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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe Review: Brown Butter Banana Bread

I barely had time to snap a picture - this stuff went fast.
Of late, I've had a lot of theologically based posts so I figured it was time to get some sugar up in here. So here you, ladies & gentlemen: the mother of all banana breads. 

If you're looking for a healthy banana bread, you should probably look elsewhere. But if you're looking for a delicious, moist, dessert-like banana bread, look no further. 

Here's what you'll need:
For the bread:
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter
  • 1-½ cup Flour
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 whole Bananas, Mashed
  • 2 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
For the crumb topping:
  • ¼ cups Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Cold
Directions: (Makes 1 large loaf)
  • Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan, and set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, cook the butter, stirring occasionally, until it darkens. (Do not burn it, cook it until it smells nutty.) Once the butter has browned, remove from the heat, and cool slightly. Meanwhile...
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of your mixer, combine the egg and sugar, and mix at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  • Mix in the cooled brown butter slowly.
  • Add the mashed bananas, the milk and the vanilla extract, and mix on medium speed until combined.
  • Mix in the flour mixture until combined.
  • Combine the ingredients for the crumb topping in a medium bowl (use your hands or a pastry cuter to mix the 2 Tablespoons of cold) butter into the dry topping ingredients until crumbly, pea-sized crumbs form). Set aside.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top of the batter.
  • Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool before enjoying!
You know how much I love batter, and this batter was particularly phenomenal. I seriously could've drank it with a straw. The only tricky part about this recipe was browning the butter, which was something I'd never done. I think I might've burned it slightly, but it was still amazing. I also added 3 bananas instead of 2 to enhance the flavor, which is something I always do when baking banana bread.

Go work out, then convince yourself that this bread is healthy because it has fruit, then make it! Chances are you'll probably make some friends with this one.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Purity vs. Virginity, Part II

The response from my "Purity vs. Virginity" post was awesome! I love to blog because for me its a creative outlet that is life giving, but let's be real - I love getting feedback and knowing people find what I write entertaining and edifying!

That being said, I feel like I need to have an addendum to my first post. I talked about the difference between purity and virginity, but, for the sake of brevity, I never really addressed where purity comes from. 

In the Old Testament, Isaiah speaks to purity's origin by saying "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (Isaiah 64:6). We are unclean - regardless of sins committed. Like I previously said, even if we can claim the title "virgin" doesn't mean we can even begin to say we're pure. Isaiah hits the nail on the head - even our most "pure" and righteous acts, when placed before the feet of the Father are bloody and defiled. We literally can't produce righteousness on our own, which is exactly why Jesus had to die in our place so that we can claim his record.

Isaiah also says that instead of shame and dishonor, because of Jesus we have a double portion and are clothed with HIS robe of righteousness, as Jesus dresses himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress (Isaiah 61). Jesus is the ultimate intercessor between us and God the Father, having satisfied God's wrath and offered the eternal sacrifice needed to quench God's justice. The cross at Calvary was the most beautiful, exquisite display of justice, love, and mercy as God sent Jesus, knowing we were defiled and unrighteous, to take our place once and for all.

Just like the video says (around minute 3:30), there is redemption in the midst of sin, be that sexual or otherwise. Whether we'd like to admit it or not, we all need that redemption, regardless of what titles we boast based on our physical past. Jesus Christ died and rose again so that he could reconcile us to God the Father, leaving sin and death powerless. The consequences of physical sin don't necessarily evaporate, but purity can be reclaimed, because ultimately that's what the Gospel is - my defiled, messed up, unrighteous record being traded for Jesus' spotless, perfect, and holy one.

It took me a while to realize that I needed my record to be swapped for Jesus' in the area of sexual sin. In fact, it took me detesting someone else's sexual sin to realize that my status before the Lord was no different than anyone elses.

If you're like me, and think your record before God is pretty okay without Jesus, then repent. The foot of the cross is level, meaning that all come before the Father sinful and broken and all our righteousness could never be enough. And after you repent, rejoice! Because, like Romans 5:8 says, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" and we can trade our filthy rags for Jesus' righteousness. 

