Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frijoles Negros - Becky

When Tommy and I took our trip to Nicaragua in January, there was a dish that was served to us on a regular basis (seriously, we saw this at breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day) called gallo pinto.  Actually, that's just a fancy name for rice and beans.  It literally means painted (or speckled) chicken.  The joke in Central American countries is that, for breakfast, they have rice and beans; for lunch, they have beans and rice; and, for dinner, they have gallo pinto.  Granted, gallo pinto may have some extra things in it like onions or peppers, hot sauce, or sour cream (yes, sour cream).  Still, rice and beansthough joked about in the U.S. as what we may have to resort to eating in a crisisare staples in Nicaragua (and much of the world, really).  And, at least as they were served to me, they taste good.

Well, after we got home from our trip, I decided to try to replicate this dish.  I looked on the Internet for recipes, but, even though the recipes were plentiful, I was not able to recreate the taste and texture I was going for.  In the process, however, I discovered something else.  I had been under the impression that the beans used in gallo pinto were black beans (frijoles negros)though I think now that the correct beans would be pinto beansso I went looking for a good way to cook them.  I came across a recipe for cooking dried black beans in the crock pot.  Every other recipe I saw involved a lot of soaking and re-soaking, but this one is so easy that I have been using it over and over again (and I have even simplified it for my own convenience).

I wish that I could remember the actual site where I found it so that I could give the proper credit.  Anyway, it is sufficient that I didn't make it up.  Okay, are you ready for the recipe (this is my simplified version)?  Here goes:  Combine 1 cup of dry beans with 4 cups of water in the crock pot.  Cook on high for 3 1/2* hours.  Drain and serve.  That's it.  (What?  Were you expecting to have to pre-soak the beans?  I can assure you that you don't have to do that.)  If it makes you feel better to rinse and sort the beans first, you can do that, but I don't even bother doing it anymore because I can't tell that it makes any difference.  It works out well to store the beans in 2 old mayonnaise or peanut butter jars.  Once you get to the beans at the bottom of the jar, there may be some residual bean sludge that you can simply rinse away with water.  I like to cook my beans into my omelet for breakfast in the morning.  They are a little bland by themselves, but with a pinch of salt (or parmesan cheese; sounds weird but is quite good), they are a snack that is high in protein and fiber.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been eating black beans from a can (I was going to eat them at camp, but that never happened), and, I have to say, I can't wait for them to be gone so that I can cook some more of my dried beans.  Not only are the dried beans cheaper, they taste so much better.  Also, in case anyone was wondering, with the dried beans I have not experienced the, um, windbreaking problem that tends to come with beans.  Though it is true that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world**, I would take a hill of beans any day.  Any bean counter could tell you that beans are an affordable addition (or replacement) to any menu.  I hope you try them.  (If you can't tell, I am so excited that I just had to spill the beans.)


*Individual crock pots may vary.  The original recipe called for 4 hours, but that made the beans a little too mushy for me.  At 3 hours the beans were just a little underdone but still edible.  At 3 1/2 hours they seemed just right.

**Twenty cool points to anyone under the age of 25 who can tell me what this line is from (without googling it).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When We All Get to Heaven - Becky

NOTE before reading:  This post is intended to spark discussion and thankful feelings towards God.  If you think I am way off on any of this, I will say upfront that I don't pretend to have everything all figured out.  Please feel free to leave any constructive comments that may lead me closer to the truth.

As I sat in chapel one evening during camp last week, I was struck with a thought.  It suddenly occurred to me that those people—the people with whom I was singing praises and who I will miss terribly next year—would be the same people with whom I will be in Heaven for eternity.  Up to this point, my experience with "camp people" has been that we see each other once a year (or twice if we manage to make it to a retreat), and only in the last few years have we been able to keep in touch through blogs and facebook.  For the most part, "camp people" are the people you love dearly and intensely for that one special week of the year... and then you go back to regular life and all of your regular friends.*  Fortunately, the Internet has made it much easier to stay in touch with these people, but there is still an element of separation going on because they are not physically there.  Lately, I have been very sad about the fact that I will be separated even further from my camp friends (and other friends and family), but the thought I had that night during worship gave me a lot of comfort.

