A Fountain in the Desert
Editor's Note: Today's devotion contains excerpts from And It Was Good, a book by perhaps our favorite author of all time, Madeleine L'Engle, and featuring one of our favorite and most overlooked Bible stories. May it bring comfort and refreshment to you as we near the end of this Advent season.
One day, Sarah saw Isaac playing with Ishmael, the son of Hagar - Hagar, who had scorned Sarah's barrenness - Laughter playing with Bitterness. And Sarah still had bitterness over Hagar's scorn lodged like a splinter of ice deep in her heart; and when she saw the two boys playing together, she was afraid. So she went to Abraham and asked him to send Hagar and Ishmael away, so that Ishmael would not inherit anything that Sarah felt belonged rightfully to Isaac.
Abraham was troubled. Ishmael was his son, too. But God informed him that God would take care of Ishmael. So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of my child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.
So did her son. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water... where no well had been before.
"Don't be afraid," God's angels remind us over and over again.
"Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in me. It will be all right," Jesus told his anxious friends.
What will be all right?
God's purpose for us and for all of creation. In God's time. In kairos.
God can and does come into the most terrible things and redeem them. I do not believe that God wills cancer, or multiple sclerosis. I do not believe that we are ever to regard the brutal death of a child as God's will. I know only that God can come into whatever happens, and by being part of it, can return it to wholeness. This is a large part of the meaning of incarnation. Nothing ever happens to us alone. It happens to God, too.
So God heard Ishmael crying, as only a small, thirsty, frightened little boy can cry, and in the dry desert wilderness, the Creator of the universe brought up a fountain of water.
God is in it, whatever it is, with us.
Christmas Wreath Coffee Cake
2 ¼ tsp yeast (if you're Stateside, this is one packet)
½ c warm water
1 tbsp sugar
2 ½ c flour
3 ¾ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
6 ¼ tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ c walnuts, chopped
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
¼ tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Mix in egg, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and oil. Beat vigorously until dough comes together. Turn dough onto flour-covered surface and knead until smooth, about 18-20 times. Roll into a large rectangle (A3-sized or around 16”x9”). Spread with soft butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over the surface. Roll up tightly, beginning at the wide end.
With the seam on the bottom, pinch ends of the roll together to form a ring. Using kitchen scissors, cut ¾ of the way through the ring at 1” intervals, then carefully rotate each section 90 degrees so the spiral is facing upwards. Let rise in warm place 1 hour, covered loosely with a towel.
Bake 15-20 minutes until light golden brown. Set aside to cool completely. Once cake is cooled, make the glaze by mixing together powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until you have a thick but still runny glaze. Drizzle over the cooled cake and serve.