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.

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A Day Like No Other Day

It was a day like any other day in the life-long ministry of Zacharias the priest.  With Elisabeth’s goodbye kiss still warm on his cheek, he went about his business, reporting for duty in his scheduled commitment to serve in the Temple.

It was a day like no other day when the honor of entering the most holy place fell to Zacharias, and his aging eyes found the burning incense eclipsed by angel light. Startling and strange, the heavenly messenger’s words hooked unbelief, earning Zacharias a nine-month sentence of mute pondering.  God’s four-hundred year silence was broken, leaving an elderly couple blinking and gasping at this new way of understanding the word impossible.

“Well stricken in years” is the delicate, traditional rendering, a state that would have made for a challenging pregnancy in any era — even if you are carrying the forerunner of the Messiah.  Like a spavined barn with tar paper siding, Elisabeth’s olden frame would have been covered with skin already stretched and sagging, but with joy she bore the bone-on-bone pain of an aging back and a heavy load.

Did she understand that her glorious passage from barren to fruitful was more a rending of history than a miracle of gynecology?

//

It was a December day like any other.  There was dog hair that needed to be vacuumed.  There were lessons that needed to be prepared.  There were emails unanswered and dishes unwashed.  By my calculation, Advent season includes the routine preparation of at least seventy-five meals on top of all the other holiday baking and decorating.

It was a December day like none before. Sitting at the dining room table with my Bible open to the pages between the Testaments– the ones that follow the scalding prophetic words and precede the red letters of grace–I imagined myself into the sandals of the faithful. Pausing in this liminal space, I wondered about waiting and the nature of a sinewy watchfulness that keeps on trusting in the fulfillment of a centuries-old promise in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

From the outside, I think it must look like everyday life:
–Elisabeth, hands resting upon implausible roundness as she tries to decipher Zechariah’s chalkboard scribbles;
–Mary, silently pondering a secret that would rock her teenage world and send the tongues of Nazareth wagging;
–Anna, keeping her open-ended vigil, not knowing that the waiting would soon be over and her eyes would see salvation in an infant’s small appearance.

Attending to the faithfulness of these women of Christmas puts parentheses around a moment, as I try to identify with the generations who lived their days in the in-between. Sure, God had promised that a Messiah would come, and those who knew the Scriptures seemed to have a lot of details about it. Even so, for those who held the promise close to their hearts, it must have seemed as if God had pressed history’s pause button, and they had been left standing in a freeze frame, waiting for deliverance.

Fast forward over two thousand years from the dawn of Anno Domini, and we’ve lost that connection between expectation and faith. High-speed internet and Amazon one-day shipping are relics of my forward-leaning Religion of Next. I wear my hurry like an ill-fitting cassock, proclaiming by my words and deeds the counterfeit gospel that God is in the slowest hurry I’ve ever seen. In a fast-forward life, anticipation fades like childhood memory and the long-forgotten sound of Christmas bells.

When Christmas becomes separated from Truth, it lands in my December like a burden–just one more thing in the multitude of things that need to be checked off my list. But, if I stay present to the wonder of Word made flesh, my blunted perception is sharpened just enough to hear God’s present-day proclamation in words that bypass angel lips and star song, but land in power on the believing heart:

Nothing shall be impossible.”
God is with us.”

Words spoken into that long ago in-between resonate for today’s waiting.
Simple Truth schools me in the authentic gospel of expectation in which the power and the presence of God bursts through all the shallow frippery and hoopla of a holiday run amuck.
Entering the holy place of the in-between, Truth feeds an advent of belief. For, like Elisabeth, I, too, live in hope for that which is yet unseen, my heart pregnant with anticipation of the Coming that is yet to come.

//

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This post appeared first at SheLoves Magazine.

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A Bundle of Letters on the Church’s Doorstep

When a pastoral search goes well, everyone wins. Last year when a soft-spoken lobsterman rose to his feet and challenged us at Spruce Head Community to seek a shepherd who would lead us and love us, we began praying and seeking to that end. The seeking and the finding has united us, and we are blessed to have welcomed a godly man and woman who are living small-town life alongside us, all the while holding forth the Word of Truth.

