Archive for January, 2007

ode to omelette

Our most creative Pantry Challenge innovation thus far? Boxed Mac & Cheese with hot dogs chopped up, with a side of green beans. Now there’s a nice round meal for ya. We devoured it.

I have to say, though, my favorite discovery so far has been the omelette. The omelette and I were acquaintances before, but today we stand as lifelong friends &emdash; “bosom buddies,” if you will &emdash; thanks to two amazing omelette creations during this challenge. Last night was one for the books. After I got back from a hard workout (Chrissy was still in class), I made designed one using some of the remaining ground Italian sausage, lots of cheese (yes, the cheese remains), chopped peppers and tomatoes, and a little bit of love. Out came perfection. It was probably a foot long and 4″ deep of gooey goodness. It was massive and totally hit the spot. (it looked kind of like the one pictured here, assuming the plate in the photo is 2 feet in diameter)

Is trash-talking allowed in Pantry Challenge? Oh, it is? Well, I feel like we have an unfair advantage, because we have just enough of our “poor college student survival skills” that haven’t rusted. I’m thinking we could be in this thing for quite a while longer, so if any of our fine opponents (three at this point, but they’re dropping like my beta carotene intake…) would like to bow out gracefully and pay a visit to their neighborhood grocer, now might be a good time. 😉



PC07 Update

Thursday night: Swanky French restaurant (an amazing older couple in Boston took us out)
Friday night: homemade chicken noodle soup
Saturday: Oatmeal and free subs at the Boston Indoor Games track meet
Sunday: Leftover chicken noodle; spaghetti with meatsauce

Reflection from the weekend: We normally like to share leftover food with our neighbors if we make too much, but since this competition started, we haven’t been making enough food to do so.  We miss the sharing aspect of meals!


I recently got an e-mail from a kind reader of this blog inquiring about the anti-war / nonviolence sentiments that have emerged from time to time on this blog. It made me realize that I probably need to briefly explain where I stand on the subject. Here is a portion of my response to the inquisitive reader:

I recognize and accept my naivete on the issue of war. I have never been to war. I have never lived where my safety was compromised on a daily basis. I probably do not have the best credentials to speak intelligently about war and violence, because to this point in my life, these things have been far from me. I acknowledge this.

But I still hold to the belief that war is a product of a fallen world which God is working to “put to rights” (N.T. Wright’s phrase), and that Christians should strongly consider a position of nonviolence in this world (as we model God’s intended purposes for the world ourselves). Trust me, I struggled with scripture and community discernment, reading several works on all sides of the nonviolence / just war debate, to come to where I stand today. These convictions were not made quickly or without much thought and prayer. I don’t have time to explain exhaustively the manifold rationale behind a Christian commitment to nonviolence, but I can say that there have always been factions of Christians who oppose war and violence of any kind, and their reasons are thought-out and intelligent. Throughout history, Christians have been “conscientious objectors” to war and politics for this reason.

Here are a few documents (stolen from that might shed some light on this point-of-view, which is ancient. The most common (and unfair) critique I hear about this point of view is that it is alligned with modern liberalism or that it ignores the bravery of women and men who have fought for our nation’s “freedom.” Truth be told, the classical manifestation of this position is older than either liberalism or the United States …

Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship and John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus also speak to this issue in greater depth, and I would strongly recommend various chapters fro both books.

However “inevitable” war may be, I maintain that the Christian must hope and advocate for the world that God dreams about — a world void of hatred, violence, jealousy, and oppression. We will not see the completion of God’s dream (the “reign of God”) until the end, but God is calling His people to begin to live out the values of that kingdom here and now. (“…your Kingdom come…”)

But non-violence and opposition to war is obviously only one way that the colony of Christ-followers is salt and light in this world, and thus I believe there is room for disagreement on this issue. The son or daughter of a WWII veteran (or the WWII vet him/herself) may never come to a point at which they condemn all war, because it’s just too hard to separate the concept from personal relationships with fallen comrades in the foxholes. I am sympathetic to this … I really am. And truth be told, I love living in America, whose freedoms have largely come as a result of the sacrifice of these brave people. So though slightly conflicted, I still maintain an ethic of nonviolence for myself and my family, and oppose the use of force on a larger scale. This is part of my discipleship, and I cannot apologize for it.

