Archive for April, 2014

Wet Bar Wednesday – Tom Collins

April 16, 2014

I’m not doing much drinking this week, what with it being Holy Week and all.  The drinks will flow more profusely next week.  Or, more accurately, starting at about 1:00 PM Sunday afternoon.  Feel free to join me!

In the meantime, I checked with my default online drink database to see the most searched drink of the past week.  The winner?  
And before I tell you the winner, and hopefully before you go to the webtender.com link above, be forewarned:  people who drink a lot tend to give really rude, obnoxious, obscene, and offensive names to their concoctions.  Be forewarned.  Be VERY forewarned.  
However, the Tom Collins is innocuous enough.  The name of the drink dates back to at least the latter part of the mid-19th century, and was first reported in a drink book in 1876.  If you aren’t sure what you’re in the mood for, this is probably a good option for you.  
This is a light, refreshing drink that’s great on a hot day.  Basically it’s a sparkling lemonade with gin.  I’m not a huge fan of gin, but it’s OK here.  I generally opt for Bombay Sapphire or Hendricks for my gin.  Both are pricier, but cleaner tasting (to me), and therefore more palatable.  Hendricks Gin is a very different sort of gin (made with cucumbers) that I find much easier on the taste buds for martinis and other gin-heavy drinks.  
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar (superfine is usually what is called for, so that it dissolves quickly & completely)
  • 3 oz club soda
  • cherry & orange slice to garnish
Put the gin, lemon juice and sugar into a shaker with a little ice and shake well (to completely dissolve the sugar).  If you prefer, you can substitute agave or stevia for the sugar, but you’ll want to use less since they’re sweeter than sugar.  Fill a tall (collins) glass with ice.  Strain the shaken mixture into the glass.  Top with club soda, garnish with the cherry and orange slice.  It’s pretty to look at, easy to drink, and very refreshing.  Enjoy!

It’s Holy Week

April 15, 2014

Things will have been a bit slow on the posting here.  I’ll catch up.  Go to church.  Repeatedly.  That is all.

Children Playing with Guns

April 14, 2014

Or something along these lines.

In the rush to equip children with what once were the accoutrements of successful adults, we continue to display our own foolishness as adults.  
Consider the current fiasco between an alleged 14-year old girl and American Airlines.  Despite growing up in a completely post 9/11, security paranoid world, despite being part of a generation that takes technology for granted and is lauded as savvy beyond words, this girl apparently figures that a fun use of technology and Twitter is to send fake terrorist threats to airlines.  
Not all kids are ready to have cell phones and Twitter accounts and Facebook accounts, regardless of whether their peers do or they are legally entitled to by terms of service.  And even smart, savvy kids do stupid things sometimes, particularly when friends are involved.
I hope this scares the heck out of this girl, and I hope parents (and grandparents and aunts and uncles and older brothers and sisters) everywhere continue to talk with the young people in their lives not just about the blessings and benefits of technology, but of the very real risks they run.  I hope this was just a typical prank.  If so, it would be pointless to ruin this girl’s life with a criminal record.  But it highlights just how dangerous technology can be, and how carefully families need to consider the risks they offer their kids by turning them loose on it too soon.  

Reading Ramblings – April 20, 2014

April 13, 2014

Date:  Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

Texts: Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 16; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10

Context: Properly speaking Easter is the most important day of the liturgical year.  Or any year.  While Christmas gets all the press, Easter is truly the pivotal point of the entire Christian story.  Without Easter, there is no Christianity.  Without the resurrection of Jesus as proof of his doings and teachings, He would remain another fascinating dead person.  Inspiring, enigmatic perhaps, but not a Savior.  We would have no hope, and we might as well sleep in on Sunday mornings because we would still be waiting for the Messiah.  Easter changes EVERYTHING. 

Acts 10:34-43 — What do we say about our faith to those who are outside of it?  Peter’s profession of faith here is a beautifully succinct example.  He speaks to the centurion Cornelius and his family.  He believes in God, but he does not know about Jesus.  He begins with what Cornelius and his family have undoubtedly already heard from their interactions with Jews.  He continues to what Cornelius may not know—that Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to many, but not everyone.  And he concludes by directing Cornelius to the Hebrew Scriptures for specific information about what God’s intentions through faith in Jesus Christ are. 

Psalm 16 — This is a psalm of faith and trust in the Lord.  On Easter Sunday we can well imagine Jesus himself giving praise to his heavenly Father using this psalm!  Truly, as Jesus himself knew, we have no good apart from God the Father.  While others may seek after other gods to meet their needs, those gods cannot help them.  In the Lord we are blessed beyond measure—not simply or primarily in this world and life, but in eternity.  Through our adherence to his guide for living, our lives are rooted firmly and cannot be shaken from our faith in him.  Even in the hour of death we can give thanks that the grave cannot hold us—He will redeem us from the dead to enjoy his blessings forever!

