Saturday, November 10, 2007

Soup Group

We've started an experimental new church home group called "Soup Group." We're meeting every Tuesday at 6pm to eat soup and bread and do our Parchment homework as a group project. Parchments are study guides, written by church members, that are given out weekly and pertain to the following Sunday's theme for Sunday School and sermon.

This past Tuesday some missionaries joined us. As always, Rachel had fun with the babies. We're looking for one or two more folks to join us.

So far I've made lentil and pasta soup, split pea and ham soup, corn and potato chowder, and chicken rice vegetable soup. And I've found a really good, cheap bread recipe for that kind of bread that has a thick crust and is chewy on the inside. I'll post the recipe below. The trick to this bread is letting time do the work (so I start it on Monday nights) and also the specific way it is baked, in a large, covered, oven-proof pan (dutch oven, covered saucepan, ceramic bowl with another ceramic bowl on top).

No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

Friday, November 09, 2007

What I Learned in Kindergarten

We've all read the pithy wisdom of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, quoted here in part:
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Fulghum's words are just common sense politeness and we all benefit when those around us practice these things. Not bad things to learn in kindergarten. But if you're like me, you learned a few other things in kindergarten, too. Here are some things I learned in kindergarten that I've since had to reconsider:
  • Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
  • There is only one right person that you can be happily married to.
  • The earth can only be 7000 years old.
  • My church is the only right one.
  • Syncopation is of the devil.
  • The only thing worse than rock music is Christian rock music.
  • Only fanatics raise their hands during the singing time at church.
  • Catholics can not be real Christians.
  • There is only one right interpretation of scripture.
  • Speaking in tongues is not taught in Scripture.
  • Real Christians can’t dance, drink, or smoke.
  • The pastor is always right.

However, some of the things I learned in kindergarten have been tested and proven true:
  • Not everything is worth doing well.
  • If you can’t say anything nice, maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all.
  • Money isn’t everything.
  • The Bible is authoritative.
  • In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
  • No one is beyond redemption.
  • God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life.
  • By faith we understand.
  • Jesus loves me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Missions Sunday

Our church is full of missionaries, so just about any Sunday of the year could be missions Sunday. But our missions committee has planned a few special events to draw attention to world missions including a Saturday night youth event, missionaries eating meals in various homes during the week, and special Sunday services.

On Saturday night we enjoyed the lively world music of Izibongo. (Note: I said world music, not worldy music!) We would have enjoyed it even more if we had actually been in the sanctuary listening to it instead of hearing a distorted version of it over a cranky speaker in the church nursery were we were taking care of six kids, four of whom were MKs.

A subset of the band led worship for the Sunday service today, and I really enjoyed that. Kathy McAndrews has just about figured out how to perfectly sound like a Papua New Guinea woman! That was followed by an interesting talk by Neil Anderson--that is, Neil Anderson the missionary, not Neil Anderson the author of The Bondage Breaker.

We're planning on having a missionary family over for our newly instituted Tuesday night "Soup Group," a time of eating soup followed by doing our Sunday School homework together as a group exercise.