Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Short post today to let you know that I continue to guest blog on Grow Christians. From the home page:

Grow Christians is a partnership between Forward Movement and Plainsong Farm.Together, we aim to create an online community of discipleship focused on the practical details of life at home. Gathering reflections, stories, images and recipes from diverse Episcopalians, this group blog inspires generations to come together as they celebrate the presence of God through the Christian year. 

Grow Christians has been renewed for at least another six months! I've been asked to post a piece is mid April. Check it out and sign up for the emails!

ALSO, I've been asked to join in with Lent Madness and Forward Movement writers to post Easter-themed musings at 50 Days of Fabulous. From the home page:

Welcome to 50 Days of Fabulous, a way to engage the season of Easter beyond just one day. Each day of the Easter season, which is, if you haven’t guessed yet, a full 50 days (10 more than Lent), is a day to celebrate rebirth, light, resurrection, surprise, joy, and the triumph of life over death. In the daily reflections, based on scripture, saints, art, music, and whatever else inspires our fabulous contributors, we hope to invite our readers into this amazing party that is the Feast of the Resurrection. Each day also has a response. Our faith is not a faith of reading something and thinking, “How nice.” Our faith is a faith of proclamation, action, prayer, and response. Easter implores us to proclaim the resurrection, and we will offer you some simple, profound, and even quirky ways to do so.

My first post Broken Bread, appeared today. I'll have one more in April and one in May. Check it out and sign up for the emails!

And now a photo of my cats, because why not?


Thursday, March 24, 2016


I’m taking a weekly Education for Ministry or EfM class with a group from my church. We meet in each other’s homes and share a potluck supper. Recently, we voted to share a Seder meal together and decided who would make what. I said, “Give me something complicated.” (Still smacking my head over that one.)

A Seder is a Jewish ritual service and ceremonial dinner that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt generally held on the first night of Passover (April 22 in 2016).

Many Christians share a Seder meal together during Holy Week to honor our religious ancestry and recreate what many believe to be the Passover meal served at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I’ve attended different types of Seders and even co-hosted one with my Jewish brother-in-law. I am grateful to have attended a most authentic one at the home of a family seeped in Judaism who were happy to share some recipe secrets.

One of the main points of a Seder meal is to travel back in time to when Moses led our people out of bondage, the story of which appears in Exodus in the Old Testament. 

Year One of EfM is the study of the Old Testament. So my homework this past week was to read all 150 Psalms and make homemade matzoh ball soup, from scratch, for the first time.

Somehow, mostly because I’ve always mixed up Psalms and Proverbs in my head, I read almost all of Proverbs before I realized I was reading the wrong section.


Anyway, as I promised to my mentors and classmates, this post counts as my reflection on the reading which I completed yesterday.

Aside from time ticking by so fast, I was actually delighted to read Proverbs and then Psalms. Proverbs are little bits of advice - like fortune cookies, only not manufactured in a fortune cookie factory. Psalms are songs that have been sung or spoken for generations upon generations in temples and churches.

I’ve sorted out the ones I believe speak to the spiritual journey. They are listed below in the order they appear in the Old Testament, Psalms first because the 150 Psalms appears before the 31 chapters of Proverbs. Remember, Psalms are song lyrics and Proverbs are sayings. (Silent "p" in Psalms.) I hope they speak to you as movingly as they spoke to me.

HOLY BIBLE: New Revised Standard Version

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 16:7

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy. 16:11

My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped. 17:5

Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 19:14

Make me to know your ways, O Lord: teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 25:4-5

Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard the sound of my pleadings. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 28:6-7

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. 34:18

The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. 34:22

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. 36:9

Commit your way to the Lord: trust in him, and he will act. 37:5

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. 57:1

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. 61:1-3

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. 91:11-12

When I thought, “My foot is slipping,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. 94:18-19

Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways. 119:2-3

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 119:105

You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 139:3

If I take wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 139:9-10

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 139:23-24

Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. 143:8

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. 143:10

HOLY BIBLE: New Revised Standard Version

Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. 3:13-14

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but one who rejects a rebuke goes astray. 10:17

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor. 15:33

The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 16:1

All one’s way may be pure in one’s own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. 16:2

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. 16:3

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. 16:9

Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death. 16:25

Desire without knowledge is not good, and one who moves too hurriedly misses the way. 19:2

To get wisdom is to love oneself; to keep understanding is to prosper. 19:8

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. 19:20

The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. 19:21

The righteous walk in integrity—happy are the children who follow them! 20:7

The hearing ear and the seeing eye—the Lord has made them both. 20:12

Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up. 22:28

My child, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. 23:26

My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off. 24:13-14

Those who trust in their own wits are fools; but those who walk in wisdom come through safely. 28:26


So, I made the soup and my class and I enjoyed it during our Seder meal on Monday. It was fun trying to make it as authentic as possible. 

