28 February 2010

Kirstie Alley's Green Soup recipe from Oprah.com

In her quest to lose weight, the actress eats this green soup made with as many organic vegetables as possible. http://bit.ly/a1ebUO

Servings: Makes 23 cups

Kirstie Alley's Green Soup
6 to 8 big chunks shallots
8 leeks (Cut leeks just above their white part, about 2 inches. Peel the outer layer off and then slit them open lengthwise, but not completely severed clear through. Rinse them out well.)
1/3 cup organic olive oil
2 big bunches asparagus (cut the hard ends off about 3 inches)
3 big bunches broccoli (cut the stems off halfway up the shafts)
2 big bunches spinach (cut off the tiny part of the dirty ends)
6 containers (32 ounces each) organic chicken broth (for vegetarians, use vegetable broth)
Sea salt (at least 3 tablespoons of coarse grain)
Pepper , to taste

Peel and slice shallots thinly.

Put all the olive oil in a very large, deep pot. Turn the heat to medium-high. Put the shallots into the oil and sweat the shallots. "Sweating" means to cook the vegetables to tenderize them without browning them. Adjust heat as necessary to ensure they do not brown.

Add 1 tablespoon of coarse, ground, good quality sea salt to shallots to absorb while they are sweating. Cut the leeks into thin slices and toss them into the oil with the shallots. Sweat the leeks along with the shallots. Chop the asparagus into small bits and then add them to the mixture and sweat them, along with the shallots and leeks.

When the shallots, asparagus and leeks are fully sweated and tender, break the broccoli into small chunks and throw them into the soup pot. (If the shallots, leeks and asparagus combo gets too dry before they are tender, just add small amounts of chicken broth to the mix and keep on sweating.)

Let the broccoli sweat a little while (about 2 minutes) and then add half of your organic chicken stock. Cook this for about 10 minutes.

Add remaining chicken stock and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes. (You want the broccoli to be tender, but not overcooked, and you want the color of soup to always remain a nice, bright green.) Add all the spinach and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the flame off the mixture and season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Transfer the soup into a blender by increments and puree the mixture. Put the pureed soup mixture into one big pot. Then taste and season it to your liking. Only season with salt and pepper. If you desire any other seasoning, create an individual serving, not in the whole pot.

Split the soup into 2 equal parts, one for you and one for your Chubby Buddy or for storage. Cool the soup before refrigerating and/or freezing.
You are basically adding the vegetables in order of their hardness. The spinach is so soft, you would never want to add it too early. If you do, it can make the soup turn brownish…ICK!

Eat this soup once or twice a day or whenever you are hungry. Green Soup is 62 calories per cup. This recipe yields about 23 cups of soup, enough for you and your Chubby Buddy for an entire week. Make sure your cooking pot is big, or you can halve the recipe.

- Posted using BlogPress on the go!

27 February 2010

Calm before the Storms?

Major snow storm in N.E. of USA.
Earthquake in Japan.
Cyclone in Cook Islands.
What next?

A massive earthquake with an initial magnitude of 8.8 has struck central Chile.
The quake struck at 0634 GMT about 91km (56 miles) north-east of the city of Concepcion and 317km south-west of the capital, Santiago.
Buildings in Santiago were reported to have shaken for between 10 and 30 seconds, with the loss of electricity and communications.
The US issued an initial tsunami warning for Chile, Peru and Ecuador. That was later extended to Colombia, Antarctica, Panama and Costa Rica. New Zealand is not thought to be at risk.
Haiti, 12 Jan 2010:
About 230,000 people die after shallow 7.0 magnitude quake

Sumatra, Indonesia, 26 Dec 2004:
9.2 magnitude. Triggers Asian tsunami that kills nearly 250,000 people
Alaska, US, 28 March 1964:
9.2 magnitude; 128 people killed. Anchorage badly damaged
Chile, south of Concepcion, 22 May 1960:
9.5 magnitude. About 1,655 deaths. Tsunami hits Hawaii and Japan
Kamchatka, NE Russia, 4 Nov 1952:
9.0 magnitude

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Huffington Post on Religion? Never!

Conversations@Intersections is all about conversations; the conversations I have with real people at actual intersections, with real people online and even conversations I have with myself. If you've been reading this blog long at all, that last bit will not scare you. It will just be the truth finally coming out!

So when I heard that Arianna Huffington was starting a religious discussion for both believers and non-believers, whatever those labels mean, I though it'd be good for us to peek in. I've copied her announcement below and included links for you to follow. I was glad to see some writers I recognise. I'm sure there will be many stances I'll disagree with, but if a conversation was only between people who agreed on everything, there wouldn't be much future in the conversation.

Imagine it:
Statement made.
Response: "Yep."
Statement made.
Response: "Uh-huh."
Statement made.

Response: "Totally."
We have to have some questions interspersed like "But what about . . .?" or "Had you considered . .?" or "You actually believe that?" Those questions expand our thinking, challenge our comfy positions and often take us to firmer ground, though the journey may traverse unknown paths. If I hold my faith as my own, and if it is girded by truth, I can be challenged and will not fall; I can be shaken and still stand. A bit of intellectual and spiritual shaking is good for us when we've nestled too far down in our comfy boxes and can no longer see out. So, dip in to Arianna's offerings now and then and see if you can glean anything of value. Let me know how you get on.

From The Huffington Post:

Announcing HuffPost Religion: Believers and Non-Believers Welcome

"I've always been fascinated by religion.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my family's summer holidays on the island of Corfu. August 15 is when all of Greece pays homage to the Virgin Mary. I remember going to church on that day every year, and sitting quietly among widows in black kerchiefs and younger women smelling of summer wool and candle smoke. I would watch, enthralled, as deep faith and memories moved them to tears of grief and hope. And, in my childish way, I shared their love for her.

