Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Bread of Heaven


It is said of Jesus, 'You are a priest for ever, of the order of Melchizedek.' The only time we see Melchizedek in the Bible is in Genesis 14, where it is stated that 'Melchizedek king of Salem brought [Abram] bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He pronounced this blessing: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High for putting your enemies into your clutches." And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.'

In this we see the first institution of the concept of an eucharisteo - a beatification in the form of a feast. Melchizedek presents Abram with bread and wine and gives him a blessing. In return, Abram presents the first documented tithe to Melchizedek.


This concept of the blessed feast we see again after the Mosaic covenant is formed. The children of Israel were to be saved from death by the blood of the sacrificial lamb, of the flesh of which they were to feast upon. The children of Israel were to be sustained by heavenly bread, as is told in the account of the Exodus of the Israelites, when Yahweh says to Moses, 'Look, I shall rain down bread for you from the heavens.' This holy, heavenly bread was to feed the Israelites throughout the forty years in the desert.


When Jesus came, He not only fulfilled the Mosaic covenant, but He proclaimed a new covenant after the ancient priesthood of Melchizedek. The Bible says that Jesus 'became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation and was acclaimed by God with the title of high priest of the order of Melchizedek.' (Hebrews 5) This proclamation fulfilled the prophesy of David in the Psalms: 'Yahweh has sworn an oath He will never retract, you are a priest for ever of the order of Melchizedek.' (Psalms 110)


We see the direct reflection of this in Jesus's institution of the eucharisteo. When the Pharisees asked for a sign from Jesus equal to the miracle of the manna, Jesus declared that He was that miracle in and of Himself. Jesus said in reply, 'I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'

When all around Him, even His own disciples, were shocked and revolted by this statement, Jesus replied to them: 'In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me. This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.' (John 6)


It is later on that we see the full reality of this incredible pronouncement in action. At the feast of Passover, where the children of Israel eat of the sacrificial lamb, Jesus institutes the sacrament. He presented Himself as the new sacrificial lamb which was to be feasted upon: the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of humanity. The Gospels say that Jesus 'took bread, and when He had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples. "Take it and eat," He said, "this is my body." Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He handed it to them saying, "Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."


Thus the Word, who spoke the worlds into existence, declared that the bread and wine were miraculously, mysteriously, and utterly sacredly His Body and Blood, the sacrificial vessel through which we partake of the forgiveness of our sins and become one with Him. The High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek reinstated the sacrament that Melchizedek had so enigmatically given to Abraham, and He commanded us to partake whenever we meet together, so that He might truly live inside of us through our eating of Himself.


Let us remember Jesus's words this Christmas Eve, as we partake of the Holy Sacrament. Let us welcome Jesus into ourselves by our faith in the words of Yahweh, 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.' Let us ask for renewed life, on the promise of Elohim's declaration that 'whoever eats me will also draw life from me.'


Monday, December 6, 2010

On the Virgin Mary

I once heard a pastor say that 'The Virgin Mary would have been like any regular thirteen-year-old. In our time she probably would have talked incessantly on her cell phone about boys, giggled all the time, not wanted to do her homework, and been rebellious against her parents.' The pastor continued to say that Jesus, in His teenager years, probably paraded his new camel up and down Main Street in Nazareth to show off His new ride. I could hardly keep my seat.

It was the very worst case I had ever seen of a belief prominent in the Protestant psyche. In a worldview based upon the premise of being anti-Catholic, the Protestants have so degraded the saints from the Catholic reverence that they have become idols of a different sort. These idols are insistently proclaimed to be 'just like us.' They supposedly have the same struggles and failures that we have, and therefore we should fight against any guilt, because God's grace covers all of our sins, no matter how persistently we do them––for we are all, apparently, equal in God's sight. It is a self-centered standpoint held in antagonism against the Catholic and Orthodox view of the saintliness of the saints, the holiness of Mary, and the respect, remembrance, and imitation that they thus deserve.


Though we are all equal in that we are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ from our sins, the legacy of these heros of the faith are such that we ought to strive to emulate their good works and thus glorify God. No doubt, the reverence given to Mary and the saints is vastly abused by many people who turn to superstition and idolisation instead of to Jesus, our only intercessor. But have the Protestants not protested too far?


Looking back to the very first chapters of Genesis, we see the embryonic beginning of the work that God completed through Jesus. Eve, the first Woman, and Adam, the first Man, fell. God established a new Covenant with them, through which their Fallen nature might be rectified: the Family. The Family would be the cell that would sanctify the fallen human through its emulation of Love. Just as God is a triune Being, built upon the love and unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Family was to be a unit in which Man and Woman unite in Love and bear the fruit of Love: the Child. Sacrifice becomes the working of salvation in their lives. The Man sacrifices for the Woman and Child by working the soil to provide for them; the Woman sacrifices for the Child by the hard work of childbirth and the devotion of her life to the service of her Child and her Husband. The Child then grows up in this sacrificial love and goes out to begin a new family in which Love may multiply.


God, in this establishing of the way of salvation, prophesies the coming of the Second Adam and the Second Eve. He speaks to the snake, 'I shall put enmity between you and the Woman, and between your offspring and Her offspring; He will break your head and you will bruise His heel.'


This prophesy is fulfilled thousands of years later. God, His eyes roving to and fro over the earth to find hearts that are turned toward Him, picks Mary out of all the women of all the ages of the world to be the 'Mother of our Lord'. Rather than Sarah, Rachel, Leah, Rebekah, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Susanna, Judith, Esther, Mary and Martha, Joanna, Joan of Arc, St. Lucy, St. Monica, St. Teresa of Avila, Mother Theresa, or countless other choices, God sends His archangel Gabriel to a thirteen or fourteen-year-old girl in one of the most politically tortuous times in history. Paul Johnson, in his very enlightening biography of Jesus, states that Mary's whole life, as an average woman in that time, would have been built upon being a useful helpmate to her husband. She would have known how to read and write, how to manage the household finances, how to provide with food and clothing a large family out of very raw resources. We see, too, from the words that Mary speaks, that she was a quiet and sensible soul, with an intelligent mind and a poetic turn of phrase.


