Contemplative kneading

Today I made bread. I have a love/hate relationship with this process. I love the smell of freshly-baked bread, the joy it brings my family and guests. I hate kneading and planning out a chunk of 3-4 hours from start to finish.

Today, however, I was in the mood to knead. (I may have been motivated by a dinner party tomorrow evening as well.) It was relaxing, contemplative even. As I felt the dough begin to take shape in my hands as I pressed and turned it, I began thinking, “How in the world did our ancestors figure out how to make bread? How to plant a certain seed, thresh it, mill it, add other ingredients and bake it?” When I start on these paths of thought, I am overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge it takes just to make a simple food. Who first thought it was a good idea to let milk sour, vigorously shake it until clumps of tasty fat congealed and rose to the surface? And then eat that soured, congealed fat? (A stroke of genius, I tell you!)

I get overwhelmed by the questions, the origins, the “how it came to be” of it all, turn to God and say, “Author of all Knowledge, thank you! Thank you for wisdom, for teaching our ancestors how to survive, how to thrive. Thank you for curiosity, ingenuity. Without You, God, I would not have today this loaf of bread, this simple gesture of love and nourishment for my family. Thank you, too, for the repetitive tasks, the small duties you give me every day to draw me to You, to reflection, meditation and contemplation of Your Goodness.”

Then I began thinking of the stark contrast of these thoughts with a movie I saw recently, InterstellarThere were some amazing messages in this movie, including my favorite (having read The Giver and seeing the way our current culture is running): the refutation that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Each person is precious, each life is precious. And we need those specific persons to fight and sacrifice for–a general love of humanity is not going to cut it.

What does this have to do with the first part of the post? I’m getting there!

The one major problem I had with this movie is the idea that human kind does not need outside help (i.e. God, other supernatural being) but can “pick itself up by its bootstraps” and save itself. Baking a loaf of bread is enough of a mystery (out of all the plants, how did they know which ones? and to get the kernels, grind them, mix them, apply heat, etc. etc.), and we think human kind has all the answers? Can save itself from destruction?

I found this concept of humanity as humanity’s savior a very sad one indeed. Pitiable. Slightly depressing and hopeless.

We humans are not all-powerful. We have been given many gifts and have been blessed with intelligence and reason, the capacity to love and suffer, to feel joy, exaltation and sorrow. But everyone needs a savior, and we are not it. Only a being outside time and space, a perfect being, could be humankind’s savior. We need Him. We cannot save ourselves or others, no matter how “enlightened” we become, how many new gadgets and gizmos are invented, how much we give to charities. There is one Savior. He holds us in His hands.

The good life

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There is something about a fireplace that is so relaxing, so conducive to contemplation and reflection. I thank God for the cooler days, for the winter days that are right around the corner, and for the gift of fire.

“For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12.29).

“…who makest the winds thy messengers, fire and flame thy ministers” (Ps. 104.4).

“Is not my word like fire, says the Lord” (Jer. 23.29).

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light” (Ex. 13.21).

Autumn!

Autumn is my all time favorite season. Weather-wise, food-wise, clothing-wise. It’s just…the best. So here are some pictures to celebrate the season.

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French Onion soup. Thank you, Julia Child and YouTube.

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Squash and Bean Minestrone

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Mmmm, some of the minestrone topping on parmesan crusted toasts.

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Hot chocolate on a chilly day.

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Getting cold in the house. Time to wear hats and coats during school.

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Which also means it’s time for fires in the fireplace!

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Time for leaf-raking and rake wars.

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And hiking. The above are from the AT on Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts. Dear Husband and I hiked there a couple of weeks ago as a birthday present to me.

God gives us autumn and it’s beauty before the chill dreariness of winter. One last burst of color and majesty before all dies, sleeps, to rise again in spring. Praise be to God for the seasons. For such clear markers of the year. For such vivid images of birth, life, death and resurrection.

Misericordia mea


confessionalMiserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam
. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy (Ps. 51.3).

I just recently went to confession after, what was for me, too long a hiatus. I try to take advantage of the sacrament often, because of the abundance of graces poured out on me when I meet my Lord in the Sacrament of Mercy. I never understand why people wouldn’t want to go to confession. After I confess, I feel like a new person, like all things are possible. That God has given me a clean slate (though I still have to deal with the consequences of my sins). Like a dear priest has said to me many times in the confessional, “In confession, we start again. Not at the bottom of the mountain, but at the top.”

Maybe a person is scared that God could never forgive his sins. That somehow, his sins are “too much” for God. Jesus says to St. Faustina, “There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted, it increases” (Diary #1273). St. Paul also speaks of God’s fathomless mercy: “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Not, of course, to mean that we should go on sinning, but that God’s mercy and grace are boundless for those who come to ask it of Him.

I have heard priests speak before on the limits of God’s forgiveness. Now, I’m not a priest or a theologian (Thanks be to God!), but I’m of the mind that we cannot out-do God’s mercy. We can shun His mercy; we can harden our hearts through repeated unrepentant sin, but each time we come to Him truly sorry, truly seeking repentance, mercy and grace, He gives it to us without a moment’s hesitation. He loves us. Prodigally. Extravagantly. Recklessly. St. Paul says: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8.38).

Because His love never fails. His mercy never ceases. He wants, desires, longs to lavish His love on us. From the time of Israel until now, He has kept His covenant, kept His promises. After telling the allotments the tribes of Israel received in the Promised Land, the author goes on to state, “Not one of all the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed: all came to pass” (Joshua 21.45).

And so it is with us today, under the New Covenant. Not one of God’s promises has failed, nor will they ever. Because He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13.8).

He stands waiting, watching for His dear children to return to Him. To fall at His feet and say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” He will pull us to our feet, embrace us and say, “My child, my dear, dear child. How I have longed to welcome you home.”