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

Spiritual Spoon-Feeding

Thanks to the military, my husband’s schedule is never a sure thing. Aside from long nights and phone calls at 4 am to confirm the paperwork he signed or to call him in to evacuate planes, there’s the constant change in shifts. After nearly a year on the midnight shift (similar to the traditional third shift), he spent about six weeks on days (the traditional first shift) and was recently moved to swing shift (basically second shift) for a few weeks. Once those weeks end, he will be some sporadic days of work and appointments, then some leave and then off to deployment in the desert for four months. Life married to the Air Force, even in our ‘easy’ corner of the world, stateside with minimal danger and longer station assignments, is hardly predictable or consistent.

All that is to say that the last few weeks while he has been on swing shift have been challenging. Our time together is minimal because I’m usually in bed by the time he gets home and he is still asleep when I get up in the morning. We usually have about half an hour together before I go to work. And then he is gone when I get home. It should be no surprise that I highly value the time spent around a dinner table and this schedule makes this impossible. It has put quite the damper on my cooking spirit! When I was single, I still cooked for myself quite a bit, but now that I’ve got someone that I get to cook for, lacking that is such a bummer!

So tonight I insisted on cooking (a bit) and putting together some of my favorite flavors to make:

Barbeque Chicken with Cornmeal Mush

(fancy people call it polenta)Barbeque Chicken with Cornmeal Mush (Polenta)
Ingredients
1 c yellow cornmeal*
3 c beef or chicken broth (water also works)
2 c cooked, shredded chicken**
1/4 c barbeque sauce (recipe below, or your favorite bottled sauce)

Toppings of your choice, such as:
pickle slices
pickled jalapeños
sliced raw onions
cole slaw/raw cabbage

  1. Bring the broth or water to a boil in a shallow saucepan. Once at a boil, whisk in the cornmeal bit by bit, whisking rapidly until smooth. Stir quickly and regularly to avoid clumps. Allow to cook over medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes, depending how thick you’d like it. Add a dollop of butter or margarine, if you like it a bit creamier.
  2. Toss the chicken with the barbeque sauce (below) and spoon over the cornmeal mush. Allow each person to top with pickles, peppers, cole slaw, etc as they prefer their own barbeque. The cornmeal mush is like the cornbread!

Kansas City-style Barbeque Sauce (adapted from Food Network)
Yields 1 quart
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c ketchup
3 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs corn starch (+ 3 Tbs water, whisked into a cornstarch slurry)
2 tsp garlic powder
salt
2 tsp liquid smoke

  1. Bring the oil to temperature in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Before it bubbles, add the onions and garlic, cook until transparent.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch slurry and liquid smoke. Add a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the liquid smoke, then slowly incorporate the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. Allow to cook for a few more minutes, longer if you like it thicker (it will thicken as it cools, as well).
  4. Strain, if desired.

*polenta works, too, but it is effectively the exact same thing, just a little more finely ground and about three or four times more expensive
**I use shredded chicken quarters that I boiled to make chicken stock a few days ago (quarters are pretty much the cheapest cut of chicken and have lots of dark meat flavor!)

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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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