30 September 2010

The first task in escaping

"All experiences of the fear of man share at least one common feature: people are big. They have grown to idolatrous proportions in our lives. They control us. Since there is no room in our hearts to worship both God and people, whenever people are big, God is not. Therefore, the first task in escaping the snare of the fear of man is to know that God is awesome and glorious, not other people."
-Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God is Small

29 September 2010

This infinite compassion

If ever we have known this wondrous compassion of God to ourselves, if ever we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, let us remember the relish we have had of this infinite compassion and condescending grace, when we were perishing under the power and guilt of sin; and with an imitation of that divine piety, let us entreat sinners to be saved.
-Isaac Watts

HT: Ray Ortlund

28 September 2010

In which I [apparently] get crunchier

Actually, I never knew that making your own granola made you crunchy. My mom has always done it, and she's not a hippie. In fact, a lot of the ladies I know make their own granola, with nary a hippie among them. Maybe it's just a Lancaster County Churchgoing Woman thing?

Granted, I do many other things* that slowly, surely are pushing me into the crunchy camp. (Don't freak out. I mean lifestyle-wise, not politically or morally. Something like this.) But I don't think granola-making counts as crunchy.

I have been playing around with granola recipes since I was fifteen and this is a great one. Full of good stuff. Easy and quick. Versatile and flexible.** Not too sweet. More crispy than chewy. Yum.

Crunchy Granola
(wildly adapted from this recipe, the accompanying text to which I thought rather sad, but interesting in a historical-snapshot sort of way)

5 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups sliced or chopped almonds or walnuts

1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or more)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup to 1 cup honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
2 tablespoons fruit preserves (optional but good)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Stir together dry ingredients in large bowl. Melt butter in small saucepan and whisk in remaining ingredients. Pour over dry mixture and stir to coat.
Spread in a large, shallow pan (I used my jelly roll pan) and place in preheated oven. I usually coat the pan with nonstick spray first, just to be safe. Bake 30-40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes so it browns evenly. Let cool in pan, stirring occasionally and store in an air-tight container.
You can freeze this granola too. Save yourself time down the road! For just the two of us, a single batch is enough to use half now and freeze half for later. If you have a big family you'll probably want to make a double.

*To wit: taking reusable bags with me to the grocery store, making yogurt, being skeptical about hormones and antibiotics, avoiding the microwave, trying to banish chemicals from our house, stocking the medicine drawer with homeopathics and herbs, disliking plastic, eating butter and whole milk, looking for alternatives to standard laundry detergent, declining Advil when I have a headache, wishing we had room (and time) for an orchard, a bee skep, and goats.

**I'm sure I will do a lot of variations on this depending on what is in the house, what we end up preferring, and further inquiries into What is Truly Healthy. As long as you have relatively the same proportions, feel free to sub out ingredients you dislike/don't have for items you prefer/have. Granola is nice like that.

27 September 2010

The world upside down

. . . they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus."
-Acts 17They said the Apostles turned the world upside down. They meant by that that they were disturbers of the peace. But they said a great true thing. For Christ’s Gospel does turn the world upside down. It was the wrong way upwards before and now that the Gospel is preached and when it shall prevail—it will set the world right by turning it upside down . . .

Man is a little world and what God does in the outer world He does in the inner. If any of you would be saved your hearts must be turned upside down.
-Charles H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon goes on to describe how a new Christian's heart is upended. A moment before the man was trusting in himself and admiring evil, with God far from his mind. Now he is throwing himself upon Christ and glorifying His name.

That internal flip has visible consequences: because of the eternal hope animating this new life, many of the world's passions now seem empty, while things despised by the world become a source of intense joy. This doesn't make sense to onlookers. What happens in a Christian's heart is not just an adjustment-- it is a transformation.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6

This sounds great . . . until you make it specific.

Look at your own life. Don't sidestep. Where do you spend time and money? What excites you, worries you, engages your attention? Whose glory do you love? And are those things determined by the world's standards, or by the shockingly humble, often uncomfortable standards of Christ Jesus?

It takes faith to exalt God in everyday life. It takes faith to practice justice, kindness, and humility. For me, faith often comes up short, and far too much of my life fits right into this world-- not the upside-down world of the Gospel. Lord, give me a clearer vision of your kingdom, that I would desire to live as a citizen of heaven and not of earth!

I put, then, the question to you again—“Have you been turned upside down?”

26 September 2010

A whim that worked

"Hey babe, you should try making crepes."

Last week I went to Rachel's Creperie for breakfast with my dear friend Kiera, and came home raving about a cheddar and spinach crepe. So my brilliant husband suggested that I try making crepes myself.

