Christianity, Church life, Good times

First Class Mail

pigeonhole mailbox

As my husband and I  were walking into church on Sunday, I could hear laughter spilling out of the kitchen. Barely in the door, John, my husband, immediately engaged a friend in conversation; I turned toward the laughter. I walked across the spacious, light-filled foyer, past the comfortable couches and clusters of tables and chairs occupied by adults and kids, then glided by the large area where outerwear is hung up, highchairs are stored,  and the church pigeon-hole style mailboxes fill an entire wall. Fair warning! If you attend Bethel with any regularity, you will be assigned a mailbox and will regularly be encouraged to fetch out the information.

I swerved deftly into the church kitchen and asked why everyone was laughing. My friend Terri held up a note card.

“A funny ‘Thank You’ note?” I queried.

“Not exactly,” said my friend. “What’s funny is that no one knows who this note is for. It is not addressed to anyone but simply says, ‘I want to thank you for the delicious dinner you brought for our family last week. The kids and I enjoyed it all. Your wonderful meal was a real time saver.Thank you again. Anna’ ”

“I found the note in my mailbox last Sunday, “Terri explained,” but I was not the one who made the meal. I thought, ‘This thank you note must be for Norma; she’s always making meals for others.’  So I put the note in her mailbox.

“When Norma picked up her mail on Tuesday before Coffee Break Bible study she read the note and said, ‘I wonder why I got this? I didn’t make dinner for Anna’s family. It must be Ginny’s.’ And Norma put the note in Ginny’s mailbox.

“Ginny came in on Thursday for prayer group and collected her mail. When she read the thank you letter she said, ‘Oh no! This is in the wrong mailbox! I didn’t help with that meal. It is probably meant for Barb,’ and she slipped the envelope into Barb’s mail slot.

“Barb came in early this morning to attend to the communion trays, spied something in her mailbox, found the thank you note and read it. She considered the situation and decided, ‘This card is not supposed to be in my mail. I better check with the women in the kitchen this morning. They will know who should get this lovely thank you note. ‘ ”

“And whose is it?” I asked.

“No one knows!” burst out Terri. “Did you make a meal for Anna and her family?” she asked me. I shook my head no.

I never did learn who made the meal for Anna and her children, but I love this story. It says so much about the women of Bethel Church:

  1. They care for those in need.
  2. They don’t take credit for an act of kindness they didn’t do.
  3. They assume the charitable act was done by another and want them to receive the thanks for it.
  4. They see the humor in what might be judged an aggravating situation, and…
  5. They check their mailboxes!
Christianity, Reviews, Writers/writing

From Tablet To Table by Leonard Sweet – a book review

NFrom Tablet To Tableothing is more intriguing, in my estimation, than to learn that an ordinary, everyday object has the potential to be transcendent. In his book From Tablet To Table, Dr. Leonard Sweet opens up the table to display the power this ubiquitous piece of furniture has to be just that – transcendent. No matter the make-up of your family – single household, community, or church; no matter the type of meal served – PBJ sandwiches, drive-thru service or potluck, Dr. Sweet tells us the family table has the potential to become a positively transformative  place for those who gather around it. It was hard for me to imagine that the table, or the lack of it, could matter so deeply to the culture or to the church. It was especially surprising to discover the pervasive connection the church has with food, and to learn that it was Jesus who led the way into this “open table” foodie lifestyle.  I never really considered the idea that Jesus’ dining pattern became a faith-forming  experience with his disciples, and their enjoyment during meals  may have looked pretty suspicious to  the Pharisees, which is probably why they accused him of being a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”(Matt 11:19) From Tablet To Table covers these surprising and engaging ideas, and many more. Presently, as far as the Western Christian church goes, there is a lot to be concerned about regarding the table says Dr. Sweet. Quoting Jean Leclerc’s definition of the gospel, “Jesus ate good food with bad people,” Dr. Sweet points out that it was the table that shaped early Christian worship, as we see in the Last Supper and the post-Resurrection meals Jesus shared with his disciples. “Food is a building block of our Christian faith. We are part of a gourmet gospel that defines itself in terms of food and table. Yet we find ourselves  at a juncture in history where we have lost the table…” The culture of today is also feeling hunger pangs for the table, and this is noted in several places in From Tablet To Table. One example is a list of “quantifiable negative effects both  physically and psychologically” on families and kids due specifically to the loss of the table. These include a negative impact on shaping vocabulary in young children, and in combating childhood obesity. On a positive note, another bit of data suggests that sitting down to a family meal three times a week can cause a student’s performance in high school and college to skyrocket – just three times a week! When I think of all the time  I put in to making sure our kids had access to special lessons and practices and performances that were expensive and long distances away, it doesn’t seem so impossible to get together for an inexpensive meal at home three times a week – especially if it could mean a better chance for kids to do well in school. The table… the family table. Who would have thought that it carries such power, and potential and promise? Who would have thought of it as transcendent? Well, Jesus did, it seems. He spent a lot of time around one, and he also made a sacrament out of bread and wine, as Dr Sweet reminds us in his book. Here is a quote from Dr. Sweet’s book that I love that may whet your appetite: “First commandment and final commandment to humans in the Bible? ‘Eat freely’, Gen 2:16 NASB, and ‘Drink freely’, Rev 22:17. Everything in between these two commands is a table, and on that table is served a life-course meal, where we feast in our hearts with thanksgiving on the very Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation: Jesus the Christ.” Why you should read this book in less than 140 characters – From Tablet To Table by Dr. Leonard Sweet is rich, rare, filling and satisfying reading. Help yourself to a copy and enjoy every morsel.

