Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


(Photo of kitchen courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Week one is pretty much in the books.  I was "within my Lenten food budget" but I also didn't run out of anything important.

I did, however, have a really big realization.  In short, I have "more kitchen" than most people.

I have a 4 burner full size gas cookstove with a broiler.
I have a microwave that does more than "poke and nuke."
I have a full-size deep freeze which enabled me to buy meat in bulk and the amount I'm counting off for a daily meat ration is cheaper than if I had to buy meat at the store.
I have gizmos--crock pots, blenders, etc.
I have a dishwasher that enables me to not have to wash a single dish after I've made a culinary mess, so I don't think about the extra time and energy to wash dishes or leave things sitting long enough to attract bugs.
I have a fridge big enough to store leftovers.

I'm certain the average person who has to live on this food budget wishes their family could have any of these things.  I'm betting the average person who has to live on this food budget puts in more hours at difficult, manual, or mentally tedious labor, and coming home to cook and clean dishes does not find this "fun."

I'm remembering cooking wasn't "fun" for me when I had very little income.  Back when my days consisted of being in class (or on the hospital floors) for hours on end, nights on call, etc., cooking was something that kept me from more important things, like studying, vegging out in front of the TV, or sleeping.  Cooking was only fun when I had a little free time, and friends to share it with, play cards, yard games, etc.  Cooking only became "fun" for me when I got a little income and could experiment.

When I was in Lui, South Sudan, cooking was more communal.  The kitchen crew who fed us worked plenty, but they worked together, shared stories and time.  In the US, we all go home to our insular little worlds, and it's pretty easy to see cooking as thankless, boring, and hindering us from spending our time on more meaningful things.  The temptation is to do as little as one can to do what one has to do and be done with it.  Cooking is messy, and if one doesn't want bugs, mice, rats, roaches, etc., cleaning is a must.

Wow.  It's not just about the food.  It's about quality of life, of which food is just a tiny part.



(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


...and I've already had to make some choices about where I purchase food.

For starters, I decided to fast on Ash Wednesday up to the time of our evening service at 7 p.m.  "Ah, though, I probably need a pint of milk, a little juice, and a couple of protein drinks..." I thought to myself.

Now, normally I'd run into the Casey's on Osteopathy Street to do that, since it's on my usual route to work.  However, those items would each be anywhere up to 80 or 90 cents cheaper at the Hy-Vee.  I have to make my food money last till next Wednesday (when I put another $86 in there and start with a new week.  As it was, the things I got at the store came to $10.55.

I realized that, at this stage of my life, I pretty much buy whatever grocery item I want, wherever that's handiest to purchase.  Yet doing this as my Lenten discipline has reminded me it wasn't always that way, and this is the way it is for many people EVERY day.

I also realized a staple in my life at Lent is going over to Mary Immaculate's fish fry on Fridays in Lent, right after we've done Stations of the Cross at Trinity.  That's $7.50 right there.  I realized that will be my "splurge" for the week during this project.

I am remembering.  Remembering the days when every penny for food needed to be accounted for.  Remembering that part of how we got by in the winter, when my dad was laid off, was because he hunted, and because we'd occasionally get a calf or a pig to raise up and butcher.  Remembering we'd buy the "pieces and ends" of the bacon instead of the strips...things like that.  Remembering there were a few days that biscuits and gravy were the main course.

How did I forget so much?




I just posted this to my Facebook page today:

As Lent approaches, some of y'all have asked what I plan to do for my Lenten spiritual discipline. This year, b/c I've been so involved in food ministries, I decided to make it about food awareness. I went to the Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Calculator http://www.epi.org/resources/budget/ to determine what the bare minimum food budget was for my household (Ok, so I'm claiming "one person and two dogs" is close enough to "one person and one child" b/c that's the lowest it goes.)

That comes to $86 a week in my area of the country. My plan is for the dogs and me to live during Lent on a food budget of $86 a week. To prevent my urge to "hoard," I'm going to subtract the food in my cabinets from the budget if I use something I already have. I'm also participating in Jane Redmont's online Lenten course, which is also about "food." I've calculated my normal monthly grocery bills on my credit card, and will donate the difference to food ministries.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm telling you, my Facebook folks, as another layer of "keeping me honest." I hope everyone who observes Lent has a blessed one!