Winn Collier is also a small-town pastor, but with Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church, he’s wearing his fiction-writer’s hat. Nonetheless, his heart for ministry comes shining through along with a clear-eyed affection for Christ’s body, communicated through the character of Pastor Jonas McAnn.

The pastoral search committee of Granby Presbyterian Church had grown tired of searching, weary of interviews, and fed up with the pretense when Amy Quitman, resident of Rural Route 28, took matters into her own capable handwriting and penned a letter that wrapped itself around one question:

“Do you actually want to be our pastor?”

Formalized by four signatures, the letter went forth to all future candidates.

In a half-hearted search of his own, Jonas McAnn saw in the letter a reason to reply with his own epistle, and finally, to leave behind his safe and predictable life in an insurance company cubicle, and to risk following his heart back into the trenches of pastoral ministry.

What follows is a bundle of letters from Pastor Jonas to his flock, randomly spaced and warmly personal. They have landed on my doorstep as well with their revelation of one side of a “spacious” conversation between a man who knows he was not called into the pastorate to fix anything or anybody and a group of people who have committed themselves to contributing “disruptive input” to each other’s lives.

With engaging characters and a page-turning narrative arc, Love Big, Be Well is a satisfying read for the story alone. Shades of John Ames of Gilead and Tim Kavanagh of Mitford made me hope for a sequel to follow Jonas’s return from sabbatical and future ministry at Granby Pres. However, at the risk of being banished to Wendell Berry’s desert island of exile for finding a subtext where none was intended, I will share that I came away with valuable insights — not in the form of a treatise on ministry, but rather more like thoughts overheard from a corner table at Stu’s Mud.

Thoughts on Calling

Jonas came to life in Granby with the settled conviction that he was committing himself to a web of relationships:

“So I committed my life to walking alongside people who I hoped to call friends. I committed to learning how to help people pray. I determined it would be my job to simply recount, over and again, that one beautiful story of how Love refused to tally the costs but came for us, came to be with us, came to heal us. . . “

Thoughts on the Role of a Pastor

Jonas McAnn came from a long line of pastors and proudly owned his heritage as one who fulfilled a unique and valuable role in the community:

  • to “live with people” (42);
  • to pray with them;
  • to ponder Scripture with them;
  • to “speak in good faith to other people who are trying very hard to listen in good faith” (47);
  • to receive the wisdom of God as “a slow drip, not a sudden knowing,” (60) and then to keep showing up where it will do the most good;
  • to “not take a position” when that is the most honest response;
  • to take cues from the farmer who “tend farms small enough to know and love, using tools and methods they know and love, in the company of neighbors they know and love.”

Thoughts on the Role of the Church

Amy ruefully described Granby Presbyterian to a friend and managed to capture every other church in the process:

“Unfortunately, if you’re looking for people to disappoint you, we will provide the material. In spades.”

Even so, under Jonas’s leadership, the church was called away from a shiny and boisterous presence into a resourceful availability to clean up messes — with the humble admission that the church is called to go first in admitting to our own messiness. “This is why we need the church all the more . . . [for] the only thing worse than our failing to inhabit mercy and holiness would be our making no attempt at all.”

On a practical note, the pastoral/congregational relationship gets off to a good start when the body is there en masse to greet and unload the moving van. From that point forward, the liturgy of even the most non-liturgical band of worshipers is one of “showing up, doing the work, being together.”

Thoughts on Love

Pastor McAnn’s eponymous “Big Love” comes down to “simply circling and staying near.” It was God’s big love that called Granby Pres. member Don Brady into the kingdom and that carried him through the rigors of cancer treatment as he wisely concluded:

“Love’s the main deal.”

Thoughts on Prayer

When elderly Miss Nelson prayed over Don’s cancer treatment, she reminded me that even when we do not know the will of God on a matter, there’s nothing wrong with reminding Him of how much we love and need someone in our community.

Given my own uneasy relationship with prayer, I collect wisdom to keep me in the game. Jonas related a homely parable on prayer from a fruitless fly fishing adventure with Luther that left him flat on fishing, but tutored him in the practice of prayer:

“‘Why would anyone torture themselves with this galling pastime?’

‘I like how you’re just in it. You’re in the water, in the woods. Everything’s happening around you.’

