Author: Fylvia

If I could be a beachcomber who simply reads, writes and watches old movies all day, I would. Since that’s as far fetched as most of my other daydreams, I read and write and watch old movies in between being a working mother and wife. But it’s all good—God’s brought into my life more exciting experiences than a beachcomber could ever imagine.

Review: Ready or Not (NavPress)

iGgrDwAAQBAJThis book is meant to help twentysomethings as they figure out life and all that lies ahead of them.

Had I read this book in my 20s, I’m sure my life would be completely different from what it is today. However, I’m equally sure that my know-it-all younger self would have scoffed at the suggestion of reading a book to help me figure out life. (I’m grateful my God redeems and blesses even when I choose the less-than-ideal path).

So, as wonderful as this book is, I wonder how many twentysomethings  who need the help and encouragement will be open to reading this book, much less using it.

In nine chapters, the authors treat relevant topics from a practical point of view, using anecdotes, quotes, and research. At the end of every chapter are exercises,  discussion questions, and suggestions on how to apply principles learned in everyday life. The chapter titles are: Vocation, God and Us, Past and Present, Dimensions and Rhythms, Spirituality, Work, Family, Church, and Community. In these chapters a lot is covered—from how to deal with the boring and mundane to what to do when your church doesn’t meet your spiritual needs.

I especially appreciate the emphasis on connecting with and learning from others. For example, one suggestion is to interview someone at least 20 years older and who exemplifies a life of sustaining faith. The authors even give you interview questions that you can build on. They urge the reader: “Surround yourself with people you know and trust to treat your hopes and fears with the best of intentions.”

The more of the book I read, I more realized that it would fit into the curriculum of a Life Skills course or a small group study. Perhaps this type of setting would be a gentle way to force-feed the twentysomethings who desperately need to hear what this book says but who are resistant to anything that even subtly smacks of advice or self-help.

I also think this book is a great resource for older adults—parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, mentors—with a twentysomething in their lives. It has certainly helped me reframe my conversations with young adults.

(Go here for more information about the book and the authors)

FOR THE RECORD, IN EXCHANGE FOR THIS REVIEW I RECEIVED THIS BOOK FROM NAVPRESS.

 

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Baby Okra and Peanut Stir Fry

Like okra, but not a fan of slime? Here are my three tips to keep slime to a minimum: 1) Stir fry over as high a temperature as possible. 2) Use tender baby okra (if you can find them). 3) Keep the okra whole instead of slicing them.

This recipe uses all three tips :) It goes well  with pretty much any Indian meal. But I like it best with rice flavored with fried onions and cumin and a big bowl of dhal (lentils). I’ll post my quick InstantPot recipes of both next week.

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1/4 cup oil (more or less)
6-8 curry leaves (optional)
2 packets of frozen baby okra*
1 large onion, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup grated coconut (fresh or dry)
1–2 tsp sambhar powder, depending on how spicy you want it (there are many brands; I use Sakthi or MTR)
salt to taste

In a heavy bottomed or non stick dutch oven, heat the oil till almost smoking hot. Add curry leaves, frozen okra, and salt. Stir till all of the okra is well coated with oil and salt. Cover. (Using a dutch oven provides the steam needed to zap the slime without making the okra mushy.)

Reduce heat to medium high. Stir every two or three minutes. Cook till water from frozen okra is evaporated. (The more oil you use, the quicker the process).

Add rest of the ingredients and cook uncovered, stirring every few minutes, till okra turns dark green and is slime-free.

* You may use mature, sliced okra that’s frozen–it just takes a bit longer to de-slime. If using fresh okra, begin with medium high heat and reduce to medium heat heat, and add rest of the ingredients when the fresh okra is half-cooked.

Review: Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid (Penguin Books)

exitwest-200x300From start to finish, the book reads like the rehearsed voice of a news reporter. It’s as if the author is telling you the story in real-time with little backstory or context.

You do your best to weave the story together with the pieces you have, with what’s happening right now, but without details of the past, the whys, and the hows. As a result, there are holes in the story! But that’s okay because you quickly realize that what’s missing isn’t essential to the story. This could be anybody’s story—not just that of Nadia and Saeed.

This is a universal story is about people surviving whatever life throws at them. Who the people are, where the story happens, and even why the events occur are immaterial. The story is about life requiring—no, demanding—that at every turn we make a choice and then face the consequences of those choices. Hence the need for a detached reporter-like voice at every scene merely telling the reader what the choices are, which one the character chooses, and what happens as a result of the choice.

