Prayerful Corn Shucking


Corn shucking at Russo's

Corn shucking at Russo’s

The brightness of mid-summer takes my breath away. Russo’s is on fire with shockingly vivid fruits, neon pink flowers, the early cherries from Michigan and the Northwest, and gorgeous mounds of corn.

I asked my daughter to select four ears of corn and shucking them. I didn’t conceive of this as part of my spiritual practice, but I ended up connecting some spiritual dots as she went about doing this.

First — turns out she didn’t know how to do it. So I taught her and we practiced together. I thought about my grandmother (her great-grandmother) and many other of our ancestors, who would have learned this skill very early in life and been part of the harvesting, preparing, preserving of corn on a farm in southern Ohio or Indiana. An essential skill for them, shucking, and each part of the ear of corn a gift put to good use. They would have prayed for the harvest every day, sung hymns while they shucked, and given thanks to God once the harvest was gathered.

Then — as we stood there shucking corn, surrounded the verdancy and variety of a wonderful store, I became deeply aware of how outrageously fortunate we are. All over the world on that day, so many children would have been so thankful for just one ear of corn. So many children have so little choice, about produce or anything else. So many of my daughter’s age-mates face seemingly outrageous odds against violence, poverty, and oppression.

As we prepare to help 28 children claim their role as stewards of the earth at Vacation Garden School next week, I recommit myself to praying and acting for a better future for all of them, filled not only with corn, but with freedom of choice, peace, and justice. And I pray that the formation we offer at VGS helps my daughter and her fellow campers claim their role as ministers of reconciliation and hope, too.

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Weed is a subjective term

Not a weed

Not a weed

Here’s our lovely food pantry plot at the Nichols Ave. Community Garden. Officially, we are growing basil, beans, tomatoes, japaleno peppers, and oregano. Unofficially, but very providentially, we are growing purslane. It’s in this photo — It looks like a weed, and to most American gardeners, it is treated like a weed. Pulled out as fast as you can say, “Get away from my precious tomatoes!”

But it turns out the purslane, which “volunteered” its way into our plot, has a long and noble history as a delicious edible. I just finished a book (great book, by the way) of historical fiction, in which Henry VIII and his court are munching on purslane all the time. Folks in Haiti and lots of other countries today enjoy it on a regular basis. Tasty and delicious, and good for you, too (as Sal Paradise says of his apple pie, in “On the Road”). Read more about purslane here.

Here’s a recipe for purslane, which my fellow gardener Carol found. There are other good recipes out there. Think again about what you toss from your garden. As with our own lives, that which we perceive as a nuisance, a mistake, or a blot often turns out to be gift and grace. Happy munching.

Purslane Basil Pesto

4 c. purslane
2 c. fresh basil
1 c. roasted pine nuts
0.5 c, olive oil
8 garlic cloves
0.5 t. kosher salt
0.5 t. honey
0.25 t. fresh ground pepper

Place everything in food processor and pulse till smooth. Enjoy!

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School’s Out; Screen’s On

Exploring biomes at the WPL

Exploring biomes at the WPL

Ah, the joys of summer! The kids are out of school and they can’t wait to…..

  • a. splash in the waves at the beach
  • b. catch fireflies in the back yard
  • c. go for long bike rides
  • d. sit in front of a computer screen for unlimited hours playing Minecraft.

At the Watertown Library yesterday, the joys of Minecraft were winning the day. Every seat was occupied in the computer area of the children’s room, and there was much rejoicing. Kids were building new worlds, comparing the benefits of various building materials, and showing their creativity to one another. My child was also playing Minecraft, on his iPod Touch, although I forced him to stop and read a book for 20 minutes.

Much has been written about whether Minecraft is a net good in the real world. Some folks say it is. Some say it isn’t. Based on our experience in my family, I would say that it’s a wash. On the one hand, it allows for amazing creativity and self-expression. We are created to participate in the generative work of God, and here’s a game that opens the door to thinking up new things. On the other hand, it required a good bit of parental oversight and is yet another screen-based activity. If we are to see the face of Christ in one another, we need to spend time looking in one another’s face, rather than at a screen.

Everything in moderation, as they say. And in it’s place, I say. I don’t want to see the Girl Scouts develop a Minecraft badge. Nor do I want kids in Sunday School crafting Solomon’s Temple on Minecraft. I want lots of space for touching real materials, talking to real people who are really in the room with you, and learning the physical, emotional, and spiritual skills that can take the creativity one might “mine” online and put it to good use in the service of others.

How about you?


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Joy for Dinner

Celebrating the Opening of the Watertown Farmers Market

Celebrating the Opening of the Watertown Farmers Market

This is a photo of Mary Cat and Mimi, the forces behind the new Watertown Farmers Market. They are wet in this photo because the skies opened to baptize the first day of the Market in a downpour of rain. Nonetheless, when I visited, hearty Patagonia-clad locavores were coming and going, determined to do two things: (1) buy something tasty and (2) meet someone.

