Aromatics, Part II: Jesus the Cook

A story of Jesus cooking is like blessing backpacks, too.  Afterall we eat with our noses and eyes almost as much as we eat with our taste buds. Our noses and mouths are intrinsically and physiologically linked rendering the act of eating a completely sensory experience. The food company that employs my spouse has an entire department devoted to analysis of the sensory experience of food. Sensory scientists they are called.  Though when I think about the title it seems strange, like this job title might be better suited to artists or poets, to those that qualify and quantify all that we absorb with our senses, and then make sense or beauty of it.

I don’t remember hearing anything ever about Jesus cooking breakfast for the disciples until I had to teach it to preschool children five or six years ago. Since then I’ve pulled a Mary and have pondered these things in my heart ever since. How did I miss this story for so long? Maybe before that I just never paid attention to it because I’d never cooked. I didn’t get it. Or maybe when it was told to me the emphasis was on the supernatural fishing or Jesus telling Peter to feed his sheep after they ate and not on Jesus cooking. Even the heading in the NIV Bible for this final chapter of John calls out the “Miraculous Catch” and not the cooking or the meal.

This story resonates with me in a way that frankly and selfishly the rest of the Jesus stories do not. My daily to-do list doesn’t include getting water from a well or tending sheep or pruning vines but heating food to serve to loved ones is a task to which I can relate to daily, even semi-daily.

I’m all about a story in which Jesus puts on the old grilling apron (maybe his read “Kiss the cook . . . but not you, Judas”) and gets a meal going for his exhausted friends when they get off work.  At this point the miracles are not such a big deal anymore. The disciples have seen it all: the lame walking, the blind seeing, the water wine-ing. Let’s face it. To them miracles are now just yada yada yada.

But there’s no miracle on the beach of the Sea of Galillee. This is not catering from heaven or food just appearing instantly per their usual. This is about the process, it’s about getting the fire going and hanging out around it while the coals get good and glowy. It’s about creating a welcoming food aroma that invites the disciples to join their heavenly host.

Life will be hard for these men once Jesus is gone and the Holy Ghost comes. Most of these friends will die for the sake of this cook, this Son of Man, and nobody knows that but him. So he does what any man might do for his buddies.  He makes a meal so they can be together one last time before he goes away again.

I take great comfort and delight in thinking of the Master, the Creator God himself, attending to the minutia of meal planning. Think of Jesus deciding where everyone would sit, making space for each beloved guest, unpacking the loaves of bread from a burlap sack and tearing them into portions. Think of Jesus prepping the fish to cook–gutting them, maybe stuffing them with garlic and olives and tarragon before putting them on the fire. It’s all so fresh and rustic it could have been an episode of No Reservations.

Meanwhile the only thing bigger than the 153-fish haul the fishermen are trying to heave ashore (which they don’t yet realize is a metaphor for the Kingdom work yet to be done) is the size of their appetites. They’ll get a lot of money for these fish and they’re prepared to pay whoever’s cooking for whatever smell so good.  Had they birthrights, they might have impulsively sold them in exchange for breakfast.  They never would have guessed this meal was already theirs.

When they get to shore Jesus asks them for some of the fish they just caught and gets those on the fire, too, while he listens to them laugh exhaustedly about trying to bring in those overstuffed nets. Think of the dawn sky, the sounds of the day waking, the smell of smoke in the still-early chill, the crackle of the fire that circles everybody up, faces and hands to flame.

There’s something about Jesus the man–who during his ministry probably didn’t fuss over food, wasn’t basing his ministry travels around his favorite places to eat, wasn’t plastering his insta-feed with photos to make his foodie friends jealous. The disciples had probably always known him to be busy doing important missional kingdom things and trusting that at the end of the day, the God-man and his crew would get fed by one of the more generous and thoughtful followers. This is not to say he wouldn’t have appreciated good food, just that he wasn’t planning his route around his appetite the way, you know, some of us do.

