Saturday, April 29, 2017
Thursday, November 21, 2013
- 3/4 cup Kosher salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 gallon water
- 1/4 cup coarse black pepper
try to avoid acidic liquids. You can substitute some or all of the water with whatever your heart desires. Wine, beer, fruit juices (apple is especially good), or vinegars all make good liquid base for your brine.
spice, sweetener, fruit, vegetable will work; let your imaginations run wild!
Think of a brine as a soup, there can be a lot of complexity in soup or just simple ones.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
It's an odd pilgrimage, but a pilgrimage none the less.
While on a bike ride on father's day this year, I made a decision. I was doing some remembering while I enjoyed the solace of the rode and decided that I needed to make this trip. After years of sitting next to my dad in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, and knowing his love for LSU sports, I needed to be in the stadium for the first home game.
My dad had season tickets for LSU Football for as long as I can remember. My mother was happy and relieved when I "came of age" and could take the seat next to my dad. It's not that she doesn't enjoy LSU Football, she just isn't as excited about the warm, humid, crowded nights in Tiger Stadium as some.
I love it.
With the exception of the years that I was a student at LSU, and thus enjoying the cheap seats in the student section, I was my dad's "plus one" if you will. Saturday nights were ours. We'd make the trek to the stadium, grab a bite to eat and then head for the seats in time to see the team warm up. The tradition runs deep in Tigerland and I was happy to be a part of it.
I left Baton Rouge in 1996 and my brother inherited the seat. I still made it back for a game when possible and would reclaim "my seat". There's nothing like the place, the tradition, the purple and gold bond between father and son. That love for LSU sports was the biggest common interest my dad and I shared and it came from him as assuredly as any genetic trait written into my dna at conception. It's more than a team loyalty, it's a heritage. My dad and I both attended classes in these halls, walked these grounds, lived on this campus and enjoyed the shade of these majestic oaks. This place is a part of us and for as long as I can remember, it's where my dad was on any Saturday when the tigers played at home.
My relationship with my dad had its awkward moments. Like any son struggling to find an identity out from under his father's shadow, I drifted away for a while. My dad was my baseball coach for much of my teen years and I played his old position. That can put a strain on a relationship. Still, we survived. In fact, years later I had the pleasure of playing church softball on the same team as my dad. He may have been 20 plus years older than me but he could still hit the ball and run the bases. Come to think of it, he would have been about the age I am now, so I shouldn't be surprised.
My dad was artistic, musical, athletic, dry witted, loved a good western, a trip to the theater and Andy Griffith. These are all things we had in common but many of our best conversations involved LSU sports. So the trip back home for this first home game of the year felt less like a nice thing to do and more like something I needed to do. It was a little like those movies where someone has to make a trip to some mystical place to scatter the ashes of a loved one. Only there were no ashes to scatter, just a need to represent. And so I did.
My brother, who now holds the season tickets, joined me early enough to visit the cemetery on the way to the game. We shared a few stories, laughed a little and then headed to the stadium. We arrived early enough to grab lunch at the student union and watch a few of the early games on the big screens and I took some time to walk the campus alone. The place is full of echoes. So many memories. We grabbed dinner at Louie's (more echoes) and then headed for our seats. The traditions were the same as ever. The game was an easy walk for the Tigers. But it wasn't really about the game. It was about honoring my dad's memory.
The Tigers have gone on to have an historic season. Right now they are 11-0 and ranked #1 in the country with only Arkansas standing between them and a trip to the SEC Championship. My dad would have loved the season and been nervous about every game. There have been many times this year that I've found myself missing him on game day and thinking how proud of his team he'd be. The Alabama game would have made him a wreck and I think the idea of a rematch for the national championship would have made him feel the same way I do. I'd rather not.
Today would have been my parent's 50th wedding anniversary and I'm back home once again. Tonight we'll take my mom to dinner and tomorrow I'll smoke the turkey for thanksgiving. I already feel the empty spot. He'll be missed at the table, but more in other places. The corner chair where he sat to read the paper has been moved. The yard is nicely kept but when I look out it just feels empty. There's no garden.
Honestly it feels like the empty space gets bigger the more I look around, I also know that it won't always be this way. Yes, with time the absence will be less strongly felt. But that's not what gives me comfort. The comfort comes in knowing that my dad was also a man of faith. He placed his life in the hands of Jesus years ago and is in His presence now. Someday we'll all join him and the others who have gone before us and in that place there will be no loss or longing. In the words of the old hymn, "When we all get together, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory."
