Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tim Keller on the church looking like Jesus

The true message of Jesus

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

HT:  Of First Importance

Friday, January 30, 2009

7 quick takes, volume 090130

1.  Thank  you Kate for the picture on the left.  It's made my week.

2.  You can watch my dad on TV!  Episode 2808, Lumberjack Fan Carving.  In my entirely biased and correct opinion, his work is pretty cool.
3.  I'm sorta geeked over the announcements of the 2009 Caldecott and Newbery Award winners.  New books to get for--my kids.  Right.  They're for the kids.
4.  If I had time and energy to kill on post-graduate studies, one of the master's theses that I'd like to write is the argument that much of the best literature these days is being published in the YA category.  I think that one of the reasons that this is so is because there is still pressure to keep literature aimed at 10-13 year olds clear of "adult themes" and "adult content."  In other words, an author can't write voyeuristic, profanity strewn, pulp and have it sell just on that basis.  YA writers actually have to write good stories.  
5.  Barna Study:  1 in 3 "Christians" say Jesus sinned.  Um . . . do they not even understand that that defeats the point?  Theology, people, theology!
6.  English departments all across the U.S. would be better off if they just admitted that modern lit-fic is just another genre, and not morally superior to all the genres out there.
7.  my children are home today on yet another snow day, and I'm completely baffled.  We had no new snow the other night.  It's not warm, exactly, out there, but 10 degrees now with a high of 18 this afternoon and a 30% chance of snow hardly seems to warrant cancelling--and the roads were fine when I was out on them last night.  I especially wish that if there was going to be a cancellation that I could have found out about it when I still had a chance to go back to sleep, and hadn't gotten up, had 2 cups of coffee, fed my daughter breakfast and had her getting ready to go while I called to check on her car pool before I found out about it.

UPDATE:  My kind husband pointed out that my take #6 had the exact same link as #5 . . . that it did not, in fact, pull up the fascinating article by Julian Gough that I intended to reference.  That's now been fixed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Recipes for Chinese New Year

Happy Year of the Ox!

We had friends over for Chinese New Year Dinner.  


Spring rolls with dipping sauce  (Private Selection Lemongrass with Chicken)

San Choy Bau (Lettuce Wraps)
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
6 spring onions, diced
1 lb. diced / minced pork
3 1/2 oz bamboo shoots, diced
3 1/2 oz water chestnuts, diced
1 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
lettuce leaves, trimmed

1.  Combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and sherry and set aside
2.  Heat oil in wok on high.  Stir fry the ginger, garlic and half of the onion for one minute.  Add pork and cook until browned.
3.  Add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and remaining onion.  Toss.  Add reserved sauce and toss.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until sauce thickens.  Stir in pine nuts.
4.  Wrap in lettuce leaves.  Drizzle with additional oyster sauce if desired.
Notes:  The recipe only calls for 3 1/2 oz. bamboo and water chestnuts, but I generally dice and use all of 5 oz. can, rather than have leftovers.  It works fine.
From The Essential Wok Cookbook

Main Course:

Yangzhou Fried Rice (Sara's adjusted version)

3-4 cups cooked rice
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice wine
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
pinch white pepper
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup Chinese Barbecued Pork, diced
3 green onions, diced

1.  Semi-cook eggs, set aside
2.  Combine soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, oyster sauce, oil and white pepper into bowl and set aside
3.  In 2 Tbsp. peanut oil, cook ginger and garlic for about 1 minute.  Add pork.  Cook one additional minute.  Add rice.  Cook, stirring well, 2 minutes, breaking up any chunks.  Add sauce. 
4.  Reduce heat to low.  Add scrambled egg and green onion.

Note:  The original recipe calls for frying, dicing and adding shrimp.  I don't, because I don't like them.  From The Chinese Kitchen

Sesame Chicken

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup, plus 2 tsp. soy sauce, divided
2 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar
6 tsp. rice wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
2 egg whites
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
3-6 dried hot red pepper pods
1/4 cup sesame seeds
diced green onion, for garnish

1.  Set diced chicken marinating with 2 tsp. soy sauce and 2 tsp. rice wine.  Marinate at least 30 minutes
2.  Combine sugar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, vinegar, 4 tsp. rice wine and chicken broth.  Whisk and set aside.
3.  Add egg whites to chicken.  Mix well.  Add corn starch.  Toss thoroughly.  
4.  Cook chicken in vegetable oil on high heat until golden.  Remove and place on paper towels to drain, if desired.
5.  Add garlic and pepper pods.  Saute until pods turn black, about 1 minute.  Add sauce mixture, and cook until sauce thickens.  Add chicken.  Toss with sesame seeds.
6.  Serve over white rice, topped with green onion.
From Colorado Collage

Fresh Steamed Broccoli 
Chinese Tea and White Wine


um . . . Peach-Blackberry Pie, with whipped cream.  Okay, I know it's not very Chinese.  But it was good!  Maybe I'll post that recipe some other time.  Happy Eating!