When I think of those disciples–especially the now sopping wet Simon Peter who had to swim to Jesus because the boat was just taking too long–and their reactions to Jesus’ breakfast on the beach I picture my 22 year-old brother Christian (really, that’s his real name).  He’s loud, passionate, animated, pierced and tatted up and exuberantly lovable. He always finds a way to shower my own less-than-divine cooking with compliments. So if the cook were actually the God-man he’d be all, “This smells amazing! So that whole time you were this phenomenal cook AND YOU NEVER TOLD US?! Whaaat?!” (doubled over in awe and laughter, then back up, eyes pinched shut, arms and fingers extended like tree branches).  They thought they knew this guy and they thought they knew he’d died and gone away. But there’s way more to him, more to his humanity even, than they ever knew.

Maybe it’s like a dad one day out of the blue offering to french braid his daughter’s hair while they’re watching TV. “What?! Dad, seriously? You have braiding skills?! Since when?! How did you learn?! How did I not know this?!” There’s some of that here–there’s something about Jesus as the died-and-risen Lord of All, as the ultimate King-Dad-friend-holy guy taking on the very earthbound service and detail-oriented role of cook.

I can only liken it to when my dad makes hobo eggs for breakfast at a campsite for all the family. He hardly ever cooked when I was a kid so it was this special camping-only fresh air treat of a meal. It’s not about gender roles or a man doing “women’s work.” It’s about the revelation that their their Abba is mysteriously back, appearing again for the third time and doing this uncharacteristic thing–for them and only them.

They knew Jesus was special–that his wisdom was like none other, that he acted decisively and intentionally like no other, that he was a teacher without fear, with mysterious authority, ripe with love and justice. But this just blows away everything they thought they knew.  “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus says and that combined with the glorious aromatics of delicious cooking overrides that little bit of fear they might have always had in his presence.

I’m not surprised Jesus chose to meet the disciples where they were, back in their old pre-disciple rhythms of daily life. It probably felt really good to get back to fishing, to what they knew. He meets them where they are. I’m not surprised he cooked on the beach. Food and drink always smell better, taste better cooked and consumed in the open air. Could a sensory scientist prove that? I don’t know. I only know after hours of work outside protein charred over an open flame, seasoned with salt and freedom, smell and taste something like God meeting us.


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What Sierra Says Now

Last year around this time news was dominated by Hillary’s e-mails, Trump’s rallies and all manner of political mud-slinging as the election approached. And there was Standing Rock. I asked my cousin for an update. She made two trips there last year to serve as water protector. She shared her experience here after her first visit.

Here’s what she had to say about what’s happening now:

The camps have been cleared and construction completed, oil is now flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline daily (as expected, with reports of some leaks already).  But the fight for the water and indigenous sovereignty is not over.
On June 14th, 2017, the Lakota People’s Law Project published this update:

US District Court Judge James Boasberg rules that the environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) was insufficient and must be reconsidered. While it did not halt the flow of oil, the ruling found that the Army Corps of Engineers did not evaluate environmental justice in their approval of the pipeline.
This is a limited victory in the fight to protect clean water and Lakota sovereignty, but the fact remains that a full Environmental Impact Statement needs to be conducted for DAPL. (

There is also a petition circling to drop all criminal charges against water protectors in light of the leaked documents showing evidence of malicious behavior on the part of DAPL security and contracted law enforcement.  That petition can be signed and shared here.
There are various pipelines across Turtle Island being resisted by indigenous North Americans, including Line 3 in Minnesota (EIS currently under review) and the possible revival of Keystone XL (currently pending permit in Nebraska only). Most of these pipelines involve the transfer of tar sands oil from Canada, which is an especially destructive and toxic industry.

