Monthly Archives: October 2011

Imagine

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I recently read an article that challenged my understanding of the verses of John 12. The first eight verses speak of Jesus visiting his friends in Bethany. While there, Mary lavishes on Jesus expensive, fragrant oil. Symbolically, it is in preparation for his upcoming death. One of the disciples, Judas Iscariot John tells us, objects and says the expense of this act could have gone to help the poor. John questions his motives, but instead of calling him out, Jesus says this:  “ 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.” (NIV).

My entire life, I’ve heard these verses used as justification when a person (or group) says, “We will never solve the problem of the poor.” The article I read put forth this point: What if we will always have the poor because we expect to always have the poor?

I hate it when pastors/Christians/religious people or anyone for that matter take stuff out of context to justify their opinions. So, I went back and read the twelfth chapter of John. It struck me that the person who objected to this act was Judas. It was interesting that, in no way was Jesus saying, “It’s OK to always have the poor among you.” In fact, if you know anything about what he lived out in the gospel, you would know that he believed and acted out the exact opposite. He was about meeting needs. Not giving wealth, but meeting the true heart need of those who called out his name.

Often, we’ll throw verse eight around almost as an excuse for our own inaction. “Well, Jesus said we’ll always have the poor, so why should I …” whatever. Pulling just that verse out may make us feel a little better about our failure to meet the needs of those around us, but in my opinion it’s just another way people who call  themselves Christians (“little Christs”) rationalize our behavior.

I struggle a lot with the battle within when it comes to this. On the one had (if we’re taking stuff out of context), I could say, “Well, Jesus told us to sell everything and give to the poor.” But we have a quick comeback for that, don’t we? “Well, he was talking directly to the rich young ruler.” (that story is found in Luke 18). But if that’s the case, maybe he was just telling Judas the poor will always be among you? Maybe he was telling the religious rulers who had gathered around him, plotting his death that, because they were too busy focused on things that didn’t involve feeding the poor (like their own position or power or pulling Jesus down because of their jealousy and doubt?) that they could never meet the need that was there?

The possibilities of misunderstanding and rationalization are endless, aren’t they?

Here’s what I know. I don’t think it would be impossible to help everyone at least achieve their basic needs. Even though our deeply ingrained gospel of capitalism (note: I don’t think capitalism in and of itself is bad) tells us “they” deserve it because of their inaction or “they” are responsible to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” (as my Mom use to say) … how do we claim the name of Christ and still be OK with the problem of the poor?

I’m not assuming there’s an easy answer to this. But I do know sometimes “we” want to make ourselves feel better by throwing easy answers at hard questions. And for me, that just doesn’t work. The wrestling is part of the process, getting to what tangible things I am to do.

But I do what to share: I think I have some responsibility. Maybe we all do?

Dear Ruth:

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I see myself as a person who has been blessed with deep, varied and very interesting relationships. I am not a good “let’s talk everyday” kind of friend. I am like “your favorite old sweater that you occasionally forget about, but then when you find me in the back of your closet, you can’t wait to put me on and I feel just the same as I always did” kind of friend.

Today, I had the opportunity to post on an “old” friend’s blog. Ruth has walked an amazing path in her young life. She is truly a remarkable person. She is right now discovering new nuances of her faith walk, and apparently has some loving friends “concerned” or at least encouraging her to “be careful” about what she’s finding.

I know people who would say I am careless with my faith. They are probably right. I don’t “do” faith easily … it’s always a question, always a challenge. I’ve often wished for the easy faith some of the people I love have. But for whatever reason (of those I will not discuss here), that’s not my path.

I’d like to share my response to Ruth here. Since I wrote it, and it’s a public comment, I hope she isn’t offended that I re-post it here:

I’ll respond, friend! I echo the thought of “everything belongs,” with “everything is spiritual.” Again, not in the new-age kind of way that sends Christians scurrying, afraid that living in the questions will somehow damage their faith. I, like you, see God in so many situations and I LOVE being in nature, where the very rocks cry out of his creation. 
I also appreciate the spiritualness of touch, Ruth. It’s an interesting thing. I’ve read about how older people miss the feeling of physical touch. It’s why I hug my dad a lot (my mom passes away six years ago), and why, when I’m getting his attention, I’ll touch his arm. I look at his aged, bony frame and wonder if he longs for someone to simply touch him. I try, but it’s a little awkward sometime. A hug and kiss on the cheek is good, though.
I think … I think as we get older and learn more things, we have a choice to make. We can either petrify in those things we have been taught, waiting for the great “whatever” comes next in our lives. Or we can continually gain wisdom, and see God in more places, in more situations, in more people. We can limit ourselves and our understanding to what makes us comfortable, or we can explore the questions that our God is big enough to answer in His own time. We can doubt, because we do not serve a God that had laid out a three-point alliterated sermon for us to follow, but like the famed lion of CS Lewis, beckons us “Further up and further in!” running alongside us all the way.
I love reading your blog! You, dear sister, are a blessing in the midst of your struggle and question. And I pray that the God of all comfort will continually hold you close, and allow the people and things of this earth to be used by God to encourage you, love you, and reveal his nature and plan to you.
Peace!

