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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What To Do With A LOT of Carrots When One Isn't Especially Excited about Carrots...

My housemate and I restarted the habit of receiving a weekly box of local and seasonal produce a couple of months ago. This was a brilliant decision on her our part, and overall, it has been wonderful to be challenged again to have to figure out how to use everything we receive, even if we would not have chosen it on our own. As I wrote here a couple of years ago, eating seasonally has taught me more about how to receive what God has created for us, rather than stand with my arms crossed, insisting on eating what I want when I want to eat it! Such discipline in the small, daily things like meals has developed my spiritual muscles a bit more in learning how to receive the circumstances I experience on a larger and deeper level.

However... when one receives 3 large bunches of carrots in the space of two weeks (and should I mention I hate raw or cooked carrots with a violent passion?) it can be a teensy-weensy more than demanding to stick with my nice little idealistic plan about eating seasonally. I pondered making a "love offering" to B.U.N.S. (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, I kid you not) and then realized I was being ridiculous.

So I decided to buckle down and figure out what to do with all those sturdy carrots in my crisper, and thankfully, came upon an old recipe from Bon Appetit. I made this tonight and not only does it not taste like carrots (at all?) but it also makes your home smell wonderful! It would be good hot or cold.

INDIAN-SPICED CARROT SOUP WITH GINGER
6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
5 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Plain yogurt (for garnish)

PREPARATION

Grind coriander and mustard seeds in spice mill or mortar and pestle to fine powder. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground seeds and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add ginger; stir 1 minute. Add next 3 ingredients. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 5 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if too thick. Stir in lime juice; season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with yogurt and serve.

Monday, August 10, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time 8-10-15

I am in deep denial that summer is nearly over... So as I start closing out summer projects and prepping for the school year, I still have one eye out for berries on sale, beautiful sunsets and opportunities to enjoy balmy nights. So as I share these resources that have helped me this summer, know that I hope you are also squeezing the life out of these closing days of summer. Enjoy!

If You Want People to Listen, Stop Talking.  One of the most frequent reasons I am invited to consult with churches, non-profits and now for-profit companies is to assist them in working through their staff development and supervision. Organizations that are on the cutting edge of technology or confronting major societal ills still often struggle in helping their employees to simply get along! So much of what I work on with leadership is to establish systems of training, support, feedback and evaluation that are effective and encouraging. This article speaks to some of that, as well as this one (The Key to Giving and Receiving Negative Feedback.) Sadly, amidst the crush of deadlines, projects and unanswered emails, it is surprisingly easy to overlook the fundamentals. Check these articles out to evaluate how your employee support is doing.

Ministering to Changing Families. Having worked with youth and their families for 30 years, you'd think I'd seen it all. Yet I am surprised that I am still able to be surprised by some of the issues that bubble up in my conversations with those who work with and shepherd families. This article provides some healthy and sensitive reminders. And here's another one that speaks to working with parents: 4 Ways to Promote Intentionally Spiritual Parenting.

6 Tips for New Graduates That You Won't Read on Buzzfeed. More and more, my work is focusing on current and freshly graduated college students. In the past 5 years I have had trained and released over 50 interns into the world, and interviewed at least four times that many in order to recruit the interns in the first place. Coupled with teaching and speaking on college campuses, that adds up to a lot of conversations about future, employment, purpose, direction, calling, budgets, debt, fear, you name it. I find that everyone has advice for this group of young adults, and there are far too many articles out there that rehash the same material over and over. I will say that this one feels different to me. Tell me what you think.

This American Life: The Problem We All Live With, Part One. Yes, it is tempting to put our heads under our pillows and just GROAN over all the unrest and confusion coming from Ferguson, Charleston, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia... the list goes on and on. Rather than shut down and give up, I choose to keep trying to pay attention, pray and learn. This podcast rocked my world. Download it and set aside an hour to go on a walk or a drive and listen well. There are moments I had to pause it and gather myself, especially when listening to the fears of parents during a town meeting. But it is time well spent, and it will help you to gain more understanding of the complexities at work in our country when it comes to public education and racial tensions. Lord, have mercy.

Psalm 30
I prayed this psalm earlier in the week upon reflection of his great healing and love in my own life. May we pray it on behalf of our world, in desperate need to hope and renewal.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
    his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Orange You Glad I Posted This?

Lame pun, I know... but this recipe is anything but lame. I made it for dinner tonight and I am still in a happy little food coma. It was so nice to enjoy on a Friday night after a hot and humid week full of work that welcomed me after being gone last week for a conference. I adapted the recipe slightly from Sunset Magazine, July 2015 issue. Try it out!