The angel proclaims to her that she is 'highly favored of God'. That the Lord is 'with her'. He informs her that she is to be the 'virgin with child' spoken of in Isaiah's prophesies. That she is to be the one in all humanity which Yahweh would come upon and 'cover with His shadow' and thus impregnate. That she is to be the pinnacle figure in the Holy Family, fulfilling the establishment of the family in Genesis 3. That her womb is to be graced with El Shaddai. That her body is the body which will nurture and feed the Creator of the world. That the divine cells of the Son of the Most High will live in her body, fighting disease and enhancing her health even after she has given birth, and indeed until her death. That her breasts will provide the milk which will feed Elohim, and that the strong bond of love thus created will be a bond held between herself and Yahweh. She will be the Second Eve, through which the Second Adam will be born.


Yet this outstanding proclamation is one that Mary knows will bring extreme unhappiness for her in the short term. She knows the consequences of a pregnancy out of wedlock. She could lose the support of her family. She could lose the love of Joseph. She could suffer an ignominious divorce from her betrothed. She could be shunned by mankind. She could even be stoned, and, if the stoning did not kill her, pushed off a cliff. She could be the refuse of society. But Mary, the young girl with wonderful faith, says, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.'


From this moment she was to see many miracles. She was to observe the handiwork of God in the reunion of Joseph and herself. She was to birth the Savior of the world, and to hush the cry of the Creator who spoke the worlds into being with her breast. She was to be waited upon by wise men and kings from foreign countries along with lowly shepherds. She was to flee across deserts from the wrath of evil leaders searching for her infant King. She was to be the shepherdess of her child's growth. She was to behold the miraculous works of Jesus. She was to hear His eloquent and Earth-shaking words. She was to feel a 'sword pierce her soul', as Simeon had prophesied. She was to witness His final words, securing the Apostle John as her son and protector in the stead of Himself, and she was to be present at the death of her son, the Son of God, who would wash clean her sins and the sins of all mankind. She was to see His Resurrection, which gave her the power along with all the world to conquer death.


This woman, the Second Eve, the Mother of Elohim, is a powerful figure. She is the one woman in all history whom 'all generations shall call blessed'. And so we bless Mary.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Quotes on Thanksgiving…

Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as… served the company almost a week… Many of the Indians came amongst us and… their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought… And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are…far from want. ~ Edward Winslow of Plymouth Colony


I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ G.K. Chesterton

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues
~ Cicero

O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
~ William Shakespeare

We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is “good,” because it is good, if “bad” because it works in us patience, humility, the contempt of this world, and the hope of our eternal country.
~ C. S. Lewis

No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with the gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us.
~ Theodore Roosevelt

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and the pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
~ G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Winter's Repast

Sunday afternoon. Quiet. Sleepy. The house is clean from Saturday's work, the Christmas decorations are newly birthed, and Christmas music plays softly through the atmosphere.

It is the perfect winter afternoon, and a surprise visit from an old friend creates the perfect occasion for some seasonal cooking. Pumpkin raisin cookies and hot wassail. Yum.


Pumpkin Raisin Cookies


3/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup raw sugar

1 cup 100% pure maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg, beaten

2 cups flour, sifted

2 cups uncooked oatmeal

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup raisins (or more, if desired)


Preheat oven to 350˚F. In large mixing bowl cream together butter, sugar, and maple syrup until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg. In separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Mix into wet ingredients alternately with pumpkin, beating well after each addition. Add raisins. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Decorate cookies with extra raisins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool on cookie rack, or eat hot with wassail.



Friday, November 12, 2010

Secretariat

Do you give the horse his strength, or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.… Job 39:19-25


So begins the movie 'Secretariat'. It is a beautiful, bold movie, covering the story of the race-horse Secretariat, who was born with a heart two-and-a-half times larger than the average horse––literally primed by God for a career utterly phenomenal. In 1973, he became the first U.S. Triple Crown winner in twenty-five years, and his record speed has not been approached by any other race-horse.

Also weaving throughout the horse's narrative is the account of Penny Tweedy, Secretariat's owner, and how, through her conviction and perseverance, she transforms her family and the lives of the attendants and friends who help her through the journey.

This triumphant movie is a must-see. Coming from some of the same makers as 'Blind Side', the film is a beautiful testimony of the wonders of God's creation and the healing power of Jesus.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Psalm 91

If you live in the shelter of Elyon
and make your home in the shadow of Shaddai,
you can say to Yahweh, 'My refuge, my fortress,
my God in whom I trust!'

…He covers you with his feathers,
and you find shelter underneath his wings.
…You need not fear the terrors of the night,
the arrow that flies in the daytime.

…Though a thousand fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
you yourself will remain unscathed,
with his faithfulness for shield and buckler…

'I rescue all who cling to Me,
I protect whoever knows My name,
I answer everyone who invokes Me,
I am with them when they are in trouble;
I bring them safety and honour.
I give them life, long and full,
and show them how I can save.'

Monday, October 18, 2010

Milly & Becky

Becky was Milly's best friend. They were always together, because Milly's older sister Annie was best friends with Becky's older sister, and Milly's older brother was best friends with Becky's older brother.

Milly admired Becky a great deal. She was daring, feisty, pragmatic, and shrewd where Milly was shy, timid, dreamy, and naïve. Becky disbelieved completely in all the faerie world, and yet was certain that Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy were real, whereas Milly knew Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy to be wholly false because Mama had told her so, and yet sometimes pretended there were fairies who lived in the brook and had tea time on the rocks (using her very own plastic tea set). Becky was slender and petite, with flaxen curls and big brown eyes, whereas Milly was tall and stocky, with cropped brown hair and thick bangs and big round tortoise-shell glasses, that she passively and sweetly refused to wear.

Becky lived way back in the woods of Lebanon, Tennessee, at the end of a winding gravel road that had a great mud hole right in the middle of it. Milly loved driving to Becky's house. It was scarcely three miles from Raccoon Trail, where Milly lived, to Old Lebanon Dirt Road, where Becky lived, and she liked the rugged dirt road that passed a crumbling graveyard, a long wall of tall green trees, and then turned right with a delicious crunch of tires on gravel into the Huskin family's residence.

