Friday, July 31, 2009

Squash Smoothie

Back in the spring I signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share at a local farm. This means I get a box of produce every week, and I never know what I'm going to get until I go pick up the box on Thursday. It's really fun! Lately there have been LOTS of cucumbers and squashes in that box every week. This morning, needing to use up some patty pan squash, I decided to chop up a particularly large one and toss it, raw, into my morning smoothie along with chunks of frozen peach, a banana, a few ounces of almond milk, and water. No kale or spinach in my CSA share this week, so the smoothie was a pleasant peachy color instead of my usual green shade. Nonetheless, Nathan does not share my taste in food, and even the nice color could not entice him to try it. I believe his words were something along the lines of:

"I would no rather drink that than I would raw sewage."

Regardless of Nathan's unenthusiastic (albeit uninformed) review, I recommend this idea if you have squash coming out your ears and need to use it up. The smoothie was delicious. (I don't think you can really taste the squash.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Russell Orchards Outing

Today Nathan and I and our friend Lisa went on an excursion to Russell Orchards in Ipswich. We had a great time picking raspberries and enjoyed some of the orchard's signature apple cider. We also saw some cute - and a few not-so-cute - animals.

Look at this curious little goat. She was on the opposite side of the pen, but when I held out my hand and clicked my tongue, s/he came right over to make friends with us:

This gleaming-eyed goose was entirely unafraid of orchard visitors:

These pigs were quite small...

...compared to "Big Boy"!

The miniature horses had the softest noses. Here's Lisa befriending one of them:

There were even guinea hens!

Nathan liked this tractor:

And he was a good sport despite the fact that he doesn't even like fruit!

But the best part of the day was coming home and making a fresh raspberry pie, based loosely on this recipe. I baked a simple vegan pie crust with coconut flakes mixed in with the flour, a recipe idea I've tried a couple of times lately for fruit pies. If you make your crusts in a food processor, it's easy to whirl the coconut around with the dry ingredients until it's a finely ground consistency, and the resulting pie crust will be delicious. Then, I mixed 1 cup of raspberries with a little water in my blender (rather than mashing the berries by hand on the stove top) and strained the seeds out, cooking the resulting juice according to the recipe, but with less sugar than called for - I used less than 1/2 cup. Pour the glaze over fresh berries, and the resulting pie exemplifies all that is good about summer weekends.

Lisa declared it possibly the best dessert she had ever eaten. All in all, I think it was a good day.


Dr. Sanders at Scriptorium Daily commemorated the 40th anniversary (July 20) of the first and only communion service on the moon with a post on the topic a couple of days ago. Sanders writes:

Presbyterian theology recognizes that taking communion all by yourself is a pretty weird thing to do (lunar or otherwise). So Aldrin and his pastor had worked things out in advance: The lunar landing was on a Sunday, and Aldrin’s home church celebrated their earthling communion service in a way that recognized one of their church members was way off in space, communing along with them.

He also points to this site for more information, including an excerpt that Aldrin wrote about the experience a few decades later:

"I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements."

P.S. Yes, I think my post title is quite clever, thanks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

They Shall Run and Not Be Weary

This is just fantastic.


The 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 has prompted some conversations about the history of the space program. Last night during one of these conversations the following exchange took place:

Sarah Marie: You have to feel a little sorry for Michael Collins...

Nathan: I have no idea who that is.

Sarah Marie: Exactly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Make Your Place

Amy over at Angry Chicken has a book review for Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs. Looks like an interesting read if you're curious about making your own (non-chemical-laden) cleaners, hygiene products, etc.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dooce and Natural Birth


Heather Armstrong of Dooce gave Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein and The Business of Being Born (directed by Epstein and featuring Lake) glowing reviews on her website yesterday. Beyond glowing, actually, but raving, shining, superbly fabulous reviews. This is a woman who ten or fifteen weeks ago was planning to ask for all available drugs in the hospital and hoping to be knocked out cold and not feel a thing when she delivered her second daughter, Marlo. And then, at about 30 weeks pregnant, she read Your Best Birth and she actually changed her mind about the birth process.

You can read her post The labor story, part 1 for yourself. (Or you've already read it because you're a normal American and everyone reads Dooce these days.) Her writing isn't usually to my taste, but this woman is a major influence on all 900 gazillion of her readers (okay, I estimate), and this is what she told those readers:

"I'm not going to get into the specifics and the really convincing and at times jaw-dropping statistics of it here, there are so many other places and people who can write about it better than I can, but I will say this: if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, GO READ THAT BOOK. From now on when someone asks me what is the one piece of advice I would give to a pregnant woman, it will be: GO BUY A COPY OF THAT BOOK. [...] IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I'm not even kidding, I'll say it again: IT CHANGED MY LIFE."

