Here at this old house, we have done some harvesting this past week. The rhubarb was picked down in anticipation of the coming heat and the first batch of pesto was made with the basil we grow in a container. I had made a rhubarb pie about a month ago when relatives were visiting so this time, I made a batch of rhubarb chutney and then froze the rest in four-cup bags, ready for future pie making.

Rhubarb is an odd plant, one that people either love or hate. The leaves are poisonous and the edible stalks cannot be eaten alone, unless you really like sour! In my experience, even those brave enough to pick a stalk and chomp on it sprinkle each bite with salt. Rhubarb generally needs to be mixed with something else to make it palatable. For the rhubarb custard pie I make, eggs and sugar tone down the sharpness. In the chutney recipe I make, a wild mixture of ingredients go into a pot, things I would have never dreamed of putting together! However, the trained recipe developers at Bon Appetit magazine years ago came up with this gem:

Rhubarb Chutney

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

4 cups chopped rhubarb

generous 1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/3 cup golden raisins (or dried tart cherries)

Combine the first eight ingredients in a heavy, large Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the rhubarb, onion and raisins (dried cherries). Increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly (about 5 minutes). Cool completely. Store in the frig; serve at room temperature. This is wonderful with chicken or rice dishes that other chutneys work with.

 

When I first made this recipe, I couldn’t believe that it would taste good. Looking at it, the ingredients seemed to be too disparate, too foreign to work in harmony and yet, it was so delicious, I immediately shared some with friends.

It reminds me of the Body of Christ. What a motley crew we are and yet, with Christ as our Head, we function as His body here on earth. Each of us brings a unique flavor that might, on its own, be too pungent or overpowering. Yet, when blended together and heated by the Spirit (so to speak), we meld into a delicious and nourishing new creation. Who would have thought?

Now, I am hoping that the cranberry lime sorbert I made for Mah Jongg tomorrow will prove to be equally unique and delicious!

 

 

It is so nice to finally be hot! Here at this old house, the sun has come out (for the most part) and the temperatures have warmed up to summer levels. The screens are in, the fans are on and running, and the summer section of the closet is being utilized in the mornings. We crafted an Inukshuk for the front yard last night. We built one that is the traditional shape for gratitude and joy (called inunnguaq). Very fitting for the season of life we are in. IMG_1544 (2)

The past couple of days, I have been involved in a workshop that taught figured bass reading skills for continuo playing. This is the part that is played, usually on a keyboard, in a Baroque music ensemble. A cello, bassoon or theorbo plays the bass line, the soloist sings or plays the melody and the harmonies are “realized” by a harpsichord, organ or lute player. The music looks like playing your math homework! As the keyboard player, the bass line comes written out with a series of numbers, called “figures,” that need to be “realized,” i.e. translated into harmonic chords, below the single notes of the bass line. This takes practice when one is used to having everything written out in a score. Also, in Baroque music, performers are considered to be “composers” as a lot of improvisation happens during the performance through ornamentation of the melodic line and the interpretation of more or fewer notes in the harmonic realization. Rarely does one play exactly what is on the page! Performers are expected to add notes to the composer’s general outline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love playing continuo, that is, being the keyboard player in a Baroque ensemble. I want to get better and faster at realizing the figures so that I can do this more. So my summer motto is: practice, practice, practice! Like memorizing the multiplication tables or learning a language, daily repetition is the only way to get good and fast at this. Then, over time, comes the experience of knowing how many notes are too many, where to imitate the melody, where to invent a counter-melody, how to help the soloist, etc. That is, how to be a top-notch continuo player.

I was thinking during the master class this morning that life is a lot like realizing a figured bass. We are given a bass line: our personalities, family-of-origin, and other givens over which we have little to no control. The goal in life is to make beautiful harmonies with that bass line. There will be many things in life we are stuck with just as musicians have to work with the melody and bass line the composer has written if they are to play the piece. However, the good news is: improvisation is always assumed. We are not confined to the notes on the page! We are not completely at the mercy of the “bass line” of our lives. In life and in music, there is freedom for more or less, tempo or pacing changes, shifts in articulation/emotions and the like. We can make this piece of music, this life, our own, unique to us, something beautiful to be shared with others.

To those of you who may feel stuck with a dreadful “bass line” right now, I say Happy improvising: Go for it!

 

 

 

 

In the mornings here in this old house, I write my morning pages and then read the newspaper before doing my devotions. As part of my morning journaling, I try to answer questions from any devotional-style reading I am currently doing. Recently, I was given the book “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance” by Bob Buford and finished it on the plane home from our latest trip. It is along the lines of Fr. Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.” Both books talk about maturing beyond the accumulation of things and self-identity issues into seeing life from a broader perspective.

The first question from the Buford book that I attempted to tackle today was on page 114 of the paperback edition: What do I want to be remembered for? Write a description of how your life would look if it turned out just the way you wished.

I’d like to report on some great, revelatory insights but to be honest, I was completely flummoxed and decided that this was not going to be honestly answered in about 15 minutes of writing. I decided I might, in fact, need a separate, dedicated notebook for all of the questions Mr. Buford poses and went on to the comics.