Indigenous people know that this is a time for change, that we cannot continue to live in destructive and greedy ways that deplete our life source, Mother Earth. For me, this is one of the most important social justice and political issues to be involved with, because it impacts the wellbeing of everyone on earth. The U.S. is way behind other nations in the transition to an environmentally responsible economy. It is more urgent than ever for people of all backgrounds to unite for peaceful lifeways.  It is my hope that indigenous communities will take the lead on inspiring and demonstrating to others how this can be done.

"oil + water" by Ryan Spencer Reed and Richard App. Installed in the Grand River for Art Prize through October 8, 2017.

“oil + water” by Ryan Spencer Reed and Richard App. Installed in the Grand River for Art Prize through October 8, 2017. Used with permission from the artist.

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Night Clouds

“I didn’t know,” a daughter whispers to me in the moonlight as we pause at the window on her way to bed, “that there were clouds at night.” Her voice is wonder-laden and so lost in thought she could be unaware that she’s speaking audibly.  I’m nudged to awed awareness of the Potter–God’s other-ness in majestic authority and choreographed beauty.  There is something about the way the moon is tucked partly behind the clouds that prompts a subtle repentance, prompts my mind to say to the Maker I’m sorry. I’m not sure exactly what I mean but I think I mean everything–the known and unknown personal and public darkness over which God grieves.

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Going Back

A former attendee, now downgraded to visitor, went back to the old church downtown for the noon midweek service. She parked west of Westnedge in front of the overflow lot for Gonzo’s Big Dog Brewing Co. at the edge of downtown because some of those one-way streets still throw her off. Parking there made for a simple southbound exit.  She liked walking downtown anyway.  She cut through Bronson Park, startled at first to see more homeless there than she remembered. A blanketed handful lounged on the stage of the amphitheater. Walking past she overheard one tell another–loud and animated–a crude Viagra joke. As she approached the park’s edge she could still hear him deliver the punchline. She smiled as she crossed the street.

Upon entering the scarlet-carpeted room the first man she saw wore a heavy cross around his neck framed by the lapels of a black sport coat. Newish black velcro shoes were strapped firmly to his feet. She thought he might be the new rector, but he was not. Elderly but tall he introduced himself with a smile, his eyes youthful and kind. During the service he would read aloud words from John Chrysostom and scoot over to the piano in the corner to accompany the singing of “Amazing Grace.” As the 15 or so congregants came in he asked a lady to sing verse five as a solo. She agreed but joked that she wanted the record to state that she had been coerced.

Everyone in the St. Luke’s side chapel was authentically warm and welcoming including the rector who minutes before the service was casually hanging out with everyone in a purple t-shirt and jeans. “We just finished painting in here. We just put the stations of the cross back. It’s wonderful to have it all back the way it was,” a gray-haired lady told the visitor.  The visitor looked around and didn’t know what specifically was meant by the stations of the cross exactly.  She saw lit votives in one corner, a baby grand piano in another. She agreed with the lady anyhow, at once embarrassed to not recognize what she was talking about and proud to be out of her element, to be here now with beautiful strangers–immersed in this endearing, enduring, episcopal culture she’d been apart from for too long.

When it came time to pass the peace most everyone could and did address the visitor by name. Oh, how she’d missed the passing of the peace. Her mind strayed just slightly during the homily, just enough to notice both the rector’s plaid Keds peeking out from under the vestments and how refreshing it was to be in a house of God that didn’t involve aggressive marketing, or a drum kit, or an screen of any kind. She was glad to be in a place of holy-yet-ordinary otherness from the rest of life. Staring into the richly-colored glowing glass panes she thought about how refreshing it was to be in a place that looks to, rather than dismisses, the long history of the church, of those who have come before us in sitting humbly at the feet of the Ancient of Days.

When the soloist sang verse five the visitor was taken aback by how lovely her lone senior voice sounded, how fit and ready to sing it was–as if she did all the things older ladies do all day while singing. She was not Renee Fleming, of course, but more like her than you’d expect from a side chapel in a downtown church in a mid-size midwest town at noon on a Wednesday.

