My favorite metaphor for Advent is “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” Not as in John the Baptist or the prophet Isaiah, but as in Mary the Pregnant Virgin. She had a lot of preparing to do. She had to be ready to give birth, alone, far from home, and in less than pleasant circumstances. But she and Joseph also had to be prepared to raise a child whose very presence was going to cause a lifetime of raised eyebrows. We can understand how it might have been very tempting for them to remain in the manger, uncomfortable as it no doubt was. At least it was anonymous.
We are similarly tempted to idealize, and therefore, infantilize Incarnation. We want to build a manger and move in.
True, In God’s economy, the birth of this child, was enough. It was sufficient to heal and save us. In fact, the birth of every child has the potential to mend a broken world to the extent that it reminds us of our shared humanity. Babies inspire us to imagine what might come to be. But babies seldom save us, especially from ourselves.
Bacause babies, even the Son of God, outgrow the manger. The walk, talk, and make messes. They question authority, and confront injustice. And sometimes, like Jesus, they grow up to be such a nuisance that they get themselves killed. The baby in the crèche grew up to be a man who embodied the Reign of God even when it cost him his life.
In Advent, we prepare the way of the Lord. We recreate the circumstances which will make us ready to offer shelter and comfort to the tired and frightened family Holy Family. We seek to invite new life into our own tired and frightened souls. We yearn to provide a time and a place for God’s light to enter our hearts and lives.
And so we prepare the manger. But we must do so in the context of the whole story, for the crèche does not stand alone. It is the point from which we embark on the journey. Incarnation envelopes all of life and all of time. Emmanuel, God with us, is present in the baby, the youth, and the man. He will not remain an infant. We cannot hold him back. We can either walk with him, or walk away.
Peace and Blessings,
Today is the Feast of St. Andrew and the weather here on the Cumberland Plateau is doing its level best to approximate the grayest wettest Scottish November possible. I also have a head cold and an ear ache, so be forewarned…I’m grumpy.
In the prayer for this day, we are invited to remember that not only did Andrew hear and respond to Jesus’ call to follow him, he went and got his brother, Peter, and brought him along as well.
I sort of doubt that would happen today.
The whole idea of brotherhood has seen some really lean times lately. Like “neighbor” we have defined the concept “brother” so narrowly that it often doesn’t even include our biological siblings. Brothers (and sisters) are understood to be those who agree with us, who share our “values” (for good or ill) and who don’t threaten or embarrass us. It makes for a pretty exclusive family; and, by-the-way, frees us from the responsibility of taking Jesus seriously.
If the Gospels are any indication, St. Peter could not have been an easy brother to live with. But the season of Advent begins with the example of Andrew going out of his way to bring him into a relationship with Jesus. Andrew could have chosen to make the journey into discipleship, and to foster his friendship with Jesus entirely on his own. But he didn’t. He cared enough about his brother to want to share the Good News. So he delayed his own experience long enough to go and get his irascible brother, Peter.
Maybe Advent is inviting us to do the same? Maybe, rather than erecting barriers to protect ourselves from the reality of our shared humanity, we should be looking for ways to expand the concept of brotherhood to include as many folk as possible. Maybe bringing our brothers along is the best way to get there ourselves.
The local Fred’s in our community has “lay-away”. The last time I knew about such an arrangement was in 1970 when I worked as a clerk in the Ladies Gloves and Hosiery department of a department store in Blacksburg, Virginia. Folks planned ahead in those days and often did their Christmas and holiday shopping through the deliberately intentional and economically wise process of “layaway.” You chose your item, put 10% down and made weekly payments until your purchase was complete and you took your merchandise home. It made a great deal of sense, and combined with the ready availability of Christmas Savings Accounts (remember those?) was a grand alternative to impulse buying and credit card debt. I was making $1.60 an hour in those days and both those options were god-sends to my budget.
The Season of Advent, if approached with the same degree of intention, can be an excellent Lay-Away Plan. Make a small down-payment of Christmas Spirit. Then, every day, add a little something in the way of prayer and action, and come December 24th, you’ll be in good shape. What may have been impossible in one large effort will be complete and ready for wrapping, sharing, or enjoying. You’ll have achieved what you intended, your expectations will have been realistic, and you won’t be either spiritually broke or emotionally exhausted.
This year, enjoy Advent. Make the season a journey into the great crescendo of joy that is Christmas; and do it at a gentle pace, with the grace of gratitude, and the peace of mind that will allow you to arrive at the manger with a glad and joyful heart.
So, I was all set to write a raucously appreciative and sentimental piece about yesterday’s inter generational Thanksgiving at my son’s house. Watching my firstborn roast and carve a turkey while three generations of extended family were sneaking up to “steal” chunks of the steaming bird; weeping quietly over the tearful grace offered by my daughter-in-law; arriving one second too late to prevent the two year old’s grabbing the gravy boat and anointing the table cloth; and watching the four year old tossing a “cheese head” at the ceiling while shouting “fireworks!” Priceless. Glorious.
And then I saw a meme on FB. A photo of a homeless veteran — his face painted as an American flag –and an invitation to “share” if I agreed that his needs should take precedence over those of immigrants and refugees.
Why? Why must I choose? Both the homeless vet and the nameless family are fleeing the tyranny of war. Both are suffering because those who have the ability to make and maintain peace refuse to do so. Both are being denied the basic needs of life and dignity to which they are entitled. Why not take care of both of them?
And here’s the irony. The homeless veteran is more than likely homeless because of his inability to ignore and forget what he saw and experienced in war. He/she lives as an alien in his/her own land, disabled by PSTD, and outcast among the comfortable — a silent witness and indictment to the rest of us to the price of war. He, of all people, understands what it is to be in need of shelter and healing. And he’d probably share what little he has with someone else in need.
Good Lord, yes, our veterans need to be cared for! As do the countless children and seniors in our nation who go to bed hungry and neglected each night. As to the refugees who stream out across the world literally running for their lives from hateful, violent, gangs, terrorists and armies.
But let’s stop trying to make a point about the needs of those close to home by pitting them against the “others.” It’s not that simple. It’s not worthy of us. And every time we allow it to happen, we are all made a little less human.
We’re not fond of sweet cocktails, so most Pomegranate Martinis (especially those with the rim dipped in sugar) are not to our taste. After experimenting a bit, including using pomegranate liqueur, I settled on this approach. You’ll need a good vodka (preferably potato so it’s gluten-free), unsweetened pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds (which will keep a good long while in the fridge so don’t hesitate to buy and seed a pomegranate when they are in stock) and pomegranate molasses. I found the molasses, which is produced in Lebanon and is quite tart, at an online shop — The Spice House, in Milwaukee, WI.
These martinis are dry, tart, and neither fussy nor frivolous. They may become our signature drink here at Ephods and Pomegranates. Enjoy!
Pomegranate Martinis (makes 2)
6 oz vodka (preferably potato)
4 oz unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
2 tsp pomegranate seeds
Combine the vodka , juice and molasses in a cocktail shaker with half a dozen ice cubes. Shake vigorously to dissolve and disperse the molasses. Strain into martini glasses and garnish with the pomegranate seeds. these are potent, so one drink will see you all the way through cocktail hour!
We live some two and a half miles down a very quiet road which runs along a narrow finger of the Cumberland Plateau. We are not immediately on the edge of the bluff, but because we are at its highest point we have wonderful views of both the sunrise and the sunset. We are surrounded by nature and wildlife in an area where the passage of six cars in an hour constitutes heavy traffic.
The geology of this area, however means that the only possible route for the downhill descent from the bluff runs parallel begins at our altitude and follows a long, steep grade to the valley below. Prior to the arrival of the interstate, the passage over Monteagle Mountain could be treacherous, if not fatal, for long distance truckers.
So we hear the trucks.
Normally the traffic is a just distant hum, and it serves as a reminder to me that the blessings of food, goods and services are being continually transported across this beautiful area to the rest of the country. But not all the truckers have learned to navigate the road without standing on the brakes all the way down the mountain. It’s loud, unnecessary, destructive to their brakes and their engines, and seriously irritates drivers and other truckers. I can only imagine what standing on the brakes of a fully laden tractor trailer is doing to the trucker’s blood pressure.
But isn’t that what life is like? Some of us are so petrified by the hills and valleys of life that we spend all our time standing on the brakes, just praying to get down the mountain in one piece. We cannot see that it is counterproductive, and we will not see that it is not necessary.
We are especially prone to behaving this way when the mountains are spiritual. We may know that there is only one way through, but we seem to be determined to make the transit as grudgingly (and loudly) as possible.
We forget that we are on the ride with God, and that we can trust God to see us to our destination. We need not destroy our emotional and physical engines by believing that the only way we will survive is by kicking, screaming, throwing out the anchor, and burning out our transmissions.
The more we resist, the more treacherous the mountains become.