The Huskin's house was a big, beautiful brick house with a big, beautiful back yard that was surrounded by a big, beautiful brown wood. Inside the house was a very clean kitchen, a polished wooden floor, a parlor that Milly and Becky and Milly's little sister were not allowed in, an upstairs with a thick dove-grey carpet, and Becky's own bedroom, with pink and white striped wallpaper.

Becky's mother was a very dynamic, cheery person, who was an amazing baker of cookies and brownies, and yet was rigid in the rule that Milly had to eat her salad before she could leave the supper table––even if Milly firmly refused to do it for a good half hour after everyone else left. She was practical and feisty. Milly, on noticing that Laura Ingalls Wilder in her books always called adults Mr. and Mrs., decided that she ought to call Becky's mother 'Mrs. Huskins'. But, on addressing her thus one afternoon, 'Mrs. Huskins' very jollily declared that that made her feel like an old woman, and that she much preferred to be called 'Shirley'. But Milly still felt conscientiously grey about this, and so she would refrain from calling Becky's mother anything by prefacing every request with a timid, 'Um?' Shirley called Milly 'Milly-Rose' and Gretchen (Milly's little sister) 'Gretchie-Pooh', which Milly thought very endearing.

When Milly-Rose and Gretchie-Pooh came over to Becky-Lynn's house, they played all day long. There were limitless treasures of activity pent up in the Huskin's abode, complete with goats and pastures and the closets necessary to make the game 'Hiding from Gretchen' very fun indeed.

But, above all, Milly thought that the very funnest thing to do in the Huskin's house was to transport all necessary domestic instruments outside and construct a new house. Becky, the primary leader in finding entertainment, possessed an assortment of gowns that her mother, a very good needle-woman, had sewn her. She also owned a great many toys, fake kitchen sets, quilts, and other such things that made such a game complete.

So, on a fine, sunny afternoon, Becky, Milly, and Gretchen would dress up in pioneer and Victorian-esque dresses, gather up all the bitty babies, quilts, and various domestic needs, and troop outside. The two picnic tables and a sheet draped over the clothes line provided the very perfect play house.

Domesticity thrilled Milly. The act of setting up the house, cooking a supper of grass blades and tree leaves and honeysuckle blossoms, putting the bitty babies to sleep, and then going to sleep themselves, was blissful to all the girls, even though Gretchen and Becky never did want to go through all the motions and duties that Milly felt was proper for really playing Pretend. Soon they grew bored of the acts of cleaning house, cooking meals, and caring for the bitty baby.

"Let's quit playing House and go play Tag or something!" Becky said.


Gretchen chimed in agreement.

Milly hated playing Tag. She couldn't run as fast as Becky and Gretchen no matter how hard she tried, and it was much more fun calmly playing Pretend than getting hot and sweaty and tired. But she didn't quite say so, for she felt a little ashamed of her dislike of playing athletic games.

"Well," she finally said, "ya'll go on and play, and I'll come later."

"Hey, what if we played in the sprinkler!" Becky said.

Gretchen almost jumped with delight. The sprinkler was an immensely fun game. Once it rained when they were playing in the sprinkler, and they had all experienced the terrific terror of almost getting lightning struck. Indeed, the whole world had flashed bright red, and the grey sky had split right down the middle in a white, jagged line of electricity.

"Well, okay," Milly said, determined not to be a party spoiler, even though she was loath to quit House before she had even gotten to wake herself and her bitty babies up with her rooster's 'Cockle-doodle-do!' "But we'll have to clean up before we do, because we can't get all this stuff wet."

Becky and Gretchen groaned. It was true, but somehow the thought of putting back what they had so joyously and haphazardly taken out was not very tempting.

Becky had another idea. "What about swinging on the tire swing! Let's do the Victoria Twist!"

Now this was exciting. Milly loved the tire swing, tied up to one of the strongest tree-boughs, and Becky and Milly had thought up and named the 'Victoria Twist' themselves. They both thought the name 'Victoria' utterly exquisite.

They all ran over to the tire swing, and, gathering in a circle with one foot each in the Bowl, Becky performed the traditional counting rhyme that Milly could never quite get right.


Eeny meeny miny moe,

Catch a tiger by the toe.

If he hollers let him pay,

Fifty dollars every day.

My mama told me to pick the very best one,

And you are not It!


At long last, Milly was dubbed It. She excitedly mounted the flat tire, stood firmly upon it with her feet wedged inside, her hands holding tightly to the chains, and Becky and Gretchen began the Victoria. Round and round they turned her, till the chain was twisted all the way up to the bough. Then, with all the tense excitement of suspense, they let go. The tire spun fast, fast, faster, spinning close and also weaving as a whole in a continually bigger circle until Milly was frightened lest she should hit the fence. She held on for dear life to the chains, her head flung back in the dizzying wind, her brain reeling, the world blurring around her. Finally, when she could not resist the force of gravity in the spin any longer, she yelled, 'Stop! Stop!' and the two other girls grabbed the chain in flight and dragged it into stillness, while Milly climbed out and lay on the grass in delightfully dizzy delirium.

A noise was heard in the bright stillness of the summer day. Crack! crack! resounded through the woods. Milly sat up.

"What's that?" Gretchen said.

Becky listened, her bright brown eyes widening. "It's the Old Man in the Woods."

"What? Who?" Milly asked.

"He's an old man who lives up the hill, deep in the woods. He lives through that gate and up that road." She pointed past a little grove of mossy trees––that Milly liked to imagine as a fairy dell––and up a shadowy, winding lane. "He has a very long white beard."

For Milly, only two beings possessed long white beards. Firstly, God, whose white beard trailed from his blue-white face and floated in the wind as he looked down on the earth (or so said her imagination). And secondly, kidnappers. Mama and Daddy had warned her many times about watching out for kidnappers, and in Milly's six-year-old imagination, kidnappers all had blood-shot eyes and long white beards.

"Have you met him before?" Milly asked.

"No. Renee told me about him. He's very mean. Some people say he's not right in his head."

There was silence as the little girls listened to the crack! crack! of the axe in the woods.

"Um, ya'll," Gretchen said, shakily, "let's go inside now."

"Yeah. Let's."

