Big Pizza Love and the Recipe that Makes it Happen

“It’s pizza night!”

Any Friday.

Even every Friday.

My boys never tire of those words.

A bowl of popcorn, a favorite movie, and a few square feet of mozzarella magic, and it’s going to be a great evening.

No question about it.

In a family of four boys, food is currency, and pizza is the gold standard. As the long bones lengthen and the voices grow deeper, the double batch makes way for the quadruple batch, and leftovers in the fridge are like money in the bank.

Of course, eventually, someone gets his license, or a girlfriend (or both), and suddenly an evening at home no longer registers on the social Dow Jones. But pizza night goes on for whoever happens to be home or whoever is visiting, and the leftovers pay dividends forward — with cold pizza after a basketball practice and a heart-to-heart talk about unfair coaches; cold pizza after a shift at McDonalds and a late-night discussion about where to buy the diamond; re-heated pizza for a carload of friends who “aren’t hungry” until they realize how very welcome they are.

Inexhaustible Love

Food can become a metaphor for abundance. Yes, your friend can stay for dinner, because we have enough — enough food, enough space in our lives, enough love to go around.

God is also in the business of letting His children know that He is enough, and His love is inexhaustible.

That’s why the apostle Paul strains His heavenly thesaurus in Ephesians 3:18,19 (NKJV) to communicate the expanse of Christ’s love for us:

How wide!
How long!
How deep!
How high!

God’s love for us passes knowledge; it is vast and complete, and yet He urges us to lean into its impossible dimensions and to rest there.

When I wonder if I can absorb another change or welcome another whirling planet into the solar system of my life, these words remind me that my ability to keep on stretching the circumference of my heart depends on my continual acceptance of the love of Christ for me. If I set my boundaries small and safe, I’m leaving room only for my own love — narrow and choosy, shallow and tentative.

Slowly, slowly I am learning that the only way to really “know the love of Christ” is to leave my heart ajar to the expanse of a bigger love.

It was standing room only the last time we all got together for a pizza night — daughter-in-love, grandboy, girlfriend, and all, but somehow in the midst of all the laughter and chaos, the pizza disappeared as usual. Slicing through the last pepperoni-and-black-olive, I smiled, because pizza night is teaching me that love comes — and it fills all the space we make for it.


The Recipe for Big Pizza Love

As regular readers know, most of my pizza-eaters have flown the nest, but I’m still making pizza, and I continue to receive requests for my pizza recipe, so I’m sharing it here. Giving credit where credit is due, if you happen to own a Moosewood Cookbook (mine is the 1992 edition), you’ll find that I’ve borrowed the recipe for calzone crust (160-161) and adapted it for pizza.

Enjoy!

The Crust:

1 cup wrist-temperature water
1½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbs. honey or sugar
1½ tsp. salt
2½ to 3 cups flour
oil for bowl and pans

  1. Place the water in a bowl. Sprinkle yeast, and stir in honey/sugar and salt until everything dissolves.
  2. Stir in flour, kneading when it gets too thick for a spoon.
  3. Oil the bowl and cover dough with a cloth. Let rise until doubled in bulk. This is a good time to begin making the sauce and preparing toppings.

Sauce:

1 quart of canned tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
Garlic and basil to taste (sorry, I’ve never measured it!)

Toppings:

You don’t really need my help here, but I will share that pepperoni and black olives top the list of favorites here. The patient husband and I like to put leftover ratatouille on pizza. When we have a crowd in, I usually make at least one with just veggies, and I always make one with just cheese.

Baking:

Punch down the risen dough and spread with greased fingers in a well-oiled pan. Be sure to go all the way to the edges and then create a tiny edge around the circumference. Top with sauce, toppings, and an abundance of mozzarella. Bake at 450° until crust is browned and cheese is bubbly–about 15-20 minutes.

Depending on the size of your pans, this recipe will accommodate one large, deep dish pizza or two smaller pizzas of the thin crust persuasion. Experiment and let me know how it goes!


May you know and share the width and length and depth and height of God’s great love,

michele signature rose[1]

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This post appeared first at (in)courage, the blogging ministry of Dayspring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Photo by Carissa Gan on Unsplash

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A Time to Gather Stones

Every year in late spring, we till up an admirable crop of rocks as we prepare the garden soil for planting. Some years I have been diligent about collecting them. Other years . . . not so much. Regardless, there always seems to be a plentiful supply, and after twenty plus years of gardening in this one space, one does wonder where all these rocks are coming from!

The deeper question, however, is always “why?” and Christians with our teleological view of nature are driven to press into the goal or purpose (in Greek, the telos) of  created things.

