Sunday, May 31, 2009

Y is for Yum!

I kind of feel like Dear Abby! A friend sent me an e-mail this afternoon saying that she heard that I had "done some research" in the area of meatball subs and was wondering if I "might be willing to lend [my] expertise". How very exciting! She concluded by asking, "Do good meatballs thrown on a yummy bun make a meatball sandwich, or is there some secret I need to know?" To which I answer "kind of" and "sort of". She certainly has one of the biggest factors down: the meatballs must be good. Places like Subway and Quizno's need to get that memo and stop trying to cover up the taste of their meatballs! I have actually done a good bit of "research" into this topic and must conclude that if there is a meatball sub to equal the former Farro's Little Italy then I sure have not met it yet!

Here are the tips I ended up sharing with my friend:

1) Don't just have meat in your meat balls. Throw in some Italian seasonings and let those delightful flavors cook into the little round ball of goodness.

2) Sauce. Either use your favorite store bought sauce or make it yourself. In a perfect meatball sub world the flavor from the meatballs and the flavor of the sauce will balance out. Most places like Subway try to throw on a bunch of sauce to cover the taste of their meatballs. So if it's good tasting sauce you really won't need a lot which may help the liking of the whole thing!

3) I'm not a big fan of crunchy bread for meatball subs. The sauce tends to get everywhere. If it's a little bit on the softer side—at least on the inside—then the bread can more easily soak up any sauce that may want to spill out. There's that fine line of too much sauce equalling soggy bread, but if you follow tips 1 and 2 you're less likely to get soggy bread because you won't need to dowse the sub in sauce. That's not to say a good dowsing isn't delicious!

4) Cheese. Provolone or parmesan melted on top as the sub's crowning glory.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

X is for Xanthippe

Ever wonder what the wives of prominent men are like? Ever wonder if they are fun or grave, high spirited or melencolly, introvert or extrovert? Ever wonder what they look like? Ever wonder why that prominant man picked that particular woman to be his wife? Ever wonder why we don't hear more about these women—especially ones from history? I do. Often. It's been my experience that behind most every man there is a woman. While one might could even go so far as to say that behind every good man there is a good woman, and behind every bad man there is a bad woman, the truth is that is not always the case. History is resplendent with stories of vile men with shirking wives, or tyrants with long-suffering wives. Likewise I'm sure that there are just as many stories of valiant men with shrewish wives, or kindhearted leaders with bitter hags. But whatever the case behind the men are their woman, and with their women come a part of the puzzle which helps shape and explain who they are as vile tyrants or valiant leaders.

So go, find out who she was and how she stood by her man.

Friday, May 29, 2009

W is for Weddings

Once again I find myself at Parish for a wedding. Not for any particular friend or acquaintance, just as a part of the team that is on hand when Parish rents out the chapel for weddings. I help with set up, clean up, and sound. Sound is definitely the most eventful of my posts. Especially when the father of the bride is a professional and I'm just a jack of all trades and master of none. The technical lingo I don't have down completely but I could hold my own with the average Joe who needs a few things set up for a wedding.

It's rather fascinating to see all the different ways the elements of a wedding ceremony can be done. There have been times sitting in the back by the sound booth listing to the service when I've cringed, others when I've been delightfully surprised by what I've heard or seen. There have been weddings with as few as three brides maids and three groomsmen, and as many as nine and nine. For a small building that was a rather entertaining site. It's always fun to watch the little flower girls walking back up after the ceremony with the little ring bearer when she goes for his arm just like all the ladies had done before them and the little guy shakes her off as if he were to catch the cooties!

Well, duty calls. I must be off. Let's see what fun today's wedding holds in store!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

V is for Vessels, Divinely Provided

Twas walking down an earthen road
When quick I see a stilling sight
A humble, lone, yet warm abode
With plaque on front ‘bove yonder door.

It is no welcoming nor warning sign
More curious and more moving still
Upon this plaque the name is mine
And I am left to wonder why.

I turn to right and back to left
Yet none in view this cause to tell
And with no reason I stand bereft
While staring at this dwelling bare.

