Sumac Squares

Sumac BarsI’ve been playing with sumac this weekend. I happened to catch Rachael Ray talking about sumac as a spice for cooking. Up until now, sumac was that shrub we have out by the driveway; I hadn’t heard of using it in cooking. So off I went to Google and Pinterest to see what I could find. I learned that, not only was the sumac in my driveway suitable for culinary uses, but it could be harvested right now. Sumac berriesI’d never paid much attention to these cones before, on closer inspection they are made up of tiny reddish fuzzy berries. When I rubbed a cone between my fingers it was sticky, and tasted tart. I collected several cones, put half aside to dry as a spice, and then set about making sumac extract. I put the rest of the cones in an ice cream bucket. I suppose the bucket was at least half full.  Then I filled the bucket with cold water, and rubbed the berries off into the water with my hands, as shown in this video from Leda’s Urban Homestead. I let it soak for a few hours, and then strained through a mesh strainer and then a cloth. Now I had sumac extract. Sumac ExtractThe next day I dissolved 1 part sugar in 1 part boiling water, and sweetened the sumac extract with 1 part sugar water to 4 parts sumac extract to make refreshing sumac-ade. So far so good. I made up a batch of sumac syrup according to this recipe. I haven’t done anything with that yet, but can imagine cooking it up with some blueberries and serving over pancakes. Then I went out and picked some more to make another batch of extract. Sumac Pudding CakeI made a ‘lemon’ pudding cake based on this recipe, replacing the lemon juice and skim milk with 1 cup sumac extract plus 1/2 cup whole milk. The cake part of the pudding was an odd greyish, slightly pinkish color, but the flavor was wonderful. It was enough to convince me that I wouldn’t be wasting other ingredients (that I actually have to, you know, pay for) if I experimented further with using the sumac extract as a substitute for lemon juice in other recipes. Sumac SquaresToday I made bars adapted from a standard recipe for lemon bars. This one is a definite keeper, and I’ve thrown several pre-measured packages of sumac extract into the freezer so I don’t have to wait until next fall to make it again.

Sumac Squares


  • 1+1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, cubed


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sumac extract


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray
  • In a food processor, pulse together crust ingredients.
  • Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden.
  • While baking, beat eggs until light.
  • Beat sugar into the eggs.
  • Beat the flour and baking powder into the eggs.
  • Stir in the sumac extract.
  • Pour over the prepared crust and return to the oven.
  • Bake for an additional 25 minutes until the top forms a crust.
  • Loosen the edges while warm.
  • Cut when cool.
  • Dust with powdered sugar (optional)

Cut sumac squares

How I Use Facebook Friend Lists

Why Use Lists

In real life we talk about different things with different friends. Conversations vary depending on who I’m with and our unique shared history.

I use Facebook in ministry. I work at a church. I accept friend requests from anyone who attends my large church. I don’t necessarily know them all well enough to want to let them into every corner of my family life. I do want to be able to share church-related information with them and invite them to church events. But my family and friends in Australia probably don’t need to hear details of an upcoming sermon series, or registering for Sunday school, or a collection for a local mission partner.

The answer for me is friend lists.

What Lists

These first two lists are the ones I use most related to ministry as a person of faith and as a member of a congregation … sharing things of a general inspirational value, and sharing the things my faith community is doing :

  • Close Friends (the built-in FB list, marked by a yellow star, but you pick who you put in it) is the people I share my family life with. I’m not ‘friends’ with them out of obligation or politeness or because I need to connect with them for work or some other organization I’m involved with. I would select this (or ‘all friends’) when posting more general inspirational posts that are not specifically congregation-related.
  • Local Area  is people who live in or near my town (use the default FB ‘MyTown MyState Area’ list or make a custom one if you want to include college students etc. who live somewhere else but still are connected to their hometown). This is the one I use for more ‘outreach’ posts, things that are not just relevant to attenders, but might be of general interest to anyone in the community … information about community events and local mission projects, ‘newsy’ stuff. I also use the same group to share information about the Local Roots Coop that I’ involved with.

Then I have these additional lists which are more specifically related to my work at the church, focused on those who are already connected to the congregation in various ways:

  • Church #1 is staff, council, and ‘core’ members. I mostly use this for ‘early’ event invites (when I first set up an event, and then invite others after a few people are already marked as ‘attending’). Occasionally also for a special request or something that is more relevant to this group.
  • Church #2 is anyone who is a current Zion member or attender. This is the one I mostly use for congregational ‘insider’ information … we need this volunteer or that donation etc. I don’t usually send friend requests to members I’m not otherwise connected to, but I always accept, so that I can add them to this list.
  • Church #3 is former Zion members. I don’t actually use this much for posts, rather mostly as a place to re-categorize them from #2 and keep that ‘clean’. Might sometimes use it in conjunction with other groups for things of general Zion or Buffalo interest.

