Who Am I?

Van’s Waffles

Posted: May 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Some mornings before school my daughter likes to have a waffle and an egg for breakfast. I had already heard about Van’s Waffles, so I picked up a variety for her to sample. The minis were the clear winner for her. (I like the buckwheat ones myself.)

Van's Minis

These are best heated in the oven, which is good, I suppose, since our toaster is full of gluten crumbs. On a frozen waffle scale, they are pretty good.

Larabars and Kind Bars

Posted: May 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Larabars and Kind Bars

The other regular non-gluten free staple in my daughter’s lunches and one of her favorite snacks were granola bars. That one was easy. I’ve loved Larabars and Kind bars for quite some time now. It was just a matter of finding the ones she liked. While she likes a number of them, there is one clear winner in her mind.

Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar

Meet the Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar. Its only ingredients are dates, peanuts, and salt, but it does make a delicious snack. And, for now at least, it’s my daughter’s favorite. (She doesn’t have anything against the ones with chocolate in them either.)

I’ve also found a couple of other brands of gluten free snack bars and she likes them as well. So this replacement was the easiest of them all.

Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 1

Posted: May 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 1

1.  He who truly loves God prays entirely without distraction, and he who prays entirely without distraction loves God truly. But he whose intellect is fixed on any worldly thing does not pray without distraction, and consequently he does not love God.

I’m reminded by this text of another saying: A theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian. I think prayer is more important and deeper in meaning than many Christian traditions allow. I don’t think it’s merely a way to praise God or ask for intercession, however important it is to praise God and to intercede in prayer. Neither of those adequately account for the repeated emphasis the New Testament places on constant, unceasing prayer.

St. Maximos ties love of God to undistracted prayer. And I think it’s safe to assume he meant constant, undistracted prayer. I find his words describe me accurately. My love of God is always wavering. I have to keep returning to love of God just as I have to keep returning to prayer. Sometimes it’s all I can to do to pray for mercy.

In his centuries of love, St. Maximos peels back the lies we tell ourselves as though they were layers of an onion. It’s uncomfortable at times, but we can only love God in Spirit and Truth.


Posted: May 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Food Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Udi’s

My daughter has never cared much for bread, even when she was preschooler. She’s been eating the meat, cheese, and pickles out of her hamburgers, hot dogs sans buns, and sandwich meat a la carte for her whole life. But this past year or so, she’s been taking a peanut butter & nutella sandwich to school. I immediately got her a couple of types of the more palatable bread to try and one of them she thought was okay, but hardly great.

I’d heard that Whole Foods had started carrying a new brand that was supposed to be really good, but hadn’t yet made it down to one to check it out. Lo and behold, as I was looking through Sprouts gluten free jubilee offerings, I saw this in the freezer!

Udi's Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread

I snatched a loaf to try. It’s more flexible than other gluten free breads and it tastes good without reheating it. That’s all good, but the critical thumbs up was my daughter’s. And this bread got it. It’s now the official instrument of nutella and peanut butter conveyance in her school lunches.

While I was at Sprouts, I saw and snagged the following as well.

Udi's Gluten Free Pizza Crusts

Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza Crusts were also a hit. I made my daughter her favorite pineapple and canadian bacon pizza while I had a ground bison and black olive one. This was an important discovery because we can take some of these to her camp when she goes. They will keep them in the freezer and they will make her pizzas using them on nights when she would otherwise have few options.

If you haven’t yet tried any of Udi’s products, I highly recommend you give them a taste! Two thumbs up from both my daughter and me.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 26

Posted: May 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love 26

100. When the intellect is established in God, it at first ardently longs to discover the principles of His essence. But God’s inmost nature does not admit of such investigation, which is indeed beyond the capacity of everything created. The qualities that appertain to His nature, however, are accessible to the intellect’s longing: I mean the qualities of eternity, infinity, indeterminateness, goodness, wisdom, and the power of creating, preserving and judging creatures. Yet of these, only infinity may be grasped fully; and the very fact of knowing nothing is knowledge surpassing the intellect, as the theologians Gregory of Nazianzos and Dionysios have said.

We’ve reached the concluding text of St. Maximos’ first century on love and it’s a complicated one indeed. I’m familiar with the longing to understand God’s essence and am beginning to recognize the futility of that effort. And that, I think is as it should be. A God that my mind could compass would not, after all, be much of a God.

The qualities that leap out to me from St. Maximos’ list are goodness and wisdom. Those, I think, are the qualities I perceived in God that finally drew me into something like Christian faith. That wasn’t an easy step for me. There are versions of God proclaimed in parts of Christianity that may be many things, but who could not be called good. However, when you truly perceive our God, even darkly through a clouded glass, his goodness still shines through. He is a good and wise God, the sort of God we desperately need. And he loves mankind. Sadly, far too many do not recognize that beautiful truth.

As we cannot truly say something about God’s essence without almost unsaying it at the same time, we also cannot know God through our intellect. And yet, even though we know nothing, we can have a knowledge of God — a mystical or relational form of knowing — that is infinite. Or at least, those are the thoughts that St. Maximos’ text awakens in me. I’m not sure that it’s what he meant at all, but even if mine is a different thought, I think it’s a true one.

Celiac Runs in the Family

Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

I was shaken when I got the call from my youngest daughter’s pediatrician informing me that her celiac panel had come back highly unusual. My wife and I wanted to have our daughter screened at her annual physical because celiac disease has a strong genetic component. Even so, our daughter had never had any obvious symptoms, so we didn’t really expect the tests to be positive. But her counts were worse than mine were when I was diagnosed.

