Bread for the Journey

Yesterday evening we joined in our last worship service at the Seminary as students.  We were uplifted by the voices of our classmates and teachers raised in song; a message of hope that we can bring a message of love and unity in the ministry settings to which we are going; fellowship at the table; and individual prayers for our future by the faculty members who have guided us along the journey.  Our spirits were fed and I was left feeling ready to move forward.

What a blessing it is to feel ready for what is ahead!  Change when we are not ready to accept it can be so frightening and frustrating and overwhelming.  Yet when change arrives and we are prepared to accept it and move forward it is life giving and joyous.

At WesleyI am sad to leave seminary.  Moving to DC and entering seminary changed my life forever, but we must move down from the mountaintops of life to share with others the vision of a promised future where love reigns.  We cannot dwell on the mountain for people live in the valley below.

A line from one of Caleb’s favorite movies, Big Fish,  that he loves to quote helps describe the joy of being ready to say goodbye.  Edward Bloom has been living in the magical town of Spectre. When he realizes it is time to continue on his journey a citizen of the town says, “You won’t find a better place.”  Edward responds, “I don’t expect to.”  Being prepared to journey forward from seminary is a matter of acknowledging this place was fulfilling in a way that I’m sure I will never experience again, but realizing that other places can be “Spectre” and I must leave this place to find them.  The lessons of the classroom and the lessons of living in this community are what I take with me and that provide bread for the journey ahead.

-Margaret

Advertisements

Tasting Experience

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m searching for the right words today.  This is a big day in my family.  We are celebrating, we are praying, and we are holding our breath.  Today we celebrate my Grammy’s birthday.  She has been tasting experience for 84 years today and if I had anything to say about it she would continue to taste experience for another 84.  Thankfully her health at 84 is good and isn’t really a worry at this point. [smile]

If I were to tell you the story of her life, you would probably think it very ordinary.  She grew up in the smallest of towns in Georgia climbing in trees pretending to be Tarzan and Jane.  As a little girl, she caught a train to travel just a few miles down the road to the “big” city to visit her father at the used car lot where he worked after the war and on Saturdays to watch the serials at the movie theater.  After graduating from her small high school, she attended Valdosta State College for women and cried almost every day for the first six weeks because she couldn’t go home.  Years later she met and fell in love with my Granddaddy, a newly ordained Methodist pastor, while engaged to someone else.  She raised three beautiful children and now is seeing her family expand almost every year.  No great-grandchildren yet, but new marriages among the grandchildren and new great-great nieces and nephews.  They retired in the town where she was born in a house on the street she grew up.  Now her days are filled with gardening, reading, writing prayers and letters, and loving on people in ways that make you feel so incredibly seen, known, and valued.  My Grammy has tasted life and is still reaching out for newer, richer experiences.

Today also marks the beginning of a new adventure for my little sister Rachel.  She is stepping forward “to taste experience to the utmost.”  Today she travels with our Uncle Steve to Guatemala to backpack around a new land for 3 1/2 weeks.  This is her first trip abroad and I am so excited for her, but I am also holding my breath.  Yes I am anxious for her to return home safely, but I am also waiting to see how this new experience will change her.  She is about to taste humanity in a new and richer way.  Her eyes will see things differently and I hope she will be inspired!  I am holding my breath in anticipation of what new tastes she will bring back and share.

I am searching for the right words today to express my joy at celebrating Grammy’s life that she has so richly lived and I am searching for the right words today to wish Rachel the very best as she reaches out to experiences life in a new way.  Holding Eleanor’s metaphor of taste in mind, I offer this table blessing today for Grammy and Rachel:

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.  Amen

-Margaret

Saturday Picnics and Sunday Potlucks

Though the weather was a little chillier than we would have liked, our weekend was full of sunshine and time spent with our DC communities.  And after a tense Friday evening watching the news coverage from Boston while under a tornado watch, the weekend was the perfect antidote.

Awesome ad courtesy of Chris Able

Image courtesy of  Chris Abel

Saturday Picnics:

Personally I think sunny April Saturdays were created especially for picnics.  [smile] I mean what better way to celebrate spring than with hotdogs and veggie burgers, ripe strawberries and whipped cream, tag and Frisbee?  The only thing we were missing was a kite!