The answer I must seek alone
So up before this house I trod
I once did knock, I once did moan
For fear of what may find inside

No answer came the stern reply
A knock once more to catch my breath
My hand outstretched the latch to try
No key was needed for this place.

Upon first look three rooms I saw
Warm, inviting, yet empty save
For shelves four high along each wall
And only vessels filled their space.

I took the first my hand could reach
And picked it up but as I did
I noticed marks or tags on each
With writing all in stunning hand.

The vessel now I did lay hold
To see what script its tag did bear
And as I gazed my blood ran cold
For it did mark the name of friend.

The lid pulled off, my heart did throb
As memories flooded from my mind
From vessel forth a wail, a sob
They were my own once for my friend.

I put it back, I could not bear
The dying of a faithful friend
Once more to my mind made aware
Him so sweetly missed and longed for.

I walked once round the first of rooms
Running a hand along the shelves
Wondering could they all be tombs
And why I did come upon them.

I chose another vessel neigh
Reading the inscription once again
And seeing the word heaved a sigh
For this one bore a happier note.

Once relieved I pulled lid after
To see what memories might flow forth
Out sprang joy and floods of laughter
Sweet thoughts becomes this friend of worth.

Back on its shelf went vessel bright
And I into another room
To see what more was in this site
Where shown me death and joy thus far.

The smaller room I came to then
And looked about as once before
And locked my gaze on jar so thin
Tis then I knew t’would be the next.

A moment scribed upon this tag
It was not friend alive or dead
My memories then began to lag
And wondered back when I was small.

This lid I did not want to pull
Knowing within what I should find
But then I did, and it was full
Of fears, of worry, and of dread.

I quick returned the lid but there
Still lingered in my thoughts the scenes
Of weighty and too many a care
Wondering where next meal would be.

Distraught, I could not open more
Yet glancing at each tag I felt
Each jar had opened up and bore
The very substance of my life.

And spying then through tears and sobs
A note shelves’ end addressed to me
I snatched it up in spite of fears
And this is what it said to me:

Here sits the house of all your life
Herein the contents of your strife
Herein embodiments of joy
Herein the proof of shame and ploy.

Here sits the house that has made you
Herein the contents tried and true
Herein the memories that have shaped
Herein the reckless that has aped.

Here sits the house that tells the tale
Herein are stories of prevail
Herein are truths that have been learned
Herein are loyalties long earned.

Here are the vessels of your life
The toils, hopes, and struggles rife
Divinely provided along the way
That make you who you are today.

And so I found the answer here
Of why this structure stood thus by
The plaque on front my name appear
And caused me enter on my way.

The journey of this life goes on
And there will be more vessels filled
Raised Ebenezers come and gone
Marks The Provider’s kindly hand.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

U is for U2

Unbelievable. Utterly Unreal. My unbeatable, unfailing, unparalleled, utterly uncanny friend unveiled the utmost of unequalled gifts: TICKETS TO SEE U2 IN ATLANTA!!

Understandably this is a phenomenal gift, I mean how often does a person of meager means get to see Bono, Edge, Clayton, and Mullen in their life time? Never until now for this soul. And do you know why I get to go now? Because I have an awesome friend who for once in her life did a really good job of keeping a secret for a whole month. For the past month she has been hounding me and hounding me about how far behind I've gotten on my Alphabet Project. "When are you ever going to get to the end," she would ask, or, "Geeez, you haven't gotten past 'S' yet?!" I could never doubt such a dear friend as her, I thought she was just trying to keep me accountable in this writing endeavor I set out to complete in 26 days and it's now been over 60 days and I'm still not done. She is a good friend. She even tried to suggest topics along the way to get me moving on the project. She is a kind friend. Then I wouldn't use her suggestions either because I already had a topic or because I just wasn't inspired by her suggestion. She is a long suffering and patient friend. So how was I supposed to know that that she had ulterior motives? I had no idea she was keeping such a secret deep down inside and it was just waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting until I got to the letter U to burst out and say, "You MUST write U is for U2 or I shall scream!" I had no idea. What unction. What unflinching unwaiverability. What unthought of unfathomability. What an ultimate gift.

