Avocado Toast

Ever looking for something fairly light, healthy, and low(er) in calories for breakfast? OR, ever trying to save money at an expensive restaurant? The first time I had “avocado toast” was at a ritzy ocean-view hotel in coastal Florida, where everything on the menu was at least twice as pricey as I was used to, and avocado toast ranked with oatmeal at the bottom of the price barrel. Since I love avocados and had never seen this item on a menu, I tried it. The taste was much more palatable than the price! 🙂

Sooner or later, all these “new” ideas creep from the coasts inland and find their way onto Michigan menus, and recently when I was having breakfast out with a friend, trying the new Morning Belle Restaurant, I noticed avocado toast on their menu. Amidst the potpourri of extravagant (and certainly highly fattening) delectable dishes, this seemed like a very humble, relatively healthy option, and so I ordered it. It is tasty, pretty, and light, but paying $9 for one slice of toast with an egg and some veggies somehow hurts my Scottish heart, and so I decided to make up my own version. For any of you who wish to be avant-garde in your hospitality without costing an arm and a leg, try this!

Avocado Toast at the Morning Belle Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Avocado Toast
Makes one

Prepare your veggies:
2 sliced grape tomatoes (or chop up a Roma tomato)
Wash and chop a few spinach leaves
Peel and slice an avocado in half, and then slice in thin pieces to make a fan

Fry one egg in butter ((or poach in water). I happened to fry up a little ham too . . .

While your egg is poaching, toast your toast (whatever kind you like) and butter it well. I spread mine with a thin layer of mayonnaise for added zest, but that would be unnecessary.

Assemble:
Toast (the more classic is white or wheat, but raisin adds an extra touch of interest)


Avocado, spread out like a fan to cover most of the toast: drizzle with lemon juice and salt lightly
Add spinach and cherry tomatoes
Top with egg
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar

P.S.—This is a pretty mild dish, so if you want the flavors to pop a little more, add a touch of tabasco sauce! Also, it’s a very light dish, so if you want a little more substance, you can add some breakfast meat and fresh fruit (such as I did).

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (Psalm 119:24).

A Million and Ten Thousand Flowers

If you live in the Grand Rapids area and haven’t experienced Rebecca Louise Law’s “The Womb” exhibit at Meijer Garden, I want to encourage you to take time to visit before this spectacular artistic creation ends on March 1.*

What is it? An entire gallery filled with a million flowers and plants from Rebecca’s personal collection plus ten thousand botanic treasures gleaned from Meijer Garden, all dried and strung from the ceiling in delicate chains on tiny copper wires.

Why? To give you an intimate and immersive experience of feeling like you’re personally enveloped in a warm cocoon . . . complete with the comforting sound of a beating heart.

In Rebecca Louise Law’s own words: “I like to capture and treasure small beautiful natural objects to create an artwork that can be observed without the pressure of time. Preserving, treasuring, celebrating and sharing the beauty of the Earth with the world is what drives me.”

And, who is Rebecca Law? She’s a British installation artist—born in 1980, grew up in a little village in the U.K, and studied at Newcastle University’s School of Arts and Cultures in England.

(As a fun side note, my daughter-in-law Gerlinde also studied at Newcastle University about the same time!) Law has exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Academy of Arts and the V&A (all in London) as well as in galleries in NYC, San Francisco, Athens, France, etc.

So, this is a young and upcoming internationally acclaimed artist with a heart for beauty and nature . . . and the warmth of the womb, exquisitely portrayed through blown glass and paintings which compliment her sublimely sensual experience (in the best possible way) of being encompassed in a womb of flowers.

As I wandered through the quiet beauty, I felt more than anything a silent witness to the sanctity and miraculous nature of life. And death. The natural flow from life to death in the drying flowers.

I tried to imagine 1,010,000 flowers all fresh and alive with color and fragrance. Can you imagine?

Visiting “The Womb” Exhibit at Meijer Garden with my brother

Although I’ve been back repeatedly and taken all my favorite family and friends who’ve visited since the exhibit opened last September, it wasn’t until last weekend—strolling through the halls with Alan—that we realized he’d somehow missed seeing this exhibit!

We’d been there the weekend before and meandered through all the snow-covered gardens outside.