Colossians 3:1-4 — Because the Scriptures testify, as Peter told Cornelius, that faith in Jesus results in the forgiveness of sins, the faith the Holy Spirit creates in us really does make us into new creations.  We are set free from the mastery of sin, though not entirely from sin itself.   In the waters of baptism our sinful natures have been killed and we have been resurrected with Christ as a new creation.  Therefore, our thoughts should reflect this.  It would be unfitting to have been raised in Christ, yet allow our thoughts to constantly dwell on all the ways of thinking and being that dominated over us through sin!  We are to consider and focus on other things!  In doing so, we will find that our actions begin to change as well as we look forward to our final, bodily resurrection in Christ when He comes again.

Matthew 28:1-10— Guards and seals couldn’t keep the Son of God inside the tomb.  This is the single most important event in all of human history.  In the history of the universe.  Nothing since the creation of all things has had as much significance as the assertion that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. 

It is a mind-boggling assertion.  We have no way of explaining it beyond what Scripture tells us.  We have no way of duplicating it, and we have no other examples of someone raised from the dead outside of the ministry of Jesus.  If what the Gospels assert is true, then the implications of all that Jesus said and did prior to and after his death and resurrection are the most important message the world has ever heard.  If the Gospels are not telling the truth, nothing else that Jesus said or did makes any difference in the least.

Those who would like to find in Jesus a moral model, an ethical idol, someone showing us the way to live miss the resurrection entirely.   Moral teachers and ethical exhorters are not uncommon.  Nor are the messages of morality unique to Christianity (though Christianity gives them a unique authority).  If all Jesus did was show us how to live right, then there is no reason to place our hope in him.  It is his resurrection that makes all the difference.

His death and resurrection assure us that there is a God who loves us and cares for us, a God who welcomes us with forgiveness and grace.  We can know true peace in our lives, despite the maelstroms that may rage about us, because we know our future is secure in Christ. 

That future is also depicted as new life.  Physical, bodily new life.  Our hope is that even though we die, yet we will live in Jesus Christ.  While death may separate our spirit and body for a time, there will come a day when Jesus returns, and we will be reunited in body and spirit.  We will be whole in a way we have never been whole before—wholly and completely who we are supposed to be.  Fully human, but perfect.  Never to be afflicted with sickness or disease or aging again. 

This is the message that we bear to the world.  Our message is not one primarily of morality and ethics.  Morality and ethics work themselves out in the light of the Gospel.  Our job is to preach Jesus the Son of God crucified and resurrected.  The message hasn’t changed since Pentecost, or since Peter preached it to Cornelius and his household.  And now as then, when that message is preached the Holy Spirit is already at work in the hearts and minds of the hearer. 

The Church has nothing new to bring the world.  The world does not need something new.  The church brings a 2000 year old message to the world.  It is the only message the world has ever or will ever need, the good news that in Jesus Christ, all things are being remade new.  This begins with the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago.  It begins with Easter Sunday.  We live in the light of that glorious first Easter Sunrise, and all our lives should be a living out of that blessed refrain:

He Is Risen! 

He Is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

 

How Convenient!

April 13, 2014

A new study claims to have finally disproved completely that climate change in the last 100 years could be natural, rather than man-made.  

The study results line up in a more precise range of estimates given by another study conducted by the International Panel on Climate Change (although I think that this is actually the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  It’s interesting to note that the actual level of climate change reported, .09% since 1880, does not line up with either of the study projections.  I presume that this is because we haven’t doubled the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, though we’re closing in on that number.  However not everyone agrees with these measurements.  It isn’t as though people haven’t been talking about this stuff for a while, though.  Here’s an interesting graph (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png)  that compiles – without judgment or filtering – data from ten different climate studies in the past 15 years or so.  
What I find humorous, and what ultimately makes the results of this study questionable, is the obvious bias expressed by the researcher against “climate-change deniers”.  Not people who question the causes of climate change, but deniers.  Why would this study change deniers’ minds?  What this study might do is cause people who are willing to admit that climate change is occurring to question their ideas about the reasons for the climate change.  Instead, the researcher gloats that this is a hammer-blow to deniers.  Curious.  

Costly Childcare

April 11, 2014

According to this report (as referred to in this much shorter article), child-care costs are now higher in a majority of the US than college tuition rates.  Child care rates for two children exceed median montly rent amounts in all 50 states.  

The result?  More moms are staying home to raise their children.  

Jesus’ Wife?

April 11, 2014

So there’s this text fragment where Jesus makes reference to “my wife” that has the academic community all up in a tizzy.  A Harvard scholar discovered the fragment a few years back, but based on some characteristics of the fragment (some possible grammatical errors and other peculiarities) it was presumed by some to be a forgery – a modern work attempting to pass itself off as an ancient document.