Whoodewhoo, I'm going to see U2!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

T is for Temptation of Christ

It's often hard to get a clear understanding of the nature of Christ. Truth be told, we never will this side of eternity, but in our journey of spiritual growth and maturity we are all too apt to swing too quickly to one side or the other in the attempt to understand The God-Man. Depending on mood, our place in life, what we need Christ to be at the moment, we may tell ourselves that he was a man just like we are, tempted, tried, and tired. Or we may regale ourselves with Revelation's stories of His soon coming triumphal procession when He will ride valiantly in, a Savior on a white horse, and take us out of this place of sin and misery. Either way, little do we actually come to realize about Christ when we tend towards one nature or the other in this manner. Rather, we would be wiser to examine how much we actually learn about ourselves, our nature to bring anything we cannot understand down to our level diminishing its glory, or our tendency to lift to the level of transcendence and flaunt our relationship to an All Powerful Being who will save us from ill. All in all, both are rather self-serving views.

But we have just acknowledged that we will not fully understand Christ's nature this side of eternity. How then can we right the wrongs of our fallacious idolization of one or the other of Christ's natures? By seeking the elements of both His humanity and His divinity in all aspects of His life, His work, His creation. By going after what the media once termed "a fair and balanced view".

The temptation of Christ is one of those stories that seems to most always be told from the point of view of Christ's divinity. The plot line: Christ is God, He cannot give in to temptation, He can do nothing but tell the devil off and put him in his place. Yet the moral of this story tends to be: See, Christ was tempted like we are too. His humanity is made a tag line, a very weak attempt at making us relate to Him. So what? So what that Christ was tempted like we are if He couldn't give in to temptation because He is God? In the end, the traditional telling of Christ's temptation does little to tell us about the characteristics and attributes of either of His natures.

The actual story picks up just after Christ's baptism by John in the Jordan River. In Matthew 3:16-17 the Spirit of God descends and speaks, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Then Christ was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for a forty day fast toward the end of which Satan comes at Him mocking His divine nature as revealed by the Spirit at Christ's baptism by essentially saying, "If you are the Son of God, prove it." Then appealing to His very human nature, which was at a point of weakness, Satan continued, "command these stones to become loaves of bread" (Matthew 4:3). In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis points out the fact that Satan is keen on the appeals of food to a man-sized hunger when Lewis ascribes to the chief demon, Screwtape, the swaying word, the brilliant temptation, "I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch." Just take a look around at the next meal time and you will see, men have a hearty appetite. Working men have an especially hearty appetite. And fasting men, well, I think you get the picture. Satan's first was a legitimate temptation. An appeal to the stomach.

According to Matthew 4, Satan's second move was to take Christ "to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple" (v. 5). What ensued was a dare. Maybe even a double-dog dare. Satan essentially said to Christ, "I dare you to jump off this building, you know it says in Scripture that your angels will come save you!" Is there worse a wound to manly confidence than a dare and a taunt? It is a part of man's nature to take up a good challenge. In one of John Kerry's saner moments he once stated, “That is what Americans do. We face a challenge—no matter how great—because we know that on the other side there is always hope.” This idea is not peculiar to Americans, any time a challenge is faced, a dare is taken up, it is in hope that coming out on the other side will make us a better person or give us a better position. Whether for valiant or for self-serving reasons it is in our nature to take a dare, therefore, Satan's second was a legitimate temptation. An appeal to confidence.

For the last temptation, Satan takes a no-holds-barred approach. He first took the mocking approach by challenging, "If you are the Son of God." In his second attempt he quoted Scripture back to Christ by siting, "they (angels) will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone." Satan's last move is a somewhat desperate one, yet all too often effective with lesser men. "The devil took him (Christ) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" (v. 8). Splendor and true beauty strikes a cord even in the hardest of hearts. Satan acknowledged the vast span which laid before himself and Christ as glorious, moving, and beautiful, otherwise he would have never considered it a temptation to say to Christ, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me" (v. 9). Imagine it, the splendors of nature, the wealth of nations, the authority of all things offered to you. Oh what a pleasing pestilence the palatable potential for power provides. All mankind seeks it, all mankind longs for it. Satan's last was a legitimate temptation. An appeal to power.

