Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Balancing vigilance and providence in the face of Ebola [sharing at Think Christian today]


I work in an office building 204 miles from the Dallas hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan died earlier this month, marking the first Ebola diagnosis and fatality in North America. The conversations among coworkers that day veered far from the normal topics to discussions of life and death ethics.
Last week, 43 people who had direct contact with Duncanwere released from quarantine in good health. Two nurses who’d been infected with Ebola while caring for Duncan haveboth recovered. Yet this good news does not seem to be settling our national fear. A recent Pew Research pollcomparing our level of concern from the beginning of October to last week found we are becoming more afraid that someone we love will be exposed to Ebola. Is it possible we are not trusting reason at all? What about a providential God?
Richard Sacra, a missionary doctor, was headed toward the Ebola outbreak in Liberia when his colleague, Kent Brantley, was infected with the disease. Sacra himself became infected and returned to the United States for treatment. He has recovered and told reporters, “I fully intend to be part of its reconstruction as I continue my work at ELWA Hospital, with a focus on training physicians and strengthening Liberia’s health system for the long run.” Is this reckless behavior? What sort of credo informs our response to epidemics? Do we even need one?

Bonus feature: a couple of good resources to join others in praying daily for those suffering from the Ebola virus

Ebola prayer–Every morning  
Psalm 90:12-14 (ESV) 
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long?Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 
Our Father in heaven,
We thank You for the precious gift of time.  We thank You for the gift of time set apart as sacred, the Sabbath.  Bless the Christians in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mali, that they may keep the Sabbath holy.
Return to Your servants in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, O Lord!  How long?  Have pity, we pray. 
Your steadfast love never ceases; Your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  We hope in You for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Guinea.  Amen. 
Lamentations 3:22-24

Five Favorites: Paleo recipes my family loves

Five Favorites: Paleo recipes

So you've probably figured out we're not really the crunchy type, but last year our daughter asked us to try a Paleo menu. Thankfully, Emeals started offering Paleo menus right around the same time and we've been surprised how much we enjoy eating this way. We cheat quite often and we almost always take the poor man's way out, but the change in diet has made a major difference in the way we feel -- affecting everything from sinus issues to digestion issues to hormone issues to energy issues. We're really grateful.

Here's 5 of our favorite, easy recipes.

-- 1 --

Pan-Seared Tilapia with a mushroom and leek saute
  • Salt and pepper fillets and cook in olive oil for about 8 minutes (turning once)
  • Heat olive oil in a pan, saute leeks for about 8 minutes
  • Add sliced mushrooms and four garlic cloves (minced)
  • Saute until everything is tender
  • Add a handful of fresh basil (about 1/2 cup, cut) to the mushroom and leeks, heat through
This is a paleo dish but we add rice.  Also, the original recipe calls for halibut, but tilapia is easier on our budget. Either way it's delicious and simple. We eat this meal a couple of times a month.

-- 2 --

Cilantro Lime Chicken Wings with Avocado Mango Salad: I'm not kidding when I tell you that this makes a fine substitute for Friday night wings & pizza.  I'm not kidding.

2 T olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 T lime zest
1 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. chicken drumettes
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Combine oil, cilantro, zest, salt, pepper and chicken in a large bowl, toss to coat.
  • Place on a rack on a baking sheet (this is SO important!).
  • Bake for 25 minutes, or until chicken is done.
2 large avacados sliced
1 large mango, thinly sliced
5 oz. baby spinach
3 T red wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
  • Combine avacado, mango and spinach in a large bowl.
  • Combine vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.
  • Serve immediately.

-- 3 --

Paleo Banana Pancakes at The Fat Bald Man: I think it's the coconut flour that makes this a winner for me.  That and melting coconut oil in the pan before adding the pancake batter.  So good with fresh fruit!

-- 4 --

Winter Vegetable Soup
Crock Pot

(3 T olive oil)
3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized
(Salt and pepper to taste)
4 c peeled & chopped sweet potatoes
2 c chopped red onion
12 c chopped fresh kale, 2 large bunches
32 oz organic chicken broth
13.5 oz can coconut milk
(½ c white wine)
¼ c chopped fresh chives
(2 bay leaves)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle
chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, and cook 4
minutes per side, or until browned. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Add potatoes, onion, kale, broth, coconut milk, wine, chives
and bay leaves to slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours.

The coconut milk adds a lightly creamy and sweet flavor that we totally enjoy!