I know it’s still August and still very warm throughout most of the country, but we have been blessed with evenings in the 50’s and some early pumpkins in the Farmer’s Market. So, for supper tonight we had this lovely autumn soup. Make it in the late morning or the night before and let the flavors meld. Then reheat and serve with crusty bread. This is quite spicy. Omit the crushed red pepper for a milder soup. ~ Glyn
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery finely chopped
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
6 plum tomato, diced
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups pumpkin (baked and cooled) 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 -1 tsp garam masala
1/2 – 1 tsp cumin
1/2- 1 tsp baharat spice
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrot in the olive oil.
2 Add the tomatoes and saute.
3 Add the chicken stock and pumpkin. Mix well.
4 Add the spices and bring to a bubble.
5 Simmer for one hour.
6 Let sit at room temperature until ready to serve,
7 Reheat and stir in the yogurt.
8 Serve at once.
Yield: 12 cups
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Inactive Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours and 30 minutes
Quick, Easy and Healthy, too! Use organic products and it’s even better.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup soy milk
1 Combine all dry ingredients in a large bow. Stir to mix thoroughly.
2 Beat the eggs with a fork.
3 Add the milk, oil and honey to the eggs.
4 Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir to mix but do not beat.
5 Pour into prepared muffin tin or paper muffin cups.
6 Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.
7 Remove from the pan and cool on racks.
Yield: 12 Muffins
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Oven Temperature: 375°F
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serving size: 1/12 of a recipe (3.1 ounces).
Our first full line of liturgical season stoles is named for the motto of the School of Theology. Designed and woven by Glyn, these stoles will see you through an entire year of services and are versatile enough for everyday or festive occasions. They measure approximately 5.5″ x 8’each and are made of 100% mercerized cotton. Although colorfast, we recommend dry cleaning as needed.
Prices: $125.00 each or $500.00 for the set of five.
Contact Glyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 610-257-6813 for more information or to order.
New designs coming up shortly, so stay tuned.
One of the things I heard most often when I was in active ministry was: “I just don’t have time to do the things that I want to do!” I know this is true, because I often thought it myself. Though, if truth be told, I usually found a way to do the things I really wanted to do! But, life today does not leave us much time to call our own, and what little there is can be quickly overwhelmed by the list of things that we have already put off. And all too often, the first thing to be set aside is the opportunity for spiritual growth and for prayer. We will get to it later, we think. Perhaps before bed. At which point we will no doubt collapse before the first “Dear God” is formed in your thoughts. But the fact is that if we do not take the time, we will never have it. And for nearly all of us, there really is time. The problem is that there are things that we think we have to do which we really don’t have to do at all.
So this meditation will give you permission to choose to take one thing off your to-do list and to replace it with something that will feed your soul and your body – as well as your family. You can even combine a couple of things into one activity. In this instance, Prayer and Bible Study along with baking bread. It’s a form of active prayer, and the rewards are tangible!
The recipe is simple, direct, and physically engaging. It’s the bread I make for daily use in our home. The list of ingredients can be found in any supermarket if you don’t already have them on your shelf.
Once you know that you have everything on hand, take a look at the ingredients in terms of Scripture passages. Read these verses and the thoughts which accompany them. Then, as you bake the bread, especially as you handle the ingredients and knead the dough, think about the meaning of the Bible verses you have just read. Let the Spirit speak to you as you work. And if prayers arise in your mind, offer them to God and ask for guidance in your life. But most of all, approach this moment with an open and grateful heart.
Daily Bread: From Dayenu
1 cup warm (not hot) water
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 large eggs + 1 egg white for a wash
2 tbsp. brown sugar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
2 ½-3 cups organic unbleached flour
1 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 cup organic whole grain dark rye flour
¼ cup oatmeal.
Water ~ Genesis 21:17-19 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. (God provides for the most basic of our needs. May our eyes be opened to see the blessings all around us.)
Leavening (eggs and yeast) ~ Leviticus 23:17 You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation-offering, each made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of choice flour, baked with leaven, as first fruits to the LORD. (When we raise our hearts in prayer and devote our hands to creative work, we are making an offering of ourselves.)
Oil and Honey ~ Deuteronomy 8:8 God will bring you to a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey. (The richness of creation surrounds us, and is a reminder that the loving kindness of God is abundant. Take note of the abundance in your life.)
Salt ~ Leviticus 2:13 You shall not omit from your grain-offerings the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt. (Salt is as necessary to our lives as is water. Without it, we die. Be a salty person who knows and lives in covenant with God.)
Grain and Flour ~ Genesis 18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ (Abraham and Sarah offer to God the first fruits of their shared life. Are you willing to offer the choicest parts of yourself?)
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
In mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with a fork.
Stir in the salt and the olive oil.
Add the yeast and the water.
Add the whole wheat flour, the rye flour and 2 cups of the white flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough.
Turn out onto a floured surface and work in the remaining flour as needed to make a moderately stiff dough.
Knead for up to ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place in an oiled bowl and turn to cover both sides with the oil.
Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a sheltered place (a cold oven works, and an oven with a “proof” function is perfect) and let rise until doubled or about one hour.
Punch down, shape and place into greased bread pans or shape freeform on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (or on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Brush with an egg-wash made of 1 egg white and 1 tsp water. Sprinkle with oatmeal.
Let rise again.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped.
Cool on racks.
This will keep well for several days. But if you’re not going to eat it all by then, freeze it.
But you are always the same, and your years will never end. (PS 102:27)
For the Psalmist, struggling with his own mortality, this word about the nature of God is extremely good news. He knows that no matter no happens to him in his life, or the lives of his descendants, God is the one, eternal constant.
Odd, isn’t it, that we don’t quite share his confidence? We know that our lives change – all the time – and that our tried and true methods of understanding and coping with that change do not always work. This is especially true when we have mistaken our static processes and opinions for the constancy of God. Put another way, we get into trouble when we forget that while God does not change, our relationship with God must and does change.
There was a time in my childhood in which I believed that God only heard my prayers when I got into bed, closed my eyes, and turned my face toward a specific corner of the room. As things go, that was probably a good way of disciplining myself to approach God with regular intention. But if that were the only manner in which I pray today, how could I be in prayerful relationship with the Holy One when the need and desire for prayer arises while I am driving, or kneading bread, or working at my loom?
God has not changed. But I have. And the level of comfort I derive from knowing that God is always and eternally present is beyond any sense of peace or presence that I might know if I were I to limit my prayers to those times when I am the right place with the correct posture and the appropriately focused attention. This does not mean that I no longer say my prayers in bed at night; it simply means that my beginning and end-of-the-day prayers are more like the start and finish my daily dialogue with my Maker.
We can learn a lot from the trust and confidence of the Psalmist. He knew where to find and how to access the anchor of his daily and spiritual life. May we learn to do so as well.
As promised, here is a meal featuring produce from this week’s trip to the Farmer’s Market. This one is destined to become one of our go-to party dishes. It’s gorgeous, and it’s surprisingly easy. Just be sure to use a deep pan for roasting the poblanos…unless of course you don’t mind cleaning the spills from your oven floor! ~ Glyn
For the Poblano Sauce: (makes at least a quart)
24 large (Gulliver) tomatillos, shucked and rinsed
1 lb white onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1 head of elephant garlic (about 8-10 cloves) peeled and halved
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
Drizzle of olive oil.
Use your hands to rub the vegetable oil onto the surface of the tomatillos. Place them in a deep, foil-lined baking dish. Scatter the onion and garlic around them. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the onion and garlic. Bake at 400 for one hour, turning the tomatillos over at the halfway point. CAREFULLY remove from the oven and let cool to warm. With a slotted spoon transfer the solids to a blender and process just until thick and slushy. Refrigerate for use in sauces or salsas.
For the Poblanos
8 medium size poblanos, blanched
1 lb. ground lamb
½ cup raisins
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
1 tsp Baharat spice
½ to 1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste.
Carefully make a cut down one side of each poblano but do not force them open. Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes.
Rinse in cool water.
Gently open each pepper along the slit you have made and carefully remove the seeds.
Drain the peppers on paper towels.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Divide the meat mixture into eight portions and gently stuff the peppers.
Arrange the peppers in a non-stick baking dish.
Top with 1 cup of the tomatillo sauce (or to taste).
Sprinkle with additional cumin and bake, uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 or until the filling is cooked through, adding additional sauce if things begin to dry out.
Serve with a crisp green salad or some homemade guacamole and you’re good to go!
Back in May we noticed that a hummingbird visited our front garden several times each day. In order to make it welcome we put out a feeder. And it hopes of attracting more hummingbirds, we added additional feeders to the yard. What we did not realize was that the one bird would consider himself lord and master of the entire yard and would spend all his time guarding all the feeders. Naive as we are, we thought that the abundance of food might make him a bit more tolerant of other birds. We were wrong. Later, he did mate, and albeit grudgingly, permits her to feed as well.
Lately, another pair of hummingbirds have been showing up — no doubt because it is nearly time for their annual migration south and they are bulking up for the journey. But because of the aggressively territorial nature of the first set of birds, I doubt that any of them are benefiting from the calories they snatch between bouts of aerial warfare. More than enough food for dozens of hummingbirds with four birds fighting over it all!
