Developing Your Palate

I was whipping up a batch of Thai Vinaigrette dressing for today’s potluck. Though following a rough recipe, I wanted to add a signature ingredient … something to make it my own. I mixed “it” in and tasted my creation. Instantly, I knew I had added a too much because the flavor was recognizable. Used in right proportion, this ingredient can add a spicy, exotic flavor that the average person can not identify. They just would not suspect that you added “it.”
 
The Chinese restaurant I worked at was known for its outstanding eggrolls. People would order them by the plateful … make a meal of them. We mixed the ingredients in a food-grade tub the size of a scrub sink. It was enough filling to make 150 rolls. In went the Cabbage, beansprouts, salt, pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil, the meat of choice … and seven pounds of “it.” In every batch we put seven pounds of our secret ingredient. People would ask about it … but most never guessed. In three years, I had maybe four people discern the flavor. One lady came up and said apologetically, “I’m sorry … I’m not sure that this is okay … because it taste like it was made with ______  ______.” Her discerning palate had identified the secret in our recipe.
 
Your taste palate can be trained and developed. If you don’t believe me, take a coffee tour. People get paid big bucks to aspirate coffee and identify an “essence of roasted grain with rich chocolate overtones.” Your palate for truth can be trained and developed. In the book of Job, Elihu said, “Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you who know; for the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.” Job 34:2-4
 
Secret ingredients are fine … unless they’re harmful. Oh, how the ears and eyes of Christians must test truth these days. Most false teachers know enough not to make their lie obvious. They mix just a little in with large doses of God’s words, but over time, the effect is deadly to the soul. Like some poisons, you just don’t feel right for several meals … and then it’s too late. I’m not being mellow dramatic. Lies can be deadly to your faith.
 
Develop a taste for God’s Word from beginning to end. It will train your palate to distinguish truth from error. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103
 
P.S. Thank you for reading to the end … the secret ingredient was the same in my dressing and the eggrolls. Join us for lunch and ask me. Better yet, see if your palate can figure it out 😊
 
 
 


Hurdles

Last Monday, the men at The Good Cup had a great discussion about creating an atmosphere where others feel welcomed. That requires intentionality. Welcome involves energy and resistance against the gravity of self-absorption. We have to be aware and engaged in thinking about the needs of others. It brought this article to mind and I thought it might be worth reprinting.

When I was growing up, going out for track meant being tested in all events and competing in the areas of least incompetence. So, despite being “solidly” built and somewhat uncoordinated, I still had to run the hurdles. I had to run right alongside the kid whose legs started just below his armpits. It was hard to get up out of the dust and challenge another towering obstacle while others were floating across the finish line.

Getting into church should not look like a series of hurdles. No one among us would want it to be. CBC regularly gets praised as a friendly and welcoming church. But can I tell you a secret gained from 25 years of ministry? The same church can get high and low scores on its welcome depending on who you talk to. Much like your experience with physical activities … your experience of a new church can be somewhat tied to natural competencies. It’s not universally true, but people who score higher on the extravert level tend to report churches being friendly. They float across social barriers and integrate more quickly into new groups. But let’s consider how we might lower the hurdles for those who don’t fit that mold.

In a national survey on church attendance, first-time guests revealed obstacles they experienced to feeling welcome. Here are three worth examining:

  • People took all the aisle seats making it hard or awkward to get to a seat
  • People were gathered in cliques talking and laughing … we felt ignored
  • People covered seats around them with their stuff … signaling we weren’t welcomed to sit by them

These could be hurdles for any guest … but especially for one who already feels vulnerable or shy. How could we help?

  • If you need an isles seat, please feel free to take one. But watch for the guest – stand, smile, shake a hand motion to the seats beside you.
  • Please enjoy your friends … that’s part of what makes Sunday morning great. But keep an eye out for the new person … the new potential friend.
  • Become more Panamanian in your personal space requirement 🙂 . Place your items on the floor beneath your seat.

 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:4

 

(Reprinted from 02-14-2016)
 
 
 


Who Makes the Coffee?

Ask that question in our home and the answer would be “Me mostly.” If you were holding a cup of my brew and asked the question, I’d say, “Café Ruiz.” That’s the brand we normally buy.

This past week, Sue and I got to tour the Ruiz family farm in Boquete. Our guide, Carlos, opened our eyes to what it takes to get coffee from the bush to our cup. It went something like this … Carlos speaking rapidly in one breath … “We cultivate the plant, we hand pick the beans, we float-sort the beans, we husk the beans, we ferment the beans, we wash the beans, we dry the beans (twice), we age the beans, we mill the beans, we sort the beans again, we grade the beans, we bag the beans, we ship the beans.” Then chuckling, Carlos showed us the label on a bag of foreign-marketed coffee. It read, “Proudly Roasted in Italy.” If you had asked me who made that coffee, I would have responded, “The Italians … I suppose.” But all those steps from plant to green-bagged beans … happened in Panama. All the Italians did was burn it. And, of course, there is another person routinely left out of the coffee equation. Who imagined and created a plant that produces beans rich in flavor, caffeine and flavonoids? God makes the coffee!

