Lent – with cake

March 4, 2009

I know. Lent with cake sounds upside down. Lent is a time of penitence, of focusing on what it costs to follow this Jesus person. Each Lent, as I spend forty days in purposeful absention, I learn something new about God and myself. Cake doesn’t sound like purposeful absention. But this year, it is.

In the past, I’ve given up dishonorable speech for Lent (i.e. no gossip). I’ve made committments to pray and sit with God for an hour each day. Once, I spent my Lent praying for forgiveness for all the crap I’d done to people (including myself) in my twenties. Without fail, the leanings of my heart about what to focus on guided me deeper into my relationship with the Living God, so that each Lent, I stepped into the rest of the year spiritually fed and awake.

Gradually, my insights from Lent have been integrated into my day-to-day life. This Lent, I feel very aware of some of those integrations. I made a choice a long time ago to give my life over to Christ. I knew then and I know now that I would do that imperfectly and often sloppily. But when I gave over my vocational life, I put my life in His hands, instead of my own. That has meant, at times, less money, less security, and less clarity.  He has always provided – I’ve never been without a roof or food or friends. The yoke of that decision is light – but not without its accompanying worries.

Those worries have become burdens and even barriers in my faith life. I’ve been so confused and angry at God that I have spent weeks where my only prayers ran along the lines of, “What in YOUR NAME are you DOING?!” or “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?” While I think it’s good and fine for me to be honest with God, I’ve often become stuck in those frustrations and fears, which I think are rooted in a lack of lively, creative, childlike trust in Him. I despair at times that He is really with me. I allow the circumstances of my life to determine how I feel about the Spirit. This is backwards. The Spirit has the power to determine how I approach my circumstances.

So this Lent, as my husband and I pray for provision and eat beans and tofu instead of something pricier and tastier, I am giving up despair for Lent. This Lent, I am focusing on the power that can raise the dead. “Resurrection power!” to quote my Pentecostal brothers and sisters. This Lent, G-Whiz and I are making one cake every week, to celebrate the fact that God is a good God – who delivers a delicious, abundant life – no matter what the circumstances may be. This Lent, I am choosing to abstain from despairing that God is good and God is present. With each tasty bite I plan on increasing my faith and setting down my fears.

Pictures of Lenten Cake #1 – Lemon Cake – soon to come.

(Quand meme, Jesu, viens vite!)

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Of Blogs and Bibles

January 16, 2008

Today I had a grumpy morning with the children. They were just being children – fussing about how much cinnamon and sugar goes on toast, clothing options, etc.

Sometimes we’re all, children and adult, just contrary. Well. To a degree. I guess none of us adults has thrown a complete crying, screaming fit because we couldn’t wear a striped shirt. Then again, probably very few adults have their wardrobe choices curtailed by an unimaginative dress code, either.

But I wasn’t feeling resilient this morning. I hadn’t had my tea. I just wanted to wake up and have normal conversations with everyone. No “discussions.” So, after a few minutes of testy discussions, I took my tea and went to my google reader to see what the blogs were up to. I was so happy, because my favorite blogger had a new post, and she hasn’t been posting much lately. I read it. It was nice. I read a few other posts here and there. Then, my google reader was empty.

I closed the browser and sighed. I said to my blank screen, “can’t you satisfy me?” I actually laughed out loud after I said that. I realized I was using blogs to distract me from how I was feeling. I knew I needed input from somewhere. I intuitively knew that I wanted some satisfaction from words. But I was looking to the wrong words. My little daisy Bible was sitting on the desk next to my monitor. I picked it up and read this week’s lectionary readings.

The Gospel reading is from the first chapter of John. John the Baptist says (v.29), “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Right there I was hooked again. The Bible for me is like a dynamic, strange, endlessly fascinating, illuminating conversation with the most interesting person I’ve ever known. Today, when I read that, my mind went immediately to that oft-repeated phrase – that Jesus somehow takes away sins. I find that thought so interesting and so strange. What does it mean exactly? I know the traditional, orthodox answer, which I hold as a gift from the past. But how can I deepen that understanding, know what it means for real, for me, for my friends? He takes away sin in general? From me? Where does he take it? How? And, what then? And why a Lamb, a reference to sacrifice and dependence, first? He’s a shepherd, too, right?

And then I read the Old Testament reading, which was from Isaiah 49. In verse 4, Isaiah has the Messiah say, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

Isn’t that outrageous? The Bible is incredible. It is full of this kind of despair and “FORGET IT!” kind of sentiment. When combined with an equally outrageous trust in God, it is a potent mix.