"But we have to get all the House stuff first."

"Ya'll…I think the noise is getting closer."

"Me too."

Silence.

"RUN!"

The little girls bolted. They grabbed the quilts and the plastic kitchen-ware, they flung the Bitty Babies over their shoulders, they tore the sheet from the clothesline and wadded up the Victorian dresses, and then they dashed as fast as they could toward the house, the Old Man in the Woods getting closer, and closer, and closer all the time, his axe brandished high.

The door shut. The assortment of their play-house furnishings lay in a mountain on the floor. They panted. They smiled. Their hearts thumped.

They were safe and sound and deliciously scared.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Diary of Autumnal New England


Saturday, October 2, 2010

After two full days of traveling, I find myself in the quaintest, prettiest little town in the heart of Massachusetts. We have been set up in a bed and breakfast, with the creaking wooden floors, latched doors, and peculiar building structure of historical houses. Vastly aesthetically pleasing. It has been decorated in a very eclectic, colorful style. The room where we girls sleep has wild strawberry wallpaper, a bright red quilt, and varied furniture. Interesting, to say the least.

This morning I happened to look outside the bathroom window and see a lovely, rambling meadow right next door. As we arrived in darkness last night, I had no idea we were in such a rustic area. My heart thrilled at the prospect of a ramble through autumnal New England.

I hurried through my exercise, ate breakfast (very scrumptious, with Trader Joe's white tea!) with my wonderful family, and then Berklee, Gretchen, Jeremiah, and I embarked on our country walk.


Across the street from the white, colonial-styled house lay fields, sloping down to a wood and a marsh. The sky was a perfect robins-egg blue, and the vibrantly green grass next to the zesty color of the fall foliage was beautifully striking. It is so lovely how the trees turn color when the grass is still green.

The brisk chill of the autumn air, the wind, the wild enveloping us as we walked down the hill and into the woods was so pleasant. The forest was graced with all the ancient trees, moss, writhing roots, brooks, old rocks, and leaf-carpets of a New England wood unspoiled by logging. We took pictures, feasted with our eyes, breathed deeply of the good air, and I let my soul revel in the beauty of it all. The path ended in a sparkling pond, reflecting crystal clear the trees surrounding it. On our return back, Jeremiah insisted on gathering huge pieces of aspen bark, and I treasure-hunted some for an acorn, a scarlet leaf, a golden leaf, and a wild apple from a wild apple tree (that I took a couple bites of––very sweet and so aesthetically pleasing!). Berklee laid it all out in a beautiful collage atop the aspen bark, and then took very creative, artistic pictures of it.

Lovely! And now I must depart for lunch and concert preparations…

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I had great dreams of waking up early this morning and exercising well and then going on another ramble, but unfortunately exhaustion got the better of me. I finally forced myself out of bed at 7:15, and just had time to get dressed and packed up before breakfast at 8. After breakfast, though, while the men started to load our luggage, I stepped outside and snatched a bit of a walk.

This time, instead of going across the street, I explored the lawn of the house and the neighboring plots. It was beautiful outside. Very cold, the grass still wet and vibrant with dew, the wind fresh and invigorating, and the scenery just wild and unkempt enough to be picturesque. The back yard was very shady, with a hammock slung up between two maple trees, and an old well, built of rough grey rocks covered in ivy. I explored past the rock wall, and found myself in a field, with tall, wet grass, and, at the end of it, a lovely little red barn and house. I walked through an overgrown flower garden at the back of the barn, which had pine trees and pebbles all through it, and then, my socks and shoes very wet with dew, went back down the road to join Jeremiah and Gretchen, who were embarking on a walk down the other direction.


We skipped along the sidewalk till we came to the colonial-styled historical circle, with the Common in the middle, and, surrounding that, a beautiful, white Catholic church with a steeple and bell, a lovely small rock house-turned-library, a one-room courthouse from the 1800s, an old-fashioned general store, and other quaint things.


Once back, all of us decided to go next door to the historical Church of Christ for church that morning, as it would be the one place we'd be sure to receive communion. The building was just lovely. Bright white, with two red doors in the old Puritan fashion of segregation between men and women, and large, Gothic windows. On the left was a whole wall of tall, strong, beautiful trees. Inside, the church was just as beautiful, with all the historical architecture in tact: honey-colored pews, floors, and a great pump-organ and pulpit. Therein we spent an hour in praise and prayer, and partook of the Holy Eucharist.

The service ended, and we loaded up in the cars and headed out to find somewhere for lunch. Rather difficult, as New England boasts mostly diners, but, after much search, we found the most intriguing little place, called Salem Cross Inn. All the decorations were colonial, with penmanship hearkening back to the Declaration of Independence, the room having a roaring fire and old wooden floors and rafters. They had scrumptious pumpkin maple soup and salmon and butternut squash. We celebrated Berklee's birthday, which was a great deal of fun, and then we went by a used bookstore called the Book Bear.

Inside, amidst the aisles and aisles of dusty shelves, I found all sorts of literary delights. Easton Press books, old hardbacks with faded pages, a 24-volume collection of John Ruskin's works, and, most importantly, a pocket-sized, hardback version of George Eliot's Mill on the Floss, which, being only $4.50, I purchased. I cannot wait to start reading it. George Eliot must be my very favorite author. She combines the loveliness of Austen's personality, romance, and domestic liveliness with Dickens' intelligent, intricate plots and strong socio-political and religious principles. Benjamin was bountifully blessed with a rare Sir Walter Scott novel, a rare H. Rider Haggard novel, a beautiful pocket edition of Buchan's Greenmantle, Richardson's Clarissa, and some fantasy classic that's almost impossible to find. I feel some delicious reading in my future!

Now we're winding through the meandering little roads of rural New England for Plymouth, where we will be staying for the week. Till next time…

Monday, October 4, 2010

What a lovely day! The flat where we are staying is so pretty…clean and contained, a little too small, but with honey-wood floors and nice furniture and the most wonderful kitchen. It is so amazing to have plenty of counter space! It is right in the center of historical downtown Plymouth, with cobblestone and quaint shops and bakeries and touristy delights.

