8.17.2014

pickling

Heather's been missing French pickles, which are a bit different from the dill variety we're used to here. So she grew the little cornichon cucumbers they use, and I found a recipe that's easy and pretty good. It uses tarragon and thyme (which Heather grows as well) instead of dill. And this recipe is "cold crock," no cooking or canning necessary, so the pickles are crisper. Here's what I do:

Wash and rub the cornicons to remove the prickles. Then put them in a strainer, sprinkle heavily with pickling salt (or any salt without iodine added), and leave them overnight. A good amount of juice will drain from the cucumbers.

The next day, rub off the excess salt (rinsing is not needed since a little remaining salt is desired). Then wash jars with tight-fitting lids and pack with the cornichons along with:

One or two peeled garlic cloves
Several whole peppercorns
A few sprigs fresh thyme and tarragon
A bay leaf
A little lemon juice (or slice of fresh lemon)

Then fill the jar with white vinegar. The pickles will swell as they absorb the vinegar, so make sure they are covered with a little space to spare. Place the lids on tightly and leave them at least a couple weeks for the cucumbers to absorb the flavors. That's it. Spicy and delicious.

8.13.2014

8.10.2014

blessed are the timid?

Among most Christians, anger and aggression are more frowned upon than timidity (which is often mistakenly equated with meekness). But there is such a thing as righteous anger. There’s not a righteous cowardice.

And I think it’s even more dangerous when a fearful person manages to get into a position of power than when an aggressive person does. Their evils are done not because they “want to,” but because they think they have to. Jesus was crucified by fearful leaders.

Christian communities (at least the ones I’m familiar with) tend to be largely made up of timid people rather than angry or aggressive ones. So the leaders chosen from among them are generally also the fearful kind.

The more dangerous kind.

7.31.2014

don't get angry, get going

I was feeling reminded this morning of Jesus' "move on to the next town" instructions, then found this journal entry from seven years ago. It's really what I need to hear right now:

"Whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

"And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town." (Mt 10.11-14)
I came across these words of Jesus again this morning. That last line, especially, is something I need to pay attention to right now. I've been struggling with feelings of anger. Anger towards some people I used to feel compassion for, people I've wanted to care for, intending to ease their burdens, to be a friend to them. Now I wonder how my feelings for them have turned so cold. Instead of feeling compassionate, I have to admit I feel more like calling fire from heaven...

This has bothered me more and more. Why the anger? Why so much emotion, and why have I had such a hard time sorting it out and letting it go? As I've thought more about it, I've also realized there have been at least two other times during this past year that I've felt similar anger towards someone I was trying to help.

Like in most human conflicts, I imagine there are two parts of it, mine and theirs. I'm sure there has been some selfishness on my part, some ambition to "do good," to be the one to solve someone else's problem. And when that person doesn't cooperate, or doesn't respond right away, I get frustrated and angry, feeling like a failure. This is my problem, not theirs. And, as I wrote before, my experience of failure in this is probably good for me, to get me to stop pushing my own agenda on people, stop serving my own purposes, and let God work with them in his own way, his own time. I need to learn to "go to the next town" with trust instead of anger.

But there's also their part, I think. When others reject some truth or some help we are offering, that's a sad thing. Those people hurt themselves this way, and perhaps also hurt people around them (including us) through their choice, making everyone's life more difficult. So maybe there is some cause for anger there. But it's not for us to punish. It's hard to know what would help in such a situation, maybe some kind of rebuke is called for. Some kind of knocking the dust from our feet.

The calling-fire-from-heaven anger, though, seems to indicate a need for more trust, more submission to God. Letting the work be God's, and being willing to simply do my small part, whatever God gives me to do. And trusting God to handle any rejection, to take care of the consequences in the lives of those affected (including mine).

7.13.2014

dreams and reality (at 2 a.m.)

I think it’s pretty common for new parents to go through something of a “mid-life crisis” as they come to grips with their new daily reality. It can be a very joyful time, but also one of boring routines, in which the parents’ hopes and dreams are no longer center stage (unless maybe it’s the dream of having a baby). The question “Is this what my life is going to be?” can hit pretty hard.