Good times, Travel Stories, Uncategorized

Does this blog entry smell like Liquid Smoke?

Just got home from a few days in North Dakota ( 7 hours away by car) at the DD’s in-laws. In-laws live on a ranch not too far from Bismark, and each year on the  day after Thanksgiving they and their extended family (including us this year) make sausage from beef, pork and venison meat. This year the total production of sausage – summer sausage, breakfast sausage, links,patties cold smoke, summer sausage and jerky – was 1,100 lbs. Yep.  This is an astonishing operation, which goes on for days, with four generations involved.  DH and I have heard about Sausage Making Day for over a decade, but had not attended until this year. I mean WOW. These folks are doing something right – something that anyone with half a brain should tune into. Somehow this family has turned hard, heavy, dirty work into fun-with-a-personality-and-a-purpose. I woke up in the middle of the night last night with a smile on my face because I realized what a marvelous thing I had been privileged to experience at Sausage Making Day.

Gotta tell ya, these folks KNOW what they are doing. This is the fourth generation to carry on the practice of sausage making: the secret recipes (if they share them with you, they have to kill you), the equipment, the space, and  the expertise are all in place. And  humor is there. So is the beer. I am basically a non-drinker, and can be pretty uneasy when there is a lot of booze around. But somehow, it fit in this situation. People, from retirees to pre-schoolers and every age in between, were working hard, and laughing hard.  Yes, the adults were drinking hard, but nothing got out of hand, and even though they were surprised that I didn’t drink, they weren’t offended.

Neither DH nor I had anything to offer the people with whom we were working  except the willingness to do anything that we were asked to do – and that was enough for them. We worked for about 10 hours that day (this was the second day of operations – the early birds had started after Thanksgiving dinner the day before), with a couple of  breaks for singing, dancing and eating  thrown in. Oh yes, and cards and other table games and underwear wedgies were going on, too. I would say there were 25 to 30 people gathered at the height of the sausage making – all family by blood or marriage – all working shoulder to shoulder and making the most of the day in every way.

I forgot to mention that with each batch of sausage that was made, there had to be some cooked up on the stove which everyone then tasted and commented upon: ” “GARLIC!” “Too much salt?” “Hey, is it legal to put jalapeños in German sausage?” At meal times, wonderful homemade food items appeared as if by magic. Amazing traditional German soups and main dishes, home canned pickles, and from-scratch pies, cakes and desserts were set out and scarfed up. Bottles were passed around, jokes were passed around, and lots of love was passed around, as well.

I was exhausted by the end of the night, but it was happy, productive exhaustion. For our efforts, we were given several pounds of the finished product to take home and enjoy eating over the next year. Oh, and great memories to make us smile in our sleep, too.