-- 5 --
Chocolate chip cookies

We love this recipe using coconut flour.  This is definately a splurge because the ingredients a bit pricey.  Our favorite dessert since changing our diet. 


Any healthy eating recipes you'd like to share?  
Do tell!

*Linking up with Jenna today

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sewing hope with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe [sharing at Think Christian]

If you’ve not yet heard of Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe and her ambitious, hopeful work at Saint Monica’s Tailoring Center in Gulu, Uganda, now would be a good time to get to know her. While we worry over the well being of West Africa and impotently hashtag into the universe #BringBackOurGirls, we need to know that people like Sister Rosemary live and flourish in the middle of unspeakable human suffering. 
I first became acquainted with her story watching Sewing Hope, a documentary chronicling her work among former child soldiers who had been released from the Lord’s Resistance Army back into the Gulu community. Joseph Kony and his army of rebels abducted, raped, maimed and forced children to kill their own families. The LRA then released the child soldiers - now grown - back into the very communities in which they had committed violent crimes. The girls returned to their homes carrying on their backs the children they birthed to Kony’s officers, only to discover they had become outcasts to their own neighbors and family. 
Bonus feature: The documentary trailer

Sunday, October 26, 2014

7 quick takes from a pretty good week + other good things I found online

It was hard to o back to work today after we spent the weekend with all of our kids and their significant others.  We'd never been all together under the same roof and this was 2 whole nights.  So a pretty big deal.  Marvelous, fun, restful.  We're grateful to friends who shared their lake house with us.  We're grateful for people who pray for us -- even for times that don't seem like they need prayer.  Like this weekend.  

Also, it was good to get these girls together after 2 months apart.

Re-posted the poem I wrote for my brother's birthday last year.  I think I'm always most homesick around the time of his birthday every year because 1) Autumn in New York is perfect and 2) Todd always brought us together to celebrate well.  

Grateful for the surprise opportunity to write more often for Think Christian.  So much interesting conversation on this topic:  Parenting is not a covenantal relationship. Marriage is.

With the emotional upheaval of sending another child to college in September (and just plain old general angst) my reading list is pretty fluffy.  I'm not complaining one bit.

Here's my 5 reads from September and October (including this fun mystery novel for book club):

Also, used my lunch break to walk with a friend around Town Lake.  Talked so hard and so fast that I didn't pay attention to how hot it was until I had to go back to the office sweaty and red-faced.  I felt like the gross kid who never showered after middle school P.E.  Still, the walk & talk was life-giving, even if I stunk the rest of the day!

Blessed, blessed Friday. Enjoyed deee-licious lunch with co-workers at Shoal Creek Saloon. Shrimp Gumbo and Boudin, so good!

It's the annual Christ Church Parish retreat.  I could only spend one day this year, but it was a full and enjoyable day.  Bishop Todd Hunter spoke life-giving, challenging words.  Lunch and dinner and in-between times catching up with dear people.  One long, hot walk in the 90 degree Texas sunshine on country roads and the annual, always-fun Christ Church Talent Show, followed by a family dance party.  

Driving up I was dreading the remembering of our friend Trey who died this same weekend last year.  The last time I saw him he was carrying suitcases into his family's camp room.  He was just silhouetted by the light, like a man headed toward a soft place after a long trip.  In His kindness, the Holy Spirit brought to mind many other remembrances from retreats past -- baptisms, making new and lasting friendships, much laughter and joy.  This was good to remember.

A day at home to rest, take care of the dog, write.  Also, to make this awesome slide show remembering our family's time together last weekend.

Murphy Family Weekend at the Lake House - October 2014 by Slidely Slideshow

--- Other good words online this week ---

10 Awesome Airbnb Trailers For Your Next Weekend Getaway  at Messynessy Chic:  Oh how I wish!
Robin Roberts and Michelle Obama at Working Families Summit on YouTube:  I especially enjoyed listening to this interview as it relates to recent conversations I've had regarding women and work. Also, I really like Michelle Obama.   
Ignore No More Remotely Locks Phones, Forces Kids to Call You Back at Lifehacker:  This would be kind of great.  My kids probably think they need this for us.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

5 favorite reads in September & October

what I read in September & October

-- 1 --

36  Walking Home: A Poet's Journey by Simon Armitage (Liveright, 2014. 304 pages.)

A pleasant, enticing account of one poet's ambitious hiking and poetry reading tour down the entire Pennine Way, also known as England's Backbone.  This book would work well for fans of hiking, England, poetry or travel.  Occasionally a bit too prosaic from a poet but still enjoyable story telling. 