At first I balked: aren't those things fancy and delicate and persnickety? They're French, right? French food is hard!

But wait. I used to think cinnamon rolls and omelets and biscuits were difficult too, and I learned how to make those. (Okay, my omelets tend to get over-browned and still aren't fluffy enough, but we ignore those minor failings.) And so, I encouraged myself, crepes might be no different.

Even if I messed up, torn and crispy crepes probably wouldn't taste too bad.

I tried them this morning.

Revelation #1. Homemade crepes are ridiculously easy!
Revelation #2. I like them even more than the ones at Rachel's!
Revelation #3. These things are one of the most versatile dishes ever!

(adapted from this recipe)

2 large eggs (or 3 small)
2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup white flour*

3/4 cup milk

Crack your eggs into a blender, and add the next three ingredients. Give them a good whirl. Add flours, and blend to combine. Pour in the milk, and blend that in too. Make sure the batter is thoroughly mixed.
Chill batter 30 to 60 minutes (or not, if you don't have time).
Heat a sturdy nonstick skillet to a fairly high heat, so that drops of water sizzle on the surface. For my stove, this was a notch above medium. Pour in 1/4 cup chilled batter** and tilt the skillet so that the crepe spreads all across the surface. Let cook just until the top sets. This will happen quickly; I think mine were done in 15 seconds.
No need to flip the crepe. Just loosen the edges a bit with a spatula, and lift it out gently with your fingers. Crepes are a trifle "rubbery" due to the high egg content, so if your crepe is fully cooked it shouldn't break under gentle treatment.
Stack cooked crepes on a plate, and serve with whatever your heart desires. If you use a savory filling, leave out the sugar. This morning we used sliced peaches and vanilla yogurt, rolling crepes around the filling like a burrito. Alternatively, you could spread a topping over a crepe and fold it in half, or even in quarters like the picture above.

Suggested fillings: Ricotta cheese. Raspberry jam. Cashew butter. Bananas and honey. Mozzarella and portobellos. Softly scrambled eggs. Sausage and cheddar. Chicken salad. Sauteed spinach. Caramelized onions. Fudge sauce. Pumpkin puree. Orange marmalade.

*I think I'll try all whole wheat next time.
**That's how much I needed to thinly cover my skillet. Depending on how large your skillet is, you might need more or less, but err on the side of "less" for your first one.

24 September 2010

My brother is in France

Luke's studying abroad in Nantes this semester. He won't be back until December 21. Until then, he's keeping an almost-weekly vlog* chronicling his adventures in France. (And wherever else he manages to travel while across the pond. Probably Ireland. No, I'm not jealous at all.)

If you know Luke, you should definitely check it out. And if you don't know Luke, maybe you should check it out anyway. :)

*Like a blog, but with video! See how cool I am with my interweb lingo?

21 September 2010

Two reasons why I love Psych

1) This wonderful mess of ridiculous, also known as Shawn Spencer:

2) And of course, the verbal antics:

The worship of the god within

That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within.

Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.

-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

20 September 2010

Grilling season ain't done yet

What? It's September, right? Don't we put away ye olde grill once summer winds down? Well, no, I happen to think that grills are year-round appliances. (At least until the snow flies.) Besides, in the stinking hot summer who wants to stand by a flaming grill? And as for eating outside, humidity and mosquitoes don't make very good dinner companions. But now that there's a snap in the air, dinner al fresco is just the thing.

We made paprika-rubbed chicken thighs last night. Amazing. The leftovers were just as good for lunch. When the rub is browned but not burned, it gives the most incredible aroma. It reminded me of rotisserie chicken. The simple flavors pair perfectly with juicy chicken thighs, and there is no need to think ahead as with a marinade. Super simple but definitely a keeper.

Paprika Rub for Grilled Chicken
(slightly tweaked from Rachel Ray)

2 tablespoons ground paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. This makes enough for at six to eight chicken thighs.
To use, sprinkle over chicken pieces on all sides and press lightly. Alternatively, you could toss everything in a large bowl or Ziploc.
Grill as you would with any other recipe-- more or less depending on the pieces you decide to use! We used thighs that still had bones and skin, but I cut off the skin before adding the rub.

Grill corn on the side, and throw together a green salad. Grilled corn is delicious! And contrary to the linked recipe, I did soak it for 20 minutes beforehand. Make sure you don't leave a really thick layer of husk or it'll take forever to cook-- I think the picture shows ears of corn with the entire husk on, but I peeled away most of the layers before we put them on the grill.

18 September 2010

I do love this song.

