Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Reflection Questions

I've been noticing a lot of chatter recently about New Year's resolutions: people making them, how to keep them, etc. While I don't think I've ever seriously made any New Year's resolutions, it does seem like the time of year to entertain such thoughts. 

With all focus on looking ahead and making resolutions, I was slightly taken aback by a friends posting about reflecting on the past year. For some reason that struck me as an odd notion in today's culture.  We tend to be so forward thinking that it's rare to see people actively stopping to reflect. 

This friend had been introduced to a blog called Reverb 10 that posted a reflection question for each day of December.  The basic idea behind these questions is that by spending time reflecting on the past will you be prepared to best think about the future.

In glancing at the questions today, I was impressed by variety and creativity of the questions.  And although I'm jumping in kind of late in the game (since New Year's is in two days), I think I'll start 2011 out by doing some reflecting on the past.  If anything, it'll provide some fun journal prompts for January.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Christmas Cookie Recipe

I was a bit nervous about the pepper in this one...but I like it.  And the cookie lives up to it's's spicy. Spicy Oatmeal Crisps Recipe

We tried making this one over with some friends the other day.  Overall everyone liked it however, one of the kids said the cookie tasted "like what they think a health bar would taste like."  I'm not entirely sure what that means...but I actually like some heath bars so I'm taking it as a compliment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Avoiding the Hype

The week before our Thanksgiving trip out to California, I started to mentally prepare for the crowds at the airport and began to plan how I might protest the new airport scanners.  Turns out it was all hype.  The airports were deserted and we even had empty seats next to us on our flight back to Wisconsin (note to self, always travel on the Friday before Thanksgiving and then the day after).  Then we somehow managed to pick all the lines that were not using the new scanning devices. So much for protesting (I guess I'll have to put this idea on the shelf)

Luckily being around family and friends for Thanksgiving lived up to the hype and was a lot of fun.  My only complaint was that California was almost as cold as it's been back here in the Midwest. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sesame Soy Meatballs

Favorite new recipe out of Cooking Light.  It's a little on the spicy side so I think I would put in a little less chile paste next time. 

Sesame Soy Meatballs.


1/3 cup minced green onions
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 pound ground sirloin

1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Add beef; mix gently to combine. With moist hands, shape beef mixture into 20 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs.
3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the meatballs to pan; cook 4 minutes, turning to brown meatballs on all sides. Arrange browned meatballs in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining meatballs. Bake meatballs at 400° for 7 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Exercising the Mind

It's felt like a long time since I've done any academic reading or study but that's changed in the past few weeks. It's kind of nice to exercise that part of my brain again.

These are just a few things I've been getting my self into:
  1. Defending Constantine by Peter J. Leithart:  Began reading this last weekend and was hooked after the first chapter. While the book is a history book, Leithart is a fairly engaging author.  In other words, this isn't like many of the history books I suffered through in college.  (Although when you talk about Christian martyrdom with all its gory details, it's hard for the book not to be interesting.)  So far it's been an interesting look at politics and the early church.  
  2. The Cape Town 2010 Lausanne Congress: I think it's been about 20 years or so since the last one was held and basically it's a Congress for the evangelical Christian world. There's already been some interesting pre-papers and conversation happening around the topics being discussed this week.  About 14 or so InterVarsity representatives are attending and I'll be curious to hear what they come away with. Our housemate from Panama is currently there, so it'll be fun to hear her take on the Congress too.
  3. Understanding Poverty:  Ran across this slide show presentation in some of the Lausanne papers.  It's kind of long and it'd be interesting to hear how they got some of this data, but it's engaging none the less.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lost in Translation

Last week our new house guest, who speaks only Spanish, asked how she can help out around the house.  Among other things, I politely informed her that, "I usually vaccinate the house once a month, but I won't vaccinate her room.  The vaccine is in the closet."

Judging by the horrified look on her face...I determined that something I said was not right.  Turns out the online Spanish translator we were using was translating "vacuum" into "vaccine". 

Needless to say, that was the last time we used that online Spanish translator. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Father's Day

Fun project that Matt helped a friend with.

