Monthly Archives: May 2014

A ‘grace’ from the Inuit people

The lands around my dwelling
Are more beautiful
From the day
When it is given me to see
Faces I have never seen before.
All is more beautiful,
All is more beautiful,
And life is thankfulness.
These guests of mine make my house grand.

The Eskimo people of Northern Canada and Alaska are known as the Inuit and populate one of the most challenging regions of the world for human habitation. In a place many identify as bleak and unforgiving, this prayer tells of the land’s beauty, made all the more ‘grand’ and ‘beautiful’ by those who arrive as guests.

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A ‘grace’ from the Osage Indians

Footprints I make! I go to the field with eager haste.
Footprints I make! Amid rustling leaves I stand.
Footprints I make! Amid yellow blossoms I stand.
Footprints I make! I stand with exultant pride.
Footprints I make! I hasten homeward with a burden of gladness.
Footprints I make! There’s joy and gladness in my home.
Footprints I make! I stand amidst a day of contentment.

This harvest song of the Osage Indians — a nomadic people who lived along the Osage and Missouri rivers in what is today Western Missouri — celebrates the first corn of the season. It was sung by a mother as she ran to tell her children the exciting news of their new crop. The words were passed on to successive generations through oral tradition.

A Hindu blessing

As thou has set the moon in the sky
to be the poor man’s lantern,
so let thy light shine in my dark life
and lighten my path;
as the rice is sown in the water
and brings forth grain in great abundance,
so let thy word be sown in our midst
that the harvest may be great;
and as the banyan sends forth its branches
to take root in the soil,
so let thy life take root in our lives.

This blessing has its origin in the Indian Hindu contest. The banyan is a tropical fig tree that bears fruit continuously. I am told figs have higher quantities of fibre that any other dried or fresh fruit, so the fig’s life-sustaining qualities really are extraordinary.

A ‘grace’ from Pakistan

God, we thank you for all your gifts.

This day, this night,
these fruits, these flowers,
these trees, these waters—
with all these treasures you have endowed us.

The heat of the sun, the light of the moon,
the songs of the birds and the coolness of the breeze,
the green, green grass like a mattress of velvet,
all owe their existence to your grace.

Dear God,
may we forever breathe the breath of your love
and every moment be aware
of your presence above.

What shall we have for dinner?

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What shall we have for dinner? What do you want for dinner? This is an anguished cry and often heard in suburban and even urban households whatever the makeup, gender and partnership. I have a habit of wailing: I don’t mind buying it, and cooking it, just tell me what you want to eat! I’ll do the work, you do the thinking.

I have a whole bookcase full of cookbooks, and yet thinking of what to go and buy remains difficult. It’s the balance as much as anything: nothing too fattening, or fatty, or rich … not red meat again, you could eat fish just once, I’m sick of pasta … It reminds me of an experience I had when I was first married. A long time ago. I had the current notions of wifely responsibilities, which would seem old fashioned now. It was in the starry-eyed honeymoon stage, when a nicely married young woman imagined herself as the perfect wife.

That’s when I had my experience. You could perhaps call it a vision, if something so black deserves a name. It made me think of Macbeth, the part where he goes to the witches and asks them about the future. He’s already bloodily murdered a number of people to get hold of the throne, now he wants to know will he be able to pass it on to his children; will the descendants of Banquo, his dear friends whom he also killed, ever reign over the kingdom that he has lost so much to gain? The witches show him a procession of kings all looking like Banquo, and obviously his offspring, the last one carrying a mirror in which a whole lot more are reflected. He cries, What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?

That was me, realising that I had a lifetime of meals to prepare. One, two, even three meals a day, all made by me. Lined up and marching out into the invisible future. What, I cried, will the line stretch out, even to the crack of doom? 

the-taste-of-memoryMarion Halligan, The Taste of Memory, Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2004, 27-28.

An ode to bread and wine

My friend Stefanie passed on these words in response to others from Garrison Keilor posted here. Though quoted by David Adam in one of his many books of Celtic prayers, I’m unsure of where they come from originally. If you know, I would be glad to know too.

Be gentle, when you touch bread,
Let it not be uncared for, unwanted.
So often bread is taken for granted.
There is so much beauty in bread,
Beauty of sun and soil,
Beauty of patient toil.
Winds and rain have caressed it,
Christ often blessed it;
Be gentle when you touch bread.

 

 

Be loving when you drink wine,
So freely received and joyfully shared
in the spirit of him who cared;
Warm as a flowing river,
Shining as clear as the sun,
Deep as the soil
Of human toil,
The winds and air caressed it,
Christ often blessed it,
Be loving when you drink wine.

The Providore of Heaven

A few weeks back I sat in a seminar led by a colleague in ministry, Nicholas Tuohy. Chef turned pastor, Nick has written a thesis on food in the gospels. In the course of conversation, Nick referred to God as ‘host and providore’. Honestly, I didn’t hear much beyond that. The second of these images struck a distracting chord, and one that lingers.

The idea of God as provider is, of course, nothing new. I’ve reflected on the notion of providence many times. It’s this more tangible and personal image of God as providore that helps me imagine providing as more than just a thing God does; it’s who God is.

Every Friday I shop at the Queen Vic Market. My providores are many. There’s Bill with his cheeses, dolmades and yoghurts. There’s Tan’s trestles weighed down with seasonal fruits and vegetables. There’s Jago, father and son, with their ordered display of meats that never varies, Judy and her fresh eggs, Joe’s poultry and game, and that brisk but anonymous woman who supplies the fresh pasta for our Sunday night dinner. As I see each one standing behind their produce, there’s abundance and beauty, honest work, connection between producer and product, and a relationship with customers that is so much more than conveyor belts, cash registers and plastic cards. The market itself is open to the elements, pungent, and often chaotic. As I push my trolley from shed to shed, there are puddles to navigate and overflowing garbage bins to avoid. No antiseptic aisles here. No piped music to sooth the consumptive spirit. And there in the thick of it are my providores, perspiring in the summer and rugged up in the winter.

There’s something about this that touches on the nature of God’s providence. In the creation story of Genesis, God’s creating and providing are one: God creates life and God sustains life. There are no degrees of separation, no progressive movement away from creation on God’s part. This is not the God of head office, the anonymous CEO of a global supermarket chain seeking market dominance. This is God the providore, creating, choosing, handling, connecting and feeding. This is God of the pantry not of the boardroom, a perspiring God who does not manage providence from afar but embodies it.

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