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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Moroccan Apricot Chicken Stew

I love cooking for my family and friends.

No, really. It's not a "hobby". It's what I do. It's part of who I am. I seriously love it.

I love being in the kitchen and thinking about each one of the people coming over for the evening and the joy they have brought into my life.

I love to imagine their reaction to sitting down and sharing a meal together. I sometimes make adjustments to the recipe accordingly.

I call up the person who gave me the recipe - most often, my grandmother - and offer thanks and praise for the gift of her life and the gifts she has given me. 

I pour the love I have for each of my dinner guests into the food, laughing at some memories, weeping at others, talking with them - the unfinished conversations, the ones I know we still need to have - receiving the blessing of gratitude for all the memories we share and pouring that blessing back into the food.

In my mind, the food is an adjunct to - a way to support and build up - the relationships. It's the relationships that are primary. The food is a reflection of the quality of the relationships, a way to sustain the relationship, a vehicle to promote the relationship.

If, after the meal and dessert, people are sitting about, sipping coffee and sharing stories with each other on an even deeper level, well, I know that the meal has been successful.

I think I love that moment in the evening best.  There's a stillness in the air. A sense of contentment.  A deeper level to the questions and responses.  I can hear it all the way from the kitchen as I'm getting the dishes ready to go into the dishwasher.

Which is why I love recipes that can be mostly done before hand and allow me to be present to my family an friends, with the exception of a dash into the kitchen now and again to check on things.

In that way, for me, cooking and meal planning are ritual and the meal is liturgy. 

With a large dinner gathering (for me, anything over 6), the slow cooker or crock pot is a blessing. I can sometimes even get things started the night before, put the "crock" in the refrigerator over night and then start everything up on low first thing in the morning.

Here's one of my favorites for a gathering of family and friends. The seasonings blend nicely giving a slightly exotic flavor to a standard "chicken" dish.

Here's what you'll need:

12 chicken thighs (about 4 ½ pounds) or breast or tenders or mixture of thigh and breast.
            Your preference, bone-in, skin-on or skinless and boneless
Salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable (or coconut) oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
6-12 medium garlic gloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press, to taste
1-2 cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 ½ teaspoons hot paprika (or 1 ¼ regular paprika and ¼ cayenne pepper)
8 ounces dried apricot (about 1 cup) cut in half
3 cups chicken broth
1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 lemon, cut in wedges.

   Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Carefully lay 6 of the chicken thighs/breasts into the skillet, "skin side" down, cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue to cook until the second side is golden, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker. Using paper towels, remove and discard the browned chicken skin (if you have used skin on). Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the fat left in the skillet and return to the medium high heat until just smoking. Brown the remaining chicken, transfer it to the slow cooker, and discard the skin.
   Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the fat left in the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic and the salt; cook, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet, until the onions are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the apricots and 2 ½ cups of the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Add the cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and paprika. Turned the heat to high and bring to a boil. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.
   Cover and cook on low until the chicken is almost tender, about 3-4 hours. Quickly stir in the chickpeas, replace the cover, and cook until the chicken is tender but not falling apart, about 1 hour longer.

   Transfer the chicken to a carving board and tent with foil (or a large bowl with cover) to keep warm. Discard the cinnamon stick. Set the slow cooker to high. Whisk the flour with ½ cup of chicken broth until smooth and then stir it into the slow cooker. Continue to cook on high until the sauce is thickened.

NOTE: Depending on your slow cooker, you may want to use a separate sauce pan for this instead of in your slow cooker. Once the sauce is thickened, you can return everything to the slow cooker, layering meat and sauce.

   OPTIONAL: stir in the cilantro and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and allow to heat through before serving. 

   OPTIONAL: serve with lemon wedges.
    SUGGESTION: Serve with (or over) Arborio rice or couscous and a light salad like romaine lettuce, pears, avocado and pistachio or a vegetable of your choice.  Serves 6. Add more chicken and adjust seasonings for more servings. (About ½ - ¾ pound meat per serving, depending on who's coming.)

The Best Big Chocolate Cake. Ever.