Dad, save me a seat.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
It had a different angle then, but today is the day I need to finish it.
I need to finish it because it’s been sitting unfinished for too long, because I need something to do right now and because, in some ways, I’ve circled back around to this spot.
First, the blog as it began…
It happened very quickly and quite unexpectedly.
I was getting ready for an interview with an artist, just going over some very simple “ice-breaker” questions that could be used in a “speed round”. Sometimes when I’m writing the questions I’ll imagine the artist’s response or think about how I might answer that same question. Usually I’m just trying to see if the question works in the flow of a speed round or if it’s a question that lends itself to digging deeper and would be better suited in another part of the interview. This time I came upon the question, “What is your fondest childhood memory?” I thought for a second about how I might respond.
That’s when it happened.
Ambushed … by my own emotions.
I’m not a typically emotive person. It’s not that I’m cold or that I’m not in touch with my feelings. I’m just what some would call a “Steady Eddy”. I don’t usually swing from highs to lows, I’m just … steady. If I were a climate I’d best be described as “temperate”. Yet here I was flooded with long forgotten feelings and a profound sadness.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I burst into tears or found myself sobbing. In fact, I didn’t shed a tear. I was just sad.
So what was the source of the ambush? Where had these feelings been hiding, waiting for their chance to strike?
Oddly enough, they were lurking in my fondest childhood memories.
It started innocently enough. I was remembering Sunday dinners after church at my grandparents’ house. My paternal grandparents lived right across the street from us and my dad’s would all gather at their house on Sunday afternoon. My dad’s three brothers and his sister, all their spouses and children were there for a glorious feast. Every week it was the same. Roast beef, potato salad (with sweet pickles, not dill … and no onion), lima beans and snap beans fresh from my grandpa’s garden and homemade ice cream. My grandmother made the ice cream. She didn’t use an ice cream maker. She created a vanilla cream, some would say almost custard , and poured it into empty metal ice trays with the squares removed. Then she placed it in the freezer until it was ready.
That’s where the original blog entry stopped.
I’ve meant to get back to it several times, but the busyness of life has gotten in the way.
This is the problem with me and blogs. It’s why I have had this blog for a few years and have all of, what, two entries up to now? There just always seems to be something else to do.
Today I was ambushed again and all of the busyness came to a screeching halt.
This time the source of the ambush was two little words. Ten characters if you typed them on a page or used them as an update on your twitter site.
Nine letters and a space. Nothing really, when taken alone.
World altering when put together.
Those were the words of the second phone call from my mom this morning.
The first call had been to let me know he’d had a massive heart attack and was on a ventilator.
The doctors worked feverishly, but to no avail.
So now I sit here pondering many of those same childhood memories.
There’s plenty of stuff I could be doing. It all seemed pretty pressing and important a few hours ago.
Now, not so much.
We’re finishing a radio dramatization of A Christmas Carol. We’ve already aired 2 segments but there’s still a lot of work to do before the production is finished.
I’m supposed to be leaving with a group of 23 to star in a Christmas production in South East Asia three days from now. I don’t see that happening.
Right now the only thing keeping me from just sitting and staring is capturing these thoughts on my laptop.
The twitter messages, emails, texts and facebook posts are coming in pretty steadily. I appreciate all the prayers and well wishes, but responses will have to wait a while. I just can’t right now.
Someday I’ll sit and record a few more of the memories from childhood. I’ll pick up where I left off when I started this blog.
Today, though, I’ll just treasure the memories instead.
It was a great childhood.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Later in life I did branch out. I enjoyed the occaisional Dr. Pepper or Root Beer (IBC in a cold bottle). I grew to appreciate Creme Soda and Mountain Dew but there's is still nothing quite like an ice cold coke in that 6.5 oz glass bottle.
So why am I waxing eloquent on my fondness for this caramel colored carbonated thirst quencher?
Because I can't have one and I want it.
"Ah", you're saying to yourself, "he's given up soft drinks for lent."
Growing up Southern Baptist, we never observed Lent and I still don't, technically.
What I have done is take the 40 Day Water Challenge from Blood:Water Mission. The challenge does fall within the season of lent, which I suppose is convenient for those who do observe it, but for me that's just coincedence.
