I had the distinct honor of publically proclaiming my faith in Christ in front of my family and friends at Gracepointe Plainfield Church on Sunday, May 18th, 2014. It was an extremely happy milestone and at several points of my testimony I was filled with more emotion than I was able to control so I wanted to put my testimony in writing as it was originally intended. I know full well that what came out of my mouth prior to my baptism was exactly what God intended, I am just putting this out there to further his glory…
My story is probably not much different than many of the people in this room. I grew up around the church, both Lutheran & Catholic. I went to a catholic high school. I have been around the Gospel my whole life. I’ve heard all the bible stories, I have done all the traditions, I did a lot of studying and I got plenty of theology. I was active in my churches when I was younger, active in campus ministry when I was in high school, I was a leader in my school’s retreat program, I went to my church’s high school group, I even came back to lead the group when I was in college. If anybody would have asked me at any given point in my life if I was Christian… my answer would have absolutely been YES! Even into adulthood, even since I have been married. And the best part was on the outside, to public view, I had it all together.
And that was the problem. It was all on the outside. I AM A SINNER. And probably the worst kind, because I am the sinner you didn’t see coming. To the world, I was a nice guy. I was generous, when I wanted to be or when I felt like it. I was a good friend. To the casual observer I was an all-around good person. But, when the stage wasn’t set, and the spotlight wasn’t on and nobody was watching… I was carrying an idol deep in my heart… ME.
There aren’t enough “I’m sorry’s” I can give to the people closest to me that watched me live a lie. And that is exactly what I was doing, lying to the people closest to me, the people who love me, the people that should matter the most. And I was lying to myself.
2 Timothy 3 verses 5 and 7 say it perfectly:
“5having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
And the passage continues to describe me in verse 7 when I says:
“7Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
I knew enough to be dangerous, but it was worldly knowledge. I did not have the Holy Spirit in my life.
Before I start saying thank you, I need to pause for just a moment and thank my wife Katie first. Coming back to church, reconnecting to our faith and finding a church home were all her idea. In hindsight, that was the first act of the Holy Spirit in my life in recent history. We were then introduced to Gracepointe Plainfield by the Settecase Family. And walking through these doors and hearing the message of grace is proof to me of Romans 8:28:
“28And we know that for those who love God all things work togetherforgood, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
All of my life in church and I never really got the awesomeness of the sacrifice that was made for me, the individual. Me, the sinner. Me, little, meaningless, insignificant, self-absorbed me. And that I could have a one-on-one personal relationship with my Lord.
DOES ANYBODY ELSE HEAR HOW AMAZING THAT IS?
Me, with all the things I have done, when God loods at me he sees the perfection of his Son! I can’t do that! I spent most of my life treating ti like a balance thinking if the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff and I believe in God, I’M GOOD… I can’t even begin to comprehend the love that God pours out to me that I see in Romans 5:8:
“8But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,Christ died for us.”
Or fathom, now as the father of two amazing kids, putting forward a sacirice like God did and hearing in in a verse we’ve all heard a million times, John 3:16:
“16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
WOW. I can’t even say no to my kids when they ask for a cookie, try asking me to sacrifice one of them… NO WAY!!!
Gracepointe, along with my family and most importantly the Holy Spirit, have brought me to my faith. For which I am eternally grateful and very excited.
Now that I have painted myself as some kind of monster, let me tell you quickly why I am thankful. Since the Word has reached my heart and I have accepted Christ as the Lord of my life and my redeemer I am thankful every day for receiving his Holy Spirit. I have seen the Holy Spirit work so obviously in my life recently. In my home, in my marriage, in my work, and in me. It blows me away, the Spirit convicts me of my sin. This is both new to me and at times very difficult. Nobody likes to look in the mirror and see a sinner, but I know that even in the trials, whether it’s the trials that are self-inflicted or brought on by the world around me, it’s part of a life long journey and James 1:2-4 tells me to:
“2Cout it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Since being saved, or accepting Christ, or being born again, or whatever you might call it, I am a better version of me. I know I have a lot of work to do, and that the journey is just beginning. But I take comfort and confidence in the Lord that I can continue on the road only with His help and His amazing grace. So, if the Lord asks me to be baptized as a sign of my obedience… I am happy to do it!
