Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ahhh, Asiago!

I love asiago cheese, and I’m fond of the occasional bagel. Putting the two in combination was something I’d never considered until a bagger friend at the grocery store one morning was pondering his food options for his upcoming break and suddenly said, “That’s it! I’ll have an asiago cheese bagel!”

Noting the blank stares on those of us working around him, he said, “Haven’t you ever tried one of those?! They’re incredible! The saltiness of the cheese is just the perfect complement to the bread of the bagel. Once you try one, you’ll be hooked! But you have to buy them early; they go fast.”

It turns out he was right on all counts. Amused that I was the one who was next sent on break, with a few coins in my pocket and curiosity in my taste buds I headed to the bakery section in the back of the store. There I was lucky enough to find a few of the desired item still in the display case, quickly bought one and headed off to the break room. Soon I was in asiago bagel heaven, the mass of cheese filling the hole in the middle and melted around the bottom a special delight!

Wouldn’t you know, once on board I found that my new bagel addiction was hard to feed. My bagger friend was right; the asiago variety sold out quickly each morning, leaving only an empty tray and a few crumbs in their slot next to their jalapeno cheddar brothers. Farther on down there were likewise plenty of its cinnamon crunch buddies, my former bagel of choice, but having tasted the asiago variety I was surprised to find that they no longer tempted me the way they used to. I would simply sigh in disappointment and turn away to find a less satisfying snack to eat that day.

I even mentioned the problem to the bakery manager the next time I saw him, asking why he didn’t refill the bagel case when one particular variety sold out. He told me that they put out all that they have at one time, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. He did suggest a simple solution to the problem, however, generously offering to put some aside for me if I’d mention the matter to him the night before.

I’ve yet to take him up on the offer, and I think I know why. I like the anticipation of the trip to that corner of the store, wondering if my desire is going to be satisfied on that particular morning. Whatever the outcome, the longing remains and springs up fresh and new on the succeeding day. It’s even stirred by the sight of a bakery bag coming down the lane in the midst of a customer’s groceries when I’m working behind the register later on, the toasted cheese shreds on the bagel visible through the translucent packaging a dead giveaway to the wonders of what lie inside.

It’s the same thing that brings me to my devotional time each day, the anticipation of what God might have to say. I’ve become addicted to the sound of His voice. I’m amazed that I lived for years not knowing that such a treat was available to me, and am forever grateful to the fellow traveler who one day asked me if I’d sampled His wares. His description of the joy he found in his own relationship with God intrigued me, and after giving the matter some thought, I decided to try it out for myself. What I found, however, was so much more than just a temporary satisfaction to a momentary hunger. God literally saved and then changed my life, little by little in those morning meetings with Him, a bite at a time.

An interesting thing has happened as a result. Other pleasures, some healthy, others less so, have lost their pull on my life, replaced by a taste sensation in those mealtimes with God that they just can’t match. And now I’m hooked. I come to Him each day for food that satisfies, and unlike as sometimes happens in the bakery, I never come away disappointed. He always has something ready for me if I’ll simply make the time to head in His direction.

Due to their scarcity, there’s an unwritten code of ethics to be followed among us cheese bagel devotees that applies only to this one variety we so adore: you buy one and leave one for the next person who comes along. Another asiago addict told me that he tried to stare down a lady beside him at the bakery case who quickly stashed three in a bag and left in a hurry, refusing to meet his accusing gaze. And I laughed at myself the other day when a bakery bag came down the conveyor belt of my checkout lane, and I could clearly see the bagels lying inside, back to cheesy back. While I always confirm the quantity inside with the customer before ringing them up, I noticed there was a slight edge to my voice and I spoke perhaps a little too loudly as I asked, “You’ve got two in here?” She ignored my tone as best she could and simply nodded as she continued to unload her groceries. But she got my point.

All joking aside, we tend to do that with the spiritual treats we consume, as well. We hoard what God meant to be freely shared about, and wait for people to be stirred by the tell-tale signs of His presence inside our human packaging before offering to share the joy we’ve discovered with the hungry souls around us. God wants us to simply give what we’ve got away. Thankfully His supply never runs out, His mercies are new every morning, and refills are available throughout the day! Any time we feel the hunger rumbling in our spirits we can physically or mentally hit our knees and smile at our Father in anticipation as we whisper, “A little asiago cheese, please…?!”

It’s a picture and a plea He simply can’t resist.

“And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst.”
(John 6:35 MKJV)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Strange Change

November is upon us, and change is in the air.

