Prayer to keep doing small things

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.


bishop ken untener – 1979

Harry Potter 5 and Ramen noodles


Amos, Helen, and I finished reading Harry Potter 4 together. (And celebrated properly by watching the movie and eating large quantities of Little Debbie snack cakes.)

We often read right around lunchtime, when both of the kids have finished a few daily school assignments. It seems to work best to try the ‘core’ subjects like math, writing, and English in the morning and then art, music practice, science, and other things in the afternoon. Harry Potter is good for a break in the middle of the day.

So now, as one Dark Arts teacher follows another, we have moved on to the 5th book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Helen likes to eat her lunch while we read, usually noodles. Always with the noodles, this girl.


She was particularly proud of this one because she added a fried egg and some of her own spices. She likes to put extra ginger in after she drains off the broth. We prefer a kind of ramen called MAMA Noodles.


There it is: our life in a coffee table tableau. Almost finished Jasmine coffee, art projects, headphones, ramen. Life is so strange right now. Everything boiled down to the small details.




Since I hurt my foot other people have been cooking. Amos has been frying an egg every morning for breakfast for me. It is amazing how perfectly he has been doing this. I cut this one with my fork and then remembered to take the picture before devouring it. They are so good.


Abbey made (from scratch! like with Bechamel and everything!) vegetable lasagna with roasted eggplant noodles. I think it might have been more for the handsome boyfriend than me…


but I loved it.


And people have very generously been willing to eat fast food meals like Taco Bell and fried chicken. We will all suffer together. 🙂



James: “I have filled the cat’s bowl with food. It should not need any in the night.”

Me: “I will be sure to explain that to the cat in clear, plain English when it jumps on the bed yowling at 3 am.”

James: “It will have plenty of food! Why is it complaining?”

Me: “It’s. a. cat.”

James: “I protest! This is outrage! I am the master of this house; I work tirelessly to feed and clothe everyone and everybeast here, and I would like to sleep through the night! Is it too much to ask?”

Me: “Um, yes. In cat world. Yes.”


Me: “Uh, when was the last time you changed underwear?”

Person who shall remain nameless, with pained dignity: “I *DISTINCTLY* remember changing two days ago!”

Me: “Oh, ah…it might be good to change every day….could you change now?”

Person: “What!!?? But I’ve already put on my pajamas!!”

Me, quietly to Abbey: “O my word. What will I do with that?”

Abbey: “It could be worse. Remember when **** went through that phase where they changed twice a day and at the end of the week you’d do laundry and there would be 85 pairs of theirs? Be careful what you wish for, Mother.”


Me: “Amos, you have to take another shower.”

Amos: “But I showered this morning!”

Me: “But then you mowed this afternoon and now you smell like gasoline.”

Amos: *Sigh*

(shower occurs)

Me: “Wait, that was so fast! Did you even use soap?”

Amos, grinning devilishly: “No.”

Norwegian Pastry


We eat a special thing for breakfast sometimes called Norwegian Pastry. My mother-in-law gave me this recipe, although it originated with a family both James and I knew as children.

James loves this more than donuts, eclairs, muffins, or any other kind of breakfast pastry. It’s not actually pastry, in spite of the name. Just a simple kind of cake. It goes well with scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon, and fruit.


2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

Cream the above with 3/4 cup butter. (1 1/2 sticks butter)

Set aside 1 scant cup of this mixture.

Add 2 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla.

Beat 6 minutes with electric mixer about 6 minutes.

Pour into two round cake pans or one 9 by 13 pan. Cover batter with layer of cinnamon and then remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


Double the pleasure

Minister of Culture at the University of Texas, Matthew McConaughey, has advised us to keep our horns up. So James is not only encouraging us, Texas-fashion,


He’s showing off two watches.

Me: “Why are you wearing two watches today?”

James: “Well, I have two separate watch-wearing needs.”

