Tuesday, May 28, 2013

the laundry: that great dark cloud of despair

I really ought to be downstairs doing laundry...I feel like that line should be set to music and be playing as the soundtrack to my life...it's always down there, like Gallum, hissing at me in the dark, even when I'm up here doing nice things like making tarts for a sad goodbye to graduating seniors.
Strawberry Tarts: pie crust rolled out and baked in muffin tins and then filled first with a layer of cream cheese whipped with the juice from sugar macerated strawberries and then a layer of the berries themselves and then whipped cream.
Chocolate Tarts: dark chocolate melted in a double boiler and then whipped into the rest of the cream cheese not mixed with strawberry juice. Whipped cream on top.
I doled out a small number of tarts to the children in the kitchen before making them go play. More and more I am for all the children going to play when grow ups are trying to talk. Everyone is pretty happy this way because no one has to be bored by grown ups or annoyed by whining children.
I was also generous with the rest of the strawberries and cream. I may yell, occasionally, but the compensations for my short temper are sweet. Now Stop Screaming And Eat!
See how nicely everyone is chewing with the mouth closed? 
So really, back to the laundry. It doesn't matter what other massive jobs I undertake, the garage, for instance, the laundry is ever there, living its great dark presence in my broken and diseased mind.
Even when we flee to the great out doors, to lovely parks 
on golden warm afternoons
sitting in a heavy cloud of lilac scented glory.
And yet, for all it's wretched guilty presence, we do manage to go out clothed and mildly sane. Even on Sundays, some bows and vests can be scraped together and applied before libations of chocolate milk and cookies.

Every Sunday I'm told they look beautiful, which they do, but only by grace and not my own works, my long exasperated works of washing, folding, flinging into drawers, picking clean things up off the floors, and some cussing.
And then the inevitable Sunday Morning Fuss in which I discover that I did not pick the right dress for one child or that a vest is covered in pen, or that no one has any shoes at all.
But once they're out the door they seem to forget. And I do also, until I descend back down into the pit, or Sheol, as I've been more recently calling it, to have another go at it.
Really, I argue with Jesus, at least the Pharisees did wash the outside of the cup. At least they washed something. So they never bothered with the inside, at least they cleaned something. Whatever, says Jesus, stop complaining. 
 So I guess I will for now, stop complaining that is, and revise my school plan for next year, because just as laundry hangs over the conscience, so does homeschooling. But at least that can be done in the light and there is a vague sense of going somewhere and accomplishing something.
See. One child done, Elphine,
one nearly so, Alouicious, spurred on by the future hope of something I've been told is called Sweet Frog. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Rhubarb Mango Crumble
I made some rhubarb strawberry sauce, but more almost jam.
Just cooked down all the rhubarb I was given, maybe four cups chopped all told, with the end of some frozen strawberries and a goodly measure of sugar until it was gorgeously pectinous and delicious.

Then I discovered some unripened mangos in the back of the fridge (? What was I thinking?) and diced them up, covered them with sugar and some of the Rhubarb Strawberry Delight and then over that a crumble mixture {two cups uncooked oatmeal, half cup brown sugar, quarter cup flour, one stick warm golden luscious melted butter} baked at 350 for nearly an hour.
Then obviously I sampled a little off the side.

Thank goodness Matt doesn't eat sugar. I don't know how this could stretch to eight people. As it is, I will probably ladle it into little prep dishes for the children. It's not good to eat too much right before bed. If you're a child....

Monday, May 20, 2013

my sermon from yesterday: pentecost

We're going to be in Leviticus 23 and Acts 2 this morning. 
So let’s pray together.
Merciful and heavenly Father, we praise you for incorporating us into the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ, and making us heirs thorough him of your everlasting kingdom. Help us this morning to see this gift more clearly and to give ourselves over completely to the work of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Long ago,

after rescuing the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt,

God gave a series of feasts to help them commemorate

and remember how great their deliverance had been,

but also to be a picture of what he would do thousands of years later.

These pictures are prophetic. 
So you're a person in first century Jerusalem.

You've wandered around with Jesus for the last year.

You're one of the 120 that comprise the broader group of disciples

at the time of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Passover.

You're an observant Jew,

so, looking at Leviticus chapter 23 verse 2

you keep the Sabbath.

