Friday, November 26, 2010

Gathering to Give Thanks

Last year at this time, at the end of Monday Morning Bible Study, we sang several Thanksgiving hymns in preparation for heading out, away from each other and into the Thanksgiving business. And while I loved all the hymns we sang, there is one that remains a constant favorite:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Written in the 1500s as the Dutch came out from under Spanish rule, it went from being a Dutch patriotic song to being a Thanksgiving song over the course of the next three hundred years. It continues to speak to people who have been oppressed or who have struggled. And, in one way or another, that applies to most of us.

Sometimes sermons or Christian music urges us to be active and to never slow down, as if it's all up to us and that God will forsake us if we let up for even a second. This old hymn tells the truth - it is God who ordains and maintains. The battle was won from the beginning, with the knowledge on God's part that we'd be fighting along side Him.

Having lived through the last couple of months of change and sorrow, I've taken comfort from the knowledge that this is not up to me. That I'm just part of a larger picture painted by God. And so when it came time to give thanks before dinner, at a time when we were missing those who'd gone ahead and grateful for those who hadn't, I was overwhelmingly thankful to belong to a God who forgets not His own.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Give Me, Every Day, Some Bread

No, this isn't a post on the Lord's Prayer. It is a post on bread, because I tried a recipe from a cool book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë François.

My dad turned 75 on Sunday and I got him this book I'd read about that promised artisanal breadmaking skills (and bread) in five minutes a day. Trick is to get a big, food grade tub and mix enough dough to make four, 1 lb. loaves, let it rise, and pop it in the fridge. No kneading. So I ordered it for him and an extra book and tub for me. I also got him a sushi-making class (two hours of instruction, along with wine)...which, yeah, I'll go along for also. He gave me half his genes, so the food presents are his fault, I figure.

I grew up making bread. My mom ground her own wheat and we made whole wheat bread in loaf pans every few days. I liked kneading it and watching it rise, but it took time. My brother and I used to cut slices of it and toast it with butter and sugar on it. I also used to melt a big hunk of cheese on a thick slice of it for breakfast (I read the book Heidi and she did that). It was wonderful.

I've got this friend at church who makes brilliant bread. He makes boules and baguettes, not just loaf pan bread. We have soup suppers on Wednesday nights before our various classes for kids and adults, and he always makes the bread. I love the soup, don't get me wrong, but I go for the bread. And for the class I co-teach, of course. I love those kids.

My friend's bread is like what you find in a great bakery, and that's what I wanted to learn how to do. Then along comes this book into my life. I don't even remember how, probably on some food website. A few clicks on and voila! In my fridge is a tub of dough with three loaves worth of bread left in it. Theoretically, it can sit for up to 14 days. You cut off a hunk, shape it, let it sit for 40 minutes and pop it onto a hot stone in your oven for a half an hour and then, just like that, there is a boule cooling on your countertop.

Of course, the book does not describe the fact that, if you're at my house, you spend part of that half hour waving your dishtowel beneath the smoke detector that's going off because your oven needs to be cleaner. Apparently the term "self-cleaning" in "self-cleaning oven" doesn't mean it will actually clean it's ownself.

Tangent aside, there is a crust of bread left on the cutting board. I don't hold out high hopes that it'll last much longer than tomorrow morning. I'm making challah next for the Thanksgiving dressing, and then on to baguettes. Right after, that is, I clean the stupid oven.

I hope Dad likes his present, I really do. Because I love his present ;-) Now I just need to figure out what we...I mean getting for Christmas.

Thanksgiving Plan

This year we're hosting. Current plan (already slightly revised)...



Smoked Salmon w/Goat Cheese
Crudité Platter
Something from my brother
Champagne, Pinot Noir


Roast Turkey
Challah stuffing with apples and celery
Mashed Potatoes with Cider Sage gravy
Sweet Potatoes Anna
Braised Cauliflower
Green Beans - from my brother
Vegetarian Pot Pie with Puff Pastry Crust
Riesling Kabinett, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
Sparkling Cider


Pies - Pumpkin, Apple and Mincemeat.
Pies from Dad and Mom. Not me.



Order turkey from Whole Foods - they stopped taking orders yesterday. Oops.

Revised Plan:


Go get 18 lb. turkey so as not to miss getting turkey I didn't order.
Make challah dough for stuffing.
Hang curtains.
Possible guest coming in. College friend of the boy's.
Clean house...for a while. Get caught up in tv, take nap, leave rest.
Map out timing of the cooking for turkey day.

Make challah, cool, cube, set out to get good and stale.
Do rest of shopping.
Continue to clean house, get caught up in a good book, take nap.
Make dinner.

Husband off work, time to look frazzled busy.
Brine turkey, finding some way to store in suddenly microscopic fridge.
Chop and saute vegetables for veggie pot pie for baby girl...who is now driving.
Make cranberry sauce.
Thanksgiving Eve service at All Souls Anglican Church, Wheaton. Favorite one of the year.

Continue to clean, now frantically.
Slice sweet potatoes and soak prunes in port for Sweet Potatoes Anna.
Peel and chop potatoes for mashed potatoes.
Clean and cut up cauliflower.
Make sure wines are chilled. Very important step. Didn't even need to write down.
Set tables.
Order kids around.
Kids go hide in the basement.
Turkey out of brine, aromatics in, and into oven.
Appetizers out.
Family in.
Turkey out to sit, side dishes into oven.
Make gravy.
Eat myself silly.
Nap off turkey coma...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Those Who Live In Glass Houses...

Over the last couple of days I've been sputtering about a blogger who did something rude to a friend of mine and then wrote an even ruder post about it on his blog impugning my friend's knowledge and spiritual maturity, all the while boasting of his own. The fact of the matter is that the only one who actually exhibited maturity during the incident was my friend. When some folks called him to task for the rudeness of his post, he gave replies that told them that they could just stop reading his posts, he wasn't a noble Christian.

I'm speculating that he received a few too many non-supportive replies to his post because he removed it. Or maybe his mom, or his pastor, or someone wiser than he read the post and took him to task. Of course, nothing is ever gone from the net, really. So his lack of charity, recorded by him for posterity, is cached away out there forever. Which is kind of the point of the post. That whole thing about how living in glass houses should keep you from throwing stones, yeah, this is where that applies.

Because the minute you start blogging, you construct glass walls that allow the world to see into your life. And when you say you are a Christian, what you write will be seen as proof one way or the other. What that blogger (who claims Christianity) did was to witness poorly. He passed up a chance to show grace, which is something we should be actively seeking to exhibit.

Which reminds me of what I think of as the cardinal rules of blogging. First, use the delete key more frequently than the "publish post" tab. Second, don't be in such a rush to publish that you fail to seek counsel. And third, ask yourself how you'll be heard - does anyone really need to be lectured by you?

Throughout the last seven years of the Anglican Angst, there have been many times where I've written emails and left the "To" line blank. Or I've run what I'd like to write past close friends and then either hit the delete button or edited heavily. Now and again, though, I confess to having sent something that I shouldn't have. Because frequently what I want to say and what I should say are two vastly different things. And once said, it's out there for ever. Which means it's been seen, and glass houses don't exactly provide a great place to hide.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Required Reading on Veterans' Day

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

--Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918)