Thursday, August 28, 2008
I'm a religion major. I will probably end up at seminary. I will probably work in, around, and for churches for the rest of my life. I will probably not live long enough to retire.
Of course, no one can guess how things will really turn out, but I feel like I've painted the above picture in broad enough strokes. Still, I've known I've wanted this since the tenth grade or so, and sometimes I envy people who aren't as tied down, people who could do just about anything. I've been jaded, I guess you'd say, by church politics and poor theology already, and know that I have to work hard for the next six years preparing myself for an eventual burnout.
But if I wasn't a religion major, I would open a bed and breakfast. The whole house would be filled with little treasures because I, of course, would have fabulous artist friends who would also come visit a few weekends a year. It would have old, dark wooden floors with rag rugs all over. I would cook breakfast, lunch and dinner (that would always be paired with good music and good wine), and an evening snack to go with tea. I would spend the in-between time hanging sheets on the line and folding towels. In the summer, I'd make jam. In the winter, I'd knit blankets and sweaters. There would be a dog and good neighbors. I'd read copious amounts of books and when I went on vacation, it would be always be for the food. I'd correspond with envelopes and stamps and keep an immaculate vegetable garden. On Sunday mornings I wouldn't go to church, just sit and read St. Teresa of Avila, Rumi, Hafiz and Asissi while drinking tea. Every Friday during the summer we'd split open a watermelon and mix mojitos. I'd make a living taking care of people just a bit at a time, knowing what clean sheets, home-cooked meals, and quiet can do for people.
That's what I think you'd call a "pipe dream". There are more--ones about farms and being a postal worker (i.e. having a simpler lifestyle) mostly.
I move in on Saturday. I just have clothes to pack tomorrow, which I think is pretty damn good. The baking has also begun again. Tonight was brownies. Tomorrow holds endless possibilities. Saturday is more than likely these little marvels.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
While I was sitting around (watching The Golden Girls), trying to figure out whether this was a cable or a knit-and-purl manipulation, I realized that my brain just isn't that sharp anymore. It's rotting away. I couldn't focus for the life of me.
Probably because I spend time watching things like this:
Other than the aforementioned, I spent a few days in New York City (Chelsea, actually), visiting my cousin. We ate Thai food and I resisted going to Purl, knowing that I do not need anymore yarn.
Packing has also begun. I am three days away. I couldn't be more excited. Marc posted photos of our shower curtain. Yes, it is a map of the world. Yes, I've always wanted one. Yes, I am really, really excited.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Yarn Harlot, for example. The author of several books (that stemmed from the blog), Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has enough knitting clout to single handedly make or destroy a yarn store (Take Rosie's and Loop, for example. Rosie's is tiny, has some snotty staff, and is overpriced. Loop is beautiful, has ample space for walking and knitting, not to mention a couch, and is considerably younger and hipper than Rosie's. Why does Rosie attract so many more customers? The Yarn Harlot visits). Gobs of people turn out to her book signings, knitting in hand.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I believe the magnet was silly reminder to stop checking my email and get back to work, but it raises an interesting point. If we really believe Jesus is coming back, we shouldn’t just look busy, we should be busy. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “If Jesus came back right now and saw you doing that,” well, what would happen? What would Jesus see if he came back now, in 2008?
There are 33 million people living with AIDS around the world, 67% in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are parents without children and children without parents. There are limited supplies of anti-retroviral drugs that often don’t work because people don’t have food to take them with. Jesus would see this.
Jesus would also see our hours wasted arguing over pew cushions rather than talking about the suffering of our brothers and sisters. He would be aware of our ignorance and complacency.
In the scripture, Jesus tells Peter three times to take care of his flock. Feed my lambs, he asks. Take care of my sheep, he says. Feed my sheep, he tells us. Jesus is telling us we have a responsibility to other people.
Let’s take a look at what the disciples are doing at the beginning of the story. They’re fishing. Now, Jesus left his disciples to go and spread the word—and he comes back, and they’re fishing. They’ve left any kind of ministry behind and gone back to what they know. We do this all the time. We come to church on Sunday, go to a conference, watch an episode of Oprah, and want to change the world. But its much easier to fall back into what comforts us, what we’re used to doing. But Jesus doesn’t come back and chastise the disciples for being in the fishing boat.
Instead, Jesus has breakfast with them. I imagine it was this wonderful reunion, Jesus with his best friends again, after all that they had been through. But Jesus interrupts their happy get together by asking Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
This is a loaded question. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells Simon Peter he’ll deny Jesus three times. And he does. This is a potentially painful moment for Simon Peter, to own up to his mistake in front of Jesus himself.
“Yes Lord, you know I love you,” is his reply. “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus tells him.
Adding insult to injury, Jesus asks a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter replies again, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep.”
Jesus asks Simon Peter a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter replies, perhaps a bit frustrated, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
“Then feed my sheep.”
I flew twenty hours to South Africa and Lesotho. Most people wouldn’t be able to find Lesotho on a map—it’s tiny and landlocked inside South Africa. Life expectancy is around 40 and an alarming percentage of the population is infected with AIDS. The tin shacks and unhidden poverty stand in stark contrast to the beauty of the mountains that surround it.
But there is something peculiar about the people of Lesotho. It is considered rude to not say hello when passing someone—anyone—on the street. People eagerly fed us even though they had little to eat themselves. While our government is giving an atrociously low amount to help with AIDS and poverty in their country, they held none of it against us. People in Lesotho had no qualms about embracing us into their lives—they were inexplicably kind and generous.