Which perturbs me no end as it reminds me of how similar we human creatures are. There is more than enough food on this planet to feed us all. There is more than enough intelligence, resources and technology to end poverty. Literacy and education are no longer optional, they are necessary to the success in life. But what do we do? We continue to embrace the false and self-destructive notion that there is not enough to go around. We hoard, and in doing so, create even more fear and conflict. We squander our own energy in trying to prevent others from accessing what they require in order to become part of a productive whole.
If we don’t wake up soon, this “zero-sum game” mentality will be the death of us. And if the human race were to have a collective obituary, it might read, “cause of death: stupidity.”
Here’s a thought for the day: Even if for no reason other than enlightened self-interest, let’s all share something. Just give it a try.
Today is Tuesday, so during the time we would normally be cooking, we’re off to the local Farmer’s Market to pick up this week’s order. We make two stops each week, first to Mooney’s Emporium to pick up from Michael Raines’ Frontier Family Farms, and then to the Sewanee Community Center for the South Cumberland Farmer’s Market (now known as Rooted Here).
Since we will be out this afternoon, I put supper on the stove a bit earlier to simmer. With the exception of some dried spices and the olive oil I purchased from Mooney’s last month, this meal is made entirely of ingredients available either from local farmers or from my own herb garden.
Wherever you live, look for CSAs and for local farmer’s. Buy what you can, and freeze or preserve it so that you can enjoy the fresh tastes and nutrition of local sustainable agriculture year-round.
Good Cooking my Friends!
Middle Eastern Beef with Shitake Mushrooms (serves 4)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef (shaped into 8 lozenge shaped pieces)
1/4 lb. shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
3 large cloves garlic
6 small tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp ground sumac berries
1/2- 1 tsp. baharat spice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c toasted pine nuts or 1/2 cup walnut pieces
In the olive oil, saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic until just golden. Add the beef and cook at medium heat until lightly browned on both sides. Add the tomatoes, spices and basil. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to a bare simmer, cover and let cook until you are ready to eat. If your stove will do a very low simmer, you can leave this or an hour or two. If not, put the covered pan in your oven and cook it at 200 F.
Serve with a simple chopped salad made of tomatoes, green onion tops, and cucumbers dressed with white balsamic vinegar.
Then get to work sorting and cooking your haul from the Farmer’s Market.
Yesterday the rains finally Arrived. The first few weeks of August had been hot and still. The stifling heat and humidity on the plateau were often overwhelming. Even the birds and insects seemed to move about as little as possible. The mood had been so pronounced that yesterday’s rain felt as though the humidity had finally tired of holding itself in suspension in the air and was simply falling to the ground.
Today’s rain is different. It carries a sense of purpose. It falls with force and intention, alternately rinsing the dust from the ground, and washing the lingering mist from the air. It’s wonderful. In fact, there is even something glorious about it. Because along with the moisture and the coolness, there is a breeze…a breeze that is so gentle and yet so insistent as to be soul-renewing. It reminds that the doldrums are not permanent, and promises that autumn will come. We are not trapped forever in the incapacitating heat of August.
How often our spirits feel that way! Stuck, barely aware of our surroundings, and moving only when absolutely necessary. Until the breath of God stirs and awakens us from our torpor. In those moments we feel alive again. We become aware of hope that has evaded us and possibilities which seem to have been too weighty to engage us. It is as though the breath of God, like rain, washes us clean and fills to overflowing the recently stagnant cisterns of our souls.
May you know the power of the waters of life this day. May you feel the renewed strength of hope and purpose. May your thirst be quenched, your body renewed and you spirit empowered for love.
Even though I am gluten-intolerant and only allow myself a taste of this bread once a week at our Sabbath dinner, I love baking it! There is something so soul-satisfying about working with bread dough — the aroma, the textures, the rhythms of kneading, and the patience of waiting for the miracle of the rising. As the Sabbath prayer says, “Blessed are you, O God, sovereign of the universe, for you have given us this bread to sustain our lives.”
This started out as a recipe from Williams Sonoma. It was quite good, but was not quite so yeasty as I prefer, and it made two enormous loaves. So after a bit of tinkering, this is what I use for our weekly batch of Challah. Do not use rapid rise yeast as it tends to make the bread very spongy and flattens the shape of the braids. Dayenu ~ Glyn
1 tbsp dry active yeast (1 pkg)
1/4 cup water (warm but not hot)
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar or honey (organic)
3 large eggs
4 tbsp butter
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour (organic, unbleached)
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 Sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and let sit while you
2 Beat the eggs, sugar, salt and softened butter together (in a large bowl with a fork, not a mixer)
3 Stir in the yeast/water.
4 Add 2 cups of the flour, mixing well with a fork or wooden spoon.
5 Add the remaining flour by quarter cupfuls to make a soft dough.
6 Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, adding additional flour if needed.
7 When the dough is smooth, satiny and elastic, transfer to a lightly oiled bowl.
8 Turn once to get the oil on all sides of the dough.
9 Cover and let rise till doubled (about 90 minutes) in a spot free from drafts. I use proof function in the oven.
10 Shape or braid into two loaves and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Wash with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
12 Let rise another 30-45 minutes.
13 Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Watch to keep from getting too brown.
14 Cool on racks.
Yield: 2 loaves
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Oven Temperature: 375°F
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours and 10 minutes
I love to cook. I really do. Perhaps because it reminds me of my mother and grandmother. Perhaps because it is an opportunity to express myself with something that also demonstrates my love for those around me. This recipe is especially meaningful because it includes memories from several parts of my life – the fresh produce of an Appalachian summer, the flavors of the middle east, the hot and sweet coolness of southwestern cooking and the unending question of what to do with all the zucchini your garden produces. So with love to all those things and especially to my mom and grandma, here it is. By the way, this makes plenty of the sauce which is also excellent as a cold soup!
1 lb ground lamb
1/4 lb mushrooms (preferably shitake as they are very moist)
1/2 cup onion chopped
1/2 cup walnut halves (or 1/4 cup pine nuts)
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup sweet peppers (red, green or yellow)
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp baharat dried spice or curry powder
6 medium medium zucchini (halved with the center scooped out and added to the lamb) 1 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 tsp Salt and pepper (or to taste)
4 cups cantaloupe (1/2 medium)
2 cups yogurt (whole milk, plain greek)
2 tsp dried mint (or 1/4 cup fresh)
2 tbsp basil, chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried)
1 tbsp chopped jalapeno peppers, or to taste
1 tsp sugar
For the Lamb
1 Halve the zucchini and scoop the centers into a bowl. Set the zucchini shells aside.
2 In a food processor, finely chop the mushrooms, onion, garlic, walnuts and tomatoes.
3 Combine the lamb, chopped vegetables, zuchinni centers and spices in a large bowl. Using your hands, combine well.
4 Form the mixture into logs and press into the zucchini halves. Place in a lightly oiled baking dish.
5 Sprinkle with the sesame seed.
6 Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until the meat is done and the zucchini is crisp tender.
7 Serve with the canteloupe sauce
For the Sauce
1 Combine the canteloupe, yogurt, mint, jalapeno and basil and sugar in a food processor or blender. Mix until thoroughly combined. Chill for several hours to allow the flavors to meld.
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Oven Temperature: 350°F
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
I’ve been a writer all my life…or at least a talker. I’ve been a teacher, a therapist, a preacher, and lately, someone who observes and comments on life in general. But I’ve always known my audience and have been able to see and respond to nearly immediate feedback. Blogging is quite different. The thoughts and words are put into a bottle and cast out upon the waters. Perhaps they will be received and read. Perhaps they will simply rock upon the ether waves of the internet. Who knows? So, in the past few months as I have settled into the private life of retirement, I have been experiencing a peculiar form of writer’s block. I find that I no longer know exactly what to write about. Without a syllabus or a Lectionary to impose the subject matter, I am adrift in an ocean of possible topics but unable to decide upon which one will serve as my raft for next stage of the journey.
If you are reading this, you most likely know me and read what I write. Hence this invitation. What, if anything, would you like to hear from me? I would love to hear from you, even if your message is “Enough already. Be Quiet!”
BTW, the cantaloupe was more than breakfast today. It struck me as a metaphor for the process of writing. The tender flesh and fragrance of life are only accessible when its pebbled surface is penetrated by an object capable of breaking through the rind without destroying the essence of what lies within.
Today is the feast of Lammas, or Lughnasadh as the Celts call it. It’s a celebration of the grain/corn/wheat harvest and it’s traditional to make and eat bread. But for those of us who are celiac or even gluten-intolerant it’s a kind of a sad feast day. Sure there are gluten-free breads and pastas available, but tasty as they may be, they are no substitute for the real thing. Besides, what they lack in texture and mouth appeal, the more than make up for in added sugar. And by the way, please don’t suggest that gluten-intolerance is a fad or affection. If the presence of gluten in your diet gives you gastric distress and keeps you tethered to the nearest “rest-room”, you’re gluten intolerant. So, unless you really like munching ono a rice cake while everyone else is chowing down on homemade bread and pasta, you’re out of luck.
