It was a seemingly random phone call as I sat waiting for my flight at the airport…
“Here’s what I know,” I said,
As I watched the criss-cross of people,
Hurrying here and there,
Carrying bags and talking on phones,
Rushing like there’s no tomorrow…
“We don’t know how much time we have,
So make every minute count.
Stay in the moment,
But think about how you act today
Will impact tomorrow.”
“Oh…” I said, “Your loves.
“But how will I know if I did the right thing?”
I sat for a while,
And rocked back and forth.
The smell of fresh pretzels
And the sound of wheelie bags overwhelmed my senses.
“I think it’s simple things,” I said. “Whether you built a bridge or burned it
Whether you showed love or indifference,
Whether you showed grace or sat in judgement,
Whether you left people feeling welcomed in,
Or shoved out.”
“Those aren’t simple things.”
“No… they aren’t. But they are everything.”
It was just a random phone call.
But it turned out to be prophetic.
God, help me hear and respond with love to every call…
Tuesday we took The Johnnie back to campus. It was a busy summer, full of travels and memories, family dinners and challenges. Now it’s time for studies to take over her calendar. She’s ready. I’m delighted for her!!
But it’s the QUIET. So very quiet.
The last week or so there were errands and to-do lists. Evenings and the last few weekends flew by. Church events. Day trips. Driving lessons. Shopping. Gourmet meals in my kitchen (not by me!) All have vanished from my calendar.
The silence is punctuated by two cats who are confused as to their best human sitter’s disappearance. We are attempting to be acceptable cat servants, but the bar is set pretty high.
The seasons are on the razor’s edge between summer and fall. It’s a reminder of how short life is, and how precious life and loves really are.
My family has a collection of recipes that come from various friends and family members. They are part of our celebrations and meals, parties and surprises. Some of them I can share (and I do, over at my cooking blog, Holy Spoons. That’s where you’ll find some of my grandmothers’ recipes.) But other recipes are truly family secrets and they aren’t mine to share.
That’s the case with these cookies, affectionately called “Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.” I had to think a bit to remember who she was, who in the family knew her, and when I first tasted her cookies. (And, I might add, just about anything that came out of her oven could be classified as “good”!)
Tonight I baked these confections. As they cooled on the baking rack, we sampled them. (The broken ones, of course.) They were DELICIOUS!!
I had to consult with my sister and my mom to get some specific instructions, as the notes on my faded and stained recipe card didn’t have a few key instructions. But after texting back and forth a few times, there was clarity and success. Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, amazing success!!
Tomorrow I will share these gems with church family and friends. They were well worth the work, and honor the memory of the generous baker who shared the recipe with our family in the first place.
I reflected on how much of what we know and do is handed down by word-of-mouth. Family traditions, holidays, celebrations all seem to come through the generations, each previous generation depending on the next to listen, take note, and (perhaps) improve on the work of the past. In the church it is no different, of course. Every time I read 2 Timothy, I reflect on how the faith of the grandmother and mother were accepted and lived out in the son/grandson.
5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. (2 Timothy, NLT)
But the faith of Lois and Eunice would not have become Timothy’s had they not shared it! I suspect his first theological education began as he watched them care for others in their church, perhaps providing meals for a widow or for orphans. They patiently answered his questions and challenged him to make their faith his own. Paul reminded Timothy of this.
Cooking and baking is like that, too. You have to watch, try, and try again. You adapt what works in a modern kitchen. You get the benefit of years of baking and cooking. I’m reminded of my mom taking the recipe for corned beef (which called for a side of beef in a barrel!) and reducing the portions to make it with a 5 pound roast. I worked with the family’s treasured white bread recipe to make a tasty loaf in the bread machine.
Like many recipes, I’ve added notes in the margin now. What size pan I used, how long it took to bake, and any other reminders so that the next batch comes out of the oven with a little less guesswork. These “tried and true” recipes and tips are what bring the personal, special touch to our tables.
Not every recipe is a keeper! The “Grange” cookbook that was my grandmother’s was a hellish collection of jello salad molds, pickled beef tongue and spam recipes. I remember many of these dishes with a shudder…
So it is with the traditions and expectations of the Church of previous generations. We observe their “lessons for success” – and try to duplicate those practices which infuse life and love into our churches. Perhaps, just perhaps, we are discovering that there are customs that we can let go of… for another generation to grow their own expressions of love for Christ and reaching the world with God’s Love. We can keep the traditions that work… like Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.
It is far too easy to find things to do
that do not feed our souls.
We can shop and dine out, run errands and do laundry,
and these are tasks that do not revive us.
Yet there is work for a Sunday
that has been neglected far too long;
work that would be a unifying task
with family or church or friends.
