Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I learned early on in my study of the saints, that Jesus Christ is highly instrumental in the making of a saint. It’s not just the holy person’s true, abiding, unfailing love and striving towards Jesus, but that He actually takes part in guiding, influencing, and, especially during the gospel era, communicating directly.

But what I had not realized until just this past month as I worked on writing assignments for Grow Christians was how vitally important other people were along the journey to sainthood. I wonder if Paul and Mark would even be saints without Barnabas, or if Peter’s story of Jesus’s ministry would be so clearly known to us without Mark’s Gospel.

The interconnectivity of their life stories and their influence upon each other is clear and inspiring:

St. Mark the Evangelist and Sautéed Mustard Greens

St. Mark the Evangelist was one of the 70 Apostles of Jesus Christ, author of the Gospel of Mark, and the father of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt. He suffered a martyr’s death in 68 A.D. and his feast day is April 25.

Although ancient scrolls offer no certainty, it’s traditionally believed that St. Mark was the young adult son of the woman who hosted the Last Supper, that he assisted in serving the meal, and that he was a witness to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Pentecost.

Mark was deeply influenced by these events, so he took his place among the large group of apostles and set out to preach. Yet on several occasions, Mark refused to step up as a spiritual leader. One time, St. Paul rejected his assistance because Mark had left him during a previous mission. (See Acts 15:36-40.)

Mark believed in Jesus with all his heart, but because he wasn’t part of the group that traveled with Jesus during his three years of ministry, he didn’t have the experiences or know the story well enough to share it.

What Mark needed was a teacher/parent-figure/guide. So he traveled to Rome and found all this in St. Peter.

Peter accepted Mark and treated him as if he were his own son (See 1 Peter 5:13). He shared his experiences during Jesus’s ministry and taught Mark how to preach. When Peter believed Mark was ready to spread the Word, he deemed him a priest and sent him off.

At some point, Mark returned to Paul who later referred to him as a “fellow worker, useful in my ministry” (See Philemon 1:23-34 and 2 Timothy 4:11 ). It was probably during his time with Paul that Mark wrote his gospel based on Peter’s memories. Parts can be read like a preacher’s manual:

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” – Mark 4:30-32

By sharing the words of Jesus Christ in his ministry and written words, St. Mark scattered seeds of faith that continue to grow Christians.

The young Christians in our lives need us to be the Peter to their Mark. They need us to teach them the words, share what we learned from our mistakes, and reinforce their confidence through practice.

Help them practice honoring St. Mark on his feast day by preparing:

Sautéed Mustard Greens


2 bunches fresh mustard greens (If unavailable, frozen will do.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Optional Garnishes
Splash of apple cider vinegar
Goat cheese crumbles


(If using frozen mustard greens, heat until thawed and skip the first three steps.)

1. Soak mustard greens in cleaned sink or large dishpan for a few minutes.
2. Rinse under cold running water. Remove stems, and rip leaves into bite-size pieces.
3. Place in large pot with about ¼ cup water, cover, and cook over high heat until leaves have wilted, about one minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. In a large frying pan with olive oil, sauté garlic and onion until golden, about five minutes. Stir in toasted pine nuts.
5. Drain and add mustard greens. Cook until coated and heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve hot with optional garnishes along with Egyptian Chicken Kebabs and Apostle's Bread. Since the flavor might be too strong for young palates, provide the option of grilled cheese sandwiches with a schmear of yellow mustard.

[Editor’s note: The plant which Jesus refers to in the mustard seed parable was likely Brassica nigra or Salvadora perscia, which grows into a large bush. Mustard greens may not be the same plant, but they call to mind the same parable.]

I'm still laughing over my inability to grasp the fact that greens do NOT eventually grow into a bush. I mean, I had a hard time figuring out how it would work. I guess I thought a miracle was involved. Anyway, this is why editors were invented. Thanks, Nurya!

St. Barnabas the Apostle and Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Dip)

St. Barnabas, one of the Seventy Apostles, played a prominent role in growing the early Christian church through conversion. He worked mostly in Cyprus, a Greek island, and Antioch, a Greek-Roman city in modern-day Turkey. He is known especially for his works with St. Paul (Saul) and his encouragement of St. Mark. Tradition holds that he was the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and was martyred in 61 AD in Salamis, Cyprus. His feast day is June 11.

There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. – Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas was educated and had a knack for encouraging people in the way of Jesus Christ. He saw something deeper in them that others couldn’t always see. For example, after Saul, the brutal prosecutor of Christians, experienced his conversion, Barnabas saw Saul as being sincere and valuable to their mission. He stood up for Saul among the apostles who feared him and his earlier deeds:

Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. – Acts 9:27

Later, Barnabas was chosen by the apostles to assist in the conversion of Hellenists (Greek Jews) in Antioch:

When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion for he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.

