Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hallelujah, Anyhow!

You know how different denominations of churches have different behaviors and words that are particular to themselves?  I'm not saying one is better than another just noting that there are some differences in that some are quiet and simple and others are more vocal and physically active in their worship services.  I'm thinking about the hands raised to welcome in the Spirit of the Lord, the swaying back and forth, and fervent audible 'Amens' spoken in agreement with points of the sermon in what's typically thought of as a 'Black Church.'  Anyway, that's the observation of a simple white girl...

My church is much more on the quiet and simple side of the spectrum.  The main worship meeting consists of a couple of hymns, a communion service where the sacrament is passed to the congregation, and a speaker or two drawn from the congregation.  Once a month, the pulpit is opened up for anyone who feels the urging of the Spirit to share a brief testimony.

And, in my congregation, each month there is one particular woman who does so.  It's obvious her background has been in a more vociferous church because she approaches it just a little bit differently.  And I mean that in a very good and refreshing way!  One time she sang her testimony to us very soulfully.  And another Sunday, she told us about sitting down to watch a news program the night before and it was all doom and gloom with the stories being pretty exclusively those of murder, rape, robbery and political corruption.  She was starting to feel down about it, but then caught herself and declared "Hallelujah, anyhow!"  She went on to talk about some other things that happened the same day that could have been very depressing but she chose to greet them with the same enthusiastic "Hallelujah, anyhow!"

I love that attitude!  It's one I'd like to develop in myself... the ability to look at anything going on around me and declare, no matter how terrible it is, "Hallelujah, anyhow!"  It kind of goes along with these song lyrics that spoke to my soul a few days ago.

I know there's a lot of versions of this song out there, some probably more worthy of a listen than others.  Many of them are attributed to Leonard Cohen, as is this one, and curiously the lyrics vary between them on some of the verses.  I don't know which is authentic but I like this one.  And I like these particular words in it:

"There's a blaze of light in every word...
It doesn't matter which you heard -
The Holy or the broken Hallelujah."

I've made no secret that lately I've felt quite too acquainted with "broken" and doing a lot of exploring on personal, physical and spiritual realms trying to put all the pieces back together in an even better way.  Maybe a good way of saying that is that I'm seeking out the "Holy Hallelujah" times in life and find the sweet sister at Church to be an inspiration.

So whatever today brings... Hallelujah, anyhow!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Crawfish Boil

Do you call them Crawfish, Mud Bugs, or Crayfish?  All the same thing just depends, I guess, on where you are from.

Raw (live) crawfish pre-boil.
Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.
I remember my Dad pulling a few Crayfish out of Wolverine Creek when we'd go camping up there when I was a kid.  They were considerably bigger, at least in my memory, than those we had last night but they weren't something we ever ate.  I think I was aware that you could eat them, but we didn't.  I just played with them and brought a few home in a bucket of water to try to make into pets.  Poor tortured creatures...

This is how we spent Easter this year!!  Last night was my first boil.  Hard to believe I made it so far through life with virgin taste buds, huh?  It was really quite yummy!!  And I'm excited to do it again!

Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.
Using big pots that sit over a propane-fueled flame (think turkey fryer only twice as big - at least twice the size of ours) you mix up some peppery crab boil with water, beer or some combination of those liquids.  The brand name on the boil was Zatarain's.  Old Bay is another.  (And if I understand it all, Old Bay is more what you'd find in Maryland and Virginia and the more northern part of the coastal region while Zatarain's is a spicier New Orleans style boil.  Both are good, in my estimation, but the spices are a little bit different.)

Ready to peel and eat!
Photo courtesy of Dana Reynolds.
To your boiling liquid you add a few pounds of Crawfish, stir them around with a long wooden paddle, and let them cook.  Then they are skimmed out and left to cool until you can handle them.  You eat them by twisting the head off, and sucking the juice out of it, and then you peel back the first ring on the tail and devein it and using your lips and teeth pull the meat out.  They are delicious!!  But it's a lot of work for only a little reward...

