June 22, 2010

Gary wasn’t coming home for dinner. Someone needed computer help, so he was making another housecall this evening. I scanned the refrigerator for leftover possiblities. Salad. Good choice; I’d had meat at lunch. And there sat a container full of baby-cut carrots. Gary doesn’t like cooked carrots, but he wasn’t home. So I got out the steamer basket and tossed the carrots in, put them in a pan of water and turned on the burner. But then I made a mistake.

I left the room without setting the timer. Sauntering back in the bedroom, I sat down in my “corner office” and opened a Word file. Typing merrily away, I smelled something. I looked at the clock. An hour had passed. What was that smell?

Then I remembered the carrots. Dashing to the kitchen, I found my copper-clad boiler now solid black.  Ebony ooze bubbled in the drip pan. Flipping off the gas, I took the pan from the stove and set it in the stainless steel sink. Carefully lifting the lid, I found my steamed carrots, except for a little char on the bottom, none the worse for wear! But now they were roasted instead of steamed.

The poor pan looked hopeless. I just knew I’d have to throw it away. Tarry crust coated its inside.  But I filled it with soapy water, chopped up the carrots in my salad and sat down to supper.

After the meal, I tackled my pan. To my great surprise, after a little scrubbing the scorched copper shed its black casing and shone brighter than ever! And the inside responded to steel wool and came out looking like new. The drip pan came clean as well.

I thought how like me that poor old pot is. No matter how crusted over I get with worry, anger, resentment or a pan full of other things I let boil dry, God can polish off that filth and reveal something beautiful. I reckon I’ve been through a whole box of spiritual Brillo pads, but He seems to have plenty. And it isn’t fun getting cleaned up. Wouldn’t I be better off not to allow those things to cook so long?

Next time I’ll remember to set the timer. Or maybe I’ll just eat my carrots raw.


Rainbow Lessons

June 18, 2010

Heavenly entertainment

Last night I had nothing thawed to cook for supper, and rather than eat sandwiches, we went to IHOP. A thunderstorm grumbled overhead, and as we left the driveway, rain pelted the roof. But after we’d gone two miles, we drove through a wall of water that opened onto dry pavement! It was one of those “scattered” thunderstorms that doesn’t seem so piecemeal when you’re underneath it.

We drove into the parking lot at IHOP about 10 miles from home in a sprinkle, but the sun gleamed through the gray. As we walked into the restaurant, a rainbow shown against the cumulus. Gary grabbed his camera phone and took a quick picture. We could see the entire expanse of it from one horizon to the other. We requested a window seat with a full view of the spectacle. Then Gary gave me a rainbow lesson.

I learned you can’t see a rainbow unless you’re between the sun and the rain. The colors are actually just a reflection of the sun against the moisture in the air. If you were still in the rain, looking toward the sun, the rainbow might be there, but you wouldn’t see it.

By analogy, it made me wonder how many rainbows have been somewhere ahead of me, but I was too busy complaining about the rain to go a little further and look back to see the colors. God’s blessings always reflect something about His character, which is many-faceted like the colors of a rainbow. The original rainbow (the one He showed Noah) was the sign of a promise. In order to recognize God’s promises when there’s a thunderhead threatening my situation, I have to be looking at my storm from the “sunny” side, shining His truth on it. And finally, you never see a rainbow on a sunny day. If I’m going to enjoy the rainbow, I have to endure the storm.

Dinner out was a treat; the entertainment was heavenly. 🙂

Civility in Small Doses

June 13, 2010

When I walked into Trader Joe’s recently, an overzealous clerk greeted me in quite a friendly way, giving me an undeserved smile. I smiled back and returned his enthusiastic “How are you?” making eye-contact and returning the smile (but with a little less effervescence). A few moments later, he made his way from the vegetable bin he’d been stocking and walked deliberately to where I was deciding which bread to buy.

“Thank you for inquiring as to my well-being,” he started. “I’ve greeted more than fifty people today, and you’re the first one that’s asked how I was doing. What ever happened to just general civility? I really appreciate that,” he finished. I stammered something, and I agreed with him in general principle with something polite. He went back to his vegetables and I continued my shopping.

But the interchange made me think. He was right. As a society, we’re in too big a hurry. We’re taught not to talk to strangers, and for good reason. But it’s tipped the scale to the opposite extreme. We’re becoming a people that doesn’t socialize at all. People sit in the same room and text one another. We prefer Twitter or Facebook to an actual human voice on the telephone (at least some do; I haven’t quite figured out Facebook and I refuse to become a Twit!).

Another occasion brought up the subject again for me. While I was grocery shopping at Kroger this morning, Gary parked the car and came in to talk to the lady at the bank inside the store. After I’d finished and checked out, he called me over to the bank window. As he did, a lady came from behind the open counter and introduced herself, and — going right past my outstretched hand — embraced me in a hug. “I’m so glad to meet you!” she said. “We so enjoy Gary. He talks about you.” She put her hand up and pretended to whisper, “He really loves you!” She carried on with a little small talk.

Although I’m sure part of that exchange was professional, I believe most of it was genuine. And it felt good to be welcomed, without any agenda, and treated like an individual. Like somebody thought I was a momentary celebrity. Sometime I’m going back to that bank and greet her by name and see if she remembers mine (eternal skeptic that I am).

I learned a lesson from a friend last year who was visiting from a small island in Alaska. Where she lives, everybody knows everybody. We were in a grocery store together (no – I don’t really spend my life shopping… just in this blog!!). At the check-out stand, no one was behind us. My friend answered a question the clerk asked and then returned a question. She asked the girl’s name. Something came up about the cashier’s family, and my friend expressed genuine concern, asked more questions and found out that someone in the cashier’s family had been murdered and she’d been raised by grandparents. She hadn’t been able to forgive. It was a five-minute conversation, but I’ll never forget how that young girl just opened up her life and her pain because a stranger genuinely cared.

I want to be more careful about seeing people who serve me in any capacity as individuals. It doesn’t hurt to ask a waitress’s name and even ask her if there’s anything you can pray for her about when you pray over your meal. A grocery clerk might not tell you her life story, but there’s no telling how much brighter her day might be if she thought someone cared that her feet hurt. The yard man just might welcome a cool glass of tea. You never know.

Civility. Let’s not let it become extinct.