Sunday, October 27, 2013

Moving and mayhem and bread: this is not a gluten-free post

Bread and Blessings, redux

This print from German artist Kathe Kollwitz hangs in our living room. The mother's posture has always reminded me of a priest bending down to offer the consecrated bread: "Take, eat....the bread of heaven...." Bread, it seems to me, must be the food of angels.

Today my workshop at the prison was canceled because the women were quarantined, so I sat in the living room across from this print and read Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. There's a passage where the narrator recounts a childhood memory of watching the grown-ups deal with a burned-down church, salvaging what they could, burying destroyed Bibles and hymnals. At one point, his father "brought me some biscuit that had soot on it from his hands.... I remember my father down on his heels in the rain, feeding me biscuit from his scorched hand, with that old blackened wreck of a church behind him.... I remember it as communion, and I believe that's what it was."  The passage made me weep, remembering times of sharing bread and blessings with my young children years ago, and all the years of loss and gift and blessing since then. The accumulated years of bending down to feed a child began to prepare me for offering the Eucharist. Sometimes it's hard to know which is more sacred.

This Sunday's gospel tells my favorite story in all of Scripture: Jesus' post-resurrection invitation to breakfast on the beach, where he is cooking fish and bread over a charcoal fire for his confused and uncertain disciples. On the hillside for 5000 people, at his Last Supper in the upper room at Passover, on the road to Emmaus, on the beach -- in all these places, before and after his death and resurrection, our Lord took bread, blessed it and shared it.

In our call to follow in his Way, it seems to me that baking bread with our children, filling the home with its aroma, then sharing it with them offers wordless blessing. There are a lot of really lovely bread recipes out there, but even buying frozen bread dough and starting with that will work its holy magic.

So sometime during this Easter season, bake bread with your children, knowing that it carries within it deep and inexplicable blessings for the home, for the children, and for you. -- And, in case you worry, the blessings far outweigh the carbs.

And, I can now report, baking bread also blesses a new home (especially when eaten with butter....)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Golden October and Goblin Trees

No stories this week, but plenty of knobby goblin trees. (Thank you!) Seems a perfect time of year to take the children out for a walk to look for beauty and blessings and quirky trees and places that goblins and elves and fairies might live. It makes a compelling reason to get outside and look around. These trees come from Maine, Arizona, Virginia, and New Mexico.  Have fun finding goblin trees in your own neighborhoods!

(And if you wonder what all this is about, check here.)


Monday, October 7, 2013

An outside autumn activity: for the birds!

Lots of churches celebrated St. Francis' Day this past weekend with the blessings of animals; at St. Paul's in Brunswick, Maine we had 10 dogs, a rabbit, a hamster, lots of stuffed animals, and the ashes of a beloved pet.

Behind the altar for the Family Service hung a banner that showed St. Francis surrounded by fluttering, multi-colored birds. The birds reminded me of the little girl's comment last week that "birds are angels," which would mean that the banner showed St. Francis surrounded by angels. A happy thought!

                                                   from Jennie's Hat, by Ezra Jack Keats

St. Francis and angels and birds: what a lively trinity! In celebrating both St. Francis (this week) and St.Michael and All Angels (last week), birds really do figure prominently. For example, on Michaelmas, which occurs just five days before St. Francis Day, farmers used to scatter grain for the wild birds in oder to bring good luck to their farms.

So I thought I would share with you a bird-centered activity that my kids used to enjoy when they were little: making bird feeders and then hanging them near-by.

This is incredibly easy (also somewhat messy). You need:

peanut butter (shortening will work if you have a child with peanut allergies)

pinecones that you collect (its own adventure!) or corn cobs or even popcorn balls

bird seed

yarn or string for hanging

What to do:

Put down newspaper as a work surface.

Have the children spread peanut butter all over the outside of the pinecones.

Pour the bird seed into a pan, and let the children roll the pinecones around in the seeds. Seeds will stick to the peanut butter.

Tie a long piece of yarn or string to each pinecone.

Go for a walk to find the right place to hang your bird feeders.

As you walk, or while you work to make the bird feeders, you could teach at least the first two verses of  "All things bright and beautiful." You can find a simple version with lyrics here, or another with a slightly different melody and gorgeous accompanying pictures

It's worth celebrating the bright and beautiful world of autumn, and by making these very simple feeders you teach your children to care for all God's creatures.

And if the little girl is right, you'll be feeding angels!