You don't work on Saturday and you go to synagogue on that day. 
Second, you keep Passover.

Verse 5,

In the first month,

the very month that God delivered the people out of Egypt,

on the fourteenth day of that month,

as the sun is setting,

the Passover begins.

That's when Jesus celebrated the meal together with the twelve.

Then on Friday,

as hundreds of lambs without blemish were being slaughtered in the temple-

-imagine the noise and the stench,

the blood running down the altar

into the stream the runs underneath the temple and out into the city—

at that very moment

Jesus hung on the cross

and his blood flowed down.

The fifteenth day, verse 6,

is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Not only does your bread not have any leaven

but there isn't even any in your house.

If you are a woman

you have scrubbed every inch of your house

and washed every single solitary piece of clothing

to keep the commandment to get rid of the leaven.


Because leaven is a picture of sin.

A little bit goes a long way,

spreading itself through the whole loaf.

Jesus is the unleavened bread,

he is without sin.
So then you have to rush around

and prepare to keep the Sabbath

because from sunset on Friday

to sunset on Saturday

you can't do any work.

You don't want to anyway

because Jesus' body is lying in a tomb

and you're exhausted with grief.

What comes next?
The feast of first fruits is next.

So way back in the early spring,

if you are a man and you hadn't been following Jesus around,

you would have planted all your crops,

barley and wheat especially,

and around the time of Passover,

the first barley shoots would be just ready.

Verse 11,

You cut them

and bring them tied into a loose sheaf

to the temple that Sunday,

after the Passover Sabbath.

What does Jesus say about his death before he dies?

John 22:24 Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,

it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Inevitably, necessarily,

the grain that falls into the ground

will rise out of the ground.

The loosely bound sheaf of barley is a guarantee of the harvest to come.

Jesus walked out of the grave

on the day

that the sheaves of barley were brought into the temple.

Paul writes in first Corinthians 15:20

'But in fact Christ has been raise from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man, Adam, came death, by a man, Jesus, came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all day, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Jesus, the first fruit,


is the guarantee of future harvest,

in this case,

of us rising again when he returns in glory.

It is inevitable. It will happen. 
So then what happens?

Verse 15.

You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, that's Resurrection Sunday.You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath, that's another Sunday, today, the day of Pentecost. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to The Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as first fruits to The Lord.

This is the Feast of Weeks,

called Pentecost on the New Testament,

the celebration of the wheat harvest.
So now let's look at Acts.

The whole group of disciples, numbering 120,

are altogether in one place.

The place is probably the house that has the upper room

where Jesus celebrated the Passover.

Everyone in Israel

is bringing their two loaves commanded in verse 15

to the temple.

The disciples are praying and singing

because this is the forty ninth day after Jesus rose again.

And that day has changed everything for you.

Ten days ago, on a Thursday,

Jesus left you again ascending into heaven,

shouting down from the cloud that everything would be fine,

just wait for the Holy Spirit,

which was very confusing.

But because he told you to go wait that is what you've been doing.

Every day, in the temple and in each others homes,

with the other believers, waiting. 
So then, on the Feast of Weeks,

which we call Pentecost,

as you're all praying and singing,

there is the sound of a mighty wind,

like a hurricane force gale.

The sound of a mighty rushing wind.

The wind during the Exodus drove the water back all night

so that the people could pass through the sea on dry land.

Ezekiel was told to prophecy to the breath,

the wind,

and say,

let these bones live,

and the valley of dry dead bones was filled with living people.

Jesus spoke with a Pharisee very late at night,

and said, 'the wind blows where it wishes and you hear it's sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with the spirit.'

Nicodemus, likely standing in that room,

should have heard the sound and known what was happening.
Then the tongues,

as of fire,

descended on the heads of each of the disciples.

The Lord spoke out of the fire to Moses

to call him to work to free the people of Israel.

He appeared as a pillar of fire at night to lead them through the desert.

Here tongues,

as of fire,

alight on the heads of those in the room,

all the believers in the whole world gathered in one place.

No one is excluded.

All see and receive the sign.

This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised in Acts 1:9.

So, then

verse 4,

they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues,

as the spirit gave them utterance. 
So, in short order three amazing things have happened.

