Posts Tagged ‘ice cream

04
Dec
20

Grace in the Wilderness

Yesterday, Joan and I decided to indulge ourselves.

Nothing big, really. Just a quick drop-in to one of our favorite neighborhood ice cream places to get a sweet treat. 

You see, I had just come out of my dermatologist’s office where a sizable chunk of my back had been carved out with the medical version of a melon-baller. I had one of those skin things that goes hand-in-hand with aging and poor sunscreen behavior as a youth. 

[We now interrupt this blog post for an important PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Get your annual derm check, people! Don’t ignore the largest organ in your body!!]

Since I hadn’t cried or shouted out in pain, an ice cream reward seemed to be in order. So, off we headed to the Dairy Delight. As we drove, I was mentally shuffling through their menu items, trying to decide between a hot fudge sundae, a banana milkshake, or a simple, understated cone.

I could almost taste the creamy sweetness as our car drew nearer.

Imagine then my stunned disappointment when we pulled into the empty parking lot and saw the large sign that read, “CLOSED FOR THE SEASON.”

“Nooooo!” I cried in anguish, deferred tears streaming down my face. “How could you DO this to me! I was a good boy at the doctor’s office and I really, REALLY wanted some ice cream! You CAN’T be closed!!”

But they were. 

And no amount of wailing and moaning was going to alter that fact. 

 “It’s OK,” Joan said as she soothingly patted my knee. “We’ll go to a McDonald’s or Dairy Queen or somewhere else.” 

But I wanted THAT place. With THOSE things. And I wanted them RIGHT THEN!

And try as I might, for the rest of that afternoon, I allowed myself to expend most of my psychic energy spewing and sputtering in an epic puddle of disappointment over the rude and untimely closing of the Dairy Delight. 

I am sure most of you are WAAAAY too mature to fuss and fume over something as trivial as a closed ice cream store… But let me ask; have you ever done anything similar?

  • Have you ever consciously chosen to become STUCK in the past?
  • Have you ever WALLOWED in self-pity about a plan that didn’t work out?
  • Have you ever allowed disappointment to blind you to God’s extravagant outpouring of blessing or to the wonders of the world all around you?
  • Have you ever FORGOTTEN that great wisdom of Mick, Keith, Charley, et al, who reminded us in song that, “You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometimes, you just might find… you get what you need”?
  • Well, HAVE YOU?

I certainly have. Sadly, way more than once. 

If you and I allow ourselves a moment of brutal honesty, we cannot avoid the fact that shortcomings and disappointments are more often the RULE rather than the EXCEPTION in life; to wit…

  • … the best professional baseball players fail to hit safely in two out of three attempts. 
  • … the best running backs in football are stopped short of the goal in 99% of their running attempts.
  • … the best books ever written are only ever read by a handful of people. 

And yet God says to us, just as God once said to the flailing, failing children of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah… those very same Israelites who disappointed God over and over again… “Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away.  I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.” (Jeremiah 31:2-4, NRSV)

Whatever the nature of YOUR particular wilderness today (unless, of course it is something as trivial as a closed-down ice cream store), may you find God’s grace and mercy RIGHT THERE. 

Abundant blessings;

29
Jan
19

You Belong

ice-cream-bikeThree doors down from the house I grew up in lived a family named the Thompsons.

There was Mr. Thompson, Mrs. Thompson (that was back in the time when kids didn’t know adults’ first names) and their three sons.

If you were one of the kids who got invited to hang out at the Thompson house, you knew you had really MADE IT.

You see, the Thompson family was in the ice cream business. They maintained a fleet of those big three-wheeled bicycles that carried a big freezer in the middle and a line of jingly, chimey bells on the handlebar (see photo). And if you DID get invited to hang out at the Thompsons, you knew it meant unfettered access to free Creamsicles, Fudgesicles, Bomb Pops, ice cream sandwiches, and all manner of frozen confections.

And yes, I am proud to say that I was a regular guest at Chez Thompson. That is, right up until the day when I committed the cardinal sin of actually ASKING them if I could have a Fudgesicle. You see, Thompson house protocol dictated that while ice cream might be offered, it was never REQUESTED.

It was a moment that provided me with one of my earliest memories of how it feels to BELONG… and then – in the twinkling of an eye – to NOT belong anymore.

And although it would be a stretch to credit this insight to my experience with the Thompsons, it amazes me to this day how much of my life has been a search to BELONG.

People much smarter than me have recognized the need to BELONG as a universal human longing.

We want to feel a sense of belonging in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in formal and informal groups of every kind.

But I don’t know… do you think it’s possible to overemphasize belonging? Can we concentrate so much effort on where we “fit in” that we start to make belonging an end in itself?