Father's Day from David Hui on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Church Building and the Role of Men

I saw this video over at a friend's blog.  While I have to admit I was disappointed this was really just a book plug in the end, the video itself had some interesting thoughts on the role of men in the life and health of a church.  It made me wonder if these ideas are just limited to males or if they apply to females as well.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Whole Life Transformation

I've really enjoyed reading this book called "Whole Life Transformation" by Keith Meyer.  My favorite quote so far is
"there is little appeal in becoming 'spiritual vampires,' sucking on the blood of Christ for forgiveness while being barely alive spiritually.  My students recognize it often contributes to the 'management of sin,' an endless cycle of repetitive acts of sin and shame followed by confession and temporary relief through grace.  Without an alternative way of living this sets up the sinner for needing ever more relief from sin and never finding the antidote.  The students know that obedience is better than sin management.  And they are hungry for learning how to put sin to death rather than becoming comfortable with it."
I've never thought about grace in the ways that Meyer describes.  And I have to admit that I had some pretty funny images of people at church in my head the Sunday after reading this.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Adventures in Gardening

So this isn't really so much about the actual garden but rather the garden aftermath.  More specifically what to do with a peck of cucumbers.  Feeling a bit braver after making some dill pickles a few weeks before, I thought I'd try canning some pickle relish.  I was a bit nervous about how sweet it would turn out with the recipe calling for 3 1/2 cups of sugar.  However the next day when we tried it on some polish hot dogs...I've decided it's a keeper.

Next on the docket is sweet corn.  Mine didn't do to well in the garden.  I think I planted them a bit too soon and they just never really did much.  However, the Corn Fest is this large grocery bag of corn for 5 I come!


4 c. chopped cucumbers (about 4 med.)
2 c. chopped onions
1 c. green pepper
1 chopped sweet red pepper
1/4 c. canning salt
3 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. celery seed
1 tbsp. mustard seed

Combine cucumbers, onions, green and red peppers in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and cover with cold water. Let stand 2 hours.

Prepare home canning jars and lids according to manufacturer's instructions.

Drain vegetables thoroughly; press out liquid. Combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed and mustard seed in a large sauce pot; bring to a boil. Add drained vegetables; simmer 10 minutes. Carefully pack hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust caps.

Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner. Yield: about 8 half-pint jars.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Living with only 100 Things

I have to admit that the recent NY Times article about only living with 100 items is slightly intriguing to me.  I read the article yesterday and all I've done since then is mentally start counting whatever is in the room I'm currently in.   Bedroom 400 plus items (man, we have a lot of clothes), Living room 200 plus items,, I don't even want to know. 

In many ways, the article reminded me of the various summer I spent living out of a small suitcase.  Even then it always surprised me that there were still items in that suitcase that I never touched over the 6 weeks.  At the end of each trip I was shook my head at these items thinking "why in the world did I think I would need this?"

Ironically I've heard Mark 6:8/ Luke 9:3 referenced a number of times over the past two weeks from various people and places.  This is the passage where Jesus sends out his disciples and commands them to "take nothing with them" purse, no bread, no money, no extra clothes.  It's a challenging statement about the power of stuff and how little is really needed in life when you are following God.  It makes me wonder what stuff I'll be shaking my head over when this life is over thinking "why in the world did I think I would need this?"

So 100 personal items, huh?  Maybe I'll start with my shoes count as 1 item or two?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Garden Update

I picked 30 tomatoes yesterday. Since I didn't get any last year due to the dreaded blight...I have a strong sense of victory.  And the best part yet is that there are still a lot of tomatoes on the vine!  Now I just need to figure out what to do with all these tomatoes.

In other tomato news, we received a few green tomatoes last week in our CSA box. The recommended making fried green tomatoes out of them.  Since I've never tried that, I thought why not?  And the verdict is....not as great as I thought they would be.  They were a lot more sour than I was expecting.  We did find that dipping them in BBQ sauce did make a difference.  I guess I'll never be a southerner.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Dichotomy of Life

Waking up at 5:00am to gunfire from a neighboring apartment complex is definitely a unique way to start the week.  While the full details have not been released yet, it appears a domestic disturbance lead to one party going outside to fire off a few rounds with the end result being the shooter either turned the gun on himself or was hit by his own ricocheting bullet. 

Unsettling, Disturbing, Frustrating, Sad. 

It reminds me of what Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote in his book "Lament for a Son" that "Shalom is the fullness of life in all dimensions.  Shalom is dwelling in justice and delight with God, with neighbor, with oneself, in nature.  Death is Shalom's mortal enemy.  Death is demonic.  We can not live at peace with death."

Having worked with college students for over 8 years now, it no longer surprises me that the people and places that often seem the most stable and normal are often operating under a facade of shalom.  And without a solid grounding in Christ, that facade easily crumbles. 