I’ve concluded that my problem (aside from how I have no idea what I’m doing on the river) is my focus on casting properly, on actually catching fish. Luther, however, comes to the river in a much different way. ‘I like being in the water,’ he explained, ‘with the breeze and the scent and the solitude. Even when I don’t catch anything, I come back different than when I left.‘”

Jonas McAnn wrote letters to his congregation from a desire to pay attention and to help his people do likewise. He wanted to remind his readers that life together is good and it consists of shared stories — shared experiences that call us toward the Light. For anyone who is committed to this calling over the long haul, Love Big, Be Well is a benediction, a reminder that ministry is “shot through with blessing,” and a celebration of the dignity of the slow work of ministry in community.

//

This book was provided by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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An Unexpected Love

Oh, how she had grown to hate him. Ten thousand offenses, both small and large, had accumulated over the years since their arranged marriage.

Practical and traditional, Father had seen a prosperous match:  “Abigail, you will marry a descendant of Caleb,” he had exulted. Abigail had found no delight, no dignity in the homeland of this husband whose given name would be forever lost beneath the wreckage of his character:  Nabal –“The Fool.”   

Playing hostess to his drunken friends and enduring his loutish company, the loneliness was excruciating. Even so, she thanked Yahweh every day that there were, as yet, no children from this unfortunate match. “I am your servant,” she prayed each day at sunrise and found, over time, that the God of Israel had become her comfort in this desert-life.

When hope for love has left a marriage, what remains?

. . . unless the rattling husk becomes a place for something new to grow.   Slowly, Abigail began to notice the workings of Nabal’s household. Her quick mind took in the details of the livestock business, the buying and selling, the shearing and marketing of fine wool. She had long ago stopped hoping for love, but one day, she realized that the respect and confidence of the family servants had become her consolation, a gift from Yahweh. 

The season of shearing was upon them with its steady hum of activity, but Abigail welcomed the challenge and the stimulation, planning meals for the shearers, managing the bountiful output, and arranging for its transport. During a lull in the chaos, she was catching a breeze in the doorway when Othniel, her faithful steward, appeared, wild-eyed, breathing like a frightened creature.

“What is it, Othniel?” she asked.

“You know that David, the chosen of God, and his men have been protecting our flocks and our shepherds for some time.” 

Abigail nodded.  “Go on.”

“They have been like a city wall to us and to our herds, and so David sent his messengers to request protection money and provisions, a part in our feasting . . .  They were taken to the master.”

Abigail dropped her face into her hands and listened, knowing that what followed could only be bad news.

And it was: 

Disrespect.
Greed.
A refusal to provide reasonable compensation for services rendered.

When Othniel’s words confirmed her fears, she asked, “Have they gone?” 

Perhaps it was not too late to undo The Fool’s damage.

“The master has sent them away empty-handed.  They promise revenge, that everyone in the household will feel their anger.  . . I have said nothing to the master.”

“That is well,” she replied, flying into action. “We must move quickly.”

From shearing season’s full larder, Abigail rattled off a hurried and portable menu and directed Othniel to load it onto donkeys and to lead the way to David and his men.

“I will follow close behind,” she assured him.

Hurriedly, she changed out of her work clothes, mounted her own donkey, and followed. But suddenly there they were, rounding a corner with strapped-on swords like a military detachment – headed toward her home.  David was in the lead, but he stopped in his tracks when Abigail dismounted and fell on her face at his feet.

Her words tumbled out:

“Do not listen to my husband, The Fool;
As his name is, so is he;
If your men had only come to me,
they would have found a welcome and feasting.”

Abigail lifted her eyes in time to see surprise register on David’s tanned face.

“Therefore, I have brought the feast to you.”  She gestured toward the loaded caravan.  Was it just her imagination, or did David’s eyes move reluctantly away from hers?

Emboldened by his attention, she continued with words that she scarcely recognized as her own:
“Please do not let your name be associated with revenge and bloodshed, but accept these gifts. Because you have fought Yahweh’s battles, He will wrap up your life with His treasure and will certainly make for you an enduring kingdom. He will cast aside your enemies like a stone hurled from a sling. When Yahweh has brought these words to pass, remember me His servant.

Then, tearing her gaze from his, she turned to leave.

With one hand, David stopped her, for the other hand was raised in blessing – a blessing over Abigail.

//

She did not recall mounting the donkey.   She did not recall the journey home, for her ears and her heart were full of David’s words:

“Blessed is your advice, your good sense.