Last year, my friends taught me how to make Jewish brisket which I shared in my Visitation of St. Mary post. 

I also shared a recipe for potato latkes from the same cookbook I quote below in my André Trocmé, Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon and the Surrounding Communities post. I highly recommend this book of remarkable stories and authentic recipes of Holocaust survivors! (See below for my photos.)

Martha’s Excellent Matzoh Ball Soup
Contributed by Eric and Bruce Bomberg, chef/owners of Blue Ribbon restaurant, New York City, in RECIPES REMEMBERED: A CELEBRATION OF SURVIVAL
 by June Feiss Hersh

For the Broth:
1 whole hen (3-4 pounds)
4 ribs of celery with leaves (cleaned and chopped)
3 carrots (2-cleaned and chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
2 leeks (cleaned and chopped)
3 cloves garlic (whole)
4 sprigs flat parsley
3 sprigs dill
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Carrot rounds (blanched till soft)
Chopped dill
Salt and pepper

For the Matzoh Balls:
1 cup matzo meal
4 eggs
1 ounce rendered chicken fat (shmaltz)
½ ounce kosher salt
½ teaspoon double acting baking powder
2 ounces seltzer

Procedure Broth

Rub chicken with kosher salt inside and out. Let stand 15 minutes. Rinse WELL under cold water. Pat dry with paper towel. Put chicken in a large pot of cold water covering chicken by 3 inches. Bring to boil. Impurities will rise to the top, then skim off and discard. Add everything. Bring back to boil, skim and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer. After 45 minutes (or until chicken is cooked) remove chicken. Take meat off of bone (save meat for another meal), put bones back in pot. Cook for 1 hour more. Strain through a sieve and cheesecloth and let cool in refrigerator. When cool, fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to remove.

Procedure Matzoh Balls

In large mixing bowl add all ingredients except seltzer, mix well. Add seltzer water and let mixture sit covered and refrigerated for 1 hour. Fill a large diameter pot ¾ full with water and bring to a simmer (190 to 200 degrees). With wet hands roll out 1-once balls. Lower balls into water. Cook until tender approximately 45-60 minutes (test with toothpick or do the famous chef Eric cut in half). Balls should be light and fluffy in the center. Let matzoh balls cool.

For Soup

Slice carrot into rounds. Chop 2 sprigs of dill. Bring broth to a boil with carrots and dill and matzoh balls. Season to taste. Serve when matzoh balls are warm in center.


Bonus Material:

Rule number one of cooking or any type of creating that you then present (including your hair and clothing choices) – never tell the flaws. Most people will only notice the flaws if you point them out. So don’t. I will do so now in the hope that I will save you from making the same mistakes I made:

Follow the recipe and use peppercorns instead of ground pepper, even if you have to go out and buy them. The trick of this liquid gold soup is to strain everything out from the broth except the flavor. Peppercorns are easier to strain out than tiny ground pepper.

Don’t run out of kosher salt. I use kosher salt in most of my cooking. You could say I use it religiously. I ran out in the middle of preparing this recipe and had to use sea salt instead. Okay, sea salt is biblical, so points for that. But it was, shhhhh, pale pink.

Purchase fresh spices. My bottle of bay leaves had a 2013 date code. My daughter said, “It’s fine, it’s a leaf. Use it.” So I used it.

Okay, here’s the worst one. When I separated the meat from the bone, I automatically threw away the skin. Because ewww, it’s so fatty. Oops, I needed that fat! Since I didn’t put the skin back in the pot to render along with the bones, the next morning I didn’t have anywhere near the correct amount of solidified chicken fat on top of the refrigerated broth to scrape together for the matzoh balls.

I used butter. Which was not keeping kosher to the printed recipe and was, in fact, literally, not kosher. Yeah, that’s a big one. On the other hand, I don’t have a kosher kitchen, I’m Christian, and I like butter.

On the other hand, I really wanted it to be authentic. So practice makes perfect. Right? Of course, right.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

SOJOURNER TRUTH AND JOHNNYCAKES Lent Madness 2016 Saintly Sprinkle Six

Sojourner Truth, former New York slave, mother, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, public speaker, and counselor to newly freed slaves, is not remembered for her cooking, yet she cooked throughout her life before and after the Civil War. No doubt she even cooked for folks who arrived hungry more for her words than for her meals.

(To learn more about her life and works, start here.)

To honor all of Sojourner Truth’s good works and legacy, mix up a batch of Johnnycakes, an American staple on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.


1 cup ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup honey
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter


 1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
 2. In another bowl, mix honey, milk, eggs, and butter.
 3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until just blended.
 4. Pour batter by ¼ cupfuls onto a greased hot griddle. Flip Johnnycakes over when bubbles form on top of each, about 1 minute.
 5. Cook until second side is golden brown.

