The Scabs of Humanity

Years ago, I ran into some friends at a local Wal-Mart. After catching up about kids and work, Lynn shared the strangest thing about her youngest son.  Earlier in the year, he had chicken pox and decided to save the scabs.  That’s right. He kept them in a medicine container on a shelf in his room.  It was his father’s idea.

When his son was whining about how he itched and couldn’t sleep, the idea was planted in the young boy’s mind. The dad said something about the scabs being “battle scars”, which would make a great visual for show and tell.  Kids love gross things.

Let me tell you.  After I quit laughing and gagging at the thought of chicken pox scabs, I remembered that I used to keep old plastered casts that had been cut off my arm or leg after it had healed.  I kept those casts on the shelf in the closet of my childhood home and had no problem bringing them out for my own show and tell.

I am sure I’m not the only one.  Have you ever known someone who kept his gall stones?  How about one who kept the braces from her teeth or the x-rays of broken bones.

As strange as it seems, here’s the truth.  We can only be fully known by our wounds. Scabs and scars are signs of our humanity. Think about it.  It’s hard to find a connection with someone who appears to have it all together. Frankly, I only feel some common ground with someone who has also been broken. Need I also say? Not all scars are physical or apparent to the eye?

Now, I’m not suggesting that we “let it all hang out”.  However, in my profession (ministry), we need to shift from being holier-than-thou to being more real. Granted, I wasn’t brought up that way.  Though it wasn’t spoken, we somehow learned not to share our “dirty laundry” in public. Subliminally, I grew up in an era when “image was everything”.

That’s changed. Maybe it’s not just my profession that is evolving.  These days, it appears that authority comes from authenticity, not title or expertise.  Have you noticed that?

We don’t have to share everything.  In fact, I would discourage it for bosses and leaders. However, instead of riding  high horses, let’s ride donkeys. Even better, let’s just walk or roll alongside those for whom we work and serve.

Let’s take a  look at leadership from a different view.

 

 

Confessions of a Southern Has-been

As a Southerner, I acknowledge some regional indulgences for which I make no apologies.  I confess; for years, I have had a fist fight with big hair.  One of my favorite colors is Carolina blue.  Even though I gave up sweet tea years ago, I refuse to give up hammocks, gardenias and tomato sandwiches

However, since this blog is called “gratefulgrits”, I was hoping to develop a signature dish that I could endorse.  So, I doctored a Bobby Flay recipe.  Who doesn’t love Bobby Flay?  Yet I wanted to add my own flair. 

Please note that I cut down on Flay’s recommendation of butter and cheese.  I added red peppers, spinach and cilantro which are things that I like.  I was trying to make it healthy.

Get this.  I loved the shrimp, spinach, peppers, onions, garlic lathered in bacon grease and lemon juice.  Okay. I could have used less bacon grease for a similar effect. The cilantro was a nice addition.

I hated the grits.  Does that make me a flunky? 

Southerners need to come up with new indulgences.  No longer can our bodies afford fried okra, chicken, catfish or anything else fried. Corn bread, biscuits,  hush puppies are horrible for anyone who is trying to live gluten-free.  Peach cobbler is addicting.  Grits are just bland without all the butter, salt and pepper, etc.  

Frankly, we Southerners need to surrender those things along with Confederate flags, Bible thumping, red and white barber poles.  You don’t understand the barber pole symbol?  Look it up. 

I don’t have time to explain.  I’ve got to figure out what to do with my leftover grits.

Ingredients:
Old fashioned grits
2 tbl. Butter
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 tbl. Minced garlic
Fresh lemon juice
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups fresh spinach
3 chopped sweet red peppers
2 tbl. Fresh cilantro.

Make grits according to package. Prepare for 4 servings.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (I use Sea salt).  While the grits are cooking, rinse shrimp.  Pat dry.

Fry bacon I a large skillet until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towel.  Leave grease in pan.  Saute red peppers in grease until tender, Add half of the green onions, garlic and Spinach.  Add Shrimp until it turns pink.  (2-3 minutes).  Add lots of fresh lemon juice.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

To the cooked grits, added butter and cheese.

Then spoon grits into a serving bowl.  Place vegetables on top of grits, Add Shrimp.  Add bacon, the rest of the uncooked green onions and cilantro.

Serves 4.

Enjoy.

Easter dirt

 

I am so thankful that Spring is here; aren’t you? Granted, here in Ohio, we have not had a brutal winter, Yet, I am itching to get my hands back into the dirt. I’m not a Master Gardener, by any means, but I have become a determined composter.

 

Because I live in a condo, I can only do composting on a small scale.  I have a few pots on my patio into which I collect dry leaves, food scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, shredded newspaper, grass clippings and banana peels.

 

I even get excited about big, fat, juicy worms trying to survive a big rain. Squeamishly, I collect them. I drop them in a bag and say, “I’m gonna make your day”.  Then I take them home, depositing them in one of my compost pots to feast on scraps.

 

There’s a reason I want to talk about dirt this time of year. Did you notice, in the reading of the Easter story from the Gospel of John, that Mary didn’t recognize the Risen Christ?  She thought he was the gardener.

 

Why is that? Did he have dirt under his fingernails?  Could he have smelled like compost and worms?  Jesus couldn’t have looked like a holy ghost, if Mary mistook him for OLD McDonald.

 

You know, one of the things that this story tells me Is that new life is messy. Mary Magdalene didn’t encounter some glowing spiritual Jesus.  He didn’t appear with a halo, wings or a Spring Break tan. He didn’t appear in Khakis and a melon-colored polo shirt.  Neither did he look like some Superhero with a cape. Mary mistook him for Mr. Green Jeans.

 

I don’t know why that should surprise us.  The Gospel wasn’t meant to be cleaned up. Think about it.   Jesus was born around farm animals.  And, from the beginning, Jesus chose unimpressive characters to follow him: fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes.  These days, that would be like recruiting veterans with PTSD, recovering addicts, food pantry regulars and teenagers with bad attitudes for his army of love.

 

The Gospel is messy; Why would we assume Resurrection is any different? I get it.  The Garden of Resurrection is the new Garden of Eden.  Jesus is the new Adam.  It’s a whole new beginning.  All of creation is being restored. I understand the garden theme.

 

However, for me, Easter gets personal. Between us, my life has been messy.  I have lots of dirt: guilt, fear, regret and shame. I know claiming the new life God offers will take some gardening.  Some regrets need to be dug up and composted.  Some relationships need to be pruned.  My fear about things I cannot control needs to be dead-headed. My compassion for others needs to be fertilized.

 

Easter, for me, is the faith that the Master Gardener is still working with me and with the whole earth.  Put on your garden gloves and join us.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Everybody wants to be touched

 

I forgot that on Sunday morning. During the final hymn, I left the chancel to make my way to the back of the church. That’s my weekly routine. Personally, I want to connect with as many folks as possible before they leave.

As I made my way down a side aisle, I gave a high-five to a UNC alum. I winked at some ornery friends. I touched the shoulder of an older man who is recovering from surgery.  I introduced myself to a visiting young couple. 

Then, I made my way to the head usher, at the central back door. Each week, during these quick minutes, she silently points out any other guests she wants me to meet.  If she got their names, she gives me that information as well. 

As I stood there, I noticed someone sitting in the back of another section of the sanctuary. A niece of one of our unpaid office staff visits several times a year.  I wanted to say hello.  Because the niece was sitting in the middle of the back pew, I went up behind her and touched her shoulder.  I didn’t want to scare her, but I wanted her to know I noticed her.  She looked over her shoulder, grinned and nodded.  The older woman sitting next to her, noticed my intrusion.  She is a long-time member, but I don’t know her very well.  She rarely speaks to anyone.  She and her husband sneak in and out of the sanctuary without drawing any attention to themselves.  They are loners.

I touched the older woman on the shoulder and smiled. I wanted to apologize for breaking in.  She turned around and slapped me. It wasn’t a love pat; it was more of a slug.  It startled me, for sure. I had never been hit in church.

I quickly exited out another side door. I didn’t want to cause any commotion.  I wanted to greet others.  I whispered into the head usher’s ear, and she simply mouthed, “must not be taking her meds”. That made sense. This older saint has schizophrenia.  I had forgotten that.  The ushers know about it. 

The incident wasn’t over. As I was standing at the central door, my nemesis made a bee-line toward me, shoving others out of the way.  Fury had possessed her.   Thankfully, her husband held her by the elbows and was escorting her out.  She was swinging.

My heart sunk as the husband pushed past me and out the back door.  I’m grateful that at our church, we have open doors. Everybody is welcome. This incident was a reminder that we need to develop appropriate responses.  I’m going to research mental health first aid.  I just wanted to put this in writing again.  Not everybody wants to be touched.

 

What Is Your Why?

 

Do you know someone is fixated on that question?  Why do I have to eat my vegetables? Why do I have to practice the piano? Why do I have to work so hard? Why can’t I sleep late?

When my kids were younger, they were fascinated with the question of why.  Frankly, I didn’t always have a good answer.

“Why did my hamster die”, one would ask.                                                              

“Why do dinosaur bones smell  bad?”                                                     

 “Why is the sky Carolina blue?”

Okay, I do have an answer.  I’m a Carolina Tarheel.  So is God.  I’ll confess like a lot of parents who don’t have the answers to all the why’s, my go-to response was “because I said so”.  Yet, why is such an important question. It might be the MOST important one.

By the way, the answer to the question “Why do dinosaur bones smell bad?”  It’s because they’re ex-stinked.

Our response to the question of why can answer the more over-arching questions of our lives. It can explain why we get up every morning, why we what we do. Let’s face it, we live in a day and age with more hows than whys. As my 21 year old son likes to tell me, one can learn how to do just about anything on youtube these days. Did you know from youtube videos, among other things, you can learn how to make a fire with a lemon, how to survive being buried alive, how to butcher a massive alligator, how to lose that wiggly arm fat?  Again, we live in a culture of hows.

Yet, I believe that what we long to claim is not our how; Rather, it’s our why. A long time ago, a wise person once said, “The one who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”.  A number of years ago, I developed a spiritual practice. Instead of going through my list of must-dos, have-tos, should dos and want tos, I remember my why. My why is to love God and love others.  For me, it is really that simple. 

In the course of any day, along with all my tasks and duties, I am open.  If I receive an unexpected phone call, or an interrupted visit, I frame it in a spirit of openness.  I shift my thinking from another have to, to a possible follow through to my why.  If it addresses my why, I take it.  If it doesn’t, I set it aside.

What is your why?