Actually, It IS Your City

The recent unrest in Charlotte….what a ridiculous phrase….make that… the recent violence in Charlotte has brought about interesting responses from people, one of which has been the tendency to say “this is not my city!”

First, I was born and raised in Charlotte. Both of my parents, my uncle and my cousin were teachers in the Charlotte Mecklenburg public school system; same system in which I was a student for all 12 years. I went to college in Charlotte, owned a house in Charlotte, lived and worked there until I was 34 years old and still have family and friends living there. So when I say what I’m about to say, I do so with personal and rather extensive knowledge of the place.

No, actually, it IS your city.

Now, I completely understand why people in this and many similar situations respond with that phrase and that feeling! People do not want to think of the place where they live as being violent or racist or narrow minded or hateful and hurtful. But let me ask this: are there human beings living in that city? Yes? Well then, there is violence, racism, narrowmindedness and hateful, hurtful actions. It is your city. It is every city. It is every group of humans.

But there is something else I want to say to all of us… and I do mean US because I’ve been guilty of this, too…. We need to quit the whole “not my…” whatever thing. And here’s why. We say “that is NOT my city” or “my school” or “my country” or whatever because we are embarrassed or ashamed of the behavior and we want people to know that’s not who we, personally, are.  I have that feeling when I see narrow-minded and cruel Christians doing insane things to people in the name of Jesus Christ. I want to shout at the top of my lungs, “THAT’S NOT MY CHRISTIANITY! THAT’S NOT MY JESUS!!”  But the problem is that saying “it’s not mine” means that we no longer have responsibility to it or for it. We might be trying to say that we had no idea this place harbored such hatred and violence and that we do not, ourselves, hold such things in our heart, but we are actually doing something far more detrimental than that.

If I say “That’s Not MY City”, then I have just divorced myself from both the problem (which I might not be contributing to, but then again I might be whether I realize it or not) and from the solution as well. If it’s not my city, then I have no responsibility for helping those who have been hurt, repairing the damage that has been done, or the rebuilding and healing that must take place. If “it’s not my city” then I don’t really have to care or concern myself with all the difficult issues that surround the violence, rage, pain, and tremendous social dysfunction that has brought us to this place. I’m also lying to myself and everyone else.

Several years before I arrived in the congregation where I serve as pastor, there was a heartbreaking and difficult set of circumstances that ended up painfully dividing and damaging the people. When I got here, many had left because this wasn’t what they wanted or needed in a church. I don’t fault those people for that one bit. However, I asked one of the women who had stayed through it all, enduring a great deal of the difficulty that many others were spared, “why did you stay?” She could have gone somewhere else; there are tons of great churches in town. “Because,” she said, “you don’t abandon people when they are hurting.”this-is-ours

So, I propose that we change the phrase “That’s not MY city” to “This IS OUR City”. This is our city, community, school, town, nation, world. Whatever group is hurting, it is OURS, and even if it is hard to face the bad things, the violent and painful things, and even if we do not know how to fix it, we will not abandon it to hopelessness and despair.

I do not know the answer to all of the struggles we face around our country. They are indeed Legion. But I do know this: This Is Ours. And we just can’t abandon people when they are hurting.


Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by doing good—Romans 12:21

Wasp Paper

Writing from the Writers Group this week. We’ve been doing this, but I can’t find the piece I used as inspiration.


What would a wasp say if it could write its little heart out on that huge scroll?polistes_may_2013-2

I’ve never liked bees. Honey bees are ok—almost cute—but the rest of the beekingdom have always terrified me. Maybe not bumble bees. They are miniature winged golden retrievers, following too close and bumping accidentally; curious and furry. Hornets, wasps, yellow jackets; they are all evil.

The girl scouts had a giant hornet’s nest in the corner of the room where we met. It was something to do with North Carolina or Mecklenburg County. I never paid attention to that part. I had nightmares about it; swarms of these evil creatures would pour out of the bottom of their paper castle and come for me, vengefully pricking me to death for daring to cast my eyes in their direction, their fury unstoppable, their wings like a machine of war propelling them towards my vulnerable face.

But they…make paper! They have probably been making paper since well before humans ever did. What if a little wasp took her stinger, dipped in my fresh blood, and wrote on her paper. What would she say?

“Keep out! No trespassing,” big jagged letters around the belly of the nest. “Private Property!”

“You wouldn’t believe what I saw this morning! The sun made tiny round jewels on the ivy leaves round the old tree stump,” careful, precise holes poked, needle stitches for each letter. “You should pay more attention to the great world.”

“Yay for circles!” Big, punched out letters. “Circles are best!”

“My life is so brief and fast,” tiny bloody cursive, her ink from the well of my arm. “I must be fierce and powerful before I die, for it flies to meet me quickly. Then, I am no more.”

To read the nest book, one layer at a time, peeling pages from an enemy’s soul.


Note: that is NOT my photograph. I would never, ever get that close. The photographer is excellent and can be found here. 

Word and Works

Today I got to write with the writer’s group I used to spend time with and it was just delightful! Schedules change and things happen to make it impossible to go… but then schedules change again and make it possible once more!

