How the Church tells time

October 12, 2010

Our nomadic existence this past couple of years has caused my affection to grow for traditions that facilitate a rhythm of worship for our family and that help us feel connected to the Church no matter where we are in the world. I am delighted to celebrate our unity with believers everywhere, and in so doing, to testify to the immeasurable depths of grace, reconciliation and love we experience through Jesus. In moments of loneliness and disorientation during our sojourns, I am especially thankful for tangible, visual reminders of our adoption into God’s large family.

There is a fabulous wooden puzzle introduced in Stewart and Berryman’s book “Young Children and Worship” (that can be purchased at Worship Woodworks) meant to teach children about the seasons and special days in the Christian calendar that can guide our worship throughout the year. It is called “How the Church tells time.” I wanted something a little more portable, a little less pricey, and, honestly, I was also looking for ways to use up our big stack of construction paper before our next move. So we created a church calendar with paper beads and string.

To make the calendar you need:

  • some pencils that you don’t mind getting a little yucky
  • 1 part glue and 1 part water mixed together in a bowl
  • a surface to dry your beads on
  • some red, white, green, blue and purple construction paper (you can use just purple or a purplish blue instead of both blue and purple as I did…or whatever you have on hand!)
  • 1 length of twine to string your beads on
  • A gold marker
  • A large safety pin and a button, or a piece of string, or anything that you can attach between beads to mark the current week

Cut 3/4 to 1 inch wide strips of construction paper in the following quantities:

  • 1 red strip for Pentecost (you might want to make a couple extra while you are at it just in case something goes wrong)
  • 8 white strips, 1 for Christmas and 7 for Easter
  • 4 blue strips for Advent
  • 6 purple strips for Lent ( I just cut 10 purplish-blue strips for both Advent and Lent, but someday I will make real purple strips for Lent)
  • 33 green strips for Ordinary Time

Of course you can vary the colors according to how your church celebrates that various seasons. If you want to learn more about the seasons and find ideas about how to structure your family devotions accordingly, you can visit CRI/Voice’s page for a detailed explanation.

Dip the strips of paper in the glue/water mixture, thoroughly saturating the strip and squeezing off the excess glue with your fingers. You are going to get a little messy. Wrap the strips of paper around your pencil to form a bead (I was able to fit about five or six per pencil). Let the beads dry until they are solid enough to slip off the pencil, but you might want to take them off before they are completely dry to avoid having them stick to the pencil. Let them dry thoroughly off the pencil.

When your beads are dry, draw a gold cross on one white Easter bead, and gold star on the white Christmas bead. Then string the beads on your twine in the following order: 24 green beads, 1 red bead, 6 plain white beads, the white bead with the golden cross, 6 purple beads, 9 green beads, the white bead with the golden star, and 4 blue/purple beads. Knot your beaded twine into a circle and tuck the ends of the string through the beads on each side of the knot. Choose a way to mark the current week – I used a big safety pin with a button attached to hang before the week that we are celebrating.  You can figure out what week we are at here.

Move the marker each Sunday during a devotional time or after a worship service. This has been so helpful to me on many levels, not only in infusing our family worship with a beautiful rhythm, but also in keeping the big seasons of Christmas and Easter from sneaking up on me! Enjoy.


Lemon chicken alfredo

April 27, 2010

Some dishes are renown for the hard work that goes into making them delicious. But there are plenty of dishes that are famously delicious simply thanks to their ingredients. Like Alfredo. So, do not be dismayed if you are on a gluten-free diet that you cannot open a jar of Alfredo sauce from the shelf and dump it on your (brown rice) pasta. This is not hard, and it’s better.

Alfredo sauce might be elementary, but good chicken is another story. Making boneless chicken that isn’t dried out and rubbery always presents a challenge. I have, thus, become a big fan of brining my chicken whenever I get the chance and cooking it “quickly” at high temperatures. This is not hard, either, but it does require some forethought. And it’s really not absolutely necessary, but I believe this extraordinary sauce deserves a worthy accompaniment.

Alfredo Sauce

  • zest of 1 lemon and the juice of half the lemon (reserve juice of other half for chicken)
  • 3 T salted butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1 C grated Parmesan (or more to taste)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Melt the butter in a saucepan with the cornstarch, the grated zest of 1 lemon and the minced garlic. Let the butter heat until foaming a bit, then add the cream. Simmer until the mixture has thickened, then stir in the Parmesan, sugar, nutmeg and juice of half a lemon. Take off the heat. Toss with brown rice pasta.


  • 1 –  1 ½ lbs boneless chicken
  • ¼ C sugar
  • ¼ C salt
  • water to cover
  • olive oil
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Fresh minced herbs, such as parsley and chives

In a large plastic resealable bag or a container with a cover, dissolve 1/4 C table salt and 1/4 C sugar in a couple cups of water. When it has dissolved, add the 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of boneless chicken breast and add more cold water, enough to completely submerge the chicken. Brine the chicken in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse thoroughly under running water. Pat the chicken dry and place in an oven pan. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle generously with fresh ground black pepper and garlic powder. Place the chicken in an oven preheated to 500 degrees. Cook the chicken for around 20 minutes, (depending on the thickness) or until the chicken starts to brown a bit. After removing the chicken from the oven, squirt on the juice of half a lemon and let it rest, loosely tented with foil, 5 to 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into slices and serve over pasta tossed with Alfredo sauce, reserving a bit of the sauce to spoon over the chicken. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Sour tapioca flour…beware!

December 10, 2009

Tapioca flour/starch is indispensable in my gluten-free baking because of its mild taste and the wonderful texture it adds to any baked good. Occasionally, however, after eating some gluten-free baked good, an offensive aftertaste lingers in my mouth. It almost seems as though someone dumped extra baking soda into the dough.

The culprit? Bad tapioca flour. Every once in a while I open a bag of tapioca flour and catch a whiff of that sour smell. A quick taste confirms the tapioca is inedible. I have also had this experience with gluten-free mixes that perhaps have sat on the shelf too long. So I am issuing this warning – taste your tapioca flour before baking with it. It should not have a lingering sour, baking soda taste.

Happy baking!

Gluten-free Naan!

December 3, 2009

I had made many attempts to take the gluten out of the delicious flat bread that I used to eat at Indian restaurants, but to no avail. You can imagine my triumph, then, when my husband tried this flat bread the other day and smiled, “it’s naan!” My main hurdle was trying to press the sticky gluten-free dough into flat rounds…very difficult. So, I have opted to press all of the the dough with liberally oiled hands into a jelly roll pan to make a large flat bread, and then cut it into square portions after it has baked. Just keep oiling your hands to keep the dough from sticking to them as you press it out. You’ll love it!

  • 1 package of rapid rise yeast
  • 2 C sorghum flour
  • 1 C tapioca flour
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 T olive oil or melted butter
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 C of warm water
  • ½ C plain yogurt, warmed slightly in the microwave

Combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl in the order listed, and mix them together for a few minutes with an electric mixer. The dough should be pretty sticky. Liberally oil your hands and form the dough into a ball. Press the dough, with well oiled hands or spatula, onto a greased jelly roll sheet. Place the baking sheet into the oven and set the heat to 400 degrees. Once the oven reaches 400 degrees, bake the bread for another 5 to 7 minutes or until it is golden on top. Cut the flat bread into serving size pieces with scissors or a pizza cutter.