Stupid Beans

So a couple of weeks ago I bought this nice bag of mixed beans that had a recipe on the back for 15-bean soup. I finally decided this week that it was time to make them, so I went to Foodland the other day and picked up the ingredients I need. Diligently following the instructions on the bag, I poured the beans into a large container, sifted for rocks, and then filled the container with water. The beans came up about 2 inches or so, about a third of the total height of the container. I then left the beans to soak overnight. Perhaps it belies my ignorance that when I awoke the next morning, I was surprised to see that the beans had expanded and now filled the entire container. This got me to thinking, “Is my pot big enough to make this soup?” I inspected the bag more closely.

Yield: approximately 3 qts.

How much is a quart?

Serves 14-16.

o_O

14-16!?

At this point I ran into the kitchen and found the pot I was planning to cook these beans in, as well as my measuring cup. I then ran back to the computer to look up on Google how many cups are in a quart. (It’s four, BTW.) Back in the kitchen, I took my measuring cup and filled it with water 12 times, watching in horror as the water level in my little pot rose higher. At the end of the 12th cup, the water was (according to precise scientific calculations), a really itsy-bitsy-teensy bit below the rim.

So there I was, with a container of wet beans that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I guess you learn something new everyday. To make a long story short, Ms. Grady’s family has graciously agreed to allow me to bring my beans and other ingredients to their house this weekend and make my soup there.

I can’t wait to have a fully stocked kitchen of my own. But at least this way I won’t be eating bean soup for three weeks! 🙂

Peace.

PS – Please pray for Placke and her family.

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Roving Reporter

Well, folks, when Yours Truly hasn’t been performing highly advanced chemical research computations, he’s been cruising around Nashville, scoping out the best news and gossip, and today I have a very special treat for you. I’ve been given a private tour of the long-speculated improvements coming to the Lipscomb University campus for all students in the Fall! And no, I don’t mean all the new freshmen. Now, before hysteria can set in, please note that, while I wish I could post pictures, security was extremely tight and I was not allowed to bring any electronic devices on campus. Please also note that this has nothing to do with me being too lazy to dig out my digital camera. So, on with the tour!

One of the most obvious things a returning student will notice this Fall is the Ezell Center for Biblical Studies, currently under construction at the softball field’s former location, next to the bell tower and Beaman Library. Now, I’m aware that many of you have seen the construction webcam located in the Beaman Library, but did you know there was a full-streaming version (that is, a continuously-updated live video feed?) Unfortunately, this cooler webcam only appears to be accessible from lab/lobby computers on campus. If you happen to be at one, you can see it here: http://ecbswebcam.lipscomb.edu. ECBS is scheduled to open some time next year.

Speaking of lab/lobby computers, those big old Dells have been kicked out in favor of new smaller models that lay flat on the table. A few important differences in these new machines include DVD/CD-RW drives, flat LCD screens, and some extra software (like Firefox and the GIMP). Unfortunately, an important missing element is any kind of font smoothing on the screens, which with LCD can pretty tough on the eyes, but I understand they are working on this issue.

Besides the critical font smoothing, a few other missing things students may notice next Fall are several houses in the neighborhood behind Fanning Hall! It seems that an entire block of these homes have been bulldozed in favor of more parking for residents and commuters. But the new lot is quite large, and it’s a good thing, because we lost some spots when ECBS construction began. Now if they could only connect that to Grandview for students coming in from Granny White Pike…

Ah, yes! Granny White Pike. Have you been practicing your evasive swerving maneuvers in order to dodge all of those pesky bumps and ridiculous potholes between Woodmont Blvd and the campus? Well, dodge no more, fellow roadsters! Granny White Pike has been repaved from the Sewell entrance all the way through Woodmont Blvd, and let me tell you from first hand experience, that is one smooth ride.

Of course, drivers won’t be the only ones getting a smooth new feeling come August. In the last month, workers have gutted the dining area around Jazzman’s and replaced those nasty old couches with new UBER-plush velvety variety. The booths have also been retooled, and while not as soft as the incredible couches, they’re certainly more comfortable than they used to be, and they look much better, too. They also seem to have put in a new carpet, but it’s not much different than the old one. So will that area of the student center will actually become a good place to hang out and study in the evenings? Nah… The TVs are still there.

