Well, I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, so to make up for it I have a boatload today. First, I’d like to say that I hope you had a happy Easter and were able to take some time to remember the amazing sacrifice that Jesus made for us and the miraculous resurrection that enables us to see Him in heaven some day. Even though I’ve been busy and had a lot of good times, I’ve still kept my eye out for things to share, so let’s start talking.
Let’s start with deals! If you go to Caroline Herrera’s website, you can request a sample to try one of their new fragrances. Ever since my great experience with the Diptyque, I’m very excited about getting fragrance samples to try. There’s also a couple of yummy ice cream experiences coming up. This coming Wednesday (4/27) is 31 cent scoop night at Baskin Robbins from 5 PM to 10 PM. Then on May 10, Haagen-Dazs will be having a free cone day from 4 PM to 8 PM. If you stop by Blockbuster Express today, you can use the code MONDAYDVD to receive a free rental.
If you do decide to get a free movie, I highly suggest The King’s Speech. My husband and I watched it recently, and I completely understood why it got so many awards. Though it does have a lot of cursing in it (which I think was to be historically accurate), the story line is engrossing and moving. Though you can’t get it at Blockbuster Express, I do have another entertainment suggestion for you to look into. A friend of mine recently told me about a BBC mini-series called Cranford. All together (Cranford and Return to Cranford), the series is about 8 hours long. It’s a saga about this quaint little town in England that’s populated by some really fun characters. If you do watch, I have to encourage you to finish the whole series. There will probably be several points where you want to quit because you don’t like a twist in the story, but I can tell you that it has a really good ending.
I also have a few snacks that you could make to eat while you’re watching a movie of your choice. The first two come from my favorite blog, Smitten Kitchen. The salty option is Crisp Rosemary Flatbread, which has the virtues of being easy to make and very addicting. At first, it just tastes good, but then you find yourself wanting to go eat some more.
Crisp Rosemary Flatbread (from Smitten Kitchen)
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. chopped rosemary (You could definitely sub in your favorite herb.)
2 6 in. sprigs rosemary
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a heavy baking sheet on a rack in the middle of the oven. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of this mix, add the water and oil, and gradually stir these into the flour with a wooden spoon until the dough forms. Knead the dough gently for 4-5 minutes.
2. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered in plastic wrap. Roll the other piece out on a sheet of parchment into a 10 inch round. (The dough should be very thin.)
3. Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil and scatter small clusters of the rosemary sprigs on top, pressing them in slightly. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sea salt. Slide the dough onto the preheated pan and bake til it’s golden and browned in spots, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the flatbread to a rack to cool. Repeat this process with the remaining dough. When it’s cool, you can break it in pieces and eat it by itself or with a delicious dip.
That can also be said of World Peace Cookies, although with them you know right away that you won’t want to stop eating them.
World Peace Cookies (another Smitten Kitchen gem)
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
11 tbsp. softened butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt (I used kosher which worked fine.)
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda. In a separate large bowl, beat the butter on medium til it’s soft and creamy. Add the sugars, salt, and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes.
2. Add the flour and pulse til slightly mixed in. Mix for 30 seconds on low, just til the flour disappears into the dough. Work the dough as little as possible. Toss in the chocolate chips and mix just to incorporate them.
3. Turn the dough onto a work surface, gather it together, and divide it in half. Working with 1/2 at a time, shape the dough into 1 1/2 in. diameter logs. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill at least 3 hours.
4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Slice the logs into 1/2 inch thick rounds and space them 1 inch apart on the pans. (Just press any crumbly bits back on the cookies.)
5. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 12 minutes. They will not look done or be firm, but that’s ok. Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let them rest.
The last idea came from a new favorite cookbook author, Melissa Clark. I just finished reading her latest book, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. I really enjoyed the stories, and several of the recipes were calling my name and begging to be made right away. I managed to quiet all of them except one. I was unable to resist the call of Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, or dried apricots. Fortunately, granola is all about putting in what you do have, so I listed my substitutes in the recipe. Though the original sounds good (and I want to make it sometime), my version was also yummy and is very addictive.
Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios (adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite)
3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 c. hulled, raw pistachios (I used almonds.)
1 c. hulled, raw pumpkin seeds (I subbed in mini chocolate chips.)
1 c. coconut chips (I used sweetened, shredded coconut.)
3/4 c. maple syrup (Or honey.)
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom or ginger
3/4 c. chopped, dried apricots (Or whole craisins.)
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine everything but the fruit (or chocolate if you’re using some). Spread the granola in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, til golden brown and well toasted.
Let the granola cool a few minutes, then transfer it to a large bowl and toss it with the dried fruit (and chocolate).