Me: “You do? What are they? ”

James: “I was planning on wearing this one today (indicating the submariner style with the grey nato strap), but THIS one is a Swiss Chronometer and I am experimenting with it. Chronometer requirements are that the automatic movement keep time such that it cannot become more than 6 seconds fast or 4 seconds slow in a 24-hour period. And, interestingly, I have noticed that if I leave it on my bedside table overnight dial up, it becomes 2-3 seconds fast per day. But if I leave it crown down, then it gains no more than a second over a period of several days! So I’m wearing it so I can continue the experiment.” (All this with a delighted smile.)

Yup. That’s my guy.



I have used crutches for over 24 hours. Crutches, let it be said, are not as easy as they look. It requires SKILL. Who knew?

You can now be the beneficiary of some of my hard-won knowledge.

If you are on carpet, be sure to pick both tips up high enough to clear the surface. Otherwise, one of the tips will catch and drag on the carpet, bringing you down. (This is bad.)

If you need to cover distances, such as the length of a whole room, make sure animals are well out of the way before putting on speed. Nothing will ruin your time like a startled cat darting underfoot. (This is also bad.)

If husband or children become stroppy, you have a weapon ready at hand! You are now to be feared! Although, best to sit down before wielding said weapon.

Very difficult to use crutches AND carry things. Not advisable. And the ceaseless parental work of picking up countless objects that have traveled from their appointed places and putting them back where they belong proves VERY challenging under these circumstances.

They are more comfortable with a little padding.


Old cloth diapers and rubber bands do the trick nicely. (Corrie thought of this one. And, never fear, the diapers have not been used for their original purpose for many years. Also, no. They were NOT our secret plan if we ran out of toilet paper. Just in case you were wondering.)

If the crutches are suddenly missing, it is possible they have been stolen and shortened to be used by a curious 9-year-old. With a little imagination a single crutch can be an oar, a tree, a train car, an arrow pointing where to go, a machine gun, a cross-the-room dog scratcher, and a pole-vaulting pole. All very exciting until your one-legged mother starts yowling from the other room.


Last thing. If you need to get up in the dark of night and go to the bathroom using crutches, take small steps. More secure that way.





I had a recent organ lesson at my teacher’s house. He and his wife live in a beautiful and well-appointed home. And he allowed me to try a harpsichord he owns!


Best harpsichord I have ever had the privilege to play. Look how short the resonating board is in the back! Almost a glorified Lute with legs and keys. The sound was remarkable, clear and piercing but not too scratchy. Well-tuned, also, which is an absolute glory. Finding a well-tuned harpsichord is as rare as finding a cat who likes people. Or a candy-loving child with no cavities.


Padraig O’Tuama says in a Morning Prayer: “May we look for the unexpected”, and playing a beautiful harpsichord in the middle of the day certainly qualifies.




To the left of our house, between our neighbor Rusty’s lot and our own, is a shrub covered in blossoms. I don’t know the name of this plant. It attracts veritable hordes of bees and butterflies.


I think for insects there is a two-fold attraction: the clusters of blossoms and a heavy sweet smell. If you sit outside it fills up your nose and eyes and ears. The pollen fairly drips from the bush.


Standing within that thick, sweet smell makes you feel like you are a part of what is happening. You breath along with the bees, vibrating at the edge of their resonant activity. It is a generous and satisfying feeling.

I eat honey (drink, really) every day in the mornings in a Jasmine coffee. (Jasmine tea, splash of coffee concentrate, honey, milk. The kids call it Jasmine coffee. James calls it bizarre.) I have (probably inherited from my mother) a mystical belief in the nutritive and energizing power of honey.

And I feel a kinship with bees: their organization, their determination to serve the collective, the way they dance to communicate with each other. Their small lives seem extremely purposeful and oriented towards creativity for the good of all. I feel that way about my life, too.

Helen and I stood out under the bush two days ago (when I could still stand – augh) and she told me that all the worker bees are girls with one stinger. Only the Queen bee can use her stinger more than once, and the male bees don’t get to work to collect pollen. I know this about bees, but it feels good to hear somebody tell you what they have learned so I listened. Helen and I gently stroked the back of a couple bees who seemed calm and laden with pollen; ones slightly slower than their emptier sisters.

We are social distancing yet standing right in the middle of many small active lives. That feels good.