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Shauna Niequist is a soul sister, a kindred spirit, a writer, a mama–and she’s a table girl, someone who has seen the goodness of God over and over in the faces of the people she gathers around her table. Bread & Wine is a love letter to life around the table, with recipes that take you by the hand and urge you gently into your own kitchen—knife, onion, oil, pan.

by Shauna Niequist

I love the table.

Love the gathering, love what God does when we look one another full in the face, when we listen to the whole story, not just the textable sound byte, when we let the candles burn down and the truth spill out over hours.

And that’s why I learned to cook, because I believe so deeply in what happens around a table.

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For all my hours in the kitchen, though, I didn’t bake until very recently, until something drew me to breadbaking.

And bread baking drew me to consider the sacraments…

The sacraments are tangible ways to represent intangible ideas: The idea of a Savior, of a sacrifice, of body and blood so many centuries ago, fills our senses and invades our present when our fingers break bread and our mouths fill with wine.

We don’t experience this connection, this remembering, this intimate memory and celebration of Christ, only at the altar. We experience it, or at least we could, every time the bread and wine are present — essentially, every time we are fed.

During that last meal, that last gathering of dear friends and disciples, Jesus was inviting us to gather around a table and remember, in church buildings and outside of them, during the sacrament of Communion and outside of it.

Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. “Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,” Jesus says, “remember me.” Communion is connection, remembrance.

My friend Shane says the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us.

In our tradition, we take Communion as a part of the church service every month or so. We pass a plate of bread, and another with tiny cups of wine — juice, actually. The taste of grape juice always reminds me of church, because until I had children, that was the only time I ever encountered it.

We also celebrate Communion in less formal places — at a camp, or on a retreat. It isn’t terribly uncommon to take Communion together in a makeshift way, in a home or a backyard or on a beach, one person reading the Scripture, another passing the bread and wine around a circle of friends, a small group, or a team that serves together.

I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember Him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day—no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done.

If we only practice remembrance every time we take Communion at church, we miss three opportunities a day to remember. What a travesty!

Eugene Peterson says that “to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.” Yes, that, exactly.

To those of us who believe that all of life is sacred, every crumb of bread and sip of wine is a Eucharist, a remembrance, a call to awareness of holiness right where we are.

I believe this bread and wine is to be torn and handled, gulped. I believe that we can practice the sacrament of Communion anywhere at all, that a forest clearing can become a church and any one of us like a priest as we bless the bread and the wine.

I want all of the holiness of the Eucharist to spill out beyond the church walls, out of the hands of priests and into the regular streets and sidewalks, into the hands of regular, grubby people like you and me, onto our tables, in our kitchens and dining rooms and backyards.

Holiness abounds, should we choose to look for it.

The whisper and drumbeat of God’s Spirit are all around us, should we choose to listen for them.

The building blocks of the most common meal — the bread and the wine — are reminders to us: “He’s here! God is here, and He is good.”

Every time we eat, every time we gather, every time the table is filled: He’s here. He’s here, and He is good.

 

 

 

Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet.

She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Aaron, and their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about family, friendship, faith, and life around the table.

She offers a veritable feast, a love letter to life around the table with recipes, with the rich & filling wisdom on the powerful pages of  Bread & Wine.

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 | Guest posts | Visit Post

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 [Scroll down for the three posts shared here today?]
Dad always did that after the meat and potatoes, after the plates were cleared and stacked.

He’d ask for a toothpick.

Him in his plaid flannel shirt and Levi’s, looking for a bit of a tree to right everything again.

That’s what he’d do before he left the table: He’d snap the wood between his fingers.

He’d snap the brittle wood right between his fingers.

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And he’d say that to us women.

To us at the sink when he passed through the kitchen, when he went looking for his work boots again, for his sun-frayed hat and his honest earthy work.

He’d say, “A woman can be a dry and brittle thing, ready to snap.” Then he’d wink and dodge his way out of the kitchen, dishtowel snapping loud in his direction.

I have no idea why it took me twenty years to know it:

The days that are dry and brittle, ready to snap — these days are perfect kindling for a burning bush.

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The days after Psalm Sunday, we eat figs.

Because the day after Palm Sunday, Jesus, hungry for fruit, he sees a fig tree and

He went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only.

And He said to it, “May no fruit every come from you again!”

And the fig tree withered at once” (Matthew 21:18).

The first act after the fall, it’s the first Adam come looking for fig leaves.

The last miracle before being nailed to the Tree, it’s the Second Adam, Jesus, come looking for figs.

Ask Adam: The authentic Christian life has got to be more than leafage.

Faith has to have fruit.

It’s the fig-bearers who live a faith that bears fruit. And it’s the leaf-wearers who just live this front that wears thin.

Ask me.

I can’t even remember the last time we’ve sung that hymn in the pews:

For thou art our salvation, Lord,

our refuge and our great reward;

without thy grace we waste away

like flowers that wither and decay

Forget the fig tree withering.

Whole family trees wither away without a grace that produces fruit.

Without thy grace we waste away.