Answering the call to “Keep Calm and Picnic On” we gathered with our seminary cohorts to celebrate the approaching end of the semester and the joy of living in community.  Given the weather the night before (lots of rain) we were all a bit skeptical as to the feasibility of holding the picnic outside, but in the words of one of our classmates “a picnic kind of loses its allure when moved indoors.”  Happily the ground had dried out enough to spread blankets and lunch on the lawn.  Lunch consisted of the aforementioned hot dogs, burger, strawberries and whipped cream with a few Whole Foods salads, cupcakes, and root beer floats donated by a few of the student organizations. Chips and popcorn rounded out the delightfully and deliciously eclectic mix of offerings.

Old Fashioned Hymn Sing on the Hill,  Wesley Theological Seminary

Old Fashioned Hymn Sing,
Wesley Theological Seminary

If you’re at all familiar with gatherings of seminary students you can be assured that one of two things will inevitably ensue:  1. theology talk or 2. a spontaneous hymn sing.  Given the stress of approaching final papers and tests, theology was pushed aside for the picnic in favor of joyful singing!  [smile]  One thing I will certainly miss about seminary is the freedom with which my classmates raise their voices in praise.  Their enthusiasm reminds me of John Wesley’s notes for singing at the beginning of the UM Hymnal:

Sing lustily and with a good courage.  Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.  Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

Preach it JW! [smile]  After the hymn sing we decided to grab a photo with said Wesley.  All in all a lovely day and a lovely memory of our experience at seminary.

Group shot with John!

Group shot with John!

Sunday Potlucks: 

Sunday brought a second opportunity in our weekend to share a meal with friends in DC– Crossroads 3rd Sunday Potluck!  As perfect as Saturdays seem for picnics, Sunday and potlucks are paired even more perfectly.  I love figuring out the perfect dish to bring.  This time I picked something that just sings spring is here and summer is coming.  Its one of our families favorites and got rave reviews at the potluck– “Uncle Steve’s Tabouli.”  I brought it as a side for the dinner Sunday, but it can easily be made into the main dish with the addition of some pita, hummus and additional veggies (think sweet peppers or chickpeas).  Recipe follows.  Bon appetit!

“Uncle Steve’s Tabouli”

Ingredients: 1 cup bulgur wheat; 1 1/2 cup boiling water; 1 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice; 1 heaping tsp fresh crushed garlic; 1/2 cup chopped scallions; 1/4 cup olive oil; fresh ground black pepper; 2 medium tomatoes, diced or about 1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes; 1 packed cup freshly chopped parsley; 1 cup grated carrot; 1 chopped cucumber

Combine bulgur, boiling water and salt in bowl.  Cover and let stand 15-20 minutes, until bulgur is chewable.  Add lemon juice, garlic, and oil, mix well.  Refrigerate 2 or 3 hours.  Just before serving add vegetables and parsley and mix gently

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Dawn

Growing in Gratitude:  A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth!  Serve the Lord with a glad heart!  Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying).  Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice
giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible.  Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

6:45 am:  I’m sitting this morning at the window in our apartment that looks out on a bit of green space between the seminary and American University.    The morning chill seeps slightly through the window frame and I am bundled up in a sweatshirt to stay warm while I type.  The sun is risen, but because of all the buildings that surround our little yard it’s beams haven’t yet dried the dew off the grass.  Somewhere in the distance I hear the rumbling of construction vehicles, but in this early hour the noises of the city haven’t yet drowned out the morning tweets and twirls of the birds.  The world is waking.

8 am:  The sun is reaching the tops of the trees in our back yard now and highlights the slight breeze that is causing the leaves to just flutter.  The sun, the tree, and the wind dance together.  A robin red-breast hops along the ground chasing after a worm, I guess, while I crunch on my cereal.  I wonder if any of our other daily tasks will coincide.  When I make our bed will she feather her nest?  While I answer emails, will she call back and forth in conversation to the other birds?

8:45 am:  Appropriately a hymn drifts into my mind as I sip my coffee and observe this Earth Day breaking.

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth over and around us lies:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree and flow’r, Sun and Moon and stars of light
Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

Gratitude for the gift of this created day and humility for the space I occupy in the grand plan overwhelms.  A quote printed in my calendar today reads:  “Most know the earth is utterly enchanted.”  Today I choose to be one of the most.

Today I am grateful for the dawn.

What are you thankful for?

-Margaret

Nearly Ordained Cafe

So I feel like I must explain why all my posts about food, cooking, and baking are nestled under “Nearly Ordained Cafe.”   The name started out as a joke with my housemates when I was living at the MVS Intentional Community.  Most of us were first year seminary students at the time and when we began to feel overwhelmed by the rigors of our theological academic pursuits we would gather in the kitchen and talk about how we could quit seminary and start our own coffee shop/bakery/emergent church called “Nearly Ordained Cafe.”  Get it?!? [smile]  Maybe its a little cheesy, but all our cleverness was being used up on those awesome theology essays we were writing.  Ultimately we joked about it all so much that the name stuck in my mind at least.  There are very few times when I bake and don’t think about the silly name we wanted to give our fictional cafe.

