Tuesday, February 21, 2017

RUNZAS AND SOUL FOOD

The youngest and I made runzas for lunch today. My friend Katherine introduced my family to these delicious pocket sandwiches many years ago.

Decades after I first stood in Katherine's kitchen rolling out circles of dough on her counter, I still think of Katherine every time I make runzas.

Brown 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, then add sliced cabbage and onions and saute until veggies are tender. Season with salt and lots of pepper!

"You need a lump of dough the size of a clementine."

"A what?"

Katherine introduce me to clementines, too.

Whenever I make runzas, I also think of the many sweet memories Katherine and I have shared over the years.

Take a ball of yeast bread dough about the size of a clementine, and roll into a thin circle. Place a large spoonful of meat filling in the center. Pinch dough together over the filling to create a pocket sandwich. Brush with butter and sprinkle with a tad more salt. I baked these at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Food is more than a matter of physical nutrition. Yes, it feeds the bod; but food also feeds the soul. Although we now live many miles apart and rarely see each other, Katherine continues to feed my soul by her life and faith.

Today, I am thankful for tasty food. I am even more thankful for friends who nourish my heart.

Yum!

(The beef and cabbage I cooked today was enough for 18 runzas. These freeze and reheat well, and they make great to-go meals for days when we are out running errands. We like to eat them with mustard.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

RED-HEADED BOY

"When I was a young, single woman," my friend confided, "I prayed that God would give me a husband who would challenge my thinking." She married a genius with a steel-trap memory who, many years later, still enthusiastically pursues knowledge and who is always asking questions.

"You sure got what you asked for," I laughed.

"What about you? What were you looking for?"

"Ummm, me?" After her comment, I was embarrassed to answer. "Well, I really, really liked red hair."

I saw Steve for the first time when I as a little girl in fourth grade. Too young to even notice boys, right? Nope. Steve had the brightest, orangest hair I had ever seen on a human. He looked like a human torch. It was love at first sight.

My girlfriends and I had a game we would play at recess. As we sat on the sidewalk playing jacks, we would make up code names using the initials of our crush-of-the-moment. Then, we took turns seeing if we could guess each other's love interests.

I never had a crush on anyone, never had any initials to add to the game...just had to content myself with being totally awesome at picking up jacks on a single bounce of the ball. Until I met Steve.

"I have a name!" I announced gleefully as we sprawled on the sidewalk one afternoon during recess. "His initials are S.K.!"

"Sauerkraut Kisses," one girl laughed.

"Strawberry Kangaroo!"

"Give us another hint," another girl coaxed.

"He has red hair," I confessed. And then the game fell completely apart.

It just so happened we had a classmate named Steve K------, who also had red hair. None of the girls knew my Steve, and they all assumed my crush was on this other fellow. Needless to say, the girls ignored my protestations that they had guessed the wrong boy, and an unholy amount of teasing and embarrassment followed.

It wasn't until many years later - eight or nine? - that my Steve asked me out on a date. In the meantime, I had dated many boys who did not have red hair. One of the first guys I dated inflicted so much emotional trauma that the relationship ended with my praying, "Lord, is there no one kind out there?"

Someone kind did eventually come along...but, lacking an appreciation for either Cardinals baseball or sports cars, I had nothing in common with the fellow. It didn't take long for the two of us to discover that we were boring each other to death!

Too many years and too many disastrous relationships later, I finally got a call from the boy a couple of farms over, the very first boy I'd ever had a crush on and the only boy I ever had any real interest in at all. He was kind! He was interesting! And he had the most amazing red hair.

Folks, hair just doesn't get much redder than this!

Almost thirty-three years later, I can confidently say that a fondness for red hair is not a strong foundation on which to build a relationship. Steve and I have had a hard go of it at times, and are still struggling to grow in this journey called marriage. This is hard work and has often been painful. (And it has turned us both gray-headed.)

But in the midst of all the work and mess and struggle, I haven't forgotten the red-headed boy I fell in love with way back in fourth grade. Just the thought of that flaming head full of hair, now faded to gray, still makes me smile.