When the boys eye that plate on the counter, when they ask if they can have more figs, I say yes.

I say yes.

And Christ? He inspects our lives for more than intentions; He intends for intimacy.

He searches the limbs not for leaves — not leaving for conferences or for meetings or for front seats. He looks along the the leaves for the love.

For the seed that swells with the Spirit, the faith that unfurls, the flower that unfolds into fruit. Can belief ever be barren? Doesn’t belief always mean living in the Beloved? Living like the Beloved?

Shalom breaks her fig open and I can see all the seeds, all this possibility.

“They’re so sweet.” She eats her’s slow.

I clear the counter.

What if you’re the one feeling dry and brittle?

What if all you feel like you ever bear is….  frustrated kids and edgy words and a whole string of “grin and bear it days”?

What if you’re the one who feels like you’re withering right up?

I move the plate of figs off the table and it’s there.

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The silhouette of the the Bent Beloved, all tenderness.

Him leaving the withered fig tree to lay down on the worn Tree so all the weary can revive.

And me, this woman too often like Aaron’s rod, dry and brittle, who just has to lay everything about before the Lord —

I lay out a bowl of almonds too.

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Because Aaron’s dry -as-death rod,  that rod budded and blossomed, white almond flowers unfurling this impossible faith by grace.

These brittle, dry days —  they can be kindle for burning bushes and God can come upon the dry bones and they can bud and blossom. And we can eat almonds and taste miraculous fruit from limbs just surrendered.

Though the fig tree doesn’t blossom nor fruit be on the vine, yet I will rejoice– and there is the reviving. He can make the dry bones dance.

After Palm Sunday and before Good Friday, that’s what we eat —  the almonds and the figs and the fruit, because by Grace, God can get a fig out of even this dry stick. Levi sets out the third bowl.

A small dish of toothpicks. Dry,  like dead trees.

“It’s what we’ll do when we repent.” He tells my Mama when she stops in. He shows her, holding up this grapevine wreath, this wood withered and wound.

“These wreaths that we made from the vines back in the wood? Every time we need to repent this Holy Week,” he reaches for the bowl… ” — we’ll slip in one of these sticks.”

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“Yes,” she nods.

“Yes, exactly.”

I’m fingering the sharp edge of one brittle point.

And I go first.

I slip in a toothpick thorn, repenting of fruit that isn’t and believing in Him who is, and it’s there in these hands, this snapped, withered wood that will bear the impossible life and right everything again.

This hope encircling like a crown…

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3 Bowls & a Crown of Thorns: Holy Week Activity

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Three Bowls & a Crown of Thorns : 

Items Needed:

1. Figs in a bowl
2. Almonds in a bowl
3. Toothpicks, tea or coffee stained in a bowl
4. a grapevine wreath, crowned-sized

Set the Three Bowls (figs, almonds, toothpicks) & a Crown of Thorns on a table during Holy Week.

1. Read of Jesus’ last miracle before His death: The Withering of the Fig Tree.

Share how Christ is looking for fruit in our lives of faith. And the first fruit is to believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, that without Him, there is no fruit. Have a time of personal and family reflection: What are the fruits of the Spirit? How does my life bear each of the fruits of the Spirit?

2. Read the story of Aaron’s dry as death rod budding and blossoming and bearing fruit.

Give glory to God for doing miraculous work in your life, to bear unlikely faith, by His grace alone! Share God-glorifying stories of unexpected fruit!

3. Leave out the bowl of figs and almonds to eat throughout Holy Week

A literal reminder of what Christ seeks and how He surprisingly saves.

4. Set out the bowl of thorns {toothpicks stained} and the Thorn

Throughout Holy Week, as issues arise that beg repenting, slip a toothpick thorn into the grapevine wreath — and thank Him for His painful grace that He offers to bear fruit in our lives…

Without thy grace, we waste and wither away.

Three posts are shared here today for Holy Week: Day 3
Post 1: When You’re Feeling Spiritually Dry during Holy Week [Holy Week: Day 3]
Post 2: [How to Serve a Christian Passover] When Your Holy Week is Far from Perfect & You Just Need a Perfect Lamb 
Post 3: When You Need a Garden Getaway in the Middle of Holy Week: Make A Garden Getaway

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | Easter, Uncategorized | Visit Post

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So on a week when you feel messy and behind and burdened and it’s obvious that you’re flailing and aching just a bit —

it’s the small things.

A few plants in dirt for an Easter Grace Garden. Some figs and almonds from the store on Tuesday and some thorns in a crown — even just one or two.  Read just one devotional  (download here) between now and Sunday and hang an ornament on the Easter Tree.

And have a Passover meal on Thursday.

The house won’t be perfect. There’s drywall dust in the mudroom. I’ve failed in ways that feel like a piercing.

But the lamb?

I need a Passover Lamb more than anything else.