I hope to keep you all appraised of this journey via my blog:  My thoughts, musings, (and perhaps even hunger pains!)  May each of you, in your own way, observe a blessed Lenten season.




This morning, as I rolled over, put on my glasses, and checked my smart phone, I was reminded of something I told our diocesan communicator Beth Felice:  "The smart phone is the new cigarette."

One of the things I do during Advent is to make room to be playful...because sometimes in play, our realities are revealed.  So, with great apologies to Merle Travis and Tex Williams and "Smoke that Cigarette" I present "Check, Check that smart phone..."

Now I'm a person with a heart of gold
And a most generous person I've been told
Wouldn't kick a dog or even harm a flea

But I believe I could break every bone

Of the inventor of the digital phone

Oh, I'd murder that son-of-a-gun in the first degree


It ain't cuz I don't have one too

And I reckon that goes for both me n' you

It's a part of the modern world that we must own


But cell phone slaves are all the same

At a pettin' party or a poker game

Everything's gotta stop while they check their dang smartphone


Check that smart phone one more time

Check that smart phone 'till you make yourself go blind

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate

That you hate to make him wait

But you just gotta check your smart phone one more time


Now in a game of chance the other night

Old Dame Fortune was a-doin' me right

The kings and the queens just kept on comin' round

And I got a full and I bet 'em high

But my bluff didn't work on a certain guy

He just kept on raisin' and layin' that money down

Now he'd raise me and I'd raise him

I sweated blood, gotta sink or swim

He finally called and didn't even twitch or moan

So I said "aces full Pops how 'bout you?"

He said "I'll tell you in a minute or two

But right now, I gotta check this picture on my phone"


Check that smart phone one more time

Check that smart phone 'till you make yourself go blind

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate

That you hate to make him wait

But you just gotta check your smart phone one more time


The other night I had a date

With the awesomest person in the United States

All high-bred, uptown, mannered as could be

The night went on and seemed to me

That things were 'bout like they oughta be

Progressin' well, as far as I could see

It was clear we both had broken the ice

And our smoochin' party was goin' nice

So help me y'all, I believe I'ze almost home

But then after a kiss and a little squeeze

And I heard, "uh, hang on, excuse me please

I just got a Facebook message on my phone"

Check that smart phone one more time

Check that smart phone 'till you make yourself go blind

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate

That you hate to make him wait

But you just gotta check your smart phone one more time



(Images of 227 star trails taken during the night of the Perseids meteor shower, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 11:8-16:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old-- and Sarah herself was barren-- because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore." All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. 


Ever had the experience of hearing something new in a familiar piece of Scripture?  Today, both in church, and later, when I read this text at two nursing home visits with elderly parishioners,  I heard Verse 13-16 of this for what seemed like the first time: "All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them."


This week is also one of my favorite times of summer--the Perseids meteor shower.  I have an interesting relationship with this natural phenomenon--some of the best displays I've seen of the Perseids have happened at some of the worst times of my life--times I was nowhere near the promises and the best I could do was stand in the dark and catch a glimmer of their existence, as fleet and temporary as a meteor trail, and greet them.

I am a person who is very intimately attuned to this country home I've lived in for 13 years.  I take my evening walks down the dirt road past my house and I literally notice day by day the tiny, seemingly insignificant changes.  I feel my way through the seasons.  Just today on my walk, I thought about those subtle evening things that remind me summer is waning.  Only a rare lightening bug flickers, compared to June, when they seem more like the twinkling lights of the big city.  Prairie roses and multiflora roses have given way to ironweed and butterfly weed, and the first of the sunflowers--mostly tickseed sunflowers--have just started to flower.  The indigo bunting I sometimes see on my walks has started to have a little darker, more neon plumage.  I need to get my walk finished before 8:30 p.m. as the days of walking as late as 9something p.m. are over.