Once the Crawfish are cooked, you do the vegetables, sausages and hot dogs.  We had a combination of whole red potatoes, corn cobettes, artichokes, carrot chunks, brussel sprouts, cabbage wedges, giant button mushrooms, and whole pineapples.  The pineapples were the biggest surprise to me!  And an insanely yummy item to include!!  They came out soft, sweet and tangy with just the occasional hint of saltiness and spice.  It was so unusual and unexpected and acted almost as a palate cleanser when the spice overwhelmed you from the other foods and you needed to cool your mouth down enough to feel your lips again.

Getting the veggies ready to cook.
Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.
We also had some raw veggies and bread and things like that to nibble and several different cakes and cookies for dessert.  And there was dancing and singing along to the music and games to be played and lots of talk around the firepit once it started to get dark.
Our host's backyard firepit... The big metal bowl
features fleur de lis cut outs.  This family are all BIG Saints fans!
One made this way is on my wish list for our someday backyard!
Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.

It was really a wonderful evening!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Leaving Church

Before anyone gets their feathers in a needless kerfluffle... that's the title of the book I'm reading with my friend Renee.  I'm not making plans to leave my religion behind.  At least not just yet.  It's a memoir by Barbara Brown Taylor who used to be an Episcopalian priest and walks through her journey to a decision to give up pastorship of a small church in North Georgia.  Any pastorship, really, since she's teaching college now instead of preaching Sunday sermons.

On the surface, I'd have to say we don't have a whole lot in common.  We're different ages, with different interests, and different calls to serve... but her words paint such vivid pictures and speak directly to my battered soul in a way that makes me feel like I've found a true kindred spirit.  I'm only 75 pages into the book and already I would give it my wholehearted recommendation.

Actually it's on pages 74 and 75 that she describes the place I am in my spiritual journey in words I can only sit back and covet.  They are the words I wish were mine.  They make that perfect of a description even though she's speaking from her perspective as a pastor.  She says, "On my worst nights I lay in bed feeling like a single parent, unable to sleep because I knew I did not have enough love in me to go around.  God was the boundless lover, but for many people God was the parent who had left.  They still read about Him in the Bible and sang about Him in hymns.  They still believed in His reality, which made it even harder to accept his apparent lack of interest in them.  They waited for messages from Him that did not arrive.  They prepared their hearts for meetings that never happened.  They listened to other Christians speak as if God showed up every night for supper, leaving them to wonder what they had done wrong to make God go off and start another family.

"I suppose I could have helped them see how their life histories deepened their distress or given them some more grown-up ways of conceiving of God…"

Exactly... To me, in my present circumstances, He feels very much like the parent who turned away and walked out.  (Or at least I feel like how I imagine an abandoned child feels since my experience with that is thankfully only indirect.  When we were 7, my best friend's mother walked out in the middle of the night.  April was my age and she had 2 younger brothers.  What I remember about it most vividly is the many days her face was tear-stained while she was left to wonder where her mommy was at and why she wasn't loved and wanted any more.  I don't know what words were exchanged between April's parents, just that it was several years before she had any contact with her mom again and that her dad was not well-equipped to raise 3 small children on his own.  Even being that young the details of her life made me sad and looking back at them from my adult perspective explain much about the parenting decisions she made with her own children.)

What struck most in this passage was Ms. Taylor's suggestion that my conception of God as a missing parental figure is immature.

On the one hand I'm going to take that as a valid criticism and seek out examples of how a grown-up handles this relationship.  Maybe my relationship with Him does need to change.  Maybe the very way I view Him needs to shift.

On the other, I'm going to back pedal a little bit.

Of all the names that God is known by, the one He has specifically asked us to use in addressing him is 'Father.'  Does that not designate ours as a Parent/child relationship?  And as part of a Church culture that makes a big deal out of keeping the traditional family unit whole, does that not grant me the expectation of an engaged and involved Father?

Am I just being a petulant bratty child?  Do I need to just grow up spiritually?  How does one do that?  Where can I look for realistic examples?  Is my conception of God as my literal spiritual Father wrongly interpreted?