Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Does Membership Matter

I was scrolling through email and deleting the mass emails that I get regularly (sometimes I read them, sometimes I don't) and saw an article title that got my attention: 'Does Membership Matter Anymore?"

I appreciated the article because it resonates with me.  His questions are questions I ask myself regularly. It speaks to so much of how I feel and think about membership in my own church. I wonder, "Why bother?!" when people who never "join" but actively participate already consider themselves members because they have a sense of belonging And others, who never attend, or give, or help, are tied to the church because they grew up there, or their family is still there or they attend once a year and are still considered "members" even though for all intents and purposes they aren't acting members.  Honestly, we have out of town visitors who participate more intentionally. 


There have long been critiques of churches who "padded" their membership roles by allowing anyone and everyone to join the church.  One joke I heard when I first started ministry was "Back in the day, if you golfed with the pastor, you were added as a member."  I definitely think membership should mean more than numbers.  We offer membership classes once or twice a year and invite people to join.  But we don't set strict requirements (after all, how could we when we have people who participate minimally that are considered members?)  And, as I mentioned above, we have others who have never officially joined the church, but attend regularly, give generously, help in active ministry, and consider the church "theirs".  So what's the difference between the one with the title and the one who doesn't?  And what is the reason for advocating for church membership?  The title of member doesn't make us a better disciple. It doesn't make the Bible easier to read.  It doesn't make the marginalized less off-putting.  And it doesn't guarantee relationships that matter or strengthen us. 

So if the title of member isn't what transforms us, what is? And why should we continue to advocate for membership?  Don't worry, I'm not refusing to allow folks to become members. But I do genuinely struggle with what our role is as the church and what difference it makes to be a member or not.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pad Thai


This recipe was originally found on Allrecipes.com.  I used input from several reviews and did some of my own thing and came up with the following recipe.  It was delicious and pretty easy to put together! 

Pad Thai (Modified recipe)



Ingredients:
1 (12 ounce) package rice noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sesame oil (optional)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 green onions, chopped
1-2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp olive oil (plus sesame oil if desired)
4 eggs
3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons fish sauce
5-6 tablespoons white sugar
Tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
3-6 drops hot sauce (optional)
1-2 tbsp peanut butter
1-2 cups bean sprouts (optional)
1-2 cups shredded or thinly sliced carrots
1/4 cup crushed peanuts
1 handful cilantro chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Directions

1) Boil water. Add rice noodles and boil 1 minute. Turn off heat, let sit 5 minutes.  Rinse in cold water. Drain. Set aside.
2)
Heat 2 tbsp oil (and a couple drops of sesame oil if desired) in a wok or large heavy skillet. Saute chicken, with garlic, and green onions until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove, and set aside. Heat additional oil in wok over medium-high heat. Crack eggs into hot oil, scramble, and cook until firm. Stir in chicken, and cook for 5 minutes. Add carrots. Add softened noodles.
3) Mix vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, peanut butter, hot sauce and red pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Mix while cooking, until noodles are tender. Add bean sprouts, and mix for 3 minutes. Add cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Mix and serve hot.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sermon accomplished!

Earlier today I posted about my struggle in writing my sermon on John 19:1-16a. It may not be Working Preacher worthy, but here it is. As I researched and read for this passage, I found the internet world woe-fully silent on this passage (ah the irony) and figured that despite it's failings, at least there would be another something out there to help another pastor somewhere along the line.  

Preaching struggles

Sometimes it's hard to write a sermon. Sometimes I lack time to study. Sometimes I lack the drive. Sometimes I find too many things to do instead of preaching.  And sometimes it's a hard text to work with.  Last night as I worked to put words on paper I found I had writers block. So I started here instead:



I’m having a heck of a time trying to make something come from this scripture (John 19:1-16a). I’ve spent more time with it than I have any text in recent months.  And yet, it’s not giving me anything back.  It’s just not working.  Normally as I start to retell a story it comes to life and in that life is Gospel, sometimes satisfying and sometimes unsettling, but the story comes to life. But this story sucks.  It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t reveal God. It sucks.  At the very least it doesn’t give life.  And maybe somewhere in there there’s hope or good news or something. But it isn’t coming clear to me. 

