Love, like bread, needs to be made and remade

My mother may not have been the best of cooks, but there was never a night or a Sunday afternoon Hand-making-of-bread-2-1307330-1599x1070 when she didn’t put a home cooked meal on the table in spite of working every day. She had some specialties, like a mean macaroni salad and an awesome salad dressing which still gets me rave reviews when I make it for family or friends. But when it came to making meatballs, she should have taken lessons from her sister, my dear Aunt Ginny.

Aunt Ginny’s meatballs were robust and tender, full of spices and homemade bread crumbs, and it seemed she always had a pot full of meatballs and sauce on the stove when my cousins and I came to visit.  On the other hand, my mother’s were small and hard and, I discovered by accident, made a loud thud if they fell on the floor.

My mom never mastered the art of making shankleesh like my Aunt JuJu and Aunt Jeanette, so I always relished the Sundays when a mound of this (mold ripened) cheese, covered with spices and drizzled with olive oil, was sitting on the kitchen table with warm Syrian bread when we came to visit after Mass. In spite of the fact that my five cousins were almost always there, along with any number of adult family members visiting from downstairs or down the street, there was always enough.

And who didn’t love when my Aunt Evelyn came to family gatherings at our house carrying a pot of stuffed grape leaves or a bowl of tabouleh? I swear I remember someone taking a good number of those stuffed rolls and hiding them in a separate container in the back of the refrigerator “for later” when most of the guests had gone home and the immediate family was left to clean up…and eat leftovers.

But I also learned from my mom how to make some of my favorite Syrian food: riz and lubee (rice and green beans), mamool (dough stuffed with chopped nuts and sugar), and pita bread.

I especially loved the days when she made bread. The anticipation of warm round loaves coming out of the oven, of pulling off a piece and spreading the inside with real butter and then having a good strong cup of tea was heavenly. But sharing it with family seemed to make everything taste better, and, certainly, the animated conversations of a house full of Syrian women, and the occasional courageous male of the family, was always memorable.

But I didn’t realize how much work went into the bread making until I went through the whole process by myself as a young married woman – the measuring the kneading, the rolling, and then the waiting. The experience was a lesson that helped me see the truth in a lovely quote by writer Ursula K. Le Guin:

“Love doesn't sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.”

In looking back, I've realized her words are a beautiful description of the most important work of a family - love ... made, shared and made new all over again.


Prayer To Our Lady Of Candles

Lord  Jesus, You are the Light of the world: Ourladyofthecandles--vintage-holy-cards-madonna-and-child

 we praise You, and ask You to guide our steps each day.

 Help us to love You and serve You faithfully,

 and to carry our daily cross with You.                                                                                                                    

 As I light this candle, let it always remind me

 that You are our Light in darkness,

 our Protector in danger, and our saving Lord at all times.

 Our Lady of Candles, give me a mother’s protection, for I need your watchful care.

Comfort me in my discouragements, solace me in my fatigues,

raise me after my falls, reward me for my successes.

Our Lady of Candles, bearer of Jesus, the Light of the world,

please obtain for me this favor ….. (mention you petitions)

I shall always rely on your help, to be what Jesus wants me to be.

I am his; I am yours, my good Mother!


September, the month of the Seven Sorrows of Mary

1. Mary’s sorrow, when she receives the prophecy of Simeon, whereby a sword will Seven-sorrows-virgin-marypierce her heart.

2. Mary’ sorrow, when she must flee with her baby Jesus and husband Joseph – the flight into Egypt.

3. Mary’s sorrow, when, with Joseph, she seeks her young son Jesus, lost in Jerusalem.

4. Mary’s sorrow, when she meets her beloved son, carrying his cross on his way to Calvary.

5. Mary’s sorrow, as she stands at the foot of the Cross and witnesses the death of her beloved son.

6. Mary’s sorrow, as the body of her beloved son, is taken down from the Cross.

7. Mary’s sorrow, at the entombment of her beloved son.


Mary, Mother of Silence

Mother of silence, who watches over the mystery of God,                                                                                                                                          Blessed-virgin-mary-with-angels-21

Save us from the idolatry of the present time, to which those who forget are condemned.

