Did they kill him too?

I was listening to an old episode of This American Life the other day.  It was on "Kid Logic," and in one story, a dad shares about his four year old daughter's interest in Jesus.  She asks him all these questions about Jesus, they read a children's Bible together, and they talk a lot about his teaching "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  One day they were driving by a church and she saw a crucifix and asked her dad who that guy was up on the cross.  (I guess they never got to that part of the story.)  Her dad tells her that it's Jesus and that some people weren't a fan of his teaching, it was too radical, so they nailed him to a cross and he died.

A little while later, it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and schools were off, so dad and daughter went out to lunch.  At lunch, she noticed a picture of a man in the newspaper and asked her dad who it was.

"That's Martin Luther King Jr.  He's the reason you're off school today.  He was a preacher and he taught that people should be treated equally, regardless of how they look."

She thought about that for a minute.

"Did they kill him too?"

They did.  Actually, we did.  There may not be as much separating us from the actions of those who went before as we'd like there to be.  I have been humbled this week, following the movement of Holy Week, reading through the chronology of Christ's passion in the gospels and looking back to the promises in the Old Testament.  I can see myself in the people of Israel's disobedience and impatience, my pride in Peter's protests and denial, my inadequacy in the disciples' failure to stay awake and keep watch in the garden.

I was reading Psalm 22 this morning which begins with one of the seven last words of Christ: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It ends with a celebration of the suffering servant:

"All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him - those who cannot keep themselves alive.  Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!"

Yes.  Today, we grieve.  But we have the gift of living on this side of the cross, anticipating the feast. Because, He has done it.

It's a full 53 degrees in Chicago today.  Who would have thought that spring would arrive on Good Friday. And rightfully so.  We mourn the death of the Son of Man and bid farewell to winter - awaiting resurrection, welcoming spring and the renewal of all things.

We're having this Braided Cardamom Pulla bread for Good Friday communion tonight.  I've never been a fan of the communion wafer or bird-like bite of bread you're supposed to have.  I want to really taste it.  If we're going to practice communion as Jesus and his disciples did, then we should feast like they did.  I'll always remember attending a Good Friday service in Cape Town, where we had hot cross buns for communion.  So tonight, we'll break the bread and share the cup. Remembering the passion of the Christ and the love of the Creator with a cardamom-spiced bread fit for a king.

Adapted from Saveur


1 ⅓ cups milk, heated to 115°
⅔ cup sugar
3 tsp. ground cardamom
2 ¼-oz. packages active dry yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
6 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into ½" cubes, at room temperature
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Crushed lump sugar, for garnish (optional)
Sliced almonds, for garnish (optional)


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine milk, sugar, 3 tsp. cardamom, and yeast; stir together and let sit until foamy, 10 minutes. Add eggs; mix to combine. Add flour and salt; mix until a dough forms. Replace paddle with hook attachment; knead dough on medium speed for 2 minutes. While kneading, slowly add butter in batches, mixing until incorporated before adding next batch, 3-4 minutes; continue kneading for 4 minutes more after last of butter is added. (This can also be done by hand.  As I don't have a stand mixer, I always made/knead my dough by hand.  It's messy, but you can do it!) Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough; cover again with plastic wrap and let sit until fully risen, 30 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 375°. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside and divide other piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion between your palms and work surface to create a 16" rope. Braid ropes together to form a loaf by pinching the three strands together at one end and braiding just as you would with hair. Finish the braid by pinching the ends together and tucking under the loaf. Transfer loaf to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Repeat with second dough piece. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit until slightly puffed up, about 20 minutes.

3. Whisk together remaining cardamom, cream, and egg yolk in a small bowl; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds (if using); bake, one loaf at a time, until golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool 10 minutes before serving.


They're living in the after

I remember how the city was.  It's hard to know the before and after of a thing when you never knew it before.  My grandparents know the world as it was during World War II, and today, they know a very different world than it was before.  My neighborhood is marked with posts for tying up horses and large cement steps for climbing into carriages, rendered useless by time and technology.   I spent some time in Kolkata with Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa's death, and although her spirit and her grace are all over the city, I can never know the place as it was in her lifetime.

The people of New Orleans are always talking about the city and their lives before and after the storm. It's hard to have a conversation with someone down there without mention of Katrina.  I had never been there until a week ago, nearly eight years after the storm.  But the people there, they remember how the city was, where the city was.  And after?  They're living in the after.

I got to spend a few short days in The Big Easy, traveling for work.  I stayed with one of our organization's ministry partners, in one of the more under-resourced neighborhoods of NOLA.  As we drove through the St. Roch neighborhood, I was struck by how much had been left, abandoned, yet to be repaired after the storm.  My friend and host said in 2010, five years after the storm, only 60% of the people who evacuated the city had returned.  I asked her about the big "X" spray painted on many of the houses.  She said, they are what's left from the evacuation.  They went through each house and when it was all clear, no people left inside, they marked the front of the house with an "X" and the date.  Nearly eight years later, those markings are still there.  

We visited the lower 9th ward, where the most devastating destruction and loss of life took place.  At first, it just looked like a sparsely populated neighborhood.  Then I realized that the holes in the neighborhood were what remained after all the homes had been washed away.  All that's left are the cement foundations, the occasional front stoop or random set of steps.  There are new houses too, thanks to Brad Pitt's efforts with Make it Right 9.  They've re-built affordable, sustainable homes - making something right, where before, something went terribly, terribly wrong.

People kept asking me if I liked New Orleans.  "You either love it or you hate it," they'd say.  It is a city unlike any I've ever been to.  I kept thinking I had somehow passed into a different country - the landscape, the architecture, the food, music, and people.  Hearing Creole or any other language seemed completely natural because the rest of it seemed so foreign.  It's been a while since I've been at or below sea level.  The houses are built up.  Basements don't exist.  Even the dead must be buried above-ground.

