Time’s Up!

24 January 2021, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:6-14; I Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

“The beginning of the Good News of God in Jesus Christ the Son of God…”

The Gospel of Mark opens with a trumpet blast.  No introduction to speak of, simply the bold and unvarnished declaration of “Good News” embodied in the person of Jesus.

Mark gives us no tales of shepherds watching their flocks by night, or angel choirs singing sweetly o’er the plains.  There are no wise men coming from the east, following yonder star in this telling of the story.

Instead Mark gives us the person of John the Baptist, in the wilderness of Judea, standing in the Jordan river “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  Jesus comes to John, along with people from Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside and is baptized like everyone else, nobody special.  Until the heavens are opened, and he sees the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and the voice from heaven declares “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And immediately the Spirit drives him into the desert for forty days and forty nights, with the wild beasts and the Tempter and the angels of God.

That is all the setup we get, prior to this morning’s gospel.  The story is almost breathless in its urgency—the Gospel writer seems unable to get the words out quickly enough.  Things happen in rapid succession: John the Baptist appears, Jesus is baptized, the Voice speaks, and immediately Jesus is in the wilderness.

“Immediately” is one of the favorite words of the writer of Mark’s gospel.  It occurs over and over, reminding those who hear it that time is short—indeed, time’s up!

Jesus says as much in this morning’s gospel reading, as he begins his public ministry in Galilee. “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news!”

Another translation says, “Change your hearts and have faith in the good tidings.”  (David Bentley Hart, The New Testament)

The word usually translated “repent” in the New Testament is metanoia.

Metanoia.  Turn around, you’re going the wrong way. 

Metanoia.  You missed the turn off of I-35, you don’t want to go to Tulsa, you want to get off at the Guthrie exit.  So you take the next exit, and turn around, and go back in the right direction.  And maybe you have to commit metanoia again, several times, to reach your destination.  But that’s okay!  Adjust direction as often as needed—but by all means keep your destination in sight and keep going.

Episcopal priest and writer Cynthia Bougeault puts it this way: “The word ‘metanoia’…literally means to go ‘beyond the mind’ or ‘into the larger mind.”  It means to escape from the orbit [of judgement that wants to divide everything into binary categories] and move instead into that nondual knowingness of the heart which can see and live from the perspective of wholeness.  This is the central message of Jesus.  This is what his Kingdom of Heaven is all about.”  (The Wisdom Jesus, p. 41)

And it is that word “metanoia” that stands behind all our scripture readings this morning, this third Sunday after the Epiphany in the year of grace 2021.  Jonah and Paul, the Psalmist and the gospel writer all declare: Change direction, change your way of thinking and behaving—something great is coming, it’s already here!

The kingdom of God has come near;

The grace of God has delivered you;

The love of God is for you.

The gospel writer is in such haste to tell what happens next, the words tumble forth almost faster than ears can listen. “The time is fulfilled/Time’s up!”  And those who hear these good tidings are invited to make a response, to drop everything and come along.  The call to “change your hearts” is a call to put down, let go, drop the distractions and focus on the One who has come, declaring and embodying the good tidings of God.

And what is that good news? 

What are those good tidings?

At his baptism Jesus is proclaimed “Beloved of God” and immediately (there it is again!) he is sent into the wilderness by the Spirit to learn what that means.  Today we hear the beginning of his public ministry, in which this identity “You are my Beloved” is at once WHO Jesus is, and the good news/glad tidings that he shares.

You, Simon, are God’s Beloved.

You, Andrew, are God’s Beloved.

You, James and John and Zebedee, are God’s Beloved.

Turn to your neighbor.  Turn to someone nearby (even in this season of social distancing) and look them in the eye, and tell them: “You are God’s Beloved.”

This is the Good News that Jesus has received and that he proclaims to everyone he encounters.  That they, each and all, are known to God and loved by God and called to live in that reality and share that good news.  It is this that calls for—even demands—metanoia, repentance, a change of mind and heart and action.

Because the bad news, the old news, the false news that must be rejected, says things like, “Not enough.  Not good enough.  Not smart enough.

Not fast enough, or pretty enough.

Not enough money, or time, or resources.

Not acceptable, not adequate, not worthy.”

You can fill in the missing words, everyone has words to add to that evil lying list.

Those words were given to us by the world, perhaps by people who meant well, or perhaps by people or situations that did not mean well at all.  And we believed them, and took them in, and repeated them to ourselves.  Out of fear, mostly, and self-protection.  If I say it first, then maybe it won’t hurt so much.  If I hold back because I believe the bad words, then I don’t risk getting hurt or looking foolish.

