Saturday, December 7, 2013

Roasting the Coffee Beans

My mama was serious about coffee. She wanted her coffee ready first thing in the morning, and it had better be hot enough to scald your mouth. She LOVED fresh roasted coffee, freshly ground. I am not talking about Folgers or even Starbucks. We are talking super fresh. She wanted me to roast the green coffee beans myself. 

It all started when a friend of mine told me about roasting green coffee beans. Never one to forgo a new skill, especially a culinary skill, I paid careful attention, took notes, and ordered some beans. My first coffee roaster was a big black skillet. It takes considerable stirring, non-stop for twenty minutes or so, to get the beans just right. From the first cup, my mama was hooked. It was clear I was going to do more stirring than I had planned to do, so my next roaster was a vintage hot air popcorn popper. It worked great, but I could only roast 1/4 cup of beans at a time. A pound of coffee was a major undertaking, but my mama really loved this coffee. She had so many dietary restrictions that coffee was the one thing she could enjoy just the way she wanted it. Finally, in the interest of time, I ordered a big home roaster that could handle a pound of coffee beans at once. 

The interesting thing about coffee is that every variety of bean roasts a little differently, and has an individual flavor. There is an art to roasting coffee, so I've taken careful notes on how long it takes to get to first crack, how long to second crack, total roast time, flavor, and how well I liked the coffee. It has been more than a year since I used the roaster. After my mama died, picking up a bag at Kroger just seemed easier. Tonight, however, I dragged out the beans. I selected a Guatemalan bean with a name that is too long to type, much less pronounce. It is supposedly going to be "a luminescent cup with apple cider notes, cinnamon, allspice, buttery mouthfeel, fresh cream finish". I can't wait to try it! (I'm doubtful about that butter and cream business, though.)

Temperatures above 400 degrees F are required to get the roast just right. While the bean is roasting, the thin layer of skin left on the bean during processing, known as chaff, is removed. The chaff has to go if the coffee is going to be tasty!  If not, it leaves a bitter taste when the beans are ground. 

This is just part of the chaff removed in roasting a pound of green beans. 

In this next picture, you can see the roasted beans. There is still a little chaff clinging to the beans, but it will have to be removed before grinding. A thorough shaking should do the trick

Coffee roasting requires constant attendance and careful attention. Nineteen-plus minutes watching the drum roaster rotate tonight gave me plenty of time to ponder. As I watched those beans "go through the fire", I thought about all the times in my life when it seemed I was going through a fire of my own. Sometimes the circumstances were pretty hard, maybe hard enough to be considered a "hot fire".  I wonder... Did that life-fire burn off my chaff? Did it rid me of the thin skin that leaves a bitter taste behind? I sure hope so!

My freshly roasted beans are resting tonight. Can you believe it? After all that watching and waiting, I still have to wait some more!  Tomorrow morning, I will be enjoying my fresh-roasted, fresh-ground coffee, just like my mama loved. Judging by the aroma in my house tonight, it's going to be good. Now if I could be a good as the coffee .... No chaff at all. That would really be something!

The nevertheless obedience (Luke 5:4,5)

Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. (Luke 5:4, 5 KJV)

We are using the King James Version today so that we can look at Simon's response and the wonderful word NEVERTHELESS. It means "in spite of" and connects Simon's statements in a wonderful way. 

In response to Jesus's command to put out into the deep water and cast his nets, Simon made his doubt about the utility of that effort crystal clear. "I've already fished all night, Jesus. We didn't catch a single fish! I don't see the point."  Maybe what Simon meant was, "I'm the best fisherman on this sea, and if I can't catch fish, they can't be caught. I know more than you about fishing!" What is so interesting is that, although Simon clearly saw it as a low-yield effort, he was willing to obey Jesus. This is where nevertheless comes onto the scene. In spite of his doubt, fatigue, and desire to get finished with the morning's work and back home for a few hours of sleep, Simon would do what Jesus said. He didn't have to understand or agree. He just obeyed. 

I'm left wondering why. Why did Simon agree to put out into the sea when he thought it was pointless. Probably Simon had heard of Jesus and the miracles He could do. Maybe he was curious and wondered. Maybe he didn't want to miss anything special, just in case. Maybe he was offering Jesus a challenge. "Let's see what You can do in these waters."  Nevertheless. In spite of. Simon agreed to do what Jesus said. 

You may be a little like Simon (and me). Maybe you, too, have a litany of reasons why the instructions of that Still Small Voice are a bad idea or would be a wasted effort. Grudging obedience is still obedience, and can be an important first step toward seeing the miraculous intervention of God. Peter's uncertainty was not a problem because of one word. Nevertheless. Nevertheless, Peter would obey. 