Somebody once said to end on a quote because somebody else has already said it better, so thank you to my family and my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ for getting me this far, and I will let 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 say the rest:
“9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Food Blog - Episode 1
Check it off my culinary bucket list…
I was given an “assignment,” I am not enrolled in a class, I am not a student at a school, rather, I am a person who enjoys the opportunity to share. The opportunity to write so that somebody else might hear the things I have to say, experience the world through my eyes, my words, my thoughts, and better understand what it’s like to walk a mile in my shoes. In this particular case, my “assignment” was to do something completely out of the norm from the standpoint of hunger or any derivative thereof for one week and explore how that might open my eyes to the experience. Let’s back up for just a second though, I need to give you the background. My name is Larry, among other things I am busy. I am a father of two year old twins, my son Riley and my daughter Reese keep me on my toes. I am a husband, my wife Katie does her best to make sure I always have something to do. I am full time employee and I commute 90 minutes each way to get to my office. So besides the everyday monotony of life in sales, as a father and husband, I am also very close with my parents and my brother, I try to have a social life whenever possible and that leaves very little time for food. I am just a bit too busy.
Lets dig a little bit deeper though. I will be honest, maybe too honest, but I promise you everything that you will read from me will be the truth. I honestly don’t eat breakfast. It’s not that I don’t like breakfast, as a matter of fact, breakfast food as a genre is actually my favorite! I love bacon (that will probably be my favorite sentence of this entire essay)! Eggs, waffles, pancakes, fruit, hashbrowns, american potatoes, orange juice, milk, bagels, the list goes on and on and then we haven’t even scratched the surface of the variations of each. I love breakfast food, but I love sleep even more and for anybody that has kids, especially young children like mine, know exactly where I am coming from. Here’s the routine. My wife is also a full time employee, she is an early education special education teacher. God bless her for having the patience to do what she does because Lord knows I couldn’t do it. The running joke in my house is that she is the most patient person I know, unfortunately she has to use it all up at work… She has teacher’s hours so she is up and out of the house before Riley & Reese wake up, so in the morning I get the kids up and dressed and ready for daycare before I head to work. That being said, I have mastered the art form of getting out of bed at the very last possible second to give me enough time to get up, get myself ready, get them ready, and make it to daycare and work on time. What does that leave? That leaves no time for breakfast. I mean I suppose that I could eat in the car I do have an hour and a half ride, just never really been my thing. Then, because of my line of work, normal “lunch time” is actually an ideal time for me to be super productive. So over the course of the last 3 years or so I have trained my body not to really crave food during the day. Katie gets out of school around 3:30 and she heads to pick up the kids from daycare, get them home, give them dinner, etc. I usually get home around 6:30. That gives me enough time to enjoy the last bit of playtime, bath time, helping get pajamas on the munchkins and read them a bedtime story, and of course laying them down and getting my most prized hugs and kisses followed by the most heart-melting “night-night” from each of my angels. This is the point that I normally figure out my food situation for the day. Usually this happens somewhere between 7:30 and 8 o’clock at night, by this time I am hungry, I am tired, and I want something right now! I have become almost reliant on fast food. Not because of how it tastes, not because of what it costs, none of those compare to the convenience of going from hungry to fed in a matter of minutes. So, that is what a normal Monday through Friday looks like. Kids go down, I go grab food, I setup my TV tray, sit on the couch, eat, watch a little TV with Katie, then up to bed to do it all over again. The challenge, the “assignment” was to cook every night for a week. No fast food. I didn’t limit myself to the foods I could or couldn’t make, the only provision was that no matter how tired or hungry I needed to cook the food I would eat for one week.
A little more history about me. I was, for the first 20 or so years of my life, the pickiest eater I have ever known. To a point that it was actually an issue. There were restaurants I couldn’t go to because there was nothing on the menu I would eat. It was hard to go to family or friend’s dinner functions because I knew I wouldn’t eat. Believe it or not, television changed my life. I come from an Italian family where the kitchen is looked at as “the heart of the home.” That is a saying that I can’t even possibly give its due level of gravity. Every event in my family is centered around food. Even something as simple as Sunday Dinner has become a staple “to-do” for my family and it all revolves around sitting together and sharing a meal. This is the same family that pretty much had the Food Network on the TV 24/7. I would watch with my dad, then I started to watch on my own. All these chefs putting together food that looked more like art than food, and it finally got me curious. What had I been missing for the first 20-plus years of my life? FOOD! Glorious, delicious, sexy FOOD!!! So I started experimenting with new cuisines. I opened my very narrow view of food and guess what I learned? Food is amazing!!! The next step was learning how to cook. I did have the opportunity to spend several years in the hospitality industry where I did learn how to cook. And that, in the very short-hand, leads me to this past week.
