Out of the Box

Getting creative with Christianity, crafting, cooking, copious usage of alliteration, and the rest of my life

Differences of Opinion June 26, 2010

Filed under: Theological Thoughts — Grace @ 6:16 pm

It can be hard being theologically liberal (or should I say progressive? Or should I say rational?). I won’t go into detail now, because that would only tick me off. Suffice it to say that I keep getting into arguments debates over various issues. I try to keep the right attitude through it and not let things get personal, but I often don’t succeed.

But come on, everyone – “because God said so” is not a reason. It’s not proof of anything. For goodness’ sakes, there were plenty of people in Jesus’ day who were unwilling to rethink their concept of what the Messiah was supposed to do and be. “The Bible says he’ll bring peace to the earth, that he’ll be a conquering king,” they argued. Sure, but not yet. They missed out because they couldn’t comprehend that there might be another possible interpretation (in their case, the interpretation would be “He will, but not until later.”).

For the record, I will not stop thinking; I will not stop questioning; I will not blindly accept something that doesn’t make sense to me. I sincerely hope that I never stop delving deeper and trying to truly understand. I also sincerely hope that I never close my mind on any subject. Even now, I could be persuaded to change my mind. So to those who have been the target of my arguments: Guys, I’m listening to your side; I really am. I just haven’t heard anything to convince me. If I do, then I’ll have no choice but to agree with you. But if there’s any doubt in my mind over the rightness of a view that seems oppressive to some, I will not accept that view. This seems only fair.

I’m sorry if this post seems antagonistic. That wasn’t my intention. I think I should stop writing now before I get angry. That won’t be beneficial to anyone.

Anyway, I’m thankful that even if my friends and I don’t agree and perhaps never will, they love me anyway.


More Fun with Sourdough June 22, 2010

Filed under: Culinary Stuff — Grace @ 8:51 pm

Wow… days of doing nothing, and now two posts in one day? Either I’m going crazy or I’m on the road to recovery from this lazy week of constant sleeping and not much else. The next thing you know I’ll be doing my summer service requirement… YIKES! (Actually, I hope that’s what happens!)

Anyway, if you read my first post about sourdough, you might remember that I was having some problems with the “sponge.” It ended up not working at all, so I had to throw it out. I then prepared some bigger jars, hoping they would hold enough starter to bypass the sponge stage altogether. I didn’t have time to test it out at home, though, so I took the original small jar and two big ones, stuffed them with various soft things, carefully packed them into my suitcase, and took them to Canada.

They got here safely, and I gave things another try. Luckily, the big jars do hold enough starter to skip the sponge step, so I was able to actually make dough… and turn it into bread. VICTORY! It turned out pretty well. Not great, but good. I don’t have any pictures, unfortunately.

Things I’ve discovered: It’s okay to use tap water (at least here). And flour and water measurements don’t have to be exact; just play with it until you get the right consistency (like pancake batter). As a matter of fact, less precise measurements gave me two jars of starter that didn’t form layers of liquid on top and seemed to be ready faster. It was a little thicker than what I would have gotten using equal amounts. Maybe thicker is better.

Also, I don’t think my starter likes all-purpose flour very much. I tried to feed it with that and it didn’t work well. (I ended up throwing out that jar’s contents.) Whole wheat works better for me.

Top view of a jar of sourdough starter

This is a jar of my starter.

See how it’s all bubbly on top? That means it’s ready. I could start another batch of dough right now if I wanted to. And it’s tempting.

Someday I’ll have to get a GIGANTIC glass jar and make huge batches of bread if necessary. But my waistline wouldn’t thank me. I’ve made it angry enough already. 🙂

I baked my second loaf of sourdough bread today! I managed to get it into a better shape this time… but undercooked it. Darn. I’ll put it back into the oven when I have the energy to do something other than sit around with my laptop.

Additional tips: Wrapping it in a damp towel made the crust softer than last time, which was nice.

A loaf of sourdough bread

Isn't it pretty?

Yay, the blog’s first pictures! I wonder what it says about me that they’re of food… haha. Many thanks to the ladies of my church for this camera!


After a long silence…

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 5:32 pm

Sorry about that. I should probably post more often… It’s not like I have too much else to do, although that should and probably will change. More about that later.

Well, so far nothing has been mentioned about me teaching ESL. I need to talk to Pastor Shawn and find out for sure. If I’m not going to be able to do that through the church, I’ve found a few other opportunities within Toronto that will make my summer look more productive on a college application if they work. That might appease my dad and convince him not to pressure me to come home. (For the record, I’m not leaving. No way. Case closed.)

Oh, I walked to The Purple Purl, accompanied by Anna. And it did, in fact, take an hour to get there. And another hour to walk back. I felt bad for making my roommate suffer, but on the plus side, we found a Dollarama close to the seminary on our way back, which made Anna happy. But next time I think I’ll take a streetcar.

I still haven’t started my summer service requirement for school. This is not good. Someone make me stop procrastinating!

