Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fun with Color

I sat down to dinner today with the newest issue of Christianity Today and came across an article titled "Knowing What the Bible Really Means: Why Multiple Translations Might Even Be Better than Scripture in its Original Languages." I correspond daily with speakers of other languages who love to study Scripture, so I read the article. Amidst a short discussion of how to translate God's name in Exodus 3, the author of the article wrote this:

"Of course, God knew that a name was inadequate to reveal his full nature, so he used a long historical narrative full of poetry, instruction, and vision in order to communicate who he is in relation to us. By studying this comprehensive work, the Bible, we find out about--indeed, find--God."

We humans are slow learners, so it takes the full narrative of the Bible and a full lifetime to learn about who God is. But on second thought, I'm not sure it's just that we're slow learners. I also think that God is so infinite that each day we live reveals a new dimension of God's character. The article reminded me that on this Easter Day in particular, God revealed himself in such a new and surprising way that it does indeed take a whole lifetime to get to know the Risen Christ and to figure out how we can live in light of the Resurrection.

So what did I decide to do with this heady knowledge? I decided to dye Easter eggs! The only theological connection I can make to my above topic is that the way we choose to live as followers of the Risen Christ is infintely more varied than the colors of my brightly-colored eggs. Nevertheless, here are some photos from the process:


On another note, I served in the nursery at church this morning and got this lovely poem with a bag of jelly beans from our nursery coordinator. Enjoy!

What have you learned about God through Christ's Resurrection? How will you live differently because of it?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Culinary Discoveries

Last Saturday I expanded my culinary skills by taking a cheese-making class in downtown Spokane at a store called Sun People Dry Goods. The teacher, Trish Vieira, owns Spokane Family Farm with her husband Mike, which produces local and minimally processed milk. She was a kick! She talked a mile a minute and knew more about milk in all its complexities than I ever knew existed. The class had 19 people (17 women), and we got to watch Trish make yogurt and mozzarella. I took notes and listened until my head was buzzing with thoughts about milk, cream, rennet, organic, Darigold, and more.

The highlight of the class for me was watching Trish make homemade mozzarella. It seriously looked like the easiest process ever and in just 40 minutes, she was cutting off pieces of warm, stretchy, salty mozzarella for us. It was so fun to eat because it stretched like gum. Trish asked us if we planned to make cheese, and I enthusiastically raised my hand. I do plan to carry out the mozzarella making (and document it here), but I realized I would need to pick up a couple things before making it.

In the olden days, people used cheesecloth to squeeze all the excess liquid out of their cheese (the whey). But Trish and those in the class who had made cheese before said cheesecloth is no longer any good for making cheese because the holes in the fabric are too big! I thought that an interesting statement about something straying beyond its original purpose. In place of cheesecloth, Trish used a piece of a polyester curtain that she found at Goodwill. I figured I would just go to Joann's to buy a similar piece of fabric to add to my mozzarella-making arsenal.

On Thursday, I had tea at the home of an older friend. She asked me if I wanted some old curtains from her mother-in-law. I said sure, and she showed me the heavy floral-patterned curtains. I didn't think anything of it until she showed me the sheer material that hangs behind the floral curtains...the exact material I needed for making cheese! I was too chicken to ask my friend if I could use the curtains to squeeze whey out of my homemade cheese. This is obviously not the purpose for which these curtains were intended! But as soon as I decide to make cheese, I will investigate.

On Sunday, I went to Trader Joe's with a friend from church and only got four things (shocking, I know!): baby bok choy, fontina cheese, Brie, and blueberry freezer waffles. On Thursday, I made this fried rice, and it turned out wonderfully! Instead of cooking brown rice, I used Trader Joe's frozen brown rice/barley mix, which made it super easy. I microwaved three bags and added sauteed baby bok choy, green cabbage, onion, and carrots with bacon and scrambled eggs, mixed it all together with soy sauce, and voila! Anyone want to come for dinner tonight?

My final culinary discovery is totally wonderful. Berry compote. My friend and I meet for breakfast every Friday morning to talk, pray, and read Scripture. I found a recipe in a cookbook for berry compote, which seemed a great way to use frozen blueberries and to make a delicious topping for French toast. As I was eating the berry compote this morning, I had a wonderful revelation. This compote could work well with so many things: a mix-in for yogurt and warm steel cut oats, a topping for ice cream and toast, and so many uses that I haven't even discovered. And it's the easiest thing ever! You never have to buy flavored yogurt again!
Anyone want to come for breakfast tomorrow?
P.S. Here's the recipe for berry compote from this awesome cookbook: Mix 1 cup berries (straight from the freezer is fine) with 3 tbsp sugar (a little more or less is fine) and a dash of water. Bring to a boil on the stove in a small saucepan and boil for five minutes. In the meantime, mix 2 tsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of cold water until all the corn starch is dissolved. After five minutes, add in the cornstarch and keep boiling and stirring for two minutes. Add in another 1/2 cup berries and stir for another minute. Remove from heat and serve right away or refrigerate and reheat later.   

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lonely in a Crowd

On Saturday night, the Whitworth men's basketball team hosted an NCAA tournament game in the Fieldhouse for the first time in Whitworth's history. I decided to go to the game, even though I didn't have anyone to go with. As Whitworth is my alma mater, I figured I would be able to find someone I knew.

Before the game, I had a craving for Irish soda bread. By the time the bread came out of the oven and I had eaten dinner, it was 6:40 when I arrived at Whitworth. I walked into the Fieldhouse and tossed my $10 on the table, marveling at the noise of the crowd. The Fieldhouse was packed. I have never seen it so full, except perhaps for the Baccaleaurate service on my graduation weekend (and maybe not even then!).

