Archive for January, 2010

Chef John’s Broccoli Cornbread

January 29, 2010

There was a restaurant east of Florence, Alabama that we used to eat at when I preached at Center Hill.  It was on Highway 72 and was called (I think) “The Trading Post.”  They served broccoli cornbread.  I had never heard of it before.  I have no idea how they made it, but here’s how I make it.

What you’ll need:

2 cups Sunflower self-rising cornmeal

1 cup White Lilly self-rising flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 cup chopped broccoli

¼ cup chopped yellow onion

2 tablespoons canola oil

~3/4 cup fat free cultured buttermilk

~3/4 cup fat free sweet milk

What you might want:

1 tablespoon (or more) sliced pickled jalapeno peppers

¼ cup shredded cheese (I would use a yellow cheese)

Here’s the procedure.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Put a tablespoon of canola oil (not counted above) in a cast iron skillet and put it in the oven for 5-10 minutes.  You want it hot, but not smoking.  I put mine in when the oven is about half preheated.

I use frozen chopped broccoli.  I spread a cup, or so, on my wood-topped work table and let it thaw for 10-15 minutes.  It will chop easier that way.  Then, I use my big chef’s knife and chop it up into fairly small pieces.  You can define “fairly small” for yourself.  Put that in a large mixing bowl.  Add the cornmeal, flour, onion, and sugar.  Stir to mix the dry ingredients.  I like to use a slotted spoon for mixing instead of a solid one.  It seems to stir easier, thus decreasing the size of the mess I will make from ingredients leaving the mixing bowl prematurely.

Hollow out a “well” in the middle of your mixed dry material and add the two milks and the oil.  Mix (slowly) until well blended.  If the viscosity of your batter is too great, just add a little more liquid.  I like mine to pour easily but not be “runny.”  Your dry material should not have a tendency to settle to the bottom of the bowl.  If you’re getting that, just add a little more meal.  You can let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes, if you like, and it will rise.  Frankly, I rarely take the time to do that.  I don’t know if it will make any difference in the finished product or not.

Remove your hot skillet from the oven and set it on a vacant stove eye.  I tilt the skillet to get the hot oil to cover the entire skillet bottom and a little way up the sides before I set it down.  You can sprinkle a little meal on the center of the skillet bottom if you wish.  I generally don’t do that either.  When I’ve tried it, I couldn’t tell that it helped with the cornbread sticking.  You shouldn’t have sticking issues if you let the skillet cool sufficiently before attempting to remove the cornbread.  You may need to use a long, thin (thus flexible) knife to help get it loose from the pan when it’s done, especially near the center.  Pour your batter into your hot skillet and stick it in the oven.

I cook regular cornbread about 25 minutes.  The broccoli cornbread seems to take a little longer.  I guess this is because the broccoli and onion add moisture to the cornbread as it cooks.  It will probably take about 30 minutes, but I would check it at 25.  I look to see that I have good separation between the cornbread and the skillet around the edges and observe the degree of browning on top.  If it is done (or almost so) and you want it browned more, just turn your broiler on.  But, watch it closely.  Broiler browning will probably take about 2 minutes.

When it’s done, remove from the oven and return to the vacant stove eye.  Let it cool till you can pick up the skillet without a pot holder, perhaps 20 minutes.  If you want it fresh hot, you’ll likely need to go at it with the flexible knife.  At least I do, but, that may be because I didn’t cure my new skillet properly years ago.  An improperly cured iron skillet is like an idle word: you can’t take it back.  My mother used to flip her cornbread over and serve it bottom side up.  Your presentation will be much browner that way.  However, I serve mine top side up.  You can leave it in the skillet and serve from there.  But, I have found that if it stays in the skillet more than about 24 hours, it seems to pick up some of the iron taste.  I generally move the cornbread to a plate on the second day and loosely cover it.  Interestingly, you can leave it uncovered for a couple of days and it will harden and approach something like really thick tortilla chips, “tortilla bread,” I guess. It is actually pretty good that way.

