Hospitality Should Not Be Showmanship

I love Alton Brown.

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Awesome October – Eat Down the Pantry

October and April are special months. They are the months I try to spend less money. This idea started several years ago when I realized that these are the two months in Tennessee when it is easiest to turn of the central heat/air in my home. I usually turn it off and refuse to turn it back on until the month is over.

In April, you might get a bit hot near the end of the month. If you are one of my children, I’ll tell you to go lie under a ceiling fan turned on high.

In October, you may be a bit chilly near the end of the month, in which case I will warn you if you are coming over for a visit, “Bring a sweatshirt! My house is cold.” Actually, that is a fair warning if you are coming to my house any time it is cold outside. 🙂

Anyway, because our HVAC is electric, this abstinence from central heat/air in April and October mean that there is a bit of surplus in our budget those months. Which is lovely. So rarely is there a *surplus*, right?

I like to “buy ahead” and buy non-perishable and freeze-able food when it is on sale. I also have a large pantry/freezer and don’t like to have to run to the store if I get a hankering for a certain meal. The downside to my large pantry and second freezer–combined with my buying ahead–is that if I don’t go through them a couple of times a year, then food starts going past its “best by” date.

In an effort to increase the surplus in the budget in April and October, I use those months to Eat Down the Pantry. I go through it and take out the items that are near expiration (or even slightly past, because that’s how I roll) and put those either on one shelf or in a box. I try to eat ALL of these foods in April or October. I can use other items from the pantry, but I try to make sure all of the culled items are consumed.

I also buy ONLY perishable items at the grocery, and I try to keep those to a minimum. For meats, we Eat Down the Freezer in April and October. I will buy basic produce, milk, butter, and cheap meats in April and October, but I try not to give in to the desire to buy non-essentials.

It can make for some interesting combinations, but with a little planning it can be fun. This is when you *finally* make that cookie-in-a-jar mix you got for Christmas, use up that specialty hot chocolate someone gave you, thaw that soup you froze thinking you’d eat it in a couple of weeks, or eat that pouch of Spanish Rice that you can’t figure out who bought and why it’s there.

In preparation for Awesome October, I went through my pantry a few weeks ago. There really wasn’t much. Our eating habits have changed (for the better), so I don’t buy many canned soups or pouch-meals . . . which means that the pantry is in better shape.

I’m still determined to buy only produce, milk, butter, and a few meats to round-out our meals this month.

Want to join me? Try it. It’s fun.

Tonight we are having leftover chili and cheese on top of baked potatoes.

***Editing to Add: I have chickens, so I don’t buy eggs at the store. Most of you will have to add eggs to your purchase list for the month.***

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God LIKES us.

Some friends and I have been discussing how radical the idea of God liking us is.

We’ve been told all our Christian lives that God LOVES us, but somehow many of us have never been told that he LIKES us, too.

God doesn’t “just” love you, God LIKES you!

He delights in you.

God LIKES me. He delights in me.

I still have a voice within me that wants to add things to that. A voice that wants to clarify that statement so that you don’t think that I’m one of those crazy antinomians. But I’m going to stop right there. No clarification. No conditions. God loves us AND likes us.

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What if I referred to God as “she”?

No. Really. What would be your gut reaction to that?

My gut reaction the first time I pondered a sentence like, “God loves you, she wants relationship with you” was that it seems . . . wrong. When I examined the wrong, I decided that the feeling deep-down was that it seemed disrespectful to God.

Which was, of course, a revelation to me.

I know that God is neither male nor female; WE were created in God’s image.

But if it feels disrespectful to refer to God using a feminine pronoun, I think it is safe to say that that reveals the (sometimes) hidden feeling within (some) churches that women are inferior.

Language is a funny thing. It represents AND creates. The fact that English doesn’t have a human-yet-gender-neutral pronoun means that we have to choose a gender when we refer to God. So we chose “he” based on the Father imagery in the Bible. I’m honestly fine with that.

However, the feelings revealed by even considering God using feminine pronouns should give us pause if we think that both genders are equally respected within the church.

Editing to add:

How we feel about ideas tells us things about ourselves and our communities. If the idea of using a feminine pronoun for God doesn’t feel disrespectful to you, then I’m actually very happy that you aren’t carrying around the same baggage I am about gender and the church. However, no doubt the idea makes you feel something, and that something tells you something about yourself and your faith community. Maybe it is something that you are already aware of, but maybe it is something new (as it was for me).