The next time you are inclined to doubt that Still Small Voice, tack your doubt to nevertheless. Doubt if you must, but obey anyway. What blessings await! 

The fish were in the deep water, but Simon would not have caught them if not for NEVERTHELESS. What can God do with your "nevertheless obedience"? 

Today, pray that we and our loved ones would have  a willingness to obey that transcends our doubts. Pray for a "nevertheless obedience".  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Deep water (Luke 5:4)

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." (Luke 5:4 NASB)

Deep water. 

Simon had already been in deep water, and likely shallow water too, in a vain attempt to catch fish. Jesus didn't care about his previous efforts or his previous casts at depth. Jesus was sending him back. "Head to the deep," He said. Certainly there are more fish in deeper water than in the shallows, but there is something amazing about the deepest water. 

Scientists long believed that the deepest ocean waters were void of life. Without light, no plants could grow, and, it was believed, there would be nothing to support life. In 2009, the Nereus, a research vessel from Woods Institute, made a series of dives to explore the deepest areas it could reach. At more than 10,000 meters below sea level, they found that pressure and darkness are greatest, while the food supply is rich and comes in the form of "marine snow", consisting of organic matter than drifts down from above. (Now that's a nice manna analogy, isn't it?) In the darkness, many of the creatures that live in the depths exhibit phosphorescence. They glow in the darkness. Wow! Pretty amazing! 

Jesus had more than fish in a net on His mind that day. Simon didn't know it yet, but Jesus was inviting him to cast his net into deep water spiritually, as well. Simon would soon experience utter dependence upon provision from above, the battle against the darkness of Hell itself, and the incredible pressure of Christ's mission to bring truth and light to a dark and perishing world. Simon was about to go into deep water with Jesus in more ways than one, and he would be changed forever.  Eventually, he would have a spiritual glow of his own. It is too soon in Luke's gospel to see that now, but we will. 

Jesus was not just inviting Peter into the deep water. His words still resonate today. "Put out into deep water." The deeps are the least explored, but the place of greatest adventure. It's where the fun really begins. Are you willing to move out to the deeps? Are you ready to experience the grand adventure that Jesus longs to share with you?

Today, pray that we and our loved ones will stop holding back. Pray we will boldly go where Jesus leads, even when it is into the deepest water. No more holding back. 

Come on in! The water's really nice out here!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Roasting the Roots

We have two doctors in our clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Too long ago for me to remember when, we started sharing lunch and meeting with Fred Page (our friend and financial guru from next door). As type A personalities will do, we have made an effort to have healthy, delicious, and lovely lunches. Of course, we consider every dish to be gourmet. There was some discussion today about whether or not the meals were really gourmet. Dr. Lambert settled the question. "Of course these dishes are gourmet," he said. "Gourmet just means it is carefully and lovingly prepared."  Fred was skeptical, so we checked with the internet. We found that the term is used (according to Wikipedia) "to describe a person with refined or discriminating taste who is knowledgeable in the craft and art of food and food preparation."  After reading that, Dr. Lambert and I are sure we are gourmets.  Fred tells us, however, we are just run-of-the-mill gourmets, as we know some things, but not necessarily a lot.  We are not calling ourselves gourmet chefs, but we may be. Just so you know. 

With all that said, our lunch was so yummy and beautiful that we decided to share it with you. Here's the menu:
Roasted duck nestled on a bed of chanterelle mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, and sautéed organic collards and onions kissed with red peppers. 

(The sweet potatoes and collards were from Native Son Farm and were terrific. If you haven't visited their stand, make time to do so.) 

Isn't that a lovely lunch plate?  Every dish was delicious, and we might end up sharing all the recipes with you, but for today, we are sharing the Roasted Root recipe. 

One onion, sliced
Three whole carrots, two or three parsnips, two or three sweet potatoes, two large radishes all peeled and sliced in large chunks
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley

Combine all vegetables in a bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, add seasonings, and combine. Transfer to cooking dish. 

Place in 450 degree preheated oven. Cook for 45-60 minutes or until tender. 

Dot with butter and toss gently before serving. Serves four to six

The first picture is how it looked in the pan last night. It marinated overnight in the olive oil and seasonings. Today, it was simply delicious! 

There's an amazing thing about food and shared recipes. When I use Fred's recipe at my home, it's like sharing a part of his life. When they use my recipes, they have shared a part of my life. It's what we do in the South. We don't just cook. We cook Leanna's roots, Lewayne's duck, Fred's gumbo, Pam's curry, Elaine's collards. It's a kind of cooking that makes the meal both delicious and personal, shared with those we love because of the associations of the flavors with those from whom the recipe came. 