There has been the sound of the wind,

the appearance of fire

and now they are all speaking in other languages as the Spirit leads,

and here it becomes a little unclear in the text

but it seems like they are propelled out onto the streets of Jerusalem

because Luke describes the various people who are out there, verse 5.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem, devout men,

that means men who fear God and who are paying attention,

Devout men from every nation under heaven

and at the sound they all came together

So they heard the sound and it drew them

and then they were bewildered,


because each one was hearing them,

that is the 120 disciples,

speak in his own language
Let's pause for just a second and clarify under what circumstances the Spirit came. 

What were the disciples,

the 120, doing when the Spirit came?

they were together worshipping.

Did they know and perfectly expect how and when and what was going to happen? 

Did they play any kind of big organizational roll?


the Holy Spirit came to them when it was the right time

After thousands of years of preparation.

They didn't summon him by the excellence of their prayers.

They were obediently waiting and he came when he was ready..

I am belaboring this point

because I think sometimes we get confused about the Spirit.

We know God the Father and Jesus don't depend on us to do their work,

but when we come to the Spirit

we think it depends on us praying in the right way

or being in the right place at the right time

Then we somehow get the Spirit to give us what we want

knowing that the Father would never give it to us.

Suffering with Jesus,

but glory with the Spirit.

But that's not true.

The work of the Spirit and of Jesus and the Father is the same work—

the redemption and sanctification of human beings for the glory of God.

The Father wants you to be saved and to be holy

and so the Spirit brings it about

through the work of the Son.

They all have the same end goal because they are One, they are God.
But the Holy Spirit does his part of the work in three stages.

First, he regenerates you.

He brings you alive where you were once dead.

We see this in John 3.

You are first born of the Spirit which allows you to see the kingdom of God.

Then you submit yourself to Jesus in faith

and the Holy Spirit comes to live in you.

The technical word is 'indwell'
For some,

the point of being indwelt by the Spirit isn't particularly experiential.

I don't even know the exact moment this happened for me.

Matt, on the other hand,

can tell you a whole story about what it was like for him.
Which brings us round to the third stage of the Holy Spirit's work

and to the word 'fill'.

Those who were all together in one place were 'filled' with the Holy Spirit.

It implies that they weren't before.

To be filled, there has to be a lack,

there has to be some room. 
The Holy Spirit moved in to your dark cold stone like heart

and set up his little fire there to burn

and try to shed some light on the subject,

that is you,

he's in there, that's called indwelling ,

but he could take up a lot more room.

He would like to fill you.



at the initial point of faith

some big things that are killing you

need to go right away.

But after that,

his work is much slower.

One room at a time,

one dirt pile at a time.

And this is where you cooperate with him,

this is where the filling comes in.

Sure, he is going to have to pry some things out of your vice like grip,

but other things you're going to give him

and then you'll have more room for him,

more room to be filled with him.

And as he fills you,

guess what kind of experience it is?

The best word to describe it is the dreaded word 'Submission'.

You submit,

you yield,

you give in to the work of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

It is an experience of joy and forgiveness and letting go of grief and hurt,

but it is also an experience of doing some things

you might never have done before,

or doing some things you don't feel like doing,

or doing some things that seem really beyond you.

Why? Because it’s not just you doing them,

it's the Holy Spirit doing them in and through you.

You can make it harder by not cooperating,

or you can give in,

cheerfully doing what God calls you to do.
The birth of the church,

this moment where the disciples are spit out into Jerusalem

in an amazing rush,

preaching the gospel so that everyone understands,

people of so many languages

who are going to go all over the world with this news.

What is being fixed here that was horribly broken?

Remember, at the Tower of Babel,

how language was confused?

Now the confusion is made into understanding.

Now all the languages speak to the glory of God.

So they rush out and the church suddenly becomes huge.

They baptize 3000 that day.

You think you're tired now,

doing whatever it is God has given you

to make the Kingdom of God real to this city?

Imagine if 1000 people walked in and we had to do hospitality,

coffee hour

integration into mission groups


and then also cleaning the kitchen floors

and the bathrooms.

So let's tie in the harvest and the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost.

Remember the barley first fruits were brought in bound in loose sheaves,

but not so the wheat harvest.

