Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barbecued Ribeye Steak with Red Potatoes

What started out almost perfectly, I will sadly tell you at the outset, ended in near disaster. I could lie, show you the pictures displayed below, and tell you that my first barbecued steak ever was absolutely perfect. I could tell you that the potatoes came off without a hitch and that the wine was a perfect pair for a choice cut of well-marbled ribeye steak. But only the last part would be true.

Things started off well. Four, thick, apparently well-marbled ribeye steaks were taken out of the freezer to thaw. Recipes were chosen and ingredients were purchased. As can be seen in the picture, everything looked very promising.

I have now been grilling in below freezing weather since sometime in mid-November. I almost don’t remember what it is like cook in the summer, when the breeze is warm and I can’t touch the side of a fired grill with my bare hand.

Pinot Noir is my favorite grape. I have been working my way through this grape for about 10 years. Considering we only have a bottle of wine 2–3 times per year this does not say much. Pinot Noir pairs wonderfully with red meat. We opened the bottle early and let it breath while we put the finishing touches on the meal.

The picture to the left is of some of the best potatoes I have ever eaten. Forgive me, but they were prepared, seasoned, and grilled to perfection. I couldn’t stop eating them once I had them in the house.

Unfortunately, tossing them in an ill-prepared dressing ruined them. We realized at the last minute that we did not have one key ingredient in stock. Sadly, my culinary talents are not yet such that I can improvise with any form of success; indeed, my improvisation proved my downfall.

After tossing the perfect potatoes in a deceptively false dressing, they were still edible, but not to be desired. Close, in my mind, now counts for more than horse shoes and hand grenades. These potatoes were ohh so close.

I grew up eating steak that was tough, dry, and overcooked, which is the reason that I have never barbecued steak before. Twenty years of grilling and steak has never touched my grilling grate. In fact, I have never desired steak, so bad was my childhood recollection. Good steak has crossed my palate before, in restaurants and such, but I never ventured on my own.

Recently, some friends received half a cow, which they did every year, and wanted to clean out their freezer. They offered us some ribeye steak. I have no idea how old it was, or whether steak frozen for well over a year should still be eaten. I didn’t think of that at all when I started.

We used a rub recipe from a guy named Mike who lives in Woodbury. He used this rub to win the grilling championship in Chicago in 2005. It was fantastic, and possibly the only thing good about the steaks.

The real problem with the steaks was that I overcompensated for the outside temperature and grilled the steaks too long. History repeats itself. I prepared for myself the same steak I grew up with: tough, dry, and overcooked.

The good news is that the potential greatness for this dinner was through the roof. I can learn from my mistakes. I know now that I can grill fantastic potatoes, and I will use the proper ingredients to make a wonderful dressing to toss them in. I will purchase fresh ribeye steak, mere hours before I place it on the grill, carefully rubbed with Mike’s special concoction. And I will yank those babies off the grill well before I think I should.

I can’t wait to try again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Only in Minnesota

Quote from my oldest as she left the house tonight...
“Oh my. It’s 24 out. What do we need coats for?”

steaming soup on a cold day

steaming soup on a cold day, originally uploaded by wenabell.

A Reason Not to Blog

“The task of adding new lines and sentences and paragraphs to one’s collection can become an ever tempting substitute for reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting what’s already there. And wisdom that is not frequently revisited is wisdom wasted.”

—Alan Jacobs, Wayfaring, p. 11

The Human Being as Wayfarer

I am reading a collection of essays titled, Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant, by an author, blogger, essayist that I increasingly enjoy reading, Alan Jacobs. In the introduction he explains his title and paints an accurate picture of the Christian life...
An old phrase holds that to be a Christian is to be homo viator: the human being as wayfarer, as pilgrim. Wayfarers know in a general sense where we are headed: to the City of God, what John Bunyan, that great chronicler of pilgrimage, called the Celestial City—but we aren’t altogether certain of the way. We can get lost for a time, or lose our focus and nap for too long on a soft patch of grass at the side of the road, or dally a few days at Vanity Fair. We can even become discouraged—but we don’t ultimately and finally, give up. And we don’t think we have arrived. To presume that we have made it to our destination and to despair of arriving are both, as J├╝rgen Moltmann has wisely said, ways of “canceling the wayfaring character of hope.”
The last sentence deserves contemplation. A wayfarer has a character of hope. The wayfarer who believes he has arrived and the wayfarer who despairs of arriving both destroy that character of hope. They both, in some sense, have lost hope.
Hope comes from knowing that there is a way—and that we didn't make it. This is why the road’s unexpected turnings need not alarm us; this is why it’s possible even to enjoy the unpredictable, whether it comes from without or within.
This makes me think of Romans 8:24–25, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