What is the challenge? Simple. For 40 days my only beverage is water. No coffee (that hurts in the mornings and sometimes on these chilly winter evenings), no tea, lemonade, root beer, Dr. Pepper, creme soda or the real thing ... Coca-Cola. Then at the end of the 40 days the money I would have spent on beverages is donated to Blood:Water Mission's efforts to provide clean water projects for villages in Uganda.
So why take the challenge?
Obviously one is to raise a few dollars for Blood:Water Mission.
The other, which to me is the more important, is to enter in some small way into the sufferings of others.
You see the reason I like Coke, or for that matter coffee, is the taste. This 40 day challenge is a reminder to me that I have it easy. I can have a tasty carbonated beverage any time I want it with a simle drive to the nearest retailer or a quick stroll to the vending machine. But what if I lived where there were no tasty beverages? What if water was all I had and getting that might mean a long daily walk to a community well?
So since Feb 17th water has been my only beverage. I could fudge a bit, drink warm water with lemon or have a sparkling water to soothe that carbonation crave ... but I won't. Until April 3rd it's water.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
I first became interested in cycling back when Greg LeMond was making us proud, becoming the first american to win the Tour. Greg may have been as dominating as Lance Armstrong had it not been for a hunting accident. After seeing Greg, I spent several summer days on my old 12 speed leading the tour against an imaginary peleton that could never catch this young american rider!
Then, youth and passion faded and life, work and family took over.
It was several years before Lance reinvigorated interest in cycling in the US. The amazing story of this cancer survivor (given almost no chance to live, much less ride professionally again) beating cancer and returning to win the tour an astounding 7 times in a row, captured the hearts and imaginations of the country.
It was Lance's story that hooked me into watching the Tour. Without Lance, I doubt there would have been american TV coverage without the drama that Lance brought to the sport.
It was also right about this time that I was invited to pull the old 12 speed out and join the Focus on the Family "Bike Ride for the Family". We rode from New Braunfels, TX to Houston. Three days, about 240 miles.
It was my first long ride and I was hooked. Soon I was searching ebay for a "new" bike. I found a nice used Cannondale, made the move to clipless pedals (where the shoes actually clip right into the pedal) and started riding regularly.
I was able to ride Houston to Dallas the next year with Focus on the Family again and this year, helped organize the inagural "Ride for the Homeless" with The JOY FM. We rode from Brooksville to Bradenton in 2 days and had a great time. The ride was a mix of experienced riders and first timers, much like the Focus on the Family rides were. We had a few minor mishaps (Carmen going pedals over helmet - and breaking the helmet!) but no real injuries.
It was also the first ride for my youngest son, Daniel (genius #3). He had a tough first day (brake pad rubbing the wheel, gear shifter not working, strained back) and had to leave the ride after that first leg, but I think the bug has bit. He's still riding and wants to upgrade his bike and start clipping in. He's 16, athletic, slim - who knows, maybe he'll really catch the fire and I'll be watching the tour from a team car as my son leads the breakaway ...
Until then, I think I'll take a ride this afternoon. For a time it'll be me leading the tour again.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
We landed around noon and rented a car, located our hotel and headed for lunch. While we ate, our buddy Jim Houser called. Jim is Steven’s right hand man and had called our morning show earlier to give us an update on the family. I found out at lunch that we were one of four media outlets to whom the Chapman team talked. Jim had spent the morning chasing details and putting out fires. When he called us, he had just finished the family viewing. We invited him to join us and he readily accepted.
It was good to see him.
While we were there, the head of radio promotions for Steven’s record label called me. I’ve known Grant almost as long as I’ve known Steven. Grant joined us.
I don’t know if we offered much comfort, but the time was sweet.
Jim made sure we knew that there was a time set aside for just before the public viewing and he would make sure we were on that list. He wanted to make sure we got to see Steven. It would mean a lot to him that we made the trip.
We got to the church just before 4pm and the line was already stretched from the altar, where the entire Chapman family stood in front of the small white casket, (they shouldn’t come in that size) all the way up the aisle and into the lobby.
We took our place in line and began the slow, somber march toward a broken family. There were a number of pictures dotting the area around the casket and a 10 minute slideshow played silently and continuously on the big screens.
The room was so quiet and the mood was heavy as we all marched forward trying to think of the right thing to say. There is no “right thing”. There is only, “we’re so sorry and we are praying for you.”