At Pentecost, the birth of the church,

the wheat is picked and beat out for the grain

and then the grain is pounded,

milled into flour

and mixed with water and leaven,

that's right, guess what there is in the church?


There is sin here.

It's being gently removed but it’s here.

And then heat is applied

and the grain is forged into a loaf of bread.

All warm, and comforting,


except when you think about the pounding and the mixing and the heat.

And it's being all together in one loaf.

This loaf is also called Jesus' Body.

A body where everything is connected.

Your decision to sin affects everyone else

just like my decision to sin affects you.

It's not Easy. Sometimes it's very Hard.

But, Jesus says, 'nothing is impossible with God'.

He can and he will make us holy.

He can and he will spread the gospel through us to the world.

He can and he will make us alive together in himself.

But he's not a battle ax.

He brings light to you and woos your cooperation.

He wants to fill you with himself.

He wants to use you to build up his kingdom.

He wants to use you to bring healing to other people.

He wants to use your prayers,

your conversation with him,

to bring about his plans and his desires.

He wants to be with you.

And he wants you to be holy. 
Just like the first fruits,

the resurrection of Jesus is a guarantee,

this harvest,

the gift of the Spirit,

is a guarantee, an inevitability.

Paul explains in Ephesians 1:13-14,

in him, that is Christ, in him you alsowhen you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spiritwho is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Sure, there's the beating out of the grain

and the pain of the fire

as we are forged into a loaf,

a body through the one Spirit

with Christ as our head.

And it's messy

because the leaven is all mixed in,

but this isn't the ultimate harvest.

We are still planting seed.

We can work and be filled up because we have the guarantee,

the Spirit,

alive in us.

……………let us pray.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

one thing and another

I haven't been able to read the Gosnell stuff much because of needing to sleep through the night and function during the day. I've lightly and carefully skimmed various news sources so as to know sort of what's going on, and prayed for God's mercy to fill in the rest. It all came sort of to a head for me last Thursday, though, when I finished reading a little book with Romulus about the D Day landings in Normandy. He's very interested in the question of battles and warfare and to get him to read at all, I've been forced to turn to warfare for subject matter. But of course, none of them, who were all listening in, really knew what the war was about or who, as it happens, Hitler was or what he did. Which led necessarily to a discussion of ethnic genocide and then to racism and finally to abortion. We all went to church for the evening bleary eyed and sad. 

Because, I'll just go ahead and say it out loud, death is A Bad Thing. 
Whether death happens to a very old person or a young soldier or an ambassador or a child or a baby, born or unborn, it's bad. It's not, as some Senator recently and stupidly opined, 'a part of life'.  It's the opposite of life (I can't believe I'm bothering to write this down, but clearly, it needs writing because of all the confusion), the antithesis of life. It is The Wrong Thing. 

And we can see how very wrong it is in the surprising desire of Gosnell not to want to die himself. If its no big deal, or even a 'part' of life then shouldn't he be fine with the death penalty? And yet his lawyers have worked hard to get him life in prison. Well, as a Christian, I think that's fine. Mercy is always a reasonable option and I appreciate having more time to pray for his soul and ultimate, hopefully, salvation. However, let the fact of his desire to live put to rest the idea that other people dying is ok and better for them.

And now I'm going to go bake a pie or something, because all the stupidity and lying is too much to bear.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

