Chocolate, Tiramisu, Hand-Painted Chocolates, Creme Brulee, Croissants

Today, I spent the day job-shadowing a pastry chef at Ghyslain Chocolatier in Union City, IN. It was absolutely incredible.

I arrived just before 9am and was given a quick tour and crash course. Then, I was matched up with a chef and we immediately got to work on making tiramisu (which happens to be Emily’s favorite from Ghyslain). After a couple of hours, and 900 tiramisu, we moved on to the creme brulee.

We started heating the creme and sugar (20 pounds of sugar…to give you an idea of the quantity we were making). While the creme heated, we prepared the egg and vanilla (the seeds from 40 pods, which is actually the hardest part of creme brulee). We took a quick break for lunch (salad with a killer dressing and a tasty chicken pot pie) and then finished preparing the creme brulee. Best part of the day…playing with the butane torch.

After the creme brulee, we moved on to hand-painting some of the chocolates. It doesn’t take long to realize that they totally under-charge for a piece of chocolate. There is a lot that goes into making their chocolate art pieces. We also assembled some chocolate piano’s and brushed them with edible gold powder. After that, we spent time helping with the croissants. We wrapped it all up around 3pm (when I was sent home with a pretty nice gift package…coffee mug, chocolates, some amazing desserts that Emily and I consumed after Sammie went to bed).

It was an amazingly incredible day. I learned a ton. I am totally excited to try out some of the tricks I picked up.

This all was a gift from Emily’s parents…a pretty awesome gift. If you ever get the chance and enjoy cooking (especially desserts and baking), I would urge you to spend a day with a chef at Ghyslain.

For those of you in Richmond and Zionsville, you can check out their restaurants (where you can get the amazing pastries and chocolates). In Muncie, you can order some of their pastries and desserts at Vera Mae’s (or you could just drive to Union City, Zionsville, or Richmond).

Road Rage Makes You Look Crazy

This morning, while driving to work, I witnessed a very animated act of road rage.

While turning onto Walnut, I saw an old lady attempting to enter the Aldi parking lot.

As I made my way past her, I noticed the stereotypical soccer mom zooming down the road in her fancy SUV. This soccer mom was throwing both hands in the air and obviously screaming at the old lady. She was pointing with one hand to the lane in front of her and with the other hand she was making a gesture towards the old woman. With my lip reading skills, I was able to make out a “what the…” before I passed. I can only assume what came after the “the”.

What I noticed was how obnoxious the soccer mom looked. She honestly was giving the kind of aggravated display that normally is reserved for those who spend a majority of their day in straight-jackets.

I find myself wondering what was so absolutely important that applying the brakes for a few seconds so an old lady could pull into the discount grocery store parking lot was such a hindrance.

This event reminded me why we all need to attempt to keep fits of road rage under control. One seriously looks crazy when yelling and flailing his/her arms around while driving down the street.

So, if you learn one thing today, let it be the fact that road rage makes you look crazy!

On Poverty

The other day, I read the 2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church and found its statement on poverty to be excellent.

In spite of general affluence in the industrialized nations, the majority of persons in the world live in poverty. In order to provide basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and other necessities, ways must be found to share more equitably the resource of the world. Increasing technology, when accompanied by exploitative economic practices, impoverishes many persons and makes poverty self-perpetuating. Poverty due to natural catastrophes and environmental changes is growing and needs attention and support. Conflicts and war impoverish the population on all sides, and an important way to support the poor will be to work for peaceful solutions.

As a church, we are called to support the poor and challenge the rich. To begin to alleviate poverty, we support such policies as: adequate income maintenance, quality education, decent housing, job training, meaningful employment opportunities, adequate medical and hospital care, humanization and radical revisions of welfare programs, work for peace in conflict areas and efforts to protect creation’s integrity. Since low wages are often a cause of poverty, employers should pay their employees a wage that does not require them to depend upon government subsidies such as food stamps or welfare for their livelihood.

Because we recognize that the long-term reduction of poverty must move beyond services to and employment for the poor, which can be taken away, we emphasize measures that build and maintain the wealth of poor people, including asset-building strategies such as individual development savings accounts, micro-enterprise development programs, programs enabling home ownership, and financial management training and counseling. We call upon churches to develop these and other ministries that promote asset-building among the poor. We are especially mindful of the Global South, where investment and micro-enterprise are especially needed. We urge support for policies that will encourage equitable economic growth in the Global South and around the world, providing a just opportunity for all.

Poverty most often has systemic causes, and therefore we do not hold poor people morally responsible for their economic state. (2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, Paragraph 163E

This is a thoughtful and powerful statement. It urges individuals and churches to take pro-active measures to help eliminate poverty throughout the world. It calls on churches to “support the poor and challenge the rich”. On a global level, if you’re reading this, you are rich. We need to re-think our definitions of poor and rich.

So, I wonder how many of our churches and United Methodist Church members are actively involved in helping eliminate poverty? What steps should we take to help alleviate poverty and address the needs of the poor in practical ways?

In the days to come, I’ll be sharing more insight from the Book of Discipline on topics such as consumption, right to health care, and sustainable agriculture.

Why do I share these things? Well, the church I serve has statements on numerous issues…statements that the average church member is not aware of. So, I feel compelled to share some of the statements that I’m most passionate about. Some of the statements I share a reasons why I’m not ashamed to be a Christian serving in a United Methodist Church.

Church & State Relations from the Book of Discipline

This evening, while doing a bit of light reading in my 2008 copy of the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, I came across a passage that deals with issues regarding the relations of the church and the state.

In Paragraph 164C, one finds the UMC’s statement on church and state relations. It says:

The United Methodist Church has for many years supported the separation of church and state. In some parts of the world this separation has guaranteed the diversity of religious expressions and the freedom to worship God according to each person’s conscience. Separation of church and state means no organic union of the two, but it does permit interaction. The state should not use it’s authority to promote particular religious beliefs (including atheism), nor should it require prayer or worship in the public schools, but it should leave students free to practice their own religious convictions. We believe that the state should not attempt to control the church, nor should the church seek to dominate the state. The rightful and vital separation of church and state, which has served the cause of religious liberty, should not be misconstrued as the abolition of all religious expressions from public life.

Interesting Information…

I found some of this in the book “A Theological Miscellany” by T.J. McTavish. This book is a fun and interesting collection of “essentially inessential facts” about Christianity.

What is the “world’s only officially Christian nation”? That would be Zambia. In December 1991, the president of Zambia declared the nation a Christian state.

By percentage, what is the world’s most Christian nation? That would be Mexico! 99% of the population would be considered nominal Christians. Number 2? France at 98%. The United States falls in at number 7 at 85%. That puts the US behind Brazil, the Philippines, Italy, and the United Kingdom (in addition to Mexico and France). Close behind the US would be Germany at 83%.

Here’s an interesting quote from Greg Boyd’s book “Myth of a Christian Nation.”:

Conservative religious people involved in kingdom-of-the-world thinking often believe that their enemies are the liberals, the gay activists, the ACLU, the pro-choice advocates, the evolutionists, and so on. On the opposite side, liberal religious people often think that their enemies are the fundamentalists, the gay bashers, the Christian Coalition, the antiabortionists, and so on. Demonizing one’s enemies is part of the tit-for-tat game of Babylon, for only by doing so can we justify our animosity, if not violence, toward them… If we were thinking along the lines of the kingdom of God, however, we would realize that none of the people mentioned in the above lists are people whom kingdom-of-God citizens are called to fight against. They are, rather, people whom kingdom-of-God citizens are called to fight for. (pg 48).