Archive for 2012

Heaven In A Copper Pot

A solid life. That’s what it’s always been about with this house.

Permanence…real materials, reclaimed goods, lasting quality, a search for what’s real amongst the fake. So, soapstone countertops instead of formica, stepback cupboard in place of veneered cabinets. An 1800’s restaurant worktable for dining, battered hardwood floors (well, they are now) and Mom’s cast iron frying pan.

I hear my uncles A.D. and Delmer and Elbert when I cook with that heavy black pan, their voices forever crusted onto the surface, I smell the laughter, their cackles and whoops, feel the humidity of those sticky, summer noontime feasts as the steam rises over my sizzling hot stove. I’m creating/recreating a life that had meaning, or that’s how it seemed to me, though I’m sure that when the price of tobacco fell and the fish weren’t biting, they probably laid awake at night scratching their Brylcreem-oily heads, wondering how they were gong to meet their bills, just like me.

But always that laughter, the adornment and garnishing of the past, high tales of high adventure, when in reality they were scrapping out a calloused, sunburnt life. But those boys chewed the fat, literally and figuratively – fatback greasy and gravy-laden rewards for labor, salvation in a pot of oily collards. Not certain if they knew Jesus but they sure knew how to enjoy his creation. They lived their lives, sucked the marrow out of each moment.

I’ve learned that you’ve got to dig deep to get to the marrow, live a lot closer to the bone than is comfortable. My husband and I have been living bone on bone for the past two years, in limbo, trying to save our house from foreclosure. Yesterday the clerk of courts said, ‘Basta,’ no more extensions, it’s in the hands of the bank. I laid in bed last night, trying to picture that: bank hands, no head, no heart to hear my soul’s silent plea…and a voice, His voice asked, “Whose hands? Your house is in whose hands?

“Your hands, Lord; my house is in your hands.”

My daughter hurt for me, sensed my need for closure and then this morning I woke up to these words in an email from a friend:

“Clarity?…Closure?…Foreclosure? eeek! What is the Lord up to?”

Then she caught my heart when she empathized with “Me, I hate limbo more than decision.”

Yeah, you gotta’ be pretty flexible to bend low enough to go under the limbo stick. “Limbo lower now, how low can you go?”

I see it all differently this morning…my homey house, my vintage stuff, my dusty dreams. I know its all fleeting, temporary, but it helps ground me, a reminder of who/what is the only timeless, ageless thing we have in this world. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” heaven in a copper pot, eternity in a pewter plate. You can count on it being there, doing its job, function and beauty, now there’s a marketing philosophy.

So, I guess you could say I’m a nostalgia addict, homesick for a home I’ve never lived in but had glimpses of. Home is a person, not a place and he’s everyplace I go, winking at me through the wisteria wrapped round the pergola, nudging me with the romance of the short-lived scent of gardenias…(I’m over here – inhale me), seducing me with a 150 year-old baker’s cabinet, drawers redolent with cinnamon and vanilla memories of old-timey goodness corn bread and preacher cake, baking for Jesus.

This longing for home only gets stronger, is an ache and a craving and a waiting. Life is the entrée, sometimes meager, often bitter, occasionally succulent but always there waits the sweet dreams of dessert, the last bite, the one morsel that satisfies the years of yearning, o feed me that course, Lord, indulgent bliss of forever with you.

Learning to Bake Bread

God’s been talking to me about bread lately.

Helpful, given that the tag line of The Shared Table is ‘Breaking Bread – Building Relationships.’ For the past month, most of my bread-breaking/relationship building has taken place on the floor, not in the kitchen, or the dining room table. My dining companion? The one who became broken bread for us…

JESUS

Why am I eating my meals on the floor with Jesus? I’m not, at least not in the literal sense. You see, the floor is about the only place where I can find a position that gives me relief from the sciatic pain coursing down my right leg. Amazing how easy it is to talk to God when you’re flat on your back staring at the ceiling.

Floor Time Discoveries:

  • Heat rises…brrrr!
  • Dust settles
  • Restlessness rules

Apparently God’s not too concerned about the room temperature or my housekeeping skills, but He seems quite determined to deal with my restlessness. It’s as if He’s saying, “Why, exactly,  are you thrashing around? Relax; you’re not missing anything. Come, dine with me.”

My back muscles gradually start to release and then He hands me my daily portion. Two days ago my ‘portion’ consisted of these words: LEARN TO BAKE BREAD.

Huh? I know how to break bread, I just choose not to: it takes too much time, requires so much patience and attention and (lightbulb moment) …..I’m TOO RESTLESS.

Even though I was pretty sure He wasn’t talking to me about physically baking bread, I headed into the kitchen and baked a beautiful loaf of Irish Soda Bread, with molasses, golden raisins and caraway seeds.

(Notice I chose a quick bread!)

I heard the phrase, Learn to Bake Bread while I was thinking about how I tend to be disappointed because my high expectations of Christian community (friends, neighbors and strangers, gathered together to eat, pray, worship, search the Scriptures, serve, laugh and cry and not just because they were randomly assigned to a home group) don’t happen that often.

Then I heard, “Your expectations are valid, but the only way they will happen is if people are really hungry and up until now, my people haven’t been hungry. But get ready – LEARN TO BAKE BREAD.”

Me, dense as a loaf of 100% whole wheat: “What are you talking about, Lord?”

The answer came in the form of a friend’s Facebook post: “It is vain for you to rise early, to retire late, to eat the BREAD OF SORROW, for he gives to his beloved in his sleep.”

Ohhh… sorrow bread - the kind that the more you chew the more it seems to expand in your mouth and becomes impossible to swallow? If our diets are based on sorrow bread, we’ll never be able to point others to Jesus, to offer them the real bread of life, to experience community.

This scripture verse from Jeremiah 15:16 describes the kind of bread we’re to eat and then share with the hungry:

“Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.”

PRAYER

Lord, forgive me for feeding on sorrow bread, when your Word is the bread of life. The world (including me) continues to ‘spend money on what is not bread’ instead of delighting in your abundance, feeding on your faithfulness, dwelling in your presence. That hunger for security and fulfillment can only be found in you.

Please remind me, whenever I’m anxious, or acting out of self-pity and self-interest, every time I reach out for the wrong bread, to “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” and then offer a portion to others.

In Jesus name, amen.