May the Lord grant us both hope and patience.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Do the Hard Thing First

One of the banes of my personality is procrastination. When I a was an engineer, I used the phrase “Do the hard thing first,” repeatedly in an attempt to keep myself on task. Being productive is an ongoing battle for me. In fact, one of the many new books I am reading is Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Alan Jacobs, who I quote here often, posts a lot of interesting quotes on his blog, more than 95 theses. One of his posts today speaks into my problem of procrastination.
“Every time we postpone some necessary event—whether we put off doing the dishes till morning or defer an operation or some difficult labor or study—we do so with the implication that present time is more important than future time (for if we wished the future to be as free and comfortable as we wish the present to be, we would perform the necessary actions as soon as they prove themselves necessary). There is nothing wrong with this, as long as we know what we are doing, and as long as the present indeed holds some opportunity more important than the task we delay. But very often our decision to delay is less a free choice than a semiconscious mechanism—a conspiracy between our reasoning awareness and our native dislike of pain. The result of this conspiracy is a disconcerting contradiction of will; for when we delay something, we simultaneously admit its necessity and refuse to do it. Seen more extensively, habitual delays can clutter our lives, leave us in the annoying position of always having to do yesterday’s chores. Disrespect for the future is a subtly poisonous disrespect for the self, and forces us, paradoxically, to live in the past.”
—Robert Grudin, quoted by Mandy Brown
I think this fits well with my simple idea of doing the hard things first.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ultimate vs. Proximate

I am re-posting this from my friend’s blog The Works of God. I find Sproul’s distinction between ultimate and proximate very helpful.
R.C. Sproul on Romans 8:28:
God, in his providence, has the power and the will to work all things together for good for his people. This does not mean that everything that happens to us is, in itself, good.  Really bad things do happen to us. They are only proximately bad; they are never ultimately bad. That is, they are bad only in the short (proximate) term, never in the long term. Because of the triumph of God’s goodness in all things, he is able to bring good for us out of the bad. He turns our tragedies into supreme blessings.
R.C. Sproul, in Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering, edited by Nancy Guthrie, p. 47.
(HT: The Works of God)

Friday, January 14, 2011

And then there were 10

Since I am not on Twitter or Facebook, I will write a purposeless “what am I up to now statement” in this outdated mode of social media, a.k.a. blog.

I am down to 10 emails in my inbox. My inbox hasn’t been this low since June 2010.

Safer on the Streets

Charles Colson writes today in his BreakPoint article,
Since 1973, [Walter Hoy] notes, over 14.5 million black babies have been killed by abortion. Every, single day, 1,200 black babies are put to death in abortion facilities, making abortion the leading cause of death among African Americans! Nearly half of all black babies concieved die in abortion chambers today. Hoy says this means that a black child is safer on the streets of the worst neighborhoods in American than in his mother's womb.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Picture of the Day—Snowflake

snowflake, originally uploaded by wenabell.
My wife is ah-may-zing. Click on this photo to see more at her flickr site. She had to stay outside and freeze to get these shots.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy About This

From Daring Fireball:
Ars Technica reports:
Apple’s own Phil Schiller assured the press that Verizon would not be loading up the device with crapware, too. “We want the experience to be the same for every iPhone user. So there are no special Verizon Apps preinstalled,” Schiller told Ars. “AT&T offers customers some apps via the App Store. I’ll let Verizon comment if they are working on anything for that.”
I.e., the Verizon iPhone is just another iPhone 4. No logos on the hardware. No preloaded apps from the carrier.

Football Example of Opportunity Costs

A paragraph from a recent Run of Play post—A Wrinkle in Time—that wonderfully portrays the reality of opportunity costs. And, no, he is not talking about American Football.
When we are young, the stars of the football world tower over us, not least because, well, at that age any adult evokes a certain amount of awe. (To an eight-year-old, every adult is wise.) Throughout most of our childhood, we think ourselves invincible, and the world ageless; only as our teenage years end do we start to see that choices are coming down the road, closing off certain paths. Yet even then these decisions seem far away, mere abstractions that teachers and parents have conjured up to entice us to do a little extra work. Rarely do the millions playing rec soccer in high school possess the self-awareness to realize that already the dreams of scoring in the World Cup final (and, in many Americans’ cases, finally vaulting soccer to its rightful place at top of the sports heap) ended when we didn’t go for the travel team in elementary school. Even the most devoted young fans, when following the U-17 and U-20 World Cups, or their favorite clubs’ youth teams, see those players just as contemporaries, classmates if we’d gone to a different school. It’s only when we finally see a true up-and-coming star younger than us, whether Gareth Bale or Andy Najar or Josh McEachran or Juan Agudelo, that the real, physical evidence confronts us: those dreams are well and truly over.
Update: A friend noticed that today’s post on Run of Play was a bit inappropriate, so I removed the link to the main Web site to help you avoid running into something you didn’t want or intend to see. The link to the quoted post should be fine.

