The Bible as literature

Sometimes I get nervous that I’m treating the Bible too much like a book.

open-bible

Well… it is a book.

I know. I know.

But the English major side of me sometimes gets wrapped up in the stories, the characters, the character arcs, the author’s motifs and when/how/why he echoes them, the central purpose behind each Bible book and the detailed way it’s woven throughout the chapters. I love the epic stories, the parallel structure, the Greek and Hebrew words and how they relate between different parts of the Bible. I savor the moments when a passing bit of dialogue is revealed (in my study Bible) to mean oh, so, much more than it seems.

Ahhhhhh. Romantic sigh.

But I have to admit… I’m pretty self-conscious about that.

I’m always afraid that I focus so much on literary analysis of the Bible that I miss the Holy Spirit speaking through it. I’m no literary maven – i.e., I’m not spectacular at analyzing literature. But sometimes I get so excited about literary aspects of the Bible, and then realize that I’m not thinking at all about what Jesus could be saying to me here. Instead, I’m thinking about cool Greek words and interesting phrases and character development – not what the Spirit is saying to me through the Scripture. Which is when I start to feel dumb.

Which makes me feel like I’m a failure. Like I’m doing it all wrong.

Have you ever been afraid that you’re doing it all wrong?

student1

But God is patient. So much so.

Sometimes I think he just shakes His head at me and smiles.

Silly girl.

And right now, there are the two truths He uses to comfort me.

The first: There’s nothing inherently wrong with loving the Bible as literature.  God made literature – God spoke the first words ever and gave breath and speech to Adam and Eve. He called David to write beautiful poetry, Solomon to pen wisdom. He divinely inspired dozens of people to write down 66 books of multiple genres of awesomeness.

God’s plan of salvation is one, big, epic story. So many intricate details in the Old Testament weave together to foretell the arrival of the Savior who comes in the New Testament.

So clearly, God likes stories. God designed the greatest story ever told.

And the second truth: This story is real.

98257-lost-lost

I love to get engrossed in thrilling and detailed stories, whether in books, movies, or television. One of my all-time favorites was the TV show LOST. Such a great show!!! So many characters and so many incredible ways their stories are interconnected. So much love lost and love gained, hearts warring in a world of tumultuous good and evil.

But as much as I loved those characters, they’re not real. (Sigh… Jin and Sun, you were so cute together.) The stories of these island castaways were over after a 6-year run. They were wonderfully imaginative and lots of fun to play along with. And there’s no harm in loving an epic story.

But the story of Christ continues into eternity.

Everything we read about in the story of Jesus really happened. (Bear with me here – again. This might seem obvious to you, but tonight it is fresh to me.) There was a real, physical, historical Jesus who walked on earth as a man, was brutally killed as a man, died and was buried, and resurrected into life once again. He is still really, really alive today in heaven with the Father. He is physically there, and we will physically see Him one day, if we repent and turn from sin and trust in Him, committing to follow Him our whole lives.

Jesus is not just an imaginary character. He’s really real, all that stuff really happened, and I’m really going to see Him one day and talk with Him about it.

Can you imagine that? I can’t imagine getting to talk to a character in my favorite story. But someday it will happen with Jesus.

Sometimes, when I’m just reading the Bible, I forget that. I forget that Jesus is more than just a character in a story. (Full disclosure here!!) I have to stop and intentionally remind myself: This is not just another book on your shelf. This is a real story that really happened, with a real person who you’ll get to meet in the flesh one day.

And that is just plain awesome to me.

Advertisements

College-student-friendly recipes!

I happen to have a lot of friends who are moving into an apartment this year – or who simply need some ideas for quick, easy, foolproof meals.

I mentioned to several of them how I could send them some recipes and links… but just decided to turn it into a blog post!

Trust me, I’m not a chef by anyone’s standards. But I do have a few go-to recipes and cooking blogs that I favor, along with some handy tips I’ve picked up through trial and error.

This is NOT a comprehensive list by any means, just a few (hopefully helpful) ideas!