 6. Serve at the table with butter and syrup, jelly, or honey. Or fold around a piece of cheese, ham, or bacon to serve to travelers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

ST. CLARE OF ASSISI AND WHOLE WHEAT BREAD Lent Madness 2016 Saintly Sprinkle Seven

Saint Clare, Simone Martini, 1320, Basilica of San Francesco,  Assisi

(This post has been updated to incorporate deeper research and correct an archive glitch.)

St. Clare (Chiara Offreduccio) was born into nobility on July 16, 1194, in Assisi, Italy. She turned from that life to give herself to Jesus Christ and became the Mother Superior of the Franciscan Sisterhood of the Poor Ladies. After her death on August 11, 1253, the pope changed the name to the Order of Saint Clare. She is honored in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran Churches. She is the patron saint of embroiderers and her feast day is August 11.

It’s impossible to write about St. Clare without also writing about St. Francis of Assisi. In continuing the history of St. Francis from Young St. Francis, we meet St. Clare who was a cousin of one of Francis's first followers and dearest friends.

After Francis publicly renounced his father’s name and inheritance declaring himself a son only of our Father who art in Heaven. He spent two years as a solitary penitent, caring for the lepers with great joy, and repairing churches in the countryside surrounding Assisi. He provided for himself as a day laborer, preferring that to relying on alms. He prayed often with the utmost reverence to Jesus on the Cross whose sacrifice is served at the Communion rail.

And then one day, "The Lord gave me some brothers."
                                              Testament, St. Francis of Assisi

One day in 1208, Bernard of Quintavalle, perhaps a former friend of Francis's, arrived at San Damiano because he was interested in Francis's life. After a long talk, he gave away all his possessions and joined Francis. At the same time, a poor man from Assisi named Peter also arrived and asked to follow Francis.

Francis had no idea what to do with these men, so he took them to his family's parish church, San Nicolo di Piazza, to talk to the priest. It should be noted that his 
obedience and respect for priests came from their caring for the body and blood of Christ and sharing it in the form of bread and wine. In fact, his later writings contain more references to the divine gift of the Eucharist than to the pursuit of poverty.

In seeking direction, they asked the priest to perform a sortes biblicae, a not-really sanctioned Church practice but common with the laity. It was the opening of a book of gospels at random to find the verse that reveals God's will. The three verses the priest opened to were:

Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: then come, follow me.
                                      Mark 10:21

Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic.
                                      Luke 9:3

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

                                     Luke 9:23

And so together with Francis, the men began to followed Jesus Christ. Francis attracted more followers. Then upon the advice of Bishop Guido, he traveled to Rome with some of them to ask permission of the pope to base their new order on those three gospel passages. The pope granted his permission and gave them an extra assignment to "preach penitence." Their order would eventually be known as the Franciscan Order of Friar Minors (lesser brothers).

Meanwhile, Clare led a life filled with prayer and good works for the poor along with her sisters and mother. She weaved, embroidered, and listened as her friends talked about love and future husbands chosen by fathers.

Clare’s father arranged a marriage for her with a young man from a politically strong family. The alliance would provide the protection they’d need to keep the family safe during times when battles over land were frequent. At 15, the expected age of marriage, Clare refused to marry. Not because she didn’t like the young man, but because she believed her path somehow led to Jesus.

For the next three years, her father talked, threatened, talked some more, and waited for Clare to change her mind. Clare fed the poor, embroidered, watched her friends marry, shared their joy in their new babies, and prayed for direction.

Clare most likely heard about Francis from her cousin, Bernard, and wanted to meet him to discuss her spiritual path. Without her parent's awareness, she was chaperoned by Lady Bona Di Guelfuccio for several meetings with Francis.

Like the many brothers who had gathered around Francis, she wanted to join him in following Jesus. She and Francis spoke at length about her path. The reality was that a woman could not join the friars minors, as their life of roaming, day laboring, and sometimes begging was too dangerous. Clare understood this to be true. They prayed together and it's said that they were surrounded by a Holy light during their prayers. Clare returned home and prayed some more.

Clare wanted to give herself to Jesus by taking holy vows, but she didn’t want to be a part of a rich convent. Like Francis and the friars minor, she wanted to rely only on God. She also wanted to care for the brothers, lepers, and those in need. One day it came to her that her place was at home in the house of the Lord. Like a mother, she’d stay at home waiting for her sons.

She met with Francis again and he agreed with her vision and arranged for her to live at the rebuilt church of San Damiano. (At this point, his homebase was the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a church belonging to the nearby Benedictine Monastery. They had given it to Francis for his Order and in support of his good works.)

At the Palm Sunday service that Clare attended at San Rufino with her family, Bishop Guido handed her a palm branch himself possibly indicating his approval of their plan. 

