28 April 2007

RGBP: Friday Five (late..)

1. Wearing
black terry gym pants, random t-shirt, husbandy's black zip sweater

2. Pondering
end of semester craziness

3. Reading
presently: crazybusy, united states of arugula, king arthur baking companion, romans & various commentaries, history of christianity v.1, celtic daily prayer, walden (by thoreau), more blogs than I can count, the nytimes.com

4. Dreaming
of a day without rain, and - if not - the time to play in the rain puddles

5. Eating
just finished israeli spice chicken and roasted beets (with a smidge of grated parmesan)

25 April 2007

Monday Eucharist, Third Week of Easter

Acts 6:8-15, Psalm 27:10-18 (BCP), John 6:22-29

When are we hungry for the food of eternal life? And when is our hunger – while no less real or necessary – for temporary comfort?

Jesus’ words are demanding; his words require us to recognize the difference between the two, to discern, so that we will not mistake one for the other. He calls us to make a conscious choice of the food that is eternal.

Underneath all of this, underlying the discernment and choice that Jesus is calling us to – is our belief. This seems almost too simple. What does Jesus mean, that the work of God is belief in the One who is sent? I’ve got this idea of what work is – and it’s a lot more busy and complicated and multitasking than just believing. Work is a collection of tasks, aimed at certain goals. Work begins at 9 and ends at 5. (Or, if you’re in seminary, work requires all of your waking hours and some of the sleeping ones too.) The kind of work that I imagine for myself – and perhaps this is true for you also – is not the work that Jesus describes. And as painful as it might be to recognize, my accomplishments, my completed tasks, and even my goals are not, cannot and should not be the center. Jesus rightly calls us to remember that our central purpose is to believe. Not – despite all indications to the contrary and with apologies to the faculty and Commission on Ministry types out there – to excel at all theological enterprises, enter the competition for Most Valuable Priest, or even to please those around us. Our work is to believe.

It is a constant struggle to hold back the rushing and busy-ness that seem to infect modern life. For me, this becomes a distraction from the most essential work that Jesus calls each and every one of us to: belief in the One whom God has sent.

And when we gather, as we have now, to do the work of the people – liturgy – we affirm our belief not as individuals, but as a community. Before we break bread together, we affirm our faith in creeds and prayers. The two are bound together; indeed, the whole act of eucharist is a symbol, not because it is any less real, but because it points beyond itself, beyond this moment and this particular gathering to a reality that is deeper, greater … eternal.

This is why the eucharist – which has its root in chara, the greek word for joy – is so central in my own life: it gathers my community and links us together through listening to the Word, sharing our faith, and creating sacred space for our fellowship at the table of God.

But the story of our life together in Christ does not end with affirmations and fellowship. This is one movement of a greater symphony – in which each part contributes to the whole. If we were to celebrate the Eucharist alone, our faith would be diminished. Our life would be diminished. We would be diminished.

Our life in Christ requires of us risk-taking, pursuit, and perseverance. Even with misguided intentions, the crowd pursued Jesus across the sea. As John recounts it, finding neither Jesus not the disciples where they expected them to be, they themselves got into boats and pursued him. Passivity has no place in our life together in Christ. How might we be called to follow after Christ, to pursue a relationship and connection?

Likewise, Stephen, “full of grace and power,” spoke and argued, all the while proclaiming Christ with great vigor. And when this put him in peril, he did not retreat. He did not back down or relent. He did not become quiet and timid. He was steadfast in his faith, and it shone through his whole being, so that even the council could not avoid seeing it. Fear, too, has no place in our life together in Christ. How might we be called to act with courage, to persist in speaking the good news of justice, compassion and reconciliation?

For the grace and power that filled Stephen and gave him the strength to face hatred and anger and condemnation are not the stuff of two millennia past, but the gifts of God to the people of God – to us. We can see these at work in people that we know. Each of us has probably met one person whose faith in Christ Jesus vibrates through their whole being, someone who is so alive, vibrantly alive in Christ that we long to know their secret. We long to be so sure, so confident, so courageous – pick your adjective.

I’ll be the first to admit to this little bit of jealousy, although I’m not exactly proud of it. I want to be like that priestly person over there – the one who always seems to have a smile on and never seems fazed by the craziness of this church. Her faith in God seems so deep that nothing can undermine it. And she has a great sense of style too! It’s just not fair.

