newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: February, 2015

All I need’s a steamer.

This is a review of a cookbook on the delicious treat TAMALES!

 

I can teach the essay writing process to a twelve year old.  I can teach guitar to a nine year old.  I can do some impressive things.  When it comes to something like cooking, my expertise goes about as far as frozen pizzas, macaroni and cheese, or chocolate chip cookies.  Reading through proprietor of Tamera’s Tamales, Alice Tapp’s cookbook Tamales, I believe that I could make tamales.  With the right ingredients.

If the reader of this review is looking for a simple, comprehensive cookbook that lays out all the important steps of tamale making, from making masa, assembling fillings, wrapping and steaming, or even timelines to follow to make the best batches and how many days out in order to begin assembling everything, this is the book.  Tapp does an exceptional job of assembling tamale recipes for all different meat varieties, and even a nice collection of dessert tamale recipes.  The reader can tell throughout that the author is an expert at tamale making because she includes pieces of insight on how best prepare each tamale variety.

I cannot speak to the ease of following her recipes, as simple as they look.  Our kitchen lacks one of they key ingredients to cooking tamales, a steamer.  It makes it difficult to follow the step, “Transfer to a steamer and steam for 50 minutes” when I do not have one.  But now my wife knows that I am looking for one so that I can fix tamales for her.  Expect a second post on my blog as a follow-up once we own a steamer.

In all, anyone looking for a good, simple tamales cookbook will not be let down by Alice Guadalupe Tapp’s Tamales.

 

This book was provided for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for writing a review over the book.  I was not obligated to post a positive review and the opinions are my own.

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A funny thing happened yesterday.

Yesterday was a stressful day.  Sure it was a Friday.  And yes, school started two hours later because of a weather issue.  And I had a professional development session in which I got to participate.  So for all practical purposes, yesterday was slated to be a pretty relaxing day.

But then a bunch of stuff happened which heightened my stress and had my mind and body in different locations as I walked out the school doors…

As I’m walking towards my car, an Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight, I notice that there is snow-pack and sludge all around the front, passenger side wheel well.  And it’s packed up there pretty good, so I start kicking it.  Hard.

Image result for grey cutlass supreme

 

And as I’m kicking the snow, I look down at my foot and suddenly a few things occur to me:

1.  The model logo on the side of the car reads “Cutlass Ciera,” not “Eighty-Eight.”

2.  My car is more of a blue than a grey.

3.  When I parked my car at school, I did not have an elderly lady sitting in the front seat.

4.  This is not my car; as confirmed by the shocked and confused look of the lady mentioned above as to the actions of the bearded man who is assaulting her family’s vehicle.

 

I immediately stopped what I was doing and walked over to her window and indicated that I would like her to roll it down so I could explain my mishap.  I’m sure the actions, combined with my long beard and the crazed expression on my face which is one of amusement and embarrassment, made her reluctant to do so.  Finally, she did give me the chance to explain and I hurried away as quickly as possible to my car on the other side of the parking lot, hoping and praying that no one watches the security camera videos on Monday morning.

Image result for blue oldsmobile eighty eight

Questions- Part 7 (Or…how the Old Testament reminds me of how flawed I am)

The Bible is not a book, in case you were unaware of this fact.  The Bible is a collection of approximately 66 books including, fable, history, poetry, allegory, wisdom, prophecy, etc.  2 Samuel, one of the books of Old Testament history, primarily focuses on the accounts of the life of Israel’s great king, David.  There comes a point in the life of King David, where his military successes have allowed him to take a break, that he becomes reflective over his life to date.  Thinking back to his long-dead friend Jonathan (whose dad Saul was someone who wanted David dead -long story), he poses this question:

“Is there anyone left from the house of Saul for whom I can show God’s kindness?” – 2 Samuel 9:1

The only person left is the crippled grandson of Saul, whose name is Mephibosheth.  King David summons for Mephibosheth to be brought before him in his royal court.  This action was radical for the fact that the deformed, handicapped, and crippled were viewed as socially unclean and were kept in the outskirts of the settlement.  To call Mephibosheth being invited into the court breaks all sorts of cultural norms.

But it gets better.

Mephibosheth arrives to King David, and even goes as far as to remind him that he is worth no more than a dead dog (2 Samuel 9:8).  He does this because David told him: “I will restore to you all the lands of your grandfather Saul… and you will always eat at my table.”

This is Grace in action.

In daily life, pride has me believing I am a King David; the reality is that my thoughts, words, and actions make me more like a Mephibosheth.  The writer of 1 and 2 Samuel refers to David as “a man after God’s own heart” (2 Samuel 13:14), and this couldn’t be any more obvious than in 2 Samuel 9.

I screw up on a daily basis.

And I am still loved.  By family, friends, God.  And it is the same for you reading this.

