Friday, February 24, 2012

Boiled Custard: It's Medicine

If you've not cooked or ever tasted boiled custard then here is your assignment for the day. Make some. Keep some for yourself and take the rest to someone who's not feeling up to par. Boiled custard is some of the best comfort food this side of heaven and seems especially palatable to those undergoing chemo. No health insurance required and believe me, boiled custard is not included in our new government health care plan. But you will want to have the recipe at hand so that you can make it a part of a loving mama and grandmama's family health care and happiness plan. Grandmuvver introduced us to this golden delight when the girls were little. My own grandmother baked 1000 custard pies and custard cream pies but plain boiled custard was never seen in her northern kitchen. One more reason to move south.

First, we must have an egg conversation. After cracking an egg do you remove the "chicken?" When I was a little tapper and asked my mom why she took it out she replied,
 "Well, would you want to bite down on that?"
That was all my prone to be queasy stomach needed to hear.
We have forever thereafter removed the chicken.
Do you?

The ingredients required are few in number and common to any kitchen.
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
Don't you love this corn starch container? Good packaging really sells a product.
 It's like a good book cover. When we're at the book store...well, never mind.
That's another idea all together.
Anyway, good container.
Place the milk in a heavy saucepan over a medium flame. Grandmuvver scalds milk over med-low as she calls it. I think electric stoves are a result of the fall. If you get to choose, choose gas. You'll never regret it. Warm the milk until the little bubbles appear around the edge of the surface of the milk. Don't boil it though.

While the milk is warming combine the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl, mixing it well.

You don't want any lumps of cornstarch or you'll have lumps in your custard.
That would bring a lump to your throat.
Gradually pour the sugar and cornstarch mixture into the warm milk, stirring constantly.
I went out on a limb not stirring in order to snap a picture.
And please know that I'm fully aware that the photos on my blog could be better and more professional looking. I'm holding my second Runs With Scissors give-away today hoping someone will give away a camera.
To me.
Remember those eggs that now have no chicken?
I should have already told you to beat them well with a fork. And then beat them a little bit more. This requires developing an egg beating rhythm of sorts. You probably already have developed that skill. Notice, these eggs have not been beaten enough. Go ahead and relieve some of your frustrations. Beat those eggs until you cannot distinguish between white and yolk.
You've got to do this next step or you'll have lumps.
Lumps of yolk in your custard and biting down on that is worse than biting down on the chicken.
Pour the beaten eggs through a sieve into the mixture on the stove stirring continuously.
Stir the cooking mixture for about five minutes or until it begins to thicken and will lightly coat the back of the spoon. This is where personal preference comes into play, too. Everyone has her own opinion about how thick the custard should be, but remember, it will thicken more as it cools and once it is in the refrigerator.
Really thick cold custard is called ice cream.
Or better yet, frozen custard.
Once it has reached the desired thickness turn off the flame or remove from that hot stove top and add the vanilla.

One tablespoon is actually twice as much as the original recipe calls for but it surely does taste good with extra vanilla.
You can tell just by looking at it that in this case, more is better.
If by chance your finished custard has any lumps, strain it into the storage container.
I use a mason jar, one quart and one pint.
Keep in the fridge for up to five days or so.
But it won't last that long.
We serve our boiled custard in a juice glass, a parfait or wine glass.
I think a bucket full would really be even better, but I wouldn't want to over-do since I've already been
extravagant with the vanilla.
Then we top it with whipped cream or Reddi Whip for the little peeps along with raspberries, blue or black berries and those strawberries from Plant City or Louisiana.
Today it's blueberries and a heart because..
We love Ginger!
Get well soon!

Marriage Matters: Honesty and Oneness

There's a lot to learn from Genesis 3:6-13 where Eve meets the serpent in the garden and is deceived by him. What's it called, Paradise Lost? Adam and Eve set up a pattern for destructive communication that is still being used today. Why is it destructive? Because it thwarts the very oneness that is to be realized in covenant marriage and distorts the faithful representation of Christ's love for his bride, the church. Adam and Eve's response to their own sin was swift and damaging. First, because it caused them to hide. (Note that these are only but a few damaging results of their sin.) In shame they attempted to hide their sin by physically hiding from God. Shame is neither a popular nor politically correct word in our present culture, but the blinking light on the dashboard of their conscience operated correctly. Sin shames us and our natural response is to want to hide from its revelation and  consequences, and from the God against whom all sin is committed.
Sin caused them to want to hide from one another as well. It was no longer safe for Adam and Eve to live openly with one another as sin and manipulation cause us to treat one another as objects instead of persons made in the image of God. As a result of sin Adam and Eve attempted to hide from themselves and to deny the truth that they knew about themselves. Hiding from the omniscient God was an attempt to avoid seeing themselves as they really were, sinful, wicked, without excuse, and living in plain view of a holy God. Actually, we know something about that very foolish ploy ourselves. At the same time it is a very merciful God that does not reveal to us the extent of our sin all at once. None could bear up under such a weight of revelation.