I think that’s why the gospel writer is so eager to share the Good News, words tumbling out faster than tongue can speak or pen can write.  May be that’s why everything in Mark’s gospel happens “immediately”, because the time is fulfilled; in fact, time’s up!  The bad news has met its end.  It will try to hold on as long as it can, but the Good News that Jesus brings will ultimately have the final word.  And that word is Joy.  That word is Welcome.  That word is Love.

From Anglican poet and theologian Malcolm Guite: “The call of the disciples”

He calls us all to step aboard his ship,

Take the adventure on this morning’s wing,

Raise sail with him, launch out into the deep,

Whatever storms or floods are threatening.

If faith gives way to doubt, or love to fear,

Then as on Galilee, we’ll rouse the Lord,

For he is always with us, and will hear,

And make our peace with his creative Word.

Who made us, loved us, formed us, and has set

All his beloved lovers in an ark;

Borne upwards by his Spirit, we will float

Above the rising waves, the falling dark,

As fellow pilgrims, driven toward that haven

Where all will be redeemed, fulfilled, forgiven.

Image: “The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew”, Duccio Di Buoninsegna, 1308-1311; Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

I’m Dreaming of a Horange Christmas…

Mid-December, 1978, Baytown, Texas.  I was eight years old, and Christmas was just days away.  We were en route to the annual holiday gathering of my mother’s extended clan, with Dad at the wheel, Mom in the passenger seat, and baby sister and I in the back.  There was a family squabble in progress, as was often the case.  Perhaps someone had taken longer than someone else thought they ought to get ready and out the door. “We’re gonna be late again!”  Or perhaps the pies had not turned out looking like the cover of the holiday edition of “Southern Living.”  Or maybe I was sitting on the side of the car where baby sister wanted to sit, or vice versa. 

Whatever the cause, the fussing and sniping and bickering was well underway, when Dad muttered “Car needs gas” and turned into the parking lot of the roadside gas station/barbecue shack that marked the halfway point to my great-aunt’s house.  “Anyone want anything while I’m in there?” he asked.  “I’ll come with you!” said baby sister, as she clambered out the back door and trotted into the store at his heels.

Silence.  Then from the front seat…

“You know, you expect Christmas to be shiny and sparkly and cheerful, all lights and bright red and green.  But sometimes, it’s just…kinda messy and faded and ‘horange’.”

For the record, there is no such word in the English language as “horange.”  You will not find it in a dictionary or thesaurus; neither Google nor Wikipedia will discover any definition or explanation of the term.

But in my memory, and our family lexicon, it is a word of power.  A sort of talisman or shorthand of remembrance, to be called upon when things don’t quite turn out as planned.  “It’s just horange” we might say to one another.  “It’s not what you hoped, but it’ll be okay.  The pie will still taste good, even if it looks wonky.  We’ll get to the gathering eventually, even if we are late. There’s a stain on your tie, but I don’t care because I’m happy to see you and this isn’t a fashion show.” 

Despite the song lyrics, this is not “the most wonderful time of the year” for everyone.  It is, in fact, a very difficult time for many people. Charles Dickens knew whereof he wrote, when he told of ghosts wandering abroad at this season, making visitations that might not be welcome or wanted.  It is a time when we remember absent loved ones, and expectations are high, and the desire to achieve some mythical goal of “the best Christmas ever” can possess our minds and spirits.  And all of those challenges exist even under ordinary conditions.  Add to this catalog the list of catastrophes and setbacks that 2020 has thrown across our paths, and it is no wonder that people are feeling sad and tired and worn out and just “over it all” in these last days of the year.

“Horange” is a reminder that there is something deep, and good, that is worthy of making the effort.  That gathering together—in person or by means of some mediating technology—is life giving to those who make it happen, however it happens.  That sharing kindness is always a good thing, and has a strange way of coming back upon us at unexpected moments.  The fragrance or flavor of some long-loved food or drink can call forth memory and identity, reminding us of who we are, and whose we are.  The sight of a lumpy homemade tree ornament or table decoration summons the love and strength of absent friends and loved ones, whose fingerprints are imprinted into the clay of our souls.

Horange: It won’t be the way you assumed it was going to be.  And that’s okay.

Adjust your expectations.  See what might be waiting to surprise you, to delight and lift your spirit, even in the puzzling and unscripted moment in which you now find yourself.

In the night, in the dark, in the wondering and waiting, we dare to hope still.