The first thing you’ve got to know about this cake is that it is a labor of love. That’s not to say it’s difficult to make. It’s just that there are about four major steps to it, some information to keep in mind, and a certain level of experience – but not necessarily skill – in the kitchen. 

You’ve got to be able to lead with your heart in this one and pour as much love as you’ve got into the recipe. Which is what makes this the best, big, chocolate cake for a birthday or any festive occasion. Ever. But, you know, if you lead with your heart in the kitchen, everything comes out better.

The second thing you’ve got to know is that this cake stores best in a refrigerator. And, I’m not kidding when I mean it’s a BIG cake. Four layers. It’s really big enough to feed a small fishing village in Cambodia so unless you are planning to feed the masses – like a big birthday or anniversary or a holiday celebration) make sure you have room in your fridge to store this. 

I don’t know how it freezes. If you try it, let me know.

The third thing to know about this cake is that, like all food, it does best with the freshest ingredients. Don't skimp on quality. It’s got a lot of dairy in it: cream, butter, and buttermilk (which you can make, not to worry. I’ll give you the recipe.). If your flour has been sitting around for months in the bag you bought it in, throw it out and get a new bag. Same thing for the cocoa and baking soda. 

You’ll thank me for it later.

Finally, this recipe was adapted from Ree Drummond, the “Pioneer Woman” who cooks for her husband, the rancher, and growing kids. 

If you have a sedentary job and don’t exercise, or if your cholesterol level or blood pressure are boardline high, or if on your last Annual Physical Exam the doctor gave you some information about diet, exercise, heart condition, stroke, or diabetes, or, if you don’t really, really like chocolate, you may not want to make or eat this. 

Yes, it's all that. Just sayin'. But, you will do what you will do.

Okay, ready? Here we go.

For the cake, you’ll need:

4 sticks of butter, plus more for greasing the pans (See what I mean?)
8 heaping tablespoons cocoa, plus more for dusting
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 whole eggs, beaten

NOTE: I don’t grease my pans with butter. I have found that sometimes it can burn and cause the edges of the cake to burn. I use Pam Spray for baking. I love it. But, you’ll do what you do.

For the frosting, you’ll need:

3 cups heavy cream (See what I mean?)
24 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces (Or, chocolate morsels)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract.


I would bake this cake in the morning if I were planning to serve it that evening or the next evening. The cake frosts best if you cool each layer and then wrap them in clear plastic or wax paper and put them in the fridge. The frosting also has to cool and thicken in the fridge for a couple of hours. It really makes all the difference in frosting a four-layer cake.

You’re welcome. 

PREP: Set the oven at 350 degrees. Get the pans ready – grease or spray them. I only have 2 9-inch pans and this recipe calls for 4 layers. But, since it only takes 20-25 minutes to bake, I put one batch in, let them cool, wash out the pans and then bake the other two layers. You’ll do what you’ll do with what you’ve got.

If you don’t have Buttermilk, you can make your own. Do that now.

Mix together:

1 scant cup milk (whole, 2%, or heavy cream)
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar

Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. When it is ready, the milk will be slightly thickened and you may see small, curdled bits. Don’t worry about the small, curdled bits. You won’t notice them in your finished recipe. This substitute will not become quite as thick as regular buttermilk which is okay.

Other Buttermilk Substitutes
Yogurt: Mix 3/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/4 cup water to thin. Use as you would buttermilk.
Sour cream: Mix 3/4 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup plain water to thin. Use as you would buttermilk.
Kefir: Thin kefir as needed with milk or plain water until it reaches the consistency of buttermilk. Use as you would buttermilk.
Cream of tartar: Mix 1 cup of milk with 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened and curdled.

So, to continue: 

Have handy a Very Large mixing bowl, a couple of medium mixing bowls, a medium sauce pan, a couple of spatulas, a few measuring cups and spoons, a hand whisk and electric beaters. 

Here’s the “secret ingredient”: After you tie the back of your apron, call up the face of the person or faces of the people for whom you are baking this cake.   