The world of my little country home is an interesting balance between sameness and anti-sameness.  Yes, I've come to rely on the sameness of these tiny more or less repeatable changes, but no two years here have been the same.  Some of these changes wax and wane in their vividness and their obscurity.  Each year, I'm a year older.  Something in my life has changed.  I never really get to go back to the year before.  I think about how every major change in my life, I've placated myself by saying, "Oh, well, if it doesn't work, I'll just go back to the way it was before."  But that is a lie I think I tell myself to prod myself forward.  The truth is, even when things don't work out, even when my hopes are shattered, the door is barred to that place--perhaps not physically or geographically, but the fact of the matter is, I've changed.  The experience--even the failed ones--have changed me.  Yet that elusive heavenly country is still there before me.

The Perseids, if nothing else, remind me to, above all else, remain awake.  The heavenly country is out there somewhere, even if the sky is overcast, and even if the way home seems elusive.

 
(The first crocuses of Spring 2013 make their appearance at my house)

On this glorious Easter Day of 2013, I thought I'd rework my favorite canticle for Morning Prayer, "A Song of Creation."  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  Looks like my home in the country is also having a bit of a resurrection, too!

A Song of Creation (for early spring in northeast Missouri)
(Modeled after Canticle 12, p. 88, BCP)

Invocation 

Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

I    The Cosmic Order
 
Glorify the Lord, you blustery winds of spring, *
    O skies and lakes and ponds and rivers.
Constellations and planets, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

Glorify the Lord, sparkling dew and thick frost, *
    O fog and snow and rain.
Robins and goldfinches, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, you flowers and green grass, *
    Who peek out from winter’s brown death.
Crocuses and daffodils, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
 

Glorify the Lord, O inclement weather, *
    O sticky mud and late March snowstorm.
Thunderheads and north winds, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

II    The Earth and its Creatures 

Let the earth glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O pastures and hills,
and all that awakens to grow upon the earth, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O creek banks and gullies, *
    O frogs and crawdads and tadpoles.
Mosquito and wood tick, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O raccoons and possums *
    and all you cattle and sheep.
O country folk and city folk, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

III    The People of God 

Let the people of God glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O lay people and ordained, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of God’s people, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Poor folk and rich folk, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever. 

 Doxology 

Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
    praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

 
("The Thankful Poor," by Henry Ossawa Tanner.)

-->
Maundy Thursday C—March 28, 2013—Trinity Episcopal Church
Exodus 12:1-4(5-10)11-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 10-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Maria L. Evans

“For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
Something that was said at our weekly Eucharist and Text Study over at Twin Pines really caught my attention Tuesday.  I heard someone describe our Gospel reading we just heard tonight as a parable of action.  Usually Jesus’ parables are stories; but in this one, it is his actions, not his words, that create the paradox.  One of the commonest forms of hospitality in those days was to see that a guest had clean feet after a long day on the road—but it was usually a servant, a slave, or the woman of the house who performed that task.  Certainly not the Lord and Master! Yet it is exactly the Lord and Master who is the one kneeling with the water and the towel at the feet of the disciples, in the hopes that they learn by example and do likewise.

On our bulletin cover tonight, Henry Ossawa Tanner illustrates this in a different way.  Even though the house in this painting is rather bare, and the meal a meager one, the grandfather is setting an example by giving prayerful thanks for it.  Certainly his hope is that his grandson will follow this example.  It’s a safe bet that the grandfather learned this from someone in his life with a similar hope.

Many of us can look at the stories of our lives and think fondly of the people and situations where we learned by example.  We can probably also think of the times when we were a little slow on the uptake with those examples.  This slowness is captured in our Gospel reading through the interchange between Jesus and Peter.  (Poor Peter, he’s always the fall guy in these stories!)  We, of course, have the benefit of knowing the plot spoiler in advance—we can see that Jesus is trying to teach that serving in love—even serving at the most mundane or ordinary task—sends an extraordinary message about where God’s power actually lies.  Peter can only see his own discomfort in being the recipient of this gift.  “Dude!  You are not going to clean off my gnarly, toe jam-ridden feet!  That’s a job for underlings, not a great teacher and prophet like you!  Let the help do it!”  He totally misses the message until Jesus points out that Peter’s refusal is a refusal of Jesus, rather than just a refusal of a foot bath.