I wish for you a happy, and healthy, “Horange” holiday season, beloveds.       

Kitchen Tales: The Summer of Tuna Casserole

In the summer of 1999, as the world prepared in fear and trembling for the coming of Y2K, I undertook a ten-week course of Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas.  Shannon and I were still living in Austin, and her work was not as portable then as it came to be in later years.  I arranged to move into the guest room of our friends Glenn and Elizabeth near the Medical Center, and Shannon would remain in Austin and come visit on the weekends.  Maybe.    

As the chef de cuisine of the household, I knew that my beloved would be dining nightly on takeout Whataburger or grocery store frozen pizza if left to her own devices.  I also knew that tuna casserole (say what you will, dear readers) would be well-received if it was available.  The question was, how to convey both recipe and instructions in a way that would not immediately be dismissed as “kitchen voodoo.”

Context is everything.  In an appeal to the engineering mind, I located a pad of graph paper and a mechanical pencil, and began to write the recipe as here transcribed:

Preparation: Crush Corn Flakes until you have about ¾ cup of crumbs.  Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons (½ a stick) of butter in the microwave.  (Use a measuring cup for this—you’ll need to pour it later.)  Be careful about timing—you don’t want to “boil” the butter.  Set aside.

Cooking:  Fill the large Caflon [sic] saucepan about half full of water.  Turn the stove on high and bring it to a boil (covering pot will hurry this up.)  When the water boils, add a package of pasta shells (about 2 cups) and reduce heat by about ¾ .  Stir pasta every 2-3 minutes to keep from sticking.  DO NOT COVER POT!

When pasta is cooked, remove from heat and strain the water off.  (Dump into colander.)

Turn oven on to 375.

Open two small cans of tuna (or one large).  Drain juice and give it to the kitties.  Put the tuna into the large Pyrex bowl and break it up with a fork.  To this, add 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup of milk, about 1 cup frozen peas (or more), and the cooked pasta.  Mix all this together.

Spray a Pyrex baking dish with Pam.  Pour the tuna mixture into the baking dish.  Sprinkle the Corn Flake crumbs evenly over the tuna mixture and drizzle the melted butter over the whole thing.  Bake for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven.  Turn off oven.

This recipe, with Shannon’s own marginalia and assorted stains and fingerprints, was later framed as an anniversary gift and now hangs on our kitchen wall as a kind of culinary and marital signpost or landmark.  “Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.” 

But the recipe changed.  Not long ago on a cold and blustery night, a desire for comfort food was upon us.  We had the basics, but not exactly as listed in the editio typica.  No canned cream of mushroom soup, no corn flakes, and absolutely no desire to go out to the store that evening.  Instead, I made the version that follows, of which Shannon observed afterward that “This may be the best tuna casserole you’ve ever made.”  So, then…

Hollywood and Vine Tuna Casserole Nouveau

1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter, divided

½ cup finely chopped onion

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 T. all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk, warmed

Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

2 cups dry macaroni or pasta shells

2 cans chunk light tuna in water, well drained  (Cat households take note: the leftover “tuna juice” is considered a great delicacy among the feline population.)

1 generous cup frozen green peas

1 scant cup corn chips, crushed (½ to ¼  inch pieces)

Generous ¼  cup salted mixed nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.

Melt  4 T. of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  When butter has stopped foaming, add the onion and toss to coat.  Reduce heat slightly and cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until onions begin to turn pale gold.  Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

Sprinkle flour over the onions and whisk together thoroughly, making sure that all the flour and butter are well combined.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes, whisking frequently.

Off heat, add the milk and whisk to combine.  Return pan to med-low heat and bring to a slow boil, stirring very frequently.  Sauce will become quite thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and a scant ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  Set sauce aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, boil 2 quarts of water with a generous tablespoon of salt.  When water boils, add the pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until just done.  Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and place in a large mixing bowl.  Break the tuna up with a fork and add it to the pasta, along with the peas and onion sauce.  Mix together thoroughly and correct seasoning.  Add some of the reserved pasta water if mixture seems too dry or thick. Turn mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.

Sprinkle the crushed corn chips evenly across the casserole, then add the chopped nuts.  Melt the remaining 4 T. of butter and drizzle all over everything.  Bake for approximately 35 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and browned around the edges.  Allow to cool uncovered for about 10 minutes before serving.       

