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?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Music for the Sabbath

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Exodus 20:8-11 KJV

I've been asked a few times about how I spend my time on Sunday since I've talked a little about how I see the Sabbath as set apart for God's purposes.  I get that idea from the language in the scripture above.  The Lord has asked us to hold it apart and different than the rest of the week... to keep it holy.  The Sabbath is His day to give us rest from the worldly cares we must face during the rest of the week.  And if your week is anything like mine, it has plenty of cares and that day to rest from it and focus on the things of God is a welcome and refreshing break in the routine.
(Found on Pinterest without attribution - links
to a Deseret News article)

Now, I'm not advocating that you must remain in your Sunday best church clothes and sit all prim, proper and stiff on a hard chair looking stern while a pipe organ pumps out old-time hymns.  I don't believe that's what God has asked of us.  I still cook a simple but nice evening meal, and load the dishwasher, and give the dogs food and water.  I still change a light bulb if one goes out on Sunday.  I still wipe up any spills that happen along the way.  But I don't do heavy or routine cleaning... I don't go shopping or eat in a restaurant... I don't mow the lawn.

Sunday is the day we are most likely to have a long conversation.  We visit with extended family and friends.  We take the dogs for a long walk or to the park.  You know the simpler things; the ones that make you feel like you're living a good life.

While we're in the house I also play different music than I do throughout the rest of the week.  I have what I call a Sounds of Sunday playlist for my iPod.  It makes a nice soundtrack for the day and helps me keep my focus on my Heavenly Father and what He asks of me during my Sunday.  Here's some of what I have on my playlist:

El Shaddai by Amy Grant
Down to the River to Pray by Alison Krauss and Union Station
Battle Hymn of the Republic by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
I Will Rest in You by Mindy Gledhill
The Book of Good Life by The Maccabeats
This Little Light of Mine by The Lower Lights
Love in Any Language by Sandi Patty
Broken by Kenneth Cope
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee by Michael W. Smith
His Hands by Jenny Jordan Frogley
If You Could Hie to Kolob (Instrumental) arranged by Lex de Azevedo
Rooftops by Jesus Culture
Be Still, My Soul by Vocal Point
Sempiterna by Libera
Onward Christian Soldiers by BYU Men's Chorus
I Love You Son by Joshua Creek
I Heard Him Come by Jeff Goodrich
Come Thou Font of Every Blessing by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The Lord's Prayer by Andrea Bocelli and The MoTab
Be Thou My Vision by 4Him
Live Like You Believe by Jenny Phillips
Because I Have Been Given Much by Afterglow

Obviously this isn't a complete list since iTunes tells me it will take just over 4 hours to play the entire playlist but you get the idea of the kind of music that I've included.  And it's a living breathing thing.  I'm open to suggestions for songs to add.

I hope you'll take some time to explore my playlist.  I believe all the songs by these same artists can be found on Youtube currently.  Try playing a group of them today and see if it helps you keep the Sabbath day holy and set apart as a little different (in a very good way) from the rest of the week.

Cinnamon Rolls (no yeast dough!)

I tried a new recipe this morning.  The no yeast, and therefore no rising time, for the dough was intriguing when I came across it.  The bread part is a little different.  Not better or worse, really... just different than what you typically expect when you bite into a cinnamon roll.  (If I was really pressed to describe it, I guess I'd say it's somewhere between a baking powder biscuit and the more typical yeast bread in consistency... maybe leaning just a little more toward the biscuit side of things.)  But it is a lot less work to make them this way!  And it's good enough that I'll be using the recipe again!

Ingredients for Rolls:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra to roll out dough)
6 Tbl white granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or add 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar to milk)
5 Tbl melted butter (divided)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for Cinnamon Filling:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbl cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
4 Tbl butter, softened

Ingredients for Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbl butter, softened
2 Tbl cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 tsp milk

How to make the rolls: 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take a round or square 9 inch pan and either spray and butter generously.  Depending on how thick you cut the rolls, you might need a second pan.  I did.

In a small bowl mix all the filling ingredients and set aside for later.

Now, to make the dough: mix the flour, white sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Next slowly whisk in the buttermilk and 2 Tbl of the melted butter. Once it is mixed – the dough will look a bit sticky.

Take the dough and put it on a counter with some flour sprinkled out. Knead until it is smooth and then press dough out into a 9 by 12 inch rectangle. This doesn't have to be exact; just do it so that you have a good size piece of dough to work with.

Spread the cinnamon/sugar/butter mixture over the dough.  Be sure to get it clear to the edges.

Then take one end of the dough and start rolling it tightly. Once you have the dough rolled, cut the dough into evenly-sized pieces. Place them in the greased pan(s). Take the remaining melted butter (3 Tbl) and brush each roll with it. This will help make them look pretty.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.

How to Make the Icing:
Mix all ingredients except milk together in a small bowl until smooth.  Use the milk to thin to a pourable consistency.  This is a thicker icing and it will harden pretty quick. Let the rolls cool for a couple minutes then pour the icing evenly over the rolls.

Note:  I originally found the recipe on the Facebook page Canning and Cooking at Home and made some modifications to make it both easier for me and a little more defined to my specific tastes. Above is the modified recipe.