Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two New Tattoo Ideas

So I've been thinking about tattoos.

I've got two ideas. One is an homage to a hero of mine: St. Francis of Assisi...
I like the black and white, but Alyssa and I messed around with the image in Illustrator and came up with this (the colors will probably be a bit darker and richer by the time we're done with it):
And the other is kind of a spinoff of a tattoo I saw at Cornerstone this year. At one of the seminars we went to, a girl a few seats down from us had a large tattoo of an Orthodox Icon illustration of the disciples casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee. The image was simple—all black, except for a series of thin, bright red halos around the subjects—but had a profound depth to it that I couldn't quite put my finger on. After a few hours of research, I found an image that I would love to convert into a shoulder tattoo, but can't find a copy large enough to base an illustration off of it.
It's called "Lord, Save Me," and depicts Jesus, walking on the Sea, stooping to aid a sinking Peter. There are numerous artistic versions of this Biblical moment, but none captures—for me, at least—the humility and grace and care with which Christ pulls Peter from the waves. In most versions, Jesus just looks like an all-powerful jerk who—in his divine mercy, of course—deigns to rescue a "mere mortal" from certain death.

The Jesus in the image above is the Jesus I am attracted to from the deepest part of my soul. The Jesus whom I can imagine catching Peter with a friendly chastisement. Who doesn't see Peter's weakness as evidence of his inferiority, but takes Peter in his arms with grace and humility and love, turning the situation into (dare I say it?) a teachable moment.

Let me know your thoughts.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Banana Peel Cake, or How to Make Something Out of Trash

Here for your culinary pleasure is a recipe—two recipes, in fact. The first is a simple banana nut bread recipe. The second is something I picked up from some folks at Conspire! Magazine—a how-to for a delicious banana peel cake.
I'm crazy about repurposing things that would normally be thrown away. The lowly banana peel certainly seems like a poor choice for a sweet delicacy, but I assure you: this is one of the most mouth-watering cakes I've ever made.

Here's everything that you will need for both recipes.
We start with the banana bread recipe. For this recipe (which makes two loaves), you will need:
  • 3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (you can leave them out if you don't like them)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat margarine
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 cups unbleached flour (I use King Arthur brand—it's one of the least processed and most socially responsible brands on the market, according to recent research)
  • 6 very ripe bananas (Alyssa and I don't eat bananas very often, so the ones we bought we simply froze until we needed them—hence the discoloration and sliminess in the photos. Be sure they are completely thawed by the time you are ready to bake)
Preheat the oven to 375°. If you don't have non-stick bread pans, lightly grease your pans with margarine.

If the bananas you are working with have been frozen, slice off the fibrous ends (i.e. the stems) and throw them away (or compost them, if you'd like!). Gently squeeze the bananas out of their peels. They should slide right out. If you're working with fresh (overripe), just peel them like you normally would. Place the peels in a bowl and set aside—we'll need them later.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugars with a fork.
In a mixing bowl, mix the fat-free sour cream, egg whites, vanilla, margarine, and bananas at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
Gradually add the flour mixture into the mix, and stir with a spoon until thoroughly combined. Add more flour if necessary until a thick and resistant dough is formed. Fold in the walnuts, and mix for 1 minute on the mixers lowest speed.
Divide the dough evenly between the two loaf pans, and bake until golden brown—for us, it was about 25-30 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

In the meantime, here's what you'll need for the banana peel cake:
  • Those six banana peels that you set aside
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites beaten into firm peaks
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 5 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cans of cream cheese icing, combined with cinnamon to taste
In a blender or food processor, chop the peels with 1/2 cup of water. They should quickly turn to a dark brown, aromatic mush. Set aside.
Combine the margarine, yokes, and sugar in a mixing bowl until homogenous—it should have the consistency of fluffy scrambled eggs.
Add the banana peels, the flour, and the baking powder, and mix well.
Whisk the egg whites until frothy, and gently fold into the mixture, careful to preserve the air.
Pour into a cake pan. We wanted to make a layer cake, so we used two small, round pans. Bake at the same temperature you've baked the banana bread (375) for about 30 minutes, or until the cake passes the toothpick test.
Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 hours. Remove the cake layers from their pans, and gently slice off the top of one, leaving it level. This will be your bottom layer. Place a layer of icing on top of the bottom layer, and then carefully place the other layer on the icing. Proceed to ice the rest of the cake.
And there you have it! Two delicious treats. Now, I realize that this is a lot of baked goods for just one person (or even two people!). But the brilliance of making these sweets is that they are meant for sharing—we kept one loaf of banana bread for ourselves, and gave one to my parents, and we gave the cake to my sister for her birthday! So give and share these recipes (and the fruits thereof) with one another. I altered them for my own purposes, but you can find the original recipes here and here. Enjoy!

Grace and peace be with you,


Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Couple Thoughts From Camp

The last few weeks have been insane. After the wedding on May 29, and the honeymoon--which lasted until Wednesday or Thursday the next week--I went to work for two weeks. Then Alyssa and I went to the CBF national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where we spent a day at the Hyaets Community. After a week in the city, we returned home, unpacked, did laundry, packed again, and headed up to Bushnell, IL with our friends Nathan and Laura to spend the week camping out at the annual Cornerstone Festival. After an entire week of music and seminars by really interesting people, we came back, unpacked, did laundry, and I packed again to leave the next day for a week of summer camp counseling. I have since returned home from a great week at camp, and will be packing up again to leave tomorrow for my final week.

I've also grown a mustache. Holla.

Anyway, I thought I would share a couple thoughts/things that happened to me while I counseled last week at Adventure Camp, a retreat whose purpose is to basically keep 11-14 year-old kids busy from Monday to Friday.

