What does green spaghetti sauce have to do with tithing?

Chopping parsley and smashing  garlic cloves the other day, my mind wandered to a desert monastery I used to visit in California.  The  recipe from This Good Food (French Vegetarian Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen) probably led me along this path as my my gluten free spaghetti noodles bubbled on the stove.

The meals I had the good fortune to share at the monastery were simple and usually vegetarian.  The thing I remember most is the loving way it always was laid out for us guests and the monks as we all congregated in the dining room.  Seated at the long tables, enjoying maybe a simple vegetable soup or possibly an  egg dish or some fish, it always felt so nourishing to the soul as well as to the body.

This monastery houses Catholic Benedictine monks, but thoughts expressed by a Buddhist monk came to mind as my parsley and garlic became more and more aromatic in the hot olive oil.  I don’t recall the exact words, but Thich Nhat Hanh had a simple suggestion that has stuck in the back of my mind several years since I read it.  He was talking about the spiritual value of seeking out sources of food that were grown or prepared mindfully with respect.  He said it may be that it would cost more, but you could make up for the extra expense by eating less.

My choice to make spaghetti with green sauce is not related to the source of the food,  but it is related to the idea of eating a little less–or, in this case, cooking with fewer ingredients for a less expensive  meal. I am not on a weight loss program, but my budget is on a diet.  I have already had to keep a close watch on my pennies, but now I have made the decision to tithe.

My idea of tithing thus far has been to look at my budget after taking care of my monthly expenses,  and then include my church donation in the budgeting of what remains.  I felt pretty good about doing that.  When my daughter told me she and her husband were tithing ten percent of their income before expenses, I was shocked and even angry that they would hand over to their church such a big chunk of their hard-earned and much needed livelihood.

But I got to thinking about how important this church is to me.  I got to thinking about how when I was raising my daughter and we ran into hard times, I always tried to take care of her needs ahead of mine.  All Saints Episcopal feels like an adopted family that I want to grow with.  There are a lot of needs to be taken care of.

So, I am going to give it a try.  I am not including my income from my part-time retirement job because that is unpredictable and hopefully I can make it up with helping out in other ways.

Maybe I will make some Potato Leek soup tomorrow, perhaps some homemade gluten free cheese biscuits. This could be fun.

To Sing is to Pray

I joined the small but mighty choir at All Saints a couple weeks ago.  I was hesitant to do so, what with my hearing and my aging voice and brain–but I am so happy I decided to jump  in.  I relish the work I find myself doing to keep up.

I managed to find my voice recorder in one of the boxes I had not yet unpacked from my recent move, and even found the extra supply of batteries.  So I brought it with me to choir practice  last Wednesday evening.  The recorder is a helpmate for my Tetris-like thought and memory process.

In case you are not familiar with the computer game, Tetris:  The game involves a series different shaped blocks floating from the top to the bottom of the screen, and the object of the game is to fit them together properly before it’s too late.

I can almost physically see my thoughts and ideas working their way down to where they belong these days.  Mostly it is just a matter of time, and they do get there eventually; but sometimes “eventually” is a little out of sync with the immediate need.

At any rate, I took out my trusty recorder and the sheet music and worked on it all this morning, and it gave me so much pleasure to sing these hymns and feel any missing links fall into place.

Singing was my most natural expression of joy at an early age.  My favorite pass-time was swinging in the backyard while I sang at the top of my lungs.  Whenever we were on family trips or “Sunday drives”  I opened the window and sang with the wind blowing my voice back into my face.

I am told that the first time my mom took me to Mass, I jumped up and started singing “Too-t00-tootsie, Good-bye”  when the bells were rung during Consecration.

I guess singing has always been something like a prayer to me, no matter what words were coming out.

At choir practice, we were working on mostly classical and traditional hymns, but one of the songs was contemporary.  It was clear that this was a digression from the usual choices for this choir.  I have to say, I love singing the more difficult work but bursting out with the simpler hymn is also a joy.

It seems that when we work hard on creating a beautiful and complicated piece to present during the service  we hope to show how deeply we respect and honor God.  But when we sing something simple, we are showing our vulnerability, admitting that we are but naked, helpless children before God.

Both approaches are valid recognition of God and our relationship with him.

This thought also rings true to me in regard to traditional worship services and churches versus the new modern Christian churches in their various contemporary forms.`

First blog post

Now that I took the plunge and was received into the Episcopal Church last Sunday, I can’t get over myself.  Part of me feels relieved, as if I have come to rest after a long and convoluted journey.  The rest of me says, not so fast.  You did not come here to rest.  You joined this gang of  misfits because you need them and they need you–the authentic you.   There is a lot of work to do.

Scary stuff for me.  Commitments.  Trust.  Confidence that I have something to offer.

O God, come to my assistance.  O Lord, make haste to help me.

We’ll talk again.