This morning we all put on our hoodies and stretch pants and went running. It was beautiful outside. A little overcast, but very windy and actually rather warm. We ran down the street until we came to an actual walking path, which we accessed by running (or falling and slipping, as I did) down a cushiony green hill. There was a beautiful, chattering brook that we followed out to the ocean, which was so wild. Where we are does not have anything of the beachy quality, but is regular land all the way up to the drop off, where you see the delightful old-fashioned tempest, with tossing boats and docks and foaming waves and crying seagulls. We also passed Plymouth Rock, which was quite small, and a historical mill, which had stocks in front that we put ourselves into. Quite horrid! I can't imagine that people used to be punished that way. The discomfort to one's back and legs is bad enough, without the horrid discomfort of having to hold your head up in that position. Ugh. We also passed a log cabin that was built in the 1600s, and several memorials of Plymouth Colony and the soldiers who died in the 'War of 1861', as the memorial called it, and a Jewish synagogue. At the very end of the run, we ran up some old rustic stairs embedded in the green, grassy hill, and into an ancient graveyard that was just wild and ancient enough to be picturesque and thought-provoking.

We returned to a yummy brunch prepared by Mama, and then, after family prayers, I spent the rest of the day reading and resting. Anna Karenina is so very depressing. No wonder the Russians are in such horrid straits. Even back in the Victorian era, when England and America were enjoying a resurrection in good ethics, Russia was wholly degraded. Their attitude towards marriage, children, and home morals is repulsive. And now we see that their culture is one where orphanages are flooded and the average woman has seven abortions. How corrupt. I cannot wait till I finish this book and read Mill on the Floss, with its good, Victorian England morality.

This afternoon we braved the rain for a brisk walk through the downtown, where we found the most amazing health-food store called Common Sense, where we tasted fresh-roasted organic coffee with coconut nectar and carob cakes. Yummy.


We also found a very delightful book store, where the boys found a rare G.K. Chesterton compilation called On Running After One's Hat, and a 5-volume set of Ruskin's On Modern Painters for very cheap. I do wish I could have met Chesterton and Ruskin and Lewis and MacDonald and Belloc and Williams and Morris. The 1800s era did produce such a stellar array of Christian thinkers.

We just had supper, and now are about to watch The Third Man, which is a promising spy-novel movie from the 1950s. Good old iTunes.

Good night!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What an utterly sleepy day! Woke up this morning to horrid, drizzling, cold rain, which completely destroyed all motivation. Finally did some exercising and dressed by lunch. Had devotions as a family and by myself. There is so much to pray about, I have to make a point to just pray throughout the day, in order to get everything in. All afternoon I persistently read Anna Karenina, as I am determined to finish it before our Boston sight-seeing day on Thursday. The others asked me to make tea and toast mid-afternoon, and I burnt the toast, which filled this entire tiny apartment with smoke. Very frustrating, to say the least, especially since Benjamin complained that I always burnt everything and that everything I cooked tasted funny. Which is completely not true. I have been doing much better about not cooking funny, and Gretchen is the one who always ends up burning things. So there. It was especially distressing, though, since it was the Belgian sweet toast, which we only had a little of. I redeemed myself by cooking a very good supper of sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs with gouda cheese and asparagus and buttered toast. Afterwards we sat around and talked. The cabin fever has been very persistent, as it has rained all day long. But I made some strong coffee and we all played Scattergories, which at least got our brains exercised. Now to more Anna Karenina

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Well, desperate to get out of the house this morning, Javier, Gretchen, Jeremiah, and I braved the rain to embark on a brisk walk down to the health-food store, where we purchased tea, and then down to a bakery owned by the same people as the holistic store, where we bought two loaves of fresh honey oatmeal bread and spelt bread. By the time we got back, we were soaked and the paper bags carrying the purchases were falling apart, but our lungs had experienced some lovely expansion, our legs had been stretched, and our spirits were wonderfully lifted.

The rest of the day I worked on completing
Anna Karenina. Finally did, and then took a nap to rest my poor mind. What horror. Kitty and Levin's story saves it, but even they are spiritual nincompoops.

We had burritos for supper, and I chopped up jalapeños for it, got a bunch of hot juice on my hands, accidentally touched my face, got it on my tongue, and have been suffering from burning patches on my hands and face ever since. Never again, jalapeños!

After supper, we all ventured down to the Blue Blinds Bakery again, where they were having an open music night, and a couple of us jammed with them. The bakery and health-food store are owned by a group of Christians who call themselves the Twelve Tribes, and who live after the same pattern of the early apostles in Acts 2 and 4. I talked with one of them for almost the entire evening, and she was very sweet and kindred-spirited.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sun shone this morning! Had a very yummy breakfast of the gifts of pastries and cinnamon rolls that the Blue Blinds Bakery gave us, and then prayer time, and then reading. Got a bit of restless leg syndrome after lunch, and felt desperately in need of some exercise, but at that moment we all decided to go to Boston and do a bit of sight-seeing, so we loaded up in the car and headed out.

We had a great deal of fun. Daddy performed the most skillful parallel parking job in history with the fifteen-passenger van after much searching. Then we walked through historical Boston, with its cobblestone streets and old-fashioned brick sky-scrapers. We toured Paul Revere's house, which was very interesting. Built in the 1660's, extremely small and impoverished. I could not believe the kitchen. How on earth did anyone cook back then? Especially since he had 16 children between two wives over the course of his life. Of course, since back then male children were apprenticed by 13, and female children married by 15 or 16, there were only five to nine children living in the house at one time. Very interesting.

Afterwards we walked down to the Old North Church, from which the lanterns of warning were shown from the belfry. What a beautiful church. Apparently, back before Boston became urbanized, the belfry tower rose high and away above the rest of the town. Now-a-days, of course, you can't even see the belfry because it's drowned in skyscrapers. Tragical. But the church-house was beautiful. All white inside, with one middle aisle. It was interesting to see the old-fashioned box pews, with the high walls on each side of each pew. Apparently, they were built that way because the church-house was not heated in winter-time, and so the high walls framing the pews kept out drafts. People used to bring hot bricks and hot potatoes to keep themselves warm. Each family bought their own box-pew, and the warmer ones were sold for higher prices. The balcony, which didn't have box-pews, was, apparently, for the poor. Not quite friendly to the stranger…

After the Old North Church, we walked through the graveyard in which Cotton Mather was buried. It was beautiful, and used to be one of the highest points of Boston, from which you could see clearly on all sides. No more, though. The gravestones were faded and crumbling and extremely ancient, all from the 1700s, and engraved with Old English verbiage and spelling, like 'Herein lye Erasmus Worthylake y Elizabeth Worthylake, with issue Ebenezer y Myrtle y Maude y Hezekiah…'.