Christ is the God-Man. Fully both. Neither one nor the other alone. It is a matter that has baffled the greatest of minds across the ages. It is incomprehendible, but just because we cannot adequately comprehend does not mean that we can avoid the hard intentionality of seeking to better understand. Satan came at Christ with legitimate temptations, appealing to His human nature at a time when He was weakened, tired, and hungry. And yet He was able to resist temptation, taking hold of a purpose and a plan greater than any self-serving endeavor a human could take up. In Him we too may rebuke the tempter. Christ is the Bread of Life, able to succor the weariest of hungering souls (John 6:35). Christ is the All Sufficient, giving true confidence and competence to set about the most challenging of endeavors (2 Corinthians 3:4-6). Christ is the Creator and Sustainer, placing the power of dominion on the least and the last (Psalm 8). In these truths we find the answer to our wonderings about the character and nature of Christ. In Him we find the balm to salve our putrid hearts. He is both God Almighty and Father. He is at once Creator of the Universe and Friend. Just as Christ knew who He was, remembering His Fathers declaration at His baptism, so too we must remember who we are—sons and daughters of God in whom He is well pleased. Why then would we settle for the paltry facade and the jealous impersonations of a fallen angel who has no authority to even offer the objects of his temptations. May we flee to no other refuge, wash in no other fountain, build on no other foundation, receive from no other fullness, rest in no other relief (Valley of Vision), because the Fount of Truth and Grace has been freely given to us as the heirs of Christ.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:14-16

Friday, May 22, 2009

S is for Spring Hill

I've been back home for two days now. While the senior class was overseas for a week and a half soaking in all they could of the sights and sounds of London and surrounding area I had the privilege of staying in Spring Hill with the daughter of some friends that went along on the trip as chaperones. The drive was actually quite nice despite what everyone warned me it would be like and contrary to what I had psyched myself up encounter. My patience was tried on a couple of occasions, but for the most part I rather enjoyed the time in my car. Spring Hill definitely has more of a suburban feel than Franklin. For all the construction and development going on in Franklin, I still feel like there are five times more houses in Spring Hill.

Though it was once small, Spring Hill is quickly gaining a reputation for being able to stand on its own two feet, so to speak. I was introduced to everything from the local Taekwondo Academy to the area Blockbuster, from Beef 'o Brady's to Publix. And while I didn't have the luxury of being able to actually set foot in it, I did see with my own eyes the one mecca that Spring Hill has and Franklin doesn't: Super Target.

All in all, my time with A.K.A. (Abbey, Kate, and Alfred) was extremely enjoyable and enlightening. And though I'm a bit jealous of those who had the opportunity to go to England, I must admit that so far as alternative trips go, I think I got a good deal.

Friday, May 15, 2009

R is for Rogers, Mr.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The sun is shining just after a spring rain. The air is humid but the breeze is blowing just enough to keep things from steaming. As I sit here looking out the window of our local Border’s book store upon the bustling world outside know as Cool Springs, I am reminded that things used to be a lot simpler. There actually used to be less mortar and metal, fewer cars and construction, half the hustle and bustle. I vaguely remember simpler times, my parents remember more, my grandparents more so. Funny. What will my children remember if mine is a vague memory?

Sometimes within a generation certain people are raised up for the sole purpose of reminding us to slow down and remember those more intentional days. They are revered for their simplicity, not of mind, for often they are deep and profound people, but for their simplicity of lifestyle, their ease of manner, their humility of spirit. Often times rumors and urban legends spring up about such people. “He was a Marine sniper,” or “He wore long sweaters to cover up the tattoos on his arms.” Maybe such whisperings emerge to make a man more complicated than he actually is. To give him a past that makes our own pale in comparison. To make him larger than life and yet at the same time more believable.

