Sunday, June 26, 2011

Elsie G. Roe

Did you ever feel a connection with a stranger—someone you will never meet, someone long dead? I feel connected to Elsie G. Roe.

A few days ago I received a book I had ordered from one of those Amazon book resellers. The book is rather yellow and worn but I think it only cost me one cent over the shipping cost. It was written in 1969 by Clarence Jordan, a preacher, biblical scholar, and proponent of social and economic justice. This charming book (The Cotton Patch Version of Luke and Acts) is one of a series of Clarence Jordan’s versions of books of the New Testament, translated into a rural Southern vernacular.

Inside the front cover of the book is a bookplate—an etched drawing of an owl—and underneath is written, “from the books of Elsie G. Roe.” And tucked between the pages of the book I found two aging color photographs. One is a photo of three women standing in front of a large barn/garage structure. The second photo is of two women, a teenaged girl, and baby. One of the women is in both photos—I figure it must be Elsie Roe.

She is a stout woman with an ample bosom, a sweet smile, and over-sized glasses. In one of the photos she is wearing an unfortunate print turtleneck, a navy blue vest, and navy blue pants. The vest has five wooden buttons but Elsie has only buttoned a single button in the center and she has some papers stuffed in the front pocket. It was probably the 70s and I don’t think Elsie cared much about fashion. But there’s something about Elsie, something that compelled me to find out more about her.

Elsie Gertrude Roe died in 2003 at age 83 in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a graduate of a Bible college, a retired practical nurse, the widow of a Methodist minister, a mother, and grandmother. Her obituary says that “. . . she gave her heart to the Lord at a very early age and continued to live a Christian life.”

But here’s why I feel connected to Elsie Roe—this old used book of hers has phrases and passages underlined in red or highlighted in yellow. Reading the pages she read, knowing something about her, and seeing what she thought was important intrigues me. For example, from Acts 7:44:

“Now David got the idea of putting up a more plush sanctuary for the God of Jacob, but Solomon actually built it. But—THE ALMIGHTY DOES NOT LIVE IN MAN-MADE BUILDINGS.”

Or from Acts 10:23:

“All right, but as for me, God has made it plain as day to me that I’m never to think of any man as inferior or no good.”

I’m guessing Elsie Roe was a good woman.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

His strength

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." Ephesians 6:10

Funny thing how God seems to pound on my door sometimes, telling me exactly what I need to hear at exactly the right time. Yesterday I wrote about the things that give me strength. At church today the sermon made me focus on the source of strength, bringing me to acknowledge that any strength I may have comes from God.

Our pastor was giving us an introduction to the “Whole Armor of God” section of Ephesians. I’ve read this before, but never before was I so convicted.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:13

Indeed I have witnessed firsthand the evil in this world. An evil man murdered my brother on April 3rd. The thought that evil exists is no longer an abstraction, a theory to me—it is a hard reality. I have seen the “evil day” of which Paul writes. But I also know where to find the strength to withstand the evil. I know that without my faith in God I am simply not equipped to overcome this horrible knowledge. The strength is not mine but His.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Things carried

"Think about the things you carry,” he said to me a few days ago. So I’m thinking.

It was my counselor who challenged me with this assignment. He’s the pastoral counselor I’ve been seeing in the past few weeks since my brother was murdered. I’m just trying to sort out some things, to come to grips with my brother’s death, which for me was the latest and most horrific in a series of losses.

My most immediate thought was The Things They Carried, the gut-wrenching, beautifully written novel about the war in Vietnam by Tim O’Brien. In this book the author details the things that the infantrymen carried through the jungle—rifles and ammunition, communication equipment and mess kits, as well as letters from home and photographs. But these things that the troops carried are symbolic of their emotional burdens—fear, grief, love and longing, guilt, and an increasing alienation from their former lives back home.

Obviously the counselor is not asking me to think about the things I carry literally—not my purse and my calendar and my water bottle—but the things I carry figuratively. Some of the things I carry serve a purpose, they help me survive. I need a decent amount of fear to protect myself physically. I need a modicum of financial concern to keep a roof over my head, food in the pantry, and gasoline in my car. Just because I’m human I feel grief when I lose someone important to me. I love my children and grandchildren and don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop worrying about them or wanting to protect them—it’s just what mothers do. Yes, I feel remorse about things I have done and things I have failed to do, but I also realize that no amount of guilt will rewind time and let me relive the past. Yes, I sometimes fear the future. I fear facing future losses, I fear sickness and pain, I fear old age and loneliness. I fear anxiety, depression, and dependence. I wish I didn’t carry those fears but I don’t know how to put them aside.