This was a fond reunion for the visitor. She realized, somewhat sadly, she’d been noshing on spiritual junk food laced with artificial additives, fake colors, and chemical flavors for years. She had indeed raised her children on the stuff. And now, coming here, biting into soulful fresh fruit from the tree she realized how much her spirit had been starved for real nourishment.  She knew she would aim to be back every Wednesday at noon for the foreseeable future. And not, of course, just because there was sherry in that communion cup.

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Grocery Shipping

Thank you, Meijer corporate employee or higher-up store manager for the kind gift.  While shopping with my two daughters who were strangely mostly-well-behaved shoppers last week, you approached me in the ethnic foods aisle. Maybe I looked tired, or overwhelmed. I wasn’t, but you know, I’ve been known to grocery shop disheveled and unshowered more often than I care to admit so I probably looked the part. Or maybe you thought I was making a mess of your store. I was, I confess, parting the Red Sea of jars on the shelf with giant sweeps of my forearms, trying to see if the one all the way in the back was hoisin sauce. Normally you carry two brands of hoisin sauce, but that day there was none at all.  So then I began reading the ingredients of the Korean BBQ sauce, wondering if maybe it could substitute.

So, in this wondering, problem-solving moment, my littles giggling and messing around amongst themselves, you were suddenly standing next to me.  “Hello, would you like to try Shipt for free for one year? No strings attached?”  Maybe she was expecting me to jump up and down like I’d answered the door in an old Publishers Clearinghouse commercial during the Super Bowl.  But I didn’t.  “Oh, Ok,” I said, “I guess I’ll think about it.”

“Well if you don’t use it make sure you pass it on to someone who will because it’s worth quite a bit!”

I wanted to be excited.  I wanted to want other people to pick out my grapes and cuts of meat and yogurt and secret stashes of chocolate and bags of potatoes.  But I just didn’t.  By the time we got to the back of the store, the kids begging for new $17 water bottles for school, I was getting a little bit more into the idea.  I texted the hubs about it, excited to share the news of getting what seemed to be an exclusive freebie even if  I wasn’t completely interested in redeeming it.

Then at the check-out the cashier asked me what I planned to do with the soba noodles she was bagging.  Feeling like a good multi-cultural cook I told her about my slow-cooker Asian Pork with Broccoli and Noodles recipe.  Unimpressed, she kindly schooled me in “what we do with them in Japan.”  She said they mostly make soups with them, vegetable soups.  In the summer they use udon noodles instead.  Last time she was my cashier she told me she was from Seattle and all about how she used to be a hair stylist but now she can’t do hair because of carpel tunnel. “Oh, so are you first generation American?” I asked.

“I don’t call myself first generation because I don’t necessarily consider myself as being from one place.  I was born here but my parents are from Japan and I’ve been there a lot and now my brother lives there.”  Schooled again. See, this is why I need this job.

And anyway, isn’t there something sacred, something meaningful about not only cooking but selecting our own food? We are already so separated from our food supply.  We already have to think and care so relatively little about it. There are already so many middlemen and meddlers that come between us and what we put in our mouths. Why add another layer? Why rob ourselves of this rewarding responsibility? Giving up this duty, this hunting and gathering, would be depressing, soul-numbing.

This is fulfilling, gratifying work. To come together and choose food for our families knowing it will not last long and we’ll be back soon reminds us that none of us are far from hunger, that our hunger unites us.  Individually and collectively we are hardwired for this ritual. I’m not proud of every item that ends up in the cart (I’m looking at you, Nutella), but I like being in places that feed people–churches that feed the soul, libraries that feed the mind.  Maybe food shopping–buzzing around alone with our carts but together in the pursuit–is as close as it gets to a true communal table.