Accomplished chefs: Please feel free to comment with any corrections or further advice! 🙂

—————————————————————-

My favorite cooking blogs:

(1) BudgetBytes: A recent college grad who includes dollar-and-cents amounts with each of her creative, thrifty recipes. Her belief: “I’ve decided that cooking on a budget shouldn’t mean canned beans and ramen noodles night after night.” Agreed! Although I do love canned beans. 🙂

A few of my favorites:

(2) Picky Eater Blog: An all-vegetarian blog (though many of her recipes can easily be turned carnivore-friendly). Her mission was to convert her “white bread” husband to her “whole wheat” lifestyle by making healthy recipes that were actually delicious… now he’s a convert! And every recipe she posts is “husband-approved.”

A few of my favorites:

Some other recipe sites I love include MegsieMay Makes (hi Megan!), Bakerella, Chocolate-Covered Katie, and of course Google (if that counts!). I’ve found many awesome recipes simply by Google searching “how to make black bean soup” or “vegetarian tortilla soup.”

—————————————————————-

Below is a collection of some of my go-to recipes, found here and there around the internet. Enjoy!

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal with mix-ins: Use any combination of frozen fruit, dried fruit, frozen fruit, cinnamon sugar, chocolate chips, peanut butter, etc. Be creative!
  • Wheat toast with peanut butter, sliced banana, cinnamon, and raisins
  • Peanut butter banana smoothie: 1 banana, 1 big spoonful of peanut butter, and 1 cup milk. Combine all in blender.

Lunch

  • Leftovers from dinner!
  • Grilled sandwich, made on whole-wheat or whole-grain bread and cooked in frying pan or on George Foreman grill. My favorites are peanut butter & banana, caprese, peachy grilled cheese, and blackberry fontina.
  • Salad: Get a giant bag of lettuce to use throughout the week, & top with whatever you like: pre-cooked chicken, beans, legumes, tofu, vegetables, etc.
  • Check out this site: 90 Healthy No-Heat Lunches

Snack

  • Apple & peanut butter (something like this)
  • Edamame: I buy the frozen Edamame pods from Trader Joe’s, boil them for 5 mins, and sprinkle with salt.
  • Frozen yogurt-dipped fruit (or just regular fruit!)
  • Corn: Microwave an ear for 4 mins, then pull the husk & fibers off with ease. Eat with a bit of butter & salt.

Dinner (main dishes and side dishes)

  • Chicken with easy marinade: Place thawed chicken breasts/pieces in casserole or Pyrex dish and drizzle with Italian salad dressing. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30-55 mins. (This recipe comes courtesy of my roommate, Christi!)
  • Classic baked mac and cheese (Next to Miracle Mac N’ Cheese, this is my favorite M&C recipe! My friend Briana raves about it. Add a splash of milk before re-heating.)
  • Stuffed bell peppers: LOVE THIS ONE! I started out using this basic recipe. Now I just cut bell peppers in half & de-seed, then put them in the oven at 250-275 degrees for 30-40 mins. When they’re done, I add any combination of things (black beans, brown rice, corn, chopped tomato or other veggies, salsa, hot sauce, cheese, etc.), microwave for a bit, and enjoy. I usually make several and save the rest for later lunches or dinners.
  • Taco week! One of my former roommates Lindsay used to do this. She would buy a bag of tortillas and some salsa and sour cream, make taco meat & beans, chop up lettuce and tomatoes, shred cheese… and eat it all week!
  • Beans: easy homemade refried pinto beans (I use veg oil) or quick seasoned black beans
  • Pasta Primavera or pasta with pesto and green beans/broccoli/tomatoes
  • Veggie tofu rice curry (I modified this recipe by using brown rice and frozen veggies)
  • Ramen or noodles with egg and cooked frozen veggies

Dessert

Of course, if you want to go really easy, it doesn’t hurt to try frozen meals, pasta with sauce, sandwiches, etc.