Friday, January 23, 2009

seven quick takes, vol. 090123

I'm having a good week.  Busy week.  No time for deep thought.

1.  My two year old is deep into a game in which lots of brightly colored beads are her "money."  This appears to involve swapping the beads around between an old spice jar and her pocket and lots of running around the house.  I wonder if the game would be half so interesting if she didn't know that those beads are supposed to belong to her older sister?

2.  I checked out Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz from the library.  I'm not impressed.  (It looks like I'm in the minority).  Miller's not nearly so insightful as he thinks he is . . . he's got a lot of the same breezy, self-revelatory sort of voice and style as Anne Lamott, but he doesn't have either Lamott's depth of experience or humility, so he doesn't pull it off nearly so well.  After reading/skimming 50-100 pages of a several hundred page book, I'm returning it to the library and thankful I didn't bother to buy it.

3.  On the other hand, I'm very much enjoying Cicero on Jen's recommendation.  I'll be surprised if I don't end up buying this one eventually, but for the moment, I'm thankful for our library.

4.  It seems to be maintenance month at our house.  Oil change time for the vehicles.  Dental cleanings.  Eye checks.  Furnace servicing.  Etc. . . . It's amazing how much havoc this can wreak on a week's schedule.

5.  We're looking to start our middle one on violin lessons next week.  This past fall, we instituted a campaign to get her to stop chewing on her fingernails (and fingers).  The bribe was that when her fingers were all healed she'd be ready for lessons.  I was, I'll admit, cynical as to how well this would work, since we'd already tried half a dozen different motivations to get her to keep her fingers out of her mouth, but this one really took.  She wants those music lessons.  She was doing so well, that by the evidence of her hands, she was ready shortly before Christmas.  But we said "after the holidays" and the time has come to make good our promise.  I take her to the Suzuki school that meets at our church next week.

6.  I love this song.  I got it stuck in my head when I was about ten years old and it's been making regular appearances on the soundtrack in my brain ever since.  I have little clue what it's supposed to be about and really don't want to know--the lyrics are obscure enough and the melody such that it's been generating images and stories in my head for more than 20 years and I'd rather just leave it that way.

7.  I was tempted this morning by this offer of free books.  Until I started reading their website more closely and realized that my own theological instincts are probably far too conservative for their tastes.  Oh, well.

7 Quick Takes Fridays are hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

thoughts on evangelism

per Barb's request:

when did I become a Christian?  I don't ever remember not being one.  Raised in a strong church, I seem to have always known that Jesus's death on the cross was to atone for our sins, and that God was alive and real and what I was being taught was true.

why did I become a Christian?  As alluded to above, I believe that Christians are those who trust/believe Christ's saving work.  I believed that I needed God the same way that I believed my parents when they told me I had to eat a well balanced diet--these were the things that were needed for me to grow up how I should.  

was I drawn to God in some way that the perks didn't matter?  Well, yes, in a sense.  The perks didn't matter to me as a child . . . I knew the reality of the presence of God before I had grown into ambition in the type described.  

so what is Evangelism and what was Jesus doing with the disciples and what was/is this Kingdom of God and what is the gospel?  Bad news--we've screwed ourselves over big-time.  We're all broken, tainted, cracked . . . and we can't fix it.  Nothing we do on our own is untouched by the curse of sin, and our sin infects and warps our efforts faster than we can right them.  Good news--this was not what God intended, and he's about fixing it.  The Kingdom of God is the inbreaking of Jesus's redemption not just of our individual lives but of our communities, countries, and all of creation.  Jesus . . . well, discipled his disciples.  Which is to say that he taught and trained and lived with them in such a way that the entire course of their lives were changed so that they were agents of redemption in the world.