But fear not, friends! The hallowed hangout that is Elam lobby is getting a full reworking as we speak and should be completed before school starts. In fact, the whole dorm is getting revamped, with new carpets, paint, and aesthetically pleasing faux stained-glass windows in the computer labs. Oh, and did I mention the upscale laminate wood flooring? As much as I’ve grown to love the elegant cave-floor look that has graced the lobby for the past year, it appears that there will be a real floor for at least a portion of the lobby area. The only question that remains now is if the student center’s fine taste in couches will make its way across the lawn to Elam. As of the writing of this post, the deteriorating blue-green couches were still in the lobby, though they were stacked out of the way for remodeling purposes.

Well, loyal readers, that about wraps up this reporter’s private tour of Lipscomb’s campus. Of course, there were other small projects going on, including new coats of paint in places like McFarland and the Post Office, but I hope this post at least gives you a good idea of what to expect when classes begin!

Till next time, this is your local roving reporter, better known and loved as “the Gourd”, signing off.

Simple != Easy

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Why is it that the simple things to understand can be the hardest to do? I’ve become complacent about sin in my life, but through God’s grace I’ve had a wake-up call this week. It’s scary to see how far you can drift in a short time. Sure, I’ve been praying, reading, going to church, but clearly my heart has been collecting sludge for some time. I can manage to knock off little pieces of it through my own efforts, but there is still plenty of sin’s seed there to cause trouble, and only the Father can truly clean my heart, anyways.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

I’ve let myself get out of step with the Spirit, and it’s time I repented. Please keep me in your prayers. Getting back in line for next semester won’t be too difficult, but staying back in line will. Does anyone remember the box for the game Othello that said, “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master”?

Good Song

I’m not sure how many of the spiritual themes I see here are intentional, but the music would make this a really awesome song even if the lyrics didn’t.

Nickel Creek – Reasons Why

Where am I today, I wish that I knew
‘Cause looking around there’s no sign of you
I don’t remember one jump or one leap
Just quiet steps away from your lead

I’m holding my heart out but clutching it too
Feeling this sort of a love that we once knew
I’m calling this home when it’s not even close
Playing the role with nerves left exposed

Standing on a darkened stage
Stumbling through the lines
Others have excuses
But I have my reasons why

We get distracted by the dreams of our own
But nobody’s happy while feeling alone
And knowing how hard it hurts when we fall
We lean another ladder against the wrong wall

And climb high to the highest rung
To shake fists at the sky
While others have excuses
I have my reasons why

With so much deception
It’s hard not to wander away
It’s hard not to wander away
It’s hard not to wander away

Fear the Cleaning Ninja!

This was me in the kitchen tonight. No, really. Ask GSM. He was here the other day. Things were BAD. The table had crumbs all over it, the sink was full of weeks-old dirty dishes, the counter was covered in soap water and crumbs, and the stove had weeks of caked sauces and various meats built up on it. So I pretty much went to town. The cleaning lady came by this morning while we were all at work, but only worked on the bathroom. She didn’t touch the kitchen (it really was that bad), and instead, left a bottle of spray cleaner on the table for us. This was pretty good stuff. It was especially designed to go above and beyond basic disinfecting, and said it would even kill HIV that may be residing on surfaces due to blood or some other body fluid. I don’t think there was any HIV around, but it still did the trick. The kitchen is now spic-and-span, and I have wrinkley fingers.

Oh. And I cleaned my room, too. 🙂

Blast from the Past

As I was backing up files, I came across an old letter I’d written in 2003 to PB about a group of us who had been meeting after services that summer in Florida. What a shock to the system to hear my own words spoken back to me! This was even before me and Sunset Chick. It was interesting to remember the ways God has shaped me into who I am today, and who I will be in the future. Sometimes we need reminders like this. Memorial stones in the middle of Jordan, if you know what I mean. Maybe I can fan some of these flames again. Here is the letter in its entirety, with the names replaced in brackets:

Hey [N]-

What’s up?

