Friday, August 27, 2010

Nehemiah 4-8

I’m really enjoying reading and studying the book of Nehemiah.   I really like the historical aspect of it, which is clarified by also reading the Broadman Commentary along with the text itself.  My thoughts tonight center on two things – perseverance in work and passion for the Word of God.

In chapters 4-6, Nehemiah has to face some significant obstacles to rebuilding the walls.  Sanballat, Tobiah, and some other area leaders plotted against Nehemiah, requiring Nehemiah to make a plan for defense.  Tobiah then sent Nehemiah a series of letters to try to intimidate him to quit building.  Finally, there were prophets and at least one prophetess who were falsely prophesying in an attempt to intimidate Nehemiah.

Nehemiah even had issues with his own people.  In chapter 5, Nehemiah deals with the complaints of some Jews that they were becoming impoverished by this work on the wall and that those who lent money were charging usurious rates.  As governor, Nehemiah found a solution to this.  He also showed his commitment to the cause by not requiring more support from the people than he needed.

Nehemiah is a great example of working hard despite difficulties.  God created us for work.  We shouldn’t find our worth through what we do, but only through being God’s creatures.  Nonetheless, the satisfaction that we get from a job well-done is something built into us by God.  Even before the Fall, humans were expected to be workers.

Sometimes, though, God gives us something to do but there are obstacles in the way.  Certainly, if we are doing God’s work, Satan will do what he can to stop us.  Nehemiah is a picture of standing firm and not giving up.  Not only that, when the wall was finished, Nehemiah gave the glory to God.  He understood that his own efforts were nothing, but that God was the source of his strength.

The other thing that really hit me in this series of chapters is how passionate the people of Jerusalem were when they could hear the reading of God’s Word again.  In chapter 8, Ezra reads the Torah (at least part of it) to the people.  The Levites were there to translate the Hebrew into the Aramaic spoken by most people as well as to explain the law.  In the first assembly, the Law was read to all the men and women.  They were initially upset because they had not been keeping the Law, but Ezra and the Levites told them to rejoice and celebrate.  Even after this first day of reading, a group of priests and heads of families continued to study the Law and celebrated the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) again.

I’m seriously convicted when I read this because I know that I don’t value the Word of God the way that I should.  It’s so easy for us to take the Bible for granted – I think we have more than 10 Bibles in our house, along with various commentaries and other books.  Yet, when I think that this is God’s primary communication to me as an individual and to the Church as a whole, I’m ashamed at how little time I spend reading it and how little I love it.

Two lessons from this section of Nehemiah:

1. Work hard because you’re working for God.  Continually pray for God’s support in my work.

2. Cherish the Bible.  Read it regularly, study it often, teach it to my children, and remember how blessed I am to have it so easily available.

What other lessons could be learned from this section?  How do you make sure to keep your love of the scripture alive?

Vegetarian Dinner

You may recall that I’m not a big lover of veggies.  Getting veggies from the CSA every week has been “stretching” me!!  I’ve eaten beets, kohlrabi, zucchini, and yellow squash.  OK, I do eat yellow squash pretty often, but the others were new for me.  And I like meat!  But, I branched out today.

Tonight’s dinner was completely vegetarian, although it did include eggs and cheese.  I made Spinach Pie with CSA onions and spinach from the grocery store and Spaghetti Squash Pancakes with the spaghetti squash from the CSA.  And, of course, much of the cheese was made locally (although I can’t vouch for the gruyere).

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I’m trying out various things for the Spinach Pie to make it less bland.  This time, I made a homemade butter pie crust and added the lattices to the top which really helped make it more “fancy”.  I used about 3/4 the amount of spinach that I normally use and then added more Cheddar cheese as well as adding a fair amount (1/2 – 3/4 cup) of Gruyere.  The flavor was definitely more robust, but I think it still needs more of the stronger cheeses.

The Spaghetti Squash pancakes were mostly my own creation.  I cooked the spaghetti squash in the oven (after cutting it in half) in a small amount of water.  After it cooled down, I removed the seeds (much easier after it’s cooked, I learned tonight) and then pulled the “spaghetti” part of the squash out of the shell and put it in a bowl.  I added Parmesan cheese (not sure how much, but it should have been more!) and about 1/2 cup of flour, a generous amount of dried basil, and some salt.  It looked a little dry, so I added 2 eggs and then needed to add another 1/4 cup (or so) of flour.  I pan-fried them in a little olive oil.  Overall, I’m pretty happy with them.  Next time, they need more Parmesan cheese and more salt and, perhaps, more flour.  I’ll play around with it and see how it goes.