-- 2 --

37  Anne of Green Gables by L.M.M. Montgomery

Believe it or not I've never read the books.  In the late 1980's I enjoyed the made-for-Canadian-television series starring Megan Follows as the bouyant Anne Shirley, imagined in the early twentieth century stories by L.M.M. Montgomery.  Completely enjoyable comfort reading -- especially in a rather melancholy season.

Also, I loved the cover art.

-- 3 --
38  Anne of Avonlea by L.M.M. Montgomery(W.W. Norton & Co., 2000. 273 pages)

Part 2 diverges from the film version quite a bit.  I found myself slightly disappointed (but please don't tell my Anne-loving kindred spirits!)

-- 4 --

39  Paper Towns by John Green(Dutton Books, 2008. 305 pages)

I'm joining a book club at my office.  I've probably  mentioned before that I am like 15 years older than the median age of my coworkers.  Thus, I'm stretching a bit on some of the book selections.  This would be an example of that.  I enjoyed the book until about two-thirds of the way in and, well, I just couldn't keep reading.  My daughter confirmed my decision.  

Some fun writing, fun friendly midnight pranking, just couldn't like the characters.

-- 5 --

40  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 455 pages)

When my co-worker suggested this title by Robert Galbraith (aka, J.K. Rowling), I nearly jumped up and down at the suggestion.  This is a title I can get behind!

Amazon's blurb:
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

*Go to my Book Pile page to see my reading lists from 2014 and previous years.*

What are you reading right now?

*Linking up with Jenna today

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Parenting is not a covenantal relationship. Marriage is.[sharing at Think Christian today]

read the whole article at Think Christian

I don’t know if it was the provocative title - “How American parenting is killing the American marriage” - or the actual content, but something about a recent Quartz article caused 47 of my friends to share it on Facebook. Maybe it was the opening sentence: “Sometime between when we were children and when we had children of our own, parenthood became a religion in America.”
While the cultural timeline might be accurate, I’d argue the underlying root of idolatry is not new at all. Most telling was the caption under the photo of a yawning newborn: “It’s hard not to worship them.” In any typical marriage, we pretty quickly lose the misplaced desire to worship our spouse. In our attempt to regain relational security, it’s very tempting to turn that affection onto our children. In between the widening chasm of our hopes for a life-long love and our fear of being left alone, we lean on our children to bridge the gap. 

Bonus feature: our wedding day about 24 years ago.  Good thing love ages better than wedding photos.
November 24, 1990

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

for my first best friend

for my brother Todd on his birthday (re-posting from last year)

The missionary neighbors who lived upstairs rolled us around the yard in their shipping barrel.

Our vagabond days*

for my brother on his birthday

We'd hide in those years, Todd and me, inside the best places
in the parsonage —sneaking up from our first floor, certain

mother or others didn't know. While she vacuumed, we tip-toed
up the back stairs of the mud room peering for Lady Chatterly**

the African Parrot chattering Bible verses to her missionary family
whose teenaged son shot BB pellets into our father's tomato garden.

We lived as sheltered vagabonds then, roaming the church halls
in shared clothes from the missionary barrel, slipping through the cribs hung

on nursery walls, the wooden bars for a make believe zoo. The church bell at
noon announced our father's lunch at the formica table in our little kitchen.

Later, in the low glow of a Mickey Mouse night light, our day tucked
in with bed time prayers. I prayed with Daddy for Jesus to come

into my heart -- and yours.  When you decided to postpone your salvation
I chattered night-light altar calls from my bed to yours. Only half mindful

of your wellness, electric whispers in the passion of my conversion, more due
to the fact that you were my first -- and best -- friend. 
*adapted structure from a poem by by Bernadette McBride
**where my memory fails, I make up a few details

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a few [incomplete] thoughts on the sacred practice of Sabbath

“The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees--
to learn something of being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention”
-- Mary Oliver, “Entering the Kingdom”

via Death to the Stock Photo

Get us to the place 
A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines -- they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God's way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. 
Richard Foster , Celebration of Discipline
via the daily asterisk* 