The most moving account of this came from a wonderful pastor who traveled with us, Megan Huesgen, who had served as a UCC Mission Intern in Lesotho in 2001. As Megan and the people of Morija watched the events of September 11th unfold, people started coming forward, offering to help Megan pay for a plane ticket back home to be with her family. People who probably didn’t know where their next meal was coming from suddenly saw Megan’s situation as a priority. She had become part of them, and they, as she would undoubtedly attest, had become part of her. Megan was both shepherd and sheep during her time in Lesotho.
There is a word for this commonly used in South Africa. Ubuntu, which literally means. “I am because you are.” It means that we, as human beings, cannot function without others. We depend on other people just as other people depend on us. Most of us don’t grow our own food. Most of us cannot teach ourselves. Most of us cannot build a house, perform open heart surgery, or make our own clothes. But ubuntu speaks not only to our needs, but to our humanity. Desmond Tutu describes it like this:
Ubuntu is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.
This is labeled a “traditional African concept” that we actually witnessed. But this shouldn’t be a new concept to us. The United Church of Christ came together so that “they may all be one.” The basic principle behind ubuntu is to love one another, love your neighbors, love your enemies, what you do to the least of these you do to me. Jesus tells us over and over again.
Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. We need to be told more than once because we don’t always do a great job of this.
Jesus Christ, to put it simply, died so we could have another chance to get things right. Jesus says to us, like he said to Simon Peter, I don’t care what you did yesterday, your sins are forgiven, so your previous failures should never stop you from getting back in the game.
But let’s not forget Jesus rose again and asked his disciple, Simon Peter, who had previously let him down, “Do you love me?” When we answer yes, I expect that Jesus’ reply would be the same. “Then feed my sheep.”
Jesus came back and we are told he is coming back. But until that time we are entrusted with his people. The common mistake we make, I think, as Christians, is that we understand Jesus rose again, told us what to do, and then went away, but will come back again “soon”. I challenge you to look at what Jesus did in a different light. Jesus commissions Simon Peter to take care of his people—all people—and then disappears. We shouldn’t just be waiting for him to come back, we have a job to do. We need to stop watching the clock. We need to stop saying “later”. Jesus Christ died. Jesus Christ was buried. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and commanded us to “feed his sheep”, to love one another. The end of the chapter says nothing of Jesus ascending again, so it’s my belief that whenever we do these things—feed his sheep, love one another, practice ubuntu—Jesus is there.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
This was also the most productive thing I did all day--making cobbler. I ordered yarn online, read Martha Stewart's blog, and I believe that was pretty much it.
Between those activities, however, I tried on a pair of white Chuck Taylors, which I bought the same night I made cookies, about a dozen times. I don't think they fit. I don't know what made me think they fit in the first place. They even look too big.
Perhaps this is a lesson to all of us--do not shoe shop when you are upset.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I was just valking down de street vone day, a man come up to me and he say, "Would you like to be a supermodel?" and I say "Oui" and the next day, I am in New York, on de covah of Vouge.
I was feeling sad, so I made Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I couldn't find my normal recipe, which became a staple from April to May in Elmira Jeffries, room 103. Mrs. Hunter, named the best caterer in the Lehigh Valley again this year, and also my employer, gave me a well-loved cook book before I left in June. It includes a recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, which turned out, like most other things in the Frog Commissary Cookbook, to be delicious.
The Frog Commissary's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (occassionally labeled as "old fashioned")
2 cups chocolate chips (just use the whole bag)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until mixture is light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk and the vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat the flour in to the sugar mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips by hand. Drop 1-inch balls of dough onto the cookie sheet, placing about 1 1/2 inches apart so they have room to spread (and they spread, believe me). For 10-13 minutes (closer to 11 or 12 in my experience), until golden brown at the edges and light golden at the center. Cool on baking sheet for at least 1-2 minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.
I did feel better after I made the cookies. I also blasted "The Wiz" soundtrack through the house.
Friday, August 8, 2008
1. Fresh vegetables.
2. Fresh fruit.
In the beginning of the summer, Bob White Acres, just a few miles from where I live, had strawberries. Alex and I went and picked our own and had a grand time. I made fresh strawberry ice cream with that batch.
Upon my return, we decided to go peach picking. This was not as simple as it sounds, you see, because Alex and I may be illiterate. Or ignorant to signs. Take your pick.
On our fourth trip to the peach orchard, we picked peaches. I had already planned on a cobbler, so we gathered about a dozen (more than we needed). It cost $3.22. Alex photographed me giving thanks to God for peaches.
This is why I love summer. I could do without the beach, without the excess amounts of free time, certainly without Musikfest, but not without fresh fruits and vegetables direct from the growers.
We had a peach cobbler party that very evening. We used this recipe from a back-issue of Gourmet. The original includes raspberries, but not having enough time to pick them from Alex's backyard, we went ahead and skipped them. The results were delicious.
Cody and Alex's Jesus-Approved Peach Cobbler
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 lb peaches (1o medium), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Mix sliced and peeled peaches with sugar and cornstarch in a 9x12 baking dish. It is okay to use your hands. I did.
3. Toss in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until bubbling. Be sure to mix them around if pieces of peach on top look dry.
4. While the peaches cook, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk in a medium size bowl.
5. Dice your butter and mix it into the flour with your fingers until the flour resembles coarse meal (whatever that is).
6. Add milk and mix, but not too much! Don't screw with the gluten.
7. Remove fruit from oven and spoon about 12 mounds of dough over the fruit. Bake another 25-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Alex and I discussed how easy this would be to make vegan. In fact, we even used margarine in this recipe for the simple fact that it was cheaper.
We also discussed adding some honey to the biscuit dough. We will test that theory next week.