The family was very satisfied with it.  Of course, Rosie Girl and PWM liked it, but they were also willing to give me some helpful suggestions.  One of the kids’ friends was over and she seemed to enjoy the meal.  Wild Man, though, had leftover pizza.  I hope he’ll try the pancakes next time.  He’s already tried the Spinach Pie and I think it will take some work to convince him that it’s different enough from previous for him to try it again.  Ah, well, the boy eats cucumbers and carrots like they’re going out of style.  I won’t stress about it.

One thing that has been harder for us to eat is beets.  I did roast some the first time and then mixed the beet slices with some oil, vinegar, and spices, put the slices on French bread, sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese, and broiled it.  PWM was the only one who really liked it, although Rosie Girl and I ate some.  Wild Man did taste it, but didn’t really care for it.  I have discovered, though, that I can add some pureed beets to my brownie batter and then we can’t even taste it.  It’s kind of cheating, but at least we ate the beets – LOL!

So, what kind of vegetarian meals do you like?  Do you enjoy your time in the kitchen?  This was definitely not a quick and easy meal, but I was in a cooking mood and really enjoyed it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Need to Vent!!

And not about a headache, believe it or not!  (Unless this mood is a precursor to a headache.)

1. Wild Man has taken over two hours to fold clothes.  Yes, I know it’s because I let him do it in front of the TV.  Lesson learned.

2. Rosie Girl doesn’t really want to cook dinner, so she’s acting helpless and asking for help with stuff she knows how to do.

3. I spilled beet puree all over the kitchen while I was making brownies (and using up the last of the beets).  I had to clean the floor, cabinets and front of the oven.  What a mess!


4. I’m frustrated with trying to schedule kids’ schoolwork and enter it into Homeschool Tracker.

5. I can’t find a pizza dough recipe that uses the kind of yeast that I have.

I think that’s all.  I’m just very easily irritated today.

Thanks for “listening”.  Will hopefully have more positive content next time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday – August 23, 2010


We’ve been flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to meals around here lately, but I’d like to be a little more organized than just saying, “Get food if you’re hungry!”  Hence my restarting some menu planning.  I’ve also told the kids that they are each responsible for one meal a week.  Wild Man still requires a good bit of help from me in the kitchen, but Rosie Girl is now independent enough that it’s useful for me when she cooks. 

As always, I’m just going to list the meals since the order in which we eat them depends on my migraines as well as whatever else is going on.  I’m also assuming some veggie side dish and/or salad, but I’m not planning them right now because we haven’t gotten our CSA bag yet.

1. Spaghetti with garlic bread

2. Homemade macaroni and cheese (Wild Man)

3. Zuppa Toscana (Rosie Girl) with some kind of bread

4. Homemade pizza night (I want to try making pizza dough with my food processor.  My Kitchen Aid yells at me when I ask it to knead the pizza dough for me and I end up doing it by hand!)

5. Spinach pie (perhaps made with some other greens, depending on what’s in the CSA bag)

6. Leftovers

7. Sandwich night – probably tonight since I have a meeting and PWM hasn’t shopped yet!

Check out Menu Plan Monday to see what others are up to this week!  (And I’m like number 206 because I’m not terribly organized first thing on Monday morning!)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nehemiah 2-3 The Importance of Good Exegesis and Hermeneutics

So, in Nehemiah 2:9, Nehemiah finally sets out on his journey to Jerusalem.  Take a minute to read the passage in question so you know what I’m talking about.  Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Nehemiah had courage.  Since he could have been executed just for looking sad in the presence of the king, it took him courage to not only allow himself to express what he was feeling, but also to then ask the king for help. 

2. Nehemiah did more than plan.  He executed the plan.  I have so many half-finished knitting projects, that it’s not even funny!  However, I know the importance of finishing a plan so that you can be known as a trustworthy person (besides how nice it is to have a dining room that is completely finished!).  Nehemiah was continuing to rely on God’s provisions, but he knew that he also had his own responsibilities to get up and do the work.

3. Nehemiah spent three days in Jerusalem before he even started looking at the walls.  If that had been me, I would have been out scouting the project and getting people excited right at the beginning.  But, Nehemiah had the patience that he needed.  Apparently (Broadman commentary), there were lots of social niceties that needed to be done that could have taken three days.

4. Nehemiah scouted the walls in secret.  I’m still not completely sure why he did this.  The commentaries I have read suggested that this allowed him to assess what needed to be done without drawing a lot of attention to himself.  Then, when he presented his plans to the rest of the Jews, he would know what he was talking about.