I traveled alone by bus/subway for the first time… and survived. That can only be a good thing, especially the part about surviving.

I want to do something for the homeless people I’ve seen, but I don’t know what or how.

And I’m in charge of the youth’s lesson for next Sunday. Yikes. Any ideas?

Yep, life is interesting here in Toronto. I’m still not sure why God sent me here, but… maybe it’ll come with time. After all, I still have six weeks.

Coming soon (I hope): Sourdough stuff, more exploration, SOMETHING TO DO WITH ESL!


The Past Few Days June 17, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 4:59 pm

Life has been good.

What? You want more specifics? Well, I suppose I could elaborate just a little.

On Tuesday I went with my roommate Anna to buy groceries. I had my first real experience of feeling like a foreigner when an issue arose over our cart. When Anna and I had both paid for our respective groceries and I was putting the cart away, a lady asked me if I was finished with it. I said yes and let her have it, and she gave me a coin. I was confused and told her she didn’t have to pay me for it. After some confusion on both our parts, Anna eventually explained to me that you have to pay to use a cart. (We had entered through the exit and just picked up one of the carts there, so I didn’t know.) Anyway, that was interesting. Other interesting things: We bought milk that came in plastic bags. And recycling is mandatory here, which seems like a good idea but will take a little figuring out. I came back and used the flour I had bought to make two large jars of sourdough starter. Yes, I’m hooked, I admit.

After that I didn’t do too much until later Tuesday night, when I watched a few episodes of a TV show called 24 with some housemates and two guys from houses on either side of us. And I discovered something: 24 is a marvelous show. The only problem is that the episodes have the most dramatic cliffhanger endings… so you can imagine the mental anguish I’m going through waiting until Thursday night to watch more.

Wednesday Pastor Shawn and his wife took Anna and me to lunch again, this time at a different, Cantonese, and also delicious restaurant. We also stopped by a bakery and a grocery store. I will return to Chinatown sometime in the future to buy more excellently priced fruit. We dropped the new abundance of food off at the house and they took us on a tour of the city. By the time we got back I was feeling pretty nauseous (too much driving, not the food), so once I was reasonably sure I wasn’t going to be sick, I took a nap. I woke to discover that my sourdough starter was ready, made some dough – farther in the process than I’ve ever gotten before! – and started the whole rise/shape/rise process.

Wednesday I hung out with Julia, one of my awesome housemates, as we did artistic things and had deep conversations. I drew her teddy bear. It was fun. She’s awesome. Enough said.

Then I went with some of the other housemates to a J-pop (Japanese pop, if you were wondering) concert nearby. It turned out to be more like J-techno, but it was an interesting experience. We got rides back to the seminary in some interesting contraptions, the names of which I can’t remember right now, but they were like bicycles with windshields, roofs, and back seats.

Back at the house, I stayed up much later than I should have baking my first loaf of sourdough bread, not wanting to mess up the dough by letting it rise too long. It turned out reasonably well. It’s not great, but it’s not bad for a first try.

Future plans: I want to walk to a yarn store called The Purple Purl and buy some… you guessed it… yarn. Julia has a pattern for a hat that I think I’ll try. That will require me to figure out how knitting patterns work, but hey, I have to start sometime. It’ll take me almost an hour to walk there, according to Google Maps, but I’m perfectly fine with that if it means I can get some exercise in a form that doesn’t make me cringe at the thought. I intended to use the seminary’s exercise room this morning. Yesterday morning too. It didn’t happen. I might just stick to walking.

I’m also going to have to locate the Little India that I’ve heard mentioned. And… oh jeez, I have my school’s summer service requirement to do… that’ll be no fun at all, but I’ll get around to it eventually. And no doubt there will be plenty of other interestingness to occupy me. But this post is long enough. Sayonara!


I’m Here! June 14, 2010

Filed under: Adventures in Toronto — Grace @ 8:42 pm

Well, here I am in Canada! It’s weird to finally be here… it all feels kind of surreal.

Long story short: Toronto is large and interesting, and contains at least one awesome (and LEGIT) Chinese restaurant and far more than one awesome person. Also, there are several shops I want to visit, and I’m looking forward to learning more Mandarin.

I’m too tired to write anything else right now, and I really should finish unpacking, so that’s all for now.


Fun with Sourdough June 11, 2010

Filed under: Culinary Stuff — Grace @ 4:34 am

With the free time I’ve had since school ended, I’ve decided to give sourdough bread a second try. Let me try to give a brief explanation of the process: Before you can bake sourdough bread, you have to combine flour and water and let it ferment so you’ll have sourdough starter. This is what gives sourdough bread its distinctive taste.

I tried this once in the past, but it didn’t work that time. Thankfully, things have been going better this time around.