Mostly I’m trying to focus on things like resilience, wonderful friends and family, creativity, and faith—these are the things I carry that make me strong.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chocolate-covered bbq potato chips

Don't ever accuse me of being a serious food writer.

I had a brainstorm. I have a slight addiction to barbeque potato chips. I was in the grocery store noticing all things coated in chocolate—pretzels and nuts and celery sticks. I’m lying about the celery sticks. It made me wonder why no one made chocolate-covered potato chips, then I took the idea one step further to imagine chocolate-covered barbeque potato chips.

So I googled the term “chocolate-covered bbq potato chips” and found that, yes indeed others have had the same idea. There’s nothing new under the sun. There are recipes that detail the process for making a chip-specific chocolate sauce with instructions on how to dip the chips (with tongs!) in the sauce. Some claim that you should use rippled chips—probably a good idea because it seems you would need a hearty chip to stand up to the chocolate sauce.

If you don’t want to make your own, there are websites for gourmet food producers that sell chocolate-covered chips by the pound. (For example, see Some put the chips in fancy little boxes and some add a little squiggle of white chocolate. Why didn’t I think of the white chocolate squiggle? Someone is always a couple of steps ahead of me.

I suppose I could make a bittersweet chocolate ganache in which to dip the chips. Or I could order a couple of pounds online. Or I could try one of the recipes. Or maybe I could just buy a jar of good hot fudge sauce, heat it in the microwave, and serve with barbeque potato chips. Rippled, of course.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chicken burgers

Question: Is a burger a burger if there is no beef involved? I don't know the answer to that question. But here's a variation on my infamous Greek Turkey Burgers. The turkey burgers have spinach and feta cheese in them. I wondered how it would work to use sun-dried tomatoes in a turkey burger. Then I ditched the ground turkey (because I just don't like turkey that much) in favor of ground chicken. This worked out pretty well. Next time I think I'll substitute Parmesan cheese or perhaps mozarella for the feta and do an Italian spice instead of Greek. Quick, easy, healthy. See what you think.

Chicken Burgers with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 pound ground white meat chicken
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, diced
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a bowl mix ground chicken, beaten egg, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and Greek seasoning. Form into 4 or 5 patties.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet then saute burgers until brown, about 5 minutes per side.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Call me crazy, but I’m being re-baptized on Sunday. I tried to get excused from the public baptism ceremony by telling Pastor Mark that I was a precocious infant and I knew what I was doing when I was baptized the first time at two months of age. It didn’t work. I’m not comfortable being in the limelight but still I’m doing the full-tilt dunking thing in the presence of others. In addition to being videotaped (whine . . .) I need to make a brief profession of faith. So I’m trying to pull together my thoughts on faith—not just any faith, but my faith. Here’s what I’m thinking.

Until recently I thought of faith as an exercise in will—if I choose to believe and then act as if I believe and pray to believe, then I will believe. But in truth, that is a rather egocentric view of faith. If I believe scripture, then I was chosen by God to believe, rather than the other way around. In a sense I’m still hanging on to my will, my ego, when I say that my choosing to believe makes it so, for it was God’s will—not mine—that put the choosing on my heart.

I was a little Catholic girl and was baptized as an infant. I sort of always believed in God—more from a distance than in a personal way. Several years ago I was visiting my son in Seattle and we went his Acts 29 church there. The pastor was preaching from Ephesians. He said that we are not saved by good works, but by faith. What?!! Then why had I been so concerned about good works, why had I been doing all that rote prayer for so many years, thinking I was solely responsible for praying myself and everyone else into heaven? The pastor said that we should take that knowledge—that by grace we have been saved because Jesus has already atoned for our sins—and have fun, be joyful. It was a huge revelation to me. I had always felt that I would never be good enough to merit salvation. And then, right there in scripture, in God’s own words, I could see that I was off the hook. I realized that I needed to pay attention to scripture and understand what God was telling us directly, not to rely on someone else’s interpretation. I realized it was not my job to earn salvation, that I didn’t have to be perfect, that all I had to do was to believe in Him and act accordingly.

I chose to know God directly and personally. I chose the joyful route.