Second, sin affected Adam and Eve's honesty. Eve replied to the serpent by saying, "God said you shall not eat of the tree nor touch it." No, He didn't. Not eat, yes. Touch? No. When God asked Adam what he had done, he spoke instead of what his wife had done. And by the way, what God had done. After all, it was YOU God, who gave her to me. Let the finger pointing and deception begin. Neither Adam nor Eve was the picture of the honesty that is hard-wired into our hearts that tells us at the deepest level that our sin rails against the God in whose image we are made. They failed to be truth tellers about themselves but also about God and what He had told them.
Third, the sin of Adam and Eve affected their emotions. What did Adam say? "I was afraid. Don't blame me!" And Eve? "It wasn't my fault! The snake did it!" The cool of the day became the heat of the moment and blame casting, accusations, and projection began in the words that they spoke. They each chose to speak words of injury to the other in order to vindicate themselves. Isn't that what we do with emotions that spill over in the midst of the fray?
And fourth, their sin affected their humility. Delivering accusations while concealing guilt is a lack of humility for it elevates oneself above the other. It is an act of idolatry that knocks a spouse down to size while pumping oneself up in order to escape judgment. Humility would have been forthright about what had just occurred, would have offered sincere observation about personal involvement, and would have claimed ownership for the sin. Adam and Eve's sin blinded them to where they stood before God and one another.
Let's look at how transparency, honesty, emotions, and humility can fit into ordinary moments ways that will bring extraordinary change. Transparency, as opposed to hiding, provides the truth that only you and your spouse can give. It is the fear of abandonment or rejection that keeps us from revealing our hopes, dreams, fears, needs, and observations. But covenant marriage is meant to provide the safety net that allows that kind of expression. Even more, that promotes that kind of expression. How can you say you love, or how can you be truly loved if the real you is hidden in fear? The one who knows me best loves me most. That's how marriage reflects God's love for us. He does not define me or our relationship by my weaknesses but by that which He created me to be when I live in the freedom of his love.
That means taking off the mask. Some of us learn to live behind the mask as children or as students in order to avoid criticism or a sense of failure or insufficiency. Maybe you put the mask on in order to help your dream of marriage come true. For what ever reason, taking off the mask and choosing transparency brings the possibility of beginning to live in new oneness and intimacy with your husband and the Lord. Now, wait just a minute. It's not an excuse to be the real you because that's just who you are and none of us has to change. Lady Ga-Ga theology is a no-go here. What's the worst that could happen if you take off the mask? Since God doesn't define or accept you by your sins or failures, but has instead covered them with the blood of Jesus Christ, you really having nothing to lose but fear and insecurity. De-masking may also provide the freedom for your husband to do the same.
How can emotions provide a format for meaningful change in marriage? First by recognizing that God has emotions and therefore, we do, too. The difference is that His are expressed perfectly and mine are not. (That's an understatement.) Love must be sincere says Paul in Romans 12:9. Emotions are to be a genuine expression of inward feelings and a response to the feelings of others. Without hypocrisy. They are the currency of personal involvement. Lack of emotion does not express neutrality, it expresses indifference which can be every bit as damaging and frustrating as too much emotion. Extremes at both ends of expressing emotions can be used as a means of controlling others, especially our spouse. Either way, those extremes are all about me, not about the other person. Enter hypocrisy. Emotions can be messy and learning to be honest and transparent, while sincere and without hypocrisy puts us on another path to meaningful growth. Husbands and wives who covenant to work together with God on their "glory-selves" seek to promote a sincere, appropriate and genuine display of emotion with one another. That takes a dependence on God, prayer and practice!
And finally (this has gotten waaaay too long) humility. Read Phil. 2:1-4. These verses were not written in the context of marriage, but the content---encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship with the Holy Spirit, affection, mercy, oneness, consideration of others all shout the message of Christ's work in coming for His bride, the church. Aren't each of these exactly what we desire to give and receive in marriage? Meditate on those verses that tell us how Christ set himself aside in order to provide His church with this kind of sincere love that is genuine, complete, and transforming. And remember that God is at work in the ordinary moments. Don't miss them. Join Him.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Marriage Matters: Person or Object? Honor or Manipulation?