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Subordinates and Emotions

Have you noticed that a certain stripe of Christianity is uncomfortable with feelings? More precisely: it is uncomfortable with subordinates feeling anything except happiness… and since women and children are always subordinates, they especially are out-of-luck.

That may be overstated. Subordinates may HAVE emotions besides happiness, they just aren’t allowed to EXPRESS them. Now, most will say that they allow expression, but if you hang out with them very long you’ll soon see that there are certain rules and rituals subordinates must follow when expressing emotions (and all of these rules and rituals are designed to dampen the emotion). Raw emotion is never allowed.

Why is this?

I have theories, and none of them are complimentary to those in the positions of power. I know that when I’m the authority figure, that my desire to shut-down others’ “big feelings” is rooted in selfishness and self-centeredness. I don’t want to have to stop MY “important” work or interrupt MY leisure time to deal with their feelings. Their big feelings are messing up MY day. They should just suck it up and be quiet! (It’s really embarrassing to admit to this kind of knee-jerk entitlement.)

One of my related theories of why raw emotion is not allowed is that emotion is considered feminine and/or childish. And since women and children are always in subordinate positions in conservative Christian culture, well… being emotional is acting like a subordinate. So males in institutions and congregations who want to one day be considered for positions of authority must also squelch their feelings — because expressing feelings might be remembered and might permanently place you in the subordinate category.

Feelings are messy. Allowing “subordinates” to express feelings is an act of love and kindness and an acknowledgment of relationship. (I placed subordinates in quotes because I disagree with the hierarchy found within conservative/fundamental Christianity. I do not think that the way it is understood and applied is Biblical, but that’s a post for another day.)

This topic really applies to me personally in my parenting — in how I treat my children when they are feeling anything besides happy. I have a tween girl, and I’m getting MANY opportunities to examine how I handle the feelings that aren’t shiny-happy.

Long ago I rejected the the parenting “experts” within conservative/fundamental Christianity that told me that happy is the only acceptable emotion. I pray churches and para-church organizations will reject this notion as well.

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Legislation and Whitewashed Tombs

I’ve been pondering this issue for quite some time, but an exchange on Facebook this morning prompted me to finally do some thinking-through-blogging on this topic.

Why do some Christians work so desperately to promote and enact laws that mandate “Christian behavior” for the entire country? What purpose does this serve?

Doing the “right things” or acting the “right way” does not save people. Christ saves people. Once we are saved, then we begin to do the right things and act the right way as part of our gratitude for our salvation and worship of our holy God. True obedience follows salvation. If someone obeys all of God’s laws but doesn’t know Christ, he is still unsaved. Being a “good person” may make the lives of those around you better, but it doesn’t save you.

It seems to me that legislating Christian Behavior is not at all something that Christians should put effort toward. It might make our country look pretty, but it would still be just a white-washed tomb. . . pretty on the outside and rotting decay on the inside. Things looking pretty can obscure the need for salvation; that should be the last thing that Christians want.

So, my first question is:

WHY DO SOME CHRISTIANS WANT TO LEGISLATE CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR FOR EVERYONE?

The second part of this topic relates to how Christians view their children, and therefore what they require of their children. I’ll get to that in another blog entry.

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Mental Health Sunday, Ministry of Reality Monday, Aug 2, 2010

I didn’t attend church yesterday.

I wasn’t ill. The kids weren’t ill. AND, we missed last week because we were vacationing at the beach. So, I really should have gone.

But I just couldn’t. I was too tired. Tired of being with people… I love my family, and the vacation was wonderful, but a beach house with 10 people is not something an introvert can do without it taking its toll. So this introvert stayed home with the four-month-old baby while my husband took the girls. There was a potluck after church, which was honestly another big reason why I couldn’t make myself go to church. If I went I’d have to cook a dessert and a side dish. We traveled 9 hours on Saturday. We arrived home around 5pm, and then we had to go over to my in-law’s to pick up the dog and the butterflies. I wasn’t up to cooking for a potluck.

I believe that regular worship with other believers is important to my spiritual state, but yesterday I didn’t have it in me. I took a mental-health day, which is not something my denomination would generally recognize. Oh well. Sometimes you have to be nice to yourself, even when others don’t understand.

I spent years on the over-achieving, push-myself treadmill of life… I’m too old (and perhaps too wise?) to do that anymore. So. I stayed home from church yesterday.

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