If you do have a sexual past and aren't a virgin, then repent of your sin too. Remember that all sin is first against God, then secondly against others. But you too can rejoice! In Luke 8 Jesus didn't tell the woman to clean up her life because he condemned her, then come to him; instead, he said he didn't condemn her, but accepted her in love and mercy, and out of that she should not sin anymore. You can't take back the act of giving yourself away physically, but God can redeem you and bring you sexual healing, giving you Jesus' righteousness and His purity.

May we all, regardless of past sin, embrace the warm robe of righteousness that Jesus drapes around our dirty shoulders and boast His record in our place!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spinach (?) Smoothies

If you're on Pinterest, you've probably seen at least one recipe for some sort of smoothie with spinach. An avid hater of most vegetables, seeing those recipes used to make my stomach turn. Key words: used to. Over Christmas break, my mom was making some detox smoothies with spinach and they were delish. I know, it sounds disgusting, but trust me on this one - they're awesome. In fact, I made a smoothie without spinach a few days ago and it just wasn't the same without the little green leaves. You can't really taste the spinach - it's more of a texture thing and I'm a big texture person. If you're apprehensive, give it a try! You won't be disappointed. 
I used a non-fat 8 oz. Archer Farms vanilla yogurt, about 1.5/2 cups of spinach, a really ripe banana, and about 1 cup of blueberries. I added some ice* and a little water (but if you're wanting some a little more creamy, go for milk).  
So pretty! You could definitely add other berries of sorts. My mom really likes mangoes in them. You could also substitute Greek yogurt for a little more protein.
Looks healthy, but tastes delicious!

*I read if you drink ice cold beverages, something that burns on average 10 calories a day, you'll end up loosing a pound over the course of a year! Cool!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Purity vs. Virginity

If I had to guess, I'd say right about now you're probably thinking this title is kind of weird and confusing, because purity and virginity are pretty much the same thing. I thought roughly the same thing about a month ago when I read this post by Auston Jones about how virginity isn't the point of being pure.

It got me thinking about how I can in the technical sense of the word call myself a virgin, but I can't call myself pure. And really I'm not sure anyone can claim that label. We all have either in thought, word, or deed done things that are not pure, but are very much the opposite in reality. 

We have no problem dropping the L-bomb ("I love you") to whomever we have a crush on, or telling a significant other that we can't wait to grow old with them. What? No! That's not pure. It's easy to quantify physical impurity, but emotional impurity is what, more often than not, gets us in the jam of being physically impure in the first place.

The Bible constantly gives warning to "guard your heart," claiming its the wellspring of life. The Bible is also super clear about abstaining from physical impurity (e.g. Ephesians 5). While we definitely defy those commands about physical purity, its way easier to ignore the wisdom regarding protecting our hearts. 

We justify intimate behaviors like Bible studies and prayer (more on this topic soon) with empty excuses of "just being friends." Christians fall prey to this behavior of false and sinful intimacy exponentially more often than non-Christians.

I've heard that Christians who date should treat their boyfriend/girlfriend as if they are someone else's husband/wife. Okay, let's be real - that's kinda crazy. I tried to heed this warning when I dated other guys and it just flat out flopped. Why? Because we're built for intimacy, both physically and emotionally. When you're dating someone, you're thinking you're the person they're going to marry, not some other woman or man. So, instead of treating your boyfriend/girlfriend like they're someone else's spouse, filter your behavior through the lens of Scripture. Women, are you behaving in such a way that will make the heart of your husband trust you and benefit from you when you're married? Are you, right now regardless of who you're dating, doing your husband good all the days of your life (aka before you've even met "the one")?

The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
-Proverbs 31:11-12 (emphasis added)

When you're approaching marriage, it's no fun to have to ask your future spouse forgiveness for your past sins that were against God first and them secondly. This applies to emotional intimacy just as much as it does physical intimacy. Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Canonical Formation, God's Supremacy, & Why You Should Know About Both

 Growing up in the church, I was totally familiar with the Bible. Not to brag or anything, but I was a six time winner at the state level for Bible Drills. My mother, a huge memorizer of Scripture, helped me to memorize passages and always quoted Bible verses to me for basically every situation (much to my dismay in the moment). 