Also, isn’t it sort of communist to just passively receive your food? Isn’t that what they do in North Korea–show up and wait in line for rations of rice and beans and salt for the week? Making specific food choices (this plum, that cabbage) is a wonderful privilege. Nothing screams capitalist democracy quite like the luxury of taking five minutes to pick an ice cream flavor because your choices line a cooler that seems as long as half a city block. God bless America!

And what about our kids? How will they learn to feed themselves? How do we teach them how to turn and sniff and poke and inspect produce–to recognize what good food is–if they aren’t there with us to buy it? How do we teach them to compare prices, to make wise shopping choices, to be good stewards of money if food shopping is yet another thing we do quietly, alone, in front of a screen?

In the past ten years, over a quarter of my life, I’ve lived in two homes, worshiped regularly at two different churches, and brought two babies into the world. When I started grocery shopping at the Meijer on Westnedge I didn’t have a smartphone or Facehook account or a job.  But every week since then, usually twice, I drive the same gray 2008 Toyota Matrix to the Westnedge Meijer for provisions. I’ve logged in about 1,040 trips so far.

When I run into old friends they ask why I still shop there. There is more than one reason.  For one, it’s near other stores. It’s also exactly the same distance from my house as the newer, more suburban-y Meijer. More significantly, after all these years, I know the contents of every aisle. But the real reason I still shop there is because I see people (and once in a while dodge seeing people) that I’ve known for almost as long as I’ve lived in this state: seniors who held my babies in church nursery, former neighbors, co-op preschool moms, sweet Harriet–mother of our former church secretary and grandmother of our old babysitter–who lost her jaw to cancer. She can’t speak well anymore, but can still smile and radiate love from behind the cart she still pushes down every aisle. I see school moms, Kellogg wives, home-schooling dance moms, friends from whom I’ve grown apart but still hug in the frozen food aisle.

And then there are the anonymous coupon fairies that leave their expertly-trimmed, soon-to-expire savings on their respective items.  Every time I see the evidence of these random acts of thrifty kindness my heart vertical jumps and clicks its heels in midair. I wonder if they are the same senior ladies who eat grapes when they walk past (This irritated me to no end when the girls were little. Over and over again I would have to tell my little ones that we have to pay for the fruits and vegetables before we eat them. And then who’s breaking the rule right in front of us? The grandmas. They get away with everything I tell you.)

And speaking of seniors I have to tell you this one last story about a fellow shopper that I nearly ran into the other day.  Literally our carts almost collided as I rounded the corner. “Sorry!” I said cringing, when I realized he was there. He was very old and wearing aviator sunglasses which were a standard adult size but looked too big on his small frame. “Don’t be sorry!” he said cheerily from behind his cart which also looked slightly oversized, “a farmer don’t care!” It still makes me smile to think about it.

Despite the colorful cast of characters, most Kalamazooans don’t share my fondness for Westnedge Meijer. Sure there was that pharmacy incident when I got the antibiotics home for the sick baby only to learn that the bottle was still just pink powder. They never added the water to it. It is “special water” so I couldn’t just do it myself. And then that time this summer when my very observant child pointed out that a Planter’s nut snack pack I bought for her the day before was six months past its expiration date. And of course there are the buckets that make appearances throughout the store because of a leaky roof. And just the other day when the yogurts felt warm and the cooler’s thermostat said 62 degrees I had to inform employees of the problem. It is a place not without its major flaws.

But I’ve had my moments, too, for sure.  I’ve probably yelled at my kids in every aisle by now. Like all relationships, if you make enough mistakes in front of each other it kind of makes you feel like family.  But if that’s what we’re calling us now, I’m cheating a little. Lately I buy meat, fresh fish, bulk and bakery items from a new earth-friendlier outpost across the street. But I could never leave my Meijer completely, not after everything we’ve been through.