Philadelphia Memories, Part 1

1 October 2009 was my 40th birthday.  I spent it with Shannon and her parents in the City of Brotherly Love, where mother-in-law Bonnie was attending a medical conference, and father-in-law Weldon had come along for the ride.  They invited us to drive down from Morristown and join them for a few days, see some of the sights and celebrate my milestone day.

Among the places we visited that weekend was the Arch Street Meeting House, in the old town historic district.  The Arch Street Meeting House is the “mother church” of the Quakers in the United States.  To the Friends, the very mention of Arch Street resonates in the same way that “Canterbury” sounds in the ears of Anglicans, or “Aldersgate” to the followers of Mr. Wesley. 

The Meeting House is an imposing building, colonial Georgian in design, while simultaneously gracious and austere in execution.  It is in fact several distinct buildings, which include lecture rooms, classrooms, and numerous spaces for welcome and hospitality. 

A volunteer docent showed us around the campus and shared a very brief history of Quakerism in the colonial period and thereafter.  As we made our way through the buildings, he pointed out particular objects of interest and historical significance.  Let it be known that “Holy Relics” are by no means the monopoly of any particular denomination or religion—every faith tradition has tangible reminders of “the great cloud of witnesses” in heaven and on earth.  Perhaps these are bits of bone in filigree, or cups of bone china; maybe ringlets of hair preserved in glass, or crystal goblets that adorned great-great grandmother’s dining table.  These are the outward and visible objects, used and blessed by those who have themselves been a blessing to us and our forebears at some time past, and still tangible even now.

At last we came into the room dedicated for gathered worship.  I had previously experienced Quaker worship meetings, mostly in borrowed spaces at Silver Bay during the annual “Quaker Week” in the summer months.  In those contexts, the gatherings often felt informal and  improvisatory, but this room was evocative of something else altogether—fully as awe-inspiring as any cathedral, solemn in its understated elegance.  It was a large two-story square room, with simple wooden benches filling most of the space on the floor, and galleries with additional seating on three sides.

My attention was drawn to the opposite end of the room from where we had entered, where three rows of the same wooden benches were arranged to face the opposite direction, and raised on a low platform.  A wooden canopy, simple in its design but with a gentle curve on the underside, hung above the designated rows of benches. 

As a choral singer, my first thought was “Choir Loft”—but this made no sense.  Quaker worship in the colonial period did not utilize choral or congregational song, although both found their way into some Friends’ meeting houses in later generations.

I turned to the docent with a quizzical expression on my face.  “What are those benches for, there at the front of the room?” I asked.

He answered, “Those are called ‘the facing seats’. They are specifically for the elders of the gathering, the wise people.  That canopy above is to project the sound, to make it easier for everyone to hear what they have to say when they are inspired to stand and speak during worship.  They were the people whose words were considered the most worth hearing.” He paused, and then continued in a thoughtful tone.  “It’s very difficult nowadays to get anyone to sit up in front there.  Nobody wants to be in the position of being ‘the wise ones’ or taking a leadership position.”

I have been haunted by that conversation ever since that moment. 

Because it is hard, to be “up in front”.

It is hard to be wise, to speak wisely, let alone to be heard and heeded.

It is hard to be a leader of a group of people, any group of people, “nowadays.”

And yet, those places, those situations, that invite and require careful listening and wise counsel and shrewd discernment are waiting.

The need is no less than it ever was; it is perhaps greater “nowadays” than ever before.

In church and city and state and nation, Wisdom seems in short supply.

But perhaps—just perhaps—it may be found.

If we get quiet, quiet enough to hear the still, small voice.

If we get quiet enough even to hear our own heartbeat, and that of the Other.

If we get quiet enough to really, truly listen before we speak.

Maybe—just maybe—we might discover a word worth speaking, a word worth hearing.

I wonder…how do you go about that challenge, of listening beyond the noise and chatter?

How do you discover “a word worth hearing”?

The End of One Chapter

“Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it.” –Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, “A Muppet Christmas Carol”

Today, 25 October 2020, was my last Sunday as the rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Norman, Oklahoma. I started in August of 2016, and we did good work together. But sometimes the Venn diagrams just don’t line up the way they should.

I am in the process of figuring out “where to from here?” A couple of prospects are on the immediate horizon; if not one of these, then something else will turn up. (I’m not intentionally channeling Charles Dickens just now, but the eternal optimist Mr. Micawber does come to mind.)

Many friends from near and far have reached out in concern, and I cannot adequately express how grateful I am. We are okay (and more than okay) for the present, and as soon as I have good news to publish, it will be published. Until then, if you’re the praying sort, prayers for clarity of discernment are most welcome. If you’re not the praying sort, throw some good energy this direction if you have some to spare.