i'm the mother

I'm still basking in the glow of Mother's Day. Matt bought me this gorgeous cup and also cleaned the kitchen very late on Sunday night after I decided I really didn't want to stand up any more. 
Elphine is addicted to drawing angular tulips. Every chance she gets she draws another tulip. She gave me several over the course of the weekend.
People always greet me on Mother's Day enthusiastically. There's no question about it. I am a mother, so many times over, so happy Mother's Day to me. And happy Mother's Day to my own mother.
Doesn't this just make you all weepy and nostalgic? Sitting on a mud floor watching peanut sauce come together under the brilliant hands of Jallaya...me, I'm feeling so nostalgic. 
Motherhood, having babies and then feeding them-- it almost always comes down to the kitchen. Not that you can't be a good mother if you don't love being in the kitchen (just like you can be a good mother even if you don't blog) but liking to be in the kitchen helps, I think. Being in the kitchen helps me to stop screaming. And the children stop screaming--here, stop crying and eat this. 
So thanks for all the breakfast helps. I'm pondering carefully the whole waffle soaked in egg extravaganza. In the meantime I've made two new kind of muffins and Just This Morning I dished up a most easy and delicious fruit thing, inspired by Nigella. Frozen blueberries and strawberries plus and mango mashed in a pan and coated with sugar and cornstarch and then covered with a layer of uncooked oatmeal mixed with brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Baked at 350 or something for a while. So delicious I broke my diet, blast it all. 
Also, I amused myself all weekend by thinking of new categories for those churches that make their poor mothers stand up during the service on Mother's Day. So instead of oldest mother, youngest mother, mother with the most children, newest mother etc. I thought of things like
Mother Most Disappointed in her Children
Mother Whose Children Still Live in her Basement Even Though They're All Grown Up
Most Stressed Mother
Mother Who Thinks Everyone is Secretly Judging her for being A Bad Mother (then we could all stand)
Most Hypocritical Mother
Worst Mother
and then, as the crown jewel,
Best Mother (but only after a contentious and public vote).
And on that note, I'm going to prepare myself for another undesired visit to the dentist. Clearly, I have to go there so often because even though I am sometimes A Good Mother, today I must have at some point been A Bad Mother and God is judging me. (Just kidding, obviously I am going to the dentist because of my teeth and not because of my adequacy as a human person, srsly everyone, lighten up.) 

Friday, May 03, 2013


Been devoting myself to doing breakfasts ahead since I'm not really a morning person and I hate interacting with anyone, let alone small children, before nine in the morning. So I welcome any suggestions of do ahead interesting breakfast food. I generally cycle through cinnamon rolls, crock pot oatmeal and cream of wheat (not do ahead but fast) and I'm getting bored. This week I ventured out and made Nigella's Croque Mssr. Bake which was delicious but still approached with suspicion by my ungrateful hoard. And then I finally pulled off a really fine oatmeal bread from the rest of the crockpot oatmeal.

Crockpot Oatmeal my way consists of jamming one of those disposable turkey roasting pans into my Crockot to act as a double boiler and then doing three cups steel cut oats and six cups milk with cinnamon, brown sugar and a dash salt from 10pm to 2am on low. I wish I had a timer so that it would kick off in the middle of the night but I don't so never mind.

For bread I take the rest of the oatmeal after its been smeared around and ruined by the children and add two T yeast, 2c milk, 2 eggs, quarter cup oil, and then yogurt to bring it up to four cups liquid. Then however much flower to make it all not sticky as with regular bread, kneading of course. Oh, and more salt. And then I rolled it out and smeared jam in the middle.

But they ate that yesterday, blast it, so now I have to go make pancakes.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


In a last ditch effort to save my children from the "indifferent" education I've always feared I would give them I've dropped just about every single thing I was doing before and have directed myself towards the exercise of 'school' for nearly every waking moment, except for some moments to cook and do laundry. It could be construed as a narrow and confining existence except that, hysterically enough, I'm enjoying myself and haven't really wanted to bother about anything else. In my stock taking I discovered that Elphine is only a week away from finishing all her work for the year, whereas Alouicious and Romulus have been 'working' in the modern sense of the word which means they have been doing nothing at all. But all is not lost. They are chaffing a bit at my constant presence in their lives but at least they are Doing Something, and that is no small achievement.
In the small extra moments, I have been rescuing tulips out of the hand of Marigold whose great desire to pick them is driving me to abstraction.

On Sunday we threw a Farewell Party for a friend, indeed no cause for happiness, however, I happened to make a cake (the cake itself was too dry but I loaded up the cream with a little something and no one seemed to notice) and also a golden pile of crepes. It is only a matter of standing around in the kitchen for a couple of hours on a Saturday evening drinking a modicum of cheep wine out of a box and watching something weird on Netflix.

The children aren't suffering too much from actually having to work. No matter how much I suppress them, they refuse to be suppressed. The indomitable human spirit I suppose, thriving under adversity, or whatever.

Marigold is a fuss budget. She wanted a 'little tiny braid' in her hair but it was crusty (don't judge me) and Lord help me if I was going to muscle her into the bath on a Monday. So I bunged pony tails in and when she started crying I plunked on the big bows and took her picture. Every day it's something. Every.single.tiny.day.