This shooting, if anything, has reminded me that I really do love this neighborhood.  In fact, sometimes I think we were called to this neighborhood just as much as we were called to work for InterVarsity.  We've lived here for almost 4 years now and I've come to love the many quirks about the neighborhood.  From the random community garden that I've become a part of to the neighbors who shoot off fireworks almost every night in July, from the kids who wait for the school bus every morning to the amazing display of yellow leaves during the fall, from the kids camp next door that screams "good morning" at 8:30am summer mornings to the smells of 100's of BBQ's on the first warm day of spring. 

It's a fun neighborhood and a place where despite it's sometimes darker side, I still feel safe in.  I guess that's the dichotomy of a life in Christ. I do long for a true Shalom to descend on this neighborhood.  And that's something I can keep praying for.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Place Earwigs Should Never Tread

Last night I was going through my normal nightly routine.  Take a shower, get a drink of water, brush my teeth and so forth leading up to the final step of popping in my oh so 90's looking aqua marine colored retainers.  I pick them up, slide them into my mouth and think, "that's weird,  it feels like there's a ball of hair stuck on one of the wires".  I immediately pull them back out and to my utter horror an ear wig falls out of my mouth.  I'm not sure who was more revolted, the ear wig, me, or Matt who had to kill the earwig.

Lets just say, I had the weirdest dreams last night because of that little incident.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Weekly Round Up

-Been hanging out with staff downtown for InterVarsity training (which has included my crazy sister)
-Went to a BBQ place for dinner and had the dinner served on a garbage can lid.
-Brother is in town this next week from California. First thing on our list of things to do is to cow tipping.
-Been picking peas out of the garden like crazy this week.
-Got two new books in the mail this week. Can't wait to start them (The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Hartgrove and After You Believe by N.T. Wright)
-Smiled at this video:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another great reason why all...

our California friends should come visit us:

Friday, May 28, 2010

What we did this past week

We finally bit the bullet and joined a gym.  I don't think I've been in once since I left college and it's amazing how much exercises equipment can change in 8 years.  Well, I guess the equipment hasn't really changed, just that there is now a tv on every piece of equipment with an IPod doc.  I think I'm most excited about having access to a swimming pool again.  Dried out skin and chlorine bleached hair here I come!

Friday, May 07, 2010

love and hate 411

So for the past 4 years or so, I've been trying really hard not to let our home phone number get listed publicly...but I've often felt it was a losing battle. 

However last weekend, I found that there is one benifit to having your home phone number listed publicly:  when you happen to lose your wallet downtown, the nice person who finds it can look you up and let you know that they have it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Religion according to Google

I ran across these maps the other day and thought it was kind of interesting.  They are based on how often someone does a google search for a specific religious term in the United States.

According to this, we don't like Baptists up here in Wisconsin.   That explains a lot.....hmmmm.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ohio State Trip

So Matt's still down in Ohio...but here's a glimpse of what he's been working on and what the InterVarsity chatper in Ohio has been doing.

OSU Price of Life Mid-Week Edit from InterVarsity/Twentyonehundred on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Church Names...creative or bad attempts?

I enjoyed this list of "newer" church names compiled by Out of Ur (as well as their commentary in the parenthesis):

Standing Stones (No clapping, hand-raising, or swaying during worship, thank you.)

Sandals (Church membership includes a timeshare in the Bahamas.)
The Hub (Where the pastor spoke and the people never tire.)
Ahhhhh....ok...back to more serious life matter like eating lunch.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Travel Updates

Matt recently returned Wednesday from a work trip down to St. Louis getting a story about how the InterVarsity chapter there has been responding to recent racial tensions at St. Louis University.  It seems like an interesting story and one I don't know much I'm curious to see what Matt and his team does with that.   And tomorrow he heads off again.  This time for Ohio for The Price of Life event happening at Ohio State. 

Luckily LeAnn comes back from her trip down to I will have some company!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Garden Opening Day

Despite finding an inch of snow on the ground yesterday morning, the community garden registration is tomorrow and the garden officially opens next Saturday. I've already been plotting and scheming about what this year’s garden might entail. I lost my garden partner to a job change over the winter so I actually have a larger plot to work with this year. We'll see how that goes.

So far the plan is to plant peas, onions, bean and carrots again. I'm also going to try giving the tomatoes another try even though they were a complete failure last time. Then I'm going to add in some corn and try some pumpkins. That's the plan at'll be an adventure to see what manages to survive the pests and weather.

In other news, Matt has been traveling again.  St. Louis and Ohio are the destinations of choice right now.  And I'm getting ready for my boss to be leaving next week for a 6 month sabbatical.  So that will keep things interesting around my department for a little bit.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Arts

The arts have been a bit more on my mind lately. We recently attended a lecture by an artist called Makoto Fujimura ( which was excellent. He shared about how good art often is an estuary between two worlds...the world as it is and the world as it could be.  Interesting idea.

