Friday, September 25, 2015

Nespresso VertuoLine Intenso


I ordered a sleeve of the new VertuoLine Intenso capsules. On Nespresso’s 1 through 11 intensity scale, this one is rated at a 9 – currently their most “intense” offering for a regular coffee for the VertuoLine machines. 15-09-25_09-48-08_2

It was waiting for me upon my return from a trip to Anchorage and I tried it out this morning. Over the past several years I’ve been shying away from dark roasts because I’ve noticed that medium roasts tend to have better flavor and aren’t as harsh. (Though this might have more to do with simply poor roasting.)

15-09-25_09-45-00What I found with the Intenso is that there is none of the offensive harsh bitterness and burnt taste that I so frequently find in dark roasts. It is quite smooth and has a good aroma and flavor. It is quite a bit like drinking a half-strength espresso (similar to an Americano, but stronger). It has a deep, dark color to complement the taste and aroma. I think I like it better than the Stormio, the next most intense coffee in the line. Stormio, to me, has some of the characteristics that I don’t like about dark roasts. YMMV.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: Out of Sorts–Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving FaithOut of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Those whose first memories of their lives include sitting in church may find this book quite helpful as they too, find that reality isn't quite so neatly organized into distinct categories as they might have heard. Religious education, whether it was through Sunday School, VBS, children's sermons, or whatever it may have been, was well-meaning and quite a bit of it was good. But there is often an overemphasis on certainty, on either-or thinking, of an us-vs-them categorization of the world, and an emphasis on "ministry work" over "regular jobs."

Many people are fine with this type of worldview. But many others are not, and as they mature and emerge into a world that doesn't revolve around church life, questions arise. What are they to do with such questions, creeping doubts, and ambiguity?

This book is Sarah Bessey's autobiographical look at how she sorted through her life that turned into "Out of Sorts" when she too, faced a world that was not quite what growing up in church had led her to believe it would be. Her desire is for her readers to be able to use her experiences as inspiration to work through sorting through their own religious artifacts and baggage -- figure out what is still worth keeping, and learn to let go of the things that are no longer helpful, things that are useless, and things that may even be harmful. Are there new practices and traditions that might help a person continue in discipleship and spiritual growth?

Even though she writes accessibly and in a conversational tone, the subjects she tackles are not light. She deals with questions of theodicy, biblical inerrancy and hermeneutics, ecclesiology (the church), the nature and work of the Spirit, vocation and calling, social justice - to name a few.

Sorting through the past and present of faith is an ongoing process. It will probably continue for the rest of each person's life. The key is to "making peace with an evolving faith" (subtitle).

(Based on ARC.)

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Change of Seasons

15-09-15_08-53-33 copy

I look at the calendar and notice that the beginning of Autumn, according to the solar cycle, is a week away. But I can feel the autumn chill in the air today, here in Southeast Alaska, with rain dripping down and forecasts telling me to be on watch for heavy rains and strong winds later today and tomorrow.

Some (many, I’m led to believe) people loathe the end of summer. It signals shorter daylight hours, cooler temperatures leading into cold ones, and frequently more clouds and less sunshine. Summer connotes play and care-free, at least in minds, if not in actual living. Summer evokes warmth and happiness. On the other hand autumn signals the beginning of an end – of the year but metaphorically a death with the death and decay of plants and leaves. Autumn and winter, with its grayness can be sad and depressing.

I’m the other way – one of the rare ones, or so I’m told. I don’t much care for summer and all the brightness and cheer. I like the melancholy and quiet of darkness. I like the calm that settles outside as people disappear from public and remain in their homes. I feel more virtuous in going outside when others seek shelter from the elements. I welcome autumn and winter.

Seasonal changes can have physical and psychological effects on people. The change in light, temperature, air pressure, and humidity can affect how a person feels, in body and in mind.

Most of us tend to avoid change. We prefer stability and predictability. But seasons change and so do our lives. Some of us are more open to it. But there are some that resist it with every fiber of their being, having to be dragged into it.