Blessed are you for keeping me from murder, for looking out for my reputation.

I hear you.

I respect you.”

Not since coming to the House of Nabal had she heard such words, and they carried her into the house. They sustained her through the night as The Fool slept off his evening’s wine.

At first light, Abigail approached Nabal, eyes on the floor, reporting mechanically:  “You recall that David’s men were sent away from your presence yesterday . . .” 

Describing David’s promise of revenge and her own actions, Abigail was startled to hear choking sounds from Nabal’s throat, but she continued with her report until a thud and sounds of alarm from the servants caused her to her lift her eyes. 

There lay The Fool, on the floor.

//

The ten days between his fall and his death passed quietly, and Abigail wondered how the demise of her own husband could affect her so slightly.  She had been aware of the shriveled condition of her heart, but marveled at the cool poise with which she had wrapped up the end of shearing season and notified Nabal’s near kinsmen.  They would be arriving soon to take over his property.

And what was to become of his widow?  The memory of David’s blessing fanned a small hope that perhaps one day she would find a place of love and respect, but she did not know how that could be.  She only knew that she must flee before The Fool’s family arrived and engulfed her as if she, too, were a possession.  Gathering a small packet of provisions, she made ready to depart. 

Hearing footsteps, she whirled, ready to bolt from the room, but instead she froze. 

Othniel stood in the doorway, announcing the servants of David:

“David has sent us to you – to ask you to become his wife.”

Rising, Abigail bowed, and her words to David’s men were also a prayer to Yahweh:

“I am your servant.”

//

And such is the glory of unexpected love. 

Each of us in our turn has been married, in some way, to foolishness —
but then redeemed by an unexpected love so strong and so wild
that all we must do is rise and follow,
placing our hand in His
and trusting for a better future.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us . . .” (I John 3:1)

//

Be sure to check out the context for this Old Testament love story!

Photo credit:  Tiago Muraro

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Till We Have Faces (6): The Demands of a Ravenous Love

Readers here at Living Our Days are working our way through Till We Have Faces, one of C.S. Lewis’s lesser known books, but the one which he claimed as his favorite of all the books he wrote.  Chapters 13-15 feature the key scene of Lewis’s tale and perhaps the best-known and most-quoted section of the book. Thanks to all who have persevered in the reading and discussion, and just a note here:  If you’re behind in your reading and want the story to unfold without spoilers, stop reading now and come back later to share your thoughts.

Plot Summary

Orual returns to Glome and finds The Fox waiting anxiously to hear of her encounter with Psyche on the Grey Mountain.  Leaving out her glimpse of the palace, she reports that Psyche is alive, happy, and full of tales of an unseen but loving husband.  The Fox concludes that Psyche is being taken advantage of by a tramp or runaway who is playing into Psyche’s delusional story of a god in a golden palace, and he helps Orual plot a second trip to the Grey Mountain to rescue Psyche.

Since the King and all his men are embarking on a lion hunt, the opportunity to execute the plan comes to Orual quickly.  However, Psyche is adamant that she must remain faithful to her husband and refuses to leave or even to question her unseen lover’s motives or his identity.  Upping the ante, Orual plunges a dagger into her own arm and promises to kill herself (and Psyche) if Psyche will not steal a look at her husband.  Providing the necessary lamp and oil to her younger sister, she camps across the river and waits, stifling her misgivings over this emotional blackmail.

The light of the lantern is followed quickly by an enormous, blinding light and a full-on view of a beautiful and terrible figure that called forth from Orual the terrified “salute that mortal flesh gives to immortal things,” (171).  Psyche’s inconsolable weeping fills Orual’s ears, and she returns to Glome with the knowledge that she and Psyche are joined forever in horrible separate exiles — along with her heavy weight of unspeakable sorrow and remorse.

Reflection

Out of a multitude of possible themes/emphases, I’ve chosen two:

One – Because I’m reading Hanna Anderson’s Humble Roots, The Fox’s nail-on-the-head identification of Orual’s prideful motives (148) reverberates with the precision of the slave’s good math:

“Daughter, daughter, you are transported beyond all reason and nature.  Do you know what it is?  There’s one part love in your heart, and five parts anger, and seven parts pride.”