Need to prepare a Passover meal, rub the marinate into the lamb,

blood ponding on plate,  my hand massaging the meat,

fingers pressing out more of that impossible red,

all the necessary essence of Easter, all very non-Hallmark,

the nostrils filling with this wretched stench of sin,

and this one beating heart hurting for the only God

whose wild love

had Him pass over perfect and tear open a vein

and  become a lamb dragged to the slaughter

without bleating or begging

to cleanse the bloody mess of all those who’ve fallen

behind.

this mess

stained deep into my skin.

 

 

One Passover Meal. Same Passover Program. Two different print options:

Print the Lamb Edition (click the dowload in the top right (arrow on a paper icon) and then print)

or Print the Traditional “Haggadah” Edition (click the dowload in the top right (arrow on a paper icon) and then print)

(with historical background of a Messianic Passover meal & table requirements, thanks to  a partnering with www.CrossroadsChurch.com )

(The actual text of each, to lead you through a Passover Meal, is the same in both free printables)

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To Set a Simple Table for a Christian Passover:

1. matzah (or Wholewheat Unleavened Bread)

2. juice of the vine (wine, grape juice, non-alcoholic wine)

3. sprigs of lush green parsley

4. horseradish (bitter herbs)

5. chopped apples and raisins (called haroset)

6. heavy shank bone of lamb

7. boiled egg

8. small dish of salted water

Make it Simple Menu:

Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary

Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes

Baked Asparagus with Balsamic Butter Sauce

Haroset (Chopped Apples & Raisins) for Passover

Wholewheat Unleavened Bread

Baby carrots

And for dessert: New Life


Resources:
I AM – Messianic Passover Seder PlateI AM – Communion / Passover Cup I AM – Passover / Communion Candle Holders

Three posts are shared here today for Holy Week: Day 3
Post 1: When You’re Feeling Spiritually Dry during Holy Week [Holy Week: Day 3]
Post 2: [How to Serve a Christian Passover] When Your Holy Week is Far from Perfect & You Just Need a Perfect Lamb 
Post 3: When You Need a Garden Getaway in the Middle of Holy Week: Make A Garden Getaway
Our Easter Essentials this week: The Free Easter Family Devotional with Ornaments

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | Easter | Visit Post

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So the thing is, back there in the beginning, we all had this shattering fall in a garden.

And we mark it on the calendar, Christ, falling in the garden of Gethsemane.

Christ, righting our messy fall.

So the kids and I, we put our hands into dirt,

and we remember our garden fall and His garden grace,

and we make a Grace Garden for Easter.

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How to Make a Grace Garden for Easter

This is what we did:

We gathered
1. a basket, some dirt,

2. some plants at the nursery, a beginning too,

3. tramped to the woods for just the perfect moss

4. found a wee glass dish for a pond, a few shells too {optional}

5. and drilled a hole in a stone. {or use a small planting pot or peat pot, laying on its side}

6. We planted a garden, {filled a pond with water}, laid the flattest, the smallest  stones from our lane, as a winding path to the tomb and our great freedom coming.

7. We found a stone that read GRACE and put it at the entrance of the Garden Tomb. That seemed perfect. (write Grace or Resurrection or Joy on a flat stone?)

8. And come Palm Sunday, we’ll plant some seeds, resurrection hope in the dark of the earth, and line the little stone path with smalls candles, one for each night of Holy Week, miniature garden torches, for the Light is coming.

And each night, all week we’ll light another wick… until Good Friday, when all went dark.

9. And in the evening of Good Friday, the children will shape a caterpillar out of modeling wax, swath it in small square of silk, tuck it in the moss outside the stone over the entrance of the tomb….

10. On Saturday, we’ll remember and we’ll wait.

11. And come Sunday, Easter morn early, in first light dawning, we’ll roll back the tomb, see only the husk of silk left behind, a butterfly a light in the branches of tree over the Tomb.

Tutorial to Make Easter Sunday Morning Butterfly: Click Here

12. And we’ll ask it, incredulous at grace all over again, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Lk. 24:5) He is alive!

So this is the path we’ll walk the last week of Easter, right across the Grace Garden.

From dark to Light.

From cocoon confinement to conquering in Christ.

From sin grit to saving Grace.

And an Easter Grace Garden will unfold, a parable, a living visual of the metamorphosis of all the cosmos…

And we’ll walk with Him again,

in the garden in the cool of the evening,

reunited by the truth of His grace alone.

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Three posts are shared here today for Holy Week: Day 3
Post 1: When You’re Feeling Spiritually Dry during Holy Week [Holy Week: Day 3]
Post 2: [How to Serve a Christian Passover] When Your Holy Week is Far from Perfect & You Just Need a Perfect Lamb 
Post 3: When You Need a Garden Getaway in the Middle of Holy Week: Make A Garden Getaway

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | Easter | Visit Post

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Monday, April 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Saturday, April 12th, 2014 | Link Wanderings | Visit Post

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Friday, April 11th, 2014 | Uncategorized | Visit Post

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 | Book of John, Jesus Project, Love, Memorization | Visit Post

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Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 | Guest posts | Visit Post

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Monday, April 7th, 2014 | 1000Gifts | Visit Post

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