We then went to the Chicago Art Institute and saw great art.

Then this past weekend we went to a conference at a local church about art and worship in the church. I came away from this weekend reminded again of the role of tension in our lives. One of the speakers pointed out how often the best works of art, or our best learning moments in life, come out of times of tension. He expanded on that by suggesting that as Christians we will always live in tension. We live in the reality of how the earth is while at the same time knowing the reality of what is yet to come which equals tension (this reminded me of the estuary idea again).

Anyways, don't think I'll become a master artist any time soon.  But it's been fun focusing a bit more on the idea of art.  If anything it is inspiring me to try and finish a quilt that has been on the shelf for 1/2 a year now.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Book of the Month

So my new read has been "Between Allah and Jesus: What Christians can Learn from Muslims" by Peter Kreeft. This has been one of the more challenging things I've read recently not only because the content is convicting, but because I got lost in the fictitious debates between a Muslim, a conservative Christian, a liberal Christian and a Catholic. I found the book was actually easier to follow if I read the book out loud and spoke in different voices for each character. (

Regardless, the fictitious debates are clever and well thought out...and there's enough material in the book for everyone's feathers to get ruffled regardless of what camp you are in. But I love how Jesus is painted throughout the book and am appreciate how it challenges some of the fallacies in my own "religion" while still encouraging my faith and love of Jesus.

I'd recommend it....but maybe not as nighttime reading.

Monday, March 01, 2010


Hoping to break the monotony of winter, we trekked down to Chicago this past weekend and meandered around the Chicago Institute of Art

I didn't know much about the museum but was surprised at how many famous pieces of work were on exhibit (such as Van Gogh, Monet, Seurat, Manet and Renoir).  I was most surprised at how large or small some of the pieces were.  I remembered some of the paintings from my art history class but had no idea of the scale of these works.  For example, the Seurat picture above is huge!  The people are almost life size.

After looking at so many pieces of art, I can't help but wonder how many painting these artists had to do before they got this good.  Probably way to many.

Anyways, we enjoyed our time there and in Chicago.  Next time we'll have to make it to the Modern part of the museum...we spent just about all our time in the impressionistic wing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Julie and Julia

So we finally broke down and rented "Julie and Julia" this weekend.  I actually can't remember the last time we rented a movie.  Ever since Blockbuster raised their rates, we've gone to borrowing movies or just buying them at Target when they are cheap.  However, the grocery store has one of those Red Box movie rental we figured we'd give that a try.  And while we totally defeated the point of the movie by eating frozen was enjoyable, we only paid $1.57 for the movie and is making me anxious for the March edition of Cooking Light to arrive in my mail box.
As far as the movie, it's cute :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pray for Upcoming Supreme Court Case

For all of you who love student ministry (be that through InterVarsity, Crusade, Navigators, Young Life or any of the other great ministries out there), you might want to keep your eyes on this upcoming Supreme Court case (  How the court rules will have significant implications.

In short, the Supreme Court will decide in late spring "whether a public university law school may deny school funding and other benefits to a religious student organization because the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious viewpoints".

While there have been many cases similar to this in the past, they have all been heard at the lower court levels.  And currently two of the lower courts have offered differing rulings on the matter which is why the Supreme Court has chosen to hear the case.  So if you think of it, pray for the hearing that will happen in late spring.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ministry Update February 2010

Our latest prayer update/letter hit the mail last week.  If you don't get a copy, you can view and print a copy by clicking on the above image.  And if you ever want to get a copy via email or the mail...just let us know.

Thanks to everyone for supporting us through the Urbana season with your prayers, friendships, and encouragement.  Looking back, the past 4 months were worth all the frustrations, long hours and joys as we worked to help set the stage for God to speak to today's college students.  We couldn't have done it without you!

As we settle back into a more normal work flow, you can pray for us as we continue to process what God spoke to us at Urbana and as we start a variety of new projects.

Monday, February 01, 2010

You Know it's been a rough weekend when... can't escape Chuck Norris!

Friday Night:  Chuck Norris kept popping onto the TV screen advertizing the "Total Gym" while I was surfing for something better to watch. 

Saturday Evening: He was sighted at our local Christian Bookstore.  Why they were selling his book "Black Belt Patriotism" along with the "Chuck Norris official Fact book"...I'm not quite sure.

Saturday Night:  Chuck Norris chased me through the Jungle and tried to kill me because I mocked his book.

