the piano – I don’t need anyone to know/hear me play. I play for God. If others get in on it, so be it. My desire only is that what is played meets certain criteria. Namely: 1) that it be purposeful – why is music being played? Who is it serving? If it is serving to glorify me, I don’t want it. 2) That it be appropriate – is the music being thoughtfully selected? 3) Is God the centre – the One we are seeking to honour via the channel of music? Or are we focussing on externals – pleasing others being our focus rather than the God we worship?
The source of the music is not the issue. The heart of worship and a desire for God to be glorified is the issue. Whether before or after the service has officially begun or ended, or what is played during communion, I am concerned that perhaps we ignore issues about how to worship God, but focus (not entirely a bad idea) on how to create a certain ‘atmosphere’. People are often drawn to worship God by others worshipping Him – not necessarily by us making it palatable to people’s palates! In this, I am not meaning to complain, criticize or have a bad attitude. My opinions may be strong – but perhaps there is a reason for that. It matters to me what music is used in corporate gatherings because it can either lend to or distract from true worship (God-centred). In fact, silence would also have a place in our gatherings too, and sometimes does. Music should augment reflective worship, not replace or distract from it.
Having said this, I also have a lot to say about kinds of music and genres. I used to be far stronger in my opinions, and reaped the consequences of such. I believe strong opinions are fine, if they’re right J! But I erred on having opinions on stylistic elements and declaring that my tastes were better than others. What pride! To my shame I went through a time of self-reckoning with the Holy Spirit doing a lot of the talking. I learned through various experiences that music styles are not all neutral but are also not all polarized. What I mean is that, there can be something ‘wrong’ with a certain style of music in a certain context. All genres are not okay in all times and places. In Africa, there were certain drum beats used in spiritistic worship rituals. Because of this association, many Christians chose to eliminate drums from their corporate gatherings. I don’t see that this is entirely necessary, but I respect the freedom of others to worship according to their conscience, and this, I believe, is what Paul would promote.