So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.” – Acts 11:23-26

In the years they worked and traveled together, Saul became Paul and the more outspoken of the two:

After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company: Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. – Acts 15:36-40

Barnabas accepted Mark and, no doubt, encouraged him in his mission. Mark then traveled to Rome to study with Peter where he grew in knowledge and confidence. Later, Mark returned to Paul who soon referred to him as someone valuable in his work.

The other day, I happened to mention to my 20-year-old son that I was researching St. Barnabas. He said, “The purple saint?”

Ha! But, then again, Barney the purple dinosaur, was nothing if not an encourager of young children. My son, for one, loved him. Probably in much the same way that early converts, fellow apostles, and his younger cousin loved St. Barnabas.

St. Barnabas shows us how to create a space of acceptance and encouragement for our children and youth where they can discover ways to grow their own faith.

We can also encourage them to honor St. Barnabas and eat their vegetables by mixing up a batch of Tzatziki, a version of which was a part of the every-day meal in Cyprus and other biblical cities.

Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Dip)


2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated, strained
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)


1. Squeeze handfuls of grated cucumber to remove liquid. Place in medium-size bowl.
2. Add all other ingredients. Stir.
3. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least two hours so that flavors can blend.
4. Blot off any liquid that rose to top. Stir.

Serve as a dipping sauce with roasted meats such as Egyptian Chicken Kebabs, triangles of Apostle's Bread, or raw vegetables and fruit.

St. Peter and St. Paul Apostles & Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Peter and St. Paul, Apostles, were martyred in Rome in 64 A.D. The Episcopal Church celebrates their sacrifice with a feast day on June 29. They are remembered as great teachers and fathers of the Christian Church.

Jesus called Simon, whose name he changed to Peter, to follow him, thereby setting the stage for Peter to learn as much about himself as he did about God. Among the many things Peter learned is that fear can make people do things they’ll later regret. How bitterly he wept when he realized that he had indeed, just as Jesus predicted, denied knowing him three times. (See Luke 22:54-62.)

Later, after the Risen Jesus appeared on the shoreline and shared breakfast with several apostles, he questioned Peter. (See John 21:15-19.) John’s Gospel doesn’t describe how Peter felt when he understood that Jesus held him accountable for his betrayal and allowed him to make amends, but we can imagine. With each declaration of Peter’s love, Jesus gave him an assignment and then indicated that Peter would later die for him. This incident cleansed Peter’s heart and fortified him for his future works.

St. Paul, earlier known as Saul, was a well-educated Roman citizen from a strict Jewish sect. He approved of and witnessed the stoning death of St. Stephen, the first Martyr of the Christian Church. (See Acts 7:54-8:3.)  He became a brutal persecutor of what he believed to be a band of heretics.

Why was he so brutal? As Saul walked along the road to Damascus, Jesus called down from Heaven in a flash of blinding light and asked him this same question:

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 
He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” - Acts 9:4-6

Saul endured three days without eyesight, food, or drink in a house where he was watched over. Then a disciple arrived:

He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. -Acts 9:17-19

Saul/Paul set out to preach, convert, and establish new Christian churches throughout the land. The story of Paul’s works in Acts, as well as in his own writings, especially Galatians, has served as a sort of Christian code based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I’m fascinated by the way Jesus handled the sins of these two men. He forgave, through accountability, the one who acted in fear but with a pure heart. He healed with clear sight the one with the misguided understanding of his purpose. The forgiveness of Peter gives us hope that in confession we are forgiven, and the conversion of Paul gives us hope that prayer and communication can open the eyes of those who have lost their way in the dark.

Peter and Paul worked together along with other apostles. Paul remained a stickler to the Christian code of behavior. For example, he believed that Jesus taught that the apostles should eat with the Gentiles whom they were converting, and not follow strict Jewish laws about ritual cleanliness. Even though Peter had a vision showing him this same teaching, (Acts 10), he and Barnabas were rather easily swayed to follow the custom of the community in which they were staying. Paul lectured them and wrote a great rant about the incident in Galatians 2:13-21.

Peter then left for Rome, where he’s remembered as the first pope, and Paul prepared to travel with Barnabas to visit all the Christian communities they had established together. But when Barnabas said he wanted to take Mark with them, Paul had had enough and refused to allow someone who had earlier abandoned their mission to now join them. So they broke up and set out on different journeys.

And yet. Barnabas, Peter, and Paul all influenced the young apostle, Mark. First Barnabas encouraged him along his journey, next Peter taught him everything he knew about Jesus’s three-year ministry, and then Paul accepted Mark back into his circle, praised his work and gave him the space to write his Gospel based on Peter’s teachings. Despite their differences, Barnabas, Peter, and Paul were able to focus on the important work of growing Christians.

We can do that, too.