While it hasn’t exactly been easy or always pleasant for me as I’ve adapted to a gluten free lifestyle, the disease has never felt overwhelming or unmanageable to me. I’m a tad ‘strong-willed’ and that trait has stood me in good stead this past year. Discovering that my little girl (even if she’s not actually so little anymore) inherited a genetic disease from me has been worse than anything in my personal experience over the past year. I feel worse for her than I’ve ever felt for myself.

I am glad that I’ve maintained a positive and mostly upbeat attitude over the past year about having celiac disease. That tends to be my approach toward things I can’t change anyway, but I feel that my example may have helped steady my daughter when she got the news about her test results. And she seems to be trying to approach it in the same positive way that I did.

I was immediately more concerned about the changes and adaptations she would have to make than I ever was on my own behalf. Most of our dinners are already gluten free because of me, so we didn’t need to make that transition. She has never cared for school lunches and has always taken her lunch to school, so that made it easier to manage as well. Moreover, with just a few exceptions, most of her lunch fare was already naturally gluten free. So we really only had to worry about those few lunch items, snacks, and breakfast food. I’ll have several food reviews in the future about products I found specifically to fill those gaps for her.

She’s been to a school dance and a birthday party already since her diagnosis and managed both fine. At the dance, she won a cake on the cake walk, and gave it to a friend while at the party, she just skipped the cake. Her friends know about her newly diagnosed celiac disease and have started trying to help look out for her. Socially she’s doing pretty well. Food does tend to crop up all the time in social situations, as I’ve become much more aware over the past year. But that hasn’t been an obstacle for her.

She’s inherited a lot of things from me, but this is one thing I really wish she hadn’t.

I am very proud of her and the way she’s handled this hurdle, though.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 25

Posted: May 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love 25

96. We do not know God from His essence. We know Him rather from the grandeur of His creation and from His providential care for all creatures. For through these, as though they were mirrors, we may attain insight into His infinite goodness, wisdom and power.

I think this is the idea behind St. Maximos’ thoughts in other texts on the contemplation of created things. God is everywhere present and filling all things. As I think about this, I am reminded of something C.S. Lewis said.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.

Christian contemplation is rooted in the material creation. It is not something divorced or separated from the sensible realm. That is one of its somewhat unique characteristics. But, of course, the eternal Son of God became flesh, so how can it be any other way?

Four Hundred Texts on Love 24

Posted: May 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love 24

95. When the sun rises and casts its light on the world, it reveals both itself and the things it illumines. Similarly, when the Sun of righteousness rises in the pure intellect. He reveals both Himself and the inner principles of all that has been and will be brought into existence by Him.

The sun is often used (in Scripture and by the Fathers) as an image for Christ. No, Christians never confused the two. They weren’t sun worshipers. But the sun is a good image. As with the sun, the uncreated light of Jesus reveals himself and illuminates all it falls upon. Darkness is not the equal and opposite of light. Darkness is driven out and destroyed by light. It’s darkness that cannot bear the presence of light, not the other way around. We need to always remember that.

Four Hundred Texts on Love 23

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

84.  First the memory brings some passion-free thought into the intellect. By its lingering there, passion is aroused. When the passion is not eradicated, it persuades the intellect to assent to it. Once this assent is given, the actual sin is then committed. Therefore, when writing to converts from paganism, St Paul in his wisdom orders them first to eliminate the actual sin and then systematically to work back to the cause. The cause, as we have already said, is  greed, which generates and promotes passion. I think that greed in this case means gluttony, because this is the mother and nurse of unchastity. For greed is a sin not only with regard to possessions hut also with regard to food, just as self-control likewise relates to both food and possessions.

This text provides one of the descriptions of the way a thought arouses a passion and the passion then translates into an act of actual sin. In some ways, I’m not totally unlike those ancient converts from paganism. I understand that you have to learn to see something as wrong, then stop doing it, and finally trace backwards the inward paths.

I don’t believe I had really considered greed as a form of gluttony, but it makes sense. They both manifest as the desire to acquire and consume more. Our modern American culture is a treacherous environment for us. Consumption and acquisition are considered to be the normal course of life. Perhaps in that way, we are all the new pagans?

Four Hundred Texts on Love 22

Posted: May 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

79.  Almsgiving heals the soul’s incensive power; fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect and prepares it for the contemplation of created beings. For the Lord has given us commandments which correspond to the powers of the soul.

This text is interesting to me on several levels. For those who don’t often engage with any aspect of the Christian ascetic disciplines, almsgiving, fasting, and prayer lie at their foundation. These are the disciplines discussed (and assumed considering his Jewish audience) by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. These are the disciplines encountered again and again in the rest of the New Testament and in the writings of the Church. The earliest document of Christian liturgical practice that we have, the Didache, discusses these three disciplines.

In this text, St. Maximos is linking the disciplines to the effect they have, if practiced properly, on our soul. Almsgiving soothes and heals our soul’s inflammatory nature. It is true that wealth and the accumulation of material goods tends to excite and provoke us. We then tend to defend what we have and the means we employ to acquire more. Jesus spoke a great deal about the chains with which material wealth can bind us. It does follow then, that almsgiving, the practice of giving our money away, would begin to heal us. I had never really considered it in that light.

The goal of fasting is to give us mastery over our stomachs, and through that mastery, free us from domination by all the desires of our senses. Fasting has always made more sense to me in its Christian form than many of the other practices and disciplines.

I’m not sure I understand his statement about prayer. I grasp that prayer is our mystical connection with God and thus is the only true route for studying anything about God. So it makes sense, I guess, that as we turn our minds toward communion with God in constant prayer, that our intellect would be purified. Prayer to God cannot inhabit a mind that is turned from God. As we turn toward sin in our minds, we stop praying. As we start praying, we turn from sin.

I’m not sure what he means about preparing us for contemplation of created beings. Perhaps he means that a mind of prayer is prepared to see the created order as it actually is. A very interesting text, indeed.