Why is it so difficult to appreciate simplicity? Why is it hard to believe that a man could be rooted all his days to one calling and work out that calling in faithful and compassionate service? Possibly for the same reason that it’s hard to slow down. Possibly for the same reason that I have to hurry off in two minutes to do the next thing and be at the next place. It’s so natural to want to make things larger than life. It’s so very easy to get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent and get swept away by the next new thing or the next new endeavor. It is so very hard to not. So while I acknowledge that I too am caught up in the rushing current of life, several generations away from those whose lives were intentionally different, and yet longing for that same intentionality myself, I can at least be grateful for those near and far in my life that have in some way or other given me the awareness that I need to stop and take note of the fact that the sun is shining just after a spring rain. To stop and feel that the air is humid but that the breeze is blowing just enough to keep things from steaming. To stop and remember that it is indeed a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Q is for Questions

What has made the Hebrew culture so enduring that it has stood the test of time, tread the world over, and survived long past each its conquerors? Yes, the Hebrews are God's chosen people, but as with everything else that is marked by God's hand there must be evidences of purpose, clear signs of intentionality. What are these signs? How have they aided the Children of Israel all along the way? What is it that makes them a peculiar people? Part of it is their deliberate style of teaching. The Hebrews are a people rooted in oral tradition. From the spoken word flows both stories and instruction often combined together to convey the history of a people and lessons to guide generations following. Yet theirs are no mere morality plays, no fanciful fables, no cautionary tales for children ending in frightful messages of import passed on from adults who know better. Rather the Hebrews sought to transfer a way of life. To simply show their culture by painting a verbal narrative, thus both entertaining young ears as well as instructing young minds. It is a tradition grounded in the belief that humans do not know everything and that we are so very forgetful. How will we know how we are to act in life, what is expected of us, how we are to relate to our fellow man if it is not told to us, modeled for us?

"When your son asks you in the time to come, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?' then you shall say to your son...."
Deuteronomy 6:20-21

The instructor is given guidance on how to instruct while in the midst of instructing the inquirer. Here is the nature of accountability, the very substance of discipleship. We are made to be both accountable to someone and accountable for someone. The Hebrew culture—and by virtue of inheritance, Christian culture—is not one of isolationism and individuality, rather it is a culture of interwoven relationships, a community that ends up looking more like a family. To that end it is this interconnectedness that is a safeguard against forgetfulness:

"Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children...."
Deuteronomy 4:9

The foundation of Hebrew teaching is embodied in their use of questions. Questions they use to instruct, to probe the thoughts and intentions of the heart, to shed light on an inquisitive mind, to bring humility and repentance where there is forgetfulness. Is this rhetorical device what has made the Hebrew culture so enduring? Is this one of the evidences of purpose, one of the clear signs of intentionality that we would expect to see marking God's chosen people? How much can truly be revealed by studying a cultures use of questions? Does this further help to mark them as a peculiar people? How?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

P is for Process

It's a process, it's a journey
From beginning to the end
But along the way you will be helped
By stranger and by friend.

I've often told friends to stop and enjoy the process. Don't get caught up in how far you've got to go to get to where you want to be. Don't expect that you can bypass the journey to get to the destination. Stop and smell the roses, and when you catch a whiff of what you've stepped in to get to the roses remember, crap makes things grow better. I realize that when bad things happen it's typically for one of two reasons: 1) either you've done something bad, or 2) you're doing something good. Either way, what is learned in the process is just as important as getting through the hard times.

Being a big picture sort of person paints two interesting sides to this mentality. I will either enjoy the details so much more because I have the big picture in view and I see how one leads to and enriches the other, or I will get so caught up in the process for the sake of the big picture that I end up loosing sight of the big picture. With any strength there is a weakness. But it is amazing how God brings people and circumstances into my life to readjust my focus. Be it by stranger or friend, I am often helped along by the dearest of souls. They in turn become fellow travelers in this adventure, instruments of joy in this journey, sweet prompters of repentance in the process.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

O is for Oscar's Taco Shop

When in doubt I may write about food
Instead of the oft times imbued
Worries about other lads ills
Or musings about other fads thrills.

When inspired I may share a good tale
Of a chap who has done things well
Enough for his tastiest meals
To be shared by hastiest of quills.

His is lauded by lowly and star
As the best taco shop by far.
In all parts of state to be crowned
Oscar's is the greatest to be found.