On the chosen night, Clare slipped out of her home through an underused service door primarily in place for the removal of corpses. The symbolism of dying to her old life was probably just as necessary for her as it was to remain unseen during her escape. Her sister Pacifica escorted her to Francis where Clare ceremonially removed her fancy outer garment and replaced it with a simple frock. She took holy vows of marriage to Jesus Christ. Francis cut her hair as he did for the friars minor.

She was then escorted to a Benediction convent to remain briefly for her protection. Her family found her there and tried to remove her by force. But her short hair and words convinced her family that Clare's return to home and an arranged marriage would never happen.

When she entered her new home at San Damiano, she was joined by her sister, St. Agnes. Then just as Francis attracted brothers, Clare attracted more sisters who devoted themselves to Jesus. They weaved and embroidered items to sell for the benefit of the poor, begged for their daily bread, and cared for the lepers and others in need.   

For about a year, Francis helped Clare create rules for her order and gain permissions from the Church.

Clare's love for Jesus developed into a mother's love for her son. Her gratitude to God the Father for the gift of the Baby Jesus, made her the mother and caretaker of all -- her sisters, the poor, the sick, the brothers, and Francis. He was the head of her Order until she agreed at age 21 to become the Mother Superior, and she cared for him in his final illness. Interestingly, the contact between them during the inbetween years was limited, as if their mutual esteem could be silent because it was so trusted.

After his death, she remained the abbess or Mother Superior of the Poor Ladies and fought for their right to a life of sacrificial love for Jesus. The pope appreciated her spiritual gifts and wanted to make her life and the life of her followers easier. She refused. In fact, she followed a Lenten fast for the rest of her life, breaking it only on feast days or when she was very ill.

And she was ill for most of her remaining 27 years. But she was a joyful mother, always ready to care for those in need. She especially cared for her sisters in Christ and embraced them with her words and joyful spirit. At age 59, when she lay dying, she looked up at all the sad and loving faces surrounding her bedside and said, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for He that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be Thou, O God, for having created me.”

Oh God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Clare, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
                      Collect, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints


St. Clare Biography
Clare and Francis: A film produced by Ignatius Press

It could be said that St. Clare was more practical-minded that St. Francis because she was a woman. There. I've said it.

Young Francis gave away his family's bread to the poor. Bread of the nobility was baked with expensive white flour and usually served along with a hearty meal. It was not nutritious enough for the poor who had nothing else to eat.

St. Clare and her sisters, used their needlework earnings to purchase everyday, economical ingredients such as whole grain flour to cook for the poor and ill who depended on them. Also, local peasants provided simply farm cooking as alms for the sisters to hand out as well.

St. Clare provided a substantial whole wheat bread to her sisters, the poor, and to the priest for the Communion Table in the Church of San Damiano. 

In honor of Saint Clare, the loving parent, bake this bread and share it widely.


(More photos below.)


1 package dry active yeast (not “Quick,” “Rapid Rise,” or “Pizza”) 
½ cup water heated to 100 or 110 degrees F (check with candy thermometer) 
1 teaspoon sugar

1 ½ cups bread flour, lightly packed and leveled
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour, lightly packed and leveled
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup room temperature water

¼ cup bread flour
½ tablespoon olive oil


  1. Heat water in pot on stove until temperature reaches between 100 to 110 degrees F. Pour ½ cup into liquid measuring cup. Add yeast. Stir. Add sugar. Stir and wait 10 minutes to proof the yeast.
   2. Place bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and brown sugar into a large bowl and whisk with fork.
   3. After 10 minutes, foam should have developed on top indicating that the yeast is proofed or alive. Add olive oil and water. Stir.
   4. Slowly add to dry ingredients in bowl. Using clean hands, mix gradually until all the liquid is absorbed.
 5. Wash and dry hands. Sprinkle flour onto a clean, flat surface and on the sticky ball of dough. Knead (squish, mash, push, pull) the dough for 7 minutes. If hands get too sticky, “wash” them with more flour.
  6. Place dough in a large glass or oven-safe bowl coated with olive oil. Roll dough ball around until it’s coated with olive oil. Cover bowl with a damp towel.
  7. Heat oven to “warm,” place bowl in oven, then TURN OVEN OFF. Proof until dough has doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.
  8. Once the dough has risen, “wash” hands in olive oil then punch dough down to remove the air.
 9. Form dough into a large, one-inch thick disk, (or a few small disks). Place on parchment paper-covered cookie sheet.
10. With a sharp knife, cut a deep Cross line into loaf or loaves.
11. Place in oven to proof to double size again. About 1 hour.
12. Without removing bread, turn oven on to 350 degrees F.
13. Bake for about 12 minutes until slightly golden.
14. Cool on a wire rack.
15. Share at the Communion Table or while communing with family and friends over dinner.

Optional: Offer to provide this soft, non-crumbly bread for use at Communion during youth, healing, or Saturday evening services.