As promised, I am writing to let you know some of my thoughts about “the group” and why we’re not having it any more (at least in the format it was in). This letter turned out to be really long and I know you’re pretty busy, so just read it when you get the chance to.

Basically, we quit having it because people just couldn’t commit on the level we needed to hold it Sunday mornings after worship, which I understand. Everybody has stuff come up, etc., and that’s always been a busy time. So I don’t really blame anyone for that.

But there were other reasons, too. I felt it start slipping into a “class” format, which isn’t really what I was looking for, though it was mostly my own fault. (More about that in a minute.) There were also some individuals who took exception to a few of our practices, (the collective saying of the Lord’s prayer, for example, which is a very minimal disagreement that I’ll leave alone for the sake of harmony, but suffice it to say that it put a damper on things.)

But don’t mistake me. I’m still strongly committed to the idea of spiritual sharing and collective growth, I’m just not sure of the best expression of it, at least not for our circumstances here at Rockledge. So basically I’ll just tell you my “story” and what I’m thinking about a lot of stuff and what I’m looking for as a result.

It all basically started when I went to Lipscomb. I’d had a lot of ideas or little nagging feelings or whatever long beforehand, even since I was a little one, but none of them ever really surfaced or came to my consciousness until I got to school. It began with a bible study I went to during first semester, where one guy got up and basically told the story of how he rededicated his life to Christ. It was accompanied by a message of victory and power over sins that frankly blew me away. It was as if I had never heard that before. I realized that I was living in sin while denying it at the same time and still pretending and even thinking myself to be spiritual, when I was actually just being “religious”, which means I went to church and never missed the weekly communion and led singing sometimes, and so on. Living in this culture so full of sin had lulled me into thinking I didn’t have to try, and even led me to think that some things that were so obviously sinful weren’t really. I really needed that lesson which was just amongst guys (and very frank at that) to “wake me up” and rock me out of that lull. At that point I repented and determined to submit to Christ not only as my Savior but also as my Lord. And not that I don’t mess up anymore, but now I struggle, instead of willfully giving in, putting my faith in Christ to save me rather than saving myself by not cussing or having the right doctrines.

Anyways, as these ideas about personal spirituality started to take root, I started to hear unexpected things about the church collectively. I vividly remember one chapel session in the arena, where the speaker (LaGard Smith) had sort of a “mock” communion amongst the people who sit in the seats on the actual arena floor. (Everyone else sits in the stands.) Well, actually there were two communions. On the left side the 100 to 200 seats were arranged in rows as usual, just like the pews at any church building. On the right side was simply a table with about 8 or 10 chairs around it. As LaGard explained what was going on, each group held their own “pretend” communion. The ones on the left had men up front pray over and then pass around empty trays for the bread and the wine, very much like Rockledge or any other Church of Christ. On the right however, we saw the group pass around bread and pour the juice into cups, and after saying a prayer, they all ate and drank together. They had a regular meal along with the “Lord’s Supper” and sang together (softly, because LaGard was still talking), and so on. Well, while most of my friends didn’t seem to care too much about it, I found this to be absolutely fascinating. While I had always had little nagging wisps of doubt concerning the way we do things in the Church of Christ and if we were really emulating first-century Christians like we claimed to, here was outright questioning of something that I had just taken for granted. I was further fueled by some comments, in particular, one from [Rockledge elder], who said one day when they came up to Nashville in the midst of conversation that the Restoration Movement is an ongoing process that probably won’t end until Jesus comes back. In any case, I looked into the matter more, and found out that LaGard had written a book called Radical Restoration that basically “calls out” the church on a lot of stuff and gives a very different picture of what New Testament Christianity may have been like. (I’ll send you a copy of a speech he gave where he explains all about it.) So I borrowed it over Christmas break and read it, and shared some stuff with [A], who also got very excited about it (we were ready to start house churches the very next week!), and [J] too, who already knew about LaGard and had a lot of thoughts on the topic.

