Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Massive uncertainties"

Today, out in New Hampshire where The Great Aunt has been living, a few family members sit vigil by her side as she seems to be slipping away. I cannot be there to say good-by to a woman I have loved.
The Great Aunt and Paddington
Seems we have entered a time of sadness and are feeling the grief of people passing away, of diagnosis of illnesses, of struggles against depression, of broken plans and dashed promises and other less noteworthy things like sinus infections and Japanese beetles eating your grapevine.

Our friend, Ed Hague who has fought a three-year battle against stage IV prostate cancer has thought a lot about despair and posted some brutally honest thoughts to his blog. See “The Benefits of Despair” on www.wedonotloseheart.com.

It seems to me that we Christians are often guilty of trying hard not to be in that dark place.  Or perhaps what I mean to say is that we try to find ways of mitigating suffering and evil, even to the point where we worry that acknowledging despair is somehow heretical. Instead we pass on little sayings meant to tell us: “Get along little dogie” Can’t stay here, you know. Everything happens for a reason. When God closes the door he always opens a window.

Steve Froehlich writes with more realistic passion in the latest issue of Critique in the "Letters to the Editor" Dialogue section.

As John writes: we know how the story ends [see the book of Revelation] But these certainties, the ground of hope in Christ, do not resolve the massive uncertainties that cloud our lives right now. Nor do they provide us with explanations about how God is accomplishing that purpose in our lives or in our moment of history. But we are people who believe in the Resurrection, and we choose to be content living with hints and foretastes (none more important than the Eucharist) of the shalom of the world made new.

Yes. The crucible of human suffering seems somehow more relieved when we admit that life is often filled with “massive uncertainties.” To be together with others in the midst of shit is oddly, the very place where my hope and love in Christ grows.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fava Beans: The gift of too much work

Squish the bean out of its membrane.
I’ve never seen Fava Beans (or Broad Beans as they are known in English) in our grocery stores. I’ve never known anyone to grow them. I’ve only read about them. I think that was in Under the Tuscan Sun, but I can’t find the passage to be sure. I remember reading about this vegetable where everyone in Tuscany or Provence eagerly awaits its early summer harvest. Like I wait for the first real strawberries of the season or the hope of a few morels in May. I only had the vaguest notion of what they were like. Then a few days ago our vegetable farmer friends gave us a gift of about a pound of fava beans. (Recipes say for a serving you should plan on a pound of pods per person.) I think I know why they are rare in our country.

Joe and Becca sent along basic instructions. Open the pod. Inside, find three to five large beans. Remove them. When they are all collected, blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water until the membrane around each bean loosens. Quickly place them in an ice bath. Open the membrane slightly and squish out the bean. Do this for each one. One at a time, until you have a small bowlful. Steam them for 3 minutes until tender.

With this little batch I did the simplest thing possible to taste them. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on a little sea salt and pepper. I now understand two things. Why Italians love them so much. And why they are not popular here: too much work. But their buttery flavor and smooth texture won me completely. It was worth each little step. More, please.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A complicated eulogy

Elisabeth Elliot died.

Photo from elisabethelliot.org
It’s a very odd thing to read about the death of someone you so respected and who influenced your life, but to also honestly face some of the doubts and, well, personal opinions that quite differed from hers. Writer Addie Zierman brought those repressed questions to the surface. She eloquently voiced what I would want to say if only I’d thought of it. (Read it here.) Elisabeth was one of my heroes, too. Many of the things she wrote and said steered me through difficult times. When I was overwhelmed with life she said: Don’t try to take the entire journey at once. Trust all your life and its details to God. He cares about you. All you need to do is the next thing. Whatever it is. Just do the next thing.

I wanted to be like her. For awhile. Until I grew farther into womanhood and marriage and mothering, then I found her voice more difficult to bear on some issues.

Zierman ends her eulogy with graciousness. If anyone ever wrote mine, I hope they would extend me grace in the end as she does with Elisabeth. Zierman points us to a place where I have wanted others to go – a place of hope, a place we long for: Home, a place where I (and you) are called “Beloved.”