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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Strudel Spirituality

I've been on retreat with some of the Delaware Clergy - deacons and priests - with Margaret Gunther, who was simply marvelous.

She gave four "talks" followed by conversation. They were: "Where are We: Looking at Our Troubled Time." "Life Under Special Vows." "We're all in the Same Boat". And, finally, this morning, "Speaking Truth in Love."

After reading her books and listening to her for a day and a half, I have no doubt: this woman knows her way around a metaphor. You know. Like Jesus.

Take a minute or so to look at what she does with "Snake Skins".


See what I mean?

One of the metaphors she gave last night was "Strudel Spirituality".

She was talking about how those of us in Christian ministry sometimes take on too much. We stretch ourselves too thin.

Now, Margret claimed never to have made a Strudel but understood that the key to success was stretching the crust very, very thin. It's a very delicate thing to do. Sometimes, you have to roll and then re-roll and stretch and re-stretch the crust several times because in stretching, it tears.

Some of us, she said, practice "Strudel Spirituality".

We stretch ourselves too thin and find tears in our spirituality.

I have made Strudel. Several times, in fact. I've made an apple raisin strudel, a few chocolate raspberry strudels and one glorious ham and cheese strudel in a light cream sauce with just a sprinkling of fresh baby peas. It made an elegant lunch.

What I learned in my adventures in strudel making is that Margaret is absolutely right. The key is to roll out the crust as thin as you can. Then you put it on a kitchen towel and stretch it.... stretch it.... a little more.... just a little more... and then, sometimes - at least in the beginning - OOPS! It tears.

So, you start over again. Sometimes, several times, until you get to "feel" the tension in the crust and stop just before it tears.  Of course, you can use store-bought puff pastry, but where's the fun and adventure in that?

Besides the stretching of the crust, there's another part of the tension.

You have to adjust the thinness of the crust to accommodate the weight of the filling. Apples are much heavier than, say, ham and cheese - especially if the ham is shaved into very, very thin pieces and the cream sauce is a particular balance of being hearty enough to hold everything together yet light enough not to overpower the rest of the ingredients.

Otherwise, you'll find that, even though your crust is perfectly thin, it still tears when you try to roll the whole thing up. And then, you've got a Real Mess on your hands.

So is our sense of spirituality a balancing act. Sometimes, in Christian service, our work does stretch us thin. Too thin, in fact, and we find that our spirit has a few tears in it.

Other times, our spirituality is just fine - close to perfection - but what we fill ourselves up with is too much to be encased in it. Again, we develop a few tears in the spirit and the contents begin to leak out, making a mess of everything.

Here's the thing I've learned: It's much easier to repair a tear in the crust before you start filling it than to fill it and have to spoon everything out and start all over again.

I am deeply grateful to Margaret Gunther and the blessing of this delightful weekend retreat. Not only did I get to meet some wonderful priests and totally rockin' deacons, but I find that the crust of my own "Spiritual Strudel" has been stretched just enough to take on some new filling.

I think I hear some chocolate and raspberries calling my name.

1 comment:

Grandmère Mimi said...

One of the things I like about being old is I don't care.

How Margaret's words resonate with me. It's liberating, indeed, in so many ways, to be old. Of course, age brings with it limitations, too. Still, I'd sing with Maurice Chevalier, 'I'm so glad that I'm not young any more.'