I am also indebted to Hannah’s theology professor for an amazing word picture that helps me to understand Orual’s anguish in deciding what to think about Psyche’s situation.  Orual fell into the common logical fallacy of of the false dilemma which does to the mind what carrying three huge watermelons does to the body.  Bardia’s input helped Orual to wrap one arm around the large and terrible idea that Psyche could be married to a hideous beast-god.  The Fox convinced her to pick up the heavy and horrible theory that Psyche’s mystery husband may actually be one of the “vagabonds, broken men, outlaws, [and] thieves” (143) who lived on the Mountain.

Clumsily juggling those two “watermelons,” there was no room in Orual’s mind for the third possibility, especially since it, too, is a huge watermelon of thought, and also because she did not want to believe it:

  • that the supernatural may not be terrible after all;
  • that the glimpse of a palace that she saw on the far bank of the river was actually a gift and not a taunt;
  • that the whispered voice that urged her to realize she was “among marvels [she could] not understand” (152) was the truest voice in the room.

Two:  To completely switch metaphors now, Bardia, The Fox, and Orual all remind me of the tale of the Blind Men of Hindustani and their examination of an elephant by touch alone.  Feeling the tail, the trunk, and the ear, they define elephantine nature as rope, snake, and fan, when one good look at the whole creature would make all things plain.

Orual was granted that one look for a few fleeting seconds, but allowed her adversarial relationship with the gods to deprive her of the Truth of it.  With that done, she was free to come down on the blind side of trusting in her own fear as a more solid reality than a castle viewed through shreds of mist.

On the other hand, Psyche demonstrates the glorious truth that believing is seeing, but even this is not sufficient to strengthen her against the terrible demands of Orual’s ravenous love.

Some Issues to Ponder

Oh, goodness, there’s just so much to wonder about here in these chapters.

  • Did anyone think of the fourth figure in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace when Orual saw the figure of the god that was “something like a man”(172)?
  • Have you ever prayed like Orual, stretched out in “piety” before God while delivering an ultimatum and a deadline?  Have you ever interpreted God’s silence as abandonment and then gone off to solve your problem on your own?
  • Permit me a nerdy moment to revel in the fact the the word ferly (142) was Dictionary.com’s word of the day on October 23, 2011, and the citation they used to illustrate it was the excerpt from Till We Have Faces.  “I had had half a thought, at the outset, of telling him about the ferly, my glimpse of the palace. But I couldn’t bring myself to it.”   It means “something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror.”  The hoplites (147) that The Fox wishes for are “citizen soldiers armed with spears and shields” and are part of his ancient Greek culture.  (Leave it to C.S. Lewis  . . .)
  • Let us pray to steer clear of Orual’s self pity and consuming love and, instead, to know Psyche’s brand of faith that weighs the evidence, listens to objections with love, and then concludes, “What is that to me? . . . I know.”; that fiercely defends the right of Deity to be incomprehensible, seeing this not as a weakness, but, rather, as a divine prerogative (159); that fears the shame of disobedience more than the shame of ridicule (163).

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from these chapters. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. I’m thrilled that we have been reading this book together.

Next Time

On Thursday, February 16th, I’ll be here having read chapters 16-18.

//

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Love Hides Close By

Until I put it on display, love is sometimes hard to see.

Dr. Mary Manz Simon invites pint-sized theologians to embark upon a delightful scavenger hunt, looking for all the places love hides in the daily life of a preschooler.  She does this with precision, because when we demonstrate the love of God to others, it is not with the intention of motivating Him to love us in return or to increase His love for us.  Rather, we love Him (and others) because He first loved us, and all our acts of love or obedience serve to demonstrate the unselfish mercy and grace that is God’s love.

So . . . where does love hide?

Readers will find six replies, hidden under the flaps that have been incorporated into the construction of Hannah Wood’s large, vivid illustrations which feature a rainbow of children who have been caught in the act of being good with actions with which even the youngest toddler can identify.

My grandson’s tiny fingers were well able to grasp and open the flaps, and it turns out that love hides very close at hand, for the revelation of love can come with an invitation to a friend, a sharing of cookies, a cheerfully executed chore, or practical services offered to the weak or the elderly.