—————————————————————-

Be sure to keep your cabinet stocked with the basics:

  • Spices: salt, pepper, and a few others you see often in your favorite recipes (for me, it’s cumin, oregano, cayenne, and crushed red pepper; my roommate loves spice blends). Spices are expensive, so split the costs with your roommates & share. I also always have hot sauce (something like Tapatio or Sriracha) – super cheap way to flavor anything!
  • Cooking supplies: olive oil, vegetable oil, vinegar, cooking spray, etc.
  • Baking supplies (if you bake): flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, etc.

Some other quick tips:

  • Plan meals ahead of time. This helps when you are tired/lazy or need to use up certain ingredients in a week (like fresh spinach or milk).
  • Be creative with what you already have! Try putting different things together and see what works. (I’m slowly developing this skill myself.)
  • Make large quantities and then freeze or refrigerate the leftovers.
  • Get a Pinterest account and make a pinboard to collect recipes.
  • Use Google! You can find cool sites like this one. Or memes like this…

All right, that’s it. Hope this was helpful!

Monday Mixer… on a Wednesday

Inspired yet again by my favorite photographer-blogger Yasmin Sarai, who was herself inspired by famous designer Promise Tangeman, here are a dozen random facts about me 🙂

I learned to read when I was 3. My preschool teacher said so. My mom thinks I just memorized books. I guess we’ll never really know. (Cue Twilight Zone music…)

I never cry in sappy movies. I remember tearing up while watching The Prince of Egypt when I was 10… that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I LOVE babies! Holding them, playing with them, cuddling them… it brings me deeper joy than most things do. Babysitting is the best! 🙂

I was an incredibly picky eater for most of my life. Only in the past 5 years or so have I started to get over it. For example, this past Saturday, I ate lobster for the first and only time in my life. It was an accident… I thought it was cheese ravioli. Woops!

Tulips are my favorite flowers.

I hate the color orange (except in flowers). Coral is passable, though.

The first CD I ever got was an 11th birthday gift from my friend, Ricky. It was Steven Curtis Chapman’s Speechless. I didn’t even have a CD player yet!

Running errands and reorganizing things are generally very calming to me. I feel very accomplished and at peace.

I went to Egypt for two weeks with my family and others when I was 17.

I had my first-ever taste of alcohol a month after I turned 21. In 3rd grade, we swore in front of our whole class never to take a sip of alcohol until we were 21. My conscience wouldn’t allow me to break that promise… so I kept it!

I like singing harmonies to songs, but not in public.

I love almost every kind of fruit. Sooooo delicious 🙂

Harder, better, faster, stronger

I hate working out.

Truly. Running laps? Bench pressing at the gym?

Ha. No thanks.

Fortunately, I’ve had pretty good genes and a high metabolism due to youth, so this hasn’t affected me much health-wise… until now.

For the first time in my life, I’ve spent the past year or so struggling with weight gain, muscle loss, and lethargy. In recent months my back has been strained, aggravated by hours spent sitting on my bed doing work and hunched over at my desk at my much-loved internship at South Bay Church.

My friend Erin tells me that a strained back is often the result of weak core muscles (in the abdomen), so she gave me several low-intensity strengthening exercises to hopefully relieve the problem. Knowing that I have no arm strength, she also suggested some (very) easy arm muscle-building practices to help me out. (Like, really, really easy. Baby exercises. I-can’t-do-a-single-push-up exercises.)

And you know what surprised me?

I’ve been keeping up with them.

For two and a half weeks now, I’ve been doing the exercises Erin gave me. It hasn’t been every day, and it hasn’t been exactly the same every time, but I’ve been making a sincere effort to actually work out for the goal of losing weight and gaining muscle, for the first time in my entire life.

I’m actually doing the exercises. Intentionally, repetitively, getting sweaty.

This is a HUGE deal for me.

You know what also surprises me? Exercising is do-able from a comfort standpoint. I strained my knees in dance my senior year of high school, especially my right knee, so too much bending and weight-bearing makes them hurt like the dickens. But Erin — herself nearly qualified as a physical therapist, since she’s been to therapy herself many times and has learned a lot from her PT — gave me exercises that don’t strain my knee very much at all.