When I look at our picture on tonight’s bulletin cover, the posture of the grandson makes me wonder if he may not yet totally understand his grandfather’s message.  The grandfather’s prayer posture seems to reflect a slightly deeper sense of gratitude.  The grandson is obediently following his lead, but his left hand seems to be pushing against the table a little.  Perhaps the grandson simply is hungry and wants to eat—or perhaps he hasn’t yet learned the lesson about gratitude that is best expressed by an old saying of the Hausa tribe in Nigeria—“Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot.”

Lessons about gratitude aren’t always the easiest lessons to learn.  Maybe it’s because poverty and abundance are so hard to define in a way that is consistent in our lives and at the same time unclouded by judgments and assumptions.  Take the title of the painting on our bulletin—“The Thankful Poor.”  Would we think the title appropriate if the grandfather had a smart phone sitting on the table?  Would the title fit if the man and his grandson were a little on the portly side?  What if they were giving thanks over a McRib, a Happy Meal, and a pair of giant sugary Cokes?  It’s not always easy to sort out, is it?

Even the kinds of images the Bible uses for “abundance” are a little problematic.  At first glance, they seem great--lands flowing with milk and honey; cups overflowing; vats of wine bursting at the seams.  That said, God’s abundance is not particularly neat and tidy.  There’s probably a sticky residue with all that milk and honey.  Overflowing cups stain the tablecloth.  Bursting wine vats most certainly leak all over everything.

In a world where we are told that we can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many electrical outlets, it’s almost impossible to believe that the simplest and commonest acts of humble service can amount to much.  Yet it’s equally impossible to predict their delayed reaction.  Jesus points that out when he tells Peter, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  Even if the grandson in our painting doesn’t totally understand his grandfather’s gratitude, he might get it later.  All of us know lessons we didn’t get the first time, but the example stayed with us somehow.

Acts of humble service, when performed in love, also create a window for others to be opened to even more opportunities to express their own callings and to respond to their own nudgings from the Holy Spirit.  Many of us who volunteered at the food drive Saturday heard several donors relate times when they had to be the recipients of assistance and the difficulties of having to accept help.  Our food drive gave others the chance to reflect on their own stories and respond by being participants in even more acts of humble service.  You can bet that others were watching their example, too.  This was especially evident when donors were either letting their children pick out a food item to donate, or allowed their small children—some as young as toddlers—place the food in the truck.  No, they really didn’t understand it now—but the hope, of course, was that someday they would.

I imagine God hopes for the best in us every day—even in the midst of humanity at its most evil—wars and hate and greed—and in those times God truly grieves and hopes that someday, we’ll understand.  I like to imagine God smiles at us when we manage to get something—anything—right, much how we smile when toddlers are imitating our good examples.  Sometimes, it’s hard for us to see the good examples in this torn and hurting world.  We are reminded in our Epistle, though, that Jesus still teaches us by example, because we always have an opportunity to receive, reflect, and repeat his example by sharing in the Eucharistic feast.  Tonight is an opportunity to reflect upon this in a way that we only get one time a year.

Many of you know that one of our traditions on Maundy Thursday is the stripping of the altar—the removal of all things related to Christianity and the liturgical traditions that evolved from it. I’ve often sat here on Maundy Thursday and wondered, “What if Jesus had simply never happened?  What would be missing from my life if this never existed?  What stories from my life would be stripped from my memory?  Would I have ever bothered to know any of the people sitting here with me?  What would sit on this piece of ground instead of this building?  How would the absence of all this change who I understand myself to be?”

In short, this night invites us to temporarily experience an extreme poverty that we never have to fear in real life, because the truth is that we can strip the church of all its trappings, but God can’t be stripped from us. It calls us to a deeper understanding that when we are asked to “lift up our hearts” in the Eucharistic Prayer, we are already lifting up something stripped of all of our pretenses, and stripped of the judgments everyone else has put upon them.  We are holding up our hearts to God as only God sees them.  On this night—Maundy Thursday—we are invited to become one of the thankful poor.  AMEN

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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