Work that requires time to consider
“Do I need to keep this?”
“Is it time to let this go?”
I will engage in a task of holy reflection,
one where I think of my many blessings,
spiritual and material,
my wants and my needs,
and Your abundant Providence.
And I humbly repent
of all my excesses.
For today, after church,
we are cleaning out the garage.
May it be a holy work.
May it be a reflective work.
And may it be done quickly!
3dogmom has this week’s Friday Five over at RevGals:
It’s been a week of ups and downs at our house. On Tuesday I received word of the birth of my goddaughter’s second daughter, a blessing to that family, and the hope of the first daughter happily fulfilled. That evening I learned that my sister-in-law, a breast cancer survivor, is facing a recurrence of cancer in her lymph nodes, and probably her lungs. Joy and concern pressing in on my heart has made for a week of lots of deep breaths and deep-in-the-marrow prayer, smiles and tears. At times like this I my soul finds comfort and seeks expression through my senses. Pinterest feeds my visual need for beauty and color (not to mention adorable puppies, and herds of sheep). Cooking fills the house with pleasant aromas, and the results satisfy my palette. My hands find tactile pleasure in massaging my dogs, and music penetrates and reverberates in the fiber of my being. When you need to hold disparate parts of your life in tension, what do you do? Share five things that steady your pace, recharge your batteries and invite peace to your soul.
I made my list and then went back and reviewed it. What is interesting is that though I am an extrovert, when I need to refuel, I tend to move into solitary experiences. It was an important aspect of my CPE to realize what I needed to be ready to give in ministry the next day.
1. Labyrinth: I go walk the labyrinth in my backyard. I’ve walked in the heat, snow, rain and now it’s mud season! It’s a place to hear and see the world I live in and to separate myself out from it, just for a little while, to pray.
2. Photography: I have no delusions that I am an amazing photographer. But every now and then, I get some good shots.
3. Knitting and crocheting and vegging: My latest projects have been hats and lambs for infants (knit) and matching afghans (crocheted). The blankets take a LOT longer. I’m also looking into creating preemie clothes for the NICU. We have lots of “million dollar babies” and their parents appreciate the handmade things. (If you have a hospital with a NICU, call and ASK them what they need.)
4. Music: Right now my piano is covered because of all of the construction dust in my house. I can’t wait to uncover it and play again. I really miss it.
5. Coloring: I have started dabbling with coloring. At home I have colored pencils and various designs that I color (mandalas, labyrinths, patterns). Away from home, I play around with the “Paper 53” app on my iPad. No delusions that I’m a great artist… I’m just letting the arts be my muse.
I was running a little late for my overnight shift at the hospital. Running more than a little late, actually. I put my stride into “overdrive,” adjusted my backpack and tried to weave a little faster between the other commuters on the sidewalk.
Then I heard her singing,
“Jesus, he looks a lot like me.
Jesus, he looks a lot like me.
And I changed my focus from the stoplight (could I make it? 12 seconds left on the crosswalk timer!) to the woman singing.
She was in a wheelchair. She was wrapped in a couple of blankets. The cold wind whipped the blankets and she clutched them closer, adjusting one over her head. She had a small bucket on the ground in front of her chair with a sign propped up on it. And the sign said, “I just want to buy some dinner.” She was sitting in front of a grocery store, hoping to get enough to buy something from the “hot entrees” bar.
I slowed down and stopped. I reached for my lunch bag, opened it and said, “What would you like? I don’t have any cash.”
She looked in my bag, saw a salad, a bottle of water and among other things, 3 strawberries, big, red and luscious. (I splurged. They aren’t in season yet.)
I put them in her hand, and asked, “Anything else? Some yogurt? A sandwich?”
“No, honey,” she said, “that’s close enough to perfect for me.”
I closed my lunch bag, gently touched her shoulder and said, “Blessings.” And started to scurry on my way.
And I heard…
“Jesus… he looks a lot like you.
And I cried all the way to my office. Because I know in my heart of hearts, the person who looks back at me in the mirror is not always acting or living with the purest of motives. But every now and then, Jesus shows up and reminds me that I can grow and change. And that we all can do just the littlest of things and look “a lot” like Jesus.
I thought about my Jesus friend all evening. As I talked to patients. As I walked with a nurse to her shift in the ICU. As I listened to a coworker talk about her miscarriage. As I skimmed a few posts on Facebook and prayed for a friend. As I prayed for people I love.
And I came to the realization that it’s true. “Jesus… he looks a lot like you.
Jesus… he looks a lot like you.
It’s your turn… Take a look in the mirror – see that family resemblance?