On this rural hill of sandy soil, whatever could be the design behind such an abundance of rocks working their way to the surface of our growing space every spring?

Falling into the category of “all things,” it’s possible, I suppose, that they join all the other “things” in the Romans 8:28-29 universe that “work together for good.” They are part of the constellation of “things” that, work toward the ultimate good God has in mind for His child:  conformity to the image of His Son.

It’s a sobering thought that my attitude toward the quotidian task of piling rocks into a rusty wheelbarrow makes one whit of a difference, but then, this seems to be the way of the following life. We are called to become small, to bend low, and to do the unseen and thankless task because this was the way of the Cross. The God Who makes the sun rise every day and Who has ordained that one season should follow another in unbroken rhythm has invited me into humdrum and repetitive tasks because, even in this, He is at work.

So, as I dump the smaller rocks into the ruts in our driveway or simply upend the entire contents of the wheelbarrow onto the growing rock pile in the bushes near the garden, God is at work in the invisible realm. He is at work in me.

I have a feeling that our supply of rocks won’t be running out anytime soon.
They still have a lot of work to do!


What evidence is emerging in your own world that God is at work in you?

Blessings to you as you lean into the process and rejoice in this season of transformation!

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Following the Trail Back to Hope

Sometimes it’s the very thing that makes you wild, the thing that feels as if it may be your undoing, which ultimately saves your life. For me right now, the pebble in my shoe is a 15-foot speed boat parked parallel to the north side of our house. The college-aged son is a project magnet who resurrects dead motors for fun and profit, so this is just the latest in a parade of snow mobiles, outboard motors, go- carts, and things that go vroom which have come to heighten the hillbilly panache of this country hill in Maine.

On the other hand, when I recall that his tinkering has made him eminently employable, and when I consider all the lesser things an almost-19-year-old could be doing with his free time . . .

And so, annoyance finds its grumpy way back to gratitude, and I follow its trail to the other transitions–much grittier and more sensitive–that need to happen around the fault lines in my following life:

  • The dizzying yo-yo of the number on the scale holds me in awareness of this truth: It is only by grace that we ride the bucking bronco of temptation to its mastery;
  • An overwhelmed middle-age brain keeps me depending upon God for strength in my weakness and for the next sentence whenever I teach or write;
  • My slow-to-hear-quick-to-speak way of finishing peoples’ sentences and igniting small, unnecessary brush fires reminds me every day to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience just as I put on my shoes or my makeup.

Meaningful change often follows on the squeaking hinges of regret and repentance.

The Transition to Hope

In the waning weeks of Israel’s existence as a nation, Jeremiah tutors my soul in this spiritual discipline of transitioning from annoyance to hope. The record shows that he had invested 23 years of his life faithfully delivering an unpopular message of God’s impending judgment to a people who much preferred happy talk from lesser prophets with dubious motives. His reward for services rendered was a sentence of house arrest in the palace of disgruntled King Zedekiah.

Transition into Hope, G.K. ChestertonAs Babylonian armies camped around Jerusalem and hammered together their siege ramps outside the city walls, Jeremiah purchased a field in an act of unreasonable hope. Of course, according to G.K. Chesterton, “It is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength at all.”  Pushing against hopelessness, Jeremiah handed over his seventeen shekels because, in his mind, God’s promise of restoration and return to the land was as real as the shining silver in his hand.

When the siege ramps of despair are already leaning against the walls of my heart, that trail back to hope seems like more of a journey than I can manage. And of course, it is–apart from God. Likewise, reading on, I see Jeremiah, by a power that was not his own, transitioning into a glorious paean of praise:

“Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” (Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV)

Seeing this, the “Ah” of Jeremiah becomes an “Aha!” on my lips as I discover, as if for the first time, that there is nothing—no transition, no messy in-between—too complicated for God. He stands ready to help when I lean into the impossible or find grace to forgive the unforgivable. His Great Power is put on display in surprising ways as His outstretched arm effects the miracle of another day’s transition into hope.


 

Thank you for joining me today on the path toward hope,

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Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Taming Anxiety Over the Unknown

Knocking twenty-two years’ worth of dust off a resume stretches the definition of “creative writing” to its limit. After giving my time away for two decades, could I convince even myself that my skills are marketable? Was I still capable of holding my own in the workforce? The questions hung in the air like a challenge.

At about this time two years ago, I was embarking on a job search that did not happen at all the way I had planned it. I’m sharing that experience this month on The Redbud Post where we’re examining the topic of anxiety for the month of May.

