Thursday, March 28, 2013

We are Easter "Peep-le"

My older daughter, while in seminary, had the privilege of celebrating Passover with the family for whom she worked. As she shared her reflections on this ancient tradition, I couldn't help but wish that our Easter traditions were more about religious remembrance, and less about bonnets and bunnies. Yet, when I think back over the dozens of Easter celebrations of my life, I cannot do so without a smile. Joy is the order of the day on Easter and new life can be celebrated in so many ways. The trees and the wildflowers have burst into bloom, the birds are in a frenzy of nesting and mating, singing their hearts out as spring blows away the bleak and cold of the winter months. People too are coming out of homes where they have been sheltered for months, eager to open themselves to some warm sunshine, and it seems, to one another. The return of spring each year is a profound experience of resurrection, worthy of celebration.

There will be plenty of solemnity this week, especially on Friday, but the joy cannot be repressed. And the joy is the part of Easter that the children best understand. The children feel it on a primal level. The stirring of new life makes them almost giddy as the days grow longer and color bursts upon the earth. They may not understand death, but they understand life at its fullest, which may be the truest way to understand resurrection.

Several years ago a young pastor introduced the Easter Vigil to our congregation, and it seemed almost shocking to celebrate Easter late at night with fire and drums and remembrances of Old Testament stories we don't normally associate with Jesus and Easter. The service ends with a burst of light and noise and is soon followed by the popping of champagne corks and indulging in chocolate after the fast. It is a profoundly joyful experience - not to be missed if the opportunity presents itself.

In the face of all this, our most abiding family Easter tradition seems tacky and silly, yet the annual ritual never fails to bring smiles. I guess it can best be described as "blowing up the peeps." Take those little marshmallow confections, put them on a paper plate in the microwave, and heat them on high. Like marshmallows at a campfire, they will grow and grow and grow. And as they do they will morph into grotesque shapes that never fail to amuse the children watching. Well into college the children I have spent most Easters with continued the ritual, and the joyful laughter. 

Christ, through death and resurrection, came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. On this most profound day of our faith, let us rejoice, and share the joy with even the  youngest among us.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Forming Faith in the Kitchen

I believe that you can find God in the kitchen. Specifically, I believe that yeast may be the perfect metaphor for God - always present, working when the conditions are right, and always causing something new to arise. The more I learn about making bread, the more I learn about God.

I also recognize that making bread from scratch is a luxury few of us have the time for these days, much less repeating the task often enough to get really good at it. Still,  it's a great idea to take your kids into the kitchen occasionally and do something that gives you an opportunity to talk about God.

Here are two simplified Easter breads you can make with your children:

Hot Cross Buns 
traditionally eaten on Good Friday


1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk


Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 8 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray.
Separate dough into 8 triangles. Spoon raisins evenly on narrow end of each triangle. Roll up to enclose filling and pinch dough to form a ball; press seams to seal. Place buns, seam side down, in muffin cups.

Bake 11 to 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan to cooling rack; cool at least 20 minutes.

In small bowl, mix powdered sugar and milk (icing will be thick). Spoon icing into small resealable food-storage plastic bag. Cut off tiny corner of bag; squeeze bag to pipe icing in cross shape on top of each cooled bun.

Resurrection Rolls
for Easter morning - they will be empty inside!


1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls
16 large marshmallows
1/4 cup butter, melted


Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 16 medium muffin cups with cooking spray. In small bowl, mix granulated sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Separate dough into 16 triangles. For each roll, dip 1 marshmallow into melted butter; roll in sugar mixture. Place marshmallow on shortest side of triangle. Roll up, starting at shortest side and rolling to opposite point. Completely cover marshmallow with dough; firmly pinch edges to seal. Dip 1 end in remaining butter; place butter side down in muffin cup.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Your child will remember these as very special treats. They will probably be disappointed as adults to learn that they aren't as good as they remembered, but the time spent with you in the kitchen is what will make them taste so good. So make a little time to bake, and chat a bit about God and the true meanings of Easter while you wait for things to bake and cool a bit. You can have them help with the dishes too!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

From Plate to Planet

Last Monday the Los Angeles public schools joined a global movement. The movement is called Meatless Monday. Each week the school district will skip meat and serve an alternative form of protein for lunch on Mondays. Students can always bring a turkey sandwich from home, but they won't find one for sale at school.

This is one of those teachable moments that occurs from time to time and provides families with opportunities for rich conversation about faith and life and choices. It's a news story that lets us talk about stewardship in the broadest possible terms.

Originally launched by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health ten years ago, and now endorsed by at least 20 other schools of public health, today Meatless Monday is a movement active in 23 countries, There are many positive reasons for giving up meat one day each week. In utterly random order, here are some of the benefits of eating less meat:

  • It's good for your body! Less meat translates into less heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
  • It costs less. Eating meatless will stretch your food dollar.
  • Fewer animals are killed and raised on factory farms.
  • It's a good way to reduce the calories and fats in your diet.
  • It saves water. Did you know that it takes 600 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger patty?
  • You will avoid drugs. Hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives are all added to your meat.
  • Grain can feed more people around the world than meat. 
  • Eating less meat reduces global warming. It takes a lot of energy to transport meat products and keep them cool.

Most of us have opinions and convictions about "stewardship." For some of us stewardship is all about money, for others it has become an all-encompassing mission. We are to care for all that God has given us: our health, our bodies, our talents, our finances, and even our neighbors and our planet.

So imagine with your child what he or she would do if the school cafeteria went meatless on Mondays. Would he or she pack a sandwich or go with the school lunch? Should we try this out as a family? Why or why not? What's your favorite meal that doesn't contain meat? How much money did we spend on meat last week at the grocery store? What could we do with the money we could save by eating meat two or three fewer times each week? How much does that add up to over a year?

Meatless Mondays have the potential to be profound acts of thanksgiving. They underscore the fast before feast concept I talked about a few weeks back. I gave it a try on Monday and it was incredibly easy! I didn't suffer a bit. My ordinary breakfast of cereal is always meatless. My lunchtime cream of broccoli soup was delicious, and my suppertime pasta was very satisfying. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

P.S. You can find recipes and learn a lot more about Meatless Mondays at their website.