A note on measuring: I generally don’t do much of it, so the amounts given above are approximations. They are guides and not rules.  I look more at ratios, instead of amounts; 2:1, meal to flower; 1:1 buttermilk to sweet milk, etc.  I consider a kitchen to be a marriage between a chemistry lab and an art studio.

Well, there you are.  Enjoy!

The Most Blessed Man on the Face of the Earth

January 28, 2010

According to Wikipedia, Lou Gehrig was the first baseman for the New York Yankees from 1925 through 1939.  During this time he played in 2,130 consecutive games. This set a record that continued until broken by Cal Ripkin, Jr. in 1995.  Gehrig was elected to the Baseball of Fame and is known as baseball’s “Iron Horse.”

In 1939 he was diagnosed with a fatal degenerative nerve disease today known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  Two years after the diagnosis, he would be dead.

Following Gehrig’s retirement in June, the Yankees held an appreciation day for him in Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939.  A weakened Gehrig spoke at this ceremony.  His brief speech began as follows:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

*********************

Today I made a couple of visits in the hospital.  When I arrived, to my displeasure, there was no empty parking space near the entrance.  I had to park all the way across the parking lot, walking the entire breadth of it to reach the door.  When I finished my visits, I walked back across the parking lot to my truck, got in, and left.  I walked without pain.  I walked with perfect coordination.  I walked without assistance.  I walked to the exact location I intended.  My walking was so easy and natural that I gave no thought to it whatsoever.

I am the most blessed man on the face of the earth.

While in town, I visited with a merchant who is a friend of mine.  While waiting to speak with him, I admired the items in his store.  He sells paintings.  I looked at a number of them quite closely.  I could see them in perfect detail.  I could see the different colors the artist used.  While I was there, the phone rang a couple of times.  I could hear it clearly and distinctly.

I am the most blessed man on the face of the earth.

When I returned home, I enjoyed my evening meal.  I had vegetables and baked chicken.  I had all I wanted to eat.  When I finished eating, I felt no pain or nausea.  I then enjoyed some diet lemonade.  I had no trouble swallowing.  The taste was pleasant.  I could even detect the lemony smell.

I am the most blessed man on the face of the earth.

God has given me the ordinary

And it is extraordinary.

He gives a great blessing in a simple act.

He bestows His grace in an everyday occurrence.

Each moment of normalness is profound.

A simple breath is a joy unspeakable.

Let me live each moment.

Let me drink deeply each breath and sight.

God is good.

I shall praise and serve Him, for

I am the most blessed man on the face of the earth.

Praying for bin Laden

January 25, 2010

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6.27-28 NIV)

This can be a perplexing scripture.  I suggest that it is puzzling only to those of an immature faith.  Jesus is all or nothing.  We take all that He says, or we look for another savior.  We cannot pick and choose among His sayings as if we were in the lunch buffet line at the local eatery.  We give Him our life, all of it, if we expect Him to give us heaven on That Day.  Jesus will not accept part of me.  But, He will bless beyond imagination all of me.  Here’s where He says that:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39 NKJV)

If I am a Christian, I will believe the Luke 6 text above.

I guess the most vilified person since Adolph Hitler is Osama bin Laden.  What he has done epitomizes evil.  I do not debate that.  When Jesus said for me to love and pray for my enemies, was He talking about Osama bin Laden?  I think He was.

When something bad happens to us, why is our first thought to strike back at the perpetrator?  Why do we seek vengeance when God has said:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 NKJV, an allusion to Deuteronomy 32.35)

Maybe that’s one of those scriptures we want to leave on the buffet table.  But, God put it in the Bible, so I’ve got to confront it.

