Meatless Monday – Berry Baked Oatmeal

Apparently today is National Strawberry Day, and who among us doesn’t love strawberries? I started my day with a green smoothie–spinach, pineapple, strawberries, and ginger, blended with water–and plan to end it with a fresh spinach and strawberry salad with balsamic vinaigrette served alongside leek and potato soup.

I discovered this recipe in something of a panic: I had to bring something to a women’s group gathering. I already had something store-bought to share and wanted something homemade to go with it. I didn’t want to make another trip to the store, so what–oh what?–could I make with on-hand ingredients?

Have I mentioned UC Davis Integrative Medicine? They promote a plant-based diet as the number one way to successfully prevent, halt or reverse serious health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They post current nutrition research and lots of delicious recipes. Really, I’ve tried a bunch of their recipes and feel A-OK recommending them as a reliable site for yummy goodness.

I’d just received an email with their Top 10 breakfasts and Berry Baked Oatmeal was on the list. I modified it (of course I did), mostly because I needed to feed more than two. The girls chowed down the whole dish (one said, “I thought it was just another fruit crisp but it’s more than that!”) so I made it again last night as dessert to serve friends. Tween refused to go to bed before he’d had two helpings.

To be honest, I didn’t use strawberries. I used frozen mixed berries–blueberries, raspberries and blackberries–but absolutely you could use strawberries, especially if you cut them into smaller bites. I also started with frozen bananas, microwaved for 30 seconds at a time until I could easily mash them. Why? Because my kids are super-picky about bananas and will only eat them just-turned-yellow (maybe still slightly green). When they get spots I peel them, cut them in half, and toss them in a ziplock in the freezer to use in smoothies.

And I give you permission right now to customize, as I did. If you want strawberries, go for it. Only one kind of berry, that’s fine, or add some chopped apples for extra crunch. Don’t like craisins? Use raisins instead, or another dried fruit–chopped dried apricots, or dates, or a combo. Add some toasted unsweetened coconut. Use a different sweetener or none at all. You can sub different nuts or leave them out, too; I made an individual ramekin-portion for a nut-free friend. Make it your own, but make it!berry-baked-oatmeal

Berry Baked Oatmeal
Serves 6-8

2 heaping cups of berries, fresh or frozen
1 orange, cut in half
1 Tbsp fresh-grated ginger
1 tsp cinnamon, divided use
3-4 ripe bananas
½ c craisins (or other dried fruit)
½ c chopped walnuts (optional)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 c gluten-free rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350. Layer the bottom of a 2-qt baking dish with berries. Squeeze juice of half the orange over. Sprinkle with grated ginger and ½ tsp cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mash bananas. Add craisins, nuts, vanilla, maple syrup and stir. Add ½ tsp cinnamon, juice of remaining half of the orange, and oats; stir to combine. Top berries with oatmeal mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Power Down & Play

“Wow, you really need to get away!” said Co-worker as she realized I had missed something squarely in my easy-peasy realm of responsibility.

I worked frenetically up until fifteen minutes before our car drove away. While I did pull out my phone a few times on the drive, I also made a concerted effort not to talk work with Guy–not to plan, discuss, vent. I put work on a back shelf with fun straight ahead.

About fifteen minutes before we arrived, we lost cell reception. On a different carrier, the friends we were with had reception and those who might need to knew how to reach them. I tucked my phone in my purse and didn’t reach for it again until we headed home. It took the whole homeward drive and then some to power back up.

I’d forgotten how blissful it feels to be completely untethered. 48 hours without calls, texts, email, or media.

Without distraction we talked and talked until the clock announced a new day. We relished the beauty of a frozen lake, of snow flakes melting on our cheeks, of a bald eagle flying overhead. We threw snowballs to a dog happy to catch them in her mouth. We drank thick, sweet hot chocolate and nibbled our way from one snack to another. We read and shared stories. We laughed through old movies. We lit candles and donned headlamps when the power went out. We played games, we learned new games, and we discovered who’s good at what kind of thinking. We slipped into satisfying naps and slept deeply through the night.pinecrest-grp

We woke late. We hiked, and sank, in deep snow. We squeaked in laughter each time a foot broke through ice and we landed on our knees (at least I did!). We enjoyed time together, and we enjoyed every minute.

Before we left home I didn’t know, couldn’t recognize, how much I needed this get-away. In the humdrum of everyday life, we forget that our bodies and souls need to play. We need rest daily–sleep, and a little something fun, like exercise or reading or creativity of whatever sort refuels us. We also need rest seasonally–a quick get-away, like the one we enjoyed this weekend, or something longer, a true vacation.