We’re reminded of that fact officially as we move our clocks back this first weekend of the month. The presidential election just after that has filled the airwaves with debates, commercials and promises of a shift in one direction or another in the political arena as the chair in the Oval Office is once again up for grabs. Even the vacillating temperatures outside contribute to the unsettling upheaval of things as we’ve known them recently, as the onset of winter rains and whipping winds rip the last of the leaves off the trees, filling the world we walk through with their communal downward dance.

Surely the leaves drop and the clocks fall back and elections occur regularly as scheduled, year after year after year. But this year I’m noticing some strange transformations happening in me, in the thoughts that fill my mind and the activities that fill my days. My personal colors seem to be changing, and things I’ve held on to tightly for seasons past are now dropping at my feet and being simply kicked aside as I move on with my life. Individually they are as insignificant as one leaf on a tree filled with the same, but when they all start falling at once, it causes me to look up and wonder what on earth is going on.

Like I said, they are little things. Like the Saturday morning I ran into town after a big family breakfast to knock some errands off my to-do list. Amazingly I found a parking space in front of the gift store I needed to visit and went inside. Business done, I came back out and looked longingly at the Starbucks franchise that was directly across the street. Although I had time on my hands and a gift card in my purse, it was the calorie expenditure I couldn’t afford on that particular day…so I got in my car and drove away! No earthquake split the street before me and the sky didn’t fall, but in my own personal world, that moment was HUGE.

One weekend later family tradition found us at a small local festival, walking a street lined with vendors selling food and hand-crafted items of all kinds. When it comes to purses I’m a firm believer in the bigger, the better. I stash everything from an occasional bottle of pop to my laptop in mine, and thus I never buy small bags. Yet that day I bought one that was flat and thin and hardly wider than my fingers could stretch. Doubtful that I’d make it a week without switching back to a bigger version, I dubbed it as an experiment, to see if I could function without carrying my life around with me in my hands all the time. I’ve had to make a few adjustments in the way I do things, but overall it seems to be working.

Actually, I would have walked right on by that vendor’s booth had it not been for one piece of fabric on an otherwise denim blue bag that sucked me in. None of the other bags hanging around it interested me in the least, but the autumn leaf print on the quilted border on the one caught my eye and hooked me, perhaps the way God hoped the changing colors of my daily routines would catch my attention and look to Him for an explanation.

Clearly I’m experiencing a paring down, and not just on the digital read of the bathroom scale and the amount of clutter I carry around. Things I’ve told myself were absolute necessities I’m now suddenly able to put aside and adapt to life without. But to what purpose? And is it just for a season, or are these lifestyle changes of longer duration?

I think back to when Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples and told them not to take along a purse, bag or sandals. Later He asked them if they had lacked anything during that time, and they answered that they made out just fine. Perhaps the purpose was to teach the lot of us that our joy and peace as well as our daily sustenance are not found in the things we consume or carry about in this life, but in the One who carries us. He frees us from the burden of our own provision that we might concentrate instead on Kingdom purposes and His business.

I’m reminded of the passage in John 15 in which Jesus said He is the Vine, and we are the branches. He explained that every branch of the vine that bears no fruit is cut off, and those that are fruitful are pruned for greater production. Surely there are aspects of my existence that bear no fruit in the heavenly realm; they use resources of money, time and energy but nothing of eternal value comes out of them, and so they must be eliminated. Meanwhile God prunes and refines the spiritually productive areas in my life so that they can be even more effective. .

Throughout His years of ministry on earth Jesus was constantly looking about Him for fruit. He looked not only for figs on trees, but faith in His followers, and every time He ran into somebody with even a mustard-sized portion of it His eyes lit up and His heart beat a little faster…the moment was an occasion for joy. And even yet today He looks for love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control …the fruits of the spirit… to be evident in the lives of you and me. Oh that He could likewise find in our hearts and lives a similar reason to rejoice!

Recently I mentioned to my husband that I’d made my last trip to the state park near us for the year. When my he questioned me on it I tried to explain that the brilliance of the fall color is over for the year, the leaves are on the ground,  and the bare stems are simply depressing to me. Already I find myself looking forward to spring, when there‘s new life bursting up from the ground and out of every branch tip.

In much the same way I feel a little disturbed at the changes taking place within me. It seems at times that there’s an awful lot of loss. But neither does God like the sight of a barren life that bears no fruit. So I welcome the spiritual pruning and cutting away that’s going on now if it means that days from now God will similarly be able to rejoice in the springtime of my soul and delight at the sight of the fruit that He finds there.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
(John 15:11 NIV)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...