So, thanks, but no thanks, Meijer Lady, for the free grocery shipping.  I will pass it on to a young working mother I know. She lives close to the Westnedge Meijer but shops elsewhere because she says its too dirty to take her five-month-old baby there. I think she’s maybe exaggerating a little but I understand.  I’ll keep shopping for myself and my family with a renewed appreciation for what it is–for the life in it and for the lives that continue because of the food we find inside.





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Aromatics, Part I: You had me at “the blessing of the backpacks”

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” –David, Psalm 23:5

The website for our nearest United Methodist Church outpost had this curious write-up: Blessing of the Backpacks: August 27th during the 10:30 a.m. service. Bring your backpacks to get blessed for the upcoming school year! Extra backpacks will be available for families in need.

Immediately I loved the idea of dedicating worship time to blessing something so important to the very young, something so commonplace and essential as a child’s daily luggage. A kid’s backpack really is so important. It has many roles, really. Like it or not, for them it’s a fashion statement (which is why they want a new one every year). It’s a lunch-bearing security blanket, a shield for keeping secrets from bus-mates, a pillow for the bus ride home after a long day. Other times it’s a burdensome enemy for the load of homework inside or that really bad math test requiring a parent signature.  This thoughtfulness of children at the start of their school year–this concern for their day, their purpose, their challenges–was poignant and apparently enough to get us there that Sunday.

We are in a season of visiting churches after feeling nudged out of the congregation where we attended regularly for four years. Our list of grievances was growing but its polygamous ways tipped us over the edge: essentially, they believe the Church can be the bride of both Jesus and Uncle Sam and the Hubs and I disagree. So we are church homeless for right now.  We discern and discuss and keep wandering forward, looking for shelter each weekend. Homelessness is a lot of work, but there is nothing like it to experience the kindness of strangers. A little self-concious and awkward on Sunday mornings, we fumble about trusting we’re moving in a direction that is honorable, truthful, upward.  All pilgrims need a rest, though, so we hope this season won’t last long.

So based on that website write-up I thought the blessing was just a prayer over the kids with their backpacks. Instead the kids lined up, were anointed with fragrant oil on their foreheads and were given little tags (with the church’s name on it of course) for their backpacks which were also anointed with oil. My babies came back to their seats smiling and so pleased with their participation, so glad to have ventured out and been blessed–like for-real blessed–by a gift of physical touch, an oily souvenir from a prayerful person.

General run-of-the mill protestant churches like the ones the Hubs and I grew up in like to toss around terms like blessing and anointed. But what is meant by these words? They seem like just a part of the church vocabulary, historical and scriptural words to pepper into dialogue and song with no tangible relevance or physical act attached to them. That Sunday we learned that these words can come alive.

During the prayer stations part of the service adults in the congregation lined up for anointing. I tried to get out of it. I whisper-shouted pleas to my family about being guests and being unsure how it worked. They simply wouldn’t have it. So up we all went to the front and the Hubs and I were anointed with oil–his hand, my forehead–for the first time ever. Well, unless you consider a nail tech dabbing cuticle oil on my fingers an anointing.  We can’t exactly rule it out.

In any case I like very much that this word blessing has overridden its vague overuse, its scuffed up misuse in my brain. It is now not just a way to justify a stockpile of material possessions as the “prosperity gospel” people like to use it, or even to boast about a wealth of human relationships or an overstuffed schedule. Instead this word’s meaning now includes the act of a servant of Christ looking me in the eye, touching my face, smudging consecration into my dirty pores. Indeed, we have been blessed.

For the first time in a very long time, with all four of our anointed selves and two backpack tags, we had the car smelling pretty good on the way home.  For the rest of the day I didn’t want to touch that precious oil smear, didn’t want to bother the blessing even though it itched a little. I wanted the sacrament–and that fresh anointed feeling–to stay all day.  And it did. Every once in a while I’d catch a whiff and it would call me to attention of where I’d been that morning and to whom I belonged.  I spent a good chunk of time that afternoon just watching bees on calamint, prompting my husband to ask if everything was OK. Oh, yes, Babe, everything’s grooo-vay. It leant the whole sabbath a worshipy calm vibe. That’s not to say that the oil smelled particularly good. I’m not sure what’s in it but it wasn’t lavender essential oil or sandalwood or something one would buy for a plug-in defuser. There were notes of both perfumed old lady and pachouli.  It smelled at once like newborn freedom, braless rebellion, patient wisdom.