If we can’t get away, then we at least need to unplug. And when we do get away, we definitely ought to unplug. Funny, isn’t it?, that machines need to plug in for power while human beings find restoration by unplugging from the very devices we expect to make our lives easier.pinecrest

Meatless Monday – Cooking with Teen

Last week Teen’s senior class had a fundraiser with a local pizza place. They make a delicious deep dish spinach and mushroom pizza. And if you like, they’ll make it with whole wheat crust and vegan cheese. Yum!patxis-pizza

While I had been anticipating leftovers for dinner all day long, I returned home to find that Teen had shared my vegan pizza with his friends. My only consolation is that they ate it–and liked it! If they’d spit it out in disgust, well, then I would have been really upset.

Consequentially, Teen needed to prepare dinner for the family. He likes to cook, so this wasn’t punishment, just unusual.

He chose the menu. He invited (with permission) a cute girl to join us. I knew I’d need to play a supporting role in this endeavor, but I let him take the lead. All in the name of experience.

Teen brain + ADHD + limited experience = lots of room for learning!

He left prep for half-hour before we were supposed to eat. Dinner necessarily moved back by more than an hour.
He forgot to check for ingredients. He had to make a grocery run mid-process.
He couldn’t find ingredients in the store. He asked for help.

Now I’m thinking we need to do this more often. The meal turned out great–healthy, easy, delicious. The time together even better. The learning? Invaluable. Of course we have cooked together many times before but now, as we’re both increasingly aware that college is coming, we need to maximize both togetherness and tools for healthy eating.

He made Quinoa & Black Bean Salad (cute girl requested a quinoa salad). To round out the meal, I suggested he also make Tomato, Black Bean & Corn Soup. Because (sadly) TJ’s boxed Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup, the base for aforementioned soup, contains milk and I’m off dairy, I also made Spicy Black Bean Soup.

While he shoveled tortilla chips with green salsa into his mouth, while I sipped chardonnay, we talked and laughed. He learned that zesting a lime before juicing adds so much yum to a vinaigrette. He already knew to roll the lime before cutting to extract all its juicy goodness. He learned to consider in advance which pots and pans will be necessary to cook which dishes. He learned to judge amounts by eyeing them, and that his shakes with dried spices tend to be more generous than mine. He learned to go slowly with spices, to taste test and adjust as necessary.

Healthy meal. Time well-spent. Cute girl impressed. An all-around good evening!

On the Go

To my senior quote in my high school yearbook I included Matthew 28:20–“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” With life as I knew it coming to an end and a future on the horizon I could barely imagine, I relished the comfort that Jesus would always be with me. No matter what happened, no matter the highs or lows of circumstance, I would never be alone.

Fast forward six years to flowers from a friend on the occasion of my being hired for my first paid ministry gig. The card read: “Go and make disciples!” I had prayed so long and hard for this professional opportunity that her words, well-chosen from Matthew 28:19, felt like confirmation: my always-present God would be with me as I shared the good news of His great love with others.

Fast forward another four or so years: Guy and I were married, both working at the same church, both attending seminary part-time. We were also pregnant. During the last months of pregnancy, we were enrolled in a Leadership class. [Funny side note: I wrote the end notes for my final paper while in labor. Sadly but not surprisingly, I had to rewrite them after Teen was born].

Professor wrote a note on that final paper, wondering why I hadn’t reflected more on parenting as leadership. He had taught about it but, as much as that baby-in-belly animated my body and imagination, I couldn’t yet wrap my brain around how much leadership goes into the significant and mundane acts of parenting.hands-1920854_1920

Eighteen years later, I’d like to hit Rewind rather than Fast Forward. While some days felt oh-so-loooong, and I am generally grateful to be done with certain seasons, overall this parenting gig might have been on Fast Forward x4. Now Teen is a high school senior, actively preparing for his own can’t-even-imagine-it future.

As I listened to this morning’s sermon on Matthew 28:16-20, as I pondered the distinction between making Christian converts and making disciples of Christ, I recalled that Leadership class. As a parent, I wasn’t aiming at my kids’ one-time decisions; I hope, instead, that I modeled, taught, and led them into a lifestyle of putting God first; loving Jesus with all my heart, soul, and strength; asking not just what I want but what God wants for me, for us.

So much of parenting happens on the go: in the car, between activities, running errands. Jesus knew that, of course, which is why “Go and make disciples” might be translated, “As you are going, make disciples.” Which means I should always be prepared to give a good and gentle answer to anyone who asks about my faith. To anyone, but especially my children.