If our military takes out bin Laden, they take him out, and he dies.  Certainly he deserves to die.  I guess we could call it “justice” instead of “vengeance.”  I am aware of the “sword bearing” text in Romans 13.4.  I am also suspicious that many hide behind it in an effort to justify vengeance.  I am concerned for the safety of our soldiers who serve in these foreign wars.  They are honorable, brave, and sacrificial people.  I want them to live and not die.  Pray for our soldiers, that they will be safe.  Pray for our political leaders, who sent them to war, that they will bring them home today.  I wish our government had more of an “enemy at the gate” mentality instead of a “fight them over there” one.  This is important – and I am not a bad person to point it out, though some of my neo-con friends may not agree.  I am reminded of this saying of Jesus:

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22 NKJV)

So, back to where we started.  Should we pray for bin Laden?  I think we should.  The real question is, “How should we pray for bin Laden and other ‘enemies’”?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Pray that your enemy will change his behavior.  His behavior is the reason he’s your enemy, isn’t it?  Then, give him incentives to change, make it easy for him – to the best of your ability.
  2. Pray that he will have a better understanding of you.  Then make yourself into a person that everybody would want for a friend.
  3. Pray that he would have a better understanding of God…and see the need for a loving relationship with Him.  Then let him see God in your life.

There’s a good starter list.  I’m sure it could be lengthened.  That’s your job.

If you don’t feel like praying for Osama today, then you might start a little closer home.  Pray for that person at work that you can’t seem to get along with.  Pray for that relative that you haven’t spoken to in 10 years.  Pray for that neighbor who offended you.

I find it hard to cultivate unchristian feelings toward someone for whom I am praying.  It might work for you.

The Sharer

January 23, 2010

The one who opens his heart,

Opens his mind.

Happy is he who shares his blessings,

His joy will grow as he gives.

He will behold things he has missed,

And wonder.

God is good,

And my neighbor is His creation.

To experience the fullness of God’s image,

The needs of my friend must become the needs of myself.

Loving the Unlovable

January 21, 2010

We were granted power and privilege.  We were given beauty and love.  We were caressed and protected and shown the way of the best life.  But it was not good enough for us.  We rebelled against our Benefactor and threw Eden away.

Yet, our Creator, who created us out of His love, continued to love us.

As we persisted in our sinful rebellion, our guilt piled higher and higher.  God was love.  But we hated Him.  We showed our hatred by our wicked acts.  We were undeserving of anything positive from God.  We were without direction, without goodness, without power to right our course, and without hope.

Into the midst of this miserable mess God sent the Son of His love, because He still loved us, even when we were unlovable.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:6-9 NKJV)

If we can even begin to understand our own unworthiness and what God did for us in spite of that – this awareness would have an immense positive effect on our affection for God and our fellow man.  This text should be nailed to our door posts and become frontlets for our eyes.  If we would meditate on it daily, if not hourly, we would become better Christians. Our love for our Father would become a fire in our hearts.  We would learn the meaning of mercy and forgiveness toward our brother.  Our friends would begin to see Christ in us.

We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NKJV)

I love God because He loved me first.  I can practice mercy and humility because He loved me first.  I can fearlessly grow more and more like Jesus, regardless of what the world thinks, says, or does; because He loved me first.

Remember who loves you and what He did to show it.

When Lament Becomes Whining

January 19, 2010

Ok, the short answer is, “When it stops being lament,” but that doesn’t tell us a whole lot.  Perhaps we could approach it this way – when lament becomes selfish it is now whining.  But, then we’ll have to pin down a real good definition of “Selfish.”  So, let’s look for some Bible cases.

Let’s begin with whining – the quintessential case:

Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:2-3 NKJV)

And again:

And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread [that would be the manna, JB].” (Numbers 21:5 NKJV)

No one will deny that the Israelites were out of line with these statements.  They reflect the following:

  1. Excessive focus on self
  2. Tunnel vision, seeing only what was happening at that very moment
  3. A failure to trust in God’s promises and appreciate His broad plan for them, in other words, a lack of faith

And now lament.  Consider this text, containing one of the most torn heart statements in the Old Testament, “…is any sorrow like my sorrow”:

Jerusalem has sinned gravely … Therefore her collapse was awesome; she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction, for the enemy is exalted! The adversary has spread his hand over all her pleasant things; for she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary … Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on me, which the LORD has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger. (Lamentations 1:8-12 NKJV)

Notice the difference in Jeremiah’s statement and the one by the Israelites.  In Lamentations (written as a lament over the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. [I don’t use B.C.E.]):

