The Communion with God is simple, so we will not be dazzled; so we can eat and drink His love and still go about our lives; so our souls will burn slowly rather than blaze. . . . the Last Supper did not take place on one night in one room, and to eat God's love, we do not have to even open our mouths; we can be walking, sorrowful and confused, with a friend; or working on whatever our boat is, fishing whatever it is we fish for; or we can be running naked, alone in the dark. The Eucharist is with us, and it is ordinary. To me, that is its essential beauty: we receive it with wandering minds, and distracted flesh, in the same way that we receive the sun and sky, the moon and earth, and breathing.
- Andre Dubus in Meditations from a Movable Chair
Five-year-old Isaiah loves bread almost as much as he loves his Mama, which is to say, quite a lot. He also loves juice. When there's no Sunday school and he's forced to endure the long church service upstairs in the pews, communion - with its tempting combination of both bread and juice - offers a bright respite in the midst of the otherwise boring service.
Seated during prayer at the service’s beginning on Easter Sunday, he bobs and weaves his head from side to side, searching out the low table at the front of the church. Then, he exclaims, “I see bread and juice!”
His brother, Levi, sees it too. “Mom,” Levi says, like someone who’s just discovered cake and ice cream is on the menu for breakfast, “We’re dippin' bread!”
I turn to them, scandalized by their outdoor voices, and stretch my neck forward, my eyes wide, one finger pressed to my lips. I silently tap my finger to my closed lips.
They settle back in the hard pew to wait.
My boys love communion and my hunch is it’s because they love to eat. Sometimes this strikes me as sacrilegious, but, mostly, something in their enthusiasm - the way simple appetite and desire breed longing and consummation - also feels right to me. They're happy to be part, to take part, and receive something good and nourishing.
When the time comes, at last, I send Levi under his father’s guidance and push Isaiah along ahead of me. I wonder again, as we exit the end of the pew, about the rightness of allowing children so young to participate in communion, but they’re so happy, so eager, I can’t see holding them back. We move slowly toward the altar in two lines that bulge and clot the aisle as adults shepherd groups of children. Seeing my older son behind me, I push him forward too, intending to lean over he and Isaiah both and orchestrate, regulate, their reception of grace.
Isaiah reaches the half loaf of Italian bread first. It sits on a plate outstretched in front of his face, level with his big brown eyes. He reaches for it two-handed, manhandling the loaf which slides forward precariously the slanted plate and the server and I both lunge to stop the fall. In my mind, Isaiah’s hands are everywhere (germs!) and I grab the loaf to steady it, tearing off a small piece of soft white dough while he wrestles with the dry, flaky crust. He peels back a sturdy piece as big as his forearm and we turn to the dipping, then back to our seats.
While the rest of us have quickly dipped and swallowed our own crumbs, he sits in the pew tearing off bite after bite of flaky crust. When his twin brother asks about the size of his serving, Isaiah replies, with deep contentment, “I didn’t try to get it so big, but it came off, so I kept it.”
1. noisily release air from the stomach through the mouth; belch.
2. a noise made by air released from the stomach; a belch.
Synonyms: bolt, rout, ruck
Earliest known use: 1929
My eight-year-old son has discovered the art of burping. I don’t know where he stores them in his wiry frame, but he’s mastered a long, loud release of wind that rumbles through the air like freight train rattling down the tracks. I’m pretty sure he learned the skill – practices it, daily – with the other third grade boys in the back seats of the school bus.
For the most part, I dismiss his frequent eruptions. I figure, it’s part of having a boy and, while I don’t want to be talked at or hear the alphabet song sung in burp (a skill he’s also working on), I’ve decided to save my outrage for other more offensive aerial explosions that I’m sure are soon to become a hobby as well.
The burps, though, light a fuse in my otherwise rarely lit husband. He says the mere sound of it is like nails on a chalkboard. I find this both surprising – he is a former boy, after all – and amusing. My husband is so seldom angry while I’m so frequently irritated, it does my heart good to see him lose his parental cool from time to time.