The first time I ever heard "Danny's Song" by Kenny Loggins, I was sitting in my freshman dorm lobby listening to a fellow student playing his guitar, and wondering why I hadn't encountered this sweet song before.

Skip forward five years. Now, to my amazement, I'm living the lyrics. "We've just begun," and I have become "the girl who shares his name." And-- even though we ain't got [much] money-- everything is indeed gonna be all right.

P.S. Yes, I know the first verse mentions "having a son," but this is not a pregnancy announcement. Pinky swear!

16 September 2010

Biscuits are tasty

And easy! Just keep the butter cold, leave some larger bits, and don't overwork the dough. The less you fuss with it, the higher your biscuits will rise.

These split best with a fork, not a knife. They're super tender and just taste great. I like them with scrambled eggs.

Yes, they actually look like this. Flakes! Layers! Golden brown deliciousness! It might take you a couple tries to stop overworking the dough. It did for me. And I'm still fighting that tendency with pie crust. I think it's going to be a lifelong struggle there . . . The Battle of the Crust or somesuch . . .

Practical Note: I always make more biscuits that we'll actually eat, and freeze some unbaked (like this). In a morning when you're in a hurry, preheat the oven and take these straight from the freezer to the baking sheet. They'll just have to be in the oven a little longer than usual.

Simple Biscuits
(adapted from here)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup cold butter
3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you're using a stoneware pan (you should!) stick it in to preheat along with the oven.
2) Stir together flours, salt, and baking powder.
3) Cut in butter, leaving some larger pieces. This helps flakiness. Then stir in milk (I use a silicone spatula*) just until the dough comes together.
4) Roll out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. You don't want it sticking-- there goes your tender, non-overworked dough! Roll it to a 1/4 inch to a 1/2 inch thickness, depending on how you like your biscuits.
5) Cut out with sharp biscuit cutters. I like my set from King Arthur. Sometimes I make little biscuits, sometimes big. Place on baking sheet or heated stone and bake for 13-15 minutes. Serve hot with butter.

*like this: Trudeau 10-Inch Silicone Spatula, Green

And the grace of our Lord overflowed

In the church today there is little emphasis on self-emptying. I've seen many books on how to be filled with joy and other things, but I don't think I've ever seen a book on how to empty yourself of self. Too much of contemporary Christianity feeds on pride. But a person without poverty of spirit fails to understand the grace of God and cannot be a Christian since salvation is by grace through faith . . .

Christ doesn't become precious to us until we are humble. When we preoccupy ourselves with our own wants and needs we can't see the matchless worth of Christ. Also, until we comprehend how lost we are we can't understand Christ's wondrous and redeeming love. Until we see our poverty we can't see His riches. No man enters the kingdom without understanding his own sinfulness and realizing his need to repent.
-John MacArthur

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
-1 Timothy 1

But I recieved mercy.
Do I truly know that? That is, know it so well that it spills out through my words and actions? It doesn't seem so. I am so quick to judge, extending my beliefs and opinions into unkind, angry attitudes toward fellow human beings. As if I were not a sinner myself-- "the foremost," in fact.

15 September 2010

And they increased in numbers daily

Encouraging words from Acts:

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

"I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again . . . Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

God takes care of His church-- no matter what. False teaching doesn't worry Him. Unbelief doesn't trouble Him. He knows His people and carries them close to His heart.

14 September 2010

Hopping mad

Okay. I just found this website and I am pretty riled up about it. In fact, I can't decide whether to be angry or sad. One thing I know: the Gospel is defamed and distorted by these exclusivist, anti-Semitic, hateful teachings. It's maddening to think that people might encounter this cult and reject Christ because of its terrible "doctrines." And it's tragic to think that the members of Christian Identity actually believe this stuff.

A few quotations:
The good news of the gospel is that Christianity pertains exclusively to the White race and that the White race is the true Israel of scriptures and therefore God's chosen people. Today's Jews are descendants of Esau and are the enemies of God.

The church is a political organization constituting the government of Jesus Christ. We are opposed to 'separation of church and state' and therefore advocate theocracy.

We believe in the Genesis story of Creation, but that it is only referring to the race of Adamic man. All other races existed before Adam.

I'm too mad to post anything else right now.

13 September 2010

A perpetual crisis

The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis.
-G.K. Chesterton

It's art he can't live on

From Travesties by Tom Stoppard:

CARR: Art is absurdly overrated by artists, which is understandable, but what is strange is that it is absurdly overrated by everyone else.
TZARA: Because man cannot live by bread alone.
CARR: Yes, he can. It's art he can't live on.

. . .

JOYCE: You are an overexcited little man, with a need for self-expression far beyond the scope of your natural gifts.