Duke professor and theologian Stanley Hauerwas wrote a guest column for the Charlotte Observer in the early 1990s, when the “gays in the military” issue was on the front burner. Hauerwas &emdash; an ethicist and pacifist &emdash; thought it “a wonderful thing that some people are excluded [from war] as a group,” and wished “only that Christians could be seen as problematic by the military as gays.” Here’s the last few powerful paragraphs of the column, titled “Why Gays (as a group) are Morally Superior to Christians (as a group)”:

Concentration on just war reflection is probably too abstract a way to imagine how Christians as a group might become suspect for military service. Far more likely are Christian behaviors and practices. Christians, for example, might be bad for morale in barracks. For example, non-Christians may find it disconcerting to have a few people gathering nightly holding hands with heads bowed. God knows what kind of disgusting behavior in which they might be engaged.

Even more troubling is what they might say to one another in such a group. Christians are asked to pray for the enemy. Could you really trust people in your unit who think the enemy’s life is as valid as their own or their fellow soldier? Could you trust someone who would think it more important to die than to kill unjustly? Are these people fit for the military?

Prayer, of course, is a problem. But even worse is what Christians do in corporate worship. Think about the meal, during which they say they eat and drink with their God. They do something called “pass the peace.” They even say they cannot come to this meal with blood on their hands. People so concerned with sanctity would be a threat to the military.

Having them around is no fun. They think they ought to keep their promises. They think that fidelity matters. They do not approve of the sexual license long thought to be a way of life and legitimate for those facing the danger of battle. Their loyalty is first to God, and then to their military commanders. How can these people possibly be trusted to be good soldiers?

Finally, consider the problem of taking showers with these people. They are, after all, constantly going on about the business of witnessing in the hopes of making converts to their God and church. Would you want to shower with such people? You never know when they might try to baptize you.

If gays can be excluded as a group from the military, I have hope that it could even happen to Christians. God, after all, has done stranger things in the past.

However, until God works this miracle, it seems clear to me that gays, as a group, are morally superior to Christians. (taken from The Hauerwas Reader, Duke University Press, 2003)

Book Review: God’s Ultimate Passion by Frank Viola

passion.jpgFrank Viola loves the church. So much that he left, and is now one of Christianity’s best prophets to the Bride of Christ. He is now planting house churches, coaching church planters, speaking in churches, and talking about his ultimate passion, which is clearly God’s Ultimate Passion (his newest book’s title) — the “House on Earth through which God expresses Himself.” He writes that God’s “ultimate passion is to have a group of believers who will be richly integrated together to be the Lord’s House in the cities in which they live.”

God’s Ultimate Passion is hard to classify. It’s not a how-to book for churches, yet it applies Scripture to some powerful points about the DNA of the church. It’s not your typical Christian “self-help” book, because it is challenging and offensive to the all-too-common American “churchianity.” It’s more like a love letter to the church, pleading with Christians to accept and join in God’s passionate pursuit of people.

Viola describes in three consecutive chapters the pathway that many people take as they pursue further participation in God’s passion:

Bondage –> Religion –> Wasteland (wilderness) –> God’s Building Site

Viola minces no words and spares no passion in admonishing believers that their native habitat is the ekklesia, God’s spiritual house.

It is native to your species to church together with other believers in an atmosphere of freedom, spontaneity, joy, and love. All of these things are written in the church’s genetic code. They are her DNA at work.

Truthfully, there is no other context in which to live the Christian life.