After the graveyard we were all tired and hungry, so we ate in an old-styled Italian restaurant called Riccardo's Ristorante on Hanover Street, and then came home…

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sunshine again today! How wonderful. This morning we had to do laundry, so, after dressing, Gretchen, Benjamin, and I gathered up all the dirty laundry in trash bags and lugged them down the block to the 'Pilgrim's Washing Well'. It was definitely not as intriguing and beautiful and clean as the name promised it would be. And expensive! Oh my goodness. $2.75 just for one small washer. And then they didn't sell laundry detergent, so Gretchen and I had to track down a convenience store up several blocks, where the detergent was $8 for just a half-gallon. Ridiculous. Finally we got the loads washing, and then we went down to the Blue Blinds Bakery, where we enjoyed some delicious granola and hot coffee and cinnamon rolls while we waited. The people there were so sweet and friendly. It is heartwarming just being in their store.

Once the laundry was done, we returned to the apartment, packed up our stuff, and left. And so ended our time in historic Plymouth. The rest of the day we have spent driving. We enjoyed getting to eat lunch in Dartmouth, where the very best fish-and-chips in the country resides (or so Scott says). Then for supper we stopped in Lyme, Connecticut, at a little place called Pizza Cucina, which has the very most delicious, ethnic Italian pizza. And now we are driving towards the ocean horizon, and I am going to take the advantage of moonlight and an empty van seat to go to sleep.

Good night.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Milly's Hay Adventure

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Milly Rose who liked playing inside more than she liked playing outside. Her imagination seemed to run better when playing with her plastic kitchen set inside, than when she tried to create an alternate reality for herself between the evergreen trees and the fencepost outside.

So the days would go by, with the little girl very rarely venturing out into the sunshine, except to play with her doll on a picnic blanket under the maple tree, or jump on the trampoline in the windy sunlight. Then, just as the summer had reached its very hottest, the little girl, with her many brothers and sisters and Mama and Daddy, loaded up in a long white van to drive down through Memphis, and Little Rock, and Mena, to get to Grandma Jane's and Grandpa Riley's house.

They lived in the country. They didn't even have wireless internet, or fast computers, or nintendo, or cable TV, or any movies except old Westerns and black-and-white romances. They did have the church-house where Grandpa Riley preached right down the dirt road. They had horses and saddles, guns and bows-and-arrows, a swimming hole down in Cow Creek and pasture-lands with the promise of mad bulls and ticks. They had woods that were haunted by Bigfoot and wild boar and armadillo, and a log cabin where Aunt Sherry would make them chocolate milk. All the cousins lived down there, too. They loved the outdoors. The little girl who liked to the relaxation of the indoors was amazed by their tanned skin, wiry muscles, and great athletic abilities. They could outrun her in a flash. They could saddle up a horse by themselves, and even gallop bare-back. They could ride the bucking mule named John. And they could all drive the standard transmission pickup truck, even though they were all not even in their teens yet.

They were also very good at outsmarting Milly and her little sister, Gretchen. The cousins, Sara, who had feisty brown eyes and a flashing white grin, David-Riley, whose wiry physique boasted the fastest runner of the lot, and Milly's older brother, Benjamin, who was a pale, slight boy with a giant, brainy imagination, could read and spell, whereas Milly was still learning. They would give secret messages to each other in front of Milly by strange codes, like 'Let's go play at the C-H-U-R-C-H', and then they would run off so quickly that they soon lost Milly. She would huff and puff after them, her plump little face growing beet-red, her little lungs becoming hyper-active. Soon she would be forced to sit down beside the dirt road and try to parse out what C-H-U-R-C-H could possibly mean, since she couldn't keep up with them. Once she had found from her older siblings Annie and Alex that C-H makes a certain sound, and that 'church' was the only word that had that sound on either end, Benjamin had the bright idea to start spelling foreign translations of the word, like K-I-R-K. And that completely lost her.

Milly was a smart little girl, however, and she told Mama about it. Mama, her hazel eyes sparkling and her pretty pink mouth twitching with suppressed laughter, scolded Benjamin and Sara and David-Riley. Milly felt a little guilty for being a tattle-tell when she saw how sorry they all looked, even though Mama had always said that tattle-telling was a good thing.

So the cousins and Benjamin began to take Milly and Gretchen along with them to play. The little baby, Jeremiah, who was just starting to leave Mama's arms to toddle around, was still too young to join in.

The children's favorite haunt was the old barn on the Chattam place. It was cluttered with old boxes full of antiques and fiddleback spiders, rusted tin barrels of oats for the horses, leathery-smelling bridles and saddles, and, most importantly, an utterly mountainous construction of hay bales reaching all the way up to the peaked roof. The cousins would easily hop onto an old trailer hitch and tumble up onto the hay bales, stacked seven feet deep, and then they would laugh as Milly and Gretchen tried many times to jump up only to slide right back down. Finally, though, they helped them up.

Then the festivities began. The hay bales, squishy and sweet-smelling under their feet, had all sorts of pathways, hiding places, and precarious holes from where the tractor had pulled hay down to feed the cows and horses and the bales had fallen. The children loved to play tag up there. Milly, who could not run fast, and had a tendency to get the giggles so hard she was incapacitated, found that hiding was much more effective than running away, and so she would creep around corners and duck under bales while the rest had dashing races around the hay palace, catapulting over the holes in the hay as they ran.

But such tactics could not last long, especially once David-Riley found out about them, and, next time David-Riley got tagged It, Milly found herself huffing and puffing, running for her life, and falling down in terror as David-Riley leaped gracefully up to tag her. The bell of doom had tolled. She was It, and she knew in her heart-of-hearts that she would never be able to tag David-Riley, Sara, Benjamin, or even Gretchen. Especially since she was mortally afraid of stepping on one of the cracks in the hay bales and slipping down into the mouldy grey tempests beneath.