How often in life we consider the last two steps of a process and place all the credit there. Museums don’t display brushes, tubes of paint, finely crafted easels and expertly stretched canvases. None of the producers of those products are known or remembered … only the painting and the artist are celebrated.

What if we change the question? What if we ask, “Who makes the church?” Far too often, the growth of a church gets attached to a few key leaders. We suffer from a serious celebrity mentality in the world today … even in the church. But when any community of believers grows and flourishes, there are a hundred intangibles that nobody sees; invitations, acts of kindness and hospitality, quiet service, one-on-one discipleship, empathy, generosity, prayer. And … when something emerges that’s more than a prosperous and morally upright country club, there’s another answer to the question. Who makes a true church? Jesus Christ!

You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19–22

Lord Jesus, build your church!
 
 


Together

In my office, I used to keep copies of a book entitled, “The Cross-Cultural Marriage.” Beth was from the States … Cooper was from South Africa, I made them read the book. Earl grew up on the Navajo reservation, Katy in middle-class suburbia, that book was there first assignment. But the longer I did premarital counseling, the more I realized every couple needed the book. Even when a bride and groom come from very similar demographics they are, to some degree, from different planets. Sometimes it’s the next planet over, sometimes another galaxy … but every marriage starts off as a cross-cultural experience.
 
Though close in age, Sue and I were from different generations. My parents were closer to the age of her grandparents. I came with a different and baffling vocabulary. I would say, “The leftovers are in the icebox,” and she needed to know “Which part?” I wanted something from the “cubby hole” but she could only find it in the “glove box.” She’d never heard of getting a “sticker” in your foot or suffering from an “interned hair.” I’d used “cream rinse” my entire life and suddenly it was “conditioner.” My language also came sprinkled with a few words of German slang, like referring to all small flying insects as “fliegers.” Despite those and other more serious differences, we have managed to survive … and thrive in marriage. Tomorrow, August 5th we celebrate thirty years.
 
Neither of us can believe it. We don’t even feel that old! We have closed the distance between our cultures and God has truly made us two … one. I feel as if we’ve been together since childhood. I have a difficult time remembering life before Sue and a harder time imagining life without her. Proverbs is right, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”  And … “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 18:22; 31:10-12. 
 
Praising God for the favor He pours into my life through Sue!
 
 


SEX

Let’s get it right out there. Don’t hide your bulletin … the word is permissible in church. God invented sexual intimacy with all its excitement and joys. To quote C.S. Lewis in part, “God is the Creator of any pleasure in it’s healthy and satisfying form. He made the pleasures: the devil has never produced one. All Satan can do is encourage humans to take the pleasures which God has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden …”
 
Some of our reticence concerning the topic of sexuality is prudent. It stems from a healthy desire to protect what God intended between a husband and wife. The relationship is, by design, so exclusive that we instinctively shield what goes on behind closed doors. Thus the “closed doors.”  But there is another source of discomfort that is not healthy.
 
C.S. Lewis was right … since Satan cannot produce a single human pleasure, he has made it his business to corrupt and sully those given by the Creator. Our enemy has worked extremely hard and with sinister success to ruin human sexuality; to steal what God intended and give us fraudulent copies with diminishing returns. He has made such a wicked business of this pursuit, that many Christians feel shame at the mere mention of the topic. Even when enjoying a God-given pleasure in the God-sanctioned context of marriage … some Christians feel shame. They feel shame over enjoying a good thing that God intended to bind them together, body and soul. If any of those false feelings are in the mix of your discomfort with the topic of sex, trade them for a Biblical perspective.
 
Yesterday, our Cover 2 Cover Bible read-through brought us to the Song of Solomon. Although some of the language may not resonate with our modern romantic sensibilities, it’s hard to miss the passionate physical enjoyment the book’s two lovers find together. The Song of Solomon has many facets, but it is undeniably a celebration of intimacy in marriage. I’m thankful for its presence in God’s inspired Word. It helps me hold sacred and protect what Satan desires to steal from marriage.  The picture with this article is of my wedding ring. The Hebrew inscription that it bears say … “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3 The Hebrew word translated “beloved” denotes “A person dearly loved and cherished; preferred above all other and treated with partiality.” It can also be translated “lover.” There’s no shame in that. (See also Proverbs 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 7:4-5)