The writing prompt for today was Word and Works. The group had been writing using a work of art as a prompt, but I kinda missed that bit, so I did it a little differently. However, they were, as they were in the past, kind and supportive. Looking forward to doing this again and hopefully on a regular basis.


Word and Works

The line between didn’t really exist. The line between the word and the action wasn’t really a line at all. It was the breath; that is all there was. A breath between the word and the work. The breath made word into work. Word made flesh and blood and bone, working together. Breath made static word into kinetic work of body.

But first
Breath and word became the perpetual motion of light; working, pressing back the dark. Always birthing, bringing the new.

Breath and word became the work of flow. Flowing water and air. The work of ebbing life, the work of growing green, the work of shinning blue. The in and out of breath was the flow of word into work.

At last
Came the flesh and blood and bone. Finally, came the vessel to carry the breath. Word and work joined in breath became the beat of blood and heart, the soar of the mind, the lift of the hands.

Breath wove through words and became the fabric of work, wrapping up the vessel in life. Filled up the vessel to the brim, seeped into every moment, filled and stretched and pushed outward to overflowing; till overflow was inevitable.

The word rode the breath through the vessel, up and up and out of the mouth and the work was love. And the vessel was love.

But all of this
This was before. Before we drew a line between word and work; before we held our breath and separated the doing from the being; the bold, wide line that cuts us in two.

Beans Yes, Kale Yes, Together NO

Thursday night’s dinner in my new meal plan was:

Peppered White Bean, Kale Egg Stack

So, I’ve been thinking that there are a lot of “stack”s and “bowl”s around these days. Perhaps it’s a food trend and I’m so out of it I didn’t know. I am very aware of the organic, locally grown, ethically managed trend in food. After all, I’m only an hour away from Asheville and, in my little Small Mountain Town, eating organic and local is what people have done since before there ever was a walmart.

Anyhow, “stack”s seem to be  dishes that are served in sort of a layered pile. A stack, if you will, of food. Not like mashed potatoes and gravy but like Parmesan Sprinkled Rustic Mashed Potatoes Over A Plank Of Meatloaf On A Bed Of Green Beans. (Mmmmm meatloaf) Actually, that doesn’t sound bad at all.

However, kale on top of mashed white beans does sound bad. And texture wise, it wasn’t so great. It wasn’t a total disappointment, but I won’t be doing a double post of it that is for sure.

Ok, so the recipe is, as always, in Cooking Light and the link is here and above.


red onion–they are so lovely! 

First there are the beans! They were delish! I’ve never mashed beans before! What a marvelous idea! Great White Northern Beans are a little bigger than Navy Beans (why “navy”? they are white) and are shaped like Lima Beans but DO NOT taste like Limas! If you didn’t have a can of GWNB but had Navy Beans or Cannelini Beans, I think you’d be ok. The recipe calls for adding 1/2 cup of water along with a can of beans.

  • Mistake Avoidance Tip: drain the beans before adding them to the pot or add less water. Otherwise it’s really liquidy and requires some time boiling off extra liquid.

Mine were a bit liquidish, but they sure were zippy with the Parmesan cheese and lots of pepper! Yummy!


fresh salsa

Topper was a simple fresh salsa. I used a red
onion to give it more color. It was really good and made just the right amount for two servings (I halved the recipe).

Then there is the Kale. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t gotten some kind of fancy super curly Kale. It was to be “wilted” in a dutch oven but it just didn’t want to wilt to well. Ended up chewy. Bad combo with the beans. A Kale salad would have been lovely but of course then it wouldn’t be a “stack”.

The dish was supposed to have a poached egg layer, between the Kale and the Salsa. What a pain in the neck a poached egg is! So, no–that didn’t happen. If I’d wanted to have an egg I would have substituted a soft boiled one because that’s a whole lot easier to


Peppered Great Northern Beans, Kale, Egg Stack. Minus Egg. 

accomplish. If you ever have concerns about soft boiling an egg, this article here is really helpful!

But this time, no egg. How would that have worked with the chewy not-quite-
wilted Kale? I just don’t know.

So here it is plated for one single serving. Just for clarity’s sake, this is a smaller sized plate. It always feels like I haven’t gotten a full plate if I use a bigger one and have a regular serving. More likely to have a reasonable size portion with a smaller plate.

I’ll end this post with a picture of a lovely red onion. Because they are really so lovely. This was a super duper fast dish to prepare, less than 20 minutes definitely. If I ever do it again, I’ll probably do it in parts but not as a whole dish.


Sausage and Pasta Redoux

Last month I started the new cooking plan with recipes from Cooking Light. So far it’s been pretty good, even though I’ve spent some of the intervening time out of town and unable to cook.

This week I made a plan. An actual cooking, meal, grocery store, recipe, get-it-in-order plan. Not a set of mix and match diet choices made primarily of some combination yogurt and almonds or something super simple largely raw throw together thing. Not a dream list of fabulous food I’ll never really make but has beautiful photos in the cookbook or website that ultimately self-sabotages me into eating out because I’m tired and don’t want to go to that much trouble. That always ends up in me throwing away a lot of rotten food.