I know that I am richly blessed with people who love and care about me, and that reality has been evident in recent days. I won’t name names because this blog could not contain the list, but you know who you are!

More news as it develops… 🙂

Songs of Grace

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

John Newton wrote those words sometime before 1779.  By that time he had been a sailor and slave trader, had left that way of life, and had become a follower of Jesus Christ in word and action.  Following his conversion and later ordination in the Church of England, he became a public and vocal opponent of the slave trade.  This brought him into conflict with the wealthy and powerful business owners and politicians of his day, many of whom profited through the trade even if they were not slaveholders themselves.  But Newton paid them little attention, and continued to preach and write and speak against the evils that he himself knew all too well. 

The hymn we know as “Amazing Grace” is Newton’s autobiographical statement.  He recognizes who he once was, (“a wretch”, miserable in himself and unable to make any change by himself) and that Grace (unearned loving kindness extended by God) is at once the possibility of change, and the outcome of that change.  Grace both accomplishes God’s purpose, and becomes the gift that the recipient has to share with others.  It is not possible to receive grace for oneself without also extending grace to those who need it just as much.

Grace can sometimes appear in a particular moment.  For Newton, 10 March 1748 was the anniversary date when the awareness of God’s mercy was revealed to him as that “saving grace.”  But sometimes Grace is known little by little, only recognizable in hindsight after the fact.  A later verse of the hymn puts it well:  “’Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”  The journey of faith, with Grace leading the way, is not accomplished in a single moment, or in a straight line.  It takes time.  And sometimes the way is winding and indirect. 

Over two hundred years later, another poet would write a song about Grace, in a very different place and for a very different audience.

“Poor boys and pilgrims with families

And we are going to Graceland.

My traveling companion is nine years old

He is the child of my first marriage.

But I’ve reason to believe

We both will be received

In Graceland.”

The title track of Paul Simon’s 1986 hit album, “Graceland” is a lament of a failed marriage, a story of a pilgrimage to a place of great significance, and a declaration of faith.  It is not an explicitly religious song, and yet it dares to look with hope toward a reality that is already present, and yet to be fully revealed.  The making of the album itself was controversial, as the process of bringing musicians together to write and record the songs crossed racial and political lines of South African apartheid.  Those who dared to take that risk did so at a price.  And yet they too believed in Grace, which is greater than the boundaries and divisions that human beings create and sustain in the misguided belief that such divisions are salvific.

There is always great need of Grace in the world.

And Grace is always more abundant than we can ask or imagine.

How has Grace met you recently?

And how have you shared Grace with someone else?

…I’ve reason to believe we all will be received, in Graceland.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/Graceland_cover_-_Paul_Simon.jpg

Kitchen Storytelling

In the afterword to Cook & Tell, his collection of cherished “narrative recipes”, Georgia food writer and raconteur Johnathan Scott Barrett offers his readers a challenge.  “I hope you’ll be inspired to take pen to paper and capture some of your best recollections that come to mind.  Write what you feel, what you remember, and why that recipe, or those dishes, meant something special to you and your family.”

So then…

Three ingredients, and minimal preparation.  I suspect these qualities commended the recipe to the leaders of the annual Vacation Bible School at the First Methodist Church of Liberty, Texas that summer of 1978, when I was staying with my grandparents for the week.  To a hopelessly unathletic, nearsighted, bookish, introverted boy-child, my grandparents’ home and community in those days was a welcome sanctuary of peace, love, and unconditional acceptance.  I remember leaving the  church kitchen that day after we’d made the cookies, with a few of them in a plastic sandwich bag and a copy of the recipe (printed with purple mimeograph ink) taped to the bag.  Grammy and I each had a cookie as we drove back to the cozy mid-century ranch-style house on Webster Street, saving some for Granddaddy for after dinner. 

She adopted the recipe as her signature cookie, making probably hundreds of dozens over the following years.  She would cool them completely, then freeze them in large Tupperware containers, layered between waxed paper.  Without fail, when anyone would drop by for a visit (expected or otherwise) she would have a plate of lemon wafers ready for guests.

22 years later, on a Saturday in June of 2000, I was ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church.  I went to visit her at the house on Webster Street the following day, and spent several hours sitting at her bedside.  We spoke very little, and as I took my leave I leaned close to kiss her goodbye.  “I love you” I said.  “I love you too—so very much” she replied, in that sweet soft voice.  The following Thursday morning early, the phone rang.  My mother was calling, to tell me that her mother, my Grammy, had died in the early morning hours.  Sometime in the days that followed, as we met with the then-current pastor of the First Methodist Church to plan the service, he kindly asked me if I wanted to have a role in the service.  “Yes,” I told him.  “I want to sit in the front row and cry.  That’s my role in this service.”  And it was, and I did.