The manuscript is being revised and finished for worship this morning. Hopefully I will get it posted later today.  May God's Word speak to you today! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My angel

Our kid plays hard pretty much non stop all day. She's all go all the time. And then she sleeps and it's always been one of the most beautiful and precious things to me. The lighting and sheets at the Welk resort made her look just like an angel.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A different type of lenten discipline

Letting My Heart Break: A Lenten Journey http://e-resonance.blogspot.com/2014/03/letting-my-heart-break-lenten-journey.html

Taco Pizza

I've learned that a big part of successful, low-stress cooking is making meals with ingredients that can be used for another meal later in the week (for instance, easy crockpot shredded chicken can be used for enchiladas, tacos, pulled chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken pot pie and more).  So, while I think of leftovers as the same meal again, Cooked ingredients (like chicken or broccoli etc) that can be "repurposed" into a different dish feel like a fresh meal.  

So, tonight we used some "leftovers" and fresh ingredients to make a taco pizza.  

I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, and put the pizza stone in when I turned the oven on. 

I used the second ball of this dough from last night and rolled the crust and put it on a pizza pan.

Then I used 4 packets of mild sauce from Taco Bell (you know they give you a gazillion every time, don't throw them out, save them and use them for recipes like this) as the pizza sauce straight on the dough. It's a thin layer, but too much will make it too spicy. 

Then I added shredded mozzarella (you can use cheddar but it tends to be greasier). (about a cup)

Then I used pre-cooked and seasoned ground beef/taco meat and gave a generous layer on the pizza. (about a cup)

Then I added a layer of cooked pinto beans. (about a half cup).

Then jarred jalapenos on half of the pizza (since our 2 year old doesn't care for the extra spice).

Cook at 450 for 8 minutes. The dough should be firm enough to transfer to a pizza stone if you have one, if not, don't stress it. 

Cook for another 4 minutes and the crust should be browned and crispy and the cheese melted and browned.  

Serve hot topped with chopped cilantro, chopped green onion, avocado, salsa, or sour cream, or all of the above!

With the ingredients pre-cooked and ready to go and the dough already made, it took about 10 minutes to assemble and 12 minutes to cook.  Quick, easy and delicious!

Facebook Fast



This year for Lent, one of the things I've given up is Facebook.  I've found that I use it far too often to distract myself, procrastinate, or just pass the time and thought it would be good to reengage with my world by disengaging with Facebook.  Lent started Wednesday, so that means it's been 4 days without it.  And so far, these are some of the things I've done instead:

Cooked extra meals and tried new recipes
Cleaned the house
Purged extra toys and too-small clothes from Ruth's room
Started blogging again
Worked on a couple of quilting projects
Mended some clothes that have been stacked on a chair for months
Written love notes to my husband
Written another letter in my journal to Ruthie (Last entry was almost a year ago, so it's been awhile)

Emailed, called and texted friends and family

It's only been 4 days but I've definitely reengaged my world and am grateful for all that is getting done and all the things I'm enjoying, even though it's been a very busy week!

Friday, March 7, 2014

BBQ Sauce

I love cooking from scratch, especially when it's relatively easy.  A few months ago I found this BBQ sauce and have fallen in love with it!  Seriously, it's amazing.  And it's not hard at all.  It makes about a quart and can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks. 

It's been great with BBQ ribs and BBQ chicken and pulled pork and tonight we used it for BBQ chicken pizza.  I'd say I used a recipe for the pizza, but really I didn't have enough of the ingredients to say I truly followed the recipe.  So here's my modified recipe. 

I used this dough, which was not the best ever, but was good enough.  I liked the italian seasonings in it and instead of just using salt, I used a garlic salt which added a little extra flavor. 

For the topping, I sauteed about a half cup of diced red onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Added 1 cup chopped cooked chicken and 1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce above.  Once it was heated through I rolled the pizza dough, added the toppings and then added shredded mozzerella on top. 

We cooked it for about 12 minutes at 480 with the last two minutes being on the hot pizza stone.  (It was only the last to minutes because transferring uncooked dough to the hot stone has never worked well for me, so I wait until it's cooked and semi solid before moving it to the hot stone.)

It was awesome and easy and will definitely be making a return appearance. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

FAQ for Ash Wednesday

This year for Ash Wednesday, I will be on the patio of the local Starbucks offering communion, prayer, and the institution of ashes for locals.  I thought a bit of information might be good to have handy and put this together.  It's still in the editing stage, so if you have input, please comment!



What is Lent?

Lent is the period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) that precedes the celebration of Easter. It is often considered a time of preparation and prayer to be receptive to the gift of eternal life that comes through Jesus Christ.

 What is Ash Wednesday?

 Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. This year it falls on March 5th.  Ash Wednesday is marked by services of prayer, repentance, confession, communion, and the imposition of ashes (the sign of the cross made in ashes on the forehead).

Why do people wear ashes?

 Ashes are meant to be a reminder of our mortality and of our sinfulness.  In Genesis, after Adam and Eve sin, God tells them, “from dust you have come and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19).  This passage reminds us that we are mortal and will all eventually die.  Additionally, the sign of the cross made in ashes is a reminder of our need for repentance (turning away from our sin).

Why do some churches do this and others don’t?

 In the scriptures, wearing ashes is a sign of mourning.  There is no specific scripture that tells us to wear ashes to prepare for Easter.  Over the years, the Church has created a variety of rituals that remind us of our relationship with God and help make our faith become more tangible.  The practice of wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday is one of those practices. So, some churches have adopted this ritual as part of their custom, other churches have not.  Wearing ashes does not make your more Christian or more faithful.  It is an act that invites us to prayerful repentance and should simply be regarded as a means of drawing into conversation with God. 

If someone asks me about it, what should I say?

 You can give whatever explanation you are comfortable with. Some simple answers include:

·         The ashes remind me that I am mortal.

·         The ashes remind me that I am sinful.

·         The ashes invite us to repentance.

·         The ashes remind me that from dust I have come and to dust I shall return.

·         The ashes invite me to turn my heart to God in the season of Lent.

What is fasting and why do people do it?

Fasting is traditionally thought of as abstaining from food for a period of time (commonly 24 hours, or missing 2 or 3 meals).  In Lent, Christians often fast from a particular food item (like chocolate, ice cream, or meat).  There is a strong scriptural foundation for fasting.  Fasting from food reminds us that we are not sustained by food alone (Deuteronomy).  It also reminds us of people around the world who daily struggle to have enough food.  If you have physical limitations (like diabetes) it is best to talk with a doctor before participating in an extended fast.  Though fasting is commonly related to food, we can fast from most anything. Some people fast from TV, from Facebook, from unnecessary spending, from self-deprecation, among other activities.  Fasting in this way draws us into greater consciousness about how we spend our time, money, and energy. 

How else do people prepare for Easter?

There are a lot of ways to utilize Lent as a season of preparation for Easter.  Fasting is a common way.  Other people choose to add a devotional practice to their lives.  Some might add a daily prayer time. Others might read a regular devotional. Some churches offer special studies and classes in Lent that you can take advantage of.  Some people might be intentional about ministering to someone during Lent. You could volunteer at a shelter, take a meal to a family that is struggling, offer to give respite time to a caregiver, or donate items to a local clothes closet.  Other people make a special offering during Lent sacrificing an amount of money to share with someone in need.  During the last week of Lent, known as Holy Week, many churches will have additional worship services to mark the last days before Jesus’ crucifixion. You could attend a Maundy Thursday service, a Seder dinner, the Stations of the Cross, or a Good Friday service.

 What is communion?

 Communion is a holy meal of bread and wine (or juice) that is shared within the Christian community. The tradition is based in the Jewish tradition of Passover, which Jesus shared with his 12 disciples the night before he was crucified.  The bread in the Jewish tradition represented the sacrificial lamb.  At dinner with his disciples, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God, and shared it with his disciples saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Take and eat and do this in remembrance of me.”  In essence, Jesus took the old tradition of the Passover sacrificial lamb and gave it new meaning saying “I am the sacrificial lamb.” That means his sacrifice is the one that forgives our sins and sets us right with God.  At the end of the Passover meal, there is a cup of wine that is called the cup of Elijah. It is understood as a cup of hope and promise that God will come again to save the people.  Jesus took that cup at the end of the meal and said, “This is my blood which is poured out for you. It is the cup of the new covenant. Take and drink and do this in remembrance of me.” Again Jesus took an old tradition and put new meaning on it teaching the disciples that his blood is the blood of the sacrificial lamb and that through him a new covenant is made to save and forgive the people.  Christians have continued this tradition of sharing in the bread and wine (some traditions, including ours use juice instead of wine so that everyone can participate in communion) as a reminder of what Jesus does for us so that we might be forgiven and saved.

How can I be forgiven?

God is the one who forgives us of our sins.  To be forgiven you simply need to recognize your sins (the things/actions/habits in your life that block, damage, or impair your relationship with God and with others) and ask God for forgiveness.  As Christians, we believe that forgiveness is freely given to all persons who ask because of the perfect sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.