But I’m not one to let a good feast day go to waste, so here at Dayenu (as we formerly did at RavenOak) Will and I will be celebrating the harvest with the freshest, tastiest, gluten-free meal we can produce. Dinner tonight will feature and arugula salad, shrimp pesto served with polenta, and for dessert, blueberry crumble. All of which is gluten-free, added sugar-free and low carb. Did (I mention that my metabolism doesn’t like sugar either?) These recipes are amazingly simple and the pesto makes enough for tonight, PLUS two dozen 1/4 cup “cubes” to freeze for the winter when basil is not available. Yes, it’s a bit pricey to make up-front, but when you divide the cost by 25, it’s a real bargain…not mention that you’ll be able to enjoy the taste of midsummer all winter long.
Now for the recipes:
4 oz. pine nuts (toasted in a dry skillet till golden brown)
4 oz. walnuts
2 c FIRMLY packed fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. (heaping) minced garlic
2 c. freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor, chop the nuts till fine but not pulverized. Transfer to bowl.
Combine the garlic and the basil and process till finely chopped.
Add the nuts, cheese and olive oil to the basil and garlic and pulse until smooth.
Spoon into ice cube trays or small muffin cups and freeze. Transfer to freezer bags for long term storage. To use, simply thaw and heat, seasoning to taste.
1 quart fresh blueberries
1/4 c Splenda (divided)
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 c almond meal (ground almonds)
1/2 c oatmeal
Cinnamon, Cardamom and Nutmeg
Place the washed, drained berries in a baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the Splenda and with the spices to taste. Combine the butter, almond meal and oatmeal and mix with your fingers to make a crumbly topping. Spoon over the berries. Sprinkle on additional spices to taste. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until the topping is nicely browned and the berries are bubbling. Cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Today is July 31st and the moon is full for the second time this month, which makes it a “blue-moon”. Not only that, but the night-time temperatures dipped into the low 60’s here on the Cumberland Plateau last night – two reasons for a celebration.
So here is a dessert to mark the occasion. It’s gluten-free and has no sugar other than what occurs naturally in the fruit. And if you use a non-dairy substitute for the butter, it’s even Vegan! Make this for your family and enjoy it plain, with cream, or with ice cream.
Once in a Blue Moon Summer Tart
1 ½ cups ground almond flour
¼ c Splenda or sugar (or equivalent amount of Truvia)
¼ c butter or vegan margarine (softened)
Dash of salt
2 freestone peaches, halved and peeled
2 red or black plums, seeded and quartered
1 tsp Splenda
1 tbsp oatmeal
Reserve 1 tsp of the butter to dot on top of the tart before baking. Combine the almond meal/flour with the butter and the sweetener. Mix thoroughly with your fingertips and press firmly into a shallow baking dish or pie pan.
Arrange the cut fruit over the crust, sprinkle with the remaining sweetener and the oatmeal. Dot the tops of the fruit with the butter.
Bake at 375 for up to one hour, or until the fruit is cooked and bubbly and the crust is lightly browned. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
We bless you, God of Seed and Harvest, and we bless each other
That the beauty of this world, nd the love that created it
Might be expressed though our lives nd be a blessing to others
Now and always. AMEN (From Praying Through the Celtic Year)
Every culture and every faith has harvest celebrations.
While we here in the US are most acquainted with such festivals in autumn, those of us with Celtic backgrounds may know about a cycle of eight such events — one of which occurs about every six weeks. These “holy days” are ancient in origin and are often solar or lunar observances, but that’s not all…they are so universal that by the middle ages, they had even been incorporated into the calendars of the church. August 1st became known as Lammas and was a bread-festival.
This weekend marks one of those events. Variously known as Lammas, Lughnasadh, Bread Harvest, First Harvest, or even Freyfaxi, August 1st marks the grain, corn, or summer harvest. But depending on where you live, this day in high summer (or mid-winter for those who live down-under) may also be the time when you find yourself surrounded by tomatoes, squash, onions, zucchini and fresh herbs as we are here on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. In a few days I will be making and freezing a big batch of pesto with the Greek Basil from my own herb garden, but today I am making tomato sauce.
We moved here a bit too late this year to get our own tomatoes going, but fortunately, I have found a source for buying very meaty Roma tomatoes in bulk (White City Produce and Greenhouse https://www.facebook.com/whitecityp.g) and the first batch is already simmering on the stove. Redolent of herbs and spices, it smells heavenly…which brings me to my real point for writing this. How often do we give thanks for the simple pleasures of our lives?
The scent of a ripe tomato (and its pungent vine) is an occasion for gratitude. The lingering aroma of garlic and onions on your fingers after chopping is a reminder of how much you have for which to be thankful. Even the grit on your countertops and under your fingernails when you sort produce or rinse fresh greens is an opportunity to give thanks for all that this good earth produces.
So, whatever your tradition may be, now is a good time to look around at the bounty of your life and mark this time of year with a special act of gratitude for all your blessings. Make a gift to a food bank, prepare a special meal using the fruits of this summer harvest, or just stand outside and breathe a prayer of thanksgiving.
And here is the recipe. No, it’s not for bread, but some fresh rosemary focaccia would be perfect with it.
Glyn’s Lammastide Tomato Sauce
5 lbs roma tomatoes, stems removed and cut into quarters
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c olive oil
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 c chopped fresh basil (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/4 c chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
3 bay leaves
In batches in a food processor, pulse the tomatoes until chopped or pureed. Meanwhile, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until translucent. Combine in a large pot with the tomatoes and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook at a slow boil until the sauce is reduced to the consistency you prefer. Adjust the seasoning. Preserve as you wish. I freeze the sauce in quart size plastic bags. Depending upon how thick you like your sauce, this recipe will make up to four quarts. Dayenu! Glyn
Eating Healthy is sometimes a challenge these days. We think it costs more and takes more time, but if you can connect with a good farmer’s market and dedicate one morning a week to cooking and freezing the results, you will be well rewarded…and your body will thank you, too! We are so fortunate to live in a place with great CSA’s and Farmer’s Markets. This recipe is from the Bounty available at this week’s market. It comes together quickly, tastes fabulous and freezes for later. Dayenu, Glyn
“South Cumberland Farmer’s Market Ratatouille”
Recipe and Sources:
2 cups White Onion (large dice) Michael Raines Frontier Family Farm
1 large clove garlic (minced) Helen’s Half Acre
2 large green peppers (1 inch dice) White City Produce
1 lb Japanese Eggplant (1 inch dice) Helen’s Half Acre
1 large zucchini (1 inch dice) Turtle Run Farm
3 large Cherokee heirloom purple tomatoes (diced) White City Produce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp each dried oregano and basil or (fresh to taste) from my own herb garden
2 tbsp. red balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onion, garlic and peppers in the olive oil until transparent. Add the eggplant and zucchini and continue to saute for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and simmer until the vegetables are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in the vinegar and let cool. Reheat to serve. This will fill four quart-sized freezer bags and freezes well.
The baby eggplant at the Cumberland Farmer’s Market was gorgeous this week and I got three pounds of it. One pound went into the eggplant parmesan we are having for supper tomorrow, but the rest I halved, seasoned with olive oil and herbs and roasted. Most of that batch went into the bags in the freezer to serve as a quick side dish later on the year, but the rest of it will be part of our dinner tonight. This really couldn’t be simpler or tastier. Do try it while the summer produce is fresh and abundant. Arrange these on a pretty platter (this one was a gift from my friend Jane) and serve as an appetizer, first course, or side dish. ~ Dayenu, Glyn
Roasted Baby Eggplant with Ricotta and Basil
1 lb baby eggplant, halved lengthwise (about 8)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Basil and Oregano (dried)
Preheat the oven to 425. Place the halved eggplant in a single layer on a sheet of parchment paper. Brush or rub the cut surface with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, garlic, basil and oregano. Roast the eggplant until it is quite soft and golden brown. 20 minutes or so, depending on your oven and the size of the eggplant. Let cool to room temperature.
1/4 cup ricotta or vegan substitute
8 grape tomatoes
8 sprigs fresh basil
2 tbsp grated parmesan
When ready to serve, Top each eggplant with a tsp of ricotta, one grape tomato (halved) one sprig of fresh basil and a light sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese. Serve at once, or reheat slowly in a very low oven. Just enough to warm the eggplant, but not enough to make the cheese run.
The finished product of any endeavor is a joy to behold. A symphony, a novel, a new rose garden; a child’s painting, a poem. The finished product I’m looking forward to at the moment is represented at the left – a scarf in one of our Mountain Tartans, “Morgan’s Steep.”
But in weaving, as in all art and most of life, you cannot arrive at the finished product in one quick leap. Indeed, trying to do that is the surest way to a finished product that may not be a joy to behold, that may be marred by mistakes, blemishes, and imperfections.
In weaving, the actual “weaving” part comes at the very end, just before the finished product, and is usually the easiest and shortest step in the process. There are so very many steps that come first – many of them seemingly slow and tedious:
* Create the design
* Choose the weaving pattern
* Pick out the yarns
* Do the math. (Oh, there is so much math! Warp widths, number of yarn “ends,” etc.)