My world hasn’t been black and white for a long, long time. When I have the opportunity to encourage someone along their way … I try. Today, I think I helped Ruth. And I am glad.

A Banana-riffic Place to Be!

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OK, so the blogs have been a little heavy recently. So, time to talk about one of my loves …

I love to cook! I love collecting recipes. I love experimenting with food, and spices and tweaking recipes. I love sharing food … having people try stuff I think is good, and then talking about food. Obsessive? Why yes, thank you very much! But it’s something I can be passionate about that also makes others around me happy.

I like food so much I’ve translated it into two different Facebook “experiences”. Last March, I did “muffin month,” a different recipe each day. I even made the muffins every day (OK, not every day, but pretty close). It was a blast. Right now, I’m doing “crock-tober,” and with a few friends, doing a daily recipe and commentary.

In the course of collecting and researching recipes, I come across some pretty fun stuff. “Ramen tacos,” (they’re not too bad), “Nutella cupcakes,” and, the site I’m posting now.

Everyone loves bananas! OK, not everyone, but most people enjoy the tropical treat. So, in all my culinary wanderings, I found this place:  http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2010/05/17/100-things-to-do-with-a-banana/comment-page-1/. Here you will find a myriad of exciting and tasty recipes to try … something more than your traditional (but yummy) banana bread or pudding.

In addition to these wonderful treats, I’d like to list one of my own. It’s very personal … an old family recipe that evokes strong and beautiful memories for those I love the most.

My mom was a good cook. She didn’t start out being a good cook. In fact, my dad tells the story that, when they first got married, my mom’s food was … bland. He would tell her, “Babe, you have to add more seasoning.” So my mom, being from Michigan, would add more pepper and salt. She would wait for my Dad’s response, which was, “Hmmm. There’s still something missing.” So, she would add more salt and pepper …

My dad, who is from the South, was use to things cooked in broth seasoned with “fat back,” (a piece of pork more fatty than bacon), and various wild herbs my mom hadn’t heard of. Enter Granny Walker (my Dad’s mom), who lovingly took my mom under her wing and taught her the fine art of cooking.

Growing up, I had very little interest in cooking. But whenever I did turn an eye that way, I’d ask, “So, how do you do this-or-that?” My mom would say, “Well, I don’t really know …” She had perfected the art of cooking by taste, and sight, and smell. So many of her recipes are lost to me, simply because she didn’t write things down, and each time she made something, it was often subtly different from the time before.

But … her banana cream pudding was always the same. And it was one dish that my family would literally make pigs of themselves eating. I remember many times my Dad and brother “fighting” over who got the bigger serving and all.

OK, enough reminiscing. Here’s the recipe:

Mom Walker’s Famous Banana Pudding

5-7 ripe bananas

2 pkg. instant pudding (mom used banana … I like 1 banana and 1 French vanilla)

Milk  — according to pudding package directions

1 box vanilla wafer cookies (generic are just fine)

6 eggs

1/3 – 1/2 C. sugar

1 t. banana flavoring

You need an oven-safe container (I use my mom’s old 2 qt.Pyrex dish). Mix up the pudding according to directions. Sometimes, I use a little more milk than called for to keep it smooth. You begin by layering the cookies in the bottom of the pan. Then, slice the bananas about 1″ thick, and layer them in the container over the cookies. Make sure to leave some small spaces … the pudding needs to seep through. Continue alternating the layers of cookies and bananas until your container is full.

Now … the topping. This is the dish that taught me how to make “perfect” meringue. But if you’ve never made it before, be patient with yourself. The secret (according to Mom) is to be impeccable about keeping the whites and the yolks separated.  So, if you get “even one speck of yolk” in your whites, they will not whip properly. So, consider yourself warned.

Once you have the whites and yolks separated (and don’t throw those yolks away! Save them in the fridge for amazing French toast the next morning!), get out the handmixer, and begin whipping those puppies. S-l-o-w-l-y sprinkle the sugar into the whites as you whip. When is it done? When you can dip the beaters in, and you pull them out and the meringue forms stiff “peaks.”

Now, pre-heat your over to 400 degrees. While that heats up, use a spatula to “spread” the meringue over the prepared container of pudding. Make it pretty, if you want it to look like Mom’s. Once the over is hot, put the pudding in. NOW, watch it carefully! Once it begins to brown, turn the oven off, and remove the pudding.

There you have it! It’s truly amazing … and I’m not just saying that. If you eat it warm, it’s even better …