Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester

I bought this book at The Gospel Coalition back in 2011. John and I were feeling particularly passionate about community groups and home churches at the time, and this book promised to speak to the heart of home-based missions. 

A Meal with Jesus describes the importance of meals as enacted grace, community, hope, mission, salvation, and promise. It identifies the importance of sharing meals throughout Scripture, focusing specifically on the book of Luke but drawing connections with other examples in the Old Testament (think of Abraham's meal for the three unnamed visitors, or the feast for the prodigal son's return).

The book also shares stories of people who've been impacted by the simple sharing of a meal: a son-in-law who finally felt welcomed into the family through marzipan cake, fresh New England lobster and clams for a tired lecturer, homemade curry in honor of a neighbor's Kurdish New Year, and many others. Simple acts of kindness that impacted entire communities.

If you are like me and slightly phobic about hosting parties, movie nights, or even coffee with a friend, this book will help gently nudge you in the right direction. It's truthful without being curt, and earnest without being pushy. I plan on pulling this one off the shelf again soon.

Favorite Quote: "Jesus didn't run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals. If you routinely share meals and you have a passion for Jesus, then you'll be doing ministry."

Book Club Potential: While I know of community groups that have used this book as a platform for their weekly get-togethers, I think this book works best when read alone or with a spouse. Why? Because it's talking about how you'll do ministry through inviting people into your home. So if you walk this road with fear and trepidation (like me), you might feel apprehensive about sharing your concerns with a room full of people who are excited about jumping right in and hosting dinners each week.

Recommended Age: Anyone who lives in a dwelling and could (theoretically) invite people over to said dwelling for some sort of food.

Buy/Checkout: Buy. Buy two or three and give them to people who do a great job with this type of ministry. It will not only make their day to know you think so highly of them, but it will open up opportunities for some great conversation. And you'll probably be invited over for a meal...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Workouts, week of October 20th

Week five!!!

This week was all about trying new things - from workouts to overnight shifts to homemade hummus (recipe to come), I was all about newness this week.

Sunday and Monday were my late days, and I counted Sunday night as a workout since I helped tear down walls and unload shelves, fixturing, and pallets for the store's new campaign. Monday night was an overnight, so I worked from 9pm Monday night until 6am Tuesday morning (employing every means of caffeine/energy booster I could find). So Tuesday was a bust....I don't actually remember Tuesday, now that I think about it...

Wednesday I did one of my own workouts using Workout Labs, which, if you haven't used yet, you should check it out. Then I did sprint intervals for about 20 minutes.

Thursday I tried a Step class. It was not great. The instructor was kind of in her own world, sashaying and jumping and lunging to the beat of her own (very awkward) drum. I actually snuck out after about 15 minutes and did intervals on the treadmill until Spin class, which is now officially one of my favorite classes.

This morning I capped off the week with my first Zumba class. While I got a pretty good workout in, I also confirmed that I am, in fact, white. Very white. And tall. These two things do not add up to natural talent in Latino dance. In fact, I'm pretty sure I made up my own dance move that is somehow a half-shimmy, half-jumping jack. I don't think it's going to catch on anytime soon.

What I'm Reading...Found in Him by Elyse Fitzpatrick

I first heard of Elyse Fitzpatrick when my husband and I signed up for a seminary/pastor conference this fall. She was on the list of speakers, and her books were highly recommended by the event sponsors. I must say, I fell in love with the cover of her book long before I bought it - the aged ombre background overlaid with bright white branches and text is beautifully enticing and piqued my interest pretty quickly.

Fitzpatrick actually spoke on the topic of this book during the conference, comforting me with the discerning words and cadence of a wise grandmother. She spoke of our relationship with Christ as one of joy, peace, and intimacy, one that both empowers and humbles us.

She asked, how would your life change if you knew you weren't an outcast? Because you're not. You are the cherished bride of Christ. 

I bought her book before the end of the day.

Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ by Elyse Fitzpatrick

This book is divided into two parts, Incarnation and Union with Christ. It also includes study questions at the end of each chapter, making this a great option for small groups or book clubs. In the first section, Fitzpatrick outlines who Jesus is and highlights echoes of his presence in the Old Testament. She spends time describing the importance of the Old Testament stories in light of Christ's presence in them, including the story of Creation, Israel's wandering in the desert, and the relationship between Abraham and Isaac. She reminds us that "all of the Old Testament was meant to point forward to Christ, to the one who would live a perfect life and die a substitutionary death in our place."

In the second half (which I have not yet read), Fitzpatrick describes what union with Christ actually means - how we are "chosen, betrothed, beloved, and named," and how that impacts our faith, our relationships, our future, and our past.