But every now and then, the matter-of-fact voice is broken by profound and painful truths. Here’s an example:

“That is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.”

As the story progresses, I found the authors’s voice grow tired and cold, like someone who has given up on possibilities. The change is so gradual that you almost forget that this is fiction, that Mohsin Hamid has complete control over the characters, the story, and even the ending. Instead you feel like the author has no choice in the storytelling because it is truth.

The storytelling is simply masterful.

Besides his superb storytelling, Hamid’s treatment of themes in the book—such as the plight of refugees—is raw with universal relevance. The story begins with Nadia losing her family for her independence, and that pattern of losing something to gain something else continues to the end.

“There was no good option for either of them. There was risk to each.”

Hamid’s treatment of life and death is clinical and also matter-of-fact. In the world of Nadia and Saeed, the possibility of death coming through a window is just as likely as death by cancer. Life is really the cancer, the death

Most all reviews of the book include the symbolism of doors. So I’m obliged to include it as well. Everything about the doors represents the uncertainty of life—from the blackness of the door to the fact that there’s nothing on the outside of the door to clue you into to what’s on the other side. There are no guarantees. Not knowing tomorrow from today makes life simultaneously feel like the beginning and the end. To pass from one moment to another is like both like dying and being born.

The book’s philosophical solution to the inevitability of uncertainty is this: With every new beginning, there is loss—and with that loss, you often lose a part of yourself. And if you’re not willing to fill that void with something else, discontentment brews.

Chickpea Croquettes

I usually make my croquettes with leftovers–rice, beans, soy meat and whatever else I can find in the refrigerator. I also usually bake my croquettes. But this evening I didn’t have the time to bake; besides, my leftovers had disappeared.

So, I created this new recipe. I deep-fried these to save time–which means ten times the calories,  but also means at least triple the deliciousness.chick-pea-croquettes

 

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and coarsely processed with 1/2 cup water
1  1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup veggie burger (Sanitarium Casserole Mince or Worthington Vegeburger*)
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix together. Shape into 3-inch logs. Deep fry till golden. I served mine with garlic stir-fried asparagus,  mashed potatoes, and  gravy.

*Morningstar Crumbles work well too. But they contain some egg white

Review: On the Block, by Doug Logan (Moody Publishers)

9780802414724The subtitle of this book is strung along the bottom of the cover, like an afterthought, almost as if the author doesn’t want to scare off the reader :)

So first take a good look at the cover: Visualize your home and church in that urban grid. Read the title (and subtitle) and think on it. Let it all sink in for a long minute. And if you feel even the slightest of stirring in your heart, I urge you to read this book from cover to cover!

This book is about empowering people is to be disciples after Jesus’ own heart—a people who live the gospel in their broken neighborhoods. In a culture where only 17% of churchgoers have heard about the Great Commission and also know what that means, we need more resources, more motivation, more examples of living our faith in our everyday lives.

Doug Logan draws from lessons learned from his church’s experience in a neighborhood plagued by drug abuse, violence, and poverty. This book is full of real-life examples of what works and what doesn’t, of what happens when the “church’s mission engagement [is] infused with true compassion.”

Chapter 12, for example, outlines missional living like this: Missional living must be  . . .

  • intentional
  • developed
  • natural
  • networked
  • bathed in prayer

Applying the his principles, One of the things Logan’s church did was buy dilapidated houses, fix them up, and have church members move right into the neighborhood —enabling the church to truly be part of the fabric of the city. Of this he says:

We adapt and adjust to the community around us. We will get pushed past our comfort and color zone. But in our discomfort we know God is at work. We do life in our community soul-food spots and alongside the cool older man who fixes cars for cheap. I get my candy and chips regularly from the corner store, and the store owner knows me. He speaks Spanish to me, calling me papito and I call him papi! On the block we say, “We up in here!” As believers we desire to be received by the residents in our city. We want to know our neighbors and we are committed to living amongst them as friends and sons of God (p. 151).

Logan challenges every church to be “barrier breaking, aggressive, faithful, fearless evangelists who want Jesus in the hearts and on the lips of all people.”

Get the book and accept the Great Commission today.

For the record, I received this book from Moody Publishers for this review.

Ragi Roti and Rajma Pyaz (Finger Millet Flatbread and Kidney Beans)

If you’re looking for healthful recipes, it doesn’t get better than this: this meal is vegan, gluten-free, and carb-free—with (possible) zero weight watcher freestyle points.