We visited St. Roch's Cemetery - the saint recognized for healing from the plague, or in this case, from disease and illness.  In the cemetery's small chapel, people had left prosthetic limbs, casts, and braces as offerings to St. Roch - in appeal or in gratitude.  An almost eerie menagerie of broken bits and pieces -  a bird wing, the remnants of a butterfly, crumpled bits of paper scrawled in prayerful petition.

The people of NOLA are nothing else if not spirited.  Their city is full of these pockets of darkness and brokenness and desperate need.  But in the short time I spent there, it struck me how fully these people live. They know how to celebrate.  Bursting with culture.  They are living in the wake of astonishing tragedy in a city already marked by lack and trouble.  But, they are living.


Good, lately

Lately, I've been mighty bogged down by work.  Last week made real champions out of all of us. When I finally made it to Friday evening, I was lulled into the most perfectly opposite and peaceful revery at our monthly Taize gathering.  I suddenly didn't feel so alone in my week and in my desperation for peace, as we made a pilgrimage to the altar with our light.

When I have weeks like that, when I've forgotten all the perspective I gained in Africa, I have to summon a collection of good things.  Cull together all the happenings, moments, and details that made it all worthwhile.

Last week I made this Lemon Blueberry Drizzle Cake.  It marked the start of my week and was a very good thing.  I first saw it in the William's Sonoma Home Baked Comfort baking book that I randomly checked out of the library at Christmastime. It turned out to be a real gem of a book and I am constantly thinking of recipes from it, wishing I had a copy of my own.  I have been wanting to try this recipe for ages - I love lemon and blueberry together.  And strangely, I still have bags of blueberries from Michigan leftover from the summer's pickings.  They got buried under all the containers of soups and veggie lasagnas and loaves of homebaked bread. What could be better than the brightness of lemon and blueberry to blast through your last week of February?  My latest issue of Whole Living did a feature on citrus, with this dramatic but oh-so-true opening:  "Those sherbet-bright oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes show up in the produce aisle just when we're needing them most.  When the wind is whipping and we haven't seen the grass for weeks, who couldn't use a little warm-weather fling to remind her of sunnier times?  These seasonal beauties remind us there's nothing quite so affirming as a bracing citrus kiss."

Amen to that.  It would seem Chicago's due for a doozy of a snow-storm.  6-12 inches.  In March. What a bust. This Lemon Blueberry Drizzle Cake is just what you need, I guarantee it.  It's ridiculously easy to make, makes a gorgeous presentation for guests or no-one if you're planning to grab a fork and a corner when it pops out of the oven, and it is just beaming with brightness and cheer.

Lemon Blueberry Drizzle Cake
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon for blueberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the Syrup:
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
3. With a mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and lemon zest on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes.  Add in the eggs one at a time, until each one is incorporated.  Add in the milk and vanilla extract, and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated.
4. In a small bowl, toss clean blueberries with the 1 teaspoon of flour.  Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.  Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
5. Bake until the top is lightly browned and toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.  Allow bread to cool in pan for a few minutes, then turn onto cooling rack.
6. While the bread is baking, make the lemon syrup.  In a small saucepan, measure lemon juice and sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat, until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
7. Using a skewer, poke the top of the cake all over.  Don't be shy, you want all the syrup to go into the cake so it will be nice and moist.  Brush the bread generously with the lemon syrup.  Allow the bread to cool completely, about 2 to 3 hours.
8. To make the glaze: In a small bowl, mix the confectioners sugar and lemon juice, and whisk to combine.  When cake is completely cool, drizzle the top with the glaze.

In other good news, yesterday I made my first batch of hot cross buns of the season.  Another must make. Dotted with golden raisins, warm with spices and orange zest.  The perfect end to the perfect Sunday afternoon. 

Perhaps the most considerable and astounding good thing of all: the story of my bike.  Most folks have heard this story by now.  It's become this incredible emblem of good and just and the phenomenon that makes you think that the universe is in fact working toward the hope and wonder of humankind.  Since it's old news by now, I'll spare you the details - I just couldn't very well keep such a story out of my Collection of Good Things.  The long and short of it is, my incredibly unique, one-of-a-kind, vintage bike from the UK was stolen while I was volunteering at the food pantry.  I was beyond crushed.  Walked home dismal and dismayed, crying and feeling silly for it.  Exactly three days later, I walked up to our local grocery store just as a guy was riding up on my one-of-a-kind bike.  "That's my bike!"  The conclusion is, he walked away with nothing, and well, I got my bike back.

Today is Election Day in Kenya.  When we were there just a few weeks ago, everyone was talking about it, anticipating it, worrying about it.  There were riots and power-outages, all because of the election.  It's been 5 years since the last election, which broke out in riots, killing over 1,000 Kenyans and destroying a nation's hope for a just and fair election.  We must pray for our dear Kenyan brothers and sisters - for peace, for justice, and for a new hope.

Also today, it is my dear padre's birthday.  Today, he celebrates 54 years of good.  He has perhaps, been my greatest influence in life and one of the most thoughtful, confounding, and humble folks I know.  Last week, when we got a few inches of snow overnight, I had to leave early to drive somewhere, and typical, didn't allow time to shovel/scrape/warm the car.  My dad was outside shoveling snow and sent me this text: Your car is cleaned off, out front and ready to go when you are, ma'am.  Because of him, I know that I am loved for who I am no matter what.  I know that living a great story comes before living the story you're expected or supposed to live.  I know that it's ok to be 54 and still not be able to explain exactly what you do for a living.  I know that every Wednesday is Pizza Wednesday.  And I know that the car will be gassed up and ready to go when I am.  Happy to know him, happy to call him my dad.