"Marriage Matters" by Winston Smith is the focus this semester of our Wednesday morning MOMs bible study. My goal is to post a brief summary of our weekly large group lessons. I take and seek no credit for the concepts presented. We are the beneficiaries of the work of God and Winston Smith!
God's law of love states we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Who is my closest neighbor? My husband.
When you look at your husband what do you see, an object or a person? People bear God's image, having a unique identity and purpose, are free to make responsible decisions, and have infinite worth. It is God who has the final say on who we are, what purposes we have been given, and what we are worth. Objects, on the other hand, may or may not be unique, make no choices, might not belong to anyone in particular and have varying worth. We manipulate or use objects for our benefit. That's what they are made for. When we treat people as objects we violate God's law of love, degrade others, and God as well.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency to be back scratchers or schmoozers. You do for me and I'll do for you. An agreement like this on paper is called a contract. Marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant relationship that says I love you no matter what. But we find it difficult to live that way for especially one reason. Idolatry. I love myself and will use you to serve me. This is not Christ-like love. It is manipulation. Christ-like love honors a husband who is made in God's image. How do we maniuplate our husbands?
By punishing them. If you don't do what I want or like I will give you the silent treatment, be unavailable emotionally, physically, sexually. Or punishing may take the form of hurtful language. Whatever form punishing takes, it's a lose-lose situation for both wife and husband. We also manipulate by showing favoritism. James chapter 2 tells the account of two men who showed up at a local church. One was wealthy and the other poor. The church men fawned all over the rich man in order to serve their purposes. The poor man was forced to sit on the floor. In showing favoritism, the churchmen elevated themselves above not only the poor man, but the rich man, too. The churchmen were not focused on God's purposes for their visitors.

How do we as wives use favoritism in connection with our husbands, thus ignoring God's purposes for them in our lives? We show favoritism toward our children. Look at that face. Look at her curly hair. This baby girl captures my heart and if you knew her your heart would be captured, too. How easy would it be to set my husband aside for one such as this? Especially when small children have large needs and noisy demands. Just be aware of this very real temptation. Be aware of Spider Girl, your own spider girl.
And cheetah boy.

And baby gumdrop girl.

If manipulation violates the law of the love, then honor fosters love. The apostle Paul writes a lot about honoring others. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. This way of life is critical to growing into the likeness of Christ for it is the very action and attitude of Christ. Phil. 2:5-7. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being very nature God, did not consider equality something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Eeek! Our complaint is the more I serve, the more he demands. If I begin living this way there will be no end in sight to my being taken advantage of. Yes, it is not only possible, but probable that there will be times we will be taken advantage of, that we will give and not receive in return. But honoring our husbands means that if we experience an "ox in the ditch" moment of service, we honor our husbands by serving them in their time of need. If being taken advantage of is a pattern of behavior, we honor our husbands by being willing to enter into a place of possible conflict to talk about it because our concern for the growth of their Christian character exceeds concern for my own wants and desires. Not easy.
Manipulation cries and demands that you are all mine. This sort of "love" is suffocating and oppressive. It is exhausting for not only the recipient but the giver as well. Honor considers how we as wives can build up our husbands. Serving one another practically means to labor to make the other successful. And what is success in marriage? If God's purpose for marriage is to display His love for His people, Christ's love for the church, and to bring you spotless before the throne, then encouraging your husband while being conformed to the image of Christ is success. How do you build him up? Ephesians says by respecting him. Details to follow on that mission in a lesson to come.
Manipulating my husband blames him. Smith says this form of manipulation is like a vending machine. You have a need, put your money in and expect something in return. Something you wanted. But then you receive nothing in return for your investment. Or what you receive is not what you asked for or expected. So the coin return gets flicked a hundred times, the machine gets some undesired "attention" and what was to bring you a solution to your problem suddenly becomes your problem. That's treating your husband like an object, not a person. It's treating him as if his sole purpose is to meet your needs and wants.
with the word, then my husband is a tool in the hands of God. As iron sharpens iron it would be a good thing to stop and ask, "What could God be teaching me here?" Honor prays for an attitude of humility that desires to be taught and asks for input, especially when it is uncomfortable and humbling. Make use of the ordinary moments of marriage (in our house it's deciding whose route we take to Dogwood) to learn from one another and appreciate the way we are made to compliment one another.
So much for the "brief summary." Next we move on to emotions, transparency, humility and hiding from one another. Why spend lots of money on rides at a theme park when you can join the wild ride of Marriage Matters?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Marriage Matters: God's Purpose in Marriage