We’d visited Meijer Garden with the family at December when we admired all the Christmas trees adorned so brightly with ornaments from countries around the world.

How was it possible that he’d missed seeing this stunning exhibition? We had to walk right past the door into the art gallery on every visit, where the name of the latest exhibit is proclaimed clearly on the wall.

Is it possible that you—like Alan—are walking right past the door to a wonderful opportunity every day of your life without taking time to read the signs or explore the goodness within? It’s so easy to focus on what we know and already enjoy without taking time to look around. In this world of distractions and time measured mechanically rather than spiritually, are you missing out?

God is a God of abundance and joy, which He offers to each of us. Jesus taught in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The psalmist also reflected this thought in the Old Testament: “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).

Looking Up from Inside “The Womb”

Although I think for many of us (at least in America), trusting under the shadow of God’s wings often leads to physical abundance, it doesn’t always. I don’t believe in a “wealth gospel.” However, I firmly believe in a gospel that brings spiritual abundance: “They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).

Notice what is abundant here: goodness and righteousness. If you want a life blessed by an abundance of goodness, righteousness, and the pleasures that flow from a life lived in the light of God’s presence, then please, please put your trust in God, our refuge and fortress, and in his Son, Jesus, our Lord and our Savior!

A Photo I Took Trying to Capture the Feel of Being Inside R.L. Law’s “The Womb”

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2).

Painting by Rebecca Louise Law

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).

*This exhibit has been running since September and will continue through February until Sunday, March 1.

If you go Sunday, March 1, it will be super crowded, but you will also be able to experience the first day of “Butterflies are Blooming” in the conservatory, which is always like a gulp of springtime air for winter-weary hearts. So, if you don’t mind crowds, that would be another excellent option. Also, the first photo is from Meijer Garden’s website. The rest are mine, taken at Meijer Garden.

Creation with Apparent Age

Is the world really 6024± years old (as Young Earth Creationist Christians believe), or 6000± years old (as estimated by many Muslims), or 5780 years old (according to Jewish calculations), or 4.5 billion (±50 million years old according to current scientific theory)? No matter how people put the evidence together, no one can definitively establish the exact “when” or “how” the earth was created, but I heard a message last Sunday at church which made so much sense to me that I want to share it with you. (If you have time to hear the entire message [“Creation” presented on January 5, 2020], it can be found here: https://calvarygr.org/).

Pastor Jim used the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine to illustrate several things about creation. In John 2:7-8, Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water and take them to the master of ceremonies of the wedding dinner. Within moments, the water had turned into such excellent wine that the M.C. thought it was better than anything else he’d tasted. When did the water turn into wine? Nobody really knows, but it was obviously a miracle, and somehow Jesus accomplished it. Also, the wine was only minutes old, but it appeared to be properly aged (which Jim said in those days would have been between one-two years). Likewise, God could have created the earth with the appearance of age no matter how old it actually is.

Jim also pointed out that the servants didn’t get in a fight with the M.C. over how old the wine was or try to prove anything to him. They recognized the miracle, along with Mary and perhaps a few others, but most of the people at the dinner party—including the man responsible for providing the feast—probably had no idea where the wine came from. If a team of scientists had been summoned to study the situation, they would have concluded that the wine must have been produced over the course of the past several years, because that’s what the evidence would indicate. Humility and prayer—not arrogance and arguments—should characterize Christians.

The age of the earth is not worth fighting about, and those of us who believe that God created the earth are never going to be able to “prove” God created the earth any more than scientists can “prove” that it began with a big bang 13.7 billion years ago. The origin of the universe has been revealed to us as a spiritual truth in the Bible, but God has chosen to leave some of the specifics as a mystery, just as Jesus did not explain how he turned the water into wine. What we can trust as reliable is the Genesis record concerning the process of creation. This can be beautifully harmonized with what scientists are discovering and theorizing about the origins of the universe. (If you’re interested, check out this post on Francis Collins, the head of America’s National Institute of Health: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2019/01/29/do-you-know-the-language-of-god/ ).

As Christians, our job is to believe what the Bible teaches, humbly recognizing that we (I—you—any of us) probably do not have a perfect understanding of what it says today. Let’s not fight about it! When we get to heaven, we will know the Truth completely, but until then, we each have a part of the truth and some blind spots and errors in our thinking. God calls us to peace and grace!

