I noticed the first robin of spring this morning. She didn't look too happy as the snow gradually piled up around her.

What's that they say about the early bird?


the sheer grace!

I played this Taizé song for our prayer group last night. It seemed appropriate for Lent. The words mean, "By night we go, by night, to find the spring (or source). Only the thirst lights our way, only the thirst lights our way." Hear it here: "De noche"

It's inspired by the poetry of John of the Cross, like these lines from his well-known "Dark Night of the Soul":

One dark night,
fired with love's urgent longings
—ah, the sheer grace!—
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
—ah, the sheer grace!—
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.


Our retreat went great. So we're loving life (and all the good leftovers) this week.



I'm a little busy this week, getting ready for a retreat. But I thought I'd share the story Heather wrote for it, a meditation on the story of the prodigal son, from the older brother's perspective. Here's an excerpt:

Well, the awful thing played itself out, as I could have predicted. The bad friends, the drinking. The women. I won't speak of that. Until the day he came to my father and demanded his portion—to his face—and my father let him take his bites out of our farm, out of his heart. I thought at first he might want what I wanted—to be rid of him, even at so steep a price—until he told me he hoped for him back. And then I was afraid.

Because I knew what Levi was. I saw how he ate, and did not plant. He would run through the money; it was plain as day. He would run through the money, and then he would look to his chances, and realize where his best chance lay.

He's home now. Came in rags. I'd like to search that little pack he's got, see if he hid his real clothes in it. Father's put the best robe on him, and killed the fattest calf. He's got half the village out in the courtyard now while it roasts, and he's giving them the good wine. I can hear them laughing, I hear women singing. I can't stand it. There's nothing I can say to Father that he'll listen to. There's no way I can stop him from letting Levi eat the rest of his heart.

He sent for me. Father did. He sent Judah, his senior servant, with a message. I expected “Come right now” but it wasn't that. It was “Do you not want to see your brother?”

The whole story is available here: "Prodigal"


Though I'd share this clip from The Colbert Report, which combines two topics dear to me, Jesus, and the hazards of hitchhiking:


bon pain

I made French baguettes yesterday. When we have our friends over for supper and prayer, I usually make French bread to go with whatever soup someone else brings (and use some of the dough to make communion bread). But I haven't put the recipe here in my journal yet.

1½ cups water
2 t dry yeast
2 t salt
white flour

Mix the water, yeast, and salt. Gradually stir in flour (probably about 3½ cups) until a soft dough is formed, then knead and continue to add flour until no longer sticky.

Let rise for two hours in a sealed container (or covered to prevent drying out). Next, divide dough in half and let sit for a half hour. Then flatten each portion into a rectangle. Fold the top third of each rectangle into the middle, then the bottom third into the middle, and press down to squeeze out any air. Then roll each into a snake, pinching the seam and tucking in the ends. Place the two loaves, seam down, on a greased cookie sheet, not close together (so the sides can brown evenly). Let rise for one more hour.

While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 450°F. Just before putting the bread in, use a razor blade to cut diagonal slices across each loaf. I place a kiln slab on the shelf below the bread to keep the bottoms from burning and to maintain an even temperature; a pizza stone would work also. When the bread goes in, also spray water into the oven to make steam. Spray again five minutes later. The steam is the secret to the distinctive thin, crisp crust. The bread also has no oil, which makes for a crispier crust (but it also dries out faster, so should be eaten fresh).

After twenty minutes at 450°F, reduce oven temperature to 400°F and bake for about another ten minutes. Check the bread near the end, especially the bottoms, to avoid burning. The crust should be hard, and crackle when squeezed.


right relationship

I've been thinking more lately about child rearing. Both because of our hopes for a child, and because several of our friends have children so I'm interacting with them more often. I haven't been especially interested in the challenges of bringing up children before. Maybe it's because I haven't understood how it fit with what I saw as the spiritual purpose of the rest of life. It seemed like just providing all the physical and psychological building blocks for later life, but that the most important "meaning of life" lessons couldn't be learned until later.

When I think of how our culture (and often parents) mis-teach kids, I think it has to do with not learning their "right relationship" with other people and the natural world and God. It's easy to find examples of how the wealth and power of our nation has led to pride and an inflated understanding of ourselves in relation to others and the earth. And this is often passed on to children, consciously or unconsciously. There's also the common parental tendency to exalt their own children in relationship to other people (or even in relationship to themselves). Sometimes also the tendency to tear a child down. All of these teach a child wrongly about their relationships to others, which invariably ends up being confronted later by people, and causing painful consequences when they bump up against reality.

What seems most helpful is to try, in word and action, to communicate the truth about a child's real relationship to other people and things. And God. Help them find where they really stand. This reminds me of the observation among many animal species that it's very important for each individual to find its place in the pack. They need that to feel secure. I think it's also of great benefit to us to rightly understand our place, and our relationship to others.

Of course, ultimately, this "right relationship" is determined by God, not by our culture or society. Actually, I think behaving according to our true relationship will cause us to often come into conflict with our society that tries to impose its own relational structure. That's also a lesson I'd like my child to learn.

And this learning of "right relationship" and learning how to interact rightly in our relationships (especially with God) is not just a lesson for children but for our whole lives.


My contribution to the gun control debate...