Even though we move the life imperfect, like a cripple, we are still called to accept that we are seen by others and Another as so much more than our imperfections.  So as you go through the day-to-day routine, realize that your faults and flaws are nothing more than a reminder of how greatly you are loved.

Questions Part 6- A question that just won’t go away.

Authors like C.S. Lewis and Phillip Yancey have written about it.  National figures have discussed it in the public forum.  There seems to be a question that just won’t go away.  And long before any of them, a young Jewish leader named Gideon asks the the same question:

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”  –Judges 6:13

An observation…

When the Lord shows up to Gideon in this passage, his identity is more or less hidden.  Gideon sees a wealthy traveler passing through who tells Gideon that “The Lord is with him.”  This could be applied as either a blessing commonly used in Israelite culture at the time, or this “traveler” trying to identify himself to Gideon as the Lord; in either case Gideon doesn’t get it and asks this Stranger why Israel is suffering such hardship if the Lord is with them.

A point to ponder

What Gideon does not realize is that in the middle of all the suffering that Israel is enduring, God is present in the midst.  When humanity faces hardship, its first inclination is to accuse God of being gone or apathetic.  What if we stopped blaming and started searching with an expectation that God is not absent, but present in the midst of suffering.  In Tony Kriz’s Aloof, there is a statement made that, “God cannot be hidden.  Jesus cannot be hidden, just misunderstood” (p. 211).

What we want is a God who takes away all the pain.

But we don’t grow and mature during the easy times.  We grow during the hard times.  What if the loving God’s way of helping us grow is to be present with us as we go through those moments where we must grow on our own, instead of trying to take them away?

The end result is that I don’t know if this is kosher theology.  I don’t know if this makes sense; I’m sure someone can find a long list of Bible verses to refute everything in this post.  But what I do know is that this makes sense to me.  For now.

Until next time…

Not hidden, but misunderstood: Tony Kriz’s “Aloof”

 

This is a review of the book Aloof by Tony Kriz.

Product DetailsWhenever I write a review for a book, I do not usually worry over word choice.  A review is a simply that, a review.  But every once in a while, I pick up a book (or a book is placed in my lap) which I suddenly feel paralyzed writing about because it is so good that I am worried that my words will fall short of painting an accurate picture of the book; Tony Kriz’s Aloof happens to be one of those books.

Readers familiar with the works of Tony Kriz will be familiar with his writing style; Tony weaves together a collection of narratives which when put together make the sum parts of a puzzle much larger than any of its pieces.  The completed puzzle of Aloof is a picture of what life looks like when trying to make sense of life with a God who for much of it seems to be either absent or in hiding.

From the beginning of the “Author’s Note” to the last words of the last page, Kriz has a thesis and he does not veer off in different directions.  It can be summed up in a brilliant quote attributed to a man named Randy: “God cannot be hidden.  Jesus cannot be hidden, only misunderstood” (p. 211).  Tony provides the reader with a collection of stories, some which are examples of a radically gracious God breaking into Kriz’s life, and other ones heartbreaking; anyone who has followed Jesus for a length of time can easily relate to these stories.

Throughout the book, Tony is open to the thought that the moments that result in what seems like God’s momentary coming out of hiding could be coincidence, inaccurate to his recollection, etc.  That is what makes this book especially endearing and engaging, the fact that anyone who is/has believed will read this book and have moments where he or she thinks, “Something like that happened to me once.”  It’s possible that people separated by geography could experience the same radical coincidences, but is it possible that it could be Something else?

Aloof is a book of stories which raise questions, which bring on more stories, which bring on more questions.  By the end, though, Tony has figured out a way to provide a sense of closure which still leaves the door wide open (an allusion to my favorite chapter of the whole book, “Buccaneer Maps.”).  Read this book.  Buy it, borrow it, steal it (and then buy whomever you stole it from their own copy), but ultimately read it.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for writing a review on it.  I was not obligated to publish a positive review; the opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Questions- Part 5 (Where we pick up again with Moses)

Life, as much of a cliche as it is to say it, is a journey from point A to B.  Along this path we call “Life,” we are prone to ask questions -questions about who we are, where we’re going, why we’re here, etc.  Numbers 21 tells the story of Moses (see, I told you last week that we’d be following his story a little further) leading the people of Israel towards the land there God eventually plans for them to settle.  But their journey doesn’t go as planned exactly.  And despite the fact that everything is taken care of for them supernaturally during this trip and they are no longer enslaved in a country not their own, the Israelites become disgruntled, outspoken, and defiant.  Their rallying question becomes:

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”  (21:5)

But first, a couple things…

There is this belief held in some circles that an ancient text such as the Bible (especially the Pentateuch) is irrelevant to our post-Enlightenment, 21st Century society.  I disagree, and find that this passage provides an insight to the human condition, which has unchanged over millenia:

1.  Human nature is to become discontent.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad a situation, eventually it is never good enough.  I have a friend who is a teacher (shock, right?).  He would express frustration about our principals always being in his room to speak with students, conduct performance observations, etc.  Then the next year we complained about never seeing our principals.