Honestly, the meaning of “Nearly Ordained Cafe” has deepened as I’ve continued my theological education.  Like my reading philosophy, I hold a high opinion on the power of food, cooking, and gathering around the table.  Eating is a beautifully essential part of life and one we too often take for granted.  We are lulled by wealth of food choices into mindless consumption.  We think not of the many hands that helped to bring our meals to our table nor the gift of having enough to sustain our breathing in and out.  The Mennonite cookbook and treatise on eating mindfully, More with Less, quotes a prayer of Martin Penner from Brazil that reminds us this mindless consumption comes at a price.  ”

You have heard it said that because of hunger in Third World countries we should not overeat.  But I say unto you that the abuse of your body, mind, and soul is never justified.

Another sad consequence of our mindless consumption is that we miss the opportunity to connect in meaningful ways with each other.  Eating together reminds us of our shared needs and vulnerability.  Recognizing this shared identity means that grace flows in the breaking of bread together and the offering of it to one another.  And the conversations that mark our time at the table together only serve to deepen this connection.

I don’t feel completely finished with this reflection, but I’ve been working on it for several days and want to go ahead and set it free in the blog-o-sphere.  [smile]  I’m curious about any thoughts this post sparks for you.  I’d love to continue this conversation in the comments.

-Margaret

PS– Don’t forget to take a moment to explore the newly added “Nearly Ordained Cafe” tab above.  I’ve taken a moment to describe my cooking profile and talk about my favorite foods too.  Enjoy!

Creative Reading

ReadingThere is creative reading as well as creative writing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote appeared in the side bar when I published my first post for this blog and immediately grabbed my attention.  I guess it appeared because some cookies in my browser alerted wordpress.com to my love of reading and philosophy and Emerson.  Whatever reason, it seemed perfectly timed to me because the next page I wanted to develop for this blog was one to track my reading. When I was trying to think about what kind of blog to write I asked Caleb his thoughts.  He said I should build it around my two loves:  reading and baking.  What can I say, this guy gets me.  I am going to take his suggestion to heart and incorporate both topics into this blog, but add in a third love too (the most important)–  sharing life with him.  He is the muse for my musings.  [smile]  Anyway back to our topic today, courtesy of Mr. Emerson, CREATIVE READING.

Emerson’s words resonate a truth universally understood by those who have discovered the joy of reading– reading and writing are linked in their shared identity as creative acts.  In a world in which we are bombarded by carefully constructed images, reading offers a respite from these images created for us and encourages us to take on the creative act for ourselves.  By taking on the role of image makers, we are reflecting what I think is the divine spark, the imago dei, the image of our creator.  Reading is such a deeply spiritual act and I’m of the persuasion that the spiritual act isn’t necessarily diminished by what we are reading, well at the very least the spiritual act of reading isn’t limited to only reading religious material or sacred writings.  Personally I have a short list of books that I credit with changing my life in some way and for alerting me to some universal truth and most of them are novels– Pride and Prejudice, Miss Rumphius, The Life of Pi,  Journey to the East and The Snow Childto name a just a few.

So I hold a high philosophy of reading, but that doesn’t mean that I only read books that I think will bring me some new truth.  That’s not to say that I’m not very selective about what I read.  I can spend and have spent hours in a book store searching for that perfect book, but I also think you’re not going to always know what books have to reveal.  The old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” sticks around because it speaks the truth.  When I read I’m looking to be entertained and captured by a story and I’m looking to connect with the vision of another member of this awesome human race.

On this blog, I hope to chronicle my reading by sharing reviews of the books I read.  I don’t know if what I like to read will appeal to those of you out there reading, but maybe it will.  The “Creative Reading” tab above will provide links to the relevant blog posts about reading.  I’m also always up for suggestions about what I should read next.  Even though it can be done by yourself, I think reading is also a communal activity.  When I lived in Louisiana, I was fortunate enough to live a short walk from the local library that had an active book club.  Reading books with those sweet women, even when it was a book I didn’t love, was one of my greatest joys of living in that community.  I’d love to join another book club when we move or maybe even figure out a way to start a book club with my friends living in other places.  What could a long-distance/online book club look like?  If you have any ideas, let me know.

-Margaret