God’s Ultimate Passion is an inspiring and challenging book for searchers, new believers, believers who feel “stuck” in institutionalized religion, and believers who have already become God’s permanent home and experienced true ekklesia.

For a listing of Viola’s previous books on faith and the church, go to his Web site.

my god

Well, I suppose I should answer my own question: What is the god like that I’ve created?
It’s funny … I think the god (and I use the lower case because this god I’ve created is not the Almighty…) is probably a combination of Houston’s and MH &emdash; 1,000% social justice and constant disappointment with the church (read the comments of the previous post to get the specifics). I often imagine God sitting up there looking down angrily on the “institutional church” for its unwillingness to get out of the building and do justice and mission (the way I would like it done). I like to imagine all these “churchy” people lining up at the gates of paradise and being turned away because they said “Lord, Lord” but never worshipped him with their lives. Sometimes I even enjoy those thoughts, as sick as that sounds. I guess “my god” enjoys those thoughts as well. My god lives in a perpetual state of disappointment with his people and with the world &emdash; basically, with everybody but myself.

But God loves the church, with all its imperfections. The church is the Bride of Christ. Spouses aren’t perfect, but they are loved unconditionally. Sure, they are continually called to deeper levels of relationship, but they are loved extravagantly through it all.

This quote from N.T. Wright really sums up how I need to see the church:

“I use the word ‘church’ here with a somewhat heavy heart. I know that for many of my readers that very word will carry the overtones of large, dark buildings, pompous religious pronouncements, false solemnity, and rank hypocrisy. But there is no easy alternative. I, too, feel the weight of that negative image. I battle with it professionally all the time.

“But there is another side to it, a side which shows all the signs of the wind and fire, of the bird brooding over the waters and bringing new life. For many, ‘church’ means just the opposite of that negative image. It’s a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life. It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice. It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out. It’s where people bring their own small faith and discover, in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. No church is like this all the time. But a remarkable number of churches are partly like that for quite a lot of time.”

Lord, forgive me for making you in my image.

on God

German atheist philosopher Ludwig Fuerbach (1804-1872) said that God did not create man in His image, but man created God in his image.

That statement has just enough truth in it to sting, doesn’t it? Obviously humanity (the creation) did not literally create God. And Christians believe, of course, that humanity is in fact created in God’s image. But so many humans imagine God as they would like him to be rather than how He really is (not that any of us really know for sure…).

I hate fags, so God hates fags
I am a feminist, so God is obviously a woman…
I am a chauvinist, so God suppresses women…
I am angry and insecure … God is wrathful …
I seek after earthly riches, so God promises “health and wealth”…
I live in America, so God clearly favors this nation…

The list goes on and on and on, as far as human sin and misplaced identity can reach.

I heard Randy Harris talk on this subject a while back, however, and he had this to say: The best cure for humans who create God in their image is solitude. Go be alone with the Almighty. Ask him to tear down the false images you have built of him in your mind and heart. Listen for his voice, His leading. In times like this, the only thing worse than God seemingly doing nothing is God doing something.

How have you shaped God into your likeness?


PantRy Challenge: Day Ocho (see that “R”, Miller??)

We’re still very much in this thing. According to Willz, the challenge organizer, we’re one of three households still in it. To catch you up, we’re seeing how long we can survive on just the food we currently have in our pantry (which also includes the refrigerator and freezer). We’re doing this for personal, social, and spiritual reasons.

We haven’t even touched the frozen meat in the freezer. Tonight, we’re making a “pantry special,” a rice creation with this homemade salsa seasoning mix and chopped veggies and chicken. I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be our first “made-up” meal. Not bad for 8 days in. Could we go the rest of 2007 eating only from what we have in our pantry/fridge/freezer? Time will tell.