I've been saying for many months here that I can't write because I'm too busy.  And that's mostly true.  Maybe even truer if I said it this way:
"I'm choosing not to write so that I can make space to follow God in other things He's asking me to do right now."  
Probably the most true way to say it is this:
"I'm choosing not to write because on some days I'm trying to obey God and make space for other things He's asking me to do.  On other days I'm just plain pissed about the things God's asking me to do and not writing is my way of getting even." 
Truth is, God gave us these amazing gifts of four children and a move to Austin to pursue Brian's ordination and relationship in a vibrant, healthy worship community, and an introduction to creamy jalapeno sauce.  Growing up requires me to recognize that good gifts come with responsibility.  My having to work full time, or lose sleep over my kids being flung hither and yon into adulthood, or deal with anxiety related to becoming a priest's wife, or roll up my sleeves to invest in this healthy worship community, or start eating more vegetables and fewer tacos are all decisions grown up people make in order to steward the abundance of good gifts that come down like lights from the Father.

Only a child wants it both ways:  good gifts with no responsibility.

My hope is to remain like a child with a simple faith and pleasure in my good Father while also becoming a grown-up in the way I respond to the things I don't like. I go back to the place of sowing to the Spirit in the act of spiritual disciplines, get into the ground where God can do the work of transformation in me.

This fall Brian and I and a couple of friends are co-leading a new small group in our neighborhood.  We'll focus on one spiritual discipline each month, starting -- appropriately -- with the practice of Sabbath. I realize that many of my ways to grasp for "rest" are not at all the same thing as Sabbath rest.  

Sabbath - We desire to set apart one day a week for rest and worship of God.

Our month to focus on Sabbath practices is over but I'm not letting go.  I need rest.  Deep down in my soul. I need to be at peace with myself in the midst of real or perceived chaos.  

I think the Buddhists call this Zen.  I choose to believe there is a way of Christian rest.  I believe the Christ who naps in capsizing boats follows the footsteps of his Father who takes days off even though the spinning universe depends on His attention.  

“Sabbath is the time set aside to do nothing so that we can receive everything, to set aside our anxious attempts to make ourselves useful, to set aside our tense restlessness, to set aside our media-satiated boredom. Sabbath is the time to receive silence and let it deepen into gratitude, to receive quiet into which forgotten faces and voices unobtrusively make themselves present, to receive the days of the just completed week and absorb the wonder and miracle still reverberating from each one, to receive our Lord's amazing grace.” ― Eugene H. Peterson, Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers

A few possible exercises our small group discussed on the practice Sabbath (source: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook) :

1.  Plan a twenty-four-hour sabbath you can enter with anticipation. The night before your sabbath, remind your body how long it has to luxuriate and rest in God.
  • Consider the things that would nourish you: worship, music, a nap, making art, walking, reading, playing with children, afternoon tea.  Plan them spaciously into the day.

2.  Begin your Sabbath gently on the evening before.  Light a candle.
  • Invite the presence of Christ to guide you through your sabbath.
  • Eat with friends and family.
  • Go to bed early, speaking peace to one another.
  • Pray for Christ to give you deep, refreshing sleep. Rest in his arms. Commit your dreams to the Lord

3.  Prepare a “sabbath box or basket.”  Choose a basket or cover a grocery-size box with gift wrap. Each week on the evening before Sabbath, gather as a family or group of friends to put all the things you don’t need to take with you into Sabbath day. Drop cell phones, credit cards, laptops into the box. Put work projects and homework in the box.
  • Tell one another what you are looking forward to as you enter Sabbath.
  • Pray together to receive the gift of Sabbath.

4.  The night before your sabbath day, enter into sleep as a spiritual act of worship. Consciously let go of your compulsion to be indispensable. Drop all that brings you anxiety into the arms of your heavenly Father. Lay your head on the pillow imagining that you are putting your head into the lap of God. Commit your body and dreams to him. Relax in God and rest.

5.  Awake gently to your sabbath day. If it is possible, don’t set an alarm. Let your body wake naturally. As you come to consciousness, take several deep breaths and open your body wide to God for the new day. Stretch out and feel the full length of of yourself. Thank God that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank him for the gift of the day before you.

  • Is God speaking to you in any way? Listen and respond.
  • Get up slowly and attend to your desire to encounter God today.

Resources on Sabbath

A few Scripture passages to meditate:

  • Hebrews 4:1, 9-11
  • Mark 2:27
  • Exodus 20:8-10
  • so many Psalms

My playlist of Songs for Rest

In what ways do you practice Sabbath?   
What art speaks to you of rest -- in general or in a particular work?   
It would mean so much to me to hear from you.

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