I believe that we are all hardwired for the sacred, that the instinct for spirituality is part of our collective DNA. I wrote about this instinct 15 years ago, and called it the fourth instinct, the one beyond survival, sex, and power. It propels us to find meaning and transcend our everyday preoccupations.

For some, it involves organized religion. For others, it's a personal spiritual quest. Seventy percent of Americans belong to a religious organization and 40 percent attend services once a week.

Yet, despite the central role religion plays in American life, all too often, when talking about it, we end up talking at each other instead of with each other. This is a shame -- especially at a time like this, when the economic struggle in so many people's lives has led to a deeper questioning of our values and priorities. Whether you are a believer or not, this is an essential conversation to have...which is why I'm delighted to announce that we are launching HuffPost Religion -- a section featuring a wide-ranging discussion about religion, spirituality, and the ways they influence our lives.

Like all our sections, HuffPost Religion will bring you the latest news -- in this case about all things religion-related -- served up in the HuffPost style. It will also be home to an open and fearless dialogue about all the ways religion affects both our personal and our public lives. And it will do so in a way that moves beyond the pigeonhole depictions of both the faithful and the agnostic we see so frequently -- and also beyond the tired assumption that God is a card-carrying member of one political party or another.

HuffPost Religion is being edited by Paul Raushenbush, an Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton University and an ordained Baptist minister. As a passionate and brilliant religious thinker, pastor, writer and college dean, Paul is ideally suited to the challenge of presenting multiple viewpoints and insights, as well as the real-world implications of religion for American life.

So, among other things, you can expect discussions about the relationship between religion and science; the role religion can play in overcoming personal obstacles and attaining a sense of well-being; the ways religion is portrayed in pop culture; how religious commitments influence politicians and key domestic policy debates; and the effect of religion on foreign policy issues and international relations.

The bloggers who will be posting on HuffPost Religion will be a great mix of religious heavyweights and up-and-coming voices in the field. Today's thought-provoking lineup includes Rev. Jim Wallis on the spiritual crisis of the recession; Deepak Chopra on the continued importance of spirituality; Eboo Patel on the crucial importance of interfaith relations; Sister Joan Chittister on the future of the Roman Catholic Church; Rabbi Or Rose on the role of religion when it comes to the environment; Dr. Eddie Glaude on the declining power of the Black Church; Sharon Salzberg on Buddhism's "middle way"; Brian McLaren on 'new Evangelicals'; and Steven Barrie Anthony on technology and spirituality.

"Ask your soul!" pleads Herman Hesse in My Belief.

"Your soul will not blame you for having cared too little about politics, for having exerted yourself too little, hated your enemies too little, or too little fortified your frontiers. But she will perhaps blame you for so often having feared and fled from her demands, for never having had time to give her..."

So give a little time over to explore these questions and concerns that are at the heart of HuffPost Religion. And let us know what you think. The conversation starts now."

26 February 2010

Labels, Names & Dots

What labels have been applied to you over your lifetime?
Did you like them all, approve of them all? Probably not.
What labels would you prefer?

A wise history professor I learned from during my M.A. studies said, "Labels say far more about the person applying them than about the person upon whom they are applied." Jim North was correct and I've been enlightened by that ever since.

If you say I'm conservative, you're really saying you're more liberal than I am. If you say I'm liberal, you're saying you are more conservative than I.

And then, what do those actual words mean and do we use them properly? Possibly not.

If you say I am younger, you are not necessarily saying I am young.
If you flatter me with a comment about weight loss, you are not necessarily saying I'm lean and svelte, but only that I'm not as big as I was.

I've been called a feminist, but that of course was by a man. A real feminist wouldn't waste her spit on me!

If you say I am clever, I'd want to consider your ability to judge that before I knew where to place myself on the continuum.

We could get in to politics, religion and all kinds of human rights areas. Labels abound without really adding much to the conversation.

Labels on the outside of church buildings no longer tell you much about what is inside. There are so many flavours of each label that the names are nearly meaningless now. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just a thing.

I'm a fundamentalist, but that's more true of my approach to gardening, reading and camping than it is to my religion. Somehow fundamentalists have gotten a bad wrap.

I prefer using good soil and quality seeds or cuttings rather than exotic hybrids and lots of chemicals.

I prefer books, preloved and smelling of long life, over reading digitally, but that may be only because I have not yet tried a Kindle. I'm a fundamentalist when it comes to my reading. I need good light, a good chair, a good book . . . and now, my reading glasses.

Am I a republican or a democrat, and was that with a little r/d or a capital R/D? In New Zealand a republican is altogether different from an American Republican. Again, there's a plethora of meanings for both those words.

People might say I'm religious, but only about brushing my teeth. My walk of faith doesn't look much like a religion if you compare me to a faithful Muslim, an orthodox Jew or a devout Catholic in a small village in Italy.

So let's be careful the labels we apply, and let's be selective of the labels we accept.

Travel from what, to what, to do what?

To follow my friend Jillian in The World Race, read her blog entries.

It's a wacky approach to life, but she's a wacky girl and that's just part of why I love her so much.

She's traveling with a team of young adults around the world both seeing God at work and seeing how they can join Him.

I remember when she was born and am thinking I oughta go find her and take her passport away, but . . . she's now older than I was when I set out, so it's only fair she have her adventure too.

I've met her team, hosted them here in Auckland briefly, and am pleased with her companions. Companions are important on any journey, even if we're not covering much physical ground.