I think books on natural childbirth are about to start flying off the shelves.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thoughts on Trinitarian Universalism

Oh blog, my little corner of the web, I neglect you badly these days. It's just that I have a house and a husband and lots of little music students to attend to, not to mention theological questions swimming around in my head.

Please forgive the messily-written processing that sometimes takes place here. That is how I learn, absorb, and remember - by having some sounding-board for my thoughts and a place to gather them all together.

If you read my post recommending Nathan Alterton's blog posts regarding hell, you may not be surprised by this: I'm afraid I may be leaning toward a type of Christian universalism; not the Unitarian type we often associate with the word "universalism" but rather a distinctly Christian Trinitarian universalism. I feel like I'm intellectually and spiritually on the brink of this great leap - believing something so opposed to the view of eternal torment most evangelical Christians hold - and it's rather frightening.

Nathan's dad has two posts of his own on the topic: How Broad a Salvation? and Part 2 of the same. He presents additional thoughts and considerations but doesn't necessarily eschew the view of universal reconciliation. He brings up interesting points about the Kingdom of God.

Gregory MacDonald (a pseudonym) has a couple of interesting and relevant blog posts: Reasons People Think Evangelicals Cannot Be Universalists and Responses to Evangelical Objections to the Orthodoxy of Universalism:

"'Evangelical' universalists arguably have a very biblical and robust notion of divine love (or so I argue in my book). They do not need to imagine that God is a soft touch who would not dream of punishing anyone. Their understanding of divine love seeks to be shaped by its revelation in Christ. And they have a strong view of divine justice. Indeed, they think that every divine action is a manifestation of what P.T. Forsythe called, "holy love." It is not that some divine acts are loving (like saving people) whilst others are just (like sending people to hell). Rather all God’s deeds are loving and just. Whatever hell is we must not suppose that it is the action of justice as opposed to love. It is, they think, an act of severe mercy – of 'holy love.'"

I've been thinking about The Great Divorce. It doesn't exactly paint a picture of universal reconciliation, but rather a bus filled with passengers with the option to disembark, leave hell, and be in the presence of God. This 'Great Divorce' of good and evil is voluntary. The interesting part, of course, is that most of the passengers continue to choose separation from God. If one loathes God and all goodness, truth, and beauty, one does not want to be in the presence of Him, after all. But, in this view of heaven and hell, the choice between the two continues beyond our earthly lives.

"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened." - C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

George MacDonald said, "Every soul that is ultimately lost is a defeat of the love of God," and "Every attribute of God must be infinite as himself. Mercy, for example, cannot be temporary but eternal." He also wrote in David Elginbrod, "...God loves, yea, is love. Therefore hell itself must be subservient to that love and must be an embodiment of it." According to this article in Christianity Today, he was known to ask, "Which is stronger? The love of God or the will of man?"

Do I believe in universal salvation? I wouldn't go that far right now. But perhaps (and I am simply positing here) the work of universal reconciliation is already accomplished, as the blood of Christ reconciled us to God while we were still sinners and were His enemies. This reconciliation does not require faith because it is already reality and was accomplished through grace. The enmity between God and man was reversed 2,000 years ago, and the sins of the past, present, and future forgiven. Now this does not necessarily mean everyone is saved. Whether one spends eternity with God or apart from Him may still hinge on individual choice, but perhaps physical death is not the final cutoff point in this choice; perhaps there is a possibility of post-mortem repentance and salvation. Given this proposed picture of life after death, will everyone ultimately choose God, accept His mercy, and be saved? I don't know. Maybe.

I'm feel as though I'm seeing for the first time a fuller scope of salvation, one that culminates in a beautiful, beautiful restoration of all things.

I'm surprised now that I didn't see it before, in Gregory of Nyssa, in George MacDonald, and in so many others - particularly early church fathers. But I suppose if you are taught in church and Sunday School to believe that all Christians think this one certain way about damnation and punishment, it can be difficult to see past that and glimpse that in fact, in the early church, a belief in universal reconciliation may have been the prevailing Christian thought.

Is it the truth? I don't know. But as I survey this other option I have the odd sense of being Chesterton's explorer: sailing the whole world and coming back to my starting point thinking I've discovered a new land, viewing home as something new and different, only to find it the same familiar home I left. I remember things my parents said and quoted to me over the years that may have quietly, subversively gone against the traditional evangelical view of hell. So perhaps it's not so odd that I'm considering this now, after all.

In addition to contemplating universal reconciliation, I'm also grappling with salvation (perhaps taking issue with the legally-based concept of justification-sanctification-glorification I was taught in youth group and considering differences between having our sins forgiven and 'being saved'), imputed vs. imparted righteousness, and the efficacy of prayer.