A year later, I was ordained as a priest in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waco, Texas.  Following the ordination liturgy, the assembly adjourned to the parish hall for a grand reception.  Prominently displayed in the middle of the buffet table was an enormous platter of lemon wafers.  I gasped, then wept, when I saw them, and immediately went to the committee members who had organized the party to find out who had brought them.  They did not know.  No one could say who had brought lemon wafers to the celebration; they were never seen at a St. Paul’s gathering before or after that night.

When I hear the stories in the book of Exodus, of the mysterious heaven-sent manna that sustained the children of Israel all those years in the desert, I wonder if it didn’t look and taste just a little bit like these…

Lemon Wafers

1 box lemon cake mix (see Notes)

1 egg

1 “scant” cup vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly.  The batter should be rather firm, but not stiff.  Measure out by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 3” between cookies (they will spread out quite a bit).  Bake at 350° for 8-12 minutes until cookies brown slightly around the edges.  Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes on the baking sheet, then carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Note 1:  Don’t use “extra-moist” or “pudding in the mix” cake mix for this recipe.  Plain (cheap!) boxed cake mix is sufficient. 

Note 2:  In recent years, cake mix companies seem to have reduced the quantity contained in each package (presumably as a cost-saving measure.)  You may need to reduce the quantity of oil slightly in response. 

Challenged

Frankly I’d forgotten that I even *had* a personal blog. Let alone two of them…one of which I can’t seem to access, but it’s on the internet and of course nothing ever really disappears. You can read those posts at https://precentor-aviewfromtheporch.blogspot.com if you like.

Someone actually found that blog and asked me point-blank “Why aren’t you writing more? You’ve got some good things to say!” Part of my recent self-discovery is that I need to push myself to share more…whether or not other people need to hear about it, I need to get it out there. So here’s the deal: I will commit to posting at least weekly on here, something. Maybe my unfiltered current nonsense of the moment, maybe a meditation or poem or short story. I’ve got a few ideas in mind already.

I have been so richly blessed and guided by the words of mentors and “wisdom people” who do this kind of work, sharing from their own experiences and reflections. Perhaps this may be a blessing to someone else as it unfolds in the future. In any case, we need all the “good words” we can get in this strange and fear-filled season of early fall 2020.

See you on the porch!

Blowing out the cobwebs

Hi everyone!

Wow things have changed since the last post!  I’m now living in Oklahoma, serving a lively active parish and engaging ministry and life in lots of unexpected ways.  I hope to be more regular in posting on here, as a consistent discipline for my own development and to share the good things I’m discovering.  Yesterday was the first Sunday in Lent, we’ve begun the countdown to Holy Week and the Three Holy Days.

This year St. Michael’s is employing a series of prayer stations, or “Rest Stops” around the worship space, where people can pause after communion or before/after service and pray using various kinds of objects (sand, water, candles, stones) as “outward and visible signs” of their own journey of faith.  We introduced these on Sunday, and I deliberately slowed down during the administration of communion to make room for anyone who wanted to participate to do so.  And they did–then, and following the liturgy.  Several people who are usually very “cut-and-dried” about everything were right there with their hands in the desert bowl…Holy Spirit, come!

Grace and peace, y’all 🙂

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

…and the clergy (and musicians, and altar guild, and lectors) are dead 🙂

Not quite, of course.  The events of Holy Week and the Three Sacred Days are energizing and life-giving in many ways, but there certainly is a lot to keep track of.  I had the honor of keeping the Triduum with a local congregation whose rector is away on medical leave, and it was an honor indeed.  A former rector of the parish was “an icon junkie” and left them a significant library of icons for the various feasts and biblical stories.  The Resurrection (Anastasis) icon is ENORMOUS–almost 5 feet wide by 4 feet tall.  It was unveiled during the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and remained in place for the Easter morning services the next day.  I was able to use it as a teaching tool during the sermons (a new experience for this preacher.  Maybe I need to rethink projection screens in the chancel…)  Music was great, readers were splendid, flowers and candles and festive celebration of the Easter eucharists (with champagne as our altar wine) all proclaimed in their own way the joy and mystery of the Resurrection.  Many thanks, dear ones!Easter 2016