Of course, as Alex says in the comments on Barb's blog, God himself is the reward in all of this.  God created us to know and love him.  God created us to know and love him and we decided, for some unfathomable reason, that we were getting gypped on deal.  That we couldn't trust the one who designed us to know what was best and that we could make better decisions for ourselves with any advice or input from One who knows infinitely more than we do.  Fortunately, God loves us too much to let us get away with something so incredibly idiotic.  

My take on evangelism is basically this.  The story of our sin and Jesus's death and ressurection and atonement is TRUE.  I believe to the core of my being that we were created for a purpose, that God wasn't just amusing himself on his day off when he spun the universe out of nothing.  (And whether he used the Big Bang and evolution as a couple of his tools is really beside the point).  That if we align our lives with God and what he's doing with his creation, it's going to go a whole lot better than if we fight it.  As the inimitable Rich Mullins points out, we're all going to be saying "Alrightokuhhuhamen" in the end (lyrics here).  Might as well say it now.  Only makes sense.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

walking as a realistic form of exercise, or not--

I mentioned in passing, as one of my quick takes, losing some weight during a semester overseas.  It didn't stay off.  The circumstances that went into my losing it were completely unsustainable . . . something I've thought about over the years.  What is sustainable?  What are our expectations with regards to food, exercise, etc.?  A few reflections on that semester:

1.  Forced dieting: Cut intake, will you or nil you.  The cafeteria plan was 13 meals a week.  Breakfast and dinner, Monday through Saturday, and lunch on Sunday.  Mostly, I tried to force feed myself enough breakfast to get me through to dinner, with occasional snacks and fast food for lunch if I got too desperately hungry during the day.  Not a sustainable eating schedule.  In addition, the cafeteria cooking was terrible--even though I was horribly hungry by dinner time, there were times that I really couldn't face eating very much of what they were serving.  I've never been a breakfast person, and four months of making myself eat breakfast when I didn't want to didn't help that.  It wasn't exactly the polar opposite of how I would feed myself, but . .  Conclusion:  Real changes in eating habits have to take into account what and how you could/will feed yourself, left to your own devices.  (xkcd 418).

2.  Exercise I, Time available:   All that walking took a lot of time.  I had the time to spend then . . . I had a light class load that semester, and I had just me to worry about.  My schedule now is busier and more constricted with three little kids.  Conclusion:  I run late.  Shouldn't be, but it is.  Real change has to take into account not just what things ought to be, but what they are.  I have a car available to me, and I'm going to take it.  I can't afford the extra hours out of my day it would take walk everywhere, even it . . .

3.  Exercise II, Cargo:  Three kids, fully loaded diaper bag.  A load of groceries and the dozen hard cover picture books you picked up at story hour.  Couldn't pack it in a backpack.  Don't want to.

4.  Exercise III, Heartrate and Effective workout:  As noted, I was too broke to take the bus.  It was a mile one way from the dorms to where my classes were and I was always running late.  With a fully loaded backpack.  So a lot of the time, I wasn't just walking those miles I put in during the week, I was jog-trotting them, trying to get to class on time.  This provided actual exercise.  Elevated heart rate.  All that.  It's basically impossible to walk at a rate that can provide actual exercise with two or more children in tow.  They simply can't keep up a pace that makes it worth it for an adult.  Conclusion:  The "If I just walked places instead of driving I would get my exercise" line doesn't work for mothers of small children, except for a few hyper-organized ones with double and triple strollers and baby backpacks and grade-schoolers biking while the moms speed-walk.  

4.  Exercise IV, Convenience:  It was a five mile roundtrip trek downtown to church, Sunday mornings.  This being Scotland, a lot of those were in the rain.  On an empty stomach--remember, only lunch on Sundays.  I highly dislike being out in inclement weather.  Under the circumstances, I'm surprised that I actually made it to services most Sundays.  

All in all it was a set of lifestyle changes which were exterior, not interior.  Not worthless for all that though.  They showed that though these were not changes that I would have chosen for myself I was perfectly capable of handling them.  That wasn't something I'd known.  I also had a great time on a lot of those long walks by myself (when it was sunny).  They were time to think, pray and reflect.  Time to dream and notice.  I loved exploring on foot, poking my nose into forgotten corners, dawdling my way through whatever it occured to me to look into.

Friday, January 16, 2009

seven quick takes, vol 090116

because I suppose I ought to be posting something . . .

