“Would you take a moment to read what I’ve written?”
I sent the text to my friend, David. The article I penned is for Orange Leaders, about ways churches might measure the success of weekend services. Now, the idea of measuring success might be a little offensive to some. But there is that thing in all of us that wants to know we’ve stewarded well the talents and gifts we hold in our humanity. Pastors and accountants, worship leaders and auto mechanics all want to look back at the work of their hands and know it was good and purposeful and beneficial. So writing something about success isn’t really such a bad thing at all.
It was David who introduced me to a little clapboard church near some railroad tracks outside of Tulsa – the church is the inspiration for the story. He preached there on a bright and beautiful Sunday after we had both spoken at a conference for entrepreneurs and dreamers. His mother-in-law runs tech for the church, and folks love him and his family. Most of us who attended that morning to cheer for David wept like babies at the precious kindness we experienced. The church isn’t fancy at all – the pews squeak a little and the fragrance takes me back to my little girl days sitting with Aunt Prue and Uncle Roy at South Lee United Methodist, when Sunday School lessons were taught with flannelgraphs and the petticoats worn underneath my fancy dress made me look more like an umbrella than a skinny buck-toothed kid.
After a bit, David replied, “It’s beautiful.”
And then, he wrote, “I think that a lot of the beautiful things you noticed and mentioned are a result of the merging of two churches. Each had their own habits and style, so there was friction as they came together. As you can tell, I think they navigated those waters and the combined church is better for it.”
So why am I sharing this – and what in the world does it have to do with #kitchentherapy? Because, as I bake some peanut butter cookies for neighbor Nell (who has invited Brad and me over for some book reading and piano playing on an afternoon that finds her home a bit too quiet and lonely), I can’t help but think about that little clapboard church and what is says about people like you and me.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we aren’t always so great at blending together. I watch four ingredients in a blue bowl wage war against each other at first, each trying to keep its form and shape and texture. It’s as if each believes it will in some way be destroyed if it yields itself to the other ingredients. It takes gentle coaxing and persistence and time – oh, so much time – to transform those ingredients into something new. The process isn’t always picture perfect. Things spill or get burned or look far different than what we imagined. And yet, that something new is given birth.
Each ingredient has a distinct purpose. Each ingredient holds out its unique offering. And no ingredient disappears.
And in the midst of the mess, something beautiful happens.
Bitterness and bite are soothed. Rough edges are softened. Flavors are blended and fragrances become like perfume.
Oh, most certainly we humans are far more complex than an egg, sugar, peanut butter, and some Mexican vanilla (which is the best vanilla, honestly). We each carry within us ingredients that have already been stirred and simmered. We remember the moments of the spilling and the burning. We remember being the spice not needed, the flavor not wanted – and we have watched more than once as the “something new” crumbled for lack of ingredients or care.
I know, a peanut butter cookie recipe seems far too simple a picture of unity. But maybe simple’s what we need right now. Maybe we keep saying its far too complicated, when in reality we’re just ingredients in a big blue bowl, afraid to yield to something new. Something beautiful.
But in a little clapboard church near railroad tracks, complexity has found its way to unity. That church is praying today for more blending and stirring and simmering. And that gives me hope.
That’s all, friends. Here’s to hope, and here’s to the beautiful something new. Oh, and here’s the recipe for the cookies. I’ve shared it before – it’s so simple.Make them with your kids. Make them for your neighbors. Make them for someone you need to get to know. Nell says they are a perfect treat for a woman who is “eighty-three and four-fifths.” Her age is even a tribute to her passion of music. When she plays piano, she closes her eyes and the tears fall as she gets swept away in the sound and story. And she knows stories about every composer – about their lives and their loves. They’re ingredients in her life that have blended with so many other ingredients. Like the clapboard church, Nell is teaching me about the “something new.” But that’s a story for another day.
Remember, we’re in this together. And I am for you.