Purify the eyes of pastors with the eye-wash of memory:

Take us back to the freshness of the origins, for a prayerful, penitent church.

Mother of the beauty that blossoms from faithfulness to daily work,

Lift us from the torpor of laziness, pettiness, and defeatism.

Clothe pastors in the compassion that unifies, that makes whole;

let us discover the joy of a humble, brotherly, serving Church.

Mother of tenderness who envelops us in patience and mercy,

Help us burn away the sadness, impatience and rigidity of those who do not know what it means to belong.

Intercede with your Son to obtain that our hands, our feet, our hearts be agile:

Let us build the Church with the truth of love. Mother, we shall be the people of God, pilgrims bound for the kingdom. Amen.

 

Prayer of Pope Francis


Mary, woman of listening

"Mary, woman of listening, open our ears; grant us to know how to listen to the word of -mother-and-baby-mother-maryyour Son Jesus among the thousands of words of this world; grant that we may listen to the reality in which we live, to every person we encounter, especially those who are poor, in need, in hardship.

Mary, woman of decision, illuminate our mind and our heart, so that we may obey, unhesitating, the word of your Son Jesus; give us the courage to decide, not to let ourselves be dragged along, letting others direct our life.

Mary, woman of action, obtain that our hands and feet move “with haste” toward others, to bring them the charity and love of your Son Jesus, to bring the light of the Gospel to the world, as you did. Amen."

Prayer by Pope Francis


Miriam of Nazareth pray for us

Mary, even as a child you were aware of God and open to God’s presence.  Help us to open ourselves to the presence of God within us, and Art_MARY_The_Annunciation_Tanner allow God to transform us into the love that can transform the world.

Deliver us, Lord, from the way of sin and death.
Open our hearts to your grace and truth.
Fill us with your holy and life-giving Spirit. ...
Teach us to love others in the power of the Spirit.
Send us into the world in witness to your love.
Bring us to the fullness of your peace and glory. 

(adapted from the Book of Common Prayer 305-6)


Prayer to Mary for Peace

Mary, Queen of Peace and patroness of our beloved country, we pray that your intercession may protect us and all people from hatred and discord, and direct our Marylarger hearts into the ways of peace and justice which your Son taught and exemplified. We seek guidance for our leaders, peace in our hearts, and harmony in our families and communities. We thank you for hearing our prayers and protecting us from evil. Amen.


Remembering is an Ebenezer passion and 'stone of help'

 

The ceiling of the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church soars more than 70 feet high, supported by walls of cast stone, brownstone and brick. Stoneofhelp
Looking out across the congregation from a folding chair in front of the sanctuary steps, my eyes moved upwards across soaring stained glass windows, as if following the strains of the oboe with notes rising to fill the expanse of space above. 

There I noticed the resemblance of the ceiling trusses to the hull of a ship, symbolic, says the church history, of a vessel carrying pilgrims home safely to port.

“What perfect traveling music,” I thought, moved to tears by our oboist’s exquisite rendering of the hauntingly beautiful “Gabriel’s Oboe.”  The piece was just one of many offered by the Tim Keyes Consort as part of a service of remembrance celebrating the life of Geoffrey Ames Petersen, a consummate musician, organist, composer, teacher, and friend, say those who knew him well.

It was an experience of which I was especially grateful to be a part, for what is more meaningful than remembering and celebrating the life of another?

In looking back on more than 10 years of singing with the Consort, it seemed that this service of remembering was really part of a pattern, or more significantly, a passion of our director – a passion for remembering; remembering Christ, Mary, the Saints, the Apostles, the words of Scripture, the glory of creation, the richness and gifts of every culture, the value of each life.