As we are going to school. As we are walking the dog. As we are carpooling. As we are on the sidelines at the game. As we are doing homework. As we are making and eating dinner. As we are doing chores. As we are going to church, yes, but in all life’s other moments as well.

I never intended to raise young Christian converts, products of a one-time decision. Instead, I intended to make disciples, young men whose decisions over time will show that they have become life-long followers of Jesus Christ.

Come & See – Matthew 28:16-20

Connect
Reflect on a significant lesson you learned from a teacher/mentor. What makes that lesson stand out?

Study
Read Matthew 28:16-20.
Why do you think Matthew tells us that some worshiped Jesus while others doubted (v. 17)?
Why does it matter that Jesus has authority in heaven and earth (v. 18)?
According to vv. 19-20, what does it mean to “make disciples”?
Why does Jesus reassure His disciples of His ongoing presence with them (v. 20)?

Live
Who was instrumental in your growth as a disciple?
How have you discipled others?
What is the difference between making Christian converts and making disciples of Christ?
What might help those who doubt take steps toward Jesus? What could get in their way?
In an average week, who might you meet in the places you go that God might want you to disciple? What could that look like?
What does this passage communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that God will direct you to people and opportunities to share His love.

Re:Create • Sanctified Imagination

Pictures of cute kittens and babies aside, one of the more useful benefits of social media is connecting with people you haven’t seen in a while. That’s exactly what happened when, a few years ago, I got a message from a friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He had stumbled across our church website, then found my picture, and reached out. Since then I have been grateful to be back in touch, especially through his posts on Facebook and his blog. Quite a thoughtful writer, I am thrilled to have him share on the blog today. We would all do well to consider how the people in our lives shape the stories we read, tell, and live.

re:create recess #2: Randy Ehle

Re:Create
One of the greatest truths of our humanity is that we are created in God’s image. And being created in the image of the Creator God—the creative God—means we, too, are creative. Creation came into being when God spoke. He has revealed himself for all history through his Word, written. His redeeming Son, Jesus, is called The Word. And so my image-of-God creativity is expressed in words.

Re:New
I grew up in the church, so I knew all the stories, all the books, all the characters. I knew about daring to be a Daniel and being patient like Job (though frankly, Job never seemed all that patient to me once I really read him). I knew the twelve disciples and most of the twelve sons of Jacob. I knew Moses and Joseph, David and Jonathan, Samson and Delilah. I’m sure I had the full set of Little Golden Books, including Jonah’s whale and Jericho’s tumbling walls.

But by the time I’d become a pastor, the stories had become merely that: stories. Even with more translations at my fingertips than Legion’s demons, I could scarcely read my Bible without already knowing what comes next. Familiarity had bred, if not contempt, at least complacency. Then I met Carolyn.

Carolyn volunteered in our church office. Warm, chatty, deeply caring, and ever wanting to learn more about Jesus, Carolyn and I had long conversations about life, the Bible, and whether the God of the Old Testament changed in the New. I learned as much from Carolyn’s questions as she did from any of my seminary-trained insights. I also learned something about disabilities. You see, Carolyn had been in a wheelchair for a quarter century, the result of a freak accident in which her mail jeep overturned, pinning her under a mound of first-class letters, junk mail, and packages.

Carolyn's baptism in the American River

Carolyn’s baptism in the American River

As I got to know Carolyn, I also met anew some men and women I’d been reading about since childhood: the blind men, lepers, and paralytics whose lives intersected with, and were changed by, Jesus. As I heard more of Carolyn’s story—not just the accident, but everyday life with a lower spine injury—I began to wonder about the lives of those biblical men and women.

Re:Write
Though I’ve enjoyed writing since my school days, for most of my life I wrote only for myself. Even when I began writing a blog, I did little to solicit readers. Writing was an outlet for the thoughts and ideas circulating in my head, but I never felt I had much to add to the world’s conversations. Any conversation. Meeting Carolyn began to change that, and led me to think about another paralytic:

His friends created the world’s first skylight, lowered his bed through the hole, and hoped beyond hope they wouldn’t have to lift him out the same way. Waving the swirling dust away from his face, the itinerant healer in the room below spoke … not words of healing, but of conviction!

“Your sins are forgiven.”

We who are familiar readers of the text barely skip a beat here. We rush right on by, scarcely noticing the crowd’s incredulity. We want to get to the good stuff, the miracles, the healing. We know what comes next and love to watch Jesus stick it to the self-righteous religious folks … who, of course, are not we. Because of Carolyn, I read the words with new eyes; like a blind man given new sight, I began to see beyond the words on the page.