Yes, people were coming to buy kale and strawberries and japanese turnips (Well, they didn’t come looking for Japanese turnips, but they were glad to discover them). But they also came hoping to connect. I watched people lingering, coming up with excuses to start conversations, making two or three passes through the stalls, hanging around the edges, not because they needed more food, but because they hadn’t yet been fed relationally.

We are hungry for community — real community, just as we are hungry for real food. More and more studies show that we need both to experience deep joy. Scientists and social scientists are spelling out and measuring what is built into the DNA of all major religions and most ancient cultures: How we relate to our food and to one another matters deeply.

At CGS, one way we foster joy is by hosting special potlucks called Real Meals. Our next one is June 29th. Bring something you grew, something made from local produce, or a family recipe. Y’all come.

How are you satisfying your craving for real food and real relationship? How are you helping others do so?


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Meditation on a Shipshape Shelf

Tidy shelves of tasty treats

Tidy shelves of tasty treats

I am staring at a shelf of outrageously beautiful jars of condiments. Each one of these beautiful products at Sofra is a world of exotic wonder, and each one would add so much to a meal. But what I find most breathtaking is how orderly this shelf is: Each product perfectly placed, gorgeously labeled,  ready to be presented to a host or a friend or someone else who deserves something nice. And below the name of each product, a list of ingredients. Everything is clear. It is like a library of food, where one is both delighted and educated. So although, upon approaching the shelf,  I might have no idea what Maftoul is, after a few minutes of engaging with this display, I might consider purchasing it and know why.

Oh, that the rest of my life were like this shelf. Oh, that there were a shelf of parenting skills, labeled and in jars, that one could simply purchase alongside a rooibus iced tea, take home and share, to the delight of one’s family. Oh, how nice it would be if my financial records, my memories, or even my winter clothes were neatly stored and labeled and accessible in a way that made them more inviting to deal with. I suppose this yearning in many of us is what fuels the success of Martha Stewart, the Container Store, apps like Evernote, and approaches to scripture that turn it into the spiritual equivalent of the Genius Bar at an Apple Store.

Alas, life is messy, dusty, gloriously complex, and so are our souls, our relationships, and everything that truly matters. Always more going on than we know. Always things unlabeled and unlabel-able (Is that a word?).

I’m thankful to the good people of Sofra for the beauty and care behind this display, just as I am thankful for a beautiful, ordered garden or beautiful, ordered liturgy. They calm my heart. But I am also thankful for that which escapes ordering and disrupts the assumed, within and without.

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Driving My Message Home

photo (12)I don’t know who drives this car. I paced on the sidewalk for a while, hoping he or she would return, so I could find out. I wonder whether he/she wears a shirt bearing the same message. Seeing the car parked on Main Street in Watertown Square was amazing: talk about putting it all out there. Talk about speaking your mind. The owner of this car drives his message home, literally. Then he drives his message to work. Then to Target.

Where is your message? What is your message? How do people know what your core commitments are? Do you want them preceding you into the room, or is it better to build to them in the course of conversation with someone? Every time I decide whether or not to wear a cross or a clergy collar or my college sweatshirt, I make a decision about this.

Our congregation just adapted a new mission statement. It was a great exercise in clarifying our core commitments and our “message.” In a culture where most of the time, we keep most things private, our process raised in me lots of feelings about the riskiness of making public claims.

You can read our new mission statement on our website. We’re probably not going to paint it onto a car. If not on a car, then how should we share who we are in ways that are clear but invitational?

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A grateful parent thanks the wonderful leaders of WFN

A grateful parent thanks the wonderful leaders of WFN

Most people I know do good work, or at least try to. They strive. Some are in fancy offices doing work that affects thousands of souls. Others are in humbler situations, or attending to quotidian affairs. But they give it their best shot, whatever “it” is.

Most of the efforts of human labor go unnoticed and unrecognized. As we are reminded on All Saints Day in the Episcopal Church, “Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. But of others there is no memory,” (from Ecclesiasticus).

Mothering takes a good bit of work. Well, tons of work, really. Last Wednesday, a bunch of Watertown mothers and caregivers gathered in our parish hall to celebrate Mother’s Day. The gathering was in their honor, but you know, don’t you, that simply getting their kids washed, fed, dressed, and out the door so that they could attend should have earned them all a small trophy.

That’s why I was so very glad and amazed that these mothers had taken the time to plan a recognition of Arlene and Cheryl, the leaders of Watertown Family Network. Arlene and Cheryl do so much to help these mothers make it through this day, and then the next, and then the next, without anyone giving them a trophy (or even a thank you, often). Such a beautiful gesture, this moment of thanksgiving!

Who in your life deserves recognition? When was the last time you stopped to praise and thank someone for their work? Don’t have time to throw a party? Pick up the phone! Or send a note. Buy them a coffee. Everyone needs it.

What ideas do you have for honoring others?

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