5. The rest of the Jews were enthusiastic about helping with the work.  It was, after all, their city.  Not only were they embarrassed by the walls, but having a city without walls was dangerous.  They just needed a leader – someone who had charisma to lead and the influence of the political hierarchy so they could get permission to rebuild.

6. When there was opposition to the plan, Nehemiah seemed to kind of blow them off and say, “Hey, you don’t have any claim to Jerusalem, so stay out of our way.”  But, I’m pretty sure this opposition is going to get worse before it  gets better – stay tuned!

So, why my comment in the title exegesis and hermeneutics?  First, a few definitions.  Exegesis is the task of discovering the original meaning of a text – what did the author mean to say?  Hermeneutics means to find the contemporary meaning of a text – what can we learn from it?  According to Fee and Stuart (How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, p.26), “A text cannot mean what it never meant. (emphasis in the original).  Or to put that in a positive way, the true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken.”  That’s just the basics.  I read a great book on hermeneutics a couple of years ago that really opened my eyes to understanding the Bible (Scripture as Communication by Brown – it’s a textbook used at Bethel for their hermeneutics class).

Why am I bringing this up?  The Sonlight Core 200 package includes a book by Ray Stedman called Adventuring Through the Bible.  We weren’t planning on using this book this year anyway, because Rosie Girl is going to use the Fee and Stuart books along with just reading the scripture itself.  But, I used it as a background reference on this study of Nehemiah.  Apparently, the book is designed to be both academic and devotional.  My problem is that Stedman goes through all the gates listed in the second chapter of Nehemiah as Nehemiah walks around the city and gives a contemporary application of each gate on our lives.  I agree with everything he said, just not in the context where he said it.  The original meaning of these gates is just to describe what was going on in Nehemiah’s circle around the city.  As an example, he tells us that the fish gate reminds us of Jesus’ command that we are to be “fishers of men”.  This could not have been the meaning to the original author, though.  To the Jews of that time, the fish gate was probably just the gate that the fishermen used most often.

Even though I don’t think Stedman falls into error here, I do think that it’s sloppy hermeneutics.  There’s plenty to learn from Nehemiah without trying to impose modern application to ancient architecture.  What do you think?  Is this just my pet peeve?  Am I off the wall here?


P.S If you are going to do real Bible study, both Fee and Stuart books are excellent – How to Read the Bible for All It’s  Worth and How to Read the Bible Book by Book.  They aren’t hard reads but are incredibly helpful when trying to understand the Bible, which is applicable to our lives today, but was written in a completely different time and culture.

Fun Facts About My Family – from the 2010 Vacation

1. J (my 3 year old nephew) is “scared of Aunt Catherine”.  Yeah.  Not so scared when I’d sit on the floor and play his Thomas the train set card game with him!

2. Wild Man fished almost every day using live bait without asking anyone to bait the hook or take the fishes off after he caught them.  (You might recall that I was nominating myself for Mother of the Year after I did all his icky stuff when we fished at Fort Wilderness.  Time does fly!)

3. Rosie Girl enjoyed playing her ocarina outside.


4. E (my 8 year old nephew) and Wild Man “slept” in the same room.  I’m betting Wild Man will sleep quite a lot over the next few days and nights!

5. I made sauteed green beans with grated kohlrabi for our veggie dish one night.  Sauteing green beans takes far longer than I expected.  But, I only added the kohlrabi at the end, so it didn’t get mushy.  It is a weird combination.

6. On Thursday or Friday, Wild Man and E discovered the laundry shoot in the main floor bathroom.  Oh my.

7. I beat each of my kids separately at Sequence (in spite of the headaches).

8. While PWM was reading, Wild Man got PWM to say “Ollivander” the way that Jim Dale says it on the audio recordings of the Harry Potter books.

9. Everyone enjoyed my “beet brownies” (brownies to which I’ve added pureed beets).  It’s a good thing because I’ve got 5 more beets to deal with this week.  Do that many people around here love beets?!

10. By Thursday night, we had three clowns in the house.  The picture only shows Grams and Wild Man, but E also had a pair of giant sunglasses.


11. E described the elephant ride at Circus World as “bumpy”; Wild Man concurred.

Our Wisconsin Full Family Vacation of 2010

We just finished our mini-family reunion of 2010.  This time, instead of the four of us driving down South in blistering heat, the family came up here.  And, thankfully, the weather (mostly) cooperated so  being outside was really a fun thing.

