Saturday, October 12, 2013

Zebras and the Mystery of Humanity

“I asked the Zebra,
are you black with white stripes?
Or white with black stripes?
And the zebra asked me,
Are you good with bad habits?
Or are you bad with good habits?
Are you noisy with quiet times?
Or are you quiet with noisy times?
Are you happy with some sad days?
Or are you sad with some happy days?
Are you neat with some sloppy ways?
Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
And on and on and on and on and on and on he went.
I’ll never ask a zebra about stripes...again.”
Shel Silversteen

Time is ticking away.......

On Friday I had a lot of cleaning, tidying, and other odd jobs to do around the house. I'm the kind of person who can easily balk at the enormity of a task and instead go sit on the couch and eat chips while watching the Big Bang Theory so I needed a way to tackle the tasks. Borrowing an idea from the Liturgy of the Hours I broke up my day with the help of a stopwatch.

I worked for 50 minutes and then prayed for 10. No matter where I was in the task - half way through scrubbing a kitchen tile, mid-sentence in an important email, when the stopwatch beeped. I left the mop where it was and sat down on the couch to pray.

Sometimes the stopwatch beep was a blessing - I'm not the kind of person who enjoys cleaning.

Sometimes the stopwatch beep was a curse - It seemed to beep at the precise moment when I had almost crafted a perfect sentence. Stepping away from the keyboard to go pray felt an imposition.

Sometimes the stopwatch beep took an eternity to arrive.

Sometimes the stopwatch beep was a surprise.

There were times it felt I had only just settled into prayer when it was time to rise and work again.

At other times the 10 minutes of prayer felt longer than the 50 minutes of floor scrubbing.

I found myself wondering whether I was spending the day working with breaks for prayer, or spending the day praying with breaks for work.

By the middle of the afternoon I found myself settling into the rhythm of the day. My attitude to the tasks that needed to be done shifted and they began to become as prayerful as the times of prayer. The stopwatch was no longer a blessing or a curse, it was simply something I chose to surrender too. It was a beep that reminded me of the presence of God.

We save time and we waste time. We treat it as a resource that we need to manage.

On Friday the passing of time became a sacrament - an outward and visible sign of God's grace. Eventually I didn't need the stopwatch to remind me to pray, the simple awareness that time was passing all around me was a reminder that God was all around me.

God waits with us in the here and now.
Every a call to awareness.
Every minute..... an invitation to listen.
Every hour..... an outpouring of grace.
Every day.....
Every week.....
Every month.....
Every year.....
Every decade.....
Every lifetime.....

The clock and the calendar reveal God as surely as the bread and the cup.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Sausage and Potato Bake - lazy comfort food

I make this way too often. It's good, lazy comfort food and is endlessly adaptable according to what vegetables are in season.

1 Smoked Sausage. I often used Pecan Smoked Jalapeno Sausage. Cut into 1 inch chunks
6 cups red new potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch-chunks
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
(See note below*)

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut sausage in 1/4” slices; set aside.

2. Place potatoes in medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain potatoes.

3. Combine sausage, potatoes, bell peppers, onion, garlic, chicken broth, olive oil and seasonings in a large roasting pan and mix lightly.

4. Bake for 40 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned and vegetables are tender.

Serves 3 if you have big appetites ;)

* I treat this recipe as a guideline. This isn't baking so be creative :) I often use bags of colored fingerling potatoes if I can find them. I've added broccoli, brussels sprouts, mushrooms and even chick peas. I'm sure winter squash would work well in here as well. I tend to increase the amount of garlic and change up the other seasonings as well according to my whims.

It's a great recipe to play with.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Playing in the Presence of God

(Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service)

I still remember the first time I was shamed about play.

In middle school it was common for us to call our friends and see if they wanted to play. We'd get together and play board games, video games, and play with our computers together. When I went to High School I remember phoning a friend and asking him if he wanted to play.

"Play?", he responded. "How childish!"

We got together anyway and we played board games, video games and played with our computers together. The activity was the same as before but I quickly learned that the word 'play' always had to be quantified. We could 'play video games', but we couldn't just play.

As I grew older play was somehow viewed as a waste of time, time that could have been spent doing something more productive. Somehow this attitude all got wrapped up in Protestant Christianity -  the idea that you display your salvation through hard work, frugality, diligence and seriousness.

I remember when I started work at Mercy Street, I was in a meeting and was told that as a member of staff I was expected to 'Work hard and play hard'. At first I reveled in the freedom to be allowed to play, but implied in that statement is that play is something we are driven to do, that we approach play with the same seriousness that we approach work. We have a task to do and we are going to get through it with due haste.

In the late 1800's an English Anthropologist made the suggestion that games and play might prove very useful to his work studying indigenous tribes because people are truly themselves when they play games. Most children do not need permission to play. Many adults still feel it is wasteful. I even have a book called 'The Christian at Play''s as if we are so averse to play in the church that we can only do it if we have theological justification.

God has wired us for play. We are to keep Sabbath for our re-creation and rest. Play connects us to each other, it's an antidote to loneliness and depression. It stimulates creativity. Play helps us work better.

Play is not a waste of time because play itself is productive. It nurtures and heals. It helps us step more fully into who God has created us to be.

Let's play.