All of this is done with a quiet, humble, thoughtful passion that leaves you meditating on each paragraph before moving on to the next. I found myself underlining and writing in the margins within the first few pages, and I've pulled my husband from his studies more than once to share passages with him. It's the kind of book that manages to balance the emotional and theological sides of our faith, one that you can easily read while curled up in a chair with a cup of coffee on a cool fall evening. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Little Things

 Two little things....

I found 7-Eleven. Did you know their small coffee is $1? Did you also know they have flavored creamers, syrups, mini marshmallows, cappuccino mixes, steamed milk, pumpkin latte mix, and a variety of sweeteners. All of these are included with your $1 coffee.  Seriously. 7-Eleven just became my new coffee place.

Every day at dawn and twilight, thousands of birds commune at the intersection next to my gym. Thousands. They congregate on the power lines like the united avian nation. It's a beautiful reminder of God's creation, of the power and majesty of life. I look forward to seeing them, to watching their meetings and murmurations. They're beautiful.

That's all. Just two little things.

Workouts, week of October 13th

I feel like I say this every month, but this month is flying by. It's odd how the days seem long, but the weeks seem so short.
20.2 miles in spin class.

This is my fourth week of workouts. I've been mixing it up, doing spin classes, step classes, weights, and Nike Training Club. I must say, I have a lot more energy. And I feel better about myself, regardless of whether I've lost weight (I don't weigh myself...I feel like it's counterproductive). I feel like I've toned up and my jeans are fitting better. And most importantly, I feel like I'm actually making time for exercise, making time for me.

Quick session with the Nike Training Club App and sprint intervals on the treadmill.

I also did a step class on Tuesday night - I didn't burn a lot of calories, but it was fun. I really love step classes. I'm going to try Zumba this week as well, which I used to do about 3 years ago. I am not a good dancer, but for some reason I tend to be pretty good at Zumba.

Random Joke of the Week: How much does a hipster weigh?                                      

                                                                                                        An instagram.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Workout: 10/3

Spin Class.

It just sounds intimidating. When I first saw the class on the gym schedule, I pictured rows of blonde housewives with 3% body fat and perfectly coiffed "messy buns" bobbing in unison on their shiny machines.

But then I thought, you know what, I pay the same gym fees they do. I deserve a fancy spin class workout as much as the next person. So I went last week and you know what? There were like 3 people in the class - one middle-aged man and two women.

So I went again tonight.

The class is intense. You adjust the gears based on the instructor's lead and work through multiple hills, "jumpers," and sprints. There's loud music and lots of sweat.

I think it's my new favorite way to work out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Recipe: Creamy Kabocha Squash Soup

I went to Sprouts a few weeks ago (have you been to Sprouts?! It's amazing!) and saw that some of the winter varieties of squash were on sale. I'd used butternut squash before in soups and in roasted medleys with carrots and onions, and I am not unfamiliar with the acorn squash either. 

But there was a third squash present. Kabocha. At first I assumed this was the squash from which that weird fermented health drink is made (I later learned this is kombucha and not connected to winter squash at all), but at the sale price, it was worth trying. So I grabbed one and put it in the cart. 

For a solid week the little hard-skinned squash sat on top of the microwave, mocking me with its inability to be thoroughly Googled. Few recipes or health facts exist for the kabocha squash. Eventually, I just decided to bake it, puree it, and make a soup. If it turned out awful, I'd just feed it to the garbage disposal. 

But I was in luck. Using a recipe I had for butternut squash soup, I substituted the kabocha and added a little more garlic. Not only was the texture like velvet, but the flavor was amazing. Definitely one of my favorite soup recipes ever.

Gluten/Dairy/Soy/Grain-Free Creamy Kabocha Squash Soup

1 kabocha squash, peeled and cubed (you chould also use butternut or acorn squash)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 bag baby carrots or 1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups GF vegetable broth (more if needed)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp basil 
1 Tbsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
plain yogurt (optional)

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in olive oil, onion, and garlic. Saute until translucent. 

Add in squash, carrots, and broth. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer on low until carrots break apart easily with a fork (about 45 minutes). 

Add in basil, oregano, and salt, then cook for 5 more minutes to allow the herbs to blend in. 

Turn off heat and, using whatever blending method you choose (immersion, upright blender, food processor, etc.), blend until smooth. 

Serve warm with a dollop of plain yogurt on top (optional).
It's really good.

Workout: 10/2

I really didn't want to get out of bed this morning. At all. But I did and ended up getting a really good workout in. I chose the Nike Training Club's "Circuit Challenge," then 25 minutes of intervals on the treadmill.