And when we break bread together, we can enjoy this appetizer made with first-century Roman ingredients:

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini


1 loaf crusty Italian bread
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup goat cheese
1/4 cup fig jam
1 pint fresh figs, sliced

(Since fresh figs are seasonal, apple slices would make a great swap because early Romans loved apples and propagated them throughout their empire.)


1. Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast.
2. Spread toasted slices with cheese.
3. Carefully spread jam on top of the cheese.
4. Set a sliced piece of fruit on top of each and serve as a snack or appetizer.

I'm happy to be a part of Grow Christians, a collection of writers organized and edited by Rev. Nurya Love Parish that shows us ways to grow Christians in our own lives and works.

And since we all become saints in the Communion of Christ upon baptism, we can think of ourselves as saints growing saints.

Monday, June 6, 2016


     Guideline Number 37 of the Bloggers' Code -- Bloggers are allowed to make up words. Mmmmm, compilings.
     Now that we are finished with the school/program year, and I've completed Education for Ministry: Year One in which we read and reflected on the Old Testament, I have time to gather my various writings over the past few months in one place.  

    The following three posts appeared in Forward Movement's 50 Days of Fabulous edited by Rev. Laurie Brock during the Easter season. Check out the site and "subscribe" to make sure you receive the daily emails next Easter season. You can also follow 50 Days of Fabulous on Facebook. 


As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. – Luke 24:28-35
Today’s Gospel has spoken “deep acceptance” to me three different ways on three separate occasions.
On Brokenness -- Not so recently, some people broke my heart. They didn’t mean it. They were doing the best they could with the emotional tools they had available. At the time, I didn’t realize this, so I was deeply hurt and confused. The question that occupied me for months was, why did they break my heart? The answer came to me in baby steps along my spiritual journey. Because I let them. Because my own emotional tool box needed some heavy sorting.
Before I got to that place of understanding, I spent a lot of time angry and sad. And then I attended a youth workshop and had a conversation with the chaplain. We were discussing options for my future with the Church and I said, “I’m too broken. They won’t want me.”
His eyes got wide and he said, “We’re all broken. Jesus was broken on the Cross. He had to break to share his love. And remember that passage in Luke? They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. A beautiful loaf of bread is useless until it’s broken and shared.”
The next day, he preached a sermon on this passage to a room full of youth ministers, and my eyes weren’t the only ones filled with tears. My broken heart wasn’t the only one mended that day and every day we receive Holy Communion.
On Theology – Shortly after joining my new church, a retired priest/member preached a sermon on the importance of sharing scripture and she quoted the above passage from Luke focusing on the part where Jesus explains scripture to the two he met on the road to Emmaus.
First, my heart leapt at the recognition of this passage on brokenness, and then I settled in to absorb her message on how Jesus was recognized, not only in the breaking of bread, but in the act of teaching. I knew that Jesus wants us to emulate him in breaking of bread and in sharing meals and our gifts with others. 
But I didn’t think I was qualified to share my own thoughts on theology. The message I had received for years was, you are an uncredentialed, stay-at-home mom. Therefore, you are not to be taken seriously, except to pat you on the head or get annoyed when you disagree with my outlook.
Later, it so happened that at the beginning of the first faiths against gun violence meeting sponsored by my new church, another retired priest/member read aloud this passage from the back of the Book of Common Prayer:
“The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.” Catechism 855
Boom. Mic drop. Credentials galore in that one, baby.
On Bread – Today I focus on how the Resurrected Christ used bread as a symbol of himself, and in that moment allows himself to be recognized. Jesus traveled a long, long way so that he could return home to our hearts. I seem to have traveled far, too:
Four years ago, when I started writing about saints and their recipes for spiritual living, I was particularly drawn to St. Francis of Assisi. He is my birthday saint, and in him I find the courage to be crazy in love with Jesus. More than animals, more than poverty, Francis loved Holy Eucharist because it connects us directly to Jesus breaking and sharing himself with us on the Cross. St. Francis highly respected those charged with the sharing of these gifts, and spoke often on the gifting of bread as a symbol of friendship, almsgiving, and Christ’s love for us.
When I tried to actually bake homemade bread myself, I failed two or three times in great frustration because I kept accidentally killing the yeast. Then I got it. And I wrote about my mistakes and what I learned from them. I studied, cooked, and wrote some more.
And so, I moved forward and over many boulders on my spiritual path. Eventually, I landed at my new church which serves homemade whole wheat bread for Communion and had an open spot on the team of bakers. I get to devote myself to the baking of bread to provide for the Sunday Holy Eucharist once a month and then experience the joy of receiving a piece of this same bread as a gift of love from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My heart is full.
     Do you think your emotional tool box might need some sorting? Begin by reading DARING GREATLY by Brené Brown then work your way backwards and forward from there.
Many times, spiritual journeys, or awakenings, are launched via heartbreak. This is usually because you are already starting to change and people around you don’t like it so sometimes they lash out. Has this happened to you? Are you afraid to take that first step because of others people’s potential negative reactions?
If you know you’d be heading closer to Jesus, you’ve got to go for it. Although there may be some deep transitional hurt along the way, Jesus is there with you, holding you up and guiding the way.