When I read the Bible, I know I will never be done plunging all of its mysteries. There will always be more for me to see, to learn and be amazed and baffled by in it. Already I feel pulled to spend more time researching and praying over those passages.

No one can rock it like God. No one has so much to say to me that is so encouraging, bizarre and wise. That is His job, to be loving and mysterious. The Bible kicks ass.

That said, let me affirm that I love reading good blogs. They can be a great blessing. Sometimes the rawest, most honest thing I “hear” all day is from a blogger – like this one from Melissa in Ohio. Sometimes the silliness of my fellow Christians just gives me a great laugh.

But nobody rocks it like God. Love you, God.


Dean & Deluca. . .how I love your sweet torture

October 4, 2007

Today I got the fall catalogue for Dean & Deluca. When I lived in Washington D.C., I used to love to go to Dean & Deluca and spend my entire paycheck minus rent on their insanely delicious, insanely expensive food.

Dean & Deluca was the place that introduced me to the idea of edible flowers, the place that kept me connected to delicious stinky (and non-stinky) cheese, and a place that I could wander and dream about fabulous meals I would never be able to afford. Sweet, sweet torture.

There are other gourmet stores, and some are even nearby, but none are as beautiful as Dean & Deluca. The way they lay out a store is merchandise poetry. But the catalogue still suffices to drive me mad, in both a good way and a bad way. And really, this time, Dean & Deluca, you have taken the cake.

I love pumpkin. I praise God for the pumkin, I really do. I don’t think He minds when I am grateful for the little things. I also thank Him for whoever it was who figured out that certain blue molds on cheese were not only not poisonous, but delicious. (Love you, forme d’Ambert!)

Behold, the things that Dean & Deluca can do with the pumpkin:

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OK, don’t get mad, Dean & Deluca. I’m not trying to steal your ideas. I’m just loving what you do with the pumpkin. Pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies and BROWNIES, pumpkin truffles and pumpkin whoopie pies.

A girl can dream. Happy pumpkin dreams.


I love you, Wheat Thins, but I hate you too

September 26, 2007

Life is made up of lots and lots of little decisions and a few big ones, right?

One of my “big” decisions was trying to take care of the planet, the planet that I now think of as “creation.” I can’t pinpoint when I made this decision. Environmental consciousness was always part of my life. I grew up in a home where my parents actually made their own granola. It doesn’t get any more granola than that, people. My parents were active recyclers in the seventies. I imagine this is like folks who had parents who were church-going, Jesus-loving Christians. You don’t really know when you got to know God, you just know Him. But I digress. Sort of.

Taking care of the planet had its grandiose moments in my life.

Exhibit A:

My life’s ambition when I was 24 and in the Peace Corps, serving as an Environmental Education volunteer, was to work for be in charge of the United Nations Environmental Programme. Embarassing, but true. I wanted to save the world from itself. I was convinced I could do so. I even had a tattoo of the earth on my back. (Still there, yes.)

Fast forward to today, and I am slightly more realistic about what I can accomplish. I do all the obvious things: I try to consume less, generally speaking; I recycle, we don’t use hardly any paper products in our home; we use only home-made and natural cleaners; I usually use my awesome pink metal coffee cup for beverages on the go; I remember to bring my canvas-esque bags to the grocery store so I don’t use more plastic bags. Etc.

There are also lots of things I do that are still rotten. I still drive, a lot. I need to do so for my job, but it still sucks. I eat meat. A lot of meat. I still occasionally buy plastic water bottles, even though I am plauged with guilt when I do. I am a ditz, and leave lights on willy-nilly. I don’t buy anything in bulk. We send the children to school with those dreadful little individually-wrapped bags of baby carrots. Etc.

And I eat Wheat Thins. Wheat Thins, you are so delicious. I love you with goat cheese. I love you with dry salami. I love you straight out of the box. I like you dipped in Alouette. Oh, Wheat Thins. You are so tasty.

But Wheat Thins, you are made with high fructose corn syrup (and corn syrup). Making high fructose corn syrup is bad for creation and also not so good for eating.* And Wheat Thins, I just bought you in a special TWO POUND EIGHT OUNCE box. This may have been my moment of clarity, Wheat Thins, where I can finally admit I have a problem.

I think this might be my last hurrah with you, Wheat Thins. After consuming more than two pounds of you, I think I might be able to say goodbye. There is nothing as tasty as you, really, there isn’t. But I don’t think you can change who you are, my high fructose corn syrupy friend.

We had a lot of good times, Wheat Thins. I will always think of you with fondness.

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*If you need convincing on this, read “The Omnivore’s Dilemna” by Michael Pollan.