Staring up at the crowds, I suddenly felt dwarfed and lost. I wandered around the perimeter of the room at the base of the bleachers searching for someone I knew and any seat in which to sit. Back where I started, I figured I was out of luck. I saw some professors I knew, but they didn't take initiative to motion me to where they were sitting. I finally found a spot to stand at the corner of the court against the wall. As I scanned the crowd, I suddenly felt an incredible sense of loneliness. I stood there watching the players warm up and was able to identify several familiar faces in the crowd, but no one made an effort to include me, to scrunch down on the bleachers to offer me six inches of space.

As the game started, I figured someone would see me and offer me a seat during the second half, so I watched the game closely, marveled at the incredible volume of the student cheering section, and enjoyed my close-up view of the action, careful not to let my distress show.

At half time, Whitworth alumni were invited to a reception in the lobby of the fitness center next door. I hoped this would be a good time to find people I knew. I walked next door, but soon realized that I knew no one in the room. I grabbed a cup of tea and went back into the Fieldhouse, where I expected I had a better chance of seeing people. It was no different. No one sought me out. No one walked down to say hi. No one invited me to sit or stand with them. For some reason, it became important that someone else take the initiative. It was hard to believe that in a crowd of 1800 people, I could feel so very alone.

Fortunately, the second half of the game was exciting, and I didn't think so much about myself. When the game ended (with Whitworth losing), I left quickly. I had no reason to stick around.

I got home that night and wondered if it had been worth $10 for two hours of feeling like an outcast. I have never minded being alone, as I have a personality that tends toward the introverted. However, I minded that no one took the opportunity to welcome me or to make me feel included. More than an indictment of others, the evening exposed my own selfishness. I know I have often been too busy or self-centered or scared to reach out to others who are lonely. The experience turned me inside out and made me vulnerable, but it also makes me want to be more like Jesus. Jesus who is the most profound example of one who includes the outcast, comforts the lonely, and takes the time to notice the individual.

The next morning in church, a woman said, "Oh Elizabeth! We saw you at the game! We wanted to invite you to sit with us but there was no room." On Monday, at lunch, a friend from Partners said, "Elizabeth! I saw you at the game. We were going to invite you to sit with us, but then I didn't see you again."

My encounters with these two women puzzled me. It made me wonder if, for some sovereign and inexplicable reason, God wanted me to experience loneliness. Their statements made me feel ashamed. I couldn't admit out loud that I had been achingly lonely. But perhaps if I had been bold enough to admit my loneliness, they would have understood. Surely I'm not the only one who's ever been lonely in a crowd.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In the Thick of Lent

It's funny to me that spring is at once bursting with promise and notoriously lean. The bursting-with-promise part is easy to imagine as spring bulbs begin to pop up everywhere. However, the notoriously lean part only occurred to me after reading (or re-reading) one of my favorite non-fiction books, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. The second-to-last chapter in Kingsolver's book about eating locally with her family for a year is entitled "Hungry Month: February-March." She writes:

"January is widely held to be the bugbear of local food, but the hungriest month is March, if you plan to see this thing through. Your stores are dwindling, your potatoes are sending pale feelers out into the void, but for most of us there is nothing new under the sun of muddy March, however it might intend to go out like a lamb. A few spring wildflowers, maybe, but no real eats. Our family was getting down to the bottom of our barrel" (322).

She goes on to extol the wonders of the chest freezer, but I won't go into that here. :)

When I take my almost daily walks up to Whitworth's campus, it doesn't look like spring will ever come. The grass is dank and yellowed and it's hard to imagine it will ever be lush and green or that the trees will ever have blossoms and leaves. If you really do live off the land and what you have to eat is all in your freezer and root cellar, you have to be creative with what you have left. The root veggies of winter are wrinkled and woody and the asparagus, lettuce, and spinach of spring are only just beginning. It's an awkward, in-between time.

I'm definitely in the thick of my Lenten discipline. We're already four weeks from Ash Wednesday, but we're still two-and-a-half weeks from Easter. For one deprived of sugar on a daily basis, Easter seems especially distant. (As I write, my housemate is making double chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen. Really? Is this fair?!) If I'm honest with myself, I am longing for Easter, but I also like that Easter feels distant and that my deprivation weighs on me and temptation surrounds me. These are the necessary and even, dare I say, good rigors of Lent. I love that the Church Year acknowledges the times in the course of a normal human life that are in limbo. It's not winter and not yet spring. It's not Christmas and not yet Easter. Primroses on racks outside Fred Meyer and royal purple crocuses are the only harbingers of spring.

That makes me wonder about the harbingers of Easter. When we look to Jesus' life and ministry, I would say baptism, temptation, cross, and grave. The road ahead of us to Easter is Lenten and is so very like this time between winter and spring. Where there is life after Easter and spring, we see only death during Lent. Yellowed grass and gnarled trees. Temptation and deprivation. Sin and selfishness.

But the great news about Easter is that it radically changes everything, and it's not just the appearance of things that change. It's not just that the grass becomes green and lush and the trees bud and the flowers bloom. It's not just that I can once again eat cookies and ice cream. It's that our very nature changes.

"We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ...for when we died with Christ [in baptism] we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him" (Romans 6:6-8).

Temptation gives way to victory. Darkness becomes light. Death leads to life. And, best of all, the crucified Christ becomes the Risen Christ.