Break your heart wide open and let Him in.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. -- Jeremiah 29:11-13
The Angels deliver messages to me from God. Here’s an example of how it works:
Recently, while walking my regular three-mile neighborhood route with the goal of getting it done and getting back to work, a penny appeared on my path. I knew that copper is the color associated with St. Gabriel the Messenger Archangel, so I picked it up and held it in my hand as I walked on. I thought about what this sign might be saying about some of my recent communications and stayed on high alert for any incoming messages.
And then I walked into the neighborhood of a woman who says mean things to people as they pass her house if she happens to be outside. After she spoke to me, I could tell by her smile that this act gives her great pleasure.
I walked on and thought, what the heck is the message in that?
Go to the beach. Why are walking in a neighborhood of negativity when you could be walking at the beach where positivity permeates?
     Because I’ve been exercising this way for years, and I’m used to it.
Stop it. Go to the beach. You deserve the time, mileage, parking fees, sunshine, cleansing breezes, pelican and dolphin sightings, message-filled-beach-meandering treasures, and the ever-changing beauty of the horizon.
Trust me. It’s safe to release dysfunctional habits and thought patterns. It’s safe to go forth. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Oh. That’s a good message.
When I think of the term “spiritual journey,” I usually visualize a rocky mountain path curving upward. But today my path seems straight and true, “Then you will call on me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
I don’t know what I’ll come upon as I journey along, but I know who travels with me, and I know to whom I’m going.
Spiritual Journeys aren’t always rigorous mountain climbs. Sometimes the trail runs downhill to a rocking-chair porch with people who love you, or unwinds at home on a cozy couch with family and felines, or rambles by a shoreline where the sea whispers sweet somethings to your heart.
During those times when your spiritual journey levels off, where does your path lead you? How does God show up for you there?

     “The fruit of the bee is the Son of the Virgin. ‘Blessed is the fruit of thy womb’ it says in Luke 1:42; and ‘His fruit was sweet to my palate’ in Canticles 2:3. This fruit is sweet in its beginning, middle, and end. It was sweet in the womb, sweet in the crib, sweet in the temple, sweet in Egypt, sweet in his Baptism, sweet in the desert, sweet in the word, sweet in miracles, sweet on the ass, sweet in the scourging, sweet on the Cross, sweet in the tomb, sweet in hell, and sweet in heaven. O sweet Jesus, what is more sweet than you are? ‘Jesu-the very thought is sweet . . . sweeter than honey far.’”  -- St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon, SUNDAY SERMONS
I’m a sermon connoisseur. Whether they are satisfying a particular question, serving up something completely new to me, or reviving my faith, I love sermons. For me, sermons are as much a part of a Holy Communion Service as the bread and wine because they feed my hunger for spiritual wisdom.
My favorite sermons are those that show me a new way of looking at a situation that completely changes my understanding and gives me hope for the future.
Of course, there are those Sundays in which the sermon doesn’t speak to me at all. No worries, I can usually find a good one to read on social media. Or I can go to the saints, such as my family’s patron, St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon.
Anthony (formerly Fernando Martins de Bulhoes) was raised in Lisbon, Portugal, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest. Later he became a Franciscan Friar who served quietly with deep humility in Italy.
Eventually, Anthony’s superiors, including the head of his order, St. Francis of Assisi, discovered his theological knowledge and gift for preaching. They encouraged him to speak his heart and spread the word.
Overjoyed to receive this permission, Anthony became a teacher of friars preparing for priesthood and a life of preaching.
The above passage seems like an entire sermon in one paragraph – he quotes scripture, explains, suggests, and even ends by quoting a popular song of his day (Jesu Dulci Memoria). His advice is to read the gospels and remember that in all moments of His life on earth and in heaven, Jesus Christ is pure goodness.
In other words, there is no historical moment when Jesus became Christ on earth, he was the complete package his whole life. God’s gift of the baby Jesus contains the Crucifixion of Christ, and the Resurrection of Christ includes the death of the baby Jesus.  Christmas and Easter are meaningless without each other. Together, they mean everything.
That’s a perspective I can get behind in much the same way that we stand, metaphorically, behind the saints as they guide us, through their examples and teachings, ever closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In what ways has your understanding of God deepened by listening to or reading someone else’s perspective? Who was your guide?

I have three more compilings to go. Sign up to follow me here and on Facebook at Saints and Recipes.