He was the first boy who caught my eye. After all these years, I can honestly say that he is the only man I have ever wanted for my own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

THINGS FOR WHICH I AM THANKFUL TODAY (2/7/2017)

When the twins were newborns, we lived in a house that had functional heating in only a couple of rooms. The roof leaked in one of the bedrooms - leaked, not as in drip, drip, drip, but leaked as in garden hose on full blast. Nighttime downpours were the worst, because they required trading precious sleep for nonstop emptying of 5-gallon buckets. We ate a lot of bulk oatmeal and peanut butter that Grammy donated to our family pantry and a lot of soup. Twenty-plus years later, some of my kids still don't like peanut butter or oatmeal.

When the twins were 2 years old, we moved to a house the attic of which was infested with raccoons. If I'd been superstitious, I'd have thought the devil lived upstairs. The growling and snarling and screaming at night was terrible. Worse, though, was when the unwanted raccoons shared their fleas with us. Trying to remedy a severe flea infestation - with who-knows-how-many raccoons still living in the attic and six little kids living below - is a daunting task. When the exterminator came, I would have to strip all the beds, load the kids and the laundry in the van, and leave the house for the day. Entertaining a herd of small children "out" all day was exhausting for a pregnant woman!

Twenty-something years later, still, I often wake up in the morning and think, "Thank you, Jesus, that we live in a warm, dry house and that we are all well fed. Thank you, thank you, thank you that we don't have fleas." I am genuinely thankful for those things, because I have not forgotten how awful the alternative was!

* * *
I love birds.

Yesterday, I took a long walk back on the farm. Early in my walk, I startled a large red-tail hawk, one of my favorite birds. I was right beneath the giant oak upon which he perched before he launched into the air with a sharp skreeee! I stopped, breathless, and watched as he circled overhead and scolded me before flying off to find another perch.

As I picked my way down the steep bank to cross the creek, I came eye-to-eye with another of my favorite birds, a great blue heron. He sprang up, flapped his great wings, rose slowly into the air and veered across the field in search of another fishing spot.

Then, as I crested a hill on the far back side of Granddaddy's property, I surprised a huge flock of wild turkeys, the largest I have ever seen. I lost count at 50. Their wings thundered as they lumbered upward into the trees. I stood transfixed and marveled and wept, because the noisy upward rush was so tremendous, so beautiful.

This world is filled with so much beauty.

* * *
A couple of days earlier, on another walk back on the farm, my daughter commented to me, "We sure do have a big God, for being such small people."

Yes, we do...a very big God indeed.

And He gives me so much for which to be thankful.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I DON'T GET TO PICK MY FAMILY

While I'm on the topic of relationships within the church...

Yesterday, I listed several reasons I am tempted to avoid the hard and sometimes uncomfortable work of developing deep, meaningful relationships with others within the body of Christ, particularly with those within my local church body. (Read yesterday's post HERE.)

I have thought of a few more reasons intimacy within the church is difficult...

These people offend me. Some are too self-righteous; others are not nearly righteous enough. Some are control freaks; others are way too passive. Some have their theology all wrong; others have their theology so precisely right that they can't afford to associate with anyone less enlightened. Some are way too smart for me - they think and talk completely over my head; others, well, they are just plain stupid. These people smile and pretend affection even as they dismiss me, provoke me, malign me, hurt me, and ignore my needs.

I offend them. Face it, relationship is difficult when you are always stepping on someone's toes or making someone suspicious, frustrated, or mad. I say too much, or I don't say enough. I wear my feelings on my sleeve, or I am not transparent enough about how I feel. One person is afraid that I will threaten his authority or make him look stupid; another needs me to set a stronger example. One fears I am becoming a raving modernist liberal; another thinks I just emerged from the Stone Age. These people, even when I have the best intentions of loving them, I offend them, provoke them, frighten them, hurt them, neglect them.

If intimate relationship is so fraught with complications, why even bother trying?!

Why? Because God saves people into and for community. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. If I am flying solo, you can bet my Christian life is pretty anemic.