ORANGE LEMON CHICKEN
serves 4 (I made a half-recipe tonight)

Ingredients
1 pound boned, skinned chicken breasts
1 tablespoon soy sauce - I used tamari to make it gluten free
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, divided
1 large orange - I used a can of mandarin oranges instead!
1 lemon
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2-in. piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced on the diagonal - I had brussels sprouts and mushrooms on hand, so I used these instead
1 green onion, cut into 2-in. slivers
4 cups steamed rice (optional)

Preparation
1. Cut chicken breasts crosswise into 1/2-in.-thick slices, then cut each slice in half lengthwise so you end up with finger-size pieces. Combine chicken, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp. white pepper in a small bowl and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.

2. Zest orange into a small bowl. Segment orange: With a sharp knife, trim off ends and set a cut side down on a cutting board. Following the curve of the fruit, trim off peel and white pith. Set a strainer in a separate bowl and, working over bowl, slice segments free of membranes. Squeeze juice from membranes into strainer. Measure 3 tbsp. juice and add to bowl with zest. Set orange segments aside.

3. Cut lemon in half and set one half aside. Zest and juice the other half into bowl with orange juice and zest, then add brown sugar, sesame oil, and remaining 1/4 tsp. white pepper. Set sauce aside.

4. Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and ginger and cook until just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Push onion and ginger to one side of pan and add chicken in a single layer. Let sear undisturbed 2 minutes. Add celery and citrus sauce and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes more.

5. Remove from heat and stir in reserved orange segments. Pour into serving bowl or onto a platter. Squeeze juice from reserved lemon half over chicken and shower with slivered green onion. Serve with steamed rice if you like.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time... 7-2-15

Whenever students ask me what I've got planned for the summer, I know they envision me living according to their schedule, where they are on summer vacation and liberated from many of the responsibilities of the school year.

I try not to heave a big sigh, because summers have instead been a rather busy time for me in the last few years, exactly because they (those dear students) actually have more time!

So in my mind, as I hear the word "summer," I envision those long hot days of my childhood, when I had endless hours of time (and water!) to fritter away. Alas, those are not to be for grown-ups like me, but I will not mourn or fret. I get to do some pretty wonderful things in my work life, and here are a few helpful resources I have used lately to help me keep going.

How to Overcome the Midday Slump. I don't know about you, but I find that waves of energy and fatigue roll throughout my days, sometimes in unpredictable ways. Though I start every morning with a rocket-fuel dose of caffeine, I don't want to get in the old habit of relying on coffee to power me through the rest of the day. This article has some helpful insights in that regard. One tip that proves extremely useful to me: when I feel the sleepies overtake me around 3pm, I have learned to lay down and close my eyes for 20 minutes rather than gulp down another coffee. Power naps got me through college, and they still work! I'm also inching toward 8.5 or 9 hours of sleep per night, rather than 7.5 or 8. It's making a difference.

Scannable by Evernote. I don't know about you, but at various times I receive business cards from people and I know I want to hang onto the info, but also not let them pile up on my desk or in a drawer. However, the thought of taking the time to load the data into my contacts list also seems tedious. VOILA!! Welcome to Scannable. Not only does it take a perfectly sized photo of the card, it scans it into a file that you can either load into Evernote (HELLO, if you don't use Evernote, you are missing out big time. But I digress...) or email to yourself or someone else. PLUS it finds the LinkedIn account of the person too. Not to mention it can scan loads of other things, which is so nice when I'm away from my desk. My heavens it's tasty.

Gallup's Theme Thursday (Strengths Finder). I have coached many churches, non-profits and businesses (40+ groups and agencies) in Strengths Finder, a very helpful leadership development and assessment tool. On "Theme Thursday" the Gallup org provides roundtable podcasts about one of the 34 themes. They last about 45 minutes each and I find them tremendously helpful in unpacking some of the specifics of each theme (aka Talent, in SF lingo). You can also go to Spreaker.com and get them in downloadable form.

Five Factors Changing Women's Relationships with Churches. I wish that Barna had come up with a different title for this article. My finger hovered over the "delete" button when I received this link in my inbox, but I was more than pleasantly surprised at some of the unique info contained within. This article mostly highlights how the ratio of men to women who are "unchurched" is shrinking, and some of the reasons why. In other words, in 1993, 57% of those not involved with church were men and 44% were women. Fast-forward to 2015, and the numbers are 54% men and 46% women... thus the numbers are decreasing from a 13% differential to only 8%. If numbers don't float your boat, the content is pretty interesting. For example, only 7% of the women who do not attend church have never been exposed to church; that means that nearly all women who are not connected significantly with a church community used to be involved. The fancy term that Barna uses to describe this is dechurched (ouch!). Read for yourself to find out more info. I am very interested in how America is shifting spiritually, and Barna often provides some fascinating fodder for discussion and reflection.