And that’s the thing about discontentment; sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is stealthy.  Someone who in passing poses a question about how _____ can be better (when it is already great) in reality is reflecting a seed of discontent.

2.  Human nature is to use hyperbole.  To provide context to this section in Numbers: After Moses and the Israelites leave Egypt, Egyptians try to chase them down and end up drowning in the Red Sea.  Because they are in the desert, God provides water and sufficient food to sustain them on the journey.  And still they express that they are being brought out of Egypt to die in the wilderness.  Sound like anyone you know?

And now to address this week’s question, which in case you forgot it is this:

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”

What happens when we become impatient, start making accusations (of God, people, etc.), and decide to run off and do our own thing because the journey does not match up with our own perceptions and expectations for what the trip should be like?

Or…

What happens when we feel that things have become unfair and we decide to strike out on our own because no one can provide us with the answers we want?

If we use the Israelites as our example, the hardships are unavoidable.  They have to go through the difficulty of wilderness in order to get to what is waiting on the other side.  Seeing this, God doesn’t remove the wilderness from their path, but he tries to provide creature comforts to make the journey more bearable.

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them… (21:6)

So then, seemingly out of nowhere, because Israel has questioned God and his servant Moses, poisonous snakes show up.  While it is possible that the snakes were a disciplinary action, I don’t believe God is to blame for the snakes showing up for four reasons:

1.  There are plenty of examples of others in the Bible who challenge God who do not get bitten by snakes: Jacob (Genesis 32), Elijah (1 Kings 19), Job (whole book…), Jonah (Jonah 4), etc.

2.  The culture, not just of Abrahamic bedouins, but of all peoples in those regions, was to attribute everything that happened to some deity.  Your crops did well= God.  Your crops didn’t do well= God.  You found an extra coin in your pouch= God.  You stubbed your toe on a rock accidentally= God.

3.  It is absolutely normal to stumble upon a large den of snakes in the desert.

4.  God does what he has done the whole journey so far and tried to relieve some of the burden for the Israelites.  If stumbling upon a snake den was part of the trip, God was simply following his established pattern and the writer after the fact tried to make sense of what happened.

Next week’s installment in the “Questions” series will focus on Gideon and a question everyone has asked at one point or another.

Evil as reason for belief.

Let me start off by acknowledging that religion has been the cause of some of the greatest evil imaginable: oppressive government systems, (attempted) genocides, slavery, segregations, abuses, etc.  Because of this truth, many have sought to do away with religion or use it as the perfect reason to disprove the existence of God.

But the reality is that the atrocities listed above only support the idea of a good, eternal Love we refer to as God.  The God testified to in the life of Jesus is one of love.  In the Bible, it is declared that, “Religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).  1 John 1:5 states that, “God is light and in him there is no darkness.”

Darkness is defined as a lack of light.  Evil can be defined as a lack of the presence of God’s influence of love and Grace on an individual’s life and actions.  Whether one believes that life is “God vs. the devil,” or that it is simply a good, loving God vs. man’s natural instincts, evil committed by man -no matter its purpose- is evidence of a lack of the influence of God.

The opposing thought to the above notion is that humanity is inherently good; it is natural causes that make a person decide to commit evil.  To further it, the idea of a God influencing the life of a person towards good is rubbish because people do not accept the idea of God and they do good things every day.  I agree; there are plenty of people who do good without formally accepting or believing in the idea of a God.  But one does not have to belief in God for his Grace to impact their lives.  Grace is a gift offered to everyone and is meant to draw and lead people.  If evil was something that was mainly a result of environment, then specific types of evil would be isolated to small geographical locales vs. all over the globe.  A simple Google search of the term “sexual abuse” yields 50.6 million search results providing information about its occurrence in many places and under many contexts.

To sum it up: the evil that man does exhibits the reality of God by demonstrating his lack of influence in a situation.  This is one of the chief reasons I believe that there is a God, no matter how actively involved he may or may not be in daily life.  Some would argue that this is a very weak argument, not well presented, and full of logical flaws.  And I contend that given the ability to sit down in conversation to explain myself this would probably make more sense.  However, I refuse to believe that…

-The Holocaust

-The Cambodian Genocide

-The (attempted) Armenian Genocide

-The conflicts across the African continent

-Child starvation

-Sexual assault and abuse (in all its forms)

-Abortion

-Rampant materialism

-All other forms of violence against self and others

-People like the Koch brothers spending more than $980 million on the upcoming presidential election

Insert your own reason(s) here

…happened because of a genetic permutation, a natural disposition, or some other natural/environmental factor.