I’ve had the urge to update these pages, and have started a number of posts only to leave them languishing in the drafts folder. Too much to say right now and an inability to say it. As I prepare to say goodbye to Tiny Church, emotions are right at the surface. I feel gangly and prickly. I climbed into the pulpit on Sunday with a page missing from my sermon. As I pronounced the benediction, my throat got a weird scratchy tickle in it from the dry air, which brought tears to my eyes, which made it seem like I was crying, but I wasn’t, except just physiologically. But then I was, a little.
I want to write but the words do not come. This is frightening when one has made a decision to write as one’s primary vocation. And when you’re not writing, it looks like everyone else is. Everyone.
I seem to be called to trust that the words will come, and to put myself into places and conversations that are plump and abundant and maybe daring and see what happens. I seem to be called to plant seeds and ingest nourishing things and not worry about output at this particular moment. I think and hope I’m reading this right.
So during this time of collecting and breathing and grieving and changing, allow me to share unformed thoughts and tidbits in this space that knock me over. Here is today’s offering: a video of an excerpt of David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005.
You get to decide how you’re gonna see.
You will look at the video length of 9:22 and wonder whether you have that kind of time and attention. And when you start watching you won’t want to stop.
This recipe is adapted from the great Gimme Some Oven. I was feeling lazy this morning and didn’t zest the orange, but my dried cranberries were the orange cranberries from Trader Joe’s, so—just as zesty!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (or omit and use Trader Joe’s orange cranberries)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (for the non-lazy)
1/4 cup orange juice
To Make The Muffins:
Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Grease a 12-count muffin pan or prepare with baking cups; set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg until combined, about 20 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk until the mixture is thick and thoroughly combined. Stir in the orange zest until evenly distributed. Slowly whisk the vanilla and butter into the mixture until combined. Add half the sour cream, whisking until just combined, repeat with the remaining sour cream.
Add the flour to the sour cream mixture and fold with a spatula until the batter comes together. Add the cranberries and continue folding the mixture until the berries are evenly distributed. Do not overmix.
Evenly divide the batter in between the cups of the muffin pan (about 3 tablespoons of batter per cup). Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the muffins to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes before glazing.
Mix glaze ingredients together. Spoon on top of the warm muffins prior to eating. Store extra gaze for the leftovers!
My latest is Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. I love her picture book Show Way (and have used it in retreats), so I’ve been excited about this one for a while. Woodson writes this one in verse, simple yet lovely.
Here’s a favorite piece—I actually used it in my sermon in South Carolina on Sunday about the baptism of Jesus and what it means to be called “beloved.”
Some Fridays, we walk to downtown Greenville where there are some clothing stores, some restaurants, a motel and the five-and-dime store but my grandmother won’t take us into any of those places anymore. Even the five-and-dime, which isn’t segregated now but where a woman is paid, my grandmother says, to follow colored people around in case they try to steal something. We don’t go into the restaurants because they always seat us near the kitchen. When we go downtown, we go to the fabric store, where the white woman knows my grandmother from back in Anderson, asks, How’s Gunnar doing and your girls in New York? She rolls fabric out for my grandmother to rub between her fingers. They discuss drape and nap and where to cinch the waist on a skirt for a child. At the fabric store, we are not Colored or Negro. We are not thieves or shameful or something to be hidden away. At the fabric store, we’re just people.
I’ve written and presented a good bit about the theology and practice of improvisation. To be precise, I’ve thought and read a lot about the theology of it, and am still a real amateur of the latter. Yet it’s one of the best metaphors for life that this recovering control freak has stumbled upon.
Starting in February I’ll be embarking on a major improvisation. I am leaving my post as pastor of Tiny Church in order to focus my vocational energies on writing, speaking to churches and groups, and doing some writing/editing consulting work for a non-profit or two. This is my attempt to say “yes-and” to this work I’ve been doing for the past couple of years–work that continues to deepen, widen, and beckon.
While there is great joy in this new endeavor, the path is not clear. I don’t have a ten-year plan or even a ten-month plan. Yes, there will be lots of thought and intention going into this new chapter, but my hope is to be open and flexible to learnings and opportunities as they arise.
But I need practice in this. I need to hone my improvisational chops. And DC-area folk, you’re invited! Here’s an invitation from Ashley Goff, a friend and co-conspirator on this improvisational journey. From Facebook:
Church of the Pilgrims is hosting an all-day intensive on the practice of improv on January 20th from, roughly, 9:30-3pm. The intensive will be led by my improv-guru, Andrew Wassenich. Why an all-day intensive on improvisation? Life is improv. The work of Jesus was improv. The Holy Spirit is improv. The Church has a lot to learn about improv. We will spend the day engaging in improv games, Bible study using improv techniques, and group/personal reflection on what improv unlocks within us. Perfect for Epiphany. Cost is $50 and lunch is included. Space is limited. Connect with me via FB comment, FB message, or email.
Get in touch with me if you’re interested; we’d love to have you.
The traffic outside was frightful thanks to snow that hit at just the wrong time… Schools were open but it was treacherous for buses, walkers and drivers alike. So I opted to keep the kids home, but not before baking some “sorry you have to go to school” muffins.
Here they are. Adapted from The Ultimate Muffin Book by Weinstein and Scarbrough
1/2 c. chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (which I just realized I forgot. Oh well)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line 12 muffin cups.
Make the filling: Combine nuts, 3 tablespoons of the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small bowl; set aside.
Whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and remaining salt.
In a separate bowl combine remaining butter, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Fold wet ingredients into dry.
Fill muffin cups 1/2 full with batter; level off the batter. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each muffin cup; top off with the remaining batter.