Final thoughts. I will close up with these thoughtful and lovely words from a favorite writer, Frederick Buechner:

If the Lord is indeed our shepherd, then everything goes topsy-turvy. Losing becomes finding and crying becomes laughing. The last become first and the weak become strong. Instead of life being done in by death in the end as we always supposed, death is done in finally by life in the end. If the Lord is our host at the great feast, then the sky is the limit. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time 5-21-15

Like many others I work with, my days are filled with a wide array of tasks and responsibilities. While I could bore you to death with a list of the things I had to do this week, what is more important is for me to think about the fact that my work requires me to juggle a strange combination of personal interactions with sizable administrative tasks.

The problem comes in that when I am sitting at my desk trying to plow through a dizzying combination of emails to answer, articles to write, assignments to create, and research to read, I am thinking about all the people I need to meet with, either in person, on the phone or via video calls. And yet when I make those important face-to-face appointments happen, I feel the piles of to-do's stacking up in my inbox and on my desk!

This week's recommended resources speak to that tension that I find many of us experience. I'm hoping at least one of them is useful to you!

Want to Reduce Stress? Try Commuting by Bike. This month marks the twelfth year since I started being a bicycle commuter. It is a badge of pride that I wear loud and proud. In May 2003, I decided to ride my bike to one appointment per day rather than drive my car. I was motivated by the need to exercise, to reduce my carbon footprint ever so slightly, and to force myself to slow down and not try to cram so much into each day. This became a bit addictive (in that it was surprisingly easy in Southern CA and I loved getting my exercise in this way), and I started making entire days dedicated to bike riding... to the point where I actually sold my car in 2010. The article I've linked here describes what I have found to be the greatest benefit of bicycle commuting: it helps me manage my stress. Whenever I'm feeling that pinch between the to-do's on my desk and the appointments I need to have, I hop on my bike and work it out. It frees me up to think through some conversations and quandaries on my mind, maybe even pray a little bit, and generally focus my energy in a productive direction. TRY IT OUT! And contact me with questions... I can explain what I do when I have to travel further than 5-7 miles, what to do during inclement weather, how do I handle grocery shopping, etc.

How to Organize Your Entire Life. Some may read this article and feel utterly overwhelmed. Go slowly, and perhaps start with organizing your work life and then tackling the rest of life later...? I will tell you that app profiled in this article (Trello) has been a HUGE fave of mine in the last year. It operates with the simplicity of the Reminders app on iPhones, but on steroids! In other words, it's clean and easy to use, but also manages MUCH more complexity, but in a way that makes you feel sane. (PS If you haven't used Lifehacker before, it's pretty darn helpful.)

10 Questions to Consider When Negotiating Across Cultures. Part of my angst when juggling various personal and organizational projects is the fact that I have a rather narrow frame of reference as a white woman of a certain age. I do not want to drive toward just "getting things done" when I am with people who value building trust before working together. What do I mean by that? Just this week I have worked with people who are Puerto Rican, African-American, Hawaiian, Mexican, and Indian-American. Every culture has a different way of viewing work and relationships, and my desire to meet people in their world, on their terms, whenever possible. Thus making sure I grow in "cultural intelligence" is extremely important to me, and I can point to situations when I have made really insensitive remarks or acted out of ignorance. This article only touches on profound cultural complexities, but I have found David Livermore to be a reliable source when trying to be in a learning posture in this regard.


Invest in the future. This week I launched my fifth year with interns through the Center for Transformational Leadership, a strategic initiative of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. In late June I will launch a new, but similar initiative for the Free Methodist Church in the Pacific Northwest. I love doing this! This is a photo of the interns for this summer's class, and I couldn't be more excited to work with them. I feel so committed to identifying and investing in young leaders, and pray that you are equally excited about this. Our jobs are to replace ourselves! I have been fortunate enough to have had 38 students since 2011 in this program, and am adding another 10 this summer. I'm sure I'll be writing more about these little minions in posts to come...

Ciao for now. May your work not be too hectic. Breathe.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

So Many Resources, So Little Time 5-7-15

At the end of 2008 my life was greatly impacted by a simple book titled Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. It was the first (only?) book in my then 27-year career of youth ministry that correctly described the stresses and successes of youth ministry, while also defining best practices in a
useful and accessible way.

One of the many key premises of the book is that youth workers really need to take "balcony time" on a consistent basis to pull back from the work on the ground and assess things. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, it's really valuable to keep climbing the ladder toward your goals, but occasionally you need to pull back to make sure you've leaned your ladder against the right wall! Balcony time allows you to reflect, renew, evaluate, change course, be creative and get perspective. It is crucial to long-term health and sustainability.