The Tuesday-Thursday Gourmet Lunch Club decided to invite you to share a taste of delicious with us by roasting up some roots of your own. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did. 

Speaking of roots... These root vegetables anchor the plant to the source of nutrition and life. Roots to eat are just wonderful, but more important is your Life-Root that anchors you to your source of spiritual nutrition and life. To whom or what are you rooted ?  Much like the plants that provided our lunch, whose roots were anchored in nourishing soil, be sure you are rooted in the One who can sustain you in good times and bad, give you life, and nourish your soul. 

Happy rooting, dear ones!

Lord of the Boat (Luke 5:4)

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." (Luke 5:4 NASB)

After He finished speaking, Jesus the stone mason/builder/itinerant preacher turned His attention to Peter. If I had been Peter, I would have been expecting a thank you for my assistance. Remember that Peter had already spent the night casting heavy nets into the sea, dragging them out empty, then starting the cycle all again. Despite his physical and emotional exhaustion, what Peter received was not thanks. It was another work assignment. 

There were no engines to start and move his boat. When Jesus told Peter to put out into deep water, he meant physically row the boat, until the sails catch the wind, and move out to deep water. It was more than just a one-man job. Peter would have to put his employees to work as well. Jesus was not just asking Peter for physical work, nor just to overcome his exhaustion. Those employees would not likely work for free. Jesus was asking for a financial investment in obedience, as well. 

How very interesting. Jesus was about to bless Peter in an astounding way, but before He did, Jesus made sure that Peter was willing to put the direction of his finances in Jesus's capable hands. Just think what Peter would have missed if he had said, "Jesus, my men are tired and they are going to want time and a half for this wasted trip. The fish aren't biting." It's an amazing thought, isn't it? Jesus wants to be Lord of the boat and the employees, as well as the salary that pays them. 

There is no way to know in advance what Jesus will do with finances that are surrendered to Him. What Peter found, however, was that surrender was worth it. Perhaps your finances stand in the way of the blessings Jesus has planned. Is He directing the outlay of every cent? If not, why not invite Him to take charge of every aspect of your life, including finances. Like Peter, you will find He can be trusted. 

Today, pray that neither we nor or our loved ones will allow financial considerations to stand in the way of the plan Jesus has for us. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"They shouldn't have done that"

I had the opportunity to speak with a young man recently who, by some standards, is a little handicapped. After our visit, I'm not so sure about that. Our conversation had meandered through a few topics when he unexpectedly said, "They shouldn't 'a done that to him!" What ??? I obviously did not understand, so he repeated it, a little louder to be sure I got it this time. "They shouldn't have done that to him!" he said, as plain as could be. Still not understanding, I asked, "Who?" I didn't know who did it, nor to whom they did it, much less what they did.  He looked at me with the sternest expression and said,"Jesus."  

Indeed. They shouldn't have done what they did to Jesus. He was exactly right. We shouldn't have done what we did to Jesus.  In the most incredible gift of grace ever imagined, Jesus knew what we would do to Him, yet He willingly came anyway. We would do well to remember this wise young man's words this Christmas season. We shouldn't have done what we did to Him, but He knew we would, and He came anyway. THAT should make all the difference - in our attitude, our spending, and how we live - this advent season. 

Friday night with Friends

As you may have noticed, I take Friday nights off from blogging. I thought it might be fun to invite a guest blogger to write for us on Friday evenings. Fortunately, I have quite a few writer friends, and I'm taking full advantage.   Selfishly, this gives me a break and a treat at the same time! I've lined up the first two Friday night guest bloggers and they are both super writers. I will be doing some guest blogging as well.  We all hope to share readers a little and enjoy a bit of variety. 

This will work best if you help by visiting their sites and sending some encouragement their way, so I'm counting on you to bless our guests the way you've blessed me. You are super readers and I adore you all, so I hope you enjoy these little "variety is the spice of life" treats. Won't it be fun?  

Back in the boat (Luke 5:3)

And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. (Luke 5:3 NASB)

Simon had just had one of the biggest business failures of his life. He and his crew had fished all night long and not caught a single fish, despite the rich waters of the Sea of Galilee. Most men would have been discouraged, frustrated, and out of sorts. Considering how much "humanness" Simon often displayed, he probably was all of that. Jesus looked at Simon, who was cleaning his nets, and asked him to get back in the boat and put out into the water so He could teach. Knowing he would still have to clean the nets afterward, Simon moved the boat. I don't know that Simon put the boat out expecting a miracle of some kind, but Jesus WAS becoming known as a miracle-working preacher. 