* Prepare the length of the warp yarn on the warping board
* Pull each warp thread through the reed (called “sleying,”) in the proper sequence, one at a time (there may be over 300 of them)
* Go around to the back of the loom and use a heddle hook to pull each yarn end through the proper heddle in the right sequence to produce the weave pattern you have chosen.
* Tie off the warp on the front and back beams.
* Wind some weft yarn on a bobbin and place it in a shuttle, and now you are ready to weave.
* (Well, except for lots of other things I haven’t mentioned here, to save blog space!)
SO, here I am at the heddle-threading stage for my Morgan’s Steep scarf. There are 134 ends, in 4 colors, to thread in the proper sequence to be able to weave an advancing twill pattern, the best to use for producing a tartan.
I’ll be working with 4 shafts (a shaft is a frame that holds the heddles. It moves up and down, in concert with the other 3 shafts, as I step on the treadles – ‘peddles’ – of the loom. This creates different openings in the yarn (called a shed) for me to toss the shuttle back and forth, laying down the weft thread.) So you can see I’ve tied up the loose warp ends in bundles of 12, a multiple of 4. Then using the heddle hook, I begin threading the individual heddles in the proper sequence – this time a simple one: 4-3-2-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-3-2-1, for all 134 threads (or ends.)
This is the slow part. The tedious part. The part where, without mindfulness, things can go terribly wrong. (Believe me! That has already happened twice on this project, requiring a complete starting over.) There is real temptation here. You can see the beautiful sequence of colors you have chosen, and you begin to imagine the finished product. “If I can get through this threading as quickly as possible,” you think to yourself, “I’ll have that beautiful scarf in my hands.” What I really want is the scarf. Not to be threading heddles. And then the mistakes begin to happen.
So near, and yet so far!
Here is where the mindfulness comes in. Some might call it “patience,” but it is so much more than that. Patience is putting up with what you don’t want, in order to get to that which you do want. Mindfulness, in contrast, is actually wanting to be doing what you are doing at the moment. In this moment, the threading of each individual heddle must be my goal, my “finished product.” The scarf is far in the future, known about, but not filling the mind. To use a theological term (as I am wont to do,) the scarf is an eschatological concept at this point. The shuttle, considered by the uninitiated to be the most important weaving tool, lies by the wayside waiting its turn.
4-3-2-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-3-2-1 . . . black, green, yellow, green, black, purple. The mind is focused not on threading the heddles, but on hooking one specific thread out of 134, and pulling it through the eye of the one specific heddle destined for it. This is my weaving project, right here. The heddle, heddle hook, and purple thread you see in the second picture above. It has to be this way. It has to be this way if that far-off scarf is ever to appear.
This is “Mindfulness,” the greatest lesson a weaver can learn. It is why weaving is a spiritual experience. And if we learn this well enough, we come to see that all living is a spiritual experience. There is a great energy that flows back and forth between the yarn and the mindful weaver. The next time you wear someone’s handwoven “finished product,” open your own mind to it. You will feel that mindfulness, I promise. And it will feel like prayer.
There are many unfortunate versions in European folklore of the story of the “Wandering Jew.” Most prevalent is that of a Jewish shoemaker who taunted Jesus on His way to the crucifixion, and was condemned by Jesus to wander the world forever, until the Second Coming. It is unfortunately the product of medieval European anti-Semitism. Yet it has its origins in Scripture, in the beloved Confession of the Faith of Abraham in Deuteronomy:
A wandering Aramean was my father,
he went down to Egypt and sojourned there,
he and just a handful of his brothers at first, but soon
they became a great nation, mighty and many.
The Egyptians abused and battered us,
in a cruel and savage slavery.
We cried out to God, the God-of-Our-Fathers:
He listened to our voice, he saw
our destitution, our trouble, our cruel plight.
And God took us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,
with signs and miracle-wonders.
And he brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. (Deuteronomy 26)
So it is not strange that one day someone would give the name “Wandering Jew” to various varieties of spreading ground cover plants. We have one such plant growing beautifully in a hanging basket on our front porch at Dayenu Cottage. In the mornings it captures the light of the rising sun in a glorious burst of purple radiance. As we finished our Mist on the Mountain shawl, it seemed a good idea to switch from a silver weft to a purple weft, and change the weaving design to a more “wandering” twill variation. So on the loom now is the completed “Mist on the Mountain,” and the newly begun “Wandering Jew.” Please contact us for pricing, or for other orders.
Above: The changeover from “Mist on the Mooutain” to “Wandering Jew,” and the beginnings of “Wandering Jew.”
Around here folks are fond of saying “Fog Happens”. It certainly does, but it is also quite lovely while it’s happening so long as you can either stay home or still see where you’re going. In the winter, the fog freezes on the evergreens, but in the summer, as now, the scene is reminiscent of the primordial wood. So, When it’s too wet to take the canoe out, and the fog comes rolling in, it’s time to take inspiration from your surroundings and design a new pattern. So, we are happy to introduce our latest fabric for shawls, “Fog on the Mountain.”
Inspired by this photo from our front porch, the fabric is on the loom as we speak and 2 shawls are nearly done. They will be 18″ x 66″ and are priced at $175 each. Call or email us for additional information or to place an order. Glyn
When the local farmer’s markets and CSA’s are brimming with berries and stone fruit, nothing tastes quite so good as a fruit pie, cobbler or crumble. This one is especially tempting because it’s gluten free and has no added sugar. Not to mention that it’s as pretty as a summer day. You can put it together in 15 minutes and cook it earlier in the day to be eaten at room temperature, or just before serving if you want to top it with ice cream. The recipe serves 6 but don’t be surprised if two hungry-types finish it off in one sitting. Doubles, triples, or quadruples easily. Enjoy! Glyn
1 cup sliced sliced plums
4 cups blueberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or any mixture of berries
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup butter or earth Balance Vegan Margarine (melted)
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Slice the fruit into a nine inch pie pan.
2 Sprinkle with half the cinnamon and half the cardamom.
3 Combine the remaining ingredients to make a moist crumble.
4 Spoon small dollops of the almond crumb topping onto the fruit.
5 Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until the fruit is juicy and the topping is golden.
6 Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 1 nine inch pie pan
Degree of Difficulty: Very easy
Oven Temperature: 375°F
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (4.9 ounces)
Dessert, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
My Monteagle Sunset Placemats are finished and ready for use.
Cotton Yarn, in Plainweave
Designed and Woven by Will Melnyk
A Monteagle Sunset last Winter
Morgan’s Steep Tartan from Ephods & Pomegranates is about to go on the loom for some great Fall/Winter scarves!
The legend at Sewanee, delightful though fully debunked, is that Morgan’s Steep is named for a Confederate General who road his horse off it rather than be captured by Union forces. True, Sewanee has many place names derived from its place in the Civil War. But, while General Morgan’s ghost may yet haunt the bluffs around the campus, he did not die at Morgan’s Steep, nor is the picturesque cliff overlooking Cowan and Winchester named for him. Here is one account more likely historical:
Our Tartan is made up of Purple for Sewanee, Gold for the beautiful sunsets seen from the rock, Black for the dark nights that fall over the bluffs, and Green for the lush woodlands of the Domain, now an intentional arboretum.
More pictures of the Morgan’s Steep Tartan Scarf will be coming soon.
Monteagle, Tennessee, our new home, sits astride a narrow arm of the South Cumberland Plateau. All around is a maze of high bluffs and deep coves, extending in every direction of the compass. At our home we can watch the sunrise from the front porch, and watch it set from the side deck.
I’m weaving a set of placements for our table here at Dayenu, which I’ve named “Monteagle Sunset,” The color of the summer sky when you stand at the edge of the bluff, beyond the trees, and watch the reds and yellows, the pinks and the golds, as the sun goes down.
“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”
― Jo Walton
Today is a big day for “Ephods and Pomegranates.” Our first bolt of Mountain Tartans (“Sewanee Cross”) is complete, and ready to be used in the production of runners, stoles, even MousePads! Please Contact me at this site or at email@example.com for further information.
Billions of words have been written and spoken about last Wednesday’s massacre during a prayer meeting in an AME Church in Charleston, SC. Billions of words and every bit as many prayers have been sent from pulpits, bedsides and silent hearts — which is good. It is good to be driven to the knees of our hearts by the awful weight and awareness of just how much hatred seeks to beat down the doors of love, peace and sanity.
But unless the prayers are followed by action, the prayers and our breath are wasted. God hears us, of course, but it is part of the mystery of faith that God entrusts us with the blessing and the responsibility of making peace and love incarnate in the world. It is a solemn and glorious thing that God calls us to do this work. With our prayers, yes, but also with our hands and with our lives.
Simply bemoaning the presence of racism in our lives and in our society is a worthless expenditure of breath. Denying its existence — in our land and in our own hearts — is even worse. We all stand in the path of judgment if we do not confront and work to remove racism wherever it appears. Racism, even unconscious racism, is a reminder that we have been taught to fear others, to consider ourselves superior for no reason other than the shade of our skin, and to mistrust those who do not look and act just as we do. This shooting has shamed us, and the best response we can make it to do and to be better.