Relevant and simply stated Scripture verses make a solid case for each example of loving deeds and will help parents (and grandparents!) to set the example in establishing memory habits as they work together to learn the verses.  A fun way to encourage this would be to let the child pull back the flap and give the answer to the question while the adult says the verse — and then switch roles.

Giving and receiving love involves words as well as actions that lend weight to those words.  After all, God Himself communicated His love to us through the Word, but He didn’t stop there:

“God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”                 Romans 5:8.

When our children join Him in the joy of giving, His love is put on display for all the world to see.

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This book was provided by Tyndale Kids, a trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This is the third of Mary Manz Simon’s books that my grandson and I have had the privilege of reading and sharing.  You’ll also be interested in discovering God Made the Sun and God Made the Moon. (Click to read my review.)

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Till We Have Faces: Welcome to the Discussion

Ask an author to name his favorite of all the books he’s written, and most will demur, insisting that it’s like trying to choose a favorite child.  

Not C.S. Lewis.

He believed Till We Have Faces to be his best book.

In his novel based on the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, Lewis uses the narrative to explore themes such as the limits of reason, the selfishness of natural love, and the nature of faith.

Plot Summary

Orual, warrior queen of Glome, wore a veil.  Tired of the harsh comments, the too-long glances, and worst of all, the pity, she chose mystery, invisibility — and in the process, she gained renown.

Set in a culture in which a woman’s role and status were defined by her beauty, her husband, or both, Orual had neither, but managed to carve out a life for herself based on the love of her youngest sister, Psyche, and the challenge of learning and gaining new skills.  Written in memoir form, Till We Have Faces chronicles Orual’s howling question, “What do the gods want from us?” and the jarring answer she received at the end of her life.

All analysis aside, when C.S. Lewis writes a story, it’s a story.  Just as in the Chronicles of Narnia, readers will bond with particular characters and despise others.   I’ve invited friends who visit Living Our Days to join me in reading the book over the next several weeks.

January 5 (Today!) . . . . . . . . . . .Introductory Post
January 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Part I, Chapters 1-3
January 19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Chapters 4-6
January 26. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 7-9
February 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 10-12
February 9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 13-15
February 16. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 16-19
February 23. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chapters 20-21
March 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Part II, Chapters 1-2
March 9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Chapters 3-4

The big challenge in writing about fiction will be for us to discuss the book and to write meaningfully without blowing the unfolding plot for those who are experiencing the book for the first time.   We’ll all do our best!

Reflection

I discovered Till We Have Faces in college and have read it at least a half dozen times since then.  I love Orual’s strength, but identify with many of her weaknesses.  Lewis’s curiosity about longing (Sehnsucht) plays an important part in the unfolding drama and whether we choose to call it myth or allegory or metaphor, his references to the numinous are stunning.

I hear Mr. Beaver’s voice echoing all the way from Narnia in this conversation between Orual and her Greek tutor, the Fox:

Fox:  “Why, yes, child.  The gods have been accused by you.  Now’s their turn.”
Orual:  “I cannot hope for mercy.”
Fox:  “Infinite hopes — and fears — may both be yours.  Be sure that, whatever else you get, you will not get justice.”
Orual:  “Are the gods not just?”
Fox:  “Oh, no, child.  What would become of us if they were?”

Let’s Get Started

I’ll be here next Thursday (January 12) having read Chapters 1-3.  I’ll share a summary to get us started, mention some of my insights, and then throw the door wide open for your input.
How do you participate?
Simply get a copy of the book and read along.  You don’t need to register or commit to anything other than just reading the book!

However . . .  I would love to hear your thoughts as we read, so if you have a blog, I hope that you will write a post about each section and then share it here by copying the URL of that post into the comments section below.  It will be fun — and enlightening — to learn from each other’s insights.  If you do not blog, just share your thoughts directly to the comments.

Don’t feel as if you need to share earth-shattering observations.  Just write about what impressed you in the section we are reading.  If something puzzled you, pose your questions to the group.  Let’s commit to reading the book and learning from it in community!

In the meantime, are you planning to read with us?
Will this be your first time through Till We Have Faces or are you a repeat reader?
What else have you read by Lewis?  Do you have a favorite?
Where are you, who are you, and what do you love?
Do you plan to blog about your impressions?
Let’s begin to get acquainted in the comments below!  

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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 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.