I wish I could say I'm doing this grappling in a methodical, productive way, but the truth is I just feel overwhelmed and confused.

I guess I've been feeling spiritually and mentally adrift lately, and by lately I think I mean for years now. I'm searching for orthodoxy, doctrine, and truth, yet I don't feel grounded in a church body of believers with whom I can grow and learn. I'm praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and if God weren't so good I think He'd be tired of my supplication, "Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief."

My Dad says, "Humans trying to understand God is like trying to teach an ant quantum physics!" I feel like a little ant, indeed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Worth Reading: Three Views of Hell

I recently discovered Nathan Alterton's blog, and have found his most recent posts particularly thought-provoking. Nathan's family used to go camping every summer with my family and several other families of good friends. Those days of sunburns, sailboats, canoe races, bike rides, hikes, and endless speed card games are long gone, and now Nathan is a father of five boys - with a sixth on the way! Somehow he still manages to find time to blog, and I find his thoughts well worth reading.

Recently he's been writing about the Biblical doctrine of Hell. Three Views of Hell, Part 1 provides an overview on the subject, Part 2 brings to light how translation issues necessarily affect a study of the subject, Part 3 discusses the commonly-held view of Eternal Torment (those who die without accepting Christ's atonement will spend eternity separated from God in a place we call hell), and Part 4 is his critique of this viewpoint. Part 5 has really had me thinking over the past few days, as it lays out a Christ-centered doctrine of Universal Reconciliation quite unlike the "universalism" advocated by Unitarians and others clearly outside of orthodox Christianity.

Near the end of the post on Universal Reconciliation is this paragraph:
"There is one more argument in favor of Universal Reconciliation that I haven’t touched on yet, and in my mind it is the most powerful of them all. If Christ truly desires that all men should be saved and He paid the price for all men, yet because of Satan’s interference the majority of humanity is lost forever – then who is the real loser and who is the real winner for all eternity? [emphasis mine] Satan may be cast into the Lake of Fire at the Judgment, but even then he would be able to rejoice that he took the vast majority of men, the pinnacle of God's creation, made in His image, with him into that place to be separated from God forever. God wanted them saved, but the work of the Devil destroyed them, which seems to go against the teaching of scripture."

Nathan's posts have prompted me to think more deeply about my understanding of hell, and have motivated me to pull out a few things for re-reading, including C. S. Lewis's "The Great Divorce" and maybe a little Gregory of Nyssa, too.

Part 5 is Nathan's most recent installment to date, but I believe he is planning on covering the view of Conditional Immortality in the future, so if you find his posts interesting, be sure to stay tuned. The comments on his posts are also well worth reading. I hope you find Nathan's thoughts as interesting as I have!


At the suggestion of my brother-in-law Gabe, I recently started using Twitter. I enjoy the opportunity to post condensed, brief updates and thoughts from time to time. I've added a little twitter update gadget to my sidebar in case any of you are interested. Let me know if you're on twitter so I can follow you!

Holly's Visit and My Studio Recital

It's hard to believe it's already July, especially since it's been raining almost nonstop for weeks here in Massachusetts.

As you may have surmised from the recent lack of posting on this blog, I've been busy lately!

Our long-lost friend Holly came to visit us from Washington state. We were so happy to be able to spend time with her after almost a year since she moved back to WA for graduate school.

Holly and I went on a couple of runs together, hit up a Saturday morning yard sale (I got a wooden shelf that works well as a spice rack for $0.50!), made lots of healthy spinach and fruit smoothies, talked about vegetarianism and nutrition, and caught up on life. We even made garlic scape pesto using garlic scapes from my produce CSA and enjoyed it over sprouted wheat pasta from Trader Joe's. We really enjoy cooking healthy meals together. With Nathan and friends, we watched quite a few good JAG episodes (best TV show ever), played and listened to lots of music, and enjoyed good food and even better company. We headed into Boston one afternoon and Lisa snapped this photo for us:

Holly's visit happened to coincide with my very first studio recital. Planning this recital was quite a bit of work, and there were lots of discouraging setbacks - by the time the recital rolled around, fewer than half of my usual students were actually able to make it, although all parents had committed to the date months in advance. Despite a few bumps in the road, the recital day came and the effort was well worthwhile. It was nice to have a chance for my students to showcase the fruits of their labors, and we had a good-sized audience of about 50 family members and friends.

Here are the terrific students who played in the recital last Sunday:

And here are a few supportive friends who came to hear my students play. (And my wunderhusband Nathan who accompanied everyone):

What an eventful month June was. As we've been settling into our new home, with lots of unpacking to do and house and yard projects galore, we've been enjoying good times with friends and making the first of many memories here in our colonial house in Danvers.