In a day when our culture is embroiled in controversy over the definition of marriage it is particularly important for Christians to embrace the inseparable definition and purpose of marriage as presented in the bible. For a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24. Marriage is being a one-woman man and a one-man woman joined by covenant vow between one another and God. This covenant vow is the same language of oneness that God uses in Exodus, Leviticus, Jeremiah, etc. when He says I am your God and you are my people. I am yours and you are mine. Marriage is an irrevocable promise that pictures the faithful relationship of God with His people.
Ephesians 5:31,32 goes on to say that marriage represents the relationship between Christ and the church. This new covenant is Christ's leaving his Father and taking the church as His bride at the cost of His life, and holding fast to her in a one-spirit union forever, a representation and reflection of the spiritual union between Christ and the church.

So what's the problem? The two people who marry and the sin that they bring along to the relationship. Few of us accept proposals of marriage with the ultimate goal of reflecting the covenant relationship of God with His people and Christ with His church. Or of displaying in our lives God's character traits and attributes. It would seem that in our selfishness (and foolishness) our thoughts center more on marrying someone who will meet my emotional, financial, and physical needs while attaining a suitable social status and raising a houseful of mini-me's. Annie in "Sleepless in Seattle" called that dream magic. We know it can be more like the Bermuda Triangle. We are swimming in dangerous, swirling, shark-filled waters!

Many of you have probably read Tim Keller's wildly popular article entitled, "You Always Marry the Wrong Person." read it here Part of what Keller says is that we search for Mr. or Miss Right who will marry us as we are and yet with wild expectations that each of us will be happy, healthy, interesting and totally content with life and one another. But how can two selfish, sinful, somewhat neurotic individuals find such paradise possible? This is reality. This book cover is not.
Why didn't God warn us that marriage with another would be so hard at times? Actually, he did. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife and they were not ashamed. Genesis 2:24,25. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eye and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave it to her husband with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves covering. Genesis 3:6 and following. Though Adam and Eve were perfect and perfectly beautiful before the apple incident, their lack of shame in their nakedness was not entirely (or even mostly) due to their beauty. They were unashamed because they were experiencing the one-flesh covenant union that was a perfect representation of God's relationship with them. They were not ashamed because there was nothing in their hearts, thoughts, or actions to shame them or bring shame to them. In the post-apple world they became self-conscious because the foundation of their relationship had collapsed and the perfect security they had known in marriage was gone. The realization of this was experienced in sensing shame in their nakedness and subsequent need for covering. Adam and Eve thought that they could provide their own covering for sin and God in his judgment and mercy showed them otherwise. He clothed them which both affirmed their understanding that they had sin that needed covering and He covered them in a way that only God could do, by the shedding of blood to cover sin. I love what John Piper says in The Momentary Marriage. "Clothing is not meant to be an advertisement for what lies underneath it. Clothing is meant to direct attention to what does NOT lie underneath." This covering points to the day when God will solve the problem of our nakedness perfectly and permanently by the shedding of the blood of the perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ.
This brings us to the next purpose in marriage mentioned in Marriage Matters. Our husbands are to love us as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church not having any spot or wrinkle. Ephesians 5:25-27. Jesus is in the business of changing me and he uses my husband in that work. The friction of two individuals even united as one, living side by side, years on end, serves to grind off the sharp corners and sand the rough edges (and that's being polite) in order that one day we will stand before the Lord as Tim Keller calls it, as our "glory-selves."  We can be assured that God will finish the work. He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6. And we will both be the perfect completion of that glimpse of future glory that we see in one another now. 1 John 3:2. My goal, therefore, should be to help my spouse love Jesus more than my spouse loves me. God's purpose in marriage is to show the world what enduring, sacrificial, Christ-washed love looks like. Any lesser goal is just playing house.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mona Lisa: 15 Seconds of Fame