1.  Like half the others doing quick takes, I'll note it's cold!  -20 F here this morning.  Which is something like -35 C, for those of you who live north of the border.  Bleh.  Granted we had weather this cold every winter for the years we were living up in the Rockies, but the air is dry there.  It feels a whole heck of a lot colder with 70% humidity in the air than it did with 15%.  And produces things like frost on the inside of our back door.  (Photo courtesy of my husband).

2.  I will never, ever, ever again take three small children, by myself, out to go swimming when it's this cold.  Okay, so the pool is inside and heated.  There's still the getting there and back, and freezing wet kids trying to bundle back into snow gear in the locker room and the wet hair freezing between the door of the Y and the truck.  What was I thinking you ask?  Well, that after being cooped up inside from the cold, they'd need something to do.  I was right about that.  A swimming expedition was just not the right something.

3.  Our current book club book.  The last time that I was this aware that there was a subtext for a book and that I was really missing it was when we read James Joyce for my one of my college lit courses.

4.  Jen F. has noted the health benefits of steel cut oats in passing.  Has she bothered to mention how much more tasty and interesting they are than normal rolled oatmeal?  I hadn't realized that the Scottish oatmeal I'd fallen in love with during my semester overseas had been that good for me--maybe that had something to do with the 15 lbs. I lost that semester.  Well that, and the 20 miles a week that I was walking because I was too broke to take the bus.

5.  I might as well be homeschooling this week.  Tuesday, 2 hour delay for the snow.  Wednesday, early release for the incoming storm.  Thursday and Friday cancelled for cold.  The public schools sure aren't bothering to educate them this week.

6.  I was decently pleased with how the CSI writers handled Grissom's departure last night.  And if they can manage to keep Marg Helgenberger and most of the others the show may actually benefit from this long term.  I'll miss the character, as I miss Jorja Fox's Sara Sidle, but at this point it feels to me that the writers played fair with the story arc.  As long as the flagship CSI doesn't turn into the sort of travestry that CSI: Miami became I'll be happy to keep watching.

7.  Was it one of you seven links folks who suggested paying kids a quarter a load for folding and putting away their own laundry?  I've been thrilled with how eager to help my 5 and 8 year olds are at this pay scale, and how good a job they're actually doing.  Throw in a quarter a day for my eight year old to take care of the cat's litter box needs and they are well on their way to earning the money they need to buy their little sister that expensive birthday present they want to get her.  And mom's happier too.  I'll second a lot of what Jen F. had to say about her help from the girls this summer--I didn't realize what a control freak I was, or how much actual help I was not accepting.

Hosted, as always, by Jen@Conversion Diary

Friday, January 9, 2009

are you up on the mountain?

Ever had a mountain top experience?  Sunk down into the valley?  Been on a drug high?  Gone through withdrawal-depression?  Is there much difference between the two?  Cruise through the blogosphere, or talk to a mega-church worship leader and it's no great revelation that people's emotional states are pretty easily manipulated.  A nice U-shaped song set, the right mood lighting, the summer camp bonfire with a dramatic testimony or two . . . and we're all ready to get spiritual.  Question is, does all that really have anything to do with the movement of the Holy Spirit?

I'm not ready to say that the Holy Spirit cannot or does not use the feelings of spiritual openness that people manufacture to his purposes.  But I think that it's important to recognize that such things can be easily manufactured . . . and the church in modern Western culture has not done a very good job in teaching its members to use much in the way of discernment on issue.  

Is that buzz that you've got the result of the presence of God, or the result of your 8th shot of espresso in the last two hours?  Is that vibe in the chapel the wind of the Spirit, or just a great band that knows how to work a crowd and wrap it all in God language?  I've known all of those, I believe, and here's what I think:  There are times that I can prepare myself to be in the presence of God and hear from him, and an extra cup of coffee is deliberate step to ready myself and be open to hear him.  Good music can ready me to open my spirit in a different way than anything else can.  But the vibe from the group-sing is not the same thing as the Spirit of God and there are too many who are being told that it is.  The emotional rush and nice buzz are not indicative of whether the Spirit is actually present.  They may make us more inclined to listen to him . . . if the tools are not abused to the point that people assume that they're just being manipulated anyway.  And anyway, the feel-good times aren't the only ones in which the Spirit manifests himself to us.   (Beware anyone who dares tell you that if you feel it, you're in a spiritually good place and if you don't, you're not.)  Discernement, people, discernment.  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . (Ps 23:4a)