Building Lists

  • You can find your existing lists at
  • To start a new list, click on Create List, give your list a name, and add a couple of people.
  •  To edit an existing list, click on the name of the list you want to manage and then on Manage List > Edit List.
  • Change the On This List dropdown to Friends, and then you can simply select and deselect who you want and then click Finish.

custom privacy screenshotPosting to Lists

When you want to share something with a particular list, use the audience selector. It is located to the left of the Post button on a desktop view, or as To: on some mobile views. The text on the link will vary based on what your default post audience is. It might be Public, Friends, Close Friends, or something different. When you click on the button you will get a list of options. It might be a complete list, or it might be an an abbreviated list with More as one of the options.

One of the options will be Custom, with a gear icon. If you click on Custom, you can combine and exclude lists and individuals. For example, I could specify to share a post with my Close friends+local people+church folks but maybe exclude the pastors (of course, this is just an example).

Be aware that once you start selecting audiences, you always want to double check what audience you last used and if you want to change it before you hit Post 🙂

Pinterest and the Interest Graph

If you don’t ‘get’ Pinterest, or if you love Pinterest but you’re not sure why, or if you’re just fascinated by the way networks work, you might enjoy this video in which Pinterest Co-Founder and CEO Ben Silberman discusses The Interest Graph at a Pinterest partner event.

The Interest Graph


If you don’t have 15 minutes to spare (you can skip the last 3), or your internet can’t handle video (I feel your pain), here are the highlights:

  • Great products give us a magical experience
  • Pinterest is about the questions that you can’t ask Google
  • Pinterest is less about searching and more about discovery
  • Collections are a way of organizing and making sense of the world around us and tell a lot about who you are
  • Pinterest puts our collections on the internet
  • The magic of Pinterest is the way your thing becomes linked to other things
  • Organizing the world’s objects in the way that makes sense to us can also be meaningful to others
  • Pinterest helps us organize things by interest and lets a single product travel through a network of interests and passions
  • The best way to discover things you love is through people who share your interests
  • Unlike many other social networks, which connect you to people you know, Pinterest excels in connecting us to like-minded people > which is one of the most interesting networks of all
  • Put away your device and go out and do some of the things you are discovering!

Great stuff! Now to find time to watch some more videos from this event

Notes on Building Your Brand Identity

Notes from breakout session #6 at Echo 2013

Foundations Track > Building Your Brand Identity > David Chapman

How do you approach your ministry’s identity design? This session will explore a process to discover what your brand is, how to sell your creative ideas to the client and what key elements you need to successfully communicate the brand design to others on your team. While this session deals with graphic design, it’s not just for designers. Anyone in the creative field or who deals with a creative team will gain new approaches to problem solving and communication strategies.

Dave is creative director for RT Creative Group

Brand vs identity

  • Branding isn’t something you design / it is what your people think about you / emotions and feelings / entirely on the minds of the audience /
  • Brand identity design is what you can touch / set of signals that identifies the brand

Logo > Main purpose is identification / rarely explains anything / must become familiar to the audience in order to “work”

The process

  • More problem solving than art
  • Know who you are > what do you offer / what is your brand promise
  • Know the target audience
  • embrace where you are / location and more / limitations / where you want to go
  • Get feedback
  • Create a standards or style guide > how to use and how to not use > lots of examples
  • Make the most of what you have (what default font could blend well)
  • Don’t rush the problem solving process

A few links of interest

Notes on Social Media Part 2

Notes from breakout session #5 at Echo 2013

Communication Track > Mastering Social Media: Part 2 > Justin Wise

Many churches are feeling the pain of getting social media to work for them. Some even go to the trouble of investing resources to build a social media strategy. While this is helpful, the real value is having a plan in place for your all of your online content: web, social, and email. Starting with social is good, but backing up the bus to build a content strategy with all of these components is better. Learn how to increase church membership, increase revenue, and build a more effective website using the content you’re already creating.

Success is not measuring retweets / likes / shares

Success is building a bigger online audience and influencing them to take action.

  • Numbers do matter.
  • Geography doesn’t (as in “the geographical limits previously holding back a church’s mission is no longer an obstacle.”)

Social media strategy is the tip of a pyramid is based on what your church is all about (link below)
Big idea (local expression of the gospel) > content strategy (how you tell the story online) > email strategy (the single most effective way to engage people and drive them to online content) > social strategy

Create better stuff by knowing your audience and what they want.