Think of one or two gifts they have given you over the years – the laughter, the tears, the joy, the challenges, the things you’ve learned from them – and send out a thank you to the cosmos for them. That kind of gratitude and love has a way of finding its way back to you and infusing itself into the cake. 

You’ll see. It’s pretty amazing. And, the taste of love and gratitude is incredible.

So, in a Very Large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa. Stir together. Add the boiling water, allow the mixture to boil for 30 seconds - watch it like a hawk - and then turn off the heat.

Pour over the flour mixture and stir lightly to mix well and then let cool.

In a small bowl, beat the four eggs. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla. Add the beaten eggs.

Stir in the buttermilk mixture into the butter/chocolate / flour mixture. It will be on the thin side.

Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cool completely before icing. Refrigerate the layers after cooling for best results.


Pour the broken pieces (or morsels) of chocolate into a mixing bowl.

Heat the cream until very hot. Watch this carefully. Little bubbles will form along the outside rim of the pan and wisps of steam will rise from the center. If you look away at this point, just like that, the whole thing will boil over into a mess. When you see the bubbles and wisps, remove from heat and use immediately.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted. It takes a good 7-10 minutes of stirring. Even then, you might end up with a very few small clumps. This is okay and makes for an interesting frosting. 

Put the whole bowl into the fridge and let cool until thick like pudding.

Add the vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer until light and airy.

Frost the cake in between each layer, then on the top and finally around the sides. Don’t be afraid to be generous. This is the BEST chocolate frosting. You’ll make it for other cakes, and/or you’ll cut this entire recipe in half and make it again and again for other, smaller occasions. 

You can get fancy and put some pieces of shaved white and/or  dark chocolate on the top. Or, sprinkle with "jimmies". Or, decorate with a holiday or birthday or anniversary theme. You will do what you will do. But, the cake really is festive enough all on its own to convey whatever message you're trying to give.

Prepare yourself for gasps of wonder and delight as you bring out the cake to be served. It makes a very dramatic presentation. And then, oooh’s and aaah’s over the moistness of the cake and the rich chocolate goodness of the frosting will fill the air and people will corner you in the kitchen ask you for the recipe.

You are entirely welcome.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Oh, how I love Jesus!

A sermon preached at St. George's Chapel, Harbeson
      (the Rev'd Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton                  

Well, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a self-avowed, unrepentant, deeply committed, practicing “Jesus freak”. 

I do loves me some Jesus. 

You might have guessed that from all the hymns we’re singing today. Just humor me and sing that song we sang when came into church, will you?  Join in when you can, but especially on the chorus

There is a name I love to hear / I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in mine ear / The sweetest name on earth.

Oh, how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus.
Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me.

You know, I love Jesus especially in moments like this morning’s gospel lesson from Luke, when he’s getting down with the people and breaking rules, getting uppity with the religious leaders of his day.

So, let me put this particular piece of scripture in context for you. The last location-fix we got on Jesus was back at the end of Chapter 10 when he was visiting with Mary and Martha. We know that they lived in Bethany. 

So, it may be safe to assume that he was in that general location – just outside of Jerusalem, in Judea, in the Kingdom of Herod, not far from where he was born in Bethlehem but a little more than 70 miles south of his home in Nazareth in the province of Galilee in ancient Palestine.

Nazareth, by the way, is not far from the Syrian border where we are watching the horrors of war unfold – especially on the shocked, bloodied faces of little children like five year old Omran Daqneesh.

Jesus has been busy, preaching and teaching and healing. Scripture says he’s taught the disciples how to pray the prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” – the “Our Father”. 

Jesus has also taught them using many parables, like the Good Samaritan, and he cast out demons in a man that was mute.

Probably because he was not far from Jerusalem, there seemed to be an abundance of Pharisees who always seemed to be lurking about, watching every step he took, listening to every little thing he taught, checking out every person he healed.  Jesus says to his disciples, 

“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1b).

“The yeast of the Pharisees is their hypocrisy.” 

That Jesus! He can really turn a phrase, can’t he? 

I’m thinking somebody wrote that sucker down ten minutes after it left his lips and embroidered it on a purificator or corporal in the sacristy somewhere.   