09 September 2010

great new word

I just discovered a wonderful word: pochemuchka. It's Russian and means "someone who asks a lot of [probably too many] questions."

I like it.

reason 975 that I love working at home

I'm grading papers (response paragraphs on Surprised by Joy) and listening to Solas (awesome) and looking out my big front windows (September breezes tossing the maple tree) and smelling marinara sauce (wafting through the house as it bubbles in the crockpot). So thankful for this job.

Simply Perfect Marinara Sauce

28 oz can crushed tomatoes
28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t salt
1/8 t ground cayenne pepper
2 oz red wine*
black pepper and fresh herbs to taste**

Combine everything in a crockpot or large cooking pot. Simmer for several hours. I just put the crockpot on low for three or four hours, and it was perfect. In a pot on the stove, I'd probably bring it to a boil and then reduce it to the lowest setting, then simmer it for a while. I prefer doing it in the crockpot though, since there is less chance of it burning.

Since this is such a simple recipe, I think using good tomatoes will go a long way. Better ingredients, better flavor. That's my philosophy. I'd rather use quality ingredients and do less to them, than start with iffy materials and take fifty steps to make dinner. Fresh carrots don't need much to make them taste good, but canned peas do.

Mmm. Spaghetti and meatballs tonight, and the extra sauce goes in the freezer. :o)

* optional but highly recommended . . . I used a Concha y Toro Frontera merlot that was in the fridge, but I'm sure a cheap cooking wine would be fine too
**I didn't add any herbs this time and it still tastes amazing, so while basil and parsley and oregano are great, a plainer sauce is easier and just as delicious . . . though that could be the merlot talking.

07 September 2010

The timeless power of grace

"The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven’, and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell’. And both will speak truly."
-C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

God is outside of time. So is His work-- so is His grace. Christ's redemption happened at a set moment, yet it reaches forwards, backwards, sideways in its effects. The elect were always so, and always will be.

06 September 2010

Discoveries of late

Rosewood furniture. Yesterday my husband, parents-in-law, and I went to Philadelphia, mostly for the art museum. It's free on the first Sunday of the month, which makes the drive totally worth it. You should go. Anyway, we spent three hours just on the top floor. We saw a lot of great stuff,* but the Chinese rosewood furniture blew my mind. So simple, but that was part of its beauty: anything more elaborate would have taken away from the perfect lines and warm gloss of the wood.

Oatmeal pancakes. I've made them before, but never like these babies. Oats soaked overnight in yogurt and milk and then I finished them off in the morning. They were delicious! I think soaking oats is the way to go: things seem more tender, fluffy, and filling, whether pancakes or baked oatmeal.** Still mulling over what to do with the rest of my grains, but I know that oats are one of the highest in phytic acid so this is a good start, even if I never get crunchy enough to soak my biscuit flour. haha :)

Yard sales. I know, it's terrible that it has taken me so long to go yard saling, but I've seen the light at last. Two hurricane glasses, one large crock pot, and a pair of black pumps later, I'm hooked.***

Capogiro Gelato. Also on our Philadelphia expedition, we stopped by this wondrous little shop for the coolest gelato flavors I've ever seen: banana rum, caramelized hazelnut, coconut milk, even basil. My favorite? Tarragon with Bluecoat gin. It was AMAZING.

The Promise. I love this book! It's the sequel to The Chosen, and meant for a more mature readership. Chaim Potok's style reminds me of Ernest Hemingway's, but he has a far deeper spiritual sense. And unlike doom-and-gloom Hemingway, his writing actually contains themes of hope and purpose . . .

*Including two (!) bridal parties taking pictures on the front steps. It was cute.
**Also concerning oats, though not soaked: this bread. Jared was a huge fan. I liked it too.
***That's not even the half of it. A French tablecloth, a slotted spoon, a long kitchen knife, a huge wicker basket, an Ann Taylor sweater set, a narrow leather belt, and a picture frame. It was a good haul.

02 September 2010

At peace among yourselves

"Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."
-2 Corinthians 13:11

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
-Philippians 2:3-4

"Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone."
-1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

How short I fall of these standards. Daily I disagree with others, count myself more significant than anyone else, grow impatient with "the weak," and seek to do good to myself rather than the people around me. My priorities are at the top of the list. In fact, they're the only thing on the list.

Yet there's hope!

This humble state of mind "is [mine] in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing . . . becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).

Now that I am an heir of eternal life with Him, I am also being sanctified by His Spirit. His love is becoming more deeply rooted in me. I pray that someday I'll be a worthy reflection of the Savior.