Children and younger people, I think, are more open and accepting of change. That’s all they know. But as we grow older, we get settled and we get comfortable. We might not like everything about how things are, but we begin to look upon change, any change, with fear and suspicion. Change only happens begrudgingly. Some of us are more prone to it, because of earlier experiences, and due to our personality and temperaments.

I don’t want to be the kind of person that automatically resists change. I’ve known and experienced far too many people who do. It’s hard on others who have to deal with that kind of person.

I’m going through a season of life change. In a few days our home will be empty-nested for the first time as both our daughters will be out on their own simultaneously, for the first time ever. I’ve had more than a few nights of worry and anxiety during the past couple of months in particular. Yes, the older one was away at college for a few years, but she stayed home last year while the younger one went away for her first year.

For around two decades, our kids have been “our kids.” I had at least the illusion that I could keep them safe and secure. But as they go out on their own, the realization is hitting that they really are their own persons and that any illusion and fantasy that I had of them being forever in my bubble, is broken.

I want to hold on to what I know and what I’ve been comfortable with. But I know change is inevitable. I know that if I don’t practice accepting change, I’ll become the kind of person that I don’t want to be. I don’t want to become stubborn and unmoving as seasons change in my life. A few more decades down the line, I don’t want my resistance to end up a burden to my daughters and others around me.

When facing fear and anxiety my inclination is to become psychologically paralyzed. My preference is to isolate myself, binge on TV, stay in bed, etc. But I know from experience that that will only send me down a far worse path.

So I choose to accept changes as they come. I may never come to the point of welcoming them, but I choose to not resist. I will practice acceptance today in order to remain flexible in how I approach and encounter seasons as they change in the future. I choose to live life actively, rather than watch as a spectator, complaining about what I’m seeing.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Review – The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith

The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical FaithThe Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Stuart Murray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been seeing increasing mentions of Anabaptists recently. Like many American Christians, probably the only associative reference I have of Anabaptists are groups such as the Amish, Mennonites, and Quakers. This book was a good introduction on some of the history, the core values, and how these values are practiced in contemporary society.

The title The Naked Anabaptist comes from the purpose of the book: to strip away group and cultural accouterments that are associated with forms of Anabaptism and get at the core values that are shared across most, if not all, who belong to it. There are seven such values, and among them are what is likely familiar to many Christians: peacemaking, community, and social justice. There are others that are less familiar, but no less important such as methods of reading and interpreting scripture; engaging the public sphere; and ministry according to gifts, not culturally and culturally-informed theologically based roles (aka, gender roles, women's roles in the church, etc.).

One of the key principles used throughout the book is the distinction between Christianity and Christendom. The first is faithful to Jesus and gospel; the second is a creation of (literally) men. The former is the first two to three centuries of the Church; the latter is what happened when Church and Rome came together and continues to be a priority of most Christian groups and denominations today. Even among those who claim separation of church and state, many look with nostalgia on the time when the public sphere had the imprimatur of the Church and vice versa, and the hierarchical structure taken from secular power reign in most formal church organizations. Anabaptists are very much for Christianity, but are strongly against Christendom.

The book ends with a chapter on some of the criticisms and critiques that Anabaptism has received, some of its shortcomings and dangers.

The book is evangelistic, but not proselytizing: i.e., it seeks to spread the good news that is found in Anabaptist values. And there are many. There are parts of the original gospel, hidden and minimized in many forms of more mainstream Christianity, that are emphasized in Anabaptist values. These can provide correctives to some skewed expressions of Christianity, and offer hope and a new vision to Christians disillusioned by what they see and don't see in current forms of popular Christianity. But it does not seek to turn people into Anabaptists. The room is big enough for many strands and expressions of Christianity. Anabaptist values can be incorporated into existing frameworks, providing a more robust and more genuine expressions of what it means to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(This review is based on ARC supplied by the publisher through NetGalley.)

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