The hot rush of blood to our faces when we are ashamed can either lead to anger, rage and the hot air of vituperative language and even more violence, or it can serve as a cleansing wind scouring our hearts clean and giving us the courage to start anew. We have a choice about what we will do and what we will teach our children to do.
Scripture tells us “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We no longer have the luxury of limiting the definition of neighbor to those who share our views or are related to us by blood or economics. We are all neighbors on this planet, and when, God willing, we go to other places in the universe, we will find that those folks, too, are our neighbors, and that in God’s economy, we are all equal. We are all friends.
To paraphrase a popular slogan, “Friends don’t let friends hate…or kill.” It is within our power to end the violence. We have the means, we merely lack the will. Let us pray for courage, and let us act.
And may the breath of God blow like a might wind in our hearts and nation, and may we put an end to the hot air of hate.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
Mass shootings are reported with sickening frequency in our nation – in malls, schools, workplaces, and now, even in churches. And, in the immediate aftermath we cry and shake our heads and bemoan the lack of meaningful gun control. And then we forget about it until the next massacre occurs. And so, today, we find ourselves outraged that Dylan Roof has entered a church, attended a Bible Study and then killed nine people. But in a month will we remember?
Let me be clear. I am in favor of rigorous background checks and bans on citizen ownership of automatic weapons. I am appalled at the violence which infects our society. And I am increasingly pessimistic about the world in which my children and grandchildren must live.
But I am also convinced that no manner of legislation or gun control will heal us. Such actions are well past due. What we need now are good old-fashioned ethics, values, and lessons in civics. And we need for them to be taught in the home as well as in the schools.
Barring mental illness, no child grows up to be a cold-blooded killer on her own; she learns, either by example or neglect, that violence is an acceptable response to pain or fear. Nor does anyone one form a conscience all by himself. It takes family, teachers, and spiritual communities working together, and working on a consistently regular basis to teach our youngsters how honest, decent people treat one another. It means confronting our own lapses in kindness, our own dishonesty, and our own fears and prejudices – and then refusing to perpetuate them through our silence.
We need to be about the business of helping our children form their consciences – in other words, teaching right from wrong, and holding them (and ourselves) accountable for words and actions which involve or provoke violence. And we need to start at home.
Expecting schools, governments, even religions to teach morality for us is puerile. Not only that, it is sloth and moral cowardice in the highest degree. Teach your children diligently.
…who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out of the womb?…prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped. (Job 38)
Playing a game of tag with the waves on the shoreline is great fun. Surfing the high swells (I have been told) is invigorating. And a good wind and rain storm will cleanse the air and lower the temperature, but the consequences of attempting to sail into a hurricane are a reminder that exciting weather is also often fatal. Our relationship with God is inextricably linked to our physical experience. Our bodies have a very limited range of tolerance for temperature and moisture and when we find ourselves outside that range, we suffer, wither, and perish. Which is why we want God to be in charge of the weather.
It is a joyful thing to give God praise and credit for the goodness and glory of creation, but it’s not so easy when the land is washed in flood or parched and dry. Then, we want God to be in control and we want the rivers and seas to stay within their bounds—at least in our neighborhoods.
And perhaps that is why when the weather does not treat us kindly, we pray that it will change while wondering what we have done to invoke God’s anger. Unfortunately, we often forget that the natural world is also one of God’s creatures, and that God does not pit God’s creatures against one another. But, our worlds seem to begin and end on our own doorsteps. So, when we need rain, we pray that God will send it. But we also forget that the rain that falls in one part of the world may well be the result of drought in another. And we forget that contrary to so many of the stories of faith, God does not use the natural world as a weapon. Those stories are a reflection of our fear of chaos and our awareness that life is full of danger. Thinking that God is manipulating the weather may make make us feel better, but it is truly wrong to think that floods, famines, tsunamis and forest fires are punishment from God, especially when we think God is punishing someone else!
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38)
The story of Job predates the Hebrew Scriptures and is probably part of an ancient folk-tale concerning undeserved suffering. Such suffering is an issue with which we all struggle from time to time. Some things just don’t make sense. And when faced with what we perceive as injustice, we cast about looking for someone or something to hold accountable. God is often first on our list for blaming. It seems that is human nature. And the God in the Book of Job does seem culpable. After all, Job’s suffering is the result of a wager between God and Satan. When, very near the end of the story, Job finally expresses his frustration and challenges God, the response is swift and withering. “Where were you???”
But the story of Job is also a cautionary tale about the wisdom of challenging God. For it is true that God is God and we are not. We cannot know the mind of God. Aside from specific actions of cause and effect, we do not know why we suffer. Nor can we assume that God causes or endorses our suffering simply because God does not immediately alleviate it.
So how do we approach God in the midst of suffering and injustice? With humility. As Job hears in chapters 38-41, we have no innate right to call God into question. God is the Creator and Maker of all. But that is not meant to leave us lost in the mystery of suffering in silence. While it is not wise to challenge the Divine, it is a good and proper thing to ask for understanding and knowledge. Most of all, we are to pray for an awareness of the presence of God. Those who are in an intentional and reverent relationship with God know their place in the created order — that of a beloved creature. We are neither the center of universe, nor are we outside the scope of God’s providence. Knowing this can lead us to a place of true humility in which we seek to understand our own suffering, to do our best to alleviate the suffering of others, and to rest in God’s presence no matter what is going on.
Does God Hear Prayer?
Give ear, O Lord to my prayer and attend to the voice of my supplications. (Ps.86:6)
If there was ever a person who needed to have her prayer heard and answered, it was Hagar, the outcast concubine of Abraham, as she and her son, Ishmael, sat dying of thirst in the desert. She cried to God for help and Genesis 21 tells us that her prayer was heard, her eyes were opened, and she was able to see a nearby well and draw water for herself and for her young son.
Our Scriptures are replete with stories of God’s answers to the prayers of the faithful. So many, in fact, that we may easily overlook the instances in Scripture when heartfelt and faithful prayers were not miraculously (and immediately) answered. The children of Israel languished for centuries in captivity, and the sick exhausted all they have in search of healing. Even Jesus, who prayed that the cup of his passion may pass from him, was left to endure the pain and suffering of death. Why were their prayers not answered as they wished? Was God absent? Otherwise engaged? Indifferent?
No. The problem is that prayer is a mystery. The Psalmist certainly believes that God hears and answers prayer. But the Psalmist also knows that prayer is more than supplication; and that answers, if they come at all, and often not in the form we might desire.
Two things come to mind: Prayers and their answers are not equal parts of an equation and God works in and through the things of this world. In the former we must learn that God is not a “cosmic vending machine” which must, upon demand and proper payment, deliver a product. In the latter, we are called upon to remember that in our incarnate faith, God calls upon us to answer the prayers of others. Having created the universe and the laws of physics, God does not need to inject the miraculous. Perhaps, instead, God expects that we, like Hagar, will open our eyes, see the well and go get the water. But not only that. Perhaps God also expects that we will go to the well on behalf of others and bring to them that which they cannot themselves acquire.
It seems to be a matter of faith and of action. When we pray, we should pray for the presence of God in our lives. When we act, we do in response to our awareness of God’s presence in all of life. Hagar pleads for help, but after all, she would not have needed God’s miraculous intervention if either Abraham or Sarah had treated her with the dignity she deserved. So, God acted instead.
In either case, when we pray for the presence of God, we find it, and when we act in response, we make God present for others.
“But Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son, Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son, Isaac.” Genesis 21:-11
It is good and to be expected that parents will love their children. It is also human nature to be defensive and jealous when we perceive threats to them. But what happens in this story is neither natural nor wholesome. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, seems to feel that her status as wife conveys privilege and priority upon her son, Isaac, and that Ishmael, the son of Hagar (the stranger) is both too big a threat and too alien a person to benefit reap the benefits of having been Abraham’s first born son.
We may distract ourselves from the argument by blaming a system of polygamy and patriarchy, but this story still rings true today. How often do we fear the needs and the claims of the “other”? The one who lives among us as a stranger, an immigrant, or a “drain upon society?” How much suffering occurs in this world because of our insistence on defining everything in terms of “them and us”?
Sarah is not evil. Abraham is not stupid. And Hagar certainly did not ask to be a slave/concubine. But the reality is that the three of them find themselves in a world in which the wealth and privilege of this nuclear family is challenged by Abraham’s responsibility to his son, and Hagar’s dependence upon the man who is the father of her child.
Granted, this is a story about the origins of the Patriarch and the children of Abraham, but the story did not end with them. Even as we struggle to provide for our own children and families, there are others in our midst who must also live. And truth be told, if we are to thrive, then they must also thrive.
The response to want and need is generosity, not defensiveness and exclusion. Left to his own devices, Abraham would abandon his concubine and his son and leave them both to die. But God would have it otherwise. Ishmael is also the son of Abraham, and will be the head of a great people. But the ancient memories of neglect and exclusion remain and the animosity between the sons of Abraham continues.
Imagine how differently the history of the Middle East might have played out if Sarah had not demanded, and Abraham not acceded to the demand for exclusion?
