Sowing Seeds

Most of us know the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, the parable in which Jesus describes a farmer tossing out seed while planting his fields, the seed falling on a variety of soils and how those seeds grew.

“As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:4-8By Morgan McClean, courtesy of Morguefile.com

Often we think of this parable as a parable of the soils (some translations do title it this way), a lesson about the conditions of our hearts and our response to the Word. But what if we think of this from the perspective of the farmer? He sows freely, scattering the seed across all the soil, not just the good soil, and allows it to grow freely.

This spring, I took my first swat at a vegetable garden. While I have a little bit of experience with flower gardening, I have effectively no experience with vegetable gardening. But I wanted to try growing some of my own food, having fresh herbs (a basil or mint plant cost about the same amount as a bunch of fresh herbs, anyway) and a few vegetables outside my back door. I tried starting some seeds indoors in the early spring, but none of them really germinated, so I gave up on them and relied on the flower bulbs and vegetable plants I bought from the local nursery. After filling the raised beds with bags of garden soil, I tossed in the little bits soil that I had used in the failed attempt to germinate the seeds indoors.

Within a week of planting a bunch of hosta and astilbe bulbs in the larger of my raised beds, a few large, flat leaves poked up from the soil and I got excited! They didn’t look like hosta leaves, so I assumed they were the astilbe I had planted (but never seen in person before). As time went on, though, it became clear that these were NOT astilbe leaves and the yellow, conical flowers confirmed that these were summer squash plants, popped up from the seeds left in the soil I had tossed in last minute, assuming the seeds dried out and dead. Next thing I knew, the seeds I hadn’t known I sowed were growing rapidly and flourishing.

Sometimes, we sow the seeds of faith intentionally, cultivating the soil of our relationships so that the truth will spring up and produce a good crop as our friends come to Christ and build relationships with him. Once in a very great while, we get to see the harvest, too. But sometimes we don’t. Continue reading

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Getting Away with Murder: “Healthified” Recipes

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “healthified” recipes. You know the kind of recipe I’m talking about: things like pancakes made with coconut flour or replacing the oil with applesauce in banana bread. What I’ve realized, though, is that these things tend to enable us to continue in our unhealthy habits instead of leading us toward healthy habits. We all love banana bread (if you don’t, we can’t be friends), but let’s be real. I don’t care how many ingredients you substitute, there is no way you can turn it into a health food. You just can’t.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there is no value to making healthier exchanges to our foods. I’m all for that. But here’s the deal– we cannot lie to ourselves and let ourselves believe that something that is meant to be a treat is actually a healthy food. We have many ways of deceiving ourselves into believing that things that hurt us are actually ‘not that bad’ or actually good for us. We love doing this sort of thing! Why? Because we get what we want and are freed of the consequences. What could possibly be better than that?!

Sadly, if our recipes were the only aspects of our lives about which we lied to ourselves, we would actually be pretty decent shape. But the real problem is the way we accept and encourage our own sin.

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I Just Read the Recipes

I’ve got a number of cookbooks to my name, about a dozen, plus about another dozen cooking magazines (e.g. Quick Cooking, now sadly defunct). Then there’s my recipe box, which grows fuller and fuller. And let’s not even start talking about my Pinterest boards (let’s just pretend I haven’t pinned over 1k recipes…).

But how many of those recipes have I actually made? A very small fraction, truth be told. I love to read the recipes, look at the pictures, admire the methods and fantasize about the produce. And then I put the book away, close the Pinterest window, shut the magazine. And walk away. Maybe I’ll eventually make it. But probably not.

In that spirit, I’m going to share a recipe with you that you probably won’t ever make:

Homemade Ravioli with Brown Butter Asparagus and WalnutsHomemade Ravioli with Brown Butter Asparagus and Walnuts

Ingredients – Ravioli

2 c all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp olive oil

1 c cottage cheese (the poor man’s ricotta– higher fat is better), strained (you want mostly curds, not whey)
1 egg
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes (I make my own using this method– I also add some Italian seasonings for umph)
salt & pepper
(1/4 c freshly grated parmesean is a really nice addition, but I didn’t have any this time)

Ingredients – Asparagus

1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into ~3″ pieces
4 Tbs butter (do not substitute margarine or oil here– for a brown butter sauce to work, it really does need to be butter)
1 lemon
1/2 c chopped walnuts
handful of chopped parsley (I used dried this time, but fresh really is much better)
pepper

  1. Prepare your pasta dough by mixing together the flour, salt, oil and eggs. This video will help you learn the traditional ‘well’ method. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
  2. While the dough is resting, prepare your filling. Simply mix together the cottage cheese, egg, tomatoes, salt and pepper and optional parmeasan and set aside.
  3. Cut the dough into hunks and roll out into thin sheets. If you’ve got a pasta press, lucky you! I just use a rolling pin and lots of elbow grease!
  4. Once your dough is rolled out nice and thin (if they are too thick, they can end up too bready when you cook them), spoon out rows of scant tablespoons on half of the sheet. Then fold over the sheet to cover the filling lumps and press the dough around the filling to help seal the pockets. Then you can either cut between the ravioli pockets (make sure they are very sealed!) or use a ravioli stamp, like I did.
  5. You can either freeze these ravioli, refrigerate for a few days or go ahead and cook them now.
  6. Bring your water to a boil and melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus, stir to coat and cook for about 5 minutes.
  7. Once the water is boiling, add the ravioli to the pot (I use a slotted spoon to add and remove them) and cook. They should take 4-5 minutes. I also prefer to do this in multiple batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. They need to be able to move around freely in the boiling water. Once cooked, remove to a serving dish or individual plates.
  8. Remove the asparagus from the saute pan and add to the ravioli. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the butter left in the pan. Stir in the pepper (freshly ground is best– about ten twists), then the walnuts, then the parsley. Toss to coat, then pour over the asparagus and ravioli. Top with grated parmesean and additional parsley, if desired.

So let’s be real. You’re not going to make that tomorrow night. You’re not going to make that Saturday night. You’re going to look at the picture, think about how delicious it must be with the bite of the lemon juice and the nuttiness of the asparagus complemented by the walnuts. But that’s all.

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Loving In Deed

Valentine's DayIt’s that time of year again, the time of year men bemoan and women anxiously fret over whether or not their men will come through or, if single, if they will spend the day alone. Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day! As I’ve grown older, the meaning of the day has changed a lot for me, likely primarily because I have outgrown a lot of that high school insecurity. However, as much as I think we shouldn’t overvalue Valentine’s Day, I do think it is important to remember the importance of what the day is meant to celebrate and encourage: love.

Little children, let’s not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:18

A major theme in Scripture is our responsibility to “love one another as [Christ has] loved you” (John 5:12). Call me crazy, but that sounds… well…hard. Like, really hard. I could be wrong, but I don’t think, Jesus was talking about giving each other chocolates one day a year. I also don’t think he was talking about giving said chocolates to just our significant others. I think, just maybe, He was talking about something bigger, much bigger.

So how can we love one another, like we are commanded? Well, fortunately, one of the ways you can do it is with food! (Yes, that’s always a wonderful answer!)

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