We rented a lake house about 30 minutes from our house.  The lake house sleeps 10 people easily and has a game room in the basement along with the usual living room, dining area, kitchen, and 4 bedrooms.  PWM and I  and Rosie Girl got the big room upstairs because the toilet up there doesn’t work right now.  Sadly, Grams (my mom) and Grandpa (my dad) needed to sleep downstairs so PWM and I got the king sized bed upstairs while Rosie Girl had a mattress that we took from another bed.  Not that I’m complaining about the king sized bed, mind you!

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While we were there, we had plenty of time to play around the lake despite all the outings we had planned.  There were a paddleboat and a canoe for our use, along with the dock for fishing.  Wild Man did a good bit of fishing and caught several very small fish.  He had one bigger one, but the line broke, to Wild Man’s great distress.

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There were some glitches, though.  When the family arrived, Grandpa already had a pretty bad cold, so he and Grams skipped church on Sunday morning.  I had a headache the entire week, so I missed a few outings.  Grams developed the cold on Tuesday and was pretty much in bed for Tuesday through Thursday.  CC (my brother), KC (his wife), PWM, and all the kids, though, stayed nice and healthy.

Monday morning was the hike at Skunk Lake.  Grandpa, Rosie Girl, and I didn’t go hiking, but ran errands instead.  The rest of the group loved the hiking trail because it’s beautiful and has lots of ridges and moraines (which is a little valley with lots of big rocks left by a retreating glacier – learn something new every day!).  And the weather was perfect – in the 70s!

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Wednesday morning was cheese morning!!  We all (except Grams) went to Union Star Cheese Factory in Zittau and got a tour.  J (CC and KC’s 3 year old son) wasn’t quite as thrilled with the tour since it was mostly standing around and listening, so he and I played outside in the grass for a while.  All the kids got cheesemaker hats and we, of course, bought plenty of cheese and cheese curds!

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That evening, we decided to have dinner at the Wheelhouse and then dessert at Scoopers – a plan everyone approved of.  (Although, Grams and Grandpa didn’t make it because Grams was still feeling pretty rotten.)  Wild Man tried to teach E (his 8 year old cousin) to cross his eyes.  I’m sure KC will thank me for that one day!

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On Wednesday, everyone except me and Grams went to the EAA Museum and Pioneer Airport.  (But, Grams and I have both seen the EAA Museum before, so it was a minor loss.)  Wild Man and E both got to have their Young Eagles flights on this trip.  I’m not sure it was quite as big a deal for E because CC is a licensed pilot and takes E out in his flying club’s plane on occasion.  Rosie Girl did a great job of taking care of J  when he fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon!

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Circus World in Baraboo was our activity for Thursday for everyone but Grams who was still feeling sick.  My favorite part was seeing the museum, old costumes, and old interesting musical instruments.  The kids rode on elephants.  We saw a great magic show and a very cool tiger show.  Unfortunately, it was really hot and I got a migraine, so PWM, Rosie Girl, and I left early.  The rest of the group got to see the Bigtop show – apparently, it was quite good.  Grandpa, it appears, splurged for some clown get-up for Wild Man and E.

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Thursday night, we made a fire in the fire pit, which the little kids loved.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have the makings for S’mores.  The excitement of the evening was that Rosie Girl fell down the bottom two stairs of the deck and twisted her ankle pretty badly.

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Every night, PWM read to us from the first Harry Potter book.  We had thought about bringing Artemis Fowl, because we love those books, but Artemis is still mostly a villain in the first book, which might not be great reading for the 8 year old!  In any case, E had already read the first chapter of Harry Potter, so this might entice him to finish the book at home because we only got about halfway through.

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On Friday morning, everyone but PWM, me, Wild Man, and Rosie Girl went to the Paper Discovery Center.  They made paper as well as making things out of paper – like air rockets.  My kids had been before, so they weren’t terribly interested.  Besides, I took Rosie Girl to the clinic in the early afternoon for an X-Ray of her ankle.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, but we did get an air cast to help splint it.

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Rosie Girl and I said our goodbyes on Friday afternoon and then came home.  We were quite the pair – Rosie Girl with her foot up and ice on it and me with an icepack on my head!  Nonetheless, the rest of the family was up and out before 10am on Saturday!

Overall, we had a blast!  I really wish that no one had been sick all week, but this stuff happens, so we make the best of it.  I am pretty glad to be home right now.  Everything’s a mess since we just put the bags in the middle of the living room.  I’ll clean when my headache finally calms down.  In the meantime, I’ve still got school planning to do!