Friday, December 19, 2014

16 Years

I owe you, dear readers, several things. First, a few more posts. Second, several book reviews. Third, something light and fluffy and inspirational for Christmas.

Perhaps I will fulfill that debt in the next few days. Today, however, is not that day.

Today, I celebrate 16 years of marriage. Whether it was pity that caused her to follow through or something else, Ann went ahead and came down that aisle and said “I do.”

She knew little of the road we would walk together. Or of the challenges of being married to me and wrestling with my insecurities, idiosyncrasies, and peculiarities. Or my obsession with odd sci-fi stuff.

Still, she sticks around. She pushes me when I need pushed. She hugs me when I need hugged. She makes up for my parenting deficits, my skill deficits (seriously, how bad would the budget be with me balancing it?), and is my partner in all things.

16 years. It’s not quite half of her life, but I’m sure it feels like a lot longer. There are no words for the healing and restoration and strength she’s given me over those years.

I am truly blessed to be half of Doug and Ann. I look forward to many more years of being it!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In the Villages: Luke 13

In Summary:

We return to Luke’s Gospel and see familiar themes. We see another “healing on the Sabbath” controversy, this one intensified by the presence of a crowd seeking healing. There is something to the idea that we should not be angered when our worship traditions are interrupted by those seeking the healing of the Lord God Almighty. People may show up at church in the middle of our themed-out parties and need something. Let us not be so obsessed with our orders and structures that we cannot meet the obvious needs.

We also see a pair of parables that bracket the Sabbath healing. The first is about an unfruitful tree, the second provides clear illustrations of what faith is like. Taken on their own, these are good illustrations: be fruitful, be faithful. If you put them alongside the healing then you see something additional: the Kingdom of God brings life and growth wherever it goes. If there is no life, then it is not the Kingdom. The tree? If it responds, then it stays. The mustard plant? The loaves that grow? Life. Death and uninformed repetition are not. What characterizes our lives as Christians? Or in our churches?

In Focus:

Let us tighten a little focus on Luke 13:22. Jesus is traveling through villages and cities on His way to Jerusalem, and teaching as He goes. Luke does not record exactly which cities and villages are visited, or even the specific people He encounters. We do have specific teachings, though, and they are not all comforting.

For example, we have the question “Are just a few being saved?” and Jesus’ response that says, basically, “Yep.” Here He uses the image of the narrow door and the eventual locked door to illustrate that salvation is not always available. This is extended by pointing out that people will come from east, west, north, and south and dine with the prophets and Abraham in the Kingdom.

Overall, the narrow door that Jesus speaks of is complete trust in Him. Surrendering to Jesus as Lord, rather than trusting in our own righteousness or seeking another savior elsewhere, is the only path back to God. And why shouldn’t He know that? Let’s keep in mind what John brings up in John 1: Jesus is the only one who can truly explain God, since He is God.

In Practice:

Where this gets practical is twofold:

First, we need a relationship with Jesus. This starts with knowing that we’re not Jesus. That means our hearts surrender to Him, and our lives are His to command. It also means that we don’t get to be the judge of who comes through that narrow door. There are evidences, to be sure, of who is headed toward it, but the final decision is not mine…or yours.

Second, we need to share His message with the world. Guess what? Jesus came to seek and save. We don’t have to do the save part, but we should seek those He came to save. It is of far greater value to proclaim where the door is than to make people act like they’ve found it.

In Nerdiness: 

The opening verses of this chapter should inform our response to tragedy. Jesus declines to label those killed by the wicked Pilate as either righteous or unrighteous. Instead, He highlights that death comes to all of us, and it behooves us to be ready for that reality.


This counters our typical Americanized response to tragedy, where tragic death means “They all went to heaven.” Nonsense, says Jesus in this passage: they went wherever they were headed in the first place. If they were not repentant toward God, then tragedy did not save them. Only the Cross saves. It’s how Jesus died that matters, not how you do.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book: My Perfect Pantry

Today’s book is a cookbook. Why? Because I like cooking and was offered a free cookbook.

Geoffrey Zakarian is one of the  typical combatants on the TV show Iron Chef America. He is also a restaurant owner and involved with a plethora of other shows. In all, he’s a busy chef.

My Perfect Pantry, his current cookbook, is not meant to evoke the fancy flavors of Iron Chef, nor of the high dining in his restaurants. Instead, this is directed at the home cook, giving guidance on how to stock your pantry and spice cabinet for some amazing meals.

The concept is simple: 50 foundation ingredients are listed, and then there are recipes based on 50 pantry ingredients. Zakarian then builds recipes that utilize those ingredients to make dishes that range from snacks to entrees. The foundation ingredients are spices, and while I know, and you know, that great chefs burn through spices pretty quick so they don’t get old, we keep the same tin of cloves for a long time. I’ll say this: Zakarian says to change them out once a year, and it’s not a bad idea.

Then there are the pantry staples, again 50 items that will last a while. You can keep these on hand and just snag something off the shelf, make a marvelous meal!

If, that is, you have picked what you’re wanting to make and have the relevant fresh ingredient on hand. That’s the downside on this cookbook: on the one hand, I was hopeful it would give me ways to use just what I have. That is not what you get here, and I think the let-down is more on the marketing and description than it is on the author.

So, keep in mind that you will need to gather a few fresh ingredients to go alongside the staples and foundation spices listed. Some of them are certainly normal for the American kitchen: chicken, ground beef, eggs, but you just want to make sure.

I would recommend this one for someone past the beginner stage of cooking, or as a base for a big group gift-giving event. Picture throwing in with 20 friends to equip a newly married couple with this book and the 100 stable staples mentioned—there’s a great use for it.

Otherwise, it’s good. The food turns out well, but you may care for “Spicy Peanut Butter Slaw.”

I know I didn’t. So, your mileage will vary, but on the shelf beside a few others, a useful cookbook.

Free book in exchange for review: I picked a title I thought I’d like, so I’m predisposed to give it a favorable review. Send me books at random, and I’ll dislike more of them.