It’s a tiny text fragment, but the use of the personal pronoun in reference to a wife has of course garnered a lot of attention.  Tests have come back that date the papyrus to around 800 AD, and analysis of the ink say it is consistent with ancient inks, and does not appear to have been applied recently (an idea Paul Maier has explored in one of his books).  
What does this mean?  Nobody is certain.
It means that the fragment may be authentic, dating to around 800 years after the life of Christ.  It comes likely from Egypt and the Coptic community there – Greek-speaking (and writing) Egyptians.  The material in the fragment appears to come almost word for word from another known document, the Gospel of Thomas.  
There is at least one scholar who is still convinced that the document is a forgery, craftily created to address one of the hot-button issues in the Church over the role of women.  
I’m not really that worried about this text fragment.  Firstly, it’s 800 years after the life of Christ, and clearly not an original work.  We already know about the things that it says (although I find it interesting that not a single news source I could find actually provided a translation of the full text as it appears on the fragment.  Curious!).  For people who think that 20-30 years is a long time between events happening and recorded accounts to be written down (and these folks are NOT historians or else they’d know what a strange objection that is), this text ought to be completely irrelevant.  
Being the phenomenal and unique figure that He was (and is), Jesus obviously has spawned a great deal of writing.  We know about a great deal of this extra-Biblical material, and the Church has known about it and dealt with it for centuries.  If this new fragment says something contrary to the Gospels, so what?  We know that people were fabricating things about Jesus, and as if Jesus himself had said them.  They obviously didn’t understand the impact that their imaginings would have on the faithful 1200 years down the road!  
So don’t freak out.  This text hasn’t proved anything other than that it may be very old.  

Wet Bar Wednesday – The Spirit of St. Tran

April 9, 2014
** Special Note ** 

Thanks to Billie for her winning suggestion on the title for last week’s new drink creation, henceforth to be known as a Three C’s Ole!  

** ** ** 

My wife and I enjoy a gift subscription to Sunset magazine (thanks Mom & Dad!).  It’s kind of a guilty pleasure, aimed as it is at a considerably more upscale demographic than we’ll ever be in.  But it’s fun to get ideas for food and drinks and landscaping as well as possible destinations to visit (even if we won’t be staying in the ritzy resorts they showcase!).  

We’ve been wanting to make this recipe for a few months now since we first saw it in the magazine, and finally came up with the lychees courtesy of a local Japanese market.  This is not a simple drink to make, but it’s pretty tasty if you’re aiming to impress.  It’s also very well balanced and fresh and refreshing tasting!
The Spirit of Saint Tran
  • 1 tsp loose-leaf oolong tea
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 10-12 fresh mint leaves
  • 4-5 fresh shiso leaves (if you can find them – we did without them)
  • 2 tbsp lychee puree (or blend up 5-6 lychees into a puree)
  • 2 -3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup rum (I used spiced, but you could probably use white rum)
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice (the fresher the better, but I used Trader Joe’s)
First you need to make oolong tea syrup.  Boil 1/4 cup of water and steep the tea in it for 5 minutes.  Strain the tea out, stir in the 1/4 cup sugar until dissolved and allow to cool.
Make the lychee puree if you have to.
Put the last four ingredients into a shaker along with 6-7 mint leaves and a handful of ice.  Add 2 tablespoons of the cooled oolong syrup, cover, and shake vigorously.
If you have the shiso leaves, put them along the edge of your glasses and hold in place with ice.  Add 3-4 fresh mint leaves to each glass.  Pour the shaken contents into each glass.  Enjoy!

Is the Church Dying?

April 8, 2014

This was part of our discussion today in our monthly clergy Circuit Meeting.  Of course it’s the conversation among lots of people in lots of places, but it dominates our discussions as well.

Much thought was put into the pros and cons of various programs and processes which purport to help stave off congregational decline.  There is no shortage of self-proclaimed experts out there who will sell you a program or consultation service or book or DVD series to take a small congregation into the realm of mega-churches.  
We lament the decline of traditional Protestant denominations in the United States, but what struck me as the various opinions and points of view were exchanged today is that we shouldn’t be surprised at all of this.  The founder of our church was hung on a cross and died as a common criminal.  God not only allowed it but it was part of his master plan.  
Part of the Old Testament lesson for this Sunday jumped out at me, Isaiah 50:5-6:   The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.  I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; i hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
The Creator of the Universe did not exempt his own Son from such scandalous treatment.  How is it that we think his Bride the Church is going to escape unscathed?  I trust that on the other side of all of this change and upheaval, we will all point in marvel and wonder to the work of God the Holy Spirit in our midst, no matter how brutal things became in the process.

Payback

April 8, 2014

Just in case you were wondering, the government charged with overseeing the tax dollars it collects from you and ensuring that they are appropriately used really has no idea whether people are paying back loans to some of the student loan programs or not.  

Carry on.