Frodo will need his friends. And you will need yours. You must cling to those you have, you must search far and wide for those you do not yet have. You must not go alone. From the beginning, right there in Eden, the Enemy’s strategy has relied upon a simple aim: Divide and conquer. Get them isolated, and take them out.

Dorothy takes her journey with the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Lion, and of course, Toto. Prince Caspian is joined by the last few faithful Narnians, and together they overthrow the wicked king Miraz. . . . . and of course, Jesus had the Twelve.
from Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge, Chap 11, Fellowships of the Heart

It's an OE, a mission, a pilgrimage, a journey, an exploration of self, deity, culture and the world. It'll be fun to read about it with a cup of tea in hand.
OE is Kiwi for gap year travel, an overseas experience.

25 February 2010

Plan Travel in NZ

For armchair travel through New Zealand check out Pictures of New Zealand.com

While taking a campervan tour of the country, Verena Segert posted her experiences and photos for your enjoyment. So, whether snowed in or planning a trip to a part of NZ you've not visited before, check out this site. You can read it in English or German and there are tips about traveling by campervan.

While they didn't get through the whole of NZ, they hit some highlights and plan to return.

CONTACT INFO on your stuff:
A bit of advice I'd add, label your SD cards, flash drives, etc. A man in the Christchurch airport sadly interrupted all of us as we boarded the plane this past weekend asking if anyone found an SD card that had 500 of his South Island photos on it. Ouch! The look on his face was touching. The tiny card had gotten lost as he juggled his stuff through security. I hope it has turned up in one of his pockets since then.

Courtesy: Gratis or not?

How much do you think you should have to pay for a courtesy car from a mechanic/panelbeater/body shop?

24 February 2010

Solitude. Surrender.

Merton's Prayer

This is one of Thomas Merton’s most famous prayers, heart felt and full of humility, and reflecting the common struggle we all have with our temporal self.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this , You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton
Thoughts in Solitude, pg. 83


Here is Thomas Merton’s prayer as read by Fr. Matthew Kelty, OSCO,
a monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani

23 February 2010

Connections for Castaways?

Is social networking a way for castaways to connect, much as messages in bottles used to be? Maybe more effective and focused than that?

By Bernie Gillespie

As I connect up with folks on Facebook the words of a 1979 song by the Police returned to mind. A "castaway" on a deserted island is fighting despair over "more loneliness than any man could bear." So he sends a message in a bottle. But after a year, still alone, he pangs for hope, nostalgically lamenting, "love can mend your life, but love can break your heart." So, about to give up on love and real companionship, he wakes one morning to find a "hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore, Seems I'm not alone in being alone, Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home."

One of our deepest human needs is to belong. Too often this need is exploited. But it is one of the signs we are human and created by God. While our culture is lush with individualism and selfishness, it is stingy with real intimacy and feelings of home. Some still taste it, but in smaller doses. We are made to belong, but in many ways we feel very alone -- even in a crowd ... or a church.

It might be that on FB we are sending messages in a bottle. Seems a strange way to fight loneliness for a generation that knew about friendship on a front porch. But our revolving, shifting, highly mobile, techno-savvy, culture moves at breath-taking speed and insulates us from many of those ways of connecting that worked in the past. As we find that “love can break your heart,” it is consoling to see a “hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore.” We are not so alone. So we send our message in a bottle ...

Who knows what all happened to throw us on our island. Time passes and the scene fades, almost imperceptibly, to a new backdrop. Our public stories aside, we all find ourselves a little like castaways from the rip-tide of culture change. We are blown by ill-tempered times and swept by the deep current of human events. We have landed in parts of the sea we never knew existed; and we try to understand how we got here and how we’ve changed. So we send our message in a bottle …

If life teaches you anything, it is that relationships are bigger than personal ventures. So easily we focus on the pressing tasks, hoping to arrive at some important goal, only to find the landscape shifted on us. Then, we realize it was the journey and not the goal that was our life. And the relationships made that journey meaningful. It slowly dawns with age – we are all looking for a home.

It’s not to say that we are not vitally connected in many important ways. And certainly FB serves some as little more than fun and curiosity. It may be that FB will soon be replaced by some evolved technology. But we all feel the power of the impulse to belong – as God made us. It is wise for us to savor the relationships that FB helps us renew, cultivate and nurture. As God said in the Garden: it is not good for us to be alone. So we keep sending out our s.o.s. to the world, hoping that someone gets our message in a bottle. The Harbor: a Bernie Gillespie eJournal

22 February 2010

Monday Mirror Humour

The best thing we can give each other on Mondays is a laugh, though I really feel for the one woman who was so confused. Mighta caused her a lot of stress. Link to Video

21 February 2010

Two flags? What does it mean?

Tim, The Pundit's, musings on Waitangi Day

Seeing the tino rangatiratanga flag flying over prominent New Zealand landmarks will swell the pride of many Maori. But should a flag representing only one people only fly from government buildings? Is it exclusive? And what does it stand for?

Today, anyone strolling around Wellington or driving across Auckland will notice a new flag flying from prominent landmarks. Despite it being our national day, it will not be our national flag. Should that vex us?

I've long been in favour of a new flag and believe we need to be discussing the alternatives, just as I think we should be investigating a range of constitutional changes. But this week I feel fonder of the current flag than I have been for a long time. It may just be for a day, but raising the tino rangatiratanga flag above our national institutions has powerful symbolism and I confess I'm uneasy about that, in part because I'm unclear about exactly what it is saying.

Does it symbolise a desire for separate government, or devolution, or absolute sovereignty? If so, is the government saying it supports that? Is it an acknowledgement of the tino rangatiratanga promised in the treaty, and what are the political implications of that?