Wheat toast and prayer

September 25, 2007

Earlier this evening, I was writing a post about ministry and me. It was going to be riveting. It was going to explain some things to my new innernets friends, and my old friends too. It was going to rock, peoples. However. Several things have gotten in my WAY.

My server was down, so when I went to save what I HAD written, it disappeared. These things happen. Honestly, at that point, I did not freak out. It was fresh in my head. I started over, but now (an hour later) nothing, but nothing, is coming out. I have blogstipation. I’m getting cross, and the crosser I get, the more I sense that something is missing. . . I’m a little out of order. . .and I know why.

I didn’t pray yet today. At least, not really. I’m not counting small prayers of thanks for my meals, when I pray for relief from pain for the dog, or for a peaceful spirit to rest on the children. I mean real prayer, where a person sits with God and has something like a conversation.

I’ve noticed time and again that prayer is like breakfast for me. I never, ever, ever skip breakfast. I need those morning calories to get me going. There have been days when the only thing that got my sorry butt out of bed was the thought of French toast. Likewise, I should never, ever, ever skip prayer. Especially morning prayer. But I do.

And I’ve noticed, over the years, that if I have a breakfast that is heavy on the tasty but not so heavy on the healthy, I don’t feel so great later in the morning. And I confess freely and openly that there have been days that I believed brownies and milk were a perfectly acceptable breakfast. On the other hand, if I have some nice whole wheat toast, or even (!) some sprouted-grain bread (like the amazing Ezekiel bread), I feel much better as noon approaches. It’s the same with prayer. Some good, healthy, real time with the living God is nourishment for the soul. And yet I insist on refusing to feed myself sometimes. It is spiritual anorexia, and it is sad.

So peoples, I am sorry. I have no brilliant post about my vida loca in ministry and why I am not currently serving God’s people in a church-like scenario. You all know what I need to go do.

Make me some dang spiritual wheat toast.


Cake and the art of being a step-family

September 20, 2007

Yesterday I made cake with my step-daughter. The smell of it cooking made everyone a little nuts. We are all sugar and chocolate fiends in this house. We believe in consuming as much sugar and empty calories as possible, every day. Of course, those of us who are adults realize this isn’t much of a nutritional plan for life, so we try to behave. Those of us who are not adults just try and maximize the sugar. You could say there are occasional debates around this issue.

So, when the cake came out of the oven at 4:00 and was cooling, my thought was, “Yay! This cake is going to be delicious for desert.” You know, desert. The thing that comes after dinner. The children’s thought was, “Hey, the cake is out of the oven. Would it burn my mouth if I ate it NOW?”

Of course they were requesting the cake at 4:01. I let Dad handle the request, assuming that his thought pattern would mirror mine.

Ha, ha.

Within minutes he was cutting nice large slices from the warm cake and serving it up. I happened to be out of the room when it happened. Obviously, we don’t undermine each other when it comes to stuff like this, so I didn’t say anything. But evidently I didn’t tell my eyebrows not to say anything. Apparently, they raised themselves in an expression of disbelief. The six year old said, “What!? He gives us this big of slices!! Always!” I didn’t say anything.

I was peeved. What about their appetites for dinner? What about nutrition? What about everything going the way I think it will!!

I had an appointment to get to, so I gave everyone a goodbye kiss/hug/look depending on the person and headed out the door. In the car I had a little time to pray and talk to myself. I realized my “they should eat like THIS” self-righteousness was kind of a street that didn’t go too far. Yeah, yeah, that they eat relatively healthily is important. But not important enough to get worked up over.

And sometimes, in family life, especially in step-family life, people have differing ideas about when to eat cake. Or what bed-time should look like. Or how much fit-throwing, sulking or back-talk is reasonable. Or. . .whatever. And part of being a loving family, but especially part of being a loving step-family, is giving each other room to be a little different, to have varying opinions on how things “should” be.

We don’t all have to think the same way about cake.

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This photograph taken at 4:03 pm.


Oh, you crazy vegans.

September 14, 2007

I had a seriously tasty peanut butter cookie yesterday, and I felt holy the whole time I was eating it.

Why? Because it was a vegan cookie. If I could just wave a magic wand, I would become a vegan. Vegans are cool. They have a whole philosophy about eating that is based on taking better care of the earth. I like that in people. And I’ve found that vegans are also a little more crazy focused than the vegetarians, and I appreciate the crazy.

The problem is, I love me some In-n-Out. And eggs, Lord have mercy. And don’t get me started on CHEESE. I have feelings for cheese more intense than a person should have for an inanimate object.

Please don’t get mad at me, vegans. I’m going to eat your freaking delicious cookies and hang with you in theory. And I’ll try not to hit the In-n-Out too often.