Think about it.  If Heaven is even a little bit as I understand it, we will all be praising God together.  But, we won't have bodies with faulty vocal cords to produce sour notes.  We will have been purified and made "perfect," meaning that we won't have any physical hindrances to keep us from perfectly expressing God's glory.  We can try as hard as we can now (on earth in our physical bodies) to give God the praise he deserves, but we fall short every time.  After all, right now we can't even understand him fully.  I believe that in Heaven, we will have not only the capacity to understand God in all his fullness but to reflect it back on him with 100% accuracy.  (And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. —2 Corinthians 3:18.)  I think that's pretty cool.

There's something else that's cool about the whole thing that, I admit, is speculation on my part.  I have not studied this enough to be sure about the scriptures to back this up and their individual contexts.  But, my general feeling is that since we won't, like I said, be contained any longer by physical bodies, there will be nothing to keep our souls from, well, "mingling" with each other.  My personal guess is that, just like Eve was formed from a piece of Adam (specifically, his rib), men and women were formed from "pieces"** of God.  I will even go as far as to say that I think that God (who is light, which is energy) himself is in us physically in the sense that he keeps all of our electrons spinning.  In other words, God holds together Adam's atoms.  (Okay, I'll go ahead and throw these out here:  'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' —Acts 17:28; He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. —Colossians 1:17.  I'm open to feedback on these verses.)  If I am right, we and everything in creation*** are constructed of bits of God that long to re-join each other:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
     22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
—Romans 8:18-23 (Again, let me know if I am wrongly using this passage.)

Coming back to what this will mean for us in Heaven, I speculate that we will no longer be frustrated by the bounds of our physical bodies.  More specifically, it won't matter that you live in Greenville, SC and your friend lives in Paducah, KY.  It won't matter that, even if you manage to see your friend in person, the best you can do is to look them in the eye and to give them a hug (I'm trying to keep it clean here).  When you're in Heaven, I theorize that you and your friend will actually be one.  Actually, you and me and Moses and everyone who is there will all be one.  (I do think that we will all retain our personalities—and they will all fit together perfectly to make sense somehow—but this part really is just a wild guess.)

The two commands Jesus (well, God) gave us that trump everything else are to love God and to love others.****  We try so hard to do these two things, but the truth is that, as long as we are hindered by the flesh, we cannot do them perfectly.  Even when we aren't specifically thinking of doing these things to fulfill our Christian duty, we long to be fulfilled through interactions with people.  Why else do we spend hours and hours on facebook?  We all want the warm fuzzies.  Unfortunately, our desires for intimacy often lead to going about trying to get it in the wrong ways.  The good news is (if I am thinking correctly) that we will experience that intimacy in an infinite, perfect sort of way in Heaven.  As I view the prospect of going physically far, far away from people I love very, very much, this kind of thought is what keeps me from breaking down.  I have to let go of what is temporary and embrace what is eternal.

So, am I crazy?  How would you say my points hold up as compared to the Bible (or, for fun, to, perhaps, C.S. Lewis, Rob Bell, or Francis Chan)?

In anticipation of what is to come, both soon and far away,

*I admit that there are some "camp people" I have seen more often than thatand I do still love and think about my camp friends when they're not aroundbut that doesn't negate my point.

**However, since God is infinite, taking something "out" of him would not result in there being any less of him.

***No, I do not believe that rocks and trees and things are gods themselves.  That is just stupid.  I worship the Creator, not the creation.  Rocks and trees exist in the physical world; therefore, they "have being" (physically) and require some form of energy to hold them together.  However, simply existing does not require having consciousness or will or power.

****Yes, I know that there is a huge difference between "loving" God/people through selfless actions and "loving" God/people emotionally.  My point is just that we are wired to be made complete in God and other people.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Becky's Post-Camp Post