I also recently finished reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. The best way to describe this book is what Kathleen Norris says in the foreword: “Asked by the BBC to explain to his fellow Britons what Christians believe, C.S. Lewis proceeded with the task as if it were the simplest thing in the world, and also the most important.” I don’t believe everything that Lewis says (he seems to have theistic evolutionary leanings), but he did have a knack for condensing some tough concepts down into graspable metaphors. This book is definitely a beneficial read for Christians, and it can also be an eye-opener for the unsaved. I highly recommend it.
The book is divided into 4 sections that he called books. In book 1 – Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe – Lewis talks about what he calls the law of human nature. He says,
“If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much — we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so — that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.
These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”
In book 2 – What Christians Believe – Lewis talks about the “rival conceptions of God.” In discussing the atheist concept of God he says the following.
“Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know that it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”
Having presented the atheist view, he talks about the “shocking” alternative, Christianity. Below is his explanation for free will.
“Christians, then, believe that an evil power has made himself for the present Prince of this World. And, of course, that raises problems. Is this state of affairs in accordance with God’s will, or not? If it is, He is a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?
But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, ‘I’m not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.’ Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.
It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata — of creatures that worked like machines — would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.
Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way; apparently he thought it worth the risk.”
That last sentence is really pretty simple. But for all that, when you can grasp it, it’s profoundly moving. If you let it, it can change your whole perspective. In the same chapter, Lewis discusses man’s inability to be happy without God.
“Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended — civilisations are built up — excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.”
He goes on to discuss why we should believe Jesus’ claim to be God.
“But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.
Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
In the next chapter, Lewis discusses the meaning of repentance.
“In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor — that is the only way out of our ‘hole’. This process of surrender — this movement full speed astern — is what Christians call repentance.”
At the end of book 2, Lewis is summing up what he’s discussed so far, about the nature of a saved man.
“In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble — because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.”
And about why people should choose to trust God now rather than later.
“Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else — something it never entered your head to conceive — comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.”
It’s such a clear and strong call to believe, that I wonder how anyone could say no. I do believe, and I’m still brought to tears thinking about it. In book 3, Lewis begins talking about what Christian behavior should be. In the chapter on Christian marriage, Lewis has some smart things to say about love.
“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
I’ve rarely heard a more logical explanation of why being in love is not enough of a reason to marry or to divorce. Later in book 3, Lewis discusses faith and what it does in our lives.
“Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers everything for nothing. In a sense, the whole Christian life consists in accepting that very remarkable offer. But the difficulty is to reach the point of recognising that all we have done and can do is nothing. What we should have liked would be for God to count our good points and ignore our bad ones. Again, in a sense, you may say that no temptation is ever overcome until we stop trying to overcome it — throw up the sponge. But then you could not ‘stop trying’ in the right way and for the right reason until you had tried your very hardest. And, in yet another sense, handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”
Book 4 is called “Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity.” Lewis gives one of the best explanations of the trinity that I’ve ever heard.
“On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings — just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that; just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint, of something super-personal — something more than a person. It is something we could never have guessed, and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels one ought to have been able to guess it because it fits in so well with all the things we know already.”
In the same chapter, Lewis explains why some people can’t seem to understand God as clearly as others.
“The instrument through which you see God is your whole self. And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred — like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope. That is why horrible nations have horrible religions: they have been looking at God through a dirty lens.”
In the next chapter of book 4, Lewis is discussing the difference between how we see time and how God might see it (conjecture, but definitely something to give you food for thought). He explains that God might not have to be in time as we know it. He thinks that the reason God could know what we’re going to do while not making us do it is that God is experiencing all time — what we would call past, present, and future — at the same moment. Since He is omnipresent, Lewis posits that this might apply to time as well as place. You need to read the whole chapter to better understand what he’s saying; I just wanted to give a small explanation (especially since physics isn’t my strong suit).
In the next to the last chapter, Lewis discusses whether Christians are “Nice People or New Men.”
“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls — of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbours or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anaesthetic fog which we call ‘nature’ or ‘the real world’ fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?”
Besides being a good point, I love the way he phrases the last sentence. It is beautiful and convicting at the same time. The last chapter is a discussion of the new men that Christ creates. Here are his last words in the book and on the subject as well as a final call to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
I hope this has given you an idea of what the book contains and piqued your interest. Believe it or not, this is only a tiny portion of what Lewis wrote. I tried to only pull out what really grabbed my attention.
Before I sign off, I wanted to give you just one more metaphor. It’s one that my pastor used in a message Sunday morning and it really made me think. Would you hang around a cemetery all day? Most people (I hope), would answer no. Yet as Christians, we tend to live in a spiritual cemetery. We know that the lost are considered spiritually dead. That makes the world a spiritual cemetery, one which we quite happily wallow in and then wonder why the Lord isn’t working in our lives. This really spoke to me, so I wanted to be sure and share it with you also. I hope you’ve found something in the blog today which will inspire you or at least provoke some reflection. Have a great week and I’ll talk to you soon.