How would you answer this question? Image result for free photos question marks

We made “the road trip of a lifetime” this past week. Leaving this old house after church, we drove to Missoula to visit one daughter and then, via Glacier and Waterton National Parks as well as Banff and Jasper National Parks, we went to Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, turned left and took the Alaska Highway (the “AlCan”) up to Fairbanks. We delivered a new car purchase to our other daughter.

What a magnificent drive! While we drove 12 hours some days, because the sun didn’t set until nearly 11 PM and rose around 4 AM, it didn’t feel that long. We had a good talking book and were so entranced by the scenery, the miles flew by.

It turns out, we were about two weeks ahead of the main tourist rush. While that meant a couple of places we wanted to visit weren’t yet open for the season, it also meant that there were many miles where we were the only car on the highway. The weather was mostly good and the motel reservations we had made were lovely. It was a memorable experience indeed.

While in Canada, I discovered inuksuit (singular: inukshuk). These are basically cairns on steroids. They are made by the Inuit people to show the way or to tell where food caches are, to commemorate special people or events, or to warn of danger. They also built them to drive the caribou between so that hunters had a better chance of killing the animals necessary for survival. Each use of an inukshuk took a slightly different style so that one could look out over the frozen landscape and discern what the inukshuk was referring to.

Regular readers of this blog know that we are in a transition period in terms of vocation and calling. In previous posts, I have talked about the idea of peregrinatio, the Celtic practice of launching out to sea in a coracle without oars or rudder, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide. The idea of creating inuksuit to guide and remember has captured my imagination.

What would an inuksuk look like for me today at home in an urban setting? Where do I need to create remembrances of important moments and/or people to bring encouragement on dark days? How do I find buried “nourishment sources” again? What do I need to do to remind myself or others of dangerous, life-draining places? How do I find guidance in the days ahead or create a channel to funnel life-giving resources into a more concentrated area for me to “harvest” ideas for future use?

I don’t know exactly but I do know that I will be exploring this idea over the weeks ahead. I would love to hear about things you have done to find in the “winter places of your life” a way back to sustenance and life.

 

 

 

It continues to be rainy and cold here at this old house, the wettest May in 20 years with nearly four more inches of rain than the average rainfall for the month. When the sun finally decides to return, we will be so green and lush, our fire danger will sky rocket.

Speaking of fire, it is the Vigil of Pentecost as I write. A vigil (from the Latin vigilia) means wakefulness  and is traditionally a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance. Eve has also come to mean “the night before” as in Christmas Eve or the eve of war. The idea is that we are watching, waiting expectantly for something to happen. During the Vigil of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, we remember, re-participate in, the watching the disciples did in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 2. Ten days after Jesus ascended bodily into heaven, they were all together praying, waiting, and the Holy Spirit of God was poured out on them in powerful ways. Foreign languages were spoken and understood, tongues of fire appeared over their heads, the sound of a rushing wind filled the house they were in. They poured out into the busy streets of Jerusalem where the Jewish world had gathered to celebrate God’s giving of the Law on Mount Sinai and shared the Good News of the fulfillment of that Law in Jesus Christ.

I have a feeling there aren’t many communities waiting expectantly for that kind of outpouring today. I think we have all resigned ourselves to “business as usual.” If we are honest, an encounter with the Holy God of that magnitude scares us to death. While many may complain that church is boring, we are OK with that comfortable predictability. Annie Dillard’s idea* that ushers should pass out crash helmets during worship makes us nervous. What would we do if the Holy Spirit really poured down on our gatherings tonight and tomorrow in the way she did 2000 years ago? [Note: in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke on earth, the noun for the Holy Spirit is a feminine one.]

Maybe that is why the Feast of the Pentecost has taken such a back seat in terms of Christian festivals. It is a non-event holiday. We get all warm and fuzzy about Christmas and love the Easter victory story, though Lent can make us uneasy as well, but Pentecost? With what do the stores offer us to celebrate that?!

I would like to throw out a challenge: keep a vigil for the Holy Spirit. Pray for the Holy Spirit to come in new ways in your life, your family, your faith community. Reflect on Acts 2. While that is not a magic formula, it is a powerful story of what happened when one small group of people really believed God would come through. They didn’t know how or when but they knew God’s promises were sure. They had been told to wait and waiting expectantly they were when God showed up in amazing ways. Maybe if a lot of us did that, our Presidential campaign would be different. Solutions to social ills in our community might find some lasting solutions. Peace could transform our families, neighborhoods, nations.

Let us commit to being Vigil people, vigilant people, people on the eve of God-at-work-in-new-ways. This does not mean “charismatic” in the way it has been ascribed, often in unfortunate ways, to some groups of Christians in the last 100 years or so. Rather, let us live in the bold power of God in all we do. Let us live creatively with courage and joy. Let us be people through whom a tired world can sense new winds blowing through. Let us move to the frontiers of the faith so that we might help a hurting world find its way home. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

 

* The full quote is as follows: “Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”

—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.

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