In what he composes and what he calls the Consort to perform, Tim offers us, and our audiences, an opportunity to recall the glory and goodness of our loving God, an opportunity to be enriched in our faith and our musical lives.  He offers us an Ebenezer.

Most of us would probably associate the name with Dicken’s “Christmas Carol” and the miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. Perhaps there is more meaning in the name than we’ve realized.

In the Bible, in the Book of Samuel, we read about the Israelites’ losses in battle to the Philistines. The Israelites press Samuel to continue in his prayers to God on their behalf, and as he does so, God throws the Philistines into confusion and they are subdued by the Israelites.

Scripture recounts, “Samuel then took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Jeshanah; he named it Ebenezer, explaining, ‘As far as this place the Lord has been our help.’”

The “stone of help” would serve as a reminder to the Israelites of God’s presence and assistance.

In our lives, Ebenezers may be crafted or experienced in any number of ways, but always serving to remind us of the ever-present love of God – songs, hymns, prayer, Scripture, sacramentals, liturgy, the sacraments, and, perhaps most especially, other people.

Then there is Ebenezer Scrooge.

I always wondered why Charles Dickens chose the name for his protagonist.

But I find it interesting that, after a night of remembering and foreseeing which leads to an epiphany, the man best described early on as Scrooge, becomes the true man, Ebenezer, a “stone of help,” for Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family, and, no doubt, many others. Finally, Ebenezer was able to love and to accept love.

It seems Dickens understood it is only in our remembering that we become who we are meant to be.

“I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11

A column from Things My Father Taught Me. Mary may be reached at mary.wellspring@yahoo.com. Her book, “Things My Father Taught Me About Love,” can be found on Amazon Kindle. Follow her on Twitter @mreginam6.


Resurrection is the reason for our hope and joy

We all have a story.

For families, the story includes those of parents, children and the ones we love, living life intertwined, each person affected, for better or for worse, by the joys, Crossonsnowmountain
sorrows, and choices of those whose stories touch ours.

Sometimes, it is in the darkest moments of our stories that we become aware of our own capacity to love.

My epiphany came on Mother’s Day, 2015.  It was not, perhaps, an epiphany to match that of Thomas Merton, the very famous Trappist monk who had an epiphany of love on a street corner in Louisville. But it was my epiphany and all the more meaningful for me.

I was sitting in the locked-down lobby of the county jail while waiting to visit my son. I had been visiting once or twice a week for the past two months, and every time, as I sat waiting, I was thinking, “This was never part of my plan. How did we get to this place?”

My first visit was surreal … being buzzed in, the police officer checking my ID behind a protective shield, the glass window behind which my son stood when he was brought down, the phones we used to communicate, the prisoner’s uniform. It just seemed like a scene from “Law and Order” instead of one from my own family story.

I realized that, in jail, they use the more politically correct term of inmate instead of prisoner, but prisoner is what my son really was – a prisoner of opiates long before he ended up behind that glass window in that uniform. I felt sick, heart-broken, guilty and alone. Surely, looking around the lobby on that first visit, I didn’t belong here, and neither did my son. Still, here we were, at the cross.

But in one instant on Mother’s Day, in that dreary jail lobby, I realized that all of us, waiting for our turn to visit, had entered, in our own way, into the life of Christ. Like the Apostles, each of us, no matter how different and in spite of our own weaknesses, were there because we loved someone, hoping to make a difference in their life by our simple presence – and I heard the words of the powerful Taize hymn, “Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray.”

In the Gethsemane stories of those who sat waiting with me, I heard their unique, yet familiar, struggles – broken marriages, broken relationships, drug addiction, the death of children, bad choices, bad friends, loss of faith, loss of family, suicide, terrible financial difficulties and, sometimes, homelessness. Some stories were so heartbreaking I could barely contain my emotions, and I was grateful, and privileged, to have exchanged promises to pray for one another.

Not long after Mother’s Day, my son called to tell me he had been paroled. His time in jail had been good for him. He was drug free, though he would need continued support to stay so, and he was positive and prayerful, looking forward to a new chapter in his life. “See, I make all things new,” filled my heart.