The truth is that whenever the unexpected happens, I’m thrown against the framework of my theology. Will it hold? Does what I believe about the sovereignty of God accommodate a veering turn that was not anywhere on my road map? With anxiety over the unknown comes a greater need for and reliance upon a sinewy faith in God’s good intentions toward me in this following life.

Redbud Writers GuildIf this is also your story, I encourage you to click on over to The Redbud Post where you can read a collection of articles on the topic of dealing with anxiety.

Thanks for reading, and I trust that you will also share your own thoughts on dealing with anxiety in the comments below or over at the Redbud site. I have found these words from Paul Miller in The Praying Life to be especially helpful and wise:

“Instead of trying to suppress anxiety – to manage it or smother it with pleasure – we can turn our anxiety toward God. When we do that, we find that we have slipped into continuous praying.”

Blessings to you!


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

The Crash and Burn of a God-Sized Dream

It all started as a strategy for outreach. We sat around a table and began to dream out loud, trusting that the fire of shared passion and the wisdom of group process would yield creative ideas for communicating the love of Christ to our community.

I don’t mind confessing that I loved my dream. We would offer free oil changes to those in need: the poor, the elderly, single parents, come one, come all! Coffee and brownies would make the most of the waiting time as those of us less talented with a wrench would fill cups and keep the conversation flowing. We prepared colorful informational brochures about our church and its programs. We bought supplies, spread the word, and waited.

Not one person signed up.
Not one person called to inquire.

The spectacular crash and burn of my dream rang in my ears for a long time. In fact, it was all I could hear, and it was ages before my idea spigot found its way back to the on-position once again.

I hope you’ll join me over at God-sized Dreams today where I’m reminiscing about a colossal failure early in my ministry life that convinced me of this truth:

Our story does not end with the death of one dream.

Click here to continue reading, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts (and maybe your shared experiences?) on the holy persistence that presses into a dream when all around you wafts the stench of failure.

God-sized Dreams

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I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Everyday Habits of Holiness

The insistent tone of my cell phone’s timer carried through floorboards to our basement schoolroom–another call to prayer unanswered.

I sighed, turned the page, and continued with my sixth-grader in a lesson on fractions.

I had been reading about the historical practice of praying the hours, setting aside intentional moments throughout the day at specific times to stop everything and pray.

Believers long ago listened to the sounding of bells to remind them to pray.

My solution?

Setting a cell phone timer.

It seemed like the perfect solution for a more intentional prayer life..

Why, then, did my timer always seem to sound when I was in the middle of an un-interruptible task?

  • Dinner preparation on a ball game night.
  • A fervent untangling of numerators and denominators.
  • An intense disciplinary moment.

The reminder was impractical for that season, but it was an important step on my journey toward a more mindful use of my minutes in building my relationship with God.

Today I’m joining Sarah Koontz over at Living By Design to share 5 ways I’ve learned to invite holiness into my every day habits. Click on over to join me there, and let’s pause together to consider how these simple strategies may encourage your faith and help you to grow.

Everyday Habits of Holiness

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Two Reasons to Give the Church Another Chance

When my husband and I were still a “young couple,” we used to laugh over an imagined scenario at our church:

“What ever happened to that young couple with all the boys?”

“Haven’t you heard?  They divorced – someone said that they just grew apart, that they didn’t know each other anymore.”

“No!  They were here at church all the time!  How could something like that have happened?”

Truly, it’s not funny, but we laughed because we knew that even though our church family loved us,  if we had said, “Yes,” to all the ministry opportunities that were pressed upon us,  it wouldn’t be long before this was our fate.  Fortunately, we were able to remember their love for us as we made decisions to become the guardians of our own margins and boundaries.

For many people, the church has a reputation to overcome.  It’s hard to trust The Body when you’ve been burned by its members.  For various reasons,  believers are staying home on Sunday mornings, and the experts say that only 20% of Americans attend church regularly.  Certainly, anyone who has done time in the pew can find a reason to gripe:  lack of appreciation; not liking the pastor/the music/the sermons/the color of the carpet; unsatisfying or turbulent relationships.   All of this should be no surprise to us, for even the healthiest, most vibrant fellowships are populated with . . .  well, sinners.  There’s really no one else to come to church!

I’m over at The Perennial Gen today making a case for giving the church another chance–even if you feel as if you’ve been burned in the past. Ponder the wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and then click on over to read the post in its entirety:

“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself . . .”

Please join the discussion over at The Perennial Gen, and I do look forward to reading your thoughts on the church gathered and the role it has played in your spiritual formation.


Many thanks to Jen Ferguson for the lovely image.

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.