Our time came and Mary Beth, Steven’s wife, was gracious, showing us the last picture they had taken of Maria. She was all dressed up and ready for her dance recital. A quick hug and she thanked us for being there.
On to Steven. I could see from his reaction that he was surprised we would come all this way, but glad we did. We embraced as old friends. This is why I flew 700 miles. This is what I have wanted to do since Wednesday night when we got the news of this terrible tragedy. “Thank you for coming”, Steven whispered. “How could I not?” I replied.
For a moment we just held each other. I wish I could say I eased some pain or gave some strength, but all I could really do was grieve with him, if only for a moment.
Too many still waiting.
Too many wanting to offer their condolences.
Too many waiting to “mourn with those who mourn.”
From Steven, I moved on to Caleb, the oldest brother, a strong young man with red-rimmed eyes. We talked about having just seen each other in Lakeland and I let him know he was in our prayers.
Next was Will. Where Caleb is reserved and artistic and introspective, Will is playful, adventurous and a bit harder to wrangle. Where Caleb may hold his emotions close to the vest, Will wears them on his sleeve. Steven and I had just talked about this a few weeks ago as we shared our experience of raising boys. Today, Will is a young man struggling to make sense of tragedy.
If you have ever seen any of the blogs by Will on Steven’s website, you know that it was Will who would be most likely to grab the three sisters and play games. He loves those girls with all he is.
Here, in front of that tiny white casket, he wears a pink blanket across his shoulders.
It’s Maria’s blanket.
He shifted nervously from foot to foot. He didn’t want to be there, but he had to be. Saying goodbye is not easy. I took his hand and let him know we were praying for him. I asked if he was okay. He nodded, unconvincingly and I resolved to pray harder.
Last in the line was Emily, the oldest daughter. She’s newly engaged and her fiancé stood at her side. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days. I’ve only met Emily once before and I told her about it. She was maybe 2 years old and sat on my wife, Emilie’s lap backstage at Reunion Arena in Dallas as her dad sang.
Steven and I have talked about her often and she has become quite a young woman.
I told her we’re praying and congratulated her on her engagement.
We met Tanner. I think this Cinderella has definitely found her prince.
After we made it through the line, we took a seat in the church. There wasn’t any reason to stay, but we just didn’t feel like leaving.
We watched the slide show, the line, the family.
Mark Hall of Casting Crowns came through the line with his wife Melanie. They were on the Music Boat Cruise when they heard the news. The boat docked Friday morning and they hopped a plane to be here. Mac Powell of Third Day made the same trip.
We sat for four hours watching the family accept condolences, hug, cry, hug more. Each of the kids took a short break or two, but Steven and Mary Beth would not.
Mark Hall and I talked about how tired they must be.
We talked about how many were here for the family.
We talked about how amazing Caleb and Emily were doing. I tried to imagine how my kids would react. Would they be so strong and mature?
Will just seemed vacant.
He’s not yet ready to feel the love and support.
He feels the loss, but I’m not sure he feels the love.
I’ll pray for each of them over the next several days, but for Will more fervently.
Eventually Carmen and I left with Mark and Melanie Hall.
Our buddy Josh, from Steven’s record label, and his wife Amy joined the four of us for dinner. We ate and talked. We talked about how difficult this is for us, but that we get to go back to normal. For the Chapman’s normal is a long way off.
Then, back to the hotel for a few hours sleep. I wondered how the Chapman’s were doing. Up to now they hadn’t been back to the house, they’d been staying with friends. Eventually they’ll have to go back. They’ll have to face the driveway and the empty room. More prayers.
Saturday morning. Sunshine and blue skies. The memorial service was set to start at 11. We left the hotel at 9:45 to meet Josh and Amy at the church at 10. When we arrived, the crowd was already arriving. We found a seat near the back and waited for Brian, another friend from the record label, to join us.
The church was silent as the pews filled. There were fewer pictures, but more flowers. The slide show was playing again.
About 10:45 Michael W. Smith sat at the piano and began to play softly. I recognized “How Great is our God” and others played beautifully in classic Smitty Style.
At 11am, the side door opened and the family, pall bearers and closest friends entered and were seated down front. Michael began to sing:
Hide me nowUnder your wings
Cover mewithin your mighty hand
When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God
Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know his power
In quietness and trust
After a prayer, Pastor Scotty Smith led us all in a responsive reading from the Heidelberg Catechism. It asks the question we’ve all been asking. “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” The answer? Basically, we are not our own. We belong to Christ and He causes all things to work for our good.