So anyways, Christmas break ended and I went back to school. (I promise you this all relates to the group. Sorry it’s so long!) Early on I developed a strong “craving”, if you will, for spiritual fellowship. I just had this strong desire to be with others who wanted to give themselves fully to God in all aspects of their lives, who I could have Christ in common with and who could strengthen me spiritually as I strengthened them. And I wasn’t really talking about friends who were good. I had those. I meant people who were honestly devoted to God, to prayer and to reading the word, who didn’t mind having spiritual conversations at any time, who were mindful of the Lord and his Spirit at work in the world around them, and a list of a hundred other qualities like that. (And not that I possessed all or any of those qualities, but the idea was that we could strengthen each other and grow together.) As I thought about it more, I came to realize that what I was looking for was the church. And I’m talking about the true, intimate, community of believers, not the individual Christians who happen to worship in the same building at the same time. So I started talking about this stuff with some of my friends, especially my roommate [B], who was also seeking earnestly something better. I remember the night it hit us while we were talking about this. Something’s coming. The excitement was almost tangible. We still don’t know what that something is or how we’re to go about finding it or creating it, but we know that it’s going to be something powerful, something in our generation. Maybe not now, maybe not even later, but it’s coming. Maybe a new kind of church. Maybe an amazingly intimate fellowship of students on campus. We don’t really know, but I personally think it’s going to have a lot to do with LaGard’s ideas. The point is we can’t stop striving for it.

So the last “big thing” I encountered was what was called a “Spiritual Formation Group” at one of the congregations I started worshiping with. They were very much like what we attempted to do a couple of weeks ago. The whole concept was based on material from a group called Renovaré, (www.renovare.org), which is attempting to, as it puts it, “put the church back in the churches”. Anyhow, this group at Acklen (the congregation I started going to) managed to satisfy to a small degree the desires I had, and I found that I grew a great
deal from it. So that’s what I tried to “recreate”, if you will, here. Well, the Renovaré materials cost money, and I certainly couldn’t afford them, so I decided to make my own, which were laid out very much like theirs, even if the content was a little different. But I’m honestly not sure if the maturity needed to do something like that is really here, at least not among more than a few of us. (You know who). So I certainly don’t consider our short-lived “spiritual formation group” a failure, but rather a learning experience. What worked there didn’t work here, mostly because of the different people involved. Not that that’s a bad thing or a problem per se, it’s just a different situation. But in any case, we’ve got about a month and a half before school starts, so the question is, “What’s next?”

I guess what I’m looking for is a group of peers who are deeply, even fiercely devoted to God, and don’t mind showing it to each other. I want to see the faith of those around me who profess Christ in action. I want to hear from their own lips how they wrestle with Satan, how they depend on God, and how he works in their lives. I want to be uplifted and encouraged by them, and I want to uplift and encourage them by doing the same. I want to work and to sing and to pray and to eat and to grow with others who are doing likewise on a regular basis. And I think the first collective step for us here at Rockledge (the real first step is personal devotion to God) is simply to become better friends. That means spending time with each other. We really shouldn’t feel like we don’t have enough in common. We have Christ in common. What more could we possibly need!? Fun? Trust me, when a group of college-age people gets together, fun just happens. So maybe we could just start out hanging out at each other’s houses. If and when we get together, we could divide our time however necessary between spiritual matters and simple fellowship. And it’s not like we need some formal structure or a set weekly date, time, and place to get together. Let’s be spontaneous! Let’s see what happens! But let’s just do something! I’m convinced that there’s much more to the church than worship, and I’m anxious to start living that out, to try it, to see what works and what doesn’t. I know that things will be difficult with work schedules, not to mention that we’re spread out all the way from Titusville to Palm Bay, but I’m sure if we all just got together for a few minutes on Sunday mornings when we’re all already there anyways, we could figure out something to do during that week together. I say we be pragmatic about it. But for Heaven’s sake, let’s not be isolated from one another. I love you guys! I know the bible doesn’t use the terms “brother” and “sister” lightly. Let’s take that seriously and live like we really are a family!

Whew. Sorry that was so long. I got a little excited at the end. 🙂 Anyways, please write back after you’ve had a chance to think about all that. And I’d be anxious to hear your own personal “odyssey”, if you should feel the urge to share it. But of course you don’t have to, if you don’t want to.

OK. [CS] says hi and “sheep”. Talk to you soon.

Your pal,

[J]