  1. The focus is on the loss of the central place of worship under the Law of Moses and the suffering of the citizens of Jerusalem
  2. Jeremiah acknowledged that today’s trouble had a context, namely, “Jerusalem has sinned gravely”
  3. In the fifth poem, chapter 5, there is a statement of faith that God remains in control and a plea for restoration

You, O LORD, remain forever; Your throne from generation to generation. …Turn us back to You, O LORD, and we will be restored; Renew our days as of old, (Lamentations 5:19-21 NKJV)

In the final analysis, I think it comes down to our heart – and only God can read that.  It is the intent of these thoughts, not to judge someone, but to encourage each of us to judge himself or herself.  I think many things that on the surface cause regret, when we probe deeper, contain potential for future good.  Some other things are just the result of living in a fallen world, be the fall ours or someone else’s.  Sometimes I may have trouble knowing the difference.  I pray for wisdom and God’s mercy.

Remember the words of Jesus:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NKJV)

The Rights of God

January 17, 2010

Why is my brother a mirror?

Why do look at him but see only myself?

Why do I imagine I have rights before the Almighty?

Does my sin place God in my debt?

Does my inversion of reality make it so?

Does my Maker owe me anything?

Will my life be consumed with myself?

Will my rights defeat my servanthood?

Will my rights be the death of my heart?

Cleanse me of a selfish heart.

Invigorate me with a giving life.

Free me from self-gluttony.

Gently remind me of my inability to pay.

Help me approach the reality of the Cross.

Cause me to accept my status as debtor and not deserver.

Teach me the difference in beggar and Lord.

Blind my eyes to self-want.

Show me that my brother is like me.

My Lord,

The rights are all Yours.

The responsibilities are all mine.

You have blessed me, and I have rebelled.

I have sinned, and You have forgiven.

A Prayer for Mercy

January 16, 2010

Have mercy on me, O Lord

When I allow my thoughts to become distracted

By the bangles of a material world.

Have mercy on me, O Lord

When I allow my words to become bitter

Because I am focused on me.

Have mercy on me, O Lord

When I allow my deeds to seek my own good

At the expense of my brother’s needs.

Bless me with the joy of Your grace.

Comfort me with the knowledge of Your salvation.

Uplift me on the wings of your strength.

Simplify

January 14, 2010

Sometimes we tend to over think things.  Sometimes we create issues when none are actually there.  Sometimes we make things harder than they really are.  Sometimes we think we need great detailed plans announced with appropriate fanfare; a highly organized program before we can do anything.  Sometimes we tend to over think things.

It could be argued that Jesus lived a relatively simple life.  It could be proved that He lived a highly focused life.  His (perfect) life contained no distractions, no clutter to tempt Him to go off mission.  He simply traveled about teaching and helping, a simple and focused life.  It seems to me, that His helping created the audience for His teaching.  I wonder how many people would have listened to Him in the first place if He had not healed their sick.

This sounds to me like a simple life:

…Jesus of Nazareth … who went about doing good …. (Acts 10:38 NKJV)

This sounds to me like the kind of life I need to live.

Living that kind of life requires that we take the emphasis off ourselves.  We must see hurt and simply try to heal it without wondering what others will think, without waiting to be told to act, and without becoming critical because someone else isn’t addressing the mess we’re seeing.  We must see a need…and act…as if we helped others all the time (which, hopefully, we do).

The easy thing to do is complain.  The hard thing to do is help.  Jesus was not a complainer, but He certainly was a helper.  If we could just get it burned into our consciousness that our purpose in existing is to be like Him, maybe we could begin to do His work.

My mission for today is to go about doing good.  If we do this enough, I am convinced that people will want to hear the gospel message.  We can preach and preach (and, of course, we need to do that), but without the “doing good” it is fantasy to believe that large numbers will listen.  At least, that was Jesus’ model.