Remember those National Geographic documentaries about animals in Africa that we watched on TV way back in the day? As a herd of gazelles stampeded across a grassy plain, I'd watch in fascinated terror knowing that eventually some poor gazelle would break away from the herd, veer to the side, lag behind...and I'd think, "Oh, no! Run back! Run faster!" That wandering gazelle inevitably ended up as dinner for a lion or cheetah.

Running solo is a good way to get eaten. It is not a good way to try to live the Christian life.

But, these people I have to live with, Lord...!

Let me ask you a question (I am asking myself the same question): Do you think this community into which you have been placed is an accident?

Is it possible that the sovereign, good, all-wise, all-knowing God of the universe accidentally put me into the wrong family? That He had another, better, more-like-me, easier-to-relate-to family in mind, but then He got mixed up and plugged me in with a bunch of irritating and easily-irritated yahoos by mistake?

Of course not.

I can pick my friends, but I don't get to pick my family. God picks my family.

It would behoove me to stop making excuses and to figure out just exactly how to begin loving the beautiful, broken messed up family that I am in.

* * *

"Aunty," Jem spoke up, "Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't." - Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE CHURCH: WHY DON'T WE?

I have been part of about half a dozen conversations recently about Christian community, more specifically, about the lack of meaningful, intimate relationships within the context of the visible church.

During one of these conversations, a friend asked a question that went something like this: "Why do we not pursue deeper relationships within the body of Christ?"

How would you answer that question?

I can think of a couple of answers...

I am too busy. Between work, family, kids' activities (sports, band, school, youth group), household chores, etc., I simply do not have any time left over to invest in my church family.

I am too tired. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I am too exhausted to make the effort to develop meaningful relationships with my sisters and brothers in Christ. See above.

I need to "get my act together" before I engage on a deeper level with others. I am a mess; everyone else I know, they're all decent people who have their lives under control. There is no way I can really be friends with someone who is so "together" until I clean up my own life.

I am afraid of rejection or of being the topic of gossip. Honestly, folks, if I decide to be transparent about my struggles, my weaknesses, and my sin with others in my church family, somebody is going to blab what I have shared in confidence - or - my brother or sister in Christ is going to walk away from me in disgust - or - worse yet, the person I endeavor to trust is going to do both.

Whatever answer you or I give to my friend's question, I think all our answers boil down to this: we do not want and we do not think we need deep, intimate, committed relationships with others within the body of Christ. We can manage this life very well on our own, thank you very much.

Think about it.

If I truly wanted a deeper level of relationship and community, I would value time with the body of Christ above - and I would prioritize time together before - bowling, band practice, Pinterest, Facebook, sitcom marathons, clean toilets, pressed shirts, and softball games.

I am not saying those things are bad. I am saying that if I truly valued Christian community, all those others things would take a lower place on my To-Do list hierarchy. Instead of saying, "I have no time left over to invest in my church family..." - these relationships would get the first and best of my time. Not the leftovers.

If I truly thought I needed deeper relationships, I would pursue deeper relationships. People, I need to eat. No one has to tell me, "Camille, you need to eat today. You will become weak and die if you continually choose to not eat." I need rest. No one has to tell me, "Camille, you really need to get some sleep. You should seriously think about catching some Zs every now and then."

I need to eat and sleep to be healthy. I know I need these things. And when I have to do without food or rest for an extended period of time, you can bet your britches I'm going to get serious about finding a way to make them happen!

But seriously, do I really need intimate relationships within the body of Christ? I have friends and family outside of the church. Surely these other relationships are sufficient to meet my emotional and spiritual needs.

I don't think so.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the church is described as a body, made up of many members. In Romans 8, we are called sons and daughters: we are God's family. In 1 Peter 2, the church is likened to a building, made up of many individual stones (you and me!). Jesus himself describes our relationship to him and to other believers this way: He is the vine; we are the branches.

A finger (or an eye, heart, or lung), isolated from the rest of the body, is dead. Even if that finger is sitting on a pew right next to the body, if it is not plugged into the circulatory and respiratory systems, if it is not in living, active relationship with the rest of the body, that finger is dead.