The over-crowded room had only packed tighter with the invasion of the horizontal alien from above. The dust and dirt of the impromptu renovation choked throats while the brief cooling from the escaping air was replaced with the heat of the noonday sun now streaming onto their heads.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

What?!? What in the world does that mean?

Neither the hushed crowd nor the prone man could believe what they’d heard. They were equally incredulous, but for vastly different reasons: the crowd, because of the healer’s audacity to think he had the right to forgive sins; the paralytic, because of the audacity to think he—crippled as he was—had even the slightest capacity to sin.

If we were filming in 21st century style, we might pause the action here and focus the camera on the man’s reclined face. He would speak an aside, directly to the audience, revealing his inner thoughts and feelings. Having no such cinematic tools at our disposal, however, we are left to our imaginations – our sanctified imaginations. It’s a term my mom uses often to encourage deep, extra-biblical thinking about feelings, thoughts, and actions the Bible doesn’t tell us. And so I write—or rather, rewrite—from that sanctified imagination.

In recounting the story of the paralytic, the gospel writers are concerned with Jesus’ divine authority. Saying “your sins are forgiven” is easy and shows no visible effect; but causing a known cripple to walk is no cheap trick. In fact, the evangelists tell us, this is more about confirming Jesus’ authority to forgive than about demonstrating mercy.

There’s more to the story; more to the story that’s written, and more to the story that’s not written. Maybe my re:creation—my sanctified imagination—will open others’ eyes to the Creator. Maybe my words will open others’ ears to the Word whose Word is Life. Maybe I have something to add to the conversation, after all.

rehle-bio

 

Randy Ehle is a husband and father, coach and teacher, writer and speaker. He was—and longs again to be—a pastor. He’s lived in Canada, Germany, England, and throughout the United States; and has traveled on four of the seven continents. A self-described “rushed contemplative,” Randy has known life and death, gain and loss, wisdom and foolishness. He uses writing as a creative outlet, spiritual inspiration, and personal challenge for his readers. Find more of Randy’s thoughts at www.randehle.com.

What’s Gonna Work?

One of Teen’s favorite preschool TV shows was the Nick Jr show, Wonder Pets. A turtle, a guinea pig, and a duckling, all preschool classroom pets, spent their after hours working together to save animals in trouble. They sang: “What’s gonna work? Teamwork! What’s gonna work? Teamwork!”wonder_pets

That became a silly motivational mantra in our house, especially around activity clean-up time. We would sing, and work together, and get the job done. Though I don’t sing it to my kids anymore (they’re grateful) the jingle runs through my head a little too often.

It’s true, though, right? Teamwork works. Or at least it should. When we work together well, the job gets done better and faster than if we muscle through alone.

My kids play rugby, and one of the things I like about the game is that there is a place on the team for every body. Literally, bodies of all shapes and sizes, so long as they have the desire to play. In middle school, Teen was tall and hefty, a Jolly Green Giant on the pitch; at the other extreme, one of his buddies was Mighty Mouse, small and fast. Teen played the line while Buddy would snatch the ball and run like crazy. The difference in their body types worked to their advantage: they both had a position to play, and play well, benefiting the whole team.rugby

I’ve never played on a sports team, but I’ve been on plenty of teams: volunteer teams, mission teams, school and work project teams. The most successful teams recognize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, positioning each person to the best use of their gifts while someone else shores up their weaknesses. And then those successful teams get out of each other’s way to let each person–and the team as a whole–do their part and shine.

Church ought to be the ultimate team. We’ve all been created and gifted by God. He assembles us in local congregations so that together we can do the work He has planned for us.

Many times it works beautifully–musicians make music, preachers preach, ushers ush, deacons deak, teachers teach, servants serve, etc. All too often, though, instead of dancing together we step on each other’s toes. We think too highly of ourselves and forcefully inform others how to play their positions. Rather than singing along, we insist the musicians are singing the wrong song, or too loudly, or too poorly. Rather than listening well and applying truth, everyone has an opinion on the sermon. Every week.

And then there are those who think they don’t have a gift, or they’re too busy to use it, or they just don’t know what to do so they do nothing. And still others who make themselves (and everyone else) miserable as they force themselves into position A when their gift is truly B or C. The cliche is also true: 20% of the people do 80% of the work while 80% of the people do…what?

The Church may be a broken organization filled with broken people but it is still God’s Church created by God to do God’s work. It’s the best thing we’ve got and it needs us. We need each other. What’s gonna work? Teamwork!

Come & See – Romans 12:1-8

Connect
What’s your favorite team and what do you like about them?