Does it simply recognise the place of Maori in New Zealand, as Treaty partners? If so, should it be the Maori flag and the union jack flying side by side? What does it say about Maori unity versus iwi identity?

Or is it a patronising token that gives Maori the 21st century equivalent of a musket and a blanket while at the same time distracting them from genuine political change?

We're in a transition phase in our history as a nation, rebuilding the Aotearoa part of the New Zealand duplex; adding on some rooms, slopping on some paint. The building's still a little shaky, and to that end, I'll delight in seeing the Maori flag flying because it's inclusive of Maori and represents Maori aspiration.

My nagging concern is that while it's inclusive of Maori, it's exclusive of pakeha.

Some Maori will say that's the way they've long felt about the existing New Zealand flag; that it's not their flag. And looking at the tino rangatiratanga flag, I can understand that. Some will say it's the Crown flag. It's not, that's the Union Jack. But those who argue that it's the pakeha flag can make a strong case, given that it was chosen by a predominantly pakeha parliament in the midst of a colonial war in South Africa and is still dominated by the union jack, the great emblem of a faded empire.

But at least there is room for Maori under that flag; room to be Maori New Zealanders under the Southern Cross. By dint of history, that flag has flown over Maori on battlefield, school field and sports field for more than a century. It has flown during the Maori renaissance of the past 30 years. Sure, it has been a symbol of loss and of a state that has not always treated its Maori citizens well, but it has also symbolised the good that New Zealand government's have done, from the welfare state to the Waitangi Tribunal.

I'm not sure there is room for me under the tino rangatiratanga flag, however. I don't know what it stands for, beyond that the black represents Rangi, the red Papatuanuku and the white the physical world. That's explained here, along with info about other alternative flag designs.

Perhaps I can read an invitation into the flag; that Maori are willing to share their myths and values with me as a pakeha. Perhaps I should take a message from the fact that the flag has been flown in anger many times. My point is, it's not clear who or what the flag represents, except that on this day, it doesn't represent me.

Whatever values are woven into that design, I suspect they are particular to Maori. Otherwise, what's the point? So it's simply not a flag that speaks of me and my place in the world, and in this country .

That's fine inasmuch as it represents Maori aspiration and mana. I can support those without needing to be included. I can accept that its meaning has evolved to be more than just a protest flag. I can get behind the empowerment such a flag gives Maori, I welcome a debate about what self determination means in practice.

But it's not my flag . So when it flies on Premier House, Te Papa and other government buildings, I'm discomforted. Any flag that flies from government buildings should stand for something that seeks to encompass all New Zealanders, just as government buildings should be for all New Zealanders.

How does this story end? Does the tino rangatiratanga just get rolled out for Waitangi Day? Does it extend to other national occasions? As it's used more often, does the New Zealand flag mean less to Maori and is there a greater divide, however emblematic?

I'm not one to pretend 'we're all one people'. But we are many peoples in one nation and those things that unify us as a nation across ethnic, gender and class divides – amongst others – are precious.

We are a small, prosperous country that has every right to be proud of its race relations, however imperfectly executed. We have not had to deify a flag to instill unity into individual souls, in the way America and other countries have done. Most of us can debate with flag without feeling that to lose the argument is to lose our identity. And thank goodness for that.

At the same time, a flag must mean something bigger than ourselves. And the political capital spent getting this flag onto government buildings must mean something as well. I'm not sure I like what two flags could come to represent.

This move by the Key government to fly the flag from eight government buildings must give new impetus to discussion about a new flag; one that honours our ancestors' voyages from both Europe and Hawaiki, says something of our place in the world now, and represents our shared values and partnership. We need one flag big enough to inspire and include many peoples.


20 February 2010

A Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, your pardon Lord;
and where there's doubt, true faith in you;
O Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

19 February 2010

Caption Challenge #13

What's YOUR best caption?

Growing up in General Motors town, we knew a Chevy truck was advisable. In fact, when Grandpa got a job at Delco, he went out that week and sold his Ford truck and bought a Chevrolet.

In NZ, of course, it is the Holden-Ford rivalry, but I didn't think Holden fans could get signs sanctioned by the NZTA!

Click COMMENTS below to add your bit.

17 February 2010

Donald Miller: Quoted from Two Books

"fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life."

— Donald Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life)

"I fell in love with books. Some people find beauty in music, some in painting, some in landscape, but I find it in words. By beauty, I mean the feeling you have suddenly glimpsed another world, or looked into a portal that reveals a kind of magic or romance out of which the world has been constructed, a feeling there is something more than the mundane, and a reason for our plodding."
— Donald Miller (To Own a Dragon: Reflections On Growing Up Without A Father)

16 February 2010

Dozen: Bakers? Dirty?

Word Play!

Dozen is another word for the number twelve. The dozen may be one of the earliest primitive groupings, perhaps because there are approximately a dozen cycles of the moon or months in a cycle of the sun or year. The dozen is convenient because its multiples and divisors are convenient: 12 = 2 × 2 × 3, 3 × 4 = 2 × 6, 60 = 12 × 5, 360 = 12 × 30. The use of twelve as a base number, known as the duodecimal system (also as dozenal), probably originated in Mesopotamia (see also sexagesimal). Twelve dozen (122 = 144, the duodecimal 100) are known as a gross; and twelve gross (123 = 1,728, the duodecimal 1,000) are called a great gross, a term most often used when shipping or buying items in bulk. A great hundred, also known as a small gross, is 120 or ten dozen (a dozen for each finger on both hands). A baker's dozen, also known as a long dozen, is thirteen.

The English word dozen comes from the old form of the French word douzaine, meaning "a group of twelve" This French word is a derivation from the cardinal number douze ("twelve", from Latin duodĕcim) and the collective suffix -aine (from Latin -ēna).