Regardless of what Simon expected Jesus to do, what He did was start teaching the crowd, as if Simon wasn't there at all. Simon didn't get any special attention for his help, nor a commendation before the crowd. It may have looked to Simon as if Jesus was ignoring him. As soon as Jesus finished speaking, however, it became apparent that Jesus had not overlooked Simon, nor was He ignoring him, at all. What came after was so much better than Simon ever expected!

Has that ever happened to you? Have you found yourself in a frustrating spot, expecting Jesus to do something, hoping He would, but finding that more obedience is required? Most of us have something in our lives that needs His intervention, don't we? If we are honest, most of us wish Jesus would hop to it and address our need, too. Maybe we, like Simon, just need a little more time in the boat, allowing Jesus to use our situation to accomplish His purposes, before that for which we long will come. 

Simon probably resented the night spent fishing without a catch, but what he didn't realize at the time was that no catch meant he had a clean boat for Jesus to use the next morning. What looked like a disaster was actually preparation for the coming of the King. I wonder... Maybe that troublesome, disastrous, frustrating thing in our lives is actually preparation for something we can't begin to imagine. 

Today, pray for the coming of our King that will change everything - in ourselves and in our loved ones. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Stray Donkey

The saga of the stray donkey continues... 

Over the holiday, a neighbor called to ask if I had a miniature horse. "No," I replied, "And I don't want one." Since he has miniature horses for sale, I was heading him off at the pass. It turns out he wasn't trying to sell me anything.  

"Naw, there's a real ugly miniature horse loose in Sam's yard (he's my next door neighbor) and it has a rope wrapped around its belly.  I thought if it was yours, I'd help you get it up." I tried to explain that I didn't know anything about a stray miniature horse, but that I was having a miniature donkey as a frequent visitor. "Hon, I hate to tell you this, you being a doctor and all, but that ain't no donkey.  That's an ugly little horse."  He had a big laugh at my confusion, but two farm men had told me it was a donkey. It didn't look like a donkey, but that's how it was billed. That's all I'm saying about species recognition. I had already figured out about the ugly part on my own. 

Here's the crazy thing. At the Blue Springs Board of Alderman meeting tonight, I mentioned about the little donkey. One of the other alderman was so surprised. She's had a donkey in her yard too!  We compared pictures and phones were passed around the table. Everyone agreed that she had a miniature donkey in her yard. Of course we all agreed that what was in my yard was not pretty, but our city attorney settled the matter conclusively. "That's a miniature horse. I'm sure of it."  Everyone knows that the attorney gets the final word, so my stray donkey is now a stray miniature horse!

The real question is why do we have these little equine wanderers loose in our town? Neither of them looks malnourished or mistreated, although the miniature horse on my side of town does have a rope halter caught around his belly. (It's not too tight, but I can't get close enough to him to remove it.) 

My neighbor Sam, who thinks the miniature horse is a donkey, says it's lonely and looking for some company. With my three horses in the pasture, the little one has just made himself at home. Who'd have thought it? I want to have a warm and inviting home, and to be hospitable to strangers, (especially since there is the chance of entertaining angels without knowing it (Heb 13:2)) but, really, I did not expect that to extend to strange horses. 

For now, he's out of the road, and that's a blessing for everyone, so I guess I'm in the equine entertainment business. He sure doesn't look much like an angel though. 

One in a crowd (Luke 5:2,3)

and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. (Luke 5:2, 3 NASB)

Little Jewish boys in the first century started their education in the local synagogue. Those who were the brightest and best stayed in school and eventually became rabbis or scribes, Pharisees or Saducees. They were the religious scholars of the day. Those who were not "top of the class" eventually left school to become tradesmen. Peter had left to become a fisherman. He may have always wanted to fish, and it may have fulfilled a lifetime dream, but on the days when he worked as hard as he could, casting the net for hours without a single fish, it probably looked less appealing. He may have wished he'd stayed in school. Maybe he wished for a change. You may say that is just "thinkology" but events in a few verses will show that he quickly embraced change when the opportunity arose. 

Perhaps there was something in the way he was cleaning his nets that suggested to Jesus that Peter might be ready for something else. Regardless, there were two boats and two sets of fishermen, but the fisherman He addressed that day was Peter. 

Peter was not just a stinky fisherman and he was not just one of a crowd to Jesus. Our Lord saw him as one IN a crowd. He saw Peter as an individual and spoke directly to him.  This tired, dirty, smelly, frustrated man was not too tired, dirty, smelly, or frustrated for Jesus. What good news that is for us! No matter our current condition, we are not too terrible for Jesus. He can change everything in a moment, if we are willing. 