But the thing of it is, the gifts of grace and power that I see radiating from certain people are not given to them to the exclusion of everyone else. (Although perhaps the sense of style is not so widely available.) Even as I long to be just like that person over there, God longs for me – as for each one of us – to find my own unique gifts. And when I find my voice, my calling, my sense of self and of pastoral identity, I will find the gift of grace and power that have been there all along, waiting for me to live out my belief more fully and more truly, not according to some ideal, but according to God’s deepest desire for me.

It is not perishable food that will sustain this kind of life, but the eternal and spiritual food that comes from God. Sometimes I wonder if I mistake the comfort and support of Christian fellowship for that which comes from God. Both are good, and both are necessary for our life in Christ, but they are not the same. Fellowship waxes and wanes. Friends, spiritual ones included, come and go. Our graduating friends have laid plans for new lives, and we are beginning to say good-bye and to make plans to stay in touch. But as some remain and others disperse to new communities, jobs and relationships, the friendships we’ve made here will change. Our friends will leave soon, and in September we will welcome new colleagues, and perhaps soon to be friends.

But the love of God abides, and the comfort and support that come from God abide; and these remain present to us in the breaking of the bread. “The Lord will sustain,’ in the words of the Psalmist. You. Me. Each and every one of us, our whole community, near and far. Without ceasing.

In our lives and in the Eucharist we share, God is present, nourishing and sustaining. Waiting for us to come and be fed, not by perishable food, but by spiritual food, the bread and wine, the body and blood, which strengthen each one of us to go forth to proclaim the good news that we have come to believe in the days after Easter: Christ is our risen saviour! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen!


18 April 2007


Thanks to Mrs. M, you now get to know the six weirdest things about me! I'm sure this was a critical gap in your knowledge base...

1. My joints crack all the time. All of them. Toes, ankle, knee, hip, each vertebra, shoulders, elbows, and each joint of every finger. I enjoy facilitating this. I can crack my big toes about twice each minute during every waking hour. I especially enjoy the sound they make when this is done underwater or against a metal pipe. Husband hates this.

2. I hate to wear socks. I never wear socks if I can help it, but I do wear them with shoes. I don't like other people to wear socks if their feet will come into contact with my feet. Husband isn't allowed to wear socks when he is around me. (I'm not sure he likes this rule either.)

3. I love doing taxes. I get tremendous pleasure out of it. This year, I got up at 7am on February 2nd to do our taxes, and it was terribly exciting because I had to learn how to do joint taxes and how to manage the different circumstances that Husband and I are in now (income as a self-employed person, scholarship and grant monies). I found some errors in Husband's past taxes when I looked through his "file", and I got him 800$ back from the state.

4. I have a hard time getting anywhere quickly. I stop to chat, I stop to look at flowers, I stop to observe the squirrels, my special friends. It might take me 45 minutes to go less than half a mile on campus. I meander, stroll, amble. Call it what you like, but don't expect me to travel quickly from point A to B. [Husband finds this difficult, because he usually ends up losing me because he doesn't notice when I stop moving.]

5. I have very strong food preferences. I do not like raw fruits except for apples, pears and bananas, but fruits that are cooked or fruit flavors are fine. I love vegetables, but not meat. I'll eat bologna, but not steak. (Boloney is not meat.) I hate whole milk and only ever use it in cooking. In fact, I can only have skim milk, and only in cereal or with cookies, because I just hate the taste of milk. (Skim milk is more like water, and that's a good thing.) I either like an ingredient, or I don't. If I don't, I will not eat it. The upside is that I have very few regional preferences, so that food from anywhere (with acceptable ingredients of course) or of various flavor profiles is totally cool with me. I am not a fan of mixing sweet and sour/salty/savory, though. [Husband is frustrated by this, because it limits what he can cook and where we can go on dates.]

6. I do not like chocolate and fruit flavors, i.e. chocolate flavored with raspberry and so on. Husband likes this, because he gets to eat them all!

Bonus: I brush my teeth with hot water.

Let's see.... Weird Bird in Love (with hugs), and.. everyone else I was planning to tag has already been there and done that.. so I'll just reflect on the circularness of the blog-o-sphere.

16 April 2007

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

09 April 2007

it was the baking fairy, I swear!

You'd think, after all that cooking for the Easter Feast, that I would have been entirely cooked out. But no -- I was inspired!

I was ruminating on the leftovers of our culinary foolhardiness adventure, and lo, I thought of something interesting to do with them!

Why, I thought to myself, there's cocoa powder, and there's hazelnuts. Didn't I see a recipe three years ago that I could adapt to this? And the idea was born. I thought for a while -- do I really want to do this? After all that cooking?