I followed the basic method described on this page with the following adaptations: I used all-purpose whole wheat flour and didn’t bother warming the water I used, as I think that in the past I made the water too hot and killed the yeast or something like that. Things that the above page doesn’t mention that I found elsewhere: Don’t use tap water, as it might contain chemicals that can mess up your starter; don’t use metal utensils to stir the starter, as this can also mess it up somehow. (I should add that I did stir with a metal spoon for a minute before I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to do that, and it didn’t seem to hurt anything. Maybe I’ll try making another batch with tap water and see if it still works.)

It was ridiculously easy – I just mixed equal amounts of flour and water in a clean glass jar, covered the jar with plastic wrap held in place with a rubber band, and put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight. (A more precise description of the process can be found at the page linked to above.) I was supposed to feed it the day after I started it, but I didn’t. It didn’t need me, though; after about a day and a half, it looked great with no feeding or interference of any kind.

So anyway, I have starter now, but I haven’t been able to make any bread yet. While attempting to make the “sponge,” I added more flour/water than was advised to make up for a lower volume of starter. I also tried to warm the water and may have hurt the process by making it too hot, which is why I’m not going to try heating water anymore. As a result of one or both of these things, my sponge showed almost no change even after almost a full day, when it was supposed to take only a few hours. To give it an additional boost, I made more starter and added some of it to the bowl of attempted sponge, and the sponge seems to be coming along now. It’s not ready yet, but the last time I checked, a layer of liquid had formed on top and there were a few bubbles – in other words, it looks about like my two batches of starter looked like the nights before they were fully ready, so maybe I’ll be able to bake bread tomorrow!

Anyway, if you like to cook you should definitely try this. If I get to try to bake sourdough bread, I’ll tell you how it goes. Now to figure out a way to get a jar of starter to Canada… haha.


About Soil June 4, 2010

Filed under: Theological Thoughts — Grace @ 5:18 am

You may have heard of the parable of the sower. If not, or if you want to refresh your memory, here’s one version of it.

3“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”

14“…The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark 4:3-8, 14-20

I’ve always found this parable interesting because it describes various stages of my life. I was like the path when I was young – I just didn’t get it. I thought I did, but I didn’t at all. Then for several years I was like the rocky soil. I would follow God for a few days at a time, and then when things started to get hard – when I decided that I didn’t want to resist temptation and serve others anymore – I would walk away, only to come back after a few months and repeat the cycle. Now? Well, now my life looks most like the thorny soil. I’m not at all happy about that, but I haven’t gotten anywhere trying to fix it.

But back to the parable. I’ve often heard people teach as if the first three types of soil all represent non-saved people, and the last one is the only one that represents a true Christian. But look more closely. Did you notice the distinction that was made? The seeds that fell on the path never got a chance to grow. The seeds in the rocky soil sprouted, but the plants died. The seeds in the thorny soil, however, grew and survived – nowhere does it say that they died. The problem is, even though the plants survived, they didn’t produce any grain.

Think of the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). It’s a similar situation – getting distracted from what matters. Jesus didn’t respond by telling Martha to repent or anything like that. He merely corrected her. He didn’t treat her as a nonbeliever, but as a believer who had slipped up – and isn’t this the same as the parable? Granted, the parable seems to describe a more prolonged situation, but still. Taking all of this into consideration, could it be that the thorny soil is a representation not of someone lost, but of someone saved who has lost their focus? Is it possible to be a Christian who “bears no grain”? Apparently it is.

However, clearly this isn’t what God wants from us. The good soil is held up as an example. That’s what we should be. But sometimes – or if you’re like me, most of the time – that’s not what we are.

Do you ever feel like this? Like you’re struggling along in your life as a Christian, sticking it out, but never really getting anywhere? Like you may not be getting worse, but you’re not getting any better either? Like you’re not really doing anything for God – bearing no grain? I know I do.

If this is the case, maybe it’s time to think about what “thorns” may be causing problems.

Unfortunately, recognizing the “thorns” doesn’t make them go away. For me, school can become a distraction, taking up so much time and energy that I lack the motivation to focus on God. The things I do to have fun and relax can also become “thorns” if I don’t keep the right perspective. A word of caution: When you find yourself putting off spending time with God because it’s no fun, or you do other things instead because they’re more fun, Satan’s getting into your head. I do this repeatedly, and then when I finally relent and go read the Bible or pray or whatever I had not wanted to do, I enjoy it. (Likewise, I find myself getting caught in the same habitual sins over and over again, and they always leave me feeling worse than before, but I never seem to remember that when the next temptation occurs. Odd, how I never seem to learn. But now I’m about to go off on a tangent, so I’ll stop while I still can.) Seriously, do it even if you don’t feel like it; you won’t regret it. That’s actually a pretty good mantra for general life.

Once more I have to realize that this is hard. And there will always be distractions. SO. MANY. DISTRACTIONS. *screams into pillow* Better now. Anyway, I guess we just have to learn to keep things in perspective. We’re on a mission, guys. We can’t afford to get sidetracked.

Now if only I were better at following my own advice.