Study
Read Romans 12:1-8.
What does it look like to offer your body as a living sacrifice (v1)?
How can your mind be renewed (v2)?
Explain the connection between body and mind in vv. 1-2. Why are both essential to a life of faith?
Why do you think Paul admonishes believers not to think too highly of ourselves (v3)?
Compare Romans 12:1-8 to 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. One emphasizes, “We are one, but different,” while the other emphasizes, “We are different, but one.” Why are both messages important?

Live
Do you know your spiritual gifts? If so, how are you using them?
In what ways is Church like a team? What position do you play?
What good (or bad) examples of teamwork have you participated in or witnessed in the Church?
In our individualistic society, it may be unpopular to say that we “belong” to each other (v5), especially within an organization as complex as church. How would you explain that to someone?
What does this passage communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that God will show you how to use your gifts for His Kingdom.
If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, take this test to help you find your position on the team.

An Uncommon Commitment

The month, and again, the week before he began 6th grade and a new school (Aug 2015), I asked Tween when we could get his hair cut. The first time, he shrugged, very pre-teen of him. The second time he responded, “I’m not. I already put it out on Instagram that I’m growing my hair to donate to charity.”

To which I replied, “First, you have an Instagram account? And secondly, that’s not something you thought you should talk over with your parents first?”

[In my defense, he is my second child and WAY more tech-savvy than anyone else in our home…]

I spent about a week trying to talk him out of it. New school. New teachers and friends. First impressions. Long hair can be a pain. Kids can be mean. It could be a bigger commitment than he understood. I suggested he wait until he’s 16 and donate blood–no necessary prep time.

He held his ground. He said, “Mom, there are kids who can’t grow hair. I can. I’ve got great hair. And I’m 11! I don’t want to wait until I’m 16 to do something good for others!”

Why on earth was I trying to talk my kid out of being a good guy with a generous heart?

He has fabulous hair, thick with a few curls and slight waves, a blonde-strawberry color that cannot be produced from a bottle (I’ve long said that if a colorist tried to do my hair his color, I’d end up pink). Some child/ren will be blessed with a wig made from his fantastic goldilocks.

I gave in, and together we researched different organizations. We ruled out the Big One (you know, the one you assume receives all hair donations), because they charge patients for wigs. We pulled up six or eight different tabs and I left him to do his own reading and research. This was his project and he needed to choose the organization that tugged on his heart. I warned him, though, that most organizations won’t take processed hair and, because of my blonde highlights, I would likely not be able to join in his efforts…

Things mamas don’t expect to do with tween-age sons: invest in good conditioners and better brushes; loan him your hair ties and buy him not-too-feminine head bands. Also, blow dry his thick mane while you simmer with jealousy. And grow out your own hair because doing it himself is not enough–he wants to mount a campaign of hair donation.

We left Tween in front of the computer while we went to the Farmers’ Market. We hadn’t yet parked when he called: “MOM, I found it! Children with Hair Loss will take eight inches, not ten, and they’ll take processed hair in good condition! You can do it with me!!!”

Ugh, his sweet enthusiasm! Donating my oh-so-fine hair had never been on my bucket list. I tolerate this hair; will someone else want it? I have bad dreams that I’ll receive a rejection letter… And yet, all parents recognize that our kids take us in directions we’d never expected, so my hair is now longer than it has been in 20 years, since pre-kid days.

Having heard about Tween’s campaign, two 20-somethings, a former babysitter and her friend, have donated hair. Two girls at church, one in middle school and another in high school, have donated hair. A mom of two littles cut off her long black locks and she, too, will send her hair to Children with Hair Loss. And then us: Tween and me. He went first. I have another month.

Three weeks ago Guy took Tween to his barber; Guy needed a cut, Tween needed a measure. And to make sure Guy’s barber was down with the ponytail/donation method. Far beyond the necessary eight inches, Tween was closer to twelve.q-hair-1

At which point he panicked. His whole middle school identity has been wrapped up in being the long-haired boy. He got major social cred with the girls as soon as his hair was long enough to braid–and he let them (smooth move, Kid!). It took a while to wrap his brain around a looming new identity…

Tween’s last haircut was just before his 11th birthday, early May 2015. At that point we had no idea this commitment would appear on our horizon, so honestly, his haircut could have been end-April 2015–when didn’t seem to matter as much as that it happened. Today, at least 21 months later, he got a hair cut.

q-hair-2q-hair-3q-hair-5

I am so proud of this generous kid. Of his sweet heart. Of his uncommon commitment. I can’t take credit. He is his own amazing person. I’m just grateful for getting to swing in his orbit, for becoming a better person because of his example to me.