Come and eat!

Wise women have said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I believe it.

Lois cooks.When Nate and I got married, he came to me from a childhood of his mother’s creative cooking, a woman with a lavish cook book collection that she used daily. As a newlywed, I realized I’d have to learn to cook if I was going to make my man happy.

Fortunately there was an effective buffer between Lois’ high-class dinners and my incompetence in the kitchen: university food.

Nate’s memory of those childhood meals dimmed as he ate in college dining halls from 1963 until we married in 1969, and his expectations were wonderfully low.

Dining hallAfter 40 years of cooking thousands of meals for him, I remember only one word of criticism. I’d made a teriyaki stir fry, one of his favorites, but the sauce had turned out thin. So I used a tip from Mom, adding a bit of corn starch to thicken the juices.

When Nate came to the table, he saw what we were having and said, “Mmmmm. Stir fry!”

We all sat down, heaped food on our plates and dug in. Nate had already eaten three forkfuls by the time I took my first. “My word!” I said. “What’s wrong with this stuff?”

That’s when Nate’s criticism came. “I kept trying, because I couldn’t believe it tasted so awful. What did you do?”

“I have no idea,” I said, walking my plate toward the disposal. That’s when I noticed I’d inadvertently “thickened” with baking soda instead of corn starch. After we’d all enjoyed frozen pizza, we had a good laugh over my culinary error.

Although I never did become a skilled cook, I did learn one valuable principle preparing meals for a big family each day. More important than flavor, smell, ingredients, or presentation was volume. Everyone was happier with a full stomach, and filling them up became my #1 priority. Not having enough was worse than having only some of a perfectly balanced meal.

Feasting on the WordThis principle works well with spiritual eating, too. We can hold out for a gourmet feast: a peaceful place to read the Bible, a blank notebook, a pen that works, and a set of commentaries. We can wait to pray until we’re sure of uninterrupted time. But if we do, we’ll always be on the edge of spiritual starvation.

God is sure to deliver soul-food-nourishment as our appetites for him grow. And as long as we continue to eat with him, he’ll make sure there’s always enough.

Scripture refers to its words as milk (for beginners) and meat (for the more advanced) and encourages us to taste it. So apparently the old adage does have some truth to it: the way to a person’s true heart is indeed through the stomach.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27)

Sniffing the Road

FlashlightWhen Jack and I take our late-night walks, sometimes we don’t need a flashlight, but I carry one anyway. If a car approaches, I turn it on and point it toward Jack, since a driver might not see a black dog at night.

Once in a while when it’s time to take our last walk of the day, Jack is already dozing. If he’s been sleeping hard, it takes a few minutes to perk him up, even out in the cold. Some nights he drags behind me as if he’s walking in his sleep.

Sleepy JackLast night was one of those nights, and since it was after 1:00 am, I wanted him to tend to business quickly. Trying to hurry him along, I whistled, then pretended to run ahead.  I even tossed an acorn down the road shouting, “Fetch!” Nothing helped.

Then I got an idea. I turned on the flashlight and pointed it just ahead of my footsteps. The minute I did, he trotted from 20 feet behind me to just in front, walking in the light. If I moved the beam forward, he sped up. If I moved it back, he slowed down, as if he wasn’t sure of his step without seeing it clearly.

I could only conclude Jack doesn’t see very well. Most dogs have a keen sense of smell, #1 among their five senses. Jack walks along sniffing the road, then suddenly pauses to focus for several minutes on one spot, like we might pause in front of a beautiful painting, trying to take it in. For Jack it’s all about his nose.

Since Nate died, sometimes I walk through life just like Jack, head down, “sniffing the road,” unsure of my steps in the dark. But when I do that, opportunities get missed. There are people with eyes, like me, and then there are people with vision. Those with vision can see beyond what their eyes see to what’s happening around them and what’s possible down the road.

Jack doesn’t worry about what he does or doesn’t see, because his well-developed nose compensates for his eyes, but I don’t have that advantage. Thankfully, though, God has perfect senses and is willing to use them for my benefit. He’s also a visionary, so he sees it all, everything that’s hidden in the dark and all the unseen possibilities yet ahead. Much to my relief, he sees me, too, trudging along, “sniffing the road.” Since I can’t “smell opportunity,” I count on him to shine a light on what he wants me to see.

One of my frequent prayers is that his messages will “hit me over the head.” Maybe I should add, “And feel free to do it with a flashlight.”

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)

Letting Go

Most parents face a bit of angst when it comes time to let a child go. The first really big “go” is off to college, a tough goodbye for most of us. But it helps to recognize we’ve been letting go in small ways during the 18 years leading up to that, each one a bit of training for the bigger go-moments.

The first is letting go of our babe-in-arms, encouraging him/her to grow into a toddler who prefers to walk. Little by little they go – to the church nursery, preschool, kindergarten, summer camp, and we find ourselves on the outside looking in. As time passes, they go farther and farther from us, the natural order of things. But they aren’t the only ones we have to let go of.

We also say goodbye to parents, mentors, friends, pastors and others. Each positive relationship that ends includes a negative go-moment. But the old expression, “When God closes a door, he opens a window,” is true. Again and again he shows us that letting go of one thing brings us to something new.

Two Ton BakerWhen I was a grade-schooler in the 1950’s, I loved a 350-pound TV personality who called himself Two-Ton Baker. We became friends through a tiny, round screen, because Two-Ton loved kids. Occasionally he’d have one on his show, and the child was always invited to grab a handful of candy from a giant glass jar. But a clenched fist of goodies could never fit back through the small opening, requiring him/her to let some of the candy go to pull out of the jar.

The same thing happens when we hold onto someone or something after it’s time to let go. Our loss seems greater the tighter we cling. By hanging on, we lose the chance for a positive send-off, which is like losing all the candy, not just a bit of it.

There are some go-moments, though, that just never go well: when they’re next to a casket. The slam of that closed door really hurts. A window may be opening, but we can’t see it through our tears.

Lonely JesusGod knows how difficult it is to let go. He let go of Jesus for 33 years after they’d been joined in a closeness we can’t comprehend. And Jesus let go of his Father while simultaneously imposing human limitations on himself. He also let go of royalty and riches to live in poverty. The reason? Love for us.

Letting go is always emotionally draining. For a Christian who lets go of a loved one through death, however, the emotional pain will one day abruptly end.  The separation is only temporary, just as it was for God the Father and God the Son.

They endured. We can endure.

Because some day all our go-moments will be gathered into one eternal coming-together.

“God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.” (Luke 6:21)

Praising and Praying with Mary

  1. Thanks for prayers about tomorrow’s chemo infusion, for a good vein and no nausea.
  2. Praise God this will be #16 of 18 infusions!