We both agree on one thing, though, no burping at the dinner table. Otherwise, in the living room, the van, I tell my husband he’s just going to have to let it go. He gives me a pained expression in reply.
I have a habit, sometimes, of repeating things. Every couple of months or so, I turn to my husband in the middle of the mundane and announce in a voice filled with surprise, “Apples make me burp.” Usually, I say this after burping, as though I myself am just discovering the funny little quirk.
“I know,” he says, “you told me that.”
“Oh,” I say.
One night, sitting on the couch watching TV, my husband burped. “Ba-ba-ba-bup,” he said, opening and shutting his mouth as the air passed, breaking it into a multi syllabic expression.
I looked at him. “What was that?” I asked.
“A burp,” he said. “It’s what you do.”
“What?! I don’t do that!” I said, incredulous.
“Yes, you do,” he said, surprised by my denial. “You do it all the time.”
“No, I don’t,” I replied, scrunching my forehead as though searching through a mental catalog of past burps. “I never do that.”
He couldn’t believe my denial and I couldn’t believe his accusation, so we returned to watching TV as the long-married are want to do during an argument, especially if they want to stay long-married. Later though, who could say how long – a day? a week? – I happened to burp with my husband nearby.
“Ba-ba-ba-bup!” I said. Shocked, I looked him in the eye and laughed. “Oh, my gosh! You’re right, I do do that!”
I’ll never forget learning to burp a baby, watching the lactation consultant sit my tiny, hours old daughter on her knee. She cupped her hand just under the baby’s jaw bone, tilting her fragile body forward precariously, pounding with her other hand on the soft, rounded back. Holding my daughter that way, whacking her back, felt completely counter intuitive, but I quickly learned that, aside from slinging her onto my shoulder with my bone pressed just so against her diaphragm, it was the best way to get a burp.
There are few things as satisfying as mastering the art of burping a baby and knowing, with that hearty gush of air, that you’ve saved your baby pain and yourself hours of broken sleep.
I started out this morning wanting to write about fish burps. Fish burps, I now know, are a common side effect of fish oil supplements. Review after review on Amazon had customers who switched from one product to another explaining, “I couldn’t take the burps anymore!” The highest complement for fish oil online seemed less to do with its effectiveness than with the consumer’s relief, “No fish burps!”
I don’t like fish and I was hoping maybe the general sense of alarm over fish burps was nothing more than hysteria. But then I got my first fish burp last week. It was round and full, a small explosion of fishiness that rolled up into my mouth, silently. I was shocked, surprised. I thought to myself, “Fish burp!” Then I texted my husband, who loves fish and who I assumed would be more than a little envious.
“I had my first fish burp,” I wrote.
“How was it?” he replied.
“Fishy,” I wrote.
It occurs to me that, unlike the word ‘hiccup,’ which can be used to describe an unexpected interruption, the word ‘burp’ has no positive use aside from its frowned-upon bodily function. This, I think, is too bad. Is there no potential for positive association with the humble burp?
Author Ann Lamott has a well-loved quote in which she describes laughter as "carbonated holiness." It's a lovely idea, but we all know what carbonation leads to - an accumulation of air in the stomach that must somehow be released. Maybe, then we could push Lamott's metaphor to the extreme and suggest that burps themselves are unexpected explosions of holiness. Maybe.
The truth is, I didn't know what to write about this morning, except I kept thinking about (and enjoying) those round, full fish burps and the thought of those burps - the thought of writing about them - felt like a lump of air building pressure right in the center of my writer's digestive system. It soon became clear I wasn't going to have room to get much else done if I didn't make way, somehow, for that content to escape. So, I wrote almost 1000 words on burps and found I had much more to say than I thought I did and perhaps this post itself is a bit of a 'noise made by air released.' I suspect, like every good burp, it's hit you in one way or another - igniting offense, laughter or a simple reflective pause. And, now that I think about it, that's what holy things always tend to do.
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