Exercise is also do-able from an endurance standpoint. I frequently joke that I have no muscle strength at all, but I’ve actually been able to keep up with the exercises, pushing and challenging myself yet not feeling completely exhausted and over my head. For example, my arms are too weak for regular push-ups — I can’t even do one — but Erin has taught me about the awesomeness that are wall push-ups (hey, don’t knock it ’til you try it). I can feel the burn but not feel like I’m going to break my arms and split my body in half and immediately give up.

And the best part?

I’m already getting results. 🙂 Nothing too crazy yet, but crazy and exciting for me. I can feel muscles actually developing (and the pain that it takes to get there – oww), and I have more energy throughout the day. Getting to see your day-by-day efforts pay off, even in tiny increments, is always wonderful!

So here’s the list of exercises and stretches I’ve been doing. I’m posting them so that you can steal them and use them for yourself. They’re nothing fancy, nothing too impressive, and nothing ultra challenging (I’d need to step it up if I wanted to be truly in shape). But that’s exactly what I need, so that’s what I’m doing.

My current workout routine, in approximate order:

  • 15 triangle knee side lifts, 2 reps each side (no video, sorry)
  • 15 side leg lifts, 2 reps each side (video)
  • 8 minute abs (video), slightly modified to put less stress on my neck
  • Plank: regular (45 sec), left side (45 sec), right side (45 sec)
  • 50 wall push-ups (since I can’t do floor push-ups)
  • Bench press lying on floor, 50 lifts, 5 lb weight in each hand
  • Pec flies, 50 lifts, 5 lb weight in each hand
  • 50 standing lifts w/ proper stance: knees bent, back straight and slightly angled forward, arms straight down at slight angle
  • Approx. 20 minute cardio (many videos available on YouTube – so far I’ve liked this one)
  • Choreographed floor stretches I learned from jazz dance class, set to Sara Bareilles’ “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and Amy Winehouse’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
  • Brief choreographed sit-ups routine from jazz class, set to will.i.am’s “T.H.E [The Hardest Ever]”

I’ve been on summer break for two weeks, so this list of exercises & stretches is rather long. I have the scheduling flexibility where I don’t have anything to do during the day, so I can devote much more time to exercising than most people. If you don’t have this kind of time, don’t worry – do what you can with the time that you have. For me, some days (like today) consist of only getting through a few of the exercises (leg lifts, 8 min abs, cardio) rather than all of them. And on some days, being lazy is just too tempting, so I do nothing at all. Ah, well.

I would highly recommend to anyone who identifies with me — who feels like exercise is way too difficult, way too exhausting, way too time-consuming — to just check it out! Find exercises that you love and that are helpful to your body, and do them. Don’t give up or get lazy. If it’s walking 30 minutes a day, do it. If it’s four or eight-minute abs, do them. You still have 23 1/2 hours left in the day, and your body will thank you.

Have any suggestions for “easy,” manageable workouts that someone like me (with no muscle) could do and not feel hopeless? Feel free to post suggestions! I’m very open to advice 🙂

Male bashing

The New York Daily News site featured an article recently titled “Sexist ads from the era of Don Draper,” the latter being a character in the popular TV show Mad Men. It’s a photo slideshow depicting 15 ads that put down and/or stereotype women (and men!) in the 50s. For example, the above photo depicts a “tiger woman” brought down by the stunning attractiveness and implicit authority found in the man’s new pair of Leggs pants.

To many of us in the United States today, it’s shocking that these ads ever made print. But their publication is very telling of the mindset and sentiments of the era: Women, as a whole, were assumed to be significantly weaker (physically and mentally) than men.

Understandably, women retaliated. They fought for the right to vote, a substantial presence in the workplace, positions in the clergy. Today, some activist groups are still fighting for equal wages, claiming that women receive 25 cents to a man’s dollar.

Without discussing the credibility (or lack thereof) of some of these arguments, I believe there is one area where women (including myself) have gone too far: male bashing.

There’s a common motif in media today — whether it be movies, commercials, advertisements — of “the idiotic, inept, bumbling boyfriend or dad.” Clueless men are sharply contrasted with women who are wise and all-knowing. Popular raunchy comedies like Knocked Up or even the Taco Bell commercial below perpetuate this image.