History is replete with examples of the damage that is done when we start putting a lot of energy into trying to figure out who belongs and who doesn’t.

Taking a quick inventory of my own belonging, I have discovered that I am part of an uncomfortable number of DOMINANCE groups. Here is what I mean by that: I am white… I am male… I am a Baby Boomer… I am American… I am middle class… I am Christian… I am college-educated… I am straight… I am married… I am a homeowner… I am able-bodied and of (mostly) sound mind… I am an oldest child.

I could go on, but you get the point. If there is a group that has been granted privilege and position in today’s world, I belong to it. And for most of those groups I just listed, I did absolutely nothing to qualify for entrance.

I just showed up.

Which is why I just want to take a moment to appreciate the courage of people who – for one reason or another – often find themselves on the outside looking in.

 

I have never personally experienced having doors slammed in my face because of my skin color or my gender or my religion or my nationality or my sexual preference or my physical ableness. I cannot imagine the ongoing pain of regularly hearing – directly or indirectly – “Sorry… you just don’t belong here.”

As a pastor, I can console you with the reassurance that every person matters equally in the eyes of God. I can show you the places in the Bible where God tells the Israelites to welcome the alien and the stranger, or where Jesus goes out of his way to include people that everyone else turns their backs on.

Because it’s all true.

But I can’t help wondering if that reassurance helps at all.

Dear God, please grant these your comfort. Help them know the warmth of your loving embrace. Fortify them for the days ahead and let them experience the wideness of your welcome.

And maybe, while you’re at it, break open the hearts of the privileged just a little wider.

AMEN.

28
May
18

Remembering. And Giving Thanks

GravestonesWhen you grow up – as I did – in the state of Ohio, a mere one state east of the state of Indiana, Memorial Day only meant ONE THING: listening to the Indianapolis 500 auto race on the radio. OK, make that TWO THINGS: add cranking up a batch of homemade ice cream on the back porch to the list. And most of the time there was also a big family picnic down by the river to cap off the day.

As a kid, I always thought of the Memorial Day weekend just a fun-filled beginning to the time of summer vacation. But all of that changed when some of my high school buddies were drafted and went off to the war in Vietnam. If you are old enough to remember that war, you also remember that it was not a war that the whole country rallied around and supported very well.

But despite the Vietnam War’s unpopularity, I remember that each of those young men from my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio who left to go fight were proud to go and convinced it was the right thing to do.

Most of those guys came back. But sadly, several did not. And because this was a small town, I knew the families of every one of the young men who were killed in that war, half a world away, fighting for something they believed in. And from that moment on, Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning for me.

Yes, I have continued to listen to the Indy 500; won this year, incidentally, by an Australian. Yes, I have continued to enjoy homemade ice cream, family picnics, and Opening Day of the community swimming pool. But underneath all of the fun and festivity of the holiday, I found that my eyes had been opened to a new understanding of the true meaning of this beloved national holiday.

And looking back, I realize I also received a new understanding of what this country is all about, too.

You see, before I saw those bright, promising young men of my hometown come home in coffins, the word “sacrifice” was really not part of my vocabulary. I honestly thought a “sacrifice” meant having to wait patiently for an hour and a half for your ice cream instead of being able to eat it from the carton right away.

The young men of Hilliard taught me that the principle of “voluntary self-sacrifice” is the TRUE foundation on which this country is – and has always been – built. Through them, I learned that the real secret and magic of this country is the people who put the needs of OTHERS on a higher level than their own. It is about people who ask, “What can I give?” instead of “What can I get?”Our country is built on the backs of the people who say, “YES!” without hesitation when asked to give 100% of their body, mind, and soul to a cause. Just like these men you see before you here today.

This basic truth is what led President John F. Kennedy to famously state, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

As stirring and as profound as Kennedy’s statement is, followers of Jesus Christ immediately recognize that it is simply a restatement of a message he spoke over 2,000 years ago. As Jesus was preparing his disciples for his coming death, he gathered them around and said to them, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who sacrifice their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”(John 12:24-26, NRSV).

So yes… today let’s celebrate that the United States of America is the land of the free. Let’s remember that this country is the greatest demonstration the world has ever seen of the strength that comes from diversity. It is the “shining city on a hill” rich with natural resources, hard-working people, and an unbreakable spirit.

But without the willingness of men and women to serve and pay the ultimate price for unseen future generations, we are just one nation among many.

With their sacrifices, the men and women buried here gave us the lives we are able to live today. We owe them more than we can ever possibly repay.

Let us each pledge today that we will NEVER, EVER take that gift for granted.




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