The last day or so we’ve eaten our leftovers from Sunday evening’s Italian dinner out. I had gnocchi, a type of pasta made with potato and rolled into little ovals, which was topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella. Chrissy had a pasta dish with chicken, greens, and a white sauce. Both were enough for more than one meal, which has served us well 🙂

Pantry Challenge 2007 Update: Gettin’ By

DSCN0862.JPGI wasn’t sure how often to post updates, but here is #1. It’s been six days since we began Pantry Challenge 2007, an effort to go as long as we can eating from the food we currently have in our pantry, fridge, and freezer.

The first night (Wednesday), we made vegetable omelettes with cheese, which were great. Definitely hit the spot.

Thursday night we had a couple over for Mexican Casserole (ground chicken, beans, tortillas, cheese, and spices), a few games of nerts, and a movie. Our friends, who knew about PC07, brought over extra salad just so they could leave us with some for later in the week. Our friends are so nice.

Friday, Chrissy was home studying during the day, so she made French Toast for lunch. That night, we made a homemade pizza for us and some of our other friends, who also brought over a little extra food to leave with us. That night, we also baked some oatmeal raisin cookies (most of which we ate that evening … but we did send some home with our friends).

We slept really late on Saturday, so lunch was breakfast. That evening, we had a meeting, at which we ate pizza. Free is always good.

Sunday lunch, we ate a couple of frozen burritos and some more of the leftover Mexican Casserole that evening. Our friends (the same ones from Friday) came over to watch the Pats-Colts game with us, but we vomited dinner up when we saw the Pats blow the game in the 4th quarter… (kidding)

Today, I brought the last of the casserole for lunch at work, while Chrissy ate oatmeal and a clementine. We splurged for a romantic dinner at a local Italian restaurant tonight, which was well worth it. (we even got some surprise accumulating snow on our walk home!)

Breakfasts this week have been frozen bagels, Trader Joes’ granola (the Vanilla Almond and Maple Pecan flavors are all gone … boo hoo), or Clif energy bars at work.

DSCN0861.JPGSummary: We still seem to be in pretty good shape. We’re out of sugar and almost out of cheese, however, which could prove to be fatal. We’re fresh out of fresh fruits and veggies, which might give my wife a coronary. I think we’ll be OK on breakfasts once the granola’s gone, as we have an endless supply of Quick Oats. Chrissy said she has really enjoyed not going to the store during this time. We both have consciously eaten less, which has been a good thing. We’ve also been surprised at the way two of our closest couples friends have been concerned about us, bringing over extra food and even offering to buy us stuff we need (we haven’t accepted any huge quantities of food, for the record). All in all, though, we’ve been pretty surprised at how far the food in our pantry has gone thus far. As for the future, we actually have a freezer-full of meat, leftovers from tonight’s dinner, and canned foods out the wazoo (note: I’m trying to bring back the term, “out the wazoo”). Chrissy’s Prediction: “If I can get over not having fresh fruit and vegetables, we might go longer than shorter. But I might have to break down and buy fresh fruit and veggies.” My Prediction: “All the way, baby.”


Weekend Movie Wrap-Up

Mission Impossible 3: Completely over-the-top. Plenty of unrealistic action and stunts. Decent plotline. Tom Cruise is still nuts.

The New World (2006, Colin Farrell): John Smith and friends arrive in America, flex on the natives who lived here already, almost die of starvation, form a weak alliance with the natives… OK, that’s the plotline of the first 20 minutes of the movie. The remaining 2 hours is John Smith and Pocahontas looking longingly into each other’s eyes with piano music in the background. Snorefest. I’m sure someone has seen some artistic value that I didn’t see, but the title of this film should have been, “Don’t Waste Your Time: Rent the Disney Movie.”

30 Days: Season 1: In 2004, Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days in making the smash-hit documentary Super Size Me. He applied the same principle to his show, 30 Days, which is brilliant and inspiring. The premise is putting normal people into foreign situations for 30 days. Our favorite episode was when Morgan and his fiancé lived on minimum wage jobs for a month, struggling daily just to “get by” and accumulating a thousand or so dollars in debt in just 30 days (from hospital bills … they had no health insurance). Very convicting episode about the reality for millions of working poor in America. We also liked the episode that transformed a conservative Christian into a Muslim for 30 days, experiencing the stereotypes, the religious devotion, and the family commitment of Islam, while experiencing a dramatic personal shift. Great show.