Milly's mama was a very good and attentive mama, and had read her all the old fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Bears, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but Milly was unfortunately not so good and attentive. She, though she had heard about the boy who cried wolf, and knew what happened to him, did not heed the moral of the story. Knowing that in order to not be It until the end of the game, she would have to outsmart everyone else. She therefore decided that, once everyone had run off and hid, she would scream and wail that she had fallen down into the hay. The first time she started fake crying and yelling 'Help! Help!' Sara, David-Riley, Ben, and Gretchen all came flying out of their hiding places. Milly made mad dashes toward them, but even after the trickery she could not tag them.

They scoffed at Milly's fakery as they ran away, leaving her out of breath and at a loss behind them. She waited a little while, and then she again started wailing and crying, 'Help! Help! I've fallen down in the hay!' The other children ran to help her, and, as they came into sight, Milly again dashed off after the closest, trying to tag somebody. They easily outran her, but she kept on puffing and huffing after them, running around and around on the prickly hay bales.

Then she fell. Down, down into the hay bales she slipped. She saw the golden-grey hay close over her head. She felt one foot touch the hay bale beneath and the other foot slip down even deeper.

She screamed.

She wailed.

She cried.

But neither Sara nor David-Riley nor Benjamin nor Gretchen would believe her. Then she wept, and the other children, realizing that she was not joking this time, ran to her assistance.

Milly was terrified. Mama and Grandpa Riley had told her how snakes liked to live in the hay bales, and how one must be very careful in the barn because of the fiddleback spiders and black widows that made their home there. The sunlight seemed very far above her, and silhouetted against that light were the worried faces of the other children, staring down into Milly's misfortune.

Milly cried and cried, and reached up her hands to be pulled out, but none of the other children were strong enough to pull her out. She felt as if she could not breathe, and suddenly, added to her terror of creepy-crawly things was the fear that she might suffocate down there packed in the hay bales. Her legs gave way under her, and she sank down upon her knees, tears blinding her eyes, her long brown hair tangled up in the hay.

The children couldn't manage to get her out, and so Milly started yelling, 'Go get Alex! Go get Alex! Please, go get Alex!' Alex was Milly's older brother, who, at the very old age of thirteen, had started lifting weights and, in Milly's seven-year-old mind, could accomplish anything.

Sara thought that was the best idea, and, jumping nimbly off the hay bales, took a dashing Tom Sawyer run for the log cabin, where Alex and Annie and the grown-up cousins were playing board games. Meanwhile David-Riley, always finding the humor in the situation, started trying to persuade Gretchen that it was really fun down in the midst of the hay bales. It was like a different universe, he said. Milly, her blue eyes spouting fire and tears as she glared up at them, very vehemently told Gretchen to not listen to him.

And then Benjamin announced that Alex was coming, running behind Sara, and in five minutes he had leapt up onto the hay bales, taken Milly's soft, pale little hands, and had pulled her out of her golden-grey grave. Alex, trying not to laugh, told her that she was perfectly all right and that it really was not worth all those tears. Milly did not believe him, for he had not experienced it. But she dried her tears by and by, and then, with slow dignity, walked to the log cabin, her hair covered in hay and her little eyebrows red. She had experienced her first trauma, and had come through determined never to play trickery again.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bread


Psalm 133

How good, how delightful it is to live as brothers in unity!

It is like a fine oil on the head, running down the beard,

running down Aaron's beard, onto the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the heights of Zion;

for there Yahweh bestows his blessing, everlasting life.


The psalm is beautiful, profound. And yet there is a more distinctive meaning to this poetic exclamation than what is represented in our current English translations. 'To live as brothers in unity', in the original language, is achim yashab yachad, namely, to 'sit down at meal as brothers in unity.' When one puts this meaning to the first line, the following four lines take on whole new purport.


Is eating together so blissful and important as what this psalm communicates? Certainly in our culture the age-old tradition of sitting down together at a homemade meal as a family has been mostly forgotten.


Yet in the Bible, we find that the concept of the Meal is attended to in something of a sacred light. In the Old Testament records eating together was often symbolic of the spiritual. The very earliest chapters of the history of the world deals with food, and expostulates that before the Fall the fruit of the earth was a spiritual substance as well as a material substance. With the eating of forbidden fruit, Adam and Hevah knew good and evil, and were expelled to be prevented from eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life, and thus living forever.


This treatment of food as both spiritual and material continues. Abraham, when visited by Yahweh, feeds him a meal, and is given in return a blessing and a prophesy. When visited later by Melchizedek, the first High Priest, whose name means, literally, 'King of Righteousness', Abraham gives him the first documented tithe––ten percent of all he has; then Melchizedek, in return, feeds him bread and wine, thus showing forth the Eucharist which Jesus, the 'High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek' (Hebrews 5), will institute.


Afterwards, in the establishing of the Mosaic Law, Yahweh uses food as an integral part of His people's worship. He ordained His Temple to be a place that had fresh bread forever in His presence. The people's sins were to be paid for, their diseases to be healed, through the sacrificing of animals, through the burning of meat, and through grain offerings. The priests were to eat the acceptable parts of each offering. The congregation was to offer all the first fruits of their land as a sacred offering to Yahweh. Their years were to be filled with feasts and fasts which celebrated and recalled the sacred history of God. Their diet was to be one of purity and health, forbearing from unclean animals and vulgar substances rigidly, at risk of being expelled from God's favor if they disobeyed. God promised to reward their faithfulness with abounding harvests and to punish their spiritual adultery with devastating famines.


When the Christ came into the world, He also spoke of the spirit integrated in food. He proclaimed Himself the Bread of Life, and the One who gives Living Water. He established the Eucharist as the central sacrament in the Way, in which we partake of bread and wine that He pronounced His body and His blood. This eating of His flesh and blood is the action that He said would give us life in this world, and would make us 'live forever'. (John 6)


After Jesus' resurrection and flight into the sky, the apostles, as part of their constant worship of Him, practiced communion together at every gathering. They fasted twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, in order to draw closer to Jesus. They kept the feasts, in remembrance of the miracles that Elohim had done for them. They instituted new feasts and fasts, to celebrate and recall the new wonders that Jesus had worked in and for them. They looked forward to the Heavenly Feast, the Supper of the Lamb, where we are to commune with the Creator of all, as is bespoken in John's revelation.