The Brotherhood of the Gate

January 12, 2010

The photo is of my younger son, Austin, standing by a gate he has just hung.  The entire process, from selecting the posts, through planting them in the earth, to the finished product you see – is documented on my Facebook page.  Austin looks pretty proud of his gate and like he had a good time putting it up.  I imagine a lot of farmers and hunters, who have hung their own gates, would identify with Austin and his gate – a Brotherhood of the Gate.

This made me think of the church – a Brotherhood of Christ.  Like a tradition of gate-hangers, Austin and his gate made me think of the tradition of a family who has been members of the church of Christ for generations.  We don’t become a Christian because of what Momma and Daddy did, but it’s still great to be part of a family where your ancestors were Christians.  This is a tradition we can be proud to be a part of and proud to maintain.  You begin, or renew, that process when you obey the gospel.  It reminds me of this text:

when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. (2 Timothy 1:5 NKJV)

Austin and his gate also remind me of the bond we have with our fellow Christians world-wide.  We may not be members of the same blood-family, but, more significantly, we are members of the same spiritual family.  It is a great encouragement to know that we are part of the greatest cause there is – and that we are not alone – we have friends, helpers, partners, and brothers and sisters who join hands with us across cultural and economic differences to advance the banner of Christianity.  Here’s the text:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

God helps us in so many ways.  The Brotherhood of the Cross numbers high among them.  Love your Christian family and friends.  They can help you get to heaven. 

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Holiness

January 8, 2010

There is no life apart from Jesus Christ.  There is no liberty apart from Jesus Christ.  There is no life worth living which does not orient itself around the quest for excellence.  The only true excellence is found in the person of Jesus Christ.  My only hope for personal holiness is found in Him.  What a blessing it is that Jesus loved and acted so I could participate in His holiness.  The Christian has been given life, liberty, and the honor of a life devoted to the pursuit of holiness.  It is a supreme joy to be a Christian.

I think usually when we read the word “holy” we associate this trait with God.  That is a correct association, for the Bible clearly declares God’s holiness.

… it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 NKJV)

…And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”  (Revelation 4:8 NKJV)

But God’s people are also declared to be holy.

… For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:17 NKJV)

that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, … that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27 NKJV)

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved … (Colossians 3:12 NKJV)

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling … (Hebrews 3:1 NKJV)

Holiness is not only something that we are; it is also something that we do.  The Christian life could be summed up in four words: the pursuit of holiness.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 NKJV)

For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. (Hebrews 12:10 NKJV)

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV)

As a Christian, each day I have the privilege and responsibility of perfecting holiness and pursuing holiness that I may partake of God’s holiness.  This pursuit must affect everything I do, say, and think.  It must affect my attention and behavior at worship services.  It must affect my behavior in the check-out line in Wal-Mart, in the stands at ballgames, and behind the wheel in my automobile.  It must affect how I treat my spouse and my children.  It must affect my conversation at work and with my hunting buddies.  The pursuit of holiness must control everything I do in my life.

Fumbling the Ball on Benevolence?

January 6, 2010


I’ll need some help for the numbers on this, but here is the idea.  If the church took care of the benevolent needs in their own communities, would there be any need for government safety net programs?

I need the total amount given to the church in the U.S. and the total amount spent on government benevolent type programs.  I did a quick Google, but didn’t see what I wanted.  I guess we would have to define “church” broadly to get the two numbers close.  There are, of course, other church expenditures in addition to benevolence.  I am just wondering if there is any chance this could happen.

There would be many advantages if the church could take care of its community’s benevolent needs instead of the government.

  • The financial flow should be more efficient.  The government is no model of efficiency.
  • Increased efficiency should result in lower taxation.
  • There should be fewer who would need help and “fall through the cracks.”
  • If members saw those being helped, I would think they would be more eager to give instead of reluctant to pay taxes.
  • If members were involved with those being helped, I would think that would make it easier for them to love their fellowman.
  • The quality of help from members of the church might be better than the overall quality of help from government employees.
  • There would be greater accountability on the part of those helped.
  • God would get the glory instead of Uncle Sam.

A final question:  Do you think we would have fewer government social programs in the present if the church had done a better job helping people in the past?

This is something I have thought about for a while and find intriguing.  Please comment.