Matt Redman was in an airport in Atlanta getting ready to fly home to the UK when he heard the news of the tragedy. He left the airport and rented a car. He led us in worship. Nathan and Christy Knockles of Watermark were with him.
The words of “Blessed Be the Name” had never been so hard to sing. “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name”. Ironic that these words are taken from the very passage in Job I shared a little over a week ago after Pastor Forrest Pollack and his son were killed. Who knew they’d be hitting me again so soon.
I thought about Carmen. Two weekends, two funerals.
Matt ended the worship with a song he and Steven wrote for another family that lost a child not long ago. When he got to the bridge, “She’s safe in the arms of Jesus” it was almost too much. I watched as Caleb left his seat and held his brother, Will.
Will burried his head in Caleb’s shoulder.
I hope he was beginning to feel the love.
I hoped he was ready to begin to really mourn.
It’s through the mourning we find comfort.
Next the Chapman family and a few friends took the podium to share memories of Maria.
They were barefoot because this is holy ground.
Will still wore the pink blanket around his shoulders.
One of the ladies that helped watch the girls opened with some great memories of a little girl who loved to cup your face in her hands and look you in the eye. Who would often say, “I love it when my whole family is together.” Who loved to wash dishes and, since she didn’t have a spare outfit, would wash them butt naked in the sink.
More stories followed.
A theme developed.
Maria loved to cuddle, loved to play, loved to draw flowers, used way too much glue and loved to be butt naked.
A few thoughts from the family memories:
Caleb was strong. He said many have asked what they are feeling. He can only say, confusion. He talked about how some paintings are purposely blurred by the artist. Up close you really can’t see it. Step back and it comes into focus. That’s what this is like. Right now they are very close to it. They have just started to back away, but it’s a really big painting and they’ll be backing away for a while.
Mary Beth shared some great memories and so much humor. Who knew she was so funny? She wanted us to laugh and feel joy again. It’s what Maria would want.
Steven shared how Maria and Mary Beth were talking about heaven one day not long ago and how Maria said “I want to go there”. Mary Beth, “so as not to mess up the sinner’s prayer” called for Steven. Steven talked with Maria about the cross and salvation and Maria prayed on her own to accept the gift Jesus offers us all.
He then shared about the accident.
Praying for healing.
Not wanting to accept that she was gone.
Asking God to give them something they could see that would let them know Maria was okay. That the gospel was true and she was in his arms. “Just let me see. Just let me see.”
A few days later, Steven returned to the house.
He endured another wave of grief as he stood in the much too empty bedroom of a little 5 year old princess.
He went to the art center in the kitchen and found the last flower that Maria had been working on.
So much glue.
He flipped it over to find a simple word written in Maria’s 5 year old hand. A word he didn’t even know she had learned to write. There on the page Maria had written, “SEE”.
Emily shared her memory of calling to tell the family about her engagement.
Maria was the last of the three girls to come to the phone.
“Oooo, you’re getting’ married, you’re getting’ married!” which she apparently said while butt naked and shaking her booty.
Then the question none of the other 2 had asked, “Whaddya say?” “I said, ‘yes’, silly.”
Maria would ask the same question a few more times when the girls met Emily later at the airport. Emily then went on to present the gospel in one of the most profound ways I’ve heard.
She talked of the cross.
She talked of the Bridegroom and the church, his bride.
I can’t do it justice, but let me just share this.
The bridegroom has asked for our hand in marriage. Maria has accepted his proposal and he has taken her to the place he prepared for her. “The proposal has been made, whaddya say?”
Geoff Moore (Steven's long time best friend) sang "With Hope as children brought flowers to the casket.
Scotty Smith closed the service.
He didn’t do the prepared sermon, there was no need.
So many had offered reasons for hope.
The gospel had been presented at least 4 times.
And, as you’d expect if you’ve ever been to one of Steven’s concerts, it went long.
The service was just over 2 hours … and it was great.
We rode back to the airport to fly home to our “normal lives” and I thought again of the family.
This weekend they’ve had so many surrounding them with love.
Sunday they will have the church family.
But Monday, or Tuesday, the people will be gone and the house will be quiet.
Then they will feel the wave again.
Normal is a long way off.