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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where Your Feet Take You

by Paul Hettinga

Last Thursday marked the 43rd anniversary of Joanna and me being married. Laughingly, we have wondered if we’ve had 43 years of growing, loving and enjoying each other…or has it been one year lived over 43 times?

Living with another person, sharing your life with another is of all gifts the highest gift of all - and at the same time the most challenging gift to fully embrace and realize in your life individually and together.

So, I wonder: how many of the 43 years were not simply repeats of the previous year or years? Gladly and with a modest amount of humility I can say that most, if not all the years we’ve had together, have grown on the experience of the past years and embraced the future with expectations of growing together and individually more with each new year.

Do I dare compare this to my relationship with God? I claim to have become a Christian when I was 22 years old and with that started a life long quest to discover who I am in this relationship with God. At 68 I ask the same question: is it 46 years or 1 year lived 46 times over and over? Certainly there have been spurts of growth and discovery in some of those 46 years - but when I read my journals from the past, I find myself struggling with the same things year after year.

My favorite writer, Fred Buechner writes about this in Alphabet of Grace:

“I say that if you want to know who you are, if you are more than academically interested in that particular mystery, you could do a lot worse than look to your feet for an answer. Introspection in the long run doesn’t get you very far because every time you draw back to look at yourself, you are seeing everything except for the part that drew back, and when you draw back to look at the part that drew back to look at yourself, you see again everything except for what you are really looking for. And so on. Since the possibilities for drawing back seem to be infinite, you are, in your quest to see yourself whole, doomed always to see infinitely less than what there will always remain to see. Thus, when you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again, if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are.”

Sometimes, I seem incapable of “getting over” who I used to be and becoming the new person I imagine God imagines me to be. Letting go of the past me to embrace the future me seems unreachable—but I’m going to watch my feet.

Monday, June 8, 2015

We Lost our Banana

by Tom Pappas

I am writing this with tears in my eyes.  Eleven days ago my son called to say that, “Jana has killed herself.” For the second time in 15 years I stood with Andy at a graveside grieving a beloved woman in our lives.

Jana grew up fast and couldn’t wait for the next milestone. She had been 21 for a mere three months. She did a lot of moving as a kid and made friends easily. She was kind and perceptive. She was fiercely independent. She wrote that nothing could dissuade her for her last act in life and I believe that.

Her aunt, Christine, dubbed her Jana Banana and she seemed to like it. Each grandchild decorated a garden stepping stone and I remember her saying, “I know exactly what mine will be.” She picked out all the yellow from the kit and fashioned a banana in the concrete.
One day I drove her home from high school and she reported to me, “I try to bring joy to every situation.” And she did until the last couple of years when depression gripped her tightly. Her family (both sides) has firm faith connections. Dad grew up Presbyterian and mom Baptist. Jana knew closeness with God and as with all of us, some times it was more discernible than others.

Our pastor conducted the service masterfully and our son, the musician, sang a song he had written for his daughter; how he did that I do not know.

Family has been extraordinary. Church family and friends have been exemplary. Lots of us want to turn back time and shake her to direct her attention to how many people loved her. I have the consolation that my last time with her was one where I verbalized love (which she heard) and hope (which she didn’t hear).

It hurts a lot, but poor Jana hurt so much more that she felt death was the only way to make her pain quit.  I guess that’s where I start looking for the good news in this awful story. Jana is at peace.

At the graveside the pastor had us turn to each other and say, “It’s not your fault.” While not good news per se, it’s important to know it and believe it..

God is real and present.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Prayer for the Crab Pickers (And, a Recipe!)

by Angier Brock

Have you ever picked a crab? If so, you know the challenge of separating tasty morsels of meat from the rest—gills, shell, and so forth.  When friends gather around a newspaper-covered picnic table strewn with steamed crabs and grilled corn on the cob (with plenty of paper towels on hand, and perhaps some ice-cold beer for good measure), crab picking can be a leisurely and companionable activity. But if you want to serve crab as a main dish to share with others, procuring enough meat is daunting if you have to do it yourself.

Enter the crab pickers. For me, they are among the unsung heroes of my local farmers’ market. I don’t know any of them even by sight, much less by name, but each time I buy a quart of fresh crab meat—which is nearly every week in the summer—I bless them. Each time I make crab cakes or crab salad, I give thanks for the work of their hands.

I suspect that most of the crab pickers do that hard work because they need a job to put food on their own tables, and to that end, I hope they are paid a fair wage. I doubt the crab pickers would say they feel particularly called to that work or think of it as “ministry.” And yet….

I am thinking especially of the crab pickers today because friends are coming tomorrow for lunch. We’ll have crab cakes. Because I have picked enough crabs in my own lifetime to know what is involved in producing the crab meat we will eat, I feel enormous gratitude for the crab pickers who make fresh, local crab meat readily available for purchase. I am also grateful to them because they remind me that there others (at least dozens, probably hundreds or more) “behind-the-scenes” people—people who are not my friends, my family, my neighborhood neighbors, or my colleagues—who, simply by showing up to do the work they do, contribute to my life every day. Theirs is a kind of faithfulness that often goes unrecognized and uncelebrated.   

And so today, when I count my blessing and say my prayers, I will remember the crab pickers. And today may I too be faithful in showing up to do my work.  

*Angier gives us a recipe for Crab Cakes.  She says, “We typically just wing it, so measurements are  a best guess!

Basic Ritzy Crab Cakes

1 pound fresh crab meat (if available, the jumbo lump is the best)
1/2 c. mayonnaise (the regular kind or the kind that is part olive oil)
1/2 c. crushed "Hint of Salt" Ritz crackers
1 Tbs. spicy mustard

Safflower or extra virgin olive oil for frying

Mix the first four ingredients really well until the lumps of crab are shredded and everything sticks together. (Retaining lumps of crab meat will make the patties fall apart during cooking). Shape into patties. Heat 3-4 Tbs. oil in skillet medium high (on a scale of 1-10, try 8). Fry crab cakes to a deep golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels. Replenish oil as need during the cooking process--some will be absorbed. 

Makes 5-6 meal-sized crab cakes