So it looks like Mona Lisa Part Deux has been living at the Prado in Spain and has been verified as an authentic copy created by one of Leonardo's students. You can read about it here: Mona Look how colorful the painting is, how vibrant the background and the detail of her clothing. I like it! Actually, I think I like it much more than the original.
If you're going to visit the original Mona you need to plan ahead. Order a museum pass online while you're still at home. Peruse some beautiful books about the Louvre to get an idea of what you'd like to see. Locate a map of the museum or purchase the Barnes & Noble book on the Louvre that tells you the exact location of what you'd like to see. Otherwise you could wander for days, see a ton of fabulous paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and the crown jewels, but never find Mona. Or anything else you planned to see. My favorite art instructor Dr. Bill Klaas says that you need to approach the Louvre with the assumption that you will be returning. Good idea. On your way toward Mona you've got to climb the glorious Daru Staircase up to the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Just takes your breath away. The beauty, that is. Not the exertion.
After you wind your way around a bit you enter the Grande Gallerie which is 1/4 of a mile in length. The royal family used to march up and down the hall for their exercise. It has also been the grand aisle for the entrance of royal brides. Sorry, no pipe organ. But I guess if you belong to the royal family no expense or trouble would be spared to provide you with one.
You'll pass some of the most extraordinary paintings in the world.
DaVinci's Madonna of the Rocks.
It rocks.
Or Van Eyck's Rolin Madonna.
You could observe for hours and never pick up on all of the detail or symbolism.
But you must move on to see Mona.
Remember, you're going to come back some day.
But Mona awaits.
Along with four million of her closest admirers.
There's pushing and shoving and tripping.
And cameras. Lots of cameras.
Everyone wants to get close to her. The girl who has her own room at the Louvre.
The girl behind the bullet proof glass.
And the alarm system.
And the guards.
There she is. And you (or I) think, "Wow. What's all the fuss about?"
I don't know what I expected, but I was a bit underwhelmed.
Yes, she's beautiful and a masterwork for sure, but in the context of some of the other paintings I showed about as much enthusiasm for Mona as she shows here for me.
I read just this week that the average length of time spent observing the Mona Lisa is a walloping

Fifteen Seconds.

Sounds like the newly authenticated Mona has already received much more than her 15 seconds of fame. The hub-bub surrounding Mona Lisa is really what is so interesting.
King Francis I summoned Leonardo to his chateau in Amboise.
Don't forget to bring Mona with you.
So he brought her.

Leonardo lived here at Clos Luce which could be reached through an underground tunnel from the chateau. Such a beautiful place. I could paint better if I lived here. This is where Da Vinci died.
 He is entombed in this chapel on the grounds of the chateau.
 King Francis I "inherited" the Mona Lisa and she lived at the Palace at Fountainbleau until Louis XIV took possession of her and moved her to Versailles.
Poor Mona had to stay on the run.
Napoleon came along and carted her off to the Tuileries Palace where she hung in his bedroom.
The French revolutionaries destroyed the Tuileries but not until after Mona moved a short distance across the gardens to the Louvre.
But she was not safe.
In 1911 Mona was kidnapped from the Louvre by an Italian national who thought her rightful place was in Italy. Two days passed before it was discovered she was MIA.
She and her kidnapper were found in Italy.
Mona moved back to France.
Her kidnapper's movements were restricted for a particular length of time.
During the winter of 1940 the paintings of the Louvre were evacuated to various locations in France. Did you know America's national treasures (the first time they were called such) were hidden at the Biltmore Mansion during WWII? The Biltmore's location was remote, accessible by rail car, large and climate controlled. Other works of art were stashed in the J.P Morgan estate in Pennsylvania.
If this interests you at all you may like reading The Rape of Europa, The Monuments Men, or Stealing the Mystic Lamb, all books that recount the Allied Forces' joint effort to protect and preserve the great art treasures and architectural wonders of the world from annihilation in the war.
Mona was sealed up in a carton
 and moved first back to her home at the chateau at Amboise and then to the Loc-Dieu Abbey

followed by a brief stay at Chambourd.
No wonder she looks so tired.
Poor girl never had a chance to settle in.
 In the years that passed, the trials she endured, and the wear and tear that she took, I've read that Mona's eyebrows were worn clean off. And evidently Leonardo had to remove one of her fingers and repaint it because it didn't appear sufficiently relaxed. But none of these things has kept Mona from her 15 seconds of fame. Why, you can even buy Mona Lisa chocolate bars.
And the Mona Lisa version of the velvet Elvis.
It's a Mona Afghan.
It would frighten the children to awaken wrapped up in this.
 In all those palaces.
In all those museums.
In Leonardo's studio.
Makes me wonder what the story is surrounding Mona Lisa Part Deux?
Where has she been?
What did she do during the war?
Which is her favorite chateau?
Which does she prefer, Spain or France?
I'd need more than 15 seconds with her to find out.
Wish I could.