I remember the first time I heard about these foreign books called "gnostic gospels" in Sunday School. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. How on earth could there be other books (books that weren't in my cute, catchy song with all the books of the Bible) that claimed to be a part of the Bible?! How come they weren't included in my Teen Adventures Study Bible? Why does my Catholic friend's Bible look different than mine? I felt like someone had lied to me for a very long time. I was super curious about how the books of the Bible were decided on and picked up snippets here and there (mostly later in high school) about the topic. 

(Enter college) Somehow I wound up being enrolled in three religion classes here at UNC last semester. Due to my crazy load of religion classes and my interest in the subject I ended up declaring a "Religious Studies" minor. In all of my classes I learned about this theory called the Documentary Hypothesis. Basically, the hypothesis says that multiple sources (not necessarily authors) were used to compose the Old Testament (aka the Hebrew Bible if we're being politically correct, which, mind you, all my professors are) based on the various names and characteristics of God used in the text. When I heard about this hypothesis, I had a flashback to my Sunday School days and felt the same queasy stomach. Didn't Moses write the first five books of the Bible? Obviously Solomon wrote Proverbs - he was so wise! If there are multiple sources for the Bible, does it lose some of its inerrancy? The list of questions goes on...

Moral of the story is I was pretty confused and simultaneously extremely interested about a) who in the world wrote the Bible and b) how the various books were all brought together into one coherent canon.

Yes, I knew ultimately God wrote the Bible, but who did he use as his instrument to do so? And how did they know how to assemble the books?

*SLAP* It doesn't matter. If what the Bible says really is true (and I believe it is), then God is supreme over everything for all time! If God can literally speak the world into existence and raise from the dead, then I'm pretty positive he could orchestrate the writing of a book. One theologian put God's supremacy into perspective by saying, “There is not an inch of any sphere of life over which Jesus Christ does not say, ‘Mine!’”

One addendum (of many) is of course that parts of the Bible do state that they're written by a specific author or at least spoken by a specific prophet and later recorded. When the Bible does state such explicit authorship, I think we have to, as Christians, submit to that. Granted, there are parts of the Bible whose authorship is very much still disputed and we can totally take part in speculation and academic discussion, but at the end of the day, it honestly doesn't matter what mere men wrote the Bible because ultimately God did.

As followers of Christ, we are called, in light of the Gospel, to be knowledgeable of and obedient to God's Word. May we never see the Bible in such a paralyzingly academic lens that it becomes cold and dissectable, but may we allow the truth of God's Word bring warmth to our fleshly hearts and lead us to worship the supreme creator of the universe.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:14-17

Monday, January 16, 2012

VeggieTales: Light-Hearted Teaching or Flawed Theology?

If you've been keeping up, you know I help out with Route 56 (a 5th and 6th grade transitional ministry) at my church. My wonderful boyfriend teaches and it's honestly pretty high up there on my list of favorite things to do to hang out with crazy awkward kids and hear his wisdom and teaching every week. Recently, we started a series on Jonah (to mirror the Jonah series in "big church" that their parents are hearing). It's been awesome so far and you should totally check out JD's wisdom on the book and listen to the sermons.

Starting the series, I recollected on my Sunday School days, remembering felt boards with Jonah in a whale, running from God, and then turning back to God to happily witness to the people of Nineveh. I was surprised by my own flawed memory of the story, however. Maybe I was never taught it correctly, or maybe I remembered it incorrectly - either way, I had some details wrong, specifically regarding the sailors, Jonah's time in the belly of the big fish, and how Jonah really felt about the Ninevites. All that to say, I didn't have the story 100% correct going into this series.

That being said, I was floored by the way our 5th and 6th graders responded when they heard we were learning about Jonah. Let's just say nearly all of them had seen the Veggie Tales version of the story. Not only had they seen it, but when we asked them details about the story, they regurgitated facts like "Jonah was just a veggie" and "The Ninevites were mean people because they slapped each other with fish all the time." Wait. What? Yes. Those are direct quotes. And they were eerily stated with Biblical weight. They genuinely thought that was true! Nowhere in the Bible are those things stated. Yes, for sure we know that the Ninevites were crazy mean people, but slapping people with fish? Really? 

