Cooking Tip #6: The Secret Ingredient

I recently discovered a secret ingredient even more important than cheese.

I know, I didn’t think this was possible either. But it’s true. And this secret ingredient is so unique, it is added not by the chef during cooking, but by the consumer right before eating. Here is the story of how I discovered it.

During Lent, my church hosts Lenten soup and sandwich suppers on Wednesday evenings before service. Each week, two people bring soup and the fellowship committee provides sandwiches. Last week, I volunteered to bring soup. I was determined to improve on my previous year’s contribution that tasted like soggy vegetables in water. This year, I had a plan.

That morning I swung by the church on my way to work. I dumped some rice in my crockpot along with cooked and seasoned chicken, vegetables, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. It smelled amazing. I was so excited. For once, I was going to make something good. I fired up the crockpot and went to work.

That evening I bounced into the fellowship hall carrying visions of simmering soup. One of the other ladies was bringing my crockpot out of the kitchen, and the sight stopped me dead in my tracks.

There, in her hands, was an erupting mound of primordial goo. It was expanding even as I watched, bubbling and clawing as though trying to escape from the pot.

“I wasn’t… sure what to do…” she began, pot held at armslength. And then seeing the look on my face, “But it will be okay. Here.” She added the tiny can of leftover broth I had left on the counter and tried unsuccessfully to stir it. “There. See. That’s better…”

I stared at my masterpiece in horror. “I must have put in too much rice,” I said. And worse – the rice had cooked down to the consistency of paste.

Enter the rest of the evenings attendees.

“What kind of soup do we have tonight?” Pastor asked

“Um,” I said. “I was going to call it Italian Chicken, but it’s really more like a casserole.”

“Let’s pray,” Pastor said.

So we prayed, and then I bravely dug into my crock pot. If I was going to make these people eat my soup, then I was going to eat it too. I pried a spoonful from the pot with an audible “thwuck.”

And this, my friends, is where the secret ingredient gets added.

Glob of soup on a spoon.

My “Soup”

 

The first bite almost made me gag, and I’ve had years of practice with my cooking. But those people ate my soup without wincing, and even made nice comments.

“We appreciate you bringing the soup tonight,” they said.

“Your soup has a nice flavor,” they said.

“My father always said soup was good if you could stand your spoon up in it,” they said.

And I sat there thinking: Only the power of God could equip someone to say nice things about this soup.

I could learn a thing or two from these people. About humility. About gratefulness. About kindness. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a).

“Be kinder than you have to be,” I read once. “Because you never know what the other person is facing.” I saw this demonstrated first-hand that night. They didn’t have to eat my soup. There were sandwiches; there was another pot of soup that someone else had brought. They could have ignored mine entirely. But they did not. They added a secret ingredient that made even my soup palatable.

Kindness.

Be kind to one another, Paul admonished (Ephesians 4:32).

We all have opportunities a dozen times a day where we could choose to be kind. It’s far easier to be busy, harsh, self-centered, negative, stressed… But whatever we’re facing right now, we are called to make a conscience effort toward kindness.

Take time today to be kind. And when your initial reaction is something other than kindness, please pause and remember that your situation could be worse.

You could be sitting down to a bowl of my soup.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another (Zechariah 7:9).

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The Other Christian

Along one of my favorite hiking trails there is a bench that overlooks a little pond.  Sometimes there are swans there.  I’ve yet to determine whether they are naturally migrating swans or if they were deposited here, but I often like to pause on my hike and sit to watch them.  This past weekend as I approached my bench, I noticed something different: the graffiti artists had been out.  Not just with ink, but with a knife.  There were the ubiquitous carved initials and secret codes and then one that made me angrier than all the others combined.  Someone had carved into the seat the Christian fish symbol with a tiny cross in the middle.

Now I suppose a non-Christian could have done this, but my assumption is that it was a Christian.  Someone who tried his/her hand at evangelizing through destruction of property.  That’s just great.

I stewed about this for the rest of my hike.  This is precisely the kind of nonsense that leads folks to sagely quote Ghandi: I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

The Bible is pretty clear about how Christians should act: with love, goodness, gentleness, patience, kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).  We should be taking care of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:26-31).  We should be thankful for the gifts He has bestowed (Psalm 107). We should not be partaking in idiotic gestures like carving fish symbols into public property.

And we should not be publicly calling our Christian brothers and sisters idiots.

That last part, in case you were wondering, was written for me.  Because here’s another thing the Bible is pretty clear about: we should examine our own heart before we examine someone else’s. “First take the log out of your own eye,” Jesus told his followers. “and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of  your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). 

How often am I that Christian that someone is watching, thinking, wow, she certainly doesn’t act Christian?  Maybe I don’t deface property, but there are plenty of times when I’m preoccupied, self-absorbed, angry, selfish, frustrated… shall I go on?

First take the log out of your own eye, Jesus said.

I get easily frustrated when I see Christians acting “so unlike your Christ.”  But as I was trudging back to my car, it suddenly occurred to me: other Christians are not the benchmark of Christianity anymore than I am.  We are unlike our Christ.  This should not make us run from Christianity.  It should make us run to it.  In fact, the entire foundation of Christianity rests upon the recognition that we are fallen human beings.  We sin.  We do idiotic things.  We are unlike our Christ.  And this is exactly why we need Christ.  The fruit of the Spirit, Paul wrote, is love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a).  The fruit of the Spirit.  These are not things we accomplish on our own.  These are things that Christ accomplishes within us.

The foundation of Christianity is not other Christians; it is Christ Himself. We do not come to Christianity because we want to be like other Christians; we come to Christianity so that we may become like Christ.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8b-9).

Have you observed an un-Christlike Christian lately?  Rather than getting angry, take a moment to look in the mirror.  If you’re anything like me, it will be a humbling experience.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1). 

Today’s Quote

“It is often said the church is a crutch.  Of course it’s a crutch.  What makes you think you’re not limping?”

This quote is originally attributed to William Sloane Coffin, and was used by my pastor this Sunday during his sermon.  It made me think: how often do we shy away from derisive comments because we are afraid of the truth they may contain?  What do hard comments really say about us?  About our God?    When someone says “The church is a crutch!” my knee-jerk reaction is to exclaim, “No it’s not!”  even when part of me fears that it is.

But fear is a devil’s ploy.  Because when we face the hard questions, we are rewarded with an even greater truth.

How brilliant this response is in it’s simplicity.  How foolish I was to fear it.  “Of course the church is a crutch.”  Thank God.