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RAJMA PYAZ  

Unlike most Indian recipes for Rajma beans, this one doesn’t use red chili powder or turmeric. The main dominant flavor is onion (pyaz). This is big batch of beans. Without the turmeric this dish doesn’t have the Indian curry taste to it. So I save the leftovers to use as my base for a taco salad.

Ingredients:
2 tsp—1/4 cup, oil (obviously, the less you use, the better it is for you; and the more you use, the tastier it is too)
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 Tbsp pressed garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 Tbsp coriander powder
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 green chillies, finely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 cup chopped cilantro
3-4 cans red kidney beans, rinsed
salt to taste
2 tsp garam masala (every brand has its unique taste. This is the one I used)
1/8th cup dry fenugreek leaves (optional–called Kasthuri Methi at Indian Grocers)
1 Tbsp butter (optional)
1/2 cup fried onions (optional–I use the Indian variety because there isn’t as much batter; but you could use French’s too )

Heat as much or as little oil you want in a deep pot. Add cumin and stir for about 30 seconds. Add fresh onions and cook till every so slightly brown. (If you’re leaving out the oil, cook the cumin and onion in a little of the stock/water till slightly mushy.)

With heat on medium, add ginger and garlic. Stir for about a minute. Add fresh tomato and tomato paste, green chillies, half of the stock/water, and half of the cilantro. Cover and cook till tomatoes are soft and well cooked. Mash them up a bit.

Add beans, the rest of the stock/water, fenugreek leaves and the garam masala. If you like more of a gravy, use three cans of beans (I use four cans). Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until it’s as thick as you like it–stir occasionally. Stir in the remaining cilantro. Cook for another 2 minutes. Turn off the stove, and add butter and fried onions.

RAGI ROTI

Note: If these don’t turn out soft the first time, experiment with the heat setting on your stove till you get the magical one that’s right for the griddle you’re using. Even without butter or olive oil, mine were soft enough to roll into a burrito. I got 8 rotis.

Ingredients:
1 dry measuring cup of water (Don’t use a liquid measuring cup because the ratio for water:flour is based on volume)
1 tsp oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 dry measuring cup of ragi (finger millet) flour
olive oil or butter (optional)

Bring water, oil, and salt to a boil.

Do this next step as quickly as possible (This all should take less than a minute): Turn down the stove as low as possible, add the flour to the boiling water, give it a quick stir, take off the stove, and keep stirring it all comes together in a Play Doh-like textured ball.

Cover the dough and let it rest for about five minutes. Pinching out about 1/8th cup or less of dough, use dry ragi flour and roll out as thin as possible. Keep the dough covered. Cook on a cast iron or non-stick griddle as you would whole wheat chapatis or roti–There are many videos on YouTube on how to cook roti. Here’s one–watch the last two minutes.

While still warm, lightly spread some olive oil or butter on one or both sides. (I didn’t use any on mine)

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Death Row Granny and Me

One sleepless night while shamelessly googling myself, I found my name in  . . .

wait for it . . .

murderpedia.com.

(Until then, I didn’t even know that was a thing.) And that’s not what I expected to find!

An excerpt of what I had written so long ago that I don’t even remember writing it is quoted in the entry for Velma Barfield, aka Death Row Granny. Here it is:

In 1978 Velma Barfield was arrested for murdering four people, including her mother and fiance. She was on death row, confined in a cell by herself. One night a prison guard tuned into a 24-hour Christian radio station.

Down the gray hall, desperate and alone in her cell, Velma listened to the gospel message and accepted Jesus as her Saviour. The outside world began to hear about Velma Barfield and how she had changed.

During the six years she was on death row she ministered to many of her cellmates. Many were touched by the sadness of her story and the sincerity of her love for Christ as well as the beauty of her Christian witness in that prison. Just before her execution, Velma wrote “I know the Lord will give me dying grace, just as He gave me saving grace, and has given me living grace.”

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” On earth Velma Barfield paid the price for her crimes. The hideous nature of sin is that while we can be forgiven them and freed from them, we, like Velma Barfield, must still face the consequences of our sins. At least until Christ returns, sin is here to stay.

Sin cannot be eradicated. And for being born into this world, each of us has a price to pay. This does not mean that we receive a death sentence the moment we are born. Although we cannot avoid the consequences of our sins, in Jesus we can overcome them. At the judgment hall, Jesus’ blood washes away our sins and clothes us in His righteousness. [Fylvia Fowler Kline is assistant director of the Stewardship Department for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists]*

*I left that position in 2001

Here is Barfield before her execution in 1984: