Potato Guts and All That Jazz

I was not always the brilliant chef that I am today…there was definitely a time when Wolfgang Puck would have banished me from ever picking up a spatula again. A specific example of my culinary faux pas comes to mind – the first time I tried to make mashed potatoes. As embarrassing as this is to relate, I can still clearly recall the first time I attempted to make mashed potatoes. I was 17 years old; my high school life was a very busy one, so traditional “Marie Calendar” type meals were reserved mostly for holidays and very special gatherings. In short, mashed potatoes were not often on the menu at home, and I had not yet discovered the wonderful little packages of potato flakes at the grocery store.

So I decide one day to make my mother a nice meal, including mashed potatoes. I did not bother to consult a cookbook, or a cook for that matter on the proper steps to creamy potato delight. I skinned the tatoes and cut them into pieces. So far, so good…right? That is where the plan turned south. I did not know that I needed to boil the potatoes to make them soft for mashing…I just went at it like a banshee. Did I get anywhere? Ha-ha…after 10 minutes and getting myself completely frustrated, I found myself a new tool: the meat tenderizer. Yessiree, I pounded the P out of those tatoes! I remember my mother arriving home in the midst of my senseless bludgeoning and laughingly demanding what I thought I was doing. That was 15 years ago, and she still chuckles when reference is made to my foray into country cooking.

Many times we are so eager to jump out into what God has called us to do that we forget there are steps to take. Check out any great man of faith in the Bible and you will see God’s pattern – you have to begin with the small steps before you move on to the bigger ones. David is considered one of Israel’s greatest kings, and called a man after God’s own heart. But he did not begin in the palace – far from it. He started out as a shepherd, tending his father’s sheep. In fact, on the day that the prophet Samuel anointed him as king, David was busy looking after the sheep. And what happened after Samuel anointed him? He went right back to doing his job.

The same goes for Abraham – he began by obeying when God told him to go. He did not know where he was going, but he knew which direction to start. Psalms 37:23 says that God orders the steps of the righteous. And John 10:27 says that, as God’s sheep, we know the voice of our Shepherd. The Word of God is your guide through life – your source for all of your steps. And your counsel. Clearly, I should have sought advice before I dove head-first into the kitchen to make like Paula Deane. But I thought I knew what I was doing, so I ignored the cookbooks. Do not ever think that you know enough to ignore the Word. And if you try to skip steps or take short cuts, you may end up with a bowl full of potato carnage

The (Not So Sad) Tale of the Runt

I am reminded of a story that my cousin Lora Beth told me when she and her (now ex-) husband Eric played midwife to our grandfather’s very pregnant hunting dog. My grandparents were out of town for several weeks and Bess (as we call her) was charged with taking care of the mamma-to-be if she delivered while my grandfather was away.

Now Paw-Paw (as we call him) has a very different view of dogs than most people. His dogs are not so much pets as they serve a specific purpose for him. But as any hunter knows, there was also a bond between Paw-Paw and his hunting dogs. But still, they were not pets and he did not treat them as such. They were well-cared for, but not pampered as most people (including myself) tend to do with their animals.

So as the birthing hour drew near, both Bess and Eric were getting excited about the new puppies until Paw-Paw called for an update. He informed Eric that any runts that were born would be put down. Yes, I know that sounds cruel. I was a little shocked myself when I heard that – I couldn’t imagine my grandfather doing anything like that. But my cousin Bess explained that many times the runt puppies in the litter ended up not surviving anyway. And our grandfather was also raised at a different time when the kindest thing you can do for a sick animal is to put it out of its misery. But still, my eyes watered a little thinking of those poor, defenseless puppies.

Apparently Eric felt the same way, and was determined that no pups were dying on his watch. The time came for the mamma dog to give birth – ten puppies in all, including a few runty ones. Our grandparents were not due home for a few more weeks, so Eric devised a plan to save the whole litter. He and Bess took turns bottle-feeding the underweight pups every few hours. I think they actually gave all the puppies extra feedings with the bottle.

By the time our grandparents returned, there were ten roly-poly pups waiting, all bordering on obese. Paw-Paw usually only kept one pup and the rest were sold once they had been weaned from their mom. Our whole family had a good laugh at those fat little puppies, and at Eric’s determination to save them all from untimely demise.

That story got me thinking about man, and God, and how much more compassion He had on us than Eric had on those puppies. And just like Eric came up with a plan to make sure that every single puppy was safe, God had a plan in place for us – before a single particle of the universe was called into existence, Jesus had already agreed to fix it if we messed up. II Peter says that God does not want anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

Jesus died so that no one would have to endure life as a runt: underfed, malnourished, puny, and weak. That is what a life of sin will make you – a runt. Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every single one of us came into this world as a runt, but Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly.

In Christ, we can be whole and new. We can be roly-poly puppies who are filled with the spirit of God, and are strong and mighty. We do not have to live our lives as runts. We are the pick of the litter – sons and daughters of the Most High God. We are kings and priests, and joint-heirs with Jesus. Maybe it is time to put aside the puny self-image and remember who you really are.



I still haven’t
what I’m looking for
in a daze
of gray sky
and charcoal clouds.
Murky landscape –
mountains and trees
fused in a blur.
I can almost see
a name
in the sky,
no sun
to make out
the letters.
Gray fog.
No true shapes.
And then I remember.


Two beasts –

powerful and mighty mammals –

mangy hair matted with sweat,

swept away like lovers

in the throes of combat,

each brute struggling for

dominance and the right to rule.


Is this what I am inside?

Horns locked with fierce

determination, wild and raw,

each side clawing to be king.

I could name a victor

and be done with it,

but the beauty of the battle

stills my hand.

Great Expectations

I recently came across a post in regard to having expectations of other people. The author was feeling very down-trodden over the hurt of having said expectations thrown back in his face. He mused whether it was better to just have none at all… perhaps that would prevent him from being hurt and disappointed.

Just about every person in the world has at least one person that they have hoisted up onto a pedestal, be it conscious or not. Is it scarier to be the person with all the expectations, or to be the sap sitting way up yonder? (wow whoever thought I would use that word?) It is painful when the person you thought was tip-top suddenly topples over, and equally painful for the person who toppled. Is it really better to abandon all expectations, pedestals, and the like? (oh geez, if I type that e-word one more time…)

First of all, why do we have expectations (oh there it is) at all for other people? What purpose do they serve? To quote Gandalf from LOTR…”it is in man that we must place our hope.” Somehow putting faith in other people is one thing in life that gives us hope. I think we are all even a little bit optimistic, deep down. Why else would someone who has been hurt and betrayed seek out new relationships? They need to hope that not everyone in the world is a villain.

My very wise and wonderful friend Bina used to tell me that I couldn’t not trust anyone forever. At some point, I needed to believe someone…so why not just trust? Not every man is a dog looking for his next roll in the hay (mixing metaphors there), not every woman is a gold-digging tramp, and not every possible friend I meet who reminds me of Martha is going to be the same…we’ll call her “un-friend” to me as she was.

This is not at all to say that we should not have heroes and role models…we just need to remember that they are human, just like us, and prone to make mistakes. If and when they do mess up, we might want to pause a few minutes before shucking our expectations and booting them from their nose-bleed perch. And we should never stop hoping and expecting humanity to be better than it is right now. Keep the hope alive.