And imagine how much more loving and peaceful our own lives might be if we were to summon the faith and the courage to refuse to be afraid of those who stand in need, and instead to become willing to share what we have.
With the passing of May here at our new home in the Tennessee mountains, we are reminded of all our May visits to Iona and the Outer Hebrides, now many years ago. This poem was written in 2003, after an encounter with a Heilan’ Coo (that’s Highland Cow to the uninitiated!) on a croft at the east end of Iona. These are huge, yet placid creatures, wild and wooley in appearance, but quite contemplative in nature. The photo is not from Iona, but from our visit to Tulloch Farm in Glen Spean in the Highlands, a couple of years ago. ~ Will
The Brown Bull of Langandorain
He stood in gathering darkness
on his hillock;
stared us down
as if he were some god
upon a mountain height.
(Will is greatest
in the senseless or the proud,
who have no fear of consequence,
about what happens next.)
He could have offered us the hand
of blessing, or of curse,
for all we knew.
Or gifted us,
for better or for worse,
with some deep knowledge;
sung an ancient air
that would have hung like magic
in the darkness there.
But he silent stood, as we,
and moments passed until
we tired of the wait
and traveled on, at last.
(C) Will Melnyk, May, 2003
Hummingbirds are frequent visitors to the feeders above our porch rail, alerting us to their presence by the surprisingly loud hum of of their wings as they flit from plant to feeder to plant before shooting out into the near distance and disappearing into the trees. They are great fun to observe, though we seldom get the chance to see what they actually look like. Instead we are left with the awareness that their silhouette has come and gone and a vague sense of the details of their appearance. But today was different, this morning I saw a hummingbird hovering over the slender branch of a butterfly bush about five feet from my rocking chair.
And I do mean hovering. From a distance it might have looked as though the bird was sitting still — taking a breather while calmly observing the world from it’s sheltered vantage point. But in truth, it’s balancing act was the result of wings beating so fast that they were all but invisible. I know that there are times when a hummingbird is actually being still and not beating it’s wings at the average rate of 80 times per second. In fact, I’ve read that they spend most of the day on a perch and that when they sleep they go into a state called torpor, slowing their metabolisms to about 7% of normal; but this particular hummingibrd was not resting, even though it seemed to be working very hard at giving that impression.
I’ve been like that in my life, having been brought up to believe that I was only worth as much as I could produce. Folks like me are often very much like hummingbirds. We find it all but impossible to be still and even when someone or something prevails upon us to “sit down and rest” our aura of coiled-spring nervous energy is painfully obvious to those around us. After all, they never know when we may suddenly take off at a run to complete some just-remembered task — the rocking of our our abruptly vacated chairs the only indication that we really were there just a moment ago.
But, disconcerting as that may be to our friends and families, our difficulties with stillness are even more problematic for our own psyches, especially when our ceaselessly fidgety “resting” burns more calories than a half hour of honest exercise and doesn’t deliver any of the cardio-vascular benefit!
I don’t know if hummingbirds have spiritual guides to remind them to chill once in a while, but I do know that when we allow ourselves to be governed by nervous tension and the nagging fear that we ought to be doing something every waking moment, we are on treading on treacherous ground– physically and spiritually. Peace and quiet, rest and Sabbath, recreation and renewal are holy gifts to be received and enjoyed. And unlike hummingbirds, which are surprisingly long-lived (the three-gram, ruby-throated sort we see from our front porch lives as long as nine years while migrating to and from the tropics as many as 17 times), we are not so hardy. We shorten our life expectancy and diminish our quality of life to the extent that we neglect our need for stillness in our lives and in our souls.
So, even it if is just for thirty seconds, sit down, take a deep breath and stop flapping around. Receive stillness as the gift that it is and be thankful that you don’t have to beat your wings up to 6,912,000 times a day. Or if that doesn’t convince you to appreciate the gift of stillness, consider the survival challenges of the open-sea wintering-over puffin…
My mom, Syble Mae Honeycutt Ruppe, made her North Carolina mountain coleslaw on the creamy/sweet side. Indie Sewell Tyler Bunting, my son’s grandmother, relied on apple-cider vinegar and celery seed for her sour/crisp Tidewater Virginia version. This recipe honors both of these ladies. What makes this coleslaw “southern?” Why, Duke’s Mayonnaise of course! And what makes it mine is the addition of a healthy ration of horseradish. Those of us from the South tend to think that bland is blah, and that a little heat never hurt anyone. BTW, both Syble and Indie chopped the cabbage and onion by hand. I use a food processor. Just be sure to squeeze out any liquid produced by the processor. And be sure to include a slotted spoon for serving. Try this at your next cookout, you’ll like it!
Glyn’s Southern Style Coleslaw
1 large head of cabbage, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 c (or more) Duke’s Mayonnaise (or vegan substitute)
1/4 organic apple cider vinegar
1 heaping tsp celery seeds
2 tsp prepared horseradish
1/4 cup sugar or equivalent sweetener
salt to taste
Remove any tough outer leaves from the cabbage. (keep them for stuffed cabbage rolls) Chop the cabbage and onion in batches in the food processor. Transfer to a large bowl, squeezing out any excess liquid. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Taste and adjust to your preferences. If you want a sweeter, creamier slaw, use additional mayonnaise and sugar. More vinegar and horseradish will make the slaw more tart.
~ Dayenu! Glyn
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Have you read Will’s translation of A Revelation of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich?
It’s been selling well recently on Kindle and in paperback.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” (Acts 2:1-3)
Pentecost is upon us and preachers everywhere this week will be trying to discover new ways of presenting the Upper Room story from the second chapter of Acts. What really happened that day? Was it a sudden storm, a mass hallucination, or an ecstatic encounter with the Holy Spirit? And what was the meaning, the purpose, and most of all, the fruit of the experience for the disciples and the nascent church?
For the first Pentecost in decades, I am not preaching on Sunday, and (at least for today) I have no ideas to offer concerning the “divided tongues as of fire”. But as a newly retired person who has blissfully spent much of the past two weeks becoming reacquainted with the Cumberland Plateau in South Central Tennessee, I do have something to say about “a sound like the rush of a violent wind.”
From the front porch of our cabin, you can observe the progress of a storm as it climbs the mountain…not by the thunder, but by the dual rush of the wind and rain as they clamor up the rocks and race through the trees. In the space of two minutes, the stillness of the afternoon is overcome by raucous warning calls of pileated woodpeckers and the chatter of brown squirrels running to ground. The branches and trees of oak leaves begin to writhe and the temperature plummets as a wall of rain drives scudding clouds ahead of itself. In an instant, the smell, sound and sight of the the rain stun the senses before downpour begins. It pelts, splashes and drums across the ground in a wild dance of water and wind. While the fury is overhead, the sound is deafening…until you realize that the sound is receding, and the force of the wind and rain overhead are lessening as the storm moves on and away. In the stillness, wildlife emerges from hiding, rays of sunlight sparkle on the leaves as they slip in behind the last of departing clouds, and steam begins to rise from the freshly scoured earth.
To my way of thinking, that’s a Pentecost experience. And as pastors like to say, “that’ll preach!” There are Pentecost moments all around us all the time. The question is, do we notice? And if we notice, what difference does it make?
I also have something to say about hummingbirds…but that is for another day.
Quiet is one of the most profound Gifts of God, and the soft wind in the trees. This was first posted on my old blog, Holy Manna, as we were getting ready to move to Dayenu in the forests of Tennessee . . .
Beatific Vision Among the Trees
Rain, drifting from the darkling skies
as if sifting through porous clouds,
the soft wind a chorus of autumn trees
that rise in common voice
to herald an ending of a day and year,
as darkness of the night and season draw near;
Sensibility, not reason, heeds their quiet song,
the dear heartache that longs
to leave the clutches of a busy world,
love and laughter to forsake –
quieter liaisons to make.
(C) Will Melnyk, Autumn 2012
The First Bolt, “The Sewanee Cross” is finished. Contact us if you wish to order something made from this plaid.
Through “Ephods & Pomegranates” we will soon be introducing a line of “Mountain Tartans” for scarves, table runners, and ecclesiastical stoles. The patterns are based upon the famous bluff overlooks, local Monteagle landmarks and sites around the campus at Sewanee.
Here is a sneak peek at some of them. All designs are copyright 2015 by Ephods & Pomegranates. All Rights Reserved. No form of reproduction or storage is authorized. These designs are subject to alteration.
Ask about availability and lead times.
Green’s View Morgan’s Steep
The Cross All Saints
Mountain Lion Mountain Goat
Yellowjackets Rebel’s Rest
Yesterday’s Roast Chicken Recipe was about as simple as it could be. This one re-posted from a few years back…not so much. But this is fun, smells heavenly as it cooks and is not so difficult to prepare. BTW, if you don’t eat pork, just omit the sausage. Try cooking the hens’ liver in a bit of chicken fat, chopping it and adding it to the stuffing instead. Now, on to the commentary…
Think Cornish Game Hens and you think, well, northwestern Europe; the rocky coast at Tintagel or Mont San-Michel. But add Pomegranate Seeds and Baharat, and suddenly you’re at the other end of the Mediterranean. We added Pomegranate Seeds to every part of this dish, including the marinade for the sprouts, and, indeed, considered using them to garnish our Martinis. (In the end we stayed with olives.)