Pride and Guilt

Tony Sumpter wrote an excellent post over at about pride and guilt that ties in with much of what has been both in and behind the posts on this blog. It would be good to read his entire post; but if you want the summary version read on.

Tony explains the relationship between pride and guilt...
One of the ways pride poisons his victims is through false guilt. One of the unintended consequences of thinking too highly of yourself is the reality of not meeting your own expectations. What does a proud person do when he or she knows that they are not as smart, not as gifted, not as diligent, not as beautiful as they have positioned themselves to be? What do you do when you look in the mirror and you realize that your projection of yourself doesn’t match reality? Well, like the idiot sons of Adam that we are, we frequently take what we think is the path of least resistance and we feel bad for ourselves. We feel guilty. But instead of feeling guilty for setting up legalistic super-standards for ourselves, we feel guilty for not meeting our legalistic super-standards. And we do all of this with Bible verses and pious thoughts and prayers. O, I know I should be sharing the gospel with every person I come in contact with, but I’m just so cowardly and selfish. Or I know my house should look like a model home on HGTV, but I’m just not as organized as I should be. Or I know I really should be using my theological gifts to write books and speak at conferences, but I just don’t use my time as wisely as I should. I know my children should recite Bible verse on command and never have a resistant look in their eyes, but I just don’t spend enough time with them or discipline them consistently enough.
The good news that repels this relationship between pride and guilt is the gospel.
But the good news of Jesus is freedom from guilt and sin. And this means in part that we are freed to be human. We are freed to be us. We are freed to be finite creatures. We are freed by the gospel to get tired. We are freed by the gospel to say ‘no’ to some things and ‘yes’ to others. We are freed by the gospel to be filled with the love of Christ to the very brim of our souls and spilling over, and then we can be fruitful in the tiny plot of planet earth that we’ve been given. We are freed to plant a garden, open a business, and have a family. We are freed to work hard and harvest the field that God has called us to. And since we’re sinners, we’ll screw that up sometimes too, and we’ll fall down on our faces. But the good news is that we can get up, ask for forgiveness and get back to work. But a big, sovereign God frees us to be little, humble people with bright eyes and laughing hearts.
I pray that the Lord will give me the grace to be fruitful and content in the tiny plot of land he has given me.

Quality Father-Son Time

My son and I have been competing on an iPod Touch app called Infinity Blade. I taunted him last night because I reached level 45 and obtained the Infinity Blade—the highest rated sword—before he did and while he watched. I then promptly lost to the god-king who is rated at level 150 while he watched.

I received the following email this afternoon...

Friday, January 07, 2011

What Camp Are You In?

There are activities that seem to fall into a few different camps. The camps are Love to Do, Hate to Do, Good At, and Bad At. Any activity can have the following permutations...

1. Love to Do and Good At
2. Love to Do and Bad At
3. Hate to Do and Good At
4. Hate to Do and Bad At

Camps one and four tend to take care of themselves. Sometimes people are stuck in camp three and need to figure out a way not to be there.

But what about camp two? How much effort should we put into those activities that fall into camp two? If we love to sing, but can’t sing, should we do it? If we love to run or write or fish or swim or study or whatever, but really stink at it, should we continue to put energy into it for the sake of our joy, or should we bag it and find things that only fall into camp one?

Monday, January 03, 2011

How Now Shall I Live?

In many of my recent, apparently varied posts (i.e. Harry Potter, opportunity costs, and even grilling) there has existed—in my mind, at least—a common theme. This common theme really is a serious question, with associated thoughts rattling around in my head that have become posts.

Carl Truman, when blogging on the early church fathers, wrote…
In many ways, the fundamental questions they asked were akin to those we face today. For example, “What does it look like here and now to be a committed disciple of Christ?” is one of those hardy perennials that Christians have asked throughout the years. In the ancient church, it looked rather ascetic and monastic. We might today deem such an answer as wrongheaded; but we cannot avoid the legitimate demands the question places on us; we too have to answer it in our day and age and perhaps, 1,500 years from now, our answers will look rather odd.
This is a similar question to the one Francis Schaeffer asked in the title of his famous book How Should We Then Live?

My asking this question—What does it look like here and now to be a committed disciple of Christ?—stems from several personal realities…

  1. Not becoming a pastor after moving to Minnesota and spending 6 years in theological training,
  2. Accepting the (happy) reality that I am a college administrator for the foreseeable future,
  3. Turning 40,
  4. Having some discretion over free-time now that I am no longer taking classes.