Today, pray that Jesus will look past our personal heart condition to see the person He intended us to become and that He will move in us to make us more like Him. Pray, too for our loved ones to be so weary in their wandering that they are ready to be found. May the call of Jesus come quickly and the response be prompt. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent devotionals

The Advent season has officially begun. If you need an advent devotional guide, The Road to Bethlehem would be a good choice.   You can order it from Amazon in kindle or paperback, or purchase one at Joyful Creations Gift Market or Park Place Salon in Tupelo. Or at my office on Cliff Gookin Blvd in Tupelo. 

You can click here for the Amazon paperback edition:

Or here for the Amazon kindle edition:

Happy reading and may you see our Savior in a new way this year!

The fragrance

The pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer was just right for carrying with me to work today. The fragrance was some form of peach and it had a lovely aroma. Between seeing patients and battling fits of coughing, I was using the sanitizer constantly. I noticed one of the employees walking behind me to my office and assumed she was bringing papers to sign. Nope. She was following the aroma of the hand sanitizer. "You smell wonderful! What is that fragrance?" she asked. "The hand sanitizer?" I asked with a laugh. She made a note of the fragrance name for her next trip to the mall as I squirted a little into her hand. 

For the rest of the day, every time I applied the sanitizer, I thought about how the fragrance had followed me through the halls of the office. I'm glad the fragrance following me was a pleasant one! 

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, describes the "fragrance of Christ " that believers should exude. I like the way the Message says it:
"Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life."
              (2 Corinthians 2:14-15MSG)

It's really nice to have a sweet-smelling perfume (or hand sanitizer) but how much better to give off the sweet aroma of life and the exquisite fragrance of Christ!  That's the fragrance I want. How about you? What fragrance do you leave in your wake?

The move the boat yes (Luke 5:1-3)

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. (Luke 5:1-3 NASB)

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee are fishing for tilapia. Most of their fishing is done after dark, so these fishermen were likely exhausted after a long, non-productive night. They were cleaning their nets and preparing to go home to sleep for a few hours. A crowd had gathered around Jesus, listening to Him teach and, without pews to contain them, they were pressing closer and closer to Jesus. As a result, He was at the edge of the water, near the two fishing boats. 

Jesus looked at the crowd pressing in, looked at the boats, and stepped onto one of them. "Peter," he said, "Do you mind putting out a little from the shore so I can teach from your boat?" Peter, exhausted, discouraged, disappointed, impulsive Peter, who was really just trying to get home for breakfast and a few hours of sleep, could have said no. I would have expected him to say no.  But with a yes that changed his life forever, Peter got back in the boat, the place of a complete failure the night before, and moved the boat out. 

It's interesting to me that a single decision, seemingly  inconsequential at the time, can result in radical change. By this time, Jesus had relocated to Capernaum, Peter's hometown. He likely already knew Peter on some level. When He invaded Peter's business, however, Peter came to know Jesus in a new and deeper way. That decision to move the boat ended up changing everything for Peter, and it began with a simple yes. It wasn't a "salvation yes" nor a "rededication yes". It was just a "move the boat yes," but it started a sequence of events with lasting consequences that still affect us more than 2000 years later. 

Today, pray that our loved ones will be 
given an opportunity to make a "move the boat" type decision that actually moves them closer to Christ. Pray that, when the choice is offered, they will say yes, and that their "yes" will be the starting point for lasting change. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Perserverance in Prayer (Luke 4:44)

So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:44 NASB)

He had been celebrated and nearly murdered by the same people, relentlessly pursued by a second group, and hounded by those seeking a miracle. It had been a rough few days. Despite all the difficulty He faced, Jesus came to share the good news, and that was what He did. His God-given job was to preach "so He kept on preaching".  Neither adversity nor opposition stopped Him from doing what God sent Him to do. He was perfect in perseverance. 

We are not always so perfect about persevering, are we? It's all too easy to hit a roadblock and give up. Intercession is an area where we are particularly vulnerable to battle fatigue. It is not uncommon to decide that either our prayers have not been effective in praying for our loved ones or that they are not ever going to change. I don't find support for either of those thoughts in Scripture. Instead, we are instructed to pray without ceasing, following the example of Christ, who had a job to do and did not stop, even when it led to the cross. 

Are you burdened for your loved ones? Pray. Are you discouraged by your perceived lack of results? Pray. Is the situation seemingly worse instead of better? Pray and don't stop. In the job of prayer, one of our most important tools is doing what Jesus did.  "He kept on" and so should we. 

Today, pray that we will have the endurance to persevere in prayer for our loved ones, continuing to the end. Pray for them to be drawn to Christ no matter how long it takes. Pray, and don't stop.