1) I guess I never really thought about this before, although it is pretty obvious, but I have noticed that my relationships with women have changed since I married Alyssa. Not that I am pursuing other women or anything, but I've taken note that there seems to now be an emotional barrier which cannot be crossed in my friendships with people of the opposite sex. This is puzzling to me, because I usually attempt to truly and deeply know my friends. Alyssa will always remain my most intimate partner, my best friend, and my closest confidante, but this week I began to notice that I now have the label of "married guy," which at times left me alienated and distanced from not only the other counselors but the campers, as well.

2) I met a moderately autistic child this week. His name is Austin, and he is a child of God. Austin was at camp last year, too (although I wasn't able to be there--I was in Perry County), and, from what I've heard, was very closed-off. He vomited when he got too nervous, he never went more than knee-deep into the swimming lake, and he spent a large amount of time quietly sitting on his bunk. This week, however (largely because of the efforts of my new friend Don, who is one of the most talented counselors I have ever known), I saw Austin open up and really have some fun. He ran and played games with the other kids, dunked me in the lake, and even made it past the dock to the Blob (the camp's water trampoline), where he spent 10 or 15 minutes jumping on the trampoline and being launched into the lake from the Blob's balloon-like appendages. And he never once got nervous enough to vomit.

In a camp comprised primarily of white, middle class kids who have difficulty leaving their video games and cell phones behind for a day and complain about their single mosquito bites and how their parents won't buy them new computers, Austin is a miracle of God.

3) Our final night of camp, the campfire talk was given by Steve Lewandowski, the site director for Blue Mountain. Steve is a big, burly, sporty guy that I've known for almost 8 or 9 years now. He's the kind of guy you think is probably involved in pro sports. He's rough, rugged, a hunter and fisherman. His abrasive, up-front personality has earned him both praise and disgust from a lot of counselors from a lot of different camps. He is almost the antithesis of me. I respect the hell out of him.

This week, the theme at camp was "Heroes," and how they don't always have to be well-known and grandiose people. Anyone can be a hero. Really. Look at the story of the poor widow's offering (which was actually included in our curriculum for the week). Steve spoke about using our God-given gifts to bring light into a dark world. Pretty simple metaphor. But powerful.

It rained us out of our actual campfire, so we crammed 30 kids and 8 adults into the small multipurpose building, where we sat on the concrete floor in the dark and listened to Steve tell us his life story--about growing up in church without really knowing was God wanted for his life, and spending years and years working every thinkable job, from a counselor in a mental hospital to a wildlife caretaker, without understanding how to use his gifts. He finally came to the understanding that his entire life had been one big experiment in preparation for God's true calling for his life--to be a site director at a church camp facility.

Near the end of his talk, Steve pulled out a single candle and lit it. It provided just enough light in the room to cast a dim orange glow over his face. "I'm using my gift," he said. "And it's bringing a little light into the darkness. But can you imagine if you all used your gifts, too?" He called the kids to line up, and one by one, reveal to him their God-given gifts. He then lit a candles and placed them in each camper's hand. As each child approached Steve at the front of the room, I heard them mumble: "I'm good at drawing." "I'm a builder. When I'm outside, I want to build things." "I love to be around animals."

Then the counselors got in line. I stayed in a corner in the back of the room, thinking frantically. I couldn't think of one useful thing that I had been gifted or good at. A thousand half-hobbies. Even music, which I was at camp to lead, is not my passion. Sure, I like to play the guitar. But a God-given gift? I'm not that serious about it.

When all the counselors had gotten candles, Steve spotted me in the corner, and I knew that he was about to approach me. He took a few giant strides across the room, got a few inches from my face, and placed an unlit candle in my hand.

"What's your gift?" he asked me.

"I'll let you know when I think of it," I told him.

He raised an eyebrow and stared through me, and took a deep breath.

"Desire," he whispered, and lit my candle. Years' worth of crying out to God flooded my head.

I have never, and likely will never have anybody sum up my burning for Jesus the way Steve did. Desire is my gift. Maybe I will eventually learn how to use it.

The room was now brightly lit. When everyone is using their gifts for God's purposes, Steve said, we give light to others. No one has to walk in darkness. He then asked everyone to blow out their candles, and then approached the counselors in the back of the room, lighting their candles once again. "When your counselors came to camp, they had their candles lit. They were using their gifts to help you. To inspire you." He then moved to where Austin was sitting, cross-legged and slack-jawed on the concrete floor.

"And I think we can all say we have gained much inspiration from of God." He lit Austin's candle, and one by one the campers began to light their own candles from Austin's. The entire room filled with light once more.

I've counseled two different camps for about five years now. I was a youth pastor for two years. I grew up in a youth group. I have never seen anything like what I experienced this week as a counselor.

Peace be with you all, and I will return to my regular (short!) postings next week.



Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Quick Update

So...I've been out of town for a couple weeks, and haven't had time to post much. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you are), I'll be leaving tomorrow for another two weeks away counseling youth summer camps.

Alyssa and I just returned home from a week at Cornerstone, where I got to perform one of my poems for a songwriting seminar. I was approached later by a couple really nice folks who asked if I had a blog, and, with guilt, I told them about my poor, neglected Everyday Revolutionary site. I figured I should probably post something recent to make their visit worthwhile. :)

Some of you may have noticed that the site doesn't quite have the flair that it once did--namely, the background has changed. I was messing around with HTML, and couldn't get the original background image that I had edited to fit the layout again.

However, there is good news! I am currently working on my own personal website, with my own domain and everything. Here's a preview of the homepage:

See you soon! I'll return to pick up my Top 5 Jesus series in a couple weeks when I get back from camp.

Grace and peace,