So, here was the menu:
- Monday - 4 Cheese Tortellini in a Spicy Vodka sauce with 5 Cheese Garlic Bread
- Tuesday - Black Peppercorn Scrambled Eggs with Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, Onion & Garlic American Potates and Cinniman Toast
- Wednesday - Black Pepper & Herb Fried Shrimp with French Fries and a Spicy Brown
- Thursday - Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Garlic & Truffle Fried Potatoes with Sriracha Aoli
& Caesar Salad
- Friday - Macaroni & Cheese
I know at quick glance the first thing you’re probably thinking is “what the hell happened on Friday?” I forgot to mention that I work a night job on Friday nights as a DJ so I don’t really get much of a dinner on Friday nights. But, let me tell you that when I look back at the menu from last week it impresses me. I didn’t set off to do anything like what actually took place. It just kind of happened. I made a nice dish on Monday on purpose. I wanted to set the tone for the week and put some kind of delicious start to a week that I thought would be more of a pain in the ass than the pleasure it turned into. So, Monday night, the kids went down, I turned on the Food Network for a little inspiration through osmosis, poured myself a nice big glass of wine and fired up the stove. I had my water boiling for the pasta, I had my sauce in a small sauce pan, a saute pan getting hot and ready to toss my creation into a well mixed and composed dish. I took another sip of wine (the key ingredient to any successful kitchen endeavor) and through the garlic bread in the oven. I looked at what I was doing and thought to myself “hey, I actually look like I know what the hell I’m doing!” I don’t know if there is any truth to the thought that food tastes better when you make it yourself, but man was dinner good! Another glass of wine with dinner and I was ready to call it quits for the night. I was laying in bed with my wife and were catching up on the previous night’s Big Brother episode and I caught myself wondering what I was going to make for dinner the next night. I had just enjoyed that dinner so much I couldn’t wait til dinner time again.
Tuesday, was breakfast for dinner! I knew before I started that the anticipation was going to kill me because dinner would take almost 30 minutes to make. I know I could do it faster but I like to make my bacon in the oven, it comes out perfect every time that way. It doesn’t shrivel up and it’s perfectly crisp every time! As for the rest of the meal I knew it would be easy, so again I poured myself a nice glass of wine and got to work. Bacon was in the oven filling the whole house with the most mouth-watering aroma. I got started on the prep work. I diced the onion and peeled the garlic, a process that brings me back to my Grandmother’s kitchen. Peeling garlic for gravy on Sundays was my job when my Grandma was cooking, a wonderful food memory. I got the eggs cracked into a small bowl and added the black peppercorns, then the labor of love. When whipping the eggs for scrambled eggs the key is to incorporate the most air possible to give the finished product that nice “fluffy” look and feel. Piece of advice, when scrambling eggs, when you think you’re done whipping the eggs, whip them for another minute and do it faster than you had for the previous minute. All said and done dinner on Tuesday was very satisfying. I mean how do you beat 8 slices of bacon? That’s the other upside of cooking for yourself, you decide how much you get and as I said earlier, I love bacon!
Wednesday I was so hungry by the time the kids went to bed I had actually considered cheating and just running to McDonald’s so I could eat. But I didn’t. Instead I fired up the deep fryer and dropped some frozen stuff in and got a good hot meal in a few minutes. But later that night when in bed with Katie, oddly enough watching Big Brother again, I found myself completely unsettled over my dinner. I knew I could have done better. It was right then and there I knew I would spoil myself on Thursday.
So Thursday, I left work a little early so I could stop at the store and get some fresh sea scallops. Anybody who has ever watched the Food Network knows what scallops are supposed to look like. They are on the menu at just about every fine dining establishment, the reason, they are very easy to screw up. Truth be told, they are very easy to cook. The key, is a SUPER hot pan, about 90 seconds on each side, and you’re done. Anybody can do it and it is like have a little luxury come right out of your own kitchen, so I highly recommend it! The hard part of Thursday’s meal was the Aoli. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on making a great aoli. I would recommend using YouTube as reference on this one. It took me 3 tries before I got it to come out right. There are about 10 million variations of aoli so use your imagination, I did, I made mine with Sriracha (it’s the Asian hot sauce with the rooster on the bottle) because I like to add a little heat whenever possible to my food, I like it spicy. A little bit of spice is nice to pair with the sweetness of the scallops and the saltiness of the potatoes. After eating I couldn’t stop smiling. It was delicious, and so worth the effort to make it. It was something that you would probably find on the appetizer menu of a Michelin Star restaurant, except I made it big enough to be my dinner. I knew that the “assignment” was really over at this point. I know how Fridays are more of a mad dash to get everything done before I have to go to my night job than a time to consider my cuisine, so I felt like I ended on a high note.
I have a bunch of things on my “Culinary Bucket List” things I want to try, things I want to make, places I want to go and eat, things like that. Something that was never on that list was “Make yourself dinner every night for a week,” I know it’s not as exciting as “Eat the Lobster Risotto at Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy” but it should be! I can’t say that I won’t eat fast food, because I will. I can’t say that I am going to commit a certain amount of days per week that I will cook no matter what, because let’s be honest, things happen and I would just be lying to myself. What I can say is that I know it can be done. And every time I am faced with the choice to cook or just drive-thru somewhere it will be a much harder choice. Food does taste better when you prepare it yourself!