Such regard for the spiritual heart of the Meal has been lost to our society. Eating is a substance used for pleasure and sustenance, but not for spiritual benefit or the building of relationship. We call ourselves followers of the Way, and yet we have lost belief in the sacredness of the Eucharist, we have deserted the celebrating of the Holy-Days and the feasts and fasts of the Church in favor of secular holidays and traditions, and we have even deserted the delight that is found daily when 'brothers eat together in unity'.


Let us once again vow to recognize the weight of glory in even the most ordinary things of life. For there is life in communion.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Feast of Shelters



Yahweh ordered His Chosen People to observe certain fasts and feasts. One of the latter was called the Feast of Shelters, and in it, the Jews would pack up and go live in tents for a week at the river-side, feasting and praising God for the harvest of olives and grapes. This Labor Day weekend, my siblings and friends and I were blessed to experience a camping trip that in many ways resembled the holy-day of antiquity.

After spending a day of packing, we all loaded up to drive three hours down winding mountain roads to the Ocoee River. The weather promised warmth as the mountainous beauty on our left and the sparkling blue of the river on our right delighted us. We stopped at the Thunder Rock camping site, where we built our temporary home in the midst of the beautiful hilly terrain. After we were settled in, we all embarked on a hike through the Smoky Mountains. The splendor of our surroundings amazed us, proclaiming the beauty of God inherent in His creative Fiat. The trees clapped their hands in praise of Him. The rocks cried out with joy at His goodness.

We wound our way through the sylvan scenery, climbing a steep trail of rustic dirt, wild stone steps, naturally-occurring bridges, and fallen tree trunks. Throughout we skirted the cliff to our left, while to our right the mountain wall guided us. As we trudged through the beautiful greens and browns, we morphed into Arwen and Eowyn and Legolas and Aragorn, traveling through the woods outside the Shire, finding large mushrooms and oak leaves and healing barks.

Once back at camp, I had the opportunity to reminisce on Laura Ingalls Wilder as I experienced the joys and sorrows of frying potatoes, grilling chicken, and steaming squash over an open fire. Then eating the food out-of-doors. Then walking a ways to the hand pump to wash the dishes and lay them out to dry on a rock. I must admit I enjoyed every minute of it.

The next morning we went rafting down the Ocoee River, in gear and a raft that was much safer and more convenient than the raft Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer got to use. It was lovely. Our guide was very pleasant, and the weather perfect. The blue sky, the silver water, the green foliage and mountains on either side, the grey rocks, the white foam, the warm golden sun. The energy and vitality inherent in the fast flow, the rowing, the spraying, the splashing, the swimming, the near-capsizing experiences. As we wound to the end our guide allowed us to jump in the water and float, with careful instructions to get out before we got to the rapids. I didn't understand quite rightly, and was floating quite carefree along when suddenly I realized I would lack the strength to swim against the current and into the dock. So I struggled to the bank, grabbed a tree branch, and dragged myself onto the rocks before the current washed me away. Needless to say, it was a great deal of fun.

We came back, and sat by the smoldering ashes all afternoon, talking, resting, sleeping. When the sun had crept below the trees, we stirred from our nests for another scrumptious feast, and then a beautiful time gathered around a roaring campfire. Two mandolins and a guitar accompanied our voices as we sang hymns, and then listened to the instruments make their own music. The twilight sank deeper around us. The fire burnt orange in the lavender dusk. When the sun had quite sunk and our supper was settled comfortably, a couple of us took the lantern across the way to our pantry (or the trunk of the car), where we retrieved our s'more ingredients. The boys carved sticks for everyone, and soon we were all seated in our chairs, concentrating on the precarious pastime of roasting marshmallows to a place of perfection without catching them on fire or letting them fall off the stick. And then, oh, the sweetness of that golden marshmallow combined with chocolate-almond spread, melted dark chocolate, and graham crackers! Delicious.

The next morning we all awoke chilled to the bone. We groggily moved around the camp-fire, bundled up in our hoodies and fuzzy socks, rekindling the fires and getting breakfast started. The sun came out from the horizon, melting the chilled dew from the grass, imbuing our pale, cold selves with golden warmth. The fire began to blaze, the potatoes and french toast sizzled in the cast-iron skillets. We became warm and vivacious as we gathered around the picnic table for the last feast of our delightful weekend. It was good.

Afterwards we took our seats around the campfire for a time of prayer, scriptural study, praise, and observance of the Eucharist. As we partook of the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit felt so closely present in the rustic beauty of that mountain forest. Afterwards we remembered afresh the power of the love and fellowship that only Christ can give as we all worked to pack up our sleeping bags, tents, kitchen, and other various and sundry items. The lovely homeliness of our temporary home slowly crept back into the boxes and bins in the back of the van and the pickup truck.

But before we could drive away, we all felt that we must have one more ramble in the loveliness of the wilderness. So, little brother led us down the dirt road to his favorite rock-climbing spot. He climbed up the mossy, rocky steep, and then we all climbed up beside him. The ascent was fairly easy and very fun, but the descent was quite a different picture. After hanging on for dear life to a tree trunk, a root, and then having exhausted every foothold, I had to consent to sit on older brother's shoulder and be carried in order to reach the ground quite safely.

After this adventure, we ran, skipped, and then attempted to click our heels on our way back down the dirt road. To end our celebration, we spent a lovely half-hour on the river-shore, sitting on the very edge of the rocks, folding our pant-legs up, and plunging our feet into the rushing waves. What bliss and splendor we found in the warmth of the rocks, the cold fury of the water, the fresh breeze, and the invigorating sun. We felt how truly wonder-full is Elohim's creation. And yet this beauty we see only as through a looking-glass darkly. Let us look forward to the time when we shall see clearly, face-to-face, the Beautiful Imagination of the God who is Love.

And thus our Feast of Shelters came to a lovely conclusion.