I remember breaking down in tears. “My son is coming home,” I thought, and I wondered if God might have had a similar feeling on the day of the Resurrection. Surely, the God of Love would have felt the pain and anguish of his only beloved Son, and would have known the joy of Jesus’ coming home, the joy of new life. Certainly, Mary did.

How far we have come, my son and I, since the days when an exceptionally inquisitive toddler would find ways to escape the locked doors of our house and wander happily in his pajamas in the new winter snow in our backyard. Loving him has taken on new forms as he’s grown into a man. One of the most meaningful has been waiting with him in Gethsemane, and walking with him as he embraced his crosses. It has not been easy. After all, the hallmark of a mother is to fix everything, to take away pain and make things better. Part of the growing up process for moms is accepting that there are many things we cannot control.

For us, as Christians, Jesus’ Resurrection changes everything.  With love at its heart, the Resurrection is the reason for our greatest hope and our greatest joy. It allows us to accept the invitation to new life that is inherent in every cross, and to hold on to our faith in God’s promises.

For me, the Resurrection has become a new focus of my faith, one that as allowed me to believe, when others didn’t, that my son would experience his own resurrection through his singular faith in God.

That is reason for a very joyous, “Alleluia!”


Holding on to a storm of anger damages body, mind and spirit

For many years, I believed that being submissive to God meant accepting everything that came my way without complaint, without anger, without moaning and Darkstormgroaning. But as I grew in my understanding of the spiritual life, I realized that the very demonstrative, outspoken and loving women in my family were often more on target about the spiritual life than I was.

They embraced their emotions and expressed their feelings – embellished by a wide variety of hand gestures – seeming to know instinctively that such expressions were necessary to who we are as God’s children. My learning was reinforced by my therapist, whom I came to trust as a spiritual advisor, as well, while being treated for depression. “The best thing you could do for yourself is get angry!” she advised me one day.

She reminded me of Jesus, turning over the tables in the temple in a fit of anger, and his frequent frustration with the Apostles, which he didn’t hesitate to express – but always with a goal in mind, always with an eye toward growth and positive change.

“Getting angry is healthy and it’s real,” she said, stressing that the need to express strong emotions in appropriate, constructive ways can add years, and satisfaction, to life.

Not only is dealing with anger  an emotional exercise, it is a spiritual one, as well. When a storm of anger makes its home within us, it impedes our relationship with God and others; it destroys our bodies from inside out and holds our souls in darkness.

Learn some healthy ways to express anger,  http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/healthiest-ways-express-anger, and look at anger from the spiritual perspective http://www.answersforme.com/article/1297/find-answers/family/the-effects-of-anger


Refugees need the hands and hearts of Christians

A recent Facebook post featured an image of a home and its front door. In the bottom corner was a second image of Jesus. The text read, “Am I welcome in your home? Reply yes.”

More than 1 million people had clicked “like” and another 8,000 had responded “yes.” Handscross

And I wondered how many of those respondents would agree that Syrian refugees should be allowed into our country.

Being a Christian is not easy.  It requires us to think with the mind of Christ, to see with the heart of Christ.

It requires that we bring our intelligence and common sense to every situation, not just our emotions, to ensure that all people have an opportunity to live in communities of care and
safety.

Evil not only begets evil. Evil seeks to grow evil in hearts and minds.  We must be vigilant that the evil of terrorism does not fuel the evil of intolerance, prejudice, racism and a willingness to abandon those most in need.

Our human nature means that we will all be plagued by thoughts of fear and prejudice, at one time or another. Our Christian beliefs call us to push past those thoughts, ensuring that they never form a basis for our decisions.

When we allow our fear to corrupt our humanity, and embrace the result, we can no longer identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ, who was very clear about the greatest commandment:  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Jesus' teaching is simple and clear. We are the ones who have added the limitations, the exclusions and the addendums.