Another common yet related stereotype is “the emasculated, weak man needing the guidance of an in-control, strong, intelligent woman.” Men are overruled by the domineering alpha female and forced to acquiesce to their will.

These all-too-common characters have taken the feminine-empowerment movement way too far. As one blogger coarsely put it: “A simple test is to reverse the roles. If the girl was shown as [stupid] and the man smart, would there be outrage? If yes, they’re sexist. Feminists don’t want to eliminate sexism, they want superiority.”

Viewers often brush off these claims, believing that the insults and teasing are all “harmless fun.” But male bashing has exceeded the boundaries of harmless fun – it’s reversed the double standard. Now it’s okay for women to insult men, but not okay for men to insult women. Neither should be okay.

It’s one thing to assert male and female equality. It’s another thing entirely to insult the powerful majority in order to boost up the status of the weaker minority. In heaping insults on men, women become bullies rather than revolutionaries.

As Forbes writer Leslie Knight put it, “The feminist movement was about ending sexism and stereotypes. It was not about creating a new form of sexism.”

Credit for supporting information goes to RooshV and Forbes.

Psalm 51

Sometimes the sermon at church, or a passage of scripture, cry with exactly what my heart cries. Today was one of those days.

Psalm 51
from BibleGateway

    For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

 1 Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.

 3 For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
   and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
   and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
   sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
   you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.

 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   and sinners will turn back to you.
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
   the God who saves me,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart,
   O God, you will not despise.

 18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
   build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
   whole burnt offerings to delight you;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Simple recipes

I like to cook. Not a lot, nothing too fancy, nothing too complicated or difficult to make (usually). But I do enjoy cooking! It’s a fun activity and a great de-stressor for me when I have the time and the ingredients. I’m a vegetarian, so my meal options can be somewhat limited (I’m pretty picky about tofu and veggie burgers, and I don’t like eggs). So I love trying out new meat-free concoctions in an effort to add new foods to my list.

But cooking takes a long time. Usually I’m not willing to wait very long to eat… once I’m hungry, I’m hungry! So most of the foods I make tend to be relatively speedy to put together.

Here are a few of my current favorite quick & easy recipes:

(1) Channa and Saag Curry: Sounds fancy, but it’s actually just a mix of various frozen food items from Trader Joe’s! Take one package of frozen Channa Masala (i.e. garbanzo beans and spices), microwave, add 1 cup chopped frozen spinach, and microwave it some more. Then eat it, with toasted Naan bread and a cup of Greek yogurt on the side if you like. Easy peasy, and not to mention delicious!

This recipe comes from one of my favorite food blogs, The Picky Eater. It’s an all-vegetarian blog about making healthier versions of the standard dishes we all love. Take a look!

(2) Stuffed Bell Peppers: I’d wanted to try these for a while, but never had the chance. Last year I found a really basic, vegetarian-friendly recipe and gave it a shot… now I love them! The basic idea: mix beans, rice, and spices; spoon into bell pepper with a little bit of cheese; bake or microwave; and top with warm tomato sauce. Yum! You can even get a little bit creative: add in corn, chopped tomato, onion, or other veggies. And, of course, they can be made with meat if you want.

The above recipe comes from Allrecipes.com, which, if you didn’t guess, has recipes for just about anything you need.

(3) Cookie Dough Brownies with Chocolate Ganache: Okay, so this is a dessert, not a meal. But it’s a consistent winner! I’ve made it for special occasions and just for kicks, and every time, it’s praised and beloved. The best part is that they’re easy to make — just stick boxed brownie mix and cookie dough in a pan, bake it, and top it with chocolate ganache (this is simple to make; she gives you the recipe). Be aware– these brownies are quite decadent, so I’d recommend feeding them to a crowd, or you’ll eat the whole pan!

This recipe comes from a site called Bakerella. The name is self-explanatory; this woman is magical with any baked good! I’ve made several of her recipes.

Now it’s your turn to respond: What are your favorite quick & easy recipes? (This college student would sure appreciate the insight! 🙂 )