English dozen, French douzaine, German Dutzend, Dutch dozijn and Spanish docena, are also used as indefinite quantifiers to mean "about twelve" or "many" (as in "a dozen times", "dozens of people"). Wikipedia

Then there are other interesting phrases related to dozen:

"Six of one, half-dozen of the other" says that two things which people refer to differently are actually the same thing. A "dozen" is a counting word that represents twelve (12) of some particular item, so a "half-dozen" is equal to six (6) of that item, and saying "six of one" is equal to saying "a half-dozen of the other." The "one" and the "other" refer to the two things which you are saying are not so different. Example: "I say she's a stewardess. She says she's a flight attendant. It's six of one, a half-dozen of the other." Although something has been said in two different ways, they ultimately mean the same thing.

"A dime a dozen"

So cheap you can buy twelve for ten cents. Anything that is plentiful with little value. Possibly this phrase originated in the early 1900's as a sale discount for candies that cost a penny. Easy to come by, next to worthless.

If a thing is very common and easy to get, we say it is "a dime a dozen." Example: "Do you think I should buy this now and bring it with us?" Answer: "Don't bother; those are a dime a dozen where we are going."

There is no need to get excited or worried about finding something that is a dime a dozen. Example: "Look what I found!" Answer: "That's nothing special; those are a dime a dozen."

It is easy to find a dime (a 10 cent US coin), and a dozen (12) of something is a common, everyday unit of measure. You are not in a hurry to get a thing which is a dime a dozen because it is not so special and you could get one any time you wanted. Example: "I don't need friends like him; they are a dime a dozen"


“Man cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen”
Michel de Montaigne

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”
Henry David Thoreau

15 February 2010

Individual, among others.

Walking with, but separate from my friends.
An individual in a crowd.
Accompanied, but alone.
Alone, but not lonely.

Who would want to be absorbed,
blended in,
blindly painted over,
beige in a beautiful world?


Joan Chittister writes,
“Acceptance is the universal currency of real friendship. It allows the other to be the other. It puts no barriers where life should be. It does not warp or shape or wrench a person to be anything other than what they are. It simply opens its arms to hold the weary and opens its heart to hear the broken and opens its mind to see the invisible. Then, in the shelter of acceptance, a person can be free to be even something more” (
Chittister 2006: 55)

14 February 2010

A.N.Wison's Journey Out and Back Again

A.N.Wilson has had a very thoughtful and provocative journey in and out of faith. Read part of his own view of it here or go to The New Statesman to read it in full.

Excerpt: This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume's masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) and then laughed off kept me going for some years. When I found myself wavering, I would return to Hume in order to pull myself together, rather as a Catholic having doubts might return to the shrine of a particular saint to sustain them while the springs of faith ran dry.

But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. Reading Louis Fischer's Life of Mahatma Gandhi, and following it up with Gandhi's own autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, I found it impossible not to realise that all life, all being, derives from God, as Gandhi gave his life to demonstrate. Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi's, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?

Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist "explanations" for our mysterious human existence simply won't do - on an intellectual level. The phenomenon of language alone should give us pause. A materialist Darwinian was having dinner with me a few years ago and we laughingly alluded to how, as years go by, one forgets names. Eager, as committed Darwinians often are, to testify on any occasion, my friend asserted: "It is because when we were simply anthropoid apes, there was no need to distinguish between one another by giving names."

This credal confession struck me as just as superstitious as believing in the historicity of Noah's Ark. More so, really.

Do materialists really think that language just "evolved", like finches' beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where's the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind? No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena - of which love and music are the two strongest - which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.

For a few years, I resisted the admission that my atheist-conversion experience had been a bit of middle-aged madness. I do not find it easy to articulate thoughts about religion. I remain the sort of person who turns off Thought for the Day when it comes on the radio. I am shy to admit that I have followed the advice given all those years ago by a wise archbishop to a bewildered young man: that moments of unbelief "don't matter", that if you return to a practice of the faith, faith will return.

When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion - prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.

I haven't mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler's neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer's book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer's serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

'And man became a living soul.'

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God "a category mistake". Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - "Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . 'The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life'." And then Coleridge adds: "'And man became a living soul.' Materialism will never explain those last words."

13 February 2010


Surfing through spiritual blogs might not be everyone's idea of a good time, but gems pop up now and then that are worth pondering.

Ponder, reflect, think, meditate . . . try it. It won't shorten your To-do list, but you'll be better at whatever you do for having paused.

Get this one from The wounded healer by Ann M Weatherley-Barton

Listening is probably the most important thing we can do when being alongside people in great need. Active listening is absolutely vital. Have you ever sat down with someone and talked to them about yourself and before you have got the last word out, they have the answer for you? Biblical verse at the ready? Frightens the life out of me! Listening while your brain is working over-time to find the answer and sometimes almost any answer will do as long as you say something? Active listening is a skill that can be acquired. It is the lynchpin of long-term caring. If you do not actively listen to people you will never be able to really help people at a deep level. Active listening is not just about concentrating on what someone is saying but more about learning to enter into someone else’s life and really hear their pain and their anguish. It is not about us and hidden agendas but about the person we are listening to. Active listening is about putting the needs of someone else first. It is not about the act of hearing the sound of our own voice as pearls of wisdom are dished out!

Caption Challenge #12

Hmm, Which way should I go?

Jesuit Prayer of Examen

The prayers and methods of praying suggested here are based on nearly five-hundred years of Jesuit spiritual tradition. They could help you grow in intimacy with God and experience Jesuit spirituality first-hand. St. Ignatius believed that he received a gift from God that not only enriched his own Christian life but was meant to be shared with others. The gift was a "method," a way to seek and find God in all things and to gain the freedom to let God's will be done on earth. This way of praying allowed Ignatius to discover the voice of God within his own heart and to experience a growth in familiarity with God's will. Jesuits call this prayer their daily examen of consciousness.