“The yeast of the Pharisees is their hypocrisy.” The man doesn’t mince words, right?  And, it’s still true today, isn’t it? We can all think of examples of religious leaders who, unfortunately, allow hypocrisy to be the yeast and the leaven in their lives.

In this morning’s gospel lesson, we get to see exactly what Jesus means. In the 13th Chapter of Luke’s gospel, beginning at verse 10, we find Jesus where we’d expect him to be on the Sabbath – he’s teaching in “one of the synagogues”. Suddenly and without any fanfare, a woman appeared before Jesus. Perhaps it’s just what she always did on the Sabbath. She had a “spirit” says scripture, which had crippled her for eighteen years. “She was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight.”

Now, mind you, the woman did not bring attention to herself. She probably didn’t have to. I’m sure she was quite a sight. Scripture does not say that she cried out, though she must have been in some pain if not at least some discomfort. Indeed, she didn’t ask for anything.

It was Jesus, in fact, who called her to come over and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” And, scripture tells us, “When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.”

Now, remember what Jesus said about the Pharisees? Remember that thing about “The yeast of the Pharisees is their hypocrisy”? Right. Cue the Pharisee who, scripture says, was ‘indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath.”

Weeeellllllll….. I mean! The nerve, right?  Healing. In the synagogue. On the Sabbath. 

Remember that hypocrisy thing? So, the Pharisee doesn’t get indignant at Jesus who did the healing. Well, not publicly. No, he’s quite indignant at the woman and says to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath.”

But Jesus called him out for what he was. “You hypocrites,” he said, reminding them that even the ox and the donkey are allowed to be unbound on the Sabbath. Ought not the woman, a daughter of Abraham and Sarah, be set free from bondage – even on the Sabbath – he asked.

Don’t you just love Jesus? Isn’t he just the best? It’s not just that he healed the woman. It’s not even that he healed the woman on the Sabbath. It’s that Jesus lives in our hearts through the breaking open of the stories in scripture and continues to heal us in our lives today.

That’s what happens when you let love be the leaven in your life.

We are all, in our own ways, very much like that bent over woman. So many of us have been carrying the weight of ‘oughts’ and shoulds’ for years and years – 18 at least. 

Some of us are emotionally crippled by a sense of inadequacy. Others of us are spiritually incapacitated by doubt. Still others of us have grown bitter with regrets and the dis-ease of the WCS: 

The “Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda’s”. Oh, we would have. . . . If we only could have. . . .  Still, we probably should have .. . .

If only I had been . . . (fill in the blank). . . . Better. Smarter. More handsome. Prettier. Thinner. Richer. Luckier. In the right place at the right time. 

The Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda’s of regret are lethal, shrinking the heart and crippling the soul, bending the human spirit and keeping us from standing in “the full stature of Christ” to which we were baptized.

The truth is that many of us in this church, like so many people in so many churches in so many places this very morning, may look physically fit and even physically strong, but underneath the exterior ‘optics’ are people who are emotionally and spiritually bent over.

We are not calling out to Jesus for attention. We’ve not come here this morning looking for healing.

Some of us may not even be sure why we came here this morning. Perhaps, like the woman in this morning’s scripture story, it’s just what we always do on the Sabbath.

Some of us may be absolutely soul-sick about what’s happening in the world. In Lebanon and Syria, Jerusalem and Palestine. And, right here in this country, in our own cities and towns where gun violence is epidemic and natural disasters of fire and flood and even pestilence (in the Zika virus) are in epic, biblical proportion.

And then, there’s the political campaign.

The weight of all of that is enough to bend us all over in pain. The miracle is that any of us got out of bed this morning, put our feet on the floor, got washed and dressed and actually came to church.

The good news is that Jesus has come to us this morning, in the breaking open of the scripture and the breaking of the bread to heal us and say to us: “You are set free from your ailment.”

Jesus has come here this morning to say to me, “You are set free from your ailment.” And yes, despite what you see before you, I do struggle with my own spiritual ailments that threaten to bend my spirit.