How now shall I live?

In addition to these realities, there is a significant amount of pressure—real or perceived—at my church and in my circles to “not waste your life,” and to do everything with “undistracting excellence.”

For a sinful person like me, this pressure can be very real. A logical result of this pressure for me, and probably many others, is that there is no such thing as leisure (without feeling guilty), because accomplishing something meaningful for Christ to bring him glory is all important, and one certainly cannot waste any time in life on a hobby (i.e. carving ducks or collecting seashells).

Intellectually, I understand that this is not what is being taught, and that I am being overblown and somewhat crass, but the pressure can be very real. I understand that leisure is important, and it is OK to not be “on” 24 hours a day. None of the reality behind Christian Hedonism or Don’t Waste Your Life is wrong. It is gloriously right.

However, the intellectual understanding and the culture of the circles I run in are two different things, which is why hearing and living this message can be so deceptively dangerous. I also understand that for the most part, people outside my bubble don’t struggle with this pressure; they need to be pushed to not waste their life and do everything with God-glorifying excellence. All of this is why, now that I have accepted the reality that I am neither a pastor nor a scholar, I must ask “How now shall I live?” (It is very encouraging to me that Trueman thinks this is a perennial question.)

Attempting to answer this question is why, fundamentally, I just read Luther’s Freedom of a Christian, and why I have asked questions about whether it is OK to read Harry Potter, and why I have just started another new book titled Living In God’s Two Kingdoms, by David VanDrunen. I have high hopes for this book. Here is a paragraph from the introduction…
In presenting this two-kingdoms vision, I hope to provide encouragement to ordinary Christians—to ordinary Christians who work, study, vote, raise families, help the poor, run businesses, make music, watch movies, ride bikes, and engage in all sorts of other cultural activities, and who wish to live thoughtful and God-pleasing lives in doing so. I hope that this book will be an encouragement for many readers to take up their many cultural activities with renewed vigor, being convinced that such activities are good and pleasing to God. For many readers I also hope that this book will be liberating, freeing you from well-meaning but non-biblical pressure from other Christians to “transform” your workplace or to find uniquely “Christian” ways of doing ordinary tasks. For all readers I hope that this book will serve to focus your hearts on things that are far more important than a promotion at work or the most recent Supreme Court decision: the sufficiency of the work of Christ, the missionary task of the church, and the hope of the new heaven and new earth.
Consequently, somewhere in all this is another explanation for why I love to barbecue.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Years Eve Delectables

Apple-brined Barbecue Turkey

Did I mention that I am baking also...Silky-Smooth Cheesecake.

There is Hope My Kids Will Stick Around

“At the Q gathering in 2010, urbanologist Richard Florida observed that young adults meeting one another no longer ask, ‘What do you do?’ They ask, ‘Where do you live?’ More and more people will change careers in order to stay in a place—connected to family, friends, and local culture—than will change place to stay in a career. The 20th-century American dream was to move out and move up; the 21st-century dream seems to be to put down deeper roots. This quest for local, embodied, physical presence may well be driven by the omnipresence of the virtual and a dawning awareness of the thinness of disembodied life.”

Ten Most Significant Cultural Trends of the Last Decade : Andy Crouch

Picture of the Day

lily, originally uploaded by wenabell.


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Run, You Fool, Run

Wendy dragged me out of bed in summer and fall 2009 to start running. She had started four months earlier and part of what got me out of bed was guilt that she was running and I was not. Somehow, by God’s grace, I began to run more and more. Now, we run together. It is our joy to be together and neither of us like to run alone. It is good for our marriage, our bodies, and our souls.

2010 was the first calendar year of our running together. While I have a friend who ran over 1,700 miles in 2010, I am pleased to say that I ran 596.5 miles. If I had realized how close I was to 600, I would have pushed for 3.5 more. Oh, well. There is a parable about my life in those numbers.

Our goal for 2011 is at least 750 miles.

If you use Nike+ and I know you, let me know.

Books Completed in 2010

Not much, I know, but it is better than 2008 and 2009 combined.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, by D. A. Carson
The Return of the King, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Fidelity, by Douglas Wilson
The Chestnut King, by Nathan D. Wilson
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carrol
The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (NICNT), by Gordan D. Fee
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: The Wingfeather Saga Book One, by Andrew Peterson
Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward
North! Or Be Eaten: The Wingfeather Saga Book Two, by Andrew Peterson
The Odyssey of Homer, by Homer, Translated by Richard Lattimore
Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), by Philip K. Dick
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J. K. Rowling
Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carrol
The Consequences of Ideas, by R. C. Sproul
Leepike Ridge, by N. D. Wilson
The Freedom of a Christian, by Martin Luther