  • Survey the audience to find out what channels they use and “what else would you like to tell us about?”
  • Sunday morning content is a huge source of original content in the congregation.
  • Each content piece is a relational contact point is an opportunity to build trust > Trust builds builders builds loyalty / loyalty builds results
  • Provide opportunities for online audience to commit
  • Call to action answers the question “what’s in it for me”

Justin’s weekly content schedule includes 3 blog posts / 84 tweets / 30 minute podcast / 2 eblasts

Content strategy includes balancing the organization’s needs with the audience’s needs > such as the 4-1-1 rule (link below)

A few links of interest

Notes on Social Media Part 1

Notes from breakout session #4 at Echo 2013

Communication Track > Mastering Social Media: Part 1 > Tim Schraeder

When Jesus said, “follow Me,” He didn’t just mean on Twitter. Social media presents some incredible opportunities for churches, parachurch organizations, and Christian leaders. We’ve never been more equipped with the means to reach more people with the Gospel and with this amazing opportunity comes a tremendous responsibility. In this session we’ll cover some basics about social media as well as providing a Biblical framework to approach how we do everything social media — from Twitter and Facebook, to Instagram and blogging and everything in-between. Whether you’re just starting out or need to refresh the basics, this session will help you to prepare to engage and connect with people… in 140 characters or less.

Tim worked at Park Community Church and now SomeCompany

With every cultural revolution that’s taken place, there’s been an accompanying message of the gospel.
The church website is more so the front door than ever, and social media = greeters

He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.” ~ Acts 1:8

Social media isn’t the answer but we can use it to point people to the answer.
Its about creating online connections that foster offline community
What would it look like if we took the time to listen?

“The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’” ~ Luke 14:23

  • Mine content from Sunday messages to keep the message going
  • Post image slides on pinterest or instagram
  • Invite people to tell a story via video on instagram
  • Tweet the tweetable quotes and use your personal social networks to saturate the airwaves
  • People value authenticity and want to know who the pastor really is. It makes them more human and relatable.
  • Monitor instagram for posts made at the location (have to figure out how to do this)

What are you doing with the tools you have in your hands (phone)

Social media is the printing press of our generation and God wants to use it! ~ JeriKris_L

A few Links of interest

To Do:

  • Find ways to make mining Sunday message content more practical
  • Consider ways to use Instagram

Notes on Telling Better Stories

Notes from breakout session #3 at Echo 2013

Visual Track > How We’re Learning to Tell Better Stories with and without a Budget > Blaine Hogan & Bjorn Amundsen

Church videos are the worst! How we’re learning to tell better stories with and without a budget. Developing story structure, how to do awesome interviews, and creative ways to execute so we never have to see a bad video again

Presenters are staff at Willow Creek Community Church

Why are church videos so bad?
(Audience answers) Committee direction / tight schedule / in house talent / no budget / campy imitation

Narrative stories have a 4-act structure

  • Act 1 > introduce the characters / desires / flaws and inciting incident
  • Act 2 > progressive complications / character chooses to grow or stay the same / what the hero would become if they don’t overcome their obstacles
  • Act 3 > crisis > character has to choose after all hope is lost
  • Act 4 > resolution > the audience has been changed by the story


  • Don’t present the solution without developing the problem > spend more time in acts 1 and 2 than in 3 and 4.
  • Be inspired but copy process rather than product
  • Concept and pre production is important

Example: The Scared is Scared, a video made based on a story told by a child. Unfortunately, my notes neglected to include what this video illustrates. But it is an awesome video and could easily illustrate many things. Worth watching for sure.

Example: Easter 2013, a church video with a budget (made by the presenters)

  • Consideration of how to let people feel what the subject felt without having to shoot a reenactment
  • People submitted log lines
  • A extensive pre-interview was held with the chosen subjects so that the to understand the feeling they needed to convey
  • The interview was re-written a story with 4 acts for reference
  • Direct eye contact was achieve with special cameras that show the other person. A similar affect can be perhaps be achieved with video conferencing tools.

Example: The Tomato Pastor, a church video with no budget (made by the presenters)

  • Let your constraints inspire you
  • The team was nearby for a different story
  • The video was to promote a service opportunity of packing seeds that would be used in this ministry
  • The subject didn’t speak English, so the video does not show him speaking. His words were re-read later by someone else with a suitable accent.

A few links of interest

Your job is to make your protagonists suffer to the point where they have only one way out, where only one thing can transform the suffering into a solution: change. ~ Karen Woodward