Why do I share that? Because nearly every person I work with tells me that they have so many plates spinning that it is difficult to imagine carving out the time to go to the figurative balcony with any regularity, unless they feel like jumping off one!

This post is not intended to guilt you into balcony time. Heavens, you have enough pressure in your life already. Perhaps I'm hoping to whet your appetite for taking some balcony time by giving you my top favorite resources from this week which helped me to step back and take a few minutes to think about the how's and why's of what I am currently immersed in. Step back for 7 minutes and read these. Here goes:

What are the Least Churched Cities in America? This one totally stirred the pot for me, especially because my own location was listed #2 in the "never-churched" category. This has prompted multiple conversations with others in my community this week about what it means to reach out to our neighbors in substantive ways. Don't just browse the article to see where your city lands; read through to understand a bit more about the changing landscape of church involvement in the US of A.

500 Clergy Marching for Peace and Justice in Baltimore. Come on, let's keep talking about, praying about, and grieving for the state of race relations in our country. And while we're at it, let's be praying about how faith leaders can speak directly and personally into this conversation, more than the media, bloggers and the politicians. I was moved by this brief clip, and reminded of how clergy and faith leaders have deeply moved the world on major issues of justice in the past (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Heschel, C.S. Lewis, Bishop Tutu, Dorothy Day.... hello!). May we not neglect our calling.

Best Alternatives to Power Point. From the utterly sublime to the painfully mundane... I have to put together presentations on a regular basis, and often spend more time on the appearance than the content, because I have sat through WAY too many horrible slides! I'm just digging into this one, and intrigued by a couple of them. Just want to pass this along... And even if you are already a Keynote user, like I am, keep reading the article. This is also a quick shout-out for the SlideShare newsletter, where I found this link. You will either love it or hate it.

How to Document a Performance Review. Yep, still swimming in the mundane. But this is really necessary if you supervise a team. Much of my work is spent working with churches on "the things we don't learn in seminary," and this is one of them: the supervision, training, hiring and firing of staff. This was a helpful and quick article.

"What is Your Purpose?" I'll end with something more meaningful. I profiled David Brooks' recent op-ed titled "The Moral Bucket List" a few weeks ago, and I found this equally thoughtful. You can be cynical and feel like Brooks is shilling his new book, The Road to Character, or you can smile at the attempt to bring some qualitative dialogue into daily conversation. I opt for the latter, at least today. This quote is one that we should be seeking after whenever and wherever we can:

"As I travel on a book tour, I find there is an amazing hunger to shift the conversation. People are ready to talk a little less about how to do things and to talk a little more about why ultimately they are doing them."

May these few moments on the balcony provide some rest and refreshing. Ciao!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Green Curry Stir-Fry with Cashews

When life is packed full with various commitments and responsibilities, I don't have the bandwidth to be creative in my cooking and go with the recipes I know and/or the path of least resistance (read: breakfast-for-dinner). However, when I come up for air, even a bit, I try to have some new recipes saved to be able to draw on them and build my repertoire.

Tonight's new recipe did not disappoint. It is moving immediately to the go-to list, not just because it was very tasty but it was also ridiculously easy. Enjoy!

GREEN CURRY STIR-FRY WITH CASHEWS
Serves 4
Thank you once again, Vegetarian Times!

30 minutes or fewer to prepare

Cashews are a classic in stir-fries. Here, they’re sprinkled over a medley of mushrooms and green beans.

INGREDIENTS
 1 Tbs. peanut oil
½ cup thinly sliced onion
1 12-oz. pkg. sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 lb. green beans, cut into thirds (I made my dish tonight with cauliflower and leeks -- it's what I had on hand)
½ cup golden raisins
2 Tbs. light coconut milk (I will confess I used half 'n half -- I didn't want to open a whole can for 2 tb of coconut milk. I also used a bit of almond milk)
1½ Tbs. green curry paste
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. low-sodium tamari sauce
½ cup roasted salted cashews, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS
 1. Prepare rice or quinoa ~ or eat it on its own. I happened to serve this over brown rice and it soaked up the sauce very nicely.

2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms (or leeks and zucchini!), and season with salt, if desired. Cover, and cook 6 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to brown.

2. Uncover pan, stir in garlic and ginger, and sauté 2 minutes. Add green beans (or cauliflower!) and raisins, and stir-fry 3 minutes.

3. Whisk together coconut milk, curry paste, lemon juice, and tamari in small bowl. Add curry mixture to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 2 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Garnish with cashews and cilantro.

VT April/May 2014 p.75