I have no trouble believing the world could have been made in six 24-hour days, but I also know God created light and dark before the sun and moon, and “nights” and “days” were counted before there was a sun to count off 24 hours. So, the “day” and “night” could also indicate the beginning and ending of a period of time, such as “the Day of the Lord” as mentioned in Zacheriah 14:1, which is obviously a time of judgment, not a 24-hour period.

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” 1511. Public Domain

Imagine if you were God, trying to communicate the origins of the universe to people. How would you explain it? To me, God speaking the world into existence is completely compatible with the “Big Bang,” and the creation of life on various “days” can be perfectly harmonized with the idea of eras of evolutionary development. In Hebrews 11:3 we learn that “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The deeper science delves into trying to understand what this world is made of, the more it appears that it’s made out of energy—something that is invisible! “All things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17). God, the self-existent one, created and sustains the universe, and nothing scientists find contradicts this fact, although neither can science prove this fact. God is God; we are his beloved creations, and He has ordained that rather than “prove” our way into knowing God, we are to believe, trust, and love our way into knowing God.

Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are all rooted in faith. Faith takes humility. Faith requires us to surrender our hearts to God, accepting the mysterious and trusting Him to enlighten us in His time and way. I hope as we move forward into 2020, we will keep our eyes focused on God . . . looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our created universe, each one of us, and of our faith. Rather than worry about the whens and hows, may we accept the beauty of mystery and put our trust in the everlasting arms of God, so that with the Apostle Paul, we can know “the unsearchable riches of Christ . . . the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:8-9).

Earth, as seen from Apollo 17, 1972. Public Domain

How Great Thou Art
(Carl Boberg, translated into English and added to by Stuart K. Hine)

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the *worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the *rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Refrain

And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Refrain

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, My God, how great thou art!

How Great Thou Art, sung by Carrie Underwood

Time Mirror

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:23-25).

Joel's Cottage Pie

Our family has been savoring “Shepherd’s Pies” and “Cottage Pies” ever since we first started visiting England years ago, and our son Joel has really perfected his rendition, so I’ve asked if I could share it with you today. It’s the perfect “comfort food” for a cold winter’s night!

Cottage Pie can really be a meal-in-one, although we normally serve it with some sides (such as you see here, from the last time he served it at home). Last Wednesday he made it again as his offering for a fellowship dinner with his church “life group” (prayer meeting; small group . . .) However you cut it, it’s always a hit!

Joel’s Savory Cottage Pie
(8-12 Servings)

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Preheat oven to 400F.

1.5 pounds of potatoes, scrubbed and cut into pieces. Boil until tender.
Brown 1 pound of ground beef in skillet.
Chop 1 onion, 1 carrot, and 4 oz mushrooms. Add to browned beef. Cook until vegetables are tender.
Add 1 cup frozen peas.
Lower heat. Add 3 tablespoons of flour to meat/vegetables, stirring until thickened.
Add:
3/4 cup beef stock (or 1 bouillon cube + 3/4 cup water)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Pinch of allspice to the meat/vegetables. Stir until combined.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mash potatoes with 2–4 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup half and half.
Put meat/vegetables in the bottom of a casserole pan. Cover completely with mashed potatoes. Use a fork to give the potatoes texture.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400°F. on top rack until the potatoes start to brown on top.

Now, the only difference between “Cottage Pie” and “Shepherds Pie” is that Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb rather than ground beef. We’ve found that ground lamb is a rarer commodity in America, so we usually make cottage pie, but if you can find ground lamb and want to be more authentically English, try it with lamb too sometime for a special occasion. Both ways taste really delicious! 🙂

Individual serving of Shepherd’s Pie on a ship cruising the North Atlantic

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). Have you listened to Handel’s Messiah yet this Christmas? We just attended it last weekend. The Messiah is a majestic, musical retelling of the story of Jesus, the great Shepherd who died for all of us and wants us to become part of his flock. How? Simply by asking. By praying something like this: “Dear Jesus, I believe that you are the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. I know that I have sinned and need a savior. I am sorry for all the ways in which I have failed in the past—and for the times I still selfishly choose evil over good. Please forgive me, save me, and become my Lord and my Savior. Thank you for being willing to save me and make me your child. Please lead me in the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Amen.”