The Examen of Consciousness

This is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we reflect on our day. This prayer can be made anywhere: on the beach, in a car, at home, in the library. Many people make the Examen twice daily: once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. There are five simple steps to the Examen, which should take 10-15 minutes to complete, and what follows is just one interpretation of these five steps in discerning the movement of God's Spirit in your day. Through this method of praying you can grow in a sense of self and the Source of self; you can become more sensitive to your own spirit with its longings, its powers, its Source; you will develop an openness to receive the supports that God offers.

Before you start: Try to be in a place where you are least likely to be disturbed, and where there is the least amount of external noise. Perhaps you might light a candle or change the lighting when you pray to symbolise the start of this activity. Sit comfortably and still yourself; relax, be aware of your breathing, your body and how you are feeling.

1. Recall that you are in the presence of God. No matter where you are, hilltop or valley, country or city, in a crowd or alone, you are a creature in the midst of creation. As you quiet yourself, become aware that God is present within you, in the creation that surrounds you, in your body, in those around you. The Creator who brought you forth into being is concerned for you. The Spirit of God, sent by Christ, will remind you that you are gifted to help bring creation to its fullness. Ask the Holy Spirit to let you look on all you see with love. "Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; ... it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right ... Love hopes all things." (1 Cor.)

2. Spend a moment looking over your day with gratitude for this day's gifts. Be concrete and let special moments or pleasures spring to mind! Recall the smell of your morning coffee, the taste of something good that you ate, the laugh of a child, the fragrance of a flower, the smile brought forth by a kind word, a lesson that you learned. Take stock of what you received and what you gave. Give thanks to God for favors received. Also look at your permanent gifts that allow your participation in this day. Recall your particular strengths in times of difficulty, your ability to hope in times of weakness, your sense of humor and your life of faith, your intelligence and health, your family and friends. God the Father gives you these to draw you into the fullness of life. As you move through the details of your day, give thanks to God for His presence in the big and the small things of your life.

3. Ask God to send you His Holy Spirit to help you look at your actions and attitudes and motives with honesty and patience. "When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13) The Holy Spirit inspires you to see with growing freedom the development of your life story. The Spirit gives a freedom to look upon yourself without condemnation and without complacency and thus be open to growth. Ask that you will learn and grow as you reflect, thus deepening your knowledge of self and your relationship with God.

4. Now review your day. This is the longest of the steps. Recall the events of your day; explore the context of your actions. Search for the internal movements of your heart and your interaction with what was before you. Ask what you were involved in and who you were with, and review your hopes and hesitations. Many situations will show that your heart was divided—wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, rebuking and forgiving, speaking and silence, neglecting and thanking. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings; rather, it is a gentle look with the Lord at how you have responded to God's gifts. It is an opportunity for growth of self and deepening your relationship with God. Notice where you acted freely—picking a particular course of action from the possibilities you saw. See where you were swept along without freedom. What reactions helped or hindered you? See where Christ entered your decisions and where you might have paused to receive His influence. "Test yourselves," St. Paul urges, "to see whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves. Perhaps you yourselves do not realize that Christ Jesus is in you." (2 Cor.) His influence comes through His people, the Body of Christ. His influence comes through Scripture, the Word of God. Now, as you pray, Christ's spirit will help you know His presence and concern. As you daily and prayerfully explore the mystery of yourself in the midst of your actions you will grow more familiar with your own spirit and become more aware of the promptings of God's Spirit within you. Allow God to speak, challenge, encourage and teach you. Thus you will come to know that Christ is with you. Christ will continually invite you to love your neighbor as yourself and strengthen you to do this.

5. The final step is our heart-to-heart talk with Jesus. Here you speak with Jesus about your day. You share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. Perhaps during this time you may feel led to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude, etc. Having reviewed this day of your life, look upon yourself with compassion and see your need for God and try to realize God's manifestations of concern for you. Express sorrow for sin, the obscuring darkness that surrounds us all, and especially ask forgiveness for the times you resisted God's light today. Give thanks for grace, the enlightening presence of God, and especially praise God for the times you responded in ways that allowed you to better see God's life. Resolve with Jesus to move forward in action where appropriate. You might like to finish your time with the Lords Prayer.

Once you've done the Examen a few times, you will find your own rhythm and method. Cover all five points daily with freedom to dwell more on one than another, as the Spirit moves you. You might also like to add some music, candles or images to help you pray.

If you would like, you may download a copy of the Examen in the form of a bookmark from the website. It is in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format and is entitled "Praying the Jesuit Examination of Conscience."

12 February 2010

Sheep, cows, Kiwis, in that order!

Statistics New Zealand:
New Zealanders who for decades have endured jokes about being outnumbered 20-to-1 by sheep have a new farm animal majority to worry about: cows.

A record 5.8 million dairy cattle were counted in the year ended June 2009, Statistics New Zealand said Tuesday — well more than one animal for each of the country’s 4.3 million citizens.

- Posted using BlogPress on the go!

Jail Time Lessons

Taylor County, Kentucky, USA, Journal Entry from my travels, September 2009

I drove over to Adair County last night and arrived 45 minutes before I left. They’re on slow time there as the line marking the Eastern
Standard Time & Central Standard Time cuts right though Kentucky. I was thinking that such a situation could give someone a good alibi if needed. An email sent from the next county would place you online at a specific time, even though you might have committed crime an hour earlier, but at the specified time, in the next county. Did I word that right? Confusing, but it might just confuse the jury too.