I want to worship at a place where a person can smell that God is good and fragrant and meets us where we are and is Immanuel dwelling with us in that very place.  Acknowledging our noses–these ordinary organs placed so centrally in the front of our faces–is not unlike blessing a backpack.

Aromatics in church help us bridge the gap between what we see and what we do in a way music and words cannot. The wafting up of fragrance rounds out the worship experience without amplifier, spotlight or stage. It helps remind us of who we are, of whose we are. It is an articulation, a quiet language of the soul. To exclude this from the worship experience seems like error, like omission, like theft.



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the maimed and miraculous

“And I dreamed I saw the bombers / Riding shotgun in the sky / And they were turning into butterflies / Above our nation” –Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock”

“Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you; you are are gentle with us as a mother with her children.” –Anselm of Canterbury, Canticle Q

I was going to tell you about a miracle that happened the Monday after the alt-right rally and protests at UVA in Charlottesville this summer.  My daughter spotted an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly missing half a wing as it sipped nectar on a butterfly bush out back.  It flew around the yard normally as if it had no mobility challenges in complete defiance of our pity. I was then going to tell you that the joke was on you, that I actually snapped the photo last year of this very same insect and that it must have wintered in Mexico or South America and come all the way back to this very same plant. Yeah, you were going to be so proud of this little one. It was going to be a differently-abled survival story and God was the hero–the navigator, the nurse, the rehabilitation specialist of this mangled-wing beauty.  You were going to feel so empowered and uplifted and awed by the detail to which God cares for something so lowly as a flying bug.

But the joke is on me because eastern tiger swallowtails don’t migrate.  Apparently they hibernate and the adults only live for (well, sources contradict, but) a handful of days or weeks.  But I did find one seemingly reliable website that said unlike other butterflies eastern tiger swallowtails can fly completely normally after losing a tail wing to a predator. This would explain why I saw this “miracle” twice in two years.

So it’s not a miracle exactly.  Technically it’s probably micro-evolution, a defense mechanism, if you want to be all dry and scientific about it. It’s a little like when a person loses a kidney and the other kidney gets bigger and does the job of both to make up for it–well, sort of anyway.  But maybe we could instead think of it as a miraculous adaptation for a species that probably would prefer better camouflage, a species burdened by its high-contrast colored coat. This is an insect that could use a leg up, a little extra help survival-wise. Just imagine taking a long nap in a bed you made yourself and waking up in the most gaudy, eye-catching and cumbersome costume you’ve ever had to get around in.  And as you fumble and flap about trying to figure it out all the birds think you look as delicious as a juicy flit-flying hamburger.

Miraculous or ordinary, is this not the tending, the nurturing, the motherly need-meeting of God? Again with that dogged divine provision–always one step ahead of us, relentless in its way-paving and never ever leaving us. We couldn’t shake it if we tried.

This capability of the eastern tiger swallowtails’ busted up wings, excelling beyond what physics should allow is a great assurance to our mustard-seedy faith. Surely if he made an escape hatch of sorts for such insignificant creatures–that like the lilies are here today and withered away in a flash–he will provide miraculous adaptation for those mourning now over the loss of innocent life to violence.

Though we don’t deserve it surely God will mourn with all of us his children over our collective self-serving greed, over our lack of imagination in showing kindness to our neighbors. Surely he will grant safe passage in flight with these our mangy wings–recovered but ragged, stolen and partially ravaged but miraculously functioning as whole–that we might carry on doing justice, loving kindness and fluttering humbly with our God.


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