Jesus has come here this morning to say to YOU … and YOU… and YOU… “You are set free from your ailment.” Whatever it is – known or unknown, acknowledged or ignored – that keeps you from your full potential as a child of God, baptized of Jesus, and guided by the Spirit.

In the almost 30 years I’ve been ordained, I’ve been privileged to witness this sort of healing over and over again.  

When the spirit is set free, the infirmities of the body can no longer contain it. It’s a miracle I cannot explain. I just know this much to be true:

When the heart and mind and soul of a person are unbound, the infirmities of the body are healed.   This, I believe, is the mystery and miracle of the healing of Jesus.

Not “fixed”. Not “perfect”. Oh, no. What Jesus does is better than “fixed”. Even better than “perfect”.

This is what Jesus does: Heal. Jesus heals.

It’s a kind of healing that breaks all the rules of what we know about healing. I also know this much to be true: Sometimes, you’ve got to break a few rules in order to be healed.

As crazy and illogical as it sounds, sometimes, you’ve got to reach way down to find a star.

So, no matter what brought you to church this morning, no matter how healthy you think you are, no matter what your ailment is – whatever it is that is keeping you bent over – crippling your soul – incapacitating your heart – know this: there is healing. The wondrous love of Jesus can and will lift you and heal you – without your even asking for it or expecting it.

That’s the promise of scripture. That’s the hope of scripture. That’s the good news of Jesus.

It’s what happens when love is the leaven in your life. And, that love is Jesus.

Turn to your neighbor right now and say that. Say, “Love is the leaven in my life.”

Now, say, “Jesus is the center of the love in my life.”

I really do believe that if we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves we can change the world. 

No, I seriously believe that. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Change the world. I believe that can and will happen. We've just got to live like we believe it.

Which is why I am a self-avowed, unrepentant, deeply committed, practicing “Jesus freak”. And, trust me, it takes a lot of practice to be a Jesus freak. I’m sure that’s why God called me to the priesthood. This way, Jesus could keep me busy and out of trouble. Well, mostly.

So, let’s let love be the leaven in our lives.

Let’s be like the bent over woman in this morning’s scripture and stand up straight in our bodies and in our hearts and in our souls and let’s praise Jesus.

Please sing with me about Jesus, the sweetest name on earth:

It tells of one whose loving heart / Can feel my deepest woe
Who in each sorrow bears a part / That none can bear below

Oh, how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus.
Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me.

Let love be the leaven in your life. And, let that love be Jesus. 

Now, go out and change the world!


Sunday, August 07, 2016

My Grandmother's Rag Rug

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32-40)
A Sermon preached for the congregation of St. Philip's, Laurel, DE
August 7, 2016

When I think of this particular passage from Luke’s Gospel, I think of my Portuguese grandmother. When I think of my grandmother, a memory immediately comes flooding back. She is standing in her kitchen. In front of her stove. There is a pot or a pan on every burner and a few pans of something, baking in the oven.

Above the oven and all around the kitchen are shelves. On every shelf are jars of preserves, filled with treasures from her garden. Pickled cucumbers and beets and string beans. She's even pickled eggs from her beloved chicken and put them up there on the shelf. Jars of tomatoes, tomato sauce and even tomato jam (I have her recipe which I’m happy to share with you.) stand at the ready. 

There are also jars of peaches, apples, and pears as well as peach, apple and pear jam, right along side the grape jelly and jam. In the pantry there is a special section for the grapes that have become wine – red and white – which she used for cooking and drinking, sometimes drinking while cooking which, she said, made everything taste better.

That was just her kitchen. In the basement (called the ‘cellar’ where I grew up), there were even more jars of preserves and pickles, barrels of homemade wine and beer, and huge crocks of cured meat and sausage, all nestled beneath mounds of animal fat.

My grandmother seemed to know when someone in the neighborhood was “down on their luck.” Or, when a family member was sick and couldn’t work. Or, the factory was on strike or someone had lost their job. She would call me to get out my bike and fill up my front and rear baskets with some bread and soup along with some of her preserves for delivery to that neighbor's home. 

“The children shouldn’t go to bed hungry,” she’d say. “And their parents need to stay strong.”

My grandmother knew about ‘storing up treasures’.