Wow.  Tommy and I are back from our annual, week-long trip to Palmetto Bible Camp, and I am attempting to process the very emotional and spiritual (and physical) experience.  Camp is normally a very mental experience for me too, but I was graciously let off the hook for much of that this year.  Since we plan to stay in Nicaragua during camp time next year and aren't sure of what our involvement will be after that, Tommy and I had much more relaxed roles this year.  Instead of spending many hours and brain cells in pre-camp planning, including writing production scripts and solving various logistical issues, we were able simply to show up and spend time with campers in Bible class, team activities, free time, etc.  At times I felt more like a camper myself than like a staff member, which is funny to me because I'm sure I appreciated the "camper" experience this week more so than when I actually was one and couldn't wait to be on staff.  I'm very thankful for the chance I had this year to participate in everything I did and, for the most part, to relax.  (I really needed the break from all of the work I've been doing getting ready for Nicaragua.)  However, I can't say that a part of me didn't ache to dive back headfirst into my usual role and to engage in the same creative challenges and camper/staff interactions of previous years.  I did, though, enjoy brainstorming for the morning news skits, despite (or, maybe, because of) the fact that the majority of the effort exerted was spent on jokes meant only for staff (but don't tell anybody).

What I lacked head-wise, however, I certainly made up for in my heart.  This week was especially emotional for me.  As it was my last year for a while, the people were of much greater importance to me than the program.  There is a whole handful of campers that I have witnessed growing up, and it hurts to think that facebook stalking will have to suffice to fill in the gap next year.  I have to say that the group of campers we had this year was one of the very best I've known (rivaled only by last year's campers, but most of those made it back).  The staff was pretty phenomenal too.  We were definitely missing people I would have liked to see, but the dynamic among the people who were there was particularly positive.  I am really going to miss everyone, though as much as and even more than I am brought low inside, I feel lifted up by these people.  My nephew asked on the way home what one word would describe the week.  The word that flashed boldest and brightest in my mind was "Love."

Finishing this last year of camp with my family who attend with me each year was a significant and bittersweet milestone on our way to Nicaragua.  It has been remarkably special to share this time of "getting ready" with our family because, even though they are not moving out of the country, they are in the middle of their own spiritual epiphanies.  We sang the song "We Are Not Afraid" (which I had never heard before) and my sister-in-law and I completely lost it.  As I said, this was a very emotional week for me, and I tended to get weepy at anything that reminded me either of how much I will miss people or of the spiritual commitment I have made (though, if you know me well, you know that I am generally not a weepy person).  As it happened, I had plenty of opportunity to encounter both of those situations.

Every year it seems that going to camp is the litmus test of my spiritual life at the time.  I was pleased that I could tell a notable difference in my spiritual experience this time.  For many years I showed up at camp expecting to have the spirit spoon fed to me, which I suppose was better than the years when I was downright closed minded and arrogant.  This year felt like I may have actually brought the spirit there with me.  I was even more pleased that it seemed I wasn't the only one in that boat.  Each and every one of the chapel speakers spoke such truth that reinforced my new way of thinking and challenged me to keep on growing.  Things were said on stage and in conversations that everyone desperately needs to hear.  More than ever, I feel convicted to share our story with others.  I did get to speak to one of the girls' cabins, and that experience really pumped me up to talk to even more people about what we're doing (and, more importantly, why we're doing it).  I am seeing more and more how necessary it is for Christians to talk to each other about their spiritual walks because it is so easy to lose what has already been gained.  I praise God that there was a lot of that kind of talking at camp this week.

This year may not have boasted a gigantic Bible production, and I did have certain emotional struggles to deal with.  However, I could see God at work in a mightier way than I have seen before.  This may have been my best year of camp ever.  It will be very hard to be away next year, but I think my love bank has been filled up enough to last me for quite a while.


P.S. - Tommy is still in the process of getting photos and videos from our January trip ready to post.  Be looking for more of that content soon...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nicaragua Trip Day 2

So the second day of our week long trip to Nicaragua was a travel day. We woke up early in Orlando, flew to Miami and then flew to Managua. Since we arrived in Managua after dark we needed to stay one night at the Best Western hotel which is located directly across from the airport. Traveling by car from one city to another after sundown is not advised in Nicaragua. It was a great day as I love to travel and enjoy flying and airports and layovers and all that kind of stuff. It was extra exciting to be on our way out of the country, something I hadn't done in over ten years and something that Becky had never done before at all. We were both pretty amazed that we were on our way to check out a place that we were going to be living in for the next five years. We had gone from dreaming out loud in the kitchen to really going to see a foreign country. I know I keep saying that we were excited, but we were, really. Check out the video below for a few highlights of the day.