In many ways, this is a critical part of maturing, realizing that the hopes and dreams of our early adulthood aren’t the ultimate goals they seemed to be then. Learning that, to a large extent, they were indeed dreams. And accepting that this child’s care is more important than trying to make the world fit the grand image we had in our heads, or make others believe that we are the heroes we eagerly imagined ourselves to be. This real child helps us set aside the unreal imaginings of our youth.

Too often, though, I think people try to replace those fading hopes and dreams with new ones, based on their new relationship to their child. “I can’t save the world, but I can save this child.” Which is perhaps a little more realistic, but ultimately just another hopeful figment of the imagination. Isn’t it? The child may indeed be saved, but in the end, if we’re honest with ourselves, we won’t be the ones who can take much credit for it.

The best result of this (or any) mid-life crisis is if it turns us away from dreams to reality, especially the reality of finding ourselves in relationship—but in relationship to God. Our adolescent desires aren’t very trustworthy guides. But God’s desires are. And we can’t rely on our resources and abilities to provide and protect and guide our child, but we can trust God to do so, just as we trust him to provide and protect and guide us. The truest longing to save the child is good, as long as we recognize that what we’re feeling doesn’t originate with us. And the purest of our early desires are good also, as long as we realize that those also didn’t originate with us. These are good and real and trustworthy because they are God’s desires for us.

And we open ourselves to God’s desires when we “turn and become like a child,” desperately clinging to God like this baby now clinging to us.

6.30.2014

eustace the dragon

Enjoyed an outdoor concert here the other night, with the fireflies rising and little bats dancing overhead. Eustace the Dragon, who are friends of some of our friends. Really good, a unique folksy sound, soulful lyrics, and a joyful surprise to have them show up in our front yard.

And they've made their music available for free here. Here's two good ones they did for us:

"Other Appearances"
"Peter Patron Saint"


6.22.2014

6.16.2014

the quiet life

During prayer a few days ago, while chanting a psalm, I was reminded of the monastic influences in my past. My temperament fit well with the quiet monastic life. Years ago I even hoped to join a Cistercian monastery in England. But eventually I moved back to a more in-the-world lifestyle. It seemed to me that while separation from many of the tempting influences of society could certainly be helpful in the Christian life (and sometimes necessary), it was more valuable to others if I could be in more direct contact with society. And I saw Jesus doing this himself, during his ministry.

But now I find myself withdrawing more and more from “society” here, from political structures and community events, and it reminds me of my monastic leanings. I didn’t get to this point by trying to avoid temptations, though. It happened as a result of my experiences of being very much involved in the political and religious activity of the community for years. What seemed to be happening was more and more open conflict, the more involved I became. Until eventually I thought that it would be better for everyone if I stepped away from direct involvement in those activities.

I hope the source of the conflict was something close to what caused Jesus to be in almost continual conflict with the religious leaders of his community. But if so, then how can I step back? Jesus didn’t.

I’m familiar with Christian activists who point to Jesus’ clashes with the authorities of his day as a justification for their political actions, and a model for their lives. Keep pushing, keep fighting! But Jesus actually didn’t fight for long. Only a few years, and then he was crucified. He let them crucify him, too, he didn’t keep pushing and fighting. That’s where I see the activist parallel breaking down. They don’t get crucified, they get interviews and book deals, and keep pushing until they burn themselves out.

And they seem to forget that Jesus’ open conflict with society was only a small part of his life. Just a few years, not a model for a whole life. What about the thirty years before that, in which nothing notable seemed to happen? Was Jesus hiding? Shy?

I do believe we will be called at times to speak out and stand firm and (in love) let ourselves be broken or exiled or crucified. But that’s not every day. Most of our lives following Jesus will look more like Nazareth, I think. Unnoticed and humble, doing the small tasks our Father has given us this day, and grateful that we are spared the lash and the nails for now.

6.15.2014

for father's day

I prayed these words (of Charles de Foucauld) this morning:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you—
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me
And in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit.

I offer it to you
With all the love of my heart.
For I love you Lord,
And so need to give myself—
To surrender myself into your hands
Without reserve,
And with boundless confidence
For you are my Father.

5.24.2014

peace to you

Two friends who have been a part of our prayer group this past year are moving away. So we sent them off with the blessing I usually use at the end of our communion time. I got it from a blessing offered to David in 1 Chronicles 12.18 ("Peace" here is the Hebrew word Shalom):

Peace, peace to you
And peace to those who help you
For your God helps you