Of all my grandmother’s “treasures” not all of them involved food, however. In another part of the cellar there were large bins of what she called “rags”. They were actually the remnants of old clothing, thread bear in spots from having been passed down from her children – oldest to youngest – to her grandchildren (“AKA “The Cousins”) and/or neighborhood children whose parents knew to return them after they, too, had outgrown them.

First, she would snip off the buttons and carefully remove zippers, storing them in large jars, sorted by color and type. Then, she would cut the shirts and pants and skirts and dresses into long strips of material, putting them into large tomato crates which once held the tomatoes from her garden. You could always find those tomato crates next to her rocking chair in the living room.

Late in the afternoon before starting to prepare supper or in the early evening, after the chores were done for the day and everything put away in its place, she would reach in and pull out a few strips of cloth and begin to braid them together.  

In the eyes in my childhood mind, this was my first experience of magic. Out of those strips of thread-bear cloth came long braided ropes, now stronger together. 

These braided ropes were eventually stitched together into an amazing, beautiful braided rug.

“The Cousin’s Rags” had become a rug! 

It might be a beautiful multicolored braided rag rug which might be small enough to put by the side of your bed to keep your feet warm when you got out of bed in the morning. 

Or, it might be large enough to fill up a living room and be the place where babies learned to crawl or took their first steps, or on which their older cousins would draw pictures or play card games while their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles laughed and talked and told stories!  

My grandmother knew about “storing up treasures”.

This gospel passage (from Luke 12:32-40) is often used as one-part admonishment to be ready for the End Time which will come without warning. It also serves as another part dire warning about the foolishness of some of our attachments to earthly things. We are warned to be ready – to stay awake and alert – for the time when the world as we know it will end and Jesus will return. 

And, it is used a reminder to be generous - especially with "the poor".

The hard truth is that some of us do not have our priorities in order. Some of us are pretty wasteful with the abundance of God’s creation, even as we complain about not having enough. Some of God’s children have too much. Others don’t have enough.

When it all comes to an end, if anyone is found wanting it will not be for want of enough of everything that we need.  It will be because we did not treasure and share what we have. 

We did not “hand-me-down” so that others would have a “leg up”. It will be that we did not appreciate the treasure of God’s bounty so that we might store it up to be widely shared.

Generosity is the purse that will not wear out. 

Sharing our earthly treasure is the unfailing treasure of heaven which I believe makes the angels sing for joy.

When it became clear that my grandmother was nearing the end of her life, she moved in with my parents who took care of her. Her home was eventually sold, along with the land that had been her garden and grape orchard and the arbor for her fruit trees. 

The preserves, of course, had long been gone by then. Some of her possessions – furniture, dishes and collection of teapots – were all scattered among her family members, but most of it went to a Thrift Shop.

I don’t know what happened to all of those braided rugs. I suspect they, too, went to the Thrift Shop, hopefully to be used by other families who needed them. 

I wonder, sometimes, if the people who had them had any idea about the treasures they had in their homes. I wonder if they could feel the human treasures that went into making them: the sweat and laughter, the love and sorrow, the developmental milestones and stories that were woven into the braids of fabric that were once someone’s shirt or skirt, pants or dress.

I suspect those rugs were thrown away long ago. Or, moths have properly consumed them. Nothing lasts forever. It isn’t meant to. Which is part of the reason we treasure them when we have them. Or, at least, perhaps why we should.

My grandmother has been with Jesus for a long time now. If memory serves – and it does less and less these days – she died 35 years ago in February. We named our youngest daughter after her. 

My grandmother rests safely in the arms of Jesus, in that place where we say we believe there is no more suffering, no pain or weeping or sorrow and where no thief comes and no moth destroys.

Yet, her memory lives on. The legacy of her love and generosity is rich and full.  The image of that for me is held within the memory of my grandmother’s rag rug. 

Nothing can destroy that.

Jesus taught, “Where your treasures are, there your heart will be also.”

My grandmother’s rag rug also taught me that, where your heart is, there are treasures that will live on long after you die.   

Especially when we treasure – and practice – the generosity of God.