And several hours of dithering later, I finally committed to it! Out comes the flour and the sugar bins, the cocoa powder and the hazelnuts. Do I have enough of everything? Chocolate chips? Check. Eggs? Check. Confectioners' sugar? Check. Haul out the Kitchen Aid. Whisk or paddle? Paddle. Spend several minutes learning how to operate said machine.

Now: measuring cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, ramekins for mis en place. And here we go!

Double Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 1 dozen

1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 tbs unsalted butter, softened
½ c granulated sugar
1 large eggs
½ c hazelnuts, chopped
½ c semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp confectioners’ sugar

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a large baking sheet, knocking off excess flour. (Or use a silpat.)

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and granulated sugar ina large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add egg and beat until well combined. Stir in flour mixture; dough will be stiff.

Stir in hazelnuts and chocolate chips with a strong spoon. Spoon out onto a large piece of saran wrap. Fold the plastic wrap over the dough and begin to shape into a slightly flattened 12x2-inch log. Turn over onto the baking sheet (or silpat). Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake until slightly firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Cool log on baking sheet on a rack for 5 minutes, leaving oven on.

Transfer log to a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut diagonally into ¾-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices cut side down in one layer on a baking sheet (it’s fine if slices are touching). Bake until crisp, 10 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

Nota bene:
The biscotti keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Adaptation based on a recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook.

Another wild Paschal Feast

I work at the Episcopal Chaplaincy of the University, and it's become a great tradition that S. and I cook for the group periodically. Last fall, we did a chili night and also a Make-Your-Own Taco crowd pleaser. Earlier this semester, we had a fantastic Shrove Sunday Supper, complete with pancakes, sausage, spinach and goat cheese fritatta, and - of course - syrup.

But all of these pale in comparison to preparations for Easter Dinner.

We plan Easter Dinner as a major celebration, in part because many of our students are far from the comforts of home and family, but also because gathering together is an important part of celebrating the Sunday of the Resurrection. So, it's become a tradition in my time there to celebrate Easter with a feast.

S. and I spend the weeks before planning out what to serve, this year with the wisdom of the year before. Creamed spinach? No, no, remember that it took us (me!) 3 hours to clean and stem the 6 pounds of it last year. You're right -- but what should we make? Not something else green; we're already serving asparagus and zucchini. Perhaps carrots? Yes! But wait -- do we have enough space in the oven to roast carrots and potatoes and a leg of lamb? Perhaps not. But carrots would be excellent. Should we do the carrots on the stove? The potatoes?

Eventually, we came to a conclusion: sauteed carrots, roasted herbed potatoes, the cumin-rosemary roast leg of lamb, which accompanied: chilled asparagus with citrus vinaigrette, parmesan zucchini, braised beef estouffade, pasta tossed in the braising liquid.

What am I missing? Oh yes! The desserts! "Sin," a three layer chocolate cake: chocolate hazelnut cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate ganache in a hefty 5-inch tall delight. Plus, a trifle with orange sponge cake, macerated strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and mascarpone whipped cream.

A fantastic meal! It took us two days to put together, and involved 48 ounces of heavy cream, 4 lbs of carrots, 5 lbs of asparagus, 6 lbs of zucchini, 10 lbs of boneless chuck roast, and several pints of berries.

Whew! Hooray for Easter Monday as a holiday! I'm exhausted, and there's a lot of cleaning up still to do.

02 April 2007

one of those days...

Do you ever have one of those days that just doesn't come together right? No great disasters, no catastrophic failures. Just one of those days....

Today was one of those days for me. I slept too much Sunday afternoon, so I was half-awake all night. I didn't have enough money on my bus card, so I had to beg the driver to let me stay on. Chapel, breakfast, class, lunch -- all fine. I walked across the River to go to the gym. I really needed to go, since it had been almost a week since my last sojourn there. I get there, I go in, I get a day locker key. And what do I find? My hair stuff had opened and got soapy liquid all over my gym clothes. No workout for me. So I pack back up, take the key back -- and of course the desk clerk gives me a funny look and says, 'Didn't you just get here?' Yes. Yes, I did.

And I walk back across the River and catch a bus (after refreshing my card) to go home.

The only good thing out of all this was the 30 minutes I spent walking from school to gym to bus station. I am darn well counting this as my excercise for the day!

One of those days... in the drizzle and rain and chill of spring.

postscript: just when I thought it was over for the day, I found that I had accidentally put a piece of clothing set aside for repairs into the washing machine.. It came entirely apart: irreparably damaged. Some days just need to end -- so I can be out of my misery.