Speaking of jury, I had gone over to meet Miss Martha to accompany her to the annex for Bible study with the female inmates. She just called it “the annex” but the sign said Regional Detention Center. The local joke is that, because it is directly across from the Baptist church, it’s the Baptist annex rather than the jail annex. Maybe you have to be a local non-Baptist to think that’s funny.

When we went up to the door, Miss Martha pressed a button on the wall and I heard a buzzer sound inside. Very soon I heard a different buzzer sound and a lock on the door click. We pushed the door open and went in. Then another door opened and a woman in a black t-shirt and jeans shouted, “The church ladies are here!” She then turned and said, “Hi Miss Martha. The girls’ll be right down.”

We made our way in to a small side room and brought in some chairs. Some of the girls did not come because they were watching wrestling on the TV. This did not please Miss Martha but she just praised those who had come and introduced me. We did the Bible lesson she’d prepared, had communion and then I talked about New Zealand and some of my other travels. I spoke of a Jesus who seemed to notice the outsiders more than the religious types. Then I caught myself thinking, “Hmm, these ladies might be outsiders to the church but they are insiders in the prison system.”

I did that a few times, kinda readjusting my perspective and wondering how they were hearing what I was saying. One time I started to talk about an earlier visit to Columbia when I’d gone to the BBQ place, but I stopped myself. These girls probably woulda loved to have BBQ, anything really, other than prison food.

The way Miss Martha taught from the Bible was great. She made it all very practical and pointed out the common sense and applicable lessons. Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls and he had the King’s permission and authority. Still, Nehemiah did his research quietly, made a plan and included those who were part of the solution. He held his ground against those who might corrupt the result or interrupt the process.

Miss Martha then applied that to the girls’ anticipated release dates and told how they’d need to think and plan well, include the right people and exclude the wrong people, know what their objective was and stick to their plan. She said, “The Bible’s not all airy-fairy superspiritual stuff. It’s reasonable, practical and a lot of good sense! Read James’ letter!”

I loved it! This feisty little lady who had returned to college to finish her degree at 50 years old, sitting here on plastic chairs cheering these girls toward a better future.

I get asked to do all kinds of things, speak to different crowds and bring a spark of something in to otherwise routine activities. I often have no idea what I’m bringing to the mix, what I have to offer by way of blessing. Usually, as in this case, I go away blessed, encouraged and challenged.

Miss Martha coulda been home watching something useless on TV, watching “life” rather than living it. Nope. There’s hope for those girls and she’s gonna do what she can to help 'em realise it.

11 February 2010

Turaco: wacky looking birds with a super call!

Turacos are amazing birds. My dad has one, thus the picture on the masthead. He talks to me when I visit, as if he remembered me from last time. I think he's super, so thought I'd share him with you. Turaco on Wikipedia or on The IBC.

Donald Miller: The Point of the Story . . .

"..[My friend Marco said]. essentially, humans are alive for the purpose of journey, a kind of three-act structure. They are born and spend several years discovering themselves and the world, then plod through a long middle in which they are compelled to search for a mate and reproduce and also create stability out of natural instability and then they find themselves at an ending that seems to be designed for reflection. At the end, their bodies are slower, they are not as easily distracted, they do less work, and they think and feel about a life lived rather than look forward to a life getting started. He didn't know what the point of the journey was, but he did believe we were designed to search for and find something. And he wondered out loud if the point wasn't the search but the transformation the search creates. ...[I wondered] that we were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change."

10 February 2010

Zacharias: Man Vs. God: Dawkins & Armstrong via the WSJ

I loved Ravi's comment on the choice of people, supposedly different perspectives, participating in the discussion.

Read on for an intelligent response to an interesting conversation.
Chime in to take the conversation further. Click COMMENT below.

Ravi's Response to "Man Vs. God" Article in The Wall Street Journal RZIM

In response to the essays presented by Richard Dawkins and
Karen Armstrong in "Man Vs. God", I would add that the combination of Dawkins and Armstrong as presenting two contrary views on the existence of God is in itself a "creative act." For one, God is a fairy tale and for the other "at least it's a nice fairy tale." One may as well have asked Bin Laden to write his thoughts on America and then ask Chavez for a counter perspective. Amazing. Even by today's media manipulations, that raises the benchmark.

Let me just respond with two thoughts. Dawkins says: "What is so special about life? It never violates the laws of physics." Let's grant him that for the moment. But the fact of physics is that however you section physical concrete reality, you end up with a state that does not explain its own existence. Moreover, since the universe does have a beginning and nothing physical can explain its own existence, is it that irrational a position to think that the first cause would have to be something non-physical?

More can be said, but for the sake of brevity may I ask one more question?

The position that both Armstrong and Dawkins would be compelled to concede is that moral categories do exist for us as persons. It is implicit in their writings. So I ask, if personhood is of value and if our personal questions on moral values are of value, then must we not also concede that the value-laden question about intrinsic value for humanity can only be meaningful if humanity is the creation of a person who is of infinite worth to bequeath that value to us as persons?

In other words, our assumptions about our worth and the worthiness of our questions of good and evil cannot be the offspring of Naturalism.

But these are the gaps atheists conveniently ignore. They value their Physics but devalue their Physicist. They are quick to blame a person for evil but are loathe to attribute goodness to the ultimate person.
That is, either our questions are rooted in personal worth or not. If they are, then God must exist. If they are not, then our questions are self-defeating.

That is why G.K. Chesterton said: When belief in God becomes difficult, the tendency is to turn away from him. But in heaven's name to what? Dawkins and Armstrong are brilliant examples of making something out of nothing but it shows they are borrowing from something that they deny exists.

