Friday, April 30, 2010

Why I Avoid Work

I’ve been mute lately, maybe you noticed. In a slump, I guess. Being “out there” is not always where I want to be. And the hard thing about living with who we are and the doubt we can generate about our worthiness – I should probably change the pronouns to first person since I shouldn’t be speaking or writing for you – which also may be a cue or would that be clue? – that I shouldn’t say or write anything at all. This morning I got up and Denis asked right away, what’s wrong? And I was evasive, just saying, I had bad dreams. I’m moody. He managed to make me laugh right away, or a little laugh, anyway, by saying I wasn’t allowed to be moody, that was his department. And true, it usually is.

However. Taking a deep breath. Sighing and trying to come round again. Begun to read a little book by John Stott The Radical Disciple. It will be his last. In it he says farewell: “As I lay down my pen for the last time (literally since I confess I am not computerized) at the age of eighty-eight, I venture to send this valedictory message to my readers.” As he says, he is “reflecting on death and seeking to prepare for it” and thus leaving us behind, he distills with piercing clarity what we need to know to remain faithful disciples.

John Stott has meant much to me over the years, his whole-hearted following of Jesus. The profoundness of his writing – so elegant and yet simple enough for me to gain not only the ideas, but the love and devotion behind them. At my own crossroads with dark questions, he’s met me through his words and pointed me on, on to following Christ. He’s been one of my dear teachers. I don’t want to see him stop writing. I don’t want him to go. And yet, stupidly saying the obvious, he must. We all must.

Anyway, bits and pieces of this final book will stick to me, I hope, here is one that in the moment helps re-orient my thinking, my heart, and points me onward, specifically addressing the fact that I sometimes don’t want to do the work I’m called to do. I want to glide. I don’t want to be bothered. I want to complain and be miserable.

So he gently chides: “Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective: choosing those areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But, because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority.”

And so…. Soon I will tell you about the angora bunny our housemate brought home, and will try to get that video posted of me making cast iron bread and answer some mail, and make a pot of chile for a friend who just had a baby… my work for the kingdom.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chocolate limes and strawberry truffles.

If you’re ever in the D.C. area I recommend a confectionary shop: The Sugar Cube in Alexandria, Virginia. Not that I’ve been there. I think I’d remember, but these days I can’t be sure. I shared this little box equally with Anita who, after all purchased them and brought them back from D.C. The swirly truffle, we carefully cut in half with a sharp knife. Denis was lucky to get one – the caramel chocolate truffle sitting in the middle of the plate – he just doesn’t gush enough about chocolates to deserve more. Sugar Cube’s exquisite truffles are made without artificial flavors or preservatives using real fruit puree, fine chocolate, coffee and liquors. Owners, Kim and Alyssa Theodore, make the most adorable edible art. I don’t like lime in candy of any kind. Yuck. But that gorgeous green and yellow shell won me over. And look at the beautiful strawberry truffle! It’s interesting that in the current economic climate they’ve found a niche for their passionate love of candies after leaving careers in the publishing business and art.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On writing toward joy

Today I NEED to write. There’s a reminder on my calendar: “All Notes (From Toad Hall) to Matthew (our editor) by Friday.” I don’t think I’ll make it. But I keep on telling myself, try, concentrate. You’ll be okay. And in the voice of Tim Gunn: “Make it work.”

It is chilly and gray outside. So not distracted by latest birth of crocus bloom. On sunny days I check on them every sixty seconds. A huge responsibility. I have a cup of French press beside me. I’ve shut Denis’ office door so I don’t hear his music playing. I’ve chased down the latest copy of the magazine I wanted to quote here. Finally found it. Right on top of a pile of junk on my desk. It was there all the time. THAT’S discouraging.  Don’t know where my cell is. I’ll let it stay lost awhile. Started a load of laundry churning in the basement. As soon as I post this I’m shutting email off. I’ve promised myself a reward for just keeping my butt to the chair the next three hours, even if I don’t get a single completed sentence. I’ll bet you’d like to know what that reward is? I’m not telling.

 Am determined to keep writing toward God’s voice, though I stumble and listen with dull ears.

The most beautiful paintings and sculptures, the greatest poetry, have not always been born from torment or bitterness. Often they have sprung from contemplation, from joy, to create from an instinct or wonder toward all things. To create from joy, to create from wonder, demands a continual discipline, a great compassion….With time and sincerity, you will discover a way to work and write that does not harm you spiritually, that does not tempt you to vanity, that is the deepest expression of your spirituality. You will find a voice that is not your voice only, but the voice of Reality itself…If you can be empty enough, that voice can speak through you. If you can be humble enough, that voice can inhabit you and use you.    – Thuksey Rinpoche, Sun Magazine.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cooking with cast iron - Lime Chicken with Lentils

If you have a few moments this week and need to make something nourishing before the big Easter dinner celebration coming up - try this one for its unusual combination of great nutrition - protein, complex carbs, fruit, and amazing flavor. What more could we ask for?

Lime chicken and lentils is one of our favorite Dutch Oven recipes - another dish in Denis’ category of Once-a-weeker. What I like are the leftovers. Mmmm. I love lentils anyway, but made this way I could eat them every day for a week. The dried fruit – apricots and cranberries – give it a natural sweetness and crystallized ginger adds a mystery flavor that deepens the savory-ness of this dish. It’s a great company main dish with a fruity green salad and a crunchy bread.

I didn’t even know what crystallized ginger was until we moved to Rochester and I met Edith Schaeffer. She was famous for serving little sandwiches at high tea and one of them had a filling made with cream cheese and minced crystallized ginger. At first I was all, what? But now I like this intriguing flavor. So don’t leave out the crystallized ginger. It’s not costly when purchased in the bulk food section of a natural food store. Store it in a little glass jar and it will keep forever if you don’t start eating whole slices for the sweet/hot flash it gives.

 Sauteing chicken thighs in Dutch Oven.

Simmering lentils, apricots, cranberries and other ingredients in broth for 30 minutes.

Lime Chicken and Lentils
(Serves 4)

4 Chicken Thighs (or if using skinless breast be sure to brush with olive oil before baking so they don't dry out too much.)
¼ t. salt
1/8 t. allspice
1/8 t. pepper
1T Olive oil plus 1T butter (Use more if needed to brown)
1 cup lentils (use brown or any combination including French)
3 green onions chopped
4 large dried apricots (I use more)
½ cup Dried cranberries
2 t. crystallized ginger, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
3 cups chicken broth (I add more toward end of baking if it looks dry.)
4 t. lime zest
1 T lime juice

Season chicken with spices. Brown in Dutch oven. Transfer to plate.
Add remaining ingred. (except the lime)
Cook and simmer for 30 minutes. (add more broth here, too if it looks dried out)
Press chicken into top. Bake one hour at 375 uncovered.
Before serving sprinkle with lime juice and zest. Garnish with cilantro. This recipe is easily increased to make more servings.