An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning: A few months ago, I got an e-mail from a good friend who wanted to hear my reflections on Al Gore’s 2006 documentary about global warning. He wrote, “I’m still spinning a bit. Honestly, I believe this is the, or one of the major issues that will make or break the credibility of the American church (if making it credible could ever be done in our day). Depending on how we respond, I believe it could be the major blindspot of our generation that will seem ludicrous to generations after us, just as racism/segregation was the blindspot just a few generations ago that now seems so absurd and obviously unjust.” After seeing the film, I have to agree with my friend. This is a legitimate issue. And whether or not humans are causing global warming or not (I happen to believe we are), shouldn’t we still live in ways that leave a smaller eco-footprint on our world? It’s been nice to see several prominent conservative Evangelical leaders (including Ted Haggard, before his scandal) speak out for the environment in recent years. We need more, though.

things we’re excited about

  1. Visiting our friends Travis & Cara in Tanzania in September. It’s official: we booked our flight this week. We can’t tell you how great it feels to have that on the calendar. It was a plan since we were all finishing up back in Abilene, and almost a year later, it’s going to be a reality. Praise God.
  2. The “Maverick Meeting House” &emdash; basically a community center &emdash; is built and open across the street from our townhouse. The center has several multi-purpose rooms, a full-service kitchen, management and tenants’ association offices, and a computer lab. The neighborhood association will be offering ongoing computer classes of various types to anyone interested, and we have volunteered to help out as teachers. (we don’t know if they want us yet … but heck, we’re available)
  3. Steve’s brother, Mitch, and friend Jason are coming up to Boston for their Spring Break in March. Mitch is taking a break from the rigors of his last semester of college, a promising journalism career, and a really promising musical venture, to grace us with his presence. Biggest Boston arrival since Dice-K.
  4. The same week Mitch & Jason head north, Chrissy will head south — to sunny Puerto Rico. No, she turned down the MTV Spring Break hostess offer this year… But she is taking an international business class in PR and staying for a week at an ocean-front resort in Old San Juan. Not too shabby. She’ll be back in time to spend the weekend with her bro-in-law, though, and she should look nice and colorful next to us pasty white end-of-winter New Englanders.
  5. Steve racing the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington on May 27. He’s been putting in the miles all fall, and now the intensive training mileage begins. We think we’ll make it a “romantic getaway” as well, taking advantage of the long Memorial Day / anniversary weekend at a bed and breakfast or something. Side note: I (Steve) have had thoughts about starting a blog that only deals with running and the lessons I am learning through that passion of mine (shocker — the idea came to me on a run). It would mostly be an outlet for my reflections while training, racing, or reading about running, but I am curious: Is there even one reader out there who thinks this idea sounds interesting? Be honest.
  6. Dough East Boston. Great new neighborhood pizza/sandwich shop literally 400 feet from our front porch. The guys who run it are young, friendly, and really excited about the food they are making. They’re always trying things out themselves first, then introducing it as a “special” the next day in the store: like the Bronco Burger, a marinated patty of hamburger topped with onion rings, mozzarella cheese, and barbecue sauce, all on a whole wheat bun. Boy howdy, that’s a good sandwich! And their pizzas are incredible too … like their buffalo chicken pizza with bleu cheese … We eat at Dough way too much.
  7. The things God is showing us regarding how we can better follow Him as individuals and as a couple. Radical simplicity. Radical hospitality. Radical community. Unyielding love. Participatory mission and ministry. We’re not sure how all this looks at this point, but we feel like Aslan is definitely on the move… Stay tuned… (and pray!)