Sunday Morning: Went to church and tried to clense my mind of Chuck Norris.

Sunday Evening:  Ran into Chuck again at the grocery store.  He was trying to sell us his old videos for $3.  We held our ground and said no.
Monday:  No Chuck yet...I'm praying this will be a more normal week.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recipie of the Week: Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew

I was surprised how good this recipe was. I think we've had it every week since I found it in December. It might even replace my mom's Nine Bean soup recipe as my new favorite! (Sorry Mom). And with pork being on the cheaper side in the store, you can't go wrong!  Hmmmm...wonder if this would count as a chile recipe for an upcoming chile cook off...

Ancho Pork and Hominy Stew
(from Cooking Light Dec. 2009)
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder (I just used regular chile powder)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika (I just used regular paprika)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can hominy, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; set 1 1/2 teaspoons spice mixture aside. Add pork to remaining spice mixture in bowl, tossing well to coat.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork mixture to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove pork from pan; set aside. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Return pork to pan. Add reserved 1 1/2 teaspoons spice mixture, broth, hominy, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sucessful Weekend

Dispite the fact that it was another cold, rainy and gray weekend...we finished taxes and for the first time in 3 years we figured our 2009 W-2's right and didn't owe Uncle Sam any money at the end of the year!  There was much happiness in the house over that. 

Then to top it off...we paid off student loan number two! Two loans down, one left to go...and our resolution for 2010 is to get the last one paid off by the end of the year.  In the words of the little engine that could..."I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!"

Friday, January 22, 2010

New on my Blog reading list

So I confess that I've become a blog groupy of several sites.  I never thought I would...but there are a few ones out there that I've come to enjoy.  Thought I'd pass them along.

Alan Reifman's Emerging Adulthood Page: Yup...this is my nerdy one that I keep up with for work.  Alan studies emerging adulthood and posts related articles or research he comes across.  My only complaint is that he doesn't post very often.

Ed Stetzer's Life Way Research Blog:  Usualy has a few good posts each week on recent Christian research or teaching he's done. 

Copyblogger: Another nerdy one that I enjoy for work.  Has great posts on communicating via email, websites and other electronic mediums.  Not only do they post a new one each day, they can also be fairly entertaining.

Donald Miller's Blog:  So I geneally like his books...makes sense that I'd like his blog.   Best part is he sometimes will post chapters from up coming books and ask for feedback. 

So those are my favorite new ones.  Any ones you know of I should start checking out?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jack Frost

So how he managed to snap this photo while hanging out a car window at speeds of 55 mph? I have no idea but I know it's probably my new favorite photo (and no he wasn’t driving). It was fun driving around this weekend in a frosted world. It almost felt like we were in another world. There is something kind of therapeutic about driving around with no end in mind. Should probably do that more often. More pictures from our frost hunting at Matt's photo site (

Other than proved to be a movie weekend: Fellowship of the Rings, a silly old police movie about a murder on a train, Avatar, and a random western. It think we almost hit every movie genre.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Long Week

After being away from my desk for almost 3 cubical sure feels a bit constricting! Not only that, I'm working 40 hours a week again! It's going to be a long week.

Oh, well...welcome to the adult world I guess.

We had a good week off after Urbana thankfully. Matt got out quite a bit and got some fun photos around town ( And I discovered a new restaurant in town (Lazy Jane's) which has amazing scones...(thanks Betsy for great company to go along with those yummy scones)! Maybe another one of those scones will be my reward if I can make it through this week!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Urbana 09

You might be asking how it went. If you're curious you can check it out for yourself online at I think they almost have all the sessions (excluding worship now posted). I actually only made it to a few sessions myself so I'll be catching up listening to the talks online for this next week.

In general, I'm coming away with a new appreciation and admiration for God's desire to dwell among His people. I also am coming away with a deep thankfulness for the talented, faithful, and fearless co-workers I get to partner with in InterVarsity (both students and non-students)

I spent most my time in the exhibit hall (thanks Christine for the above photo) talking with InterVarsity alum's and I have to admit that I think I'm officially talked out for the rest of the weeks and will revert to sign language and grunting. Matt spent most his time behind a computer running the videos and backdrops during the main sessions and I think he's thankful his pointer finger still works.

Coolest story from the convention so far is that two mornings ago, there was a call to students to follow Christ for the first time. Not only did many students respond but several of the convention center staff scheduled to work responded too. Amen to that. I love how contagious Jesus is.

It's good to be home and we're looking forward to a few days of sleep!