An individual is not a family: the word "family" implies parents and siblings. A single brick is not a building. A twig, separated from the rest of the plant, is simply a dead piece of wood. Community and deep relationship are intrinsic in all of these images of the church.

God, through his Word, clearly communicates that, yes, we do indeed need deep, intimate, meaningful relationships with others in the body of Christ.

Whatever reason I give for not pursuing deeper relationships within the body of Christ - "I don't really want," "I don't really need" - they all boil down to rebellion against God.

"I'm too busy."

"I'm too tired."

"I'm not good enough."

"I am afraid."

If I am not pursuing meaningful relationships with my sisters and brothers in Christ, I don't need more time or energy or strength or courage.

No, I need to repent.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

GOING ROGUE

Going rogue: a term originally used to refer to elephants who became violent or who refused to obey their masters.

According to merriam-webster.com, going rogue is now "more likely to be used to indicate that someone is displaying some degree of independence or failing to follow an expected script."

As Christians, we are called to live our lives - all of our lives, every aspect of life - in submission to Jesus Christ and to God's will as revealed in his Word. To "go rogue" and live independently of the authority of Scripture is blasphemy.

If I make light of my sin - Gossip is no big deal. Sloth is no big deal. Pornography is no big deal. - then I am going rogue, and I am guilty of blasphemy.

If the established church, on an institutional level, makes light of sin - sweeps abuse under the rug, excuses power-hungry or controlling leadership, neglects the needs and concerns of its members - then it, too, is going rogue, and it is guilty of blasphemy.

But what if, as a serious Christian, I have been living according to a teaching or practice that is popularly accepted and generally promoted, but that is in fact contrary to Scripture? What do I do then?

If I continue in this error - to maintain the status quo, to protect my standing in the church, to protect the church's reputation in the community, to avoid conflict or discomfort - then, by giving greater allegiance to something other than Christ and choosing to willfully live contrary to Scripture, I am guilty of going rogue.

If I desist, then, in relation to an institution that promotes, popularizes and defends such error, I am going rogue: I am guilty of acting independently, instead of following the "expected script."

Damned if I do; damned if I don't. Not a comfortable place for someone who loves Christ, but who also fears man!

Still...

If I am, in some sense, going to be damned regardless of which path I take, if I am to be accused of going rogue one way or the other, I would rather be damned for the sake of Jesus and his gospel.

I admit: this scares me.

I bet a rogue elephant is frightened, too.

Friday, January 20, 2017

STORMY WEATHER


This has been a soggy week in Northwest Tennessee. We've had one gulley washer after another. Don't know what a "gulley washer" is? Stop by my house for a visit, and you'll find out when you drive down the driveway.

All this rain and all this gray have a negative effect on my mood. I feel like I have a ball of tangled gray wool occupying the space between my ears. On the drive to campus this morning, my daughter interrupted my silent funk: "What are you thinking about?"

"Hmmmm?" I wasn't thinking about anything, at least not anything coherent. I was driving along on auto-pilot, lulled into a stupor by the static in my brain.

I can't think; I can't write; I can't carry on an intelligent conversation.

I answered my daughter, "We sure could use some sunshine."

She agreed.

Now, here's the interesting thing...in spite of all the rainy, gray weather, life is pretty much good. I have awesome kids. I have groceries in the house for the weekend and gas in the van. I'm in decent health for a fifty-something-year-old.

My mood, however, doesn't match the reality of all those good things. My mood is blegh. Emotions...they can be such liars!

This has been a soggy week in Northwest Tennessee. While I weather one deluge after another, God is still sovereign, still good, still loves me very much. Above all those dark storm clouds, the sun is still shining, regardless of how I feel.

According to the weather forecast, the sun will break through the clouds sometime early next week. I can't wait! In the meantime, however, over the weekend, I need to remember that the sun is still there.
No, we don't still have leaves on the trees in January! I took these pictures during a storm last summer, but they seemed appropriate for today's post.