Friday, May 30, 2014

Oil and Water

I tried to replicate a salad dressing I once made from a recipe.  I started with some basic ingredients, oil (vegetable) and vinegar (apple cider).  I added peanut butter to create a vaguely Thai-ish taste, then rounded it out with a pinch of salt and a bit of sugar.  It turned out pretty good – or at least my family was kind enough to say so. 

Don’t ask me for exact amounts.  If I had to make it again I could only figure it out by taste.  Making it required quite a bit of trial and error.  It was hard won and it took a lot of trying.

I’m not sure what prompted me to make my own dressing for our salad last night, but it seemed that among the many options on the store shelf – bleu cheese, ranch or honey mustard – this was the healthiest.  Still, it strikes me as thought-provoking that such unlike things can go together; sugar and salt, peanut butter and vinegar, sweet and savory.

I believe that unlike things are meant to go together.  This is part of the divine plan. 

I often get asked the question “Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?” (Actually more often, I get informed of the belief that one does not.)  My response for those who are willing to listen is always the same.  God calls us to be in community. 

To be a Christian by ourselves is the easy part.  On our own, there is no one to challenge our beliefs or actions, nobody to threaten our comfort, no one to compel us into unpleasant practices like self-assessment, forgiveness, patience and growth.  In the extended family known as church, we are forced (I believe this is on purpose) to rub up against one another like sandpaper.  It isn’t comfortable.  It isn’t meant to be.  But we grow through the process.  Our edges are smoothed and we become much more beautiful and useful to our Creator.

I think this is true in our individual church communities and in our general, world-wide church.

Recently, a vocal group of pastors and church leaders ignited a lot of talk about the “schism” said to be happening in the United Methodist Church.  Apparently, some consider the controversies of our time to be insurmountable and the presence of differing opinions tantamount to division in our denomination.  There are calls to make official the separation that is already thought to be in progress, and to vote at General Conference for a formal split.

My feeling about this is the same as my belief about why we need to go to church.  God calls us into community.  It is not supposed to be easy.  We are not always supposed to be of one mind or identical feelings.  We need not always even like each other that much as we navigate the thorny and obstacle-ridden path we have to follow as those who call themselves the Body of Christ.  There will certainly be days when we are less than fond of each other and each other’s perspectives.  The whole point, however, is to strengthen ourselves so that we can deal with those unpleasant realities and still behave somewhat like our savior; in love toward each other and as an example to our world.

They say that oil and water don’t mix.  By and large this is true.  Maybe our church, with all of its factions, is just like oil and water.  Maybe – though I doubt it – our differences are irreconcilable.  Maybe – though I doubt it – we can never blend.  But even if oil and water don’t mix, unalike things can still be put together to make a damn fine vinaigrette.  And may I add that among the many options you have on a store shelf, this is often the healthiest.

Such mixtures can be made to work, but it might take some trial and error.  They will be hard won and they will take a lot of trying.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Who Cooks for You?

. . . all ate and were filled . . .

                                    Luke 9:17

As soon as I learned the mnemonic device for the call of the barred owl, I knew I liked this bird.  He must like me too because he frequently visits my backyard.  Hearing his scrubby, musical call is like eavesdropping on another world.  When I hear it, I close my eyes to listen for the distant reply.  It always comes.  From across the northern field or deep within our own neighborhood, I can hear, “Who Cooks for You?”

Today, as I led our preschool chapel, I told them the story of the Feeding of the 5,000.  I think of this as a common miracle.  It is a story of an extraordinary feeding of an overwhelming number of people; and it is something that God does every day.  We don’t often see bread and fish divided in this way, but we see infinitesimal seeds multiply into leaves and branches and fruit.  Grains become bread.  Vegetables become the stuff that sustains us.

All of this is provided by God in the most astonishing and most common miracle in our world.  Food grows seemingly out of nowhere.  For just a little toil on our parts – and sometimes none at all – we are fed.

We are not the only recipients, however.  God doesn’t only look after creatures who use smart phones.  From the great to the microscopic, all of God’s creation enjoys divine generosity; the giraffe, the mouse, the manatee and the barred owl.  “Who Cooks For You?” indeed.

As we enter the growing season, may we remember and give thanks to the One who provides all that is good.

Blessed eating!


I don’t know a good recipe for the activity of owl spotting, but here is one we have had recently.  Enjoy!

Creamy Rice Pudding
¼ c. uncooked rice             ¼ c. sugar
2 c. milk                                ¼ t. salt
2 eggs, separated               1 t. vanilla

Wash rice, drain, and add to the milk in the top of a double boiler.  Cook, covered, until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes.  Beat the egg yolks thoroughly.  Add 2 T. sugar and the salt to the yolks.  Stir some of the rice mixture into the yolk mixture.  Add the yolk mixture to the hot rice and stir thoroughly.  Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Beat the egg white until stiff.  Add the remaining sugar to the whites.  Beat again.  Fold the egg whites into the custard.  Serve warm or cold – Diane Taylor