In any case, the hens are double stuffed…inside and under the breast skin. And the Brussels sprouts are cooked with spices and pomegranate seeds. It really was exceptionally tasty. So much so that the next time we celebrate Burns Night with our Scottish Friends, we will probably change the recipe by stuffing the hens with Haggis, twice, and basting them with a wee dram. ~ Glyn and Will
2 oz prepared sage sausage (or livers from the hens)
1 shallot, finely diced
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ c pomegranate seeds
½ c seasoned mashed potatoes
2 medium crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
¼ tsp. Baharat spice
Cook and drain the sausage (or saute the livers). Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook till the shallot is translucent. Remove from the heat, add the mashed potatoes and the spices and set aside to cool slightly.
2 game hens
2 tbsp. butter (or margarine)
2 tbsp. pomegranate seeds
Salt, Pepper and Spice Mix
Stuff the cavity of the game hens with the stuffing mixture. Mix the softened butter with the pomegranate seeds. Loosen the skin of the breast of the hens and using your fingers, spread the pomegranate butter mixture under the breast skin. Season the game hens with the spices and tie the legs together. Roast for 45 minutes at 325. Remove from the oven and add the Brussels Sprouts.
For the Brussels Sprouts:
12 oz pkg of Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
¼ c pomegranate seed
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. dried ginger
½ tsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. cardamom
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
Combine the sprouts with the remaining ingredients. Toss to cover. Place in the baking sheet around the hens. Continue cooking for another 40 minutes or until the sprouts are done and browned. Serve alongside the hens.
Have you ever wondered what makes the world go ’round? No, I mean really: what makes the earth spin on it axis, and rotate around the sun? It’s a good thing to wonder about, for the answer gives us a clue to the leaning of Love.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever . . .
Stars and solar systems, and therefore planets, begin life as great clouds of gas and minute dust particles. The tiny, submicroscopic partcles in these clouds interact minutely with each other, and over cosmic periods of time these interactions create motion – known as angular momentum – or spin. You know how when a spinning ice skater draws her arms into her sides and she begins spinning faster and faster? That’s a good demonstration of increasing angular momentum. So, too, with those pre-planatery gas/dust clouds. The tiny bit of gravity possessed by each tiny particle begins to pull those particles in toward each other. They begin to clump into bigger particles, and those bigger particles have more gravity, so they attract one another more strongly. The cloud begins to collapse in on itself, much like that ice skater drawing his arms in toward his body, and the angular momentum, or spin, increases. By the time the planet compacts into a more or less solid mass, it has devloped quite a spin – it is “going ’round.” (The same principle applies on a larger level for planets revolving around a star.)
It is this growing relationship, this coming together, this uniting, that creates the world, and makes it go ’round. And the Psalmist (above) sees this as a demonstration of God’s Steadfast Love (in Hebrew: Chesed.) The sun by day, the moon and stars by night, a dramatic experience of the spinning of the earth.
So it is with all Love, for all Love is a part of God’s Steadfast Love for creation. A coming together, a uniting, a relationship that is more than social, but rather ontological – a “one-ing”, if you will, with the other. And this is a physical manifestation of the Golden Commandment: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Adonai.” (Leviticus 19:18) Not, “love your neighbor as if he were like yourself.” Not, “love your neighbor like you love yourself.” Rather, “love your neighbor with the same self-love that you lavish upon yourself, because you and your neighbor are so united with each other that you are the same thing – you are each other.” This, my Sisters and Brothers, is the essence of Steadfast, Biblical Love, andit is the essence of God.
The antithesis of this – the antithesis of Love – is self-centeredness: a drawing away from the other, and concentrating on your own ego driven wants and desires, with no thought for your neighbor. This is a good thing to remember when you are struggling for Biblical answers tquestions of social consciousness. Will your response draw you in toward your neighbor, thus increasing “The Wonderfully Spinning Legacy of Love?”
Love is what draws us together, what makes us one, what makes the world go ’round. To realize the full potential of our created nature we must love, because God loves this creation, and we are immersed in God’s Steadfast Love.
“Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy…for in six days the LORD made heaven
and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day;
therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”
As in most communities of faith, children in my generation of Sunday or Sabbath School were required to memorize the 10 commandments. When I succeeded, I was given a charm bracelet with each of those commandments stamped on one of ten tiny gold-plated pages. I still have it packed away in a box. And like most children (and many adults) I believed that the 10 commandments were a list of things to avoid doing. Don’t curse, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t ignore God or disobey your parents. Even the fourth commandment seemed to me to be a rule against something. Don’t have fun on Sunday (even the grocery stores and movie theaters were closed on Sunday in our Southern town.)
It wasn’t until much, much later, when I had a full-time job and young children and no time to rest that I began to understand that sabbath time is a gift – an extraordinary and grace-filled gift of a time of rest. Sleep-deprived, overwhelmed and exhausted, I very clearly understood how a few hours of peace and quiet were both HOLY and SACRED. After all, one of the meanings of “holy” is something that is set apart, or reserved for a special purpose. Out of desperation more than piety, I began to claim sabbath-time and in doing so, found myself not only strengthened and renewed, but drawn closer to God and everyone else.
In time, I was ordained and ironically, found myself in a vocation in which taking off on Sunday is simply not an option. For me, Fridays were my day off and were designated as sabbath time — but as for most folks, a day off is not sabbath-time — it’s at best an opportunity to catch up on unfinished business. At worst, it’s a day governed by a to-do list that is much longer, and far more complicated than what any reasonable person would expect or accept. There remains little or no time to receive the gentle gifts of reflection and fellowship — of family and friends.
In the past few months as we have prepared for retirement, Will and I have been doing our very best to establish the pattern of observing Sabbath as an intentional period set aside for friends and family, reading, peace and quiet. In doing so, we have turned to the Jewish tradition of marking the time between sunset on Friday and Saturday as our day of rest. Starting with a festive meal on Friday night, we move from the work-a-day world to a twenty-four hour period of sacred time. We don’t run errands, do laundry, or clean the house. But we might tend the garden, take a picnic to the park, Skype with the grandchildren, or share a simple meal with friends.
It may seem odd that Christian clergy would observe Saturday as the Sabbath, but the Anglican tradition has always done so. In fact, The Book of Common Prayer includes this prayer for just for Saturdays,
“Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here on earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven. Amen.”
If you are Jewish or Muslim, you probably already understand the importance of a day of rest. If you are Christian, it is not too late to learn! And if you are tempted to feel guilty about what you are not “accomplishing,” remember that what you are “doing” is receiving and enjoying a gift consecrated by God and given to you as a reminder of God’s loving care.
P.S. Check out our Kitchen section for some simple recipes for your Sabbath Meal — whether you observe Sabbath on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, it’s good to begin with a home-cooked meal, shared with others and eaten in gratitude. Here is a suggestion: Rosemary Chicken
With all the bad news in the world of late, I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought the title of this piece was a cry of exasperation. But it’s not…or at least not in the way we might expect.
“Enough is enough” is also a reminder to us that if at any time we can honestly say that we have enough (time, love, money or whatever it is that we want and need) then we have all that we need. And that is where the exasperation comes in. So many of us fail to have peace in our lives because we cannot accept that enough is truly enough. Instead we live on the treadmill of acquisition, always working to stash away just a bit more for a rainy day, only to find that our list of “perceived needs” will always expand to require whatever we have and leave us wanting more.
Will and I have named our home “Dayenu” which is Hebrew word used during the Passover Seder. It means roughly “it would have been enough.” If God had only brought the Children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt Dayenu! It would have been enough. But God also led them through the desert and preserved them from the arrows and chariots of the avenging Egyptian army. Dayenu! That too would have been enough. But God does not stop there. God continually leads and shelters and provides for us.
We have chosen to name our home Dayenu as a daily reminder that we have enough, and that we should give thanks and praise to God for what we have.
But there is more. Dayenu is also the antidote to being captive to fear. And fear is at the root of nearly all the problems of the world. Those who have more than enough but will not share are enslaved by fear. Those who hate or distrust others simply because they are different are enslaved by fear. Those who actively or tacitly accept societal norms which produce ghettos and promote poverty, illness and joblessness are enslaved by fear. And those who know better but do not speak out for justice and peace and most assuredly enslaved by fear. Dayenu, the recognition and genuine gratitude for the blessing that we have, will inevitably lead us to open our hearts and hands to the needs of others.
And just imagine how much good could come from such an attitude. Without the fear that there is not enough to go around, we could find ways to provide food, shelter, education and opportunity for everyone who stands in need. We could learn to approach one another with respect and to invest the necessary time and energy required to make our cities safe for everyone, and our schools places where students are well prepared meaningful work and lives of productive self-sufficiency.
Let’s try this. Let’s admit the possibility that we do have enough and give thanks. Than let’s take some of our abundance and share it with those who truly do not have enough.