A spiritual, moral first cause is a reasonable position much more than the questions that smuggle in such realities without admitting it.

Maybe that's why two brilliant minds, Anthony Flew and more recently A.N. Wilson, left the atheistic fold. They saw the hollow word-games that flew in the face of reality as we also intuitively know it.
Ravi Zacharias

09 February 2010

Manning Men and Momma's Mixed Allegiance

3 Manning family quarterbacks - Archie, Peyton and Eli.

Archie was selected in the 1971 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints with the second overall selection. Archie ended his 13-year career having completed 2,011 of 3,642 passes for 23,911 yards and 125 touchdowns, with 173 interceptions. He also rushed for 2,197 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Peyton is the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts and was the first selection in the 1998 NFL Draft. He attended the University of Tennessee and has all kinds of records. He led the Colts to a 29-17 victory in Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears on February 4, 2007. He also won the Super Bowl MVP Award and this year's NFL MVP award. Peyton finally broke the drought of Super Bowl success in the family.

Eli is the starting quarterback of the New York Giants and was the first overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft. Like his father, he attended Ole Miss and played as the Rebels' starting quarterback. He led his team to win the Superbowl in 2008.

What mother in the world would dream she'd have two Superbowl champion sons back to back and that they'd both be QB's?

So another Superbowl game for a Manning, though not the result we'd hoped for.
The New Orleans Saints connection is an interesting one. Archie musta had all kinds of mixed emotions, though pulling for his son today, I'm sure.

Theory or Fact? There is a big difference.

Faith and Science are not necessarily opposites.

While I am not big on debates, I do enjoy seeing informed people of maturity and integrity respond appropriately and respectfully to each other to ferret out information and arrive at a better understanding of the issue.

What really annoys me is when people only inform themselves as to the strengths of their argument, totally ignoring the weak points and then taking personal pot shots at the people on the other side. That's just not on!

Whether we are talking about creation and evolution, a theory put forth by a well meaning man which has since created a huge revenue stream for publishers, or Climate Change/Global Warming or the value/reality and potential of space travel, let's sip our tea nicely and listen as well as chime in!

"If you and I always agree, one of us is redundant." -- Ken Howard

Almost half of New Zealanders are not convinced global warming is real, a survey suggests.

A NZ Herald survey has found that although United Nations experts have grown steadily more certain about climate change, the public is not so sure.

Almost one in five of 2296 respondents said the concept was a giant con, and a further 28 per cent said global warming had not been conclusively proved.

The NZ Prime Minister's science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, said the 28 per cent figure was not surprising as scientists were not claiming conclusive proof. He said little in science could be conclusively proven.

“If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.” Albert Einstein

Part of the problem is the way the information is presented. When contenders make things political (IPCC) or personally attack each other (Leighton Smith) or turn a personal profit (Al Gore), the rest of us become skeptical.


From John Pratt, a science teacher and more:

It is extremely important to distinguish between facts and theories in science, and in every other subject also, because facts usually remain the same and theories often change. They are not always easy to differentiate, and even scientists forget to do it.

Try Replacing the Word "Fact"

The word "fact" has several meanings, which can be very confusing. In popular usage it can mean either "observation," "theory," or "truth." As an example of each, one can say, "it is a fact that every time I have dropped this ball, it fell to the ground." That is what has been observed so far, and the word "fact" can be replaced with "observation." One can also say, "it is a fact that every time I have dropped this ball, gravity pulled it to the ground." Even though this statement appears very similar to the first, "gravity" really refers to a theory proposed to explain why the ball is observed to fall. Finally, if one so thoroughly believes that the theory of gravity is really "true," he could replace "a fact" with "true," which would take the meaning beyond science into the realm of his personal convictions.

This confusion can often be avoided by always replacing the word "fact" with "observation," "theory" or "truth," whichever seems to convey the intended meaning best. Remember that if the meaning is "observation," then it is as fallible as the observer. If it is a "theory," then it also could be disproven someday. If it is claimed to be "truth," then it is a statement of the personal conviction of the speaker, which is outside the domain of science.

08 February 2010

Football: A faraway losing fan's perspective

Several men took the field today to play a game of football. They were led by two very good men; men who have sacrificed from their personal resources to help the people of New Orleans recover from a devastating hurricane.

Today's better team won. On another day, it would
have gone the other way.

I watched with an assortment of individuals at The SinBin in nearby Takapuna after first going all the way in to the city to a place I'd phoned earlier this week to make sure they'd have the game on the big screen. When I arrived today, they had the pre-game shows on, but no sound. I asked when they were going to turn up the volume. "Oh no, we only play music during the day but you can watch it."

You shoulda seen the look on my face . . . and then you'd have seen the back of me as I left abruptly before I said something I'd need to repent of!
See it and not hear it? Of all the crazy, hare brained . . . . . .

Rang round to The SinBin in a nearby neighbourhood and, sure enough, they had ". . . balloons up and the party started and where are you anyway?"
It's not like I know the guy, but he sure sounded a lot more on to it than the place where I'd planned to spend my afternoon. See, the game started at about 25 past noon on a Monday, New Zealand time.

I texted family and friends in the US to see where they were watching. Some were home with family and others out and about. I was sure there were oceans of blue and white throughout Indiana and wherever Hoosiers roam. I wore blue & white, but not official Colts gear. One guy did have on a jersey and was there with a buddy in a Saints jersey. Fair enough.

To be in that particular game took an amazing journey for both teams. Unfortunately playing in the game doesn't give you all the benefits and satisfaction winning that game would. Such is life.

I'm still a Colts fan. Poor form if I only cheered for them when they won!