Nope, this is a grown up, real life meal plan for the week. Seems like a small thing to be so proud of, but there you go.

Monday and Wednesday are covered with other responsibilities, so tonight was the first one in this new Meal Plan Adventure. And, it was a redoux.

Formerly know as Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Penne, it is now Sausage and Pasta Redoux. 0209161717a

Penne is great, but I made dinner for a friend who doesn’t want to eat a lot of pasta. So I went with this veggie rotini. It’s pretty, not as pretty when it’s cooked because there’s color fade. It’s made with spinach, tomato and beet. But it just tastes like pasta.

I’ll admit that rotini is typically better when there’s some kind of sauce to hold on to and there isn’t really in this, but that’s ok. It worked.

As before, I used regular ole broccoli and not broccoli rabe. I have since learned that broccoli rabe is not at all the same thing as broccoli. Totally different kind of plant. But it’s green, so there! And Turkey Sausage, which I think I did before, too.

So there it is. However, I did realize that it sure is a lot of food. And I realized it just before 0209161751aI re read that the recipe was for four and I should have halved it. Oh well, good thing I like it! Two days of lunch!

Rest of the week it will be Peppered White Bean Kale and Egg Stack and Chicken Kofte with Zucchini.

What is a Kofte you may ask? Well, I don’t know either, so it will be a new thing for us all.

Flatten That Chicken!

Dinner last night was another from the Cooking Light magazine. This one was Flattened Chicken with Almond and Paprika Vinaigrette.

So, the weird thing was that I always thought a vinaigrette needed to have vinegar. But this doesn’t and apparently a vinaigrette doesn’t require it anyway. There are vinegary olives in the topping though, so maybe that counts? Anyhow, it was good. I used too much olive oil in the pan and you can see it in the plate, but who ever said that was a bad thing was a liar!

Pictured here is a single serving.


The recipe called for flattened chicken breast halves but I had chicken tenderloins and used that instead. They flatten out really easily; only had to put them between two sheets of parchment and beat on them with the heel of my hand. Chicken breasts are a lot harder to flatten! But flattened chicken cooks super duper fast! 3 minutes per side! Whole thing was done in less than the 28 minutes the recipe says it would take. It could have been really easily over cooked though.

Was it tasty?  Yes, I give it a 8*
Was it easy? Pretty much, could have been harder with actual chicken breasts though. 7
Was it quick? Less than 30 minutes start to finish sounds quick to me.
Would I cook it again? Yes
Overall I’d rate it a 8

*scale of 1-10 with one the worst and 10 the best

New Cooking Plan

Starting some new cooking habits. I like to cook and I love to bake! Ovens are like magic to me. You put something in it, wait a while, and it comes out entirely different. My mother was a Home Eco teacher and a great cook, but my father’s tastes were simple and he preferred the same five or six things over and over and over.

And over.

I learned to cook from my mother (obviously) who approached cooking more as a science than an art. It was all about the chemical reactions between the foods. Precise measuring was critical as was timing. I suppose I am ok in the kitchen. Most of all, I know how to follow a recipe and I think that’s a fine skill to have.

Recently I’ve been inspired by a friend of mine who cooks for her family all the time and has been using a lot of Cooking Light magazine recipes. Typically, I’m cooking only for myself, so this is often an impediment to cooking altogether. However, looking at the things she had prepared, they were almost all 4 servings. Perfect for her three person family and perfect for cutting right in half for little ole me tonight and lunch tomorrow.

I’ve been trying Blue Apron. I say trying because the food is fantastic and fresh and almost always organic and easy to make and just right portions. But the food just kept coming and I kept forgetting to cancel the week before I wasn’t going to be home and consequently I also kept throwing away really great food that had spoiled before I even got to it.

So, I put the Blue Apron on hold, got a Cooking Light subscription and…. Here We Go!

First meal: Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Penne
Follow the link for the recipe itself*

Remember how I just said that I am usually cooking for me, myself and I? Well, every once in a while I’m cooking for a whole bunch of campus ministry college students. We have a smallish group, but it’s a whole lot more than the “single serving” I typically search for.  But those Cooking Light meals are servings for 4, which is easily doubled to 8, which was just what we needed Monday night. And pleasing college students with a “light” meal was a big test. They loved it!

There was no Broccoli Rabe in my local grocery store, so it was regular broccoli. Looks like the nutrition is similar. Although there are more calories, it isn’t significant and IT’S A GREEN VEGETABLE so I think it’s ok. A good place to look for nutritional values I’ve found is here, especially if you like pretty charts and lots of data!  It was easy to make, not quite as quick as the recipe implies, but still not a lot of effort. I will definitely make it again.

Pictured here is the platter with four servings.


*the Cooking Light website has all of their recipes stored on the My Recipes database. This does not mean, however, that all the recipes at My Recipes are light. They really, to my great disappointment, are not. Even so, My Recipes has a save feature that is admittedly pretty cool. But, my advice is to either buy the magazine or search on Cooking Light for what you want.