Some of the students were particularly curious about what Jonah did while he was in the belly of the big fish. "How did he eat?" "Did it smell bad?" "Was he actually in the stomach?" "Did he, like, eat the other fish that the bigger fish had already eaten?" "How could he even see because it would've been dark?" (The questions 5th & 6th graders can come up with really are quite astonishing.) Finally one student put everyone's questions to rest by stating, in Veggie Tale style, that Jonah saw because there were angels in the belly of the fish, which made it light, and he ate from the ship that the big fish had previously eaten.


Okay, I'm not blaming the kids for remembering crazy things from the only source they know about Jonah. I'm not necessarily blaming the parents either. I mean they probably gave the babysitter instructions to let the kids watch it while they went out for date night. Totally understandable. I've thought about a few years down the road when I have kids, would I rather them watch an outlandish Barbie movie about fairies or Veggie Tales? Probs the latter. 

So, here's my beef: kids are detail-oriented. They don't remember the big picture or the general message from something. Our 5th and 6th graders can't recall the lesson we learned two weeks ago, but they can remember the obscure nickname they gave a student in the middle of August. So when kids watch things like Veggie Tales, they remember small details that are seemingly harmless, not the general Bible story. Also, kids have a hard time distinguishing fiction from reality. It would seem logical that a child would understand that Jonah didn't choose being a veggie for his occupation, but when asked what Jonah did, all they can remember is that he was "just a veggie." Personally, some of my friends who grew up watching Veggie Tales still to this day, as college students, have a hard time remembering if details of the Bible stories they watched were fact or fiction.

Real talk: I think Veggie Tales is super clever and catchy. Let's be real, the songs are awesome. And I'm still undecided on if I'll let my kids watch them or not. If kids are allowed to watch Veggie Tales (and other Biblically based things), they need to be told what the Bible actually says about what they're viewing. Kids aren't going to remember that Jonah angrily fled God's presence and that God pursued him, which is a huge display of the Gospel. They are going to remember details which may or may not be in line with Scripture. Students need to be set straight on Biblical details so that they can later form solid theology fully based on Scripture.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Passion Debrief: Francis Chan

Before Passion I had never heard Francis Chan speak. Holy cow, if you're in that boat, jump ship & listen to him. He's so passionate (fittingly punny) and unintentionally funny while being super poignant. His "sermons" aren't really sermons - it's more like he's grabbing coffee with his friend and is stringing together a bunch of random biblical stories that tie into his main point. 

He talked about whether or not we actually believe what the Bible says. He kept saying "just do it," meaning just obey what the Bible says and don't sugar coat commands or re-interpret them. 

One of the examples he used came from these verses:
 12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” - Luke 12-14

He (sarcastically) told us what it meant in Greek: When you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind. Although it seems super straightforward, we totally do this in the church - circumvent commands, sensationalize Bible stories, and selectively ignore Scripture. I was so challenged by his teaching because I definitely do this in my own life. I know Scripture in my head but don't always allow it to impact my heart and change my actions. May we allow Scripture, the whole of it, to seep into the deepest crevices of our hearts and truly believe and accept it, and out of that allow it to mold our actions.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Passion 2012!

I just got back from Passion 2012 in Atlanta with 45,000 of my closest friends. It was awesome, to say the least. We got to hear from Louie Giglio, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and John Piper. The theme for Passion this year was human slavery, because there are 27 million slaves in the world today, both labor and sex slaves - this number is so significant because today, in 2012, there are more slaves in the world than at any other point in history! Crazy. We, a bunch of college students, raised over $3 million dollars in a matter of days to support multiple organizations to prevent, rescue, and rehabilitate slaves. Even crazier.

I haven't even really begun to process some of the things I learned, but my goal is to blog about them in the next week as classes start :( So stay tuned!
It was awesome to worship with believers from all over the world, catch up with friends, soak up the Word, and get pumped for being unashamed this semester!