TO GRIT OR NOT TO GRIT — THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Okay, I will admit that I was born and raised North of the Mason-Dixon Line and that I had never had grits until I was in the process of moving from Chicago to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I had stopped for the night, somewhere between Nashville and Chattanooga, and had breakfast at the restaurant adjacent to the motel.

When ordering breakfast, I asked for “milk”.  Does anyone know what “sweet milk” is?  The waitress, for clarification of my request for “milk,” asked if I wanted “sweet milk”.   After declining either chocolate milk or milk that had added sugar in it, the waitress walked away.  There clearly was a failure to communicate.  I am confident that she was thinking “Bless her heart”, in the southern way that means “poor, pitiful person!”

(I have since learned that in the South, at least when this occurred, restaurants would have buttermilk available for their patrons, so to distinguish between it and what would be regular milk in the North, non-buttermilk was often referred to as “sweet milk.”)

When the meal came, I saw a serving of eggs, bacon, toast, and oatmeal on the plate with white milk as the beverage.   Now, I was not used to eating oatmeal on a plate – we always used bowls.  But, I was moving into the South, so I attributed it to different customs, etc.

So, after eating the rest of the meal, I poured cream onto the oatmeal and after a bit of swishing it around, I took a bite.  It really did not taste like oatmeal to me – it wasn’t bad, just really odd oatmeal.

When the waitress came back, I asked why the oatmeal was served on a plate because it made it very difficult to eat.  You can understand, it ran all over the plate and couldn’t be corralled onto my spoon.

The waitress said “Oatmeal?  Did you want oatmeal too?”  I responded “No, I had not asked for it but it was on the plate.”  To which she grinned and said with a voice that sounded like the quintessential southern belle:

“Honey, that wasn’t oatmeal – that was grits!”

Who knew?  In the South, at least 40 years ago, you got grits whether you ordered them or not … they were the ubiquitous food made from ground corn that just showed up on your plate.

Obviously, my introduction to grits was not particularly formal or well-timed, although it was apparently humorous as I recall people in the restaurant watching me slurp my “oatmeal” all around the plate.  I am sure they knew I was not “from ‘round here” when I said “GRITS?!” a bit too loud to be proper.

After four decades, I have grown in my culinary skills and tastes so that now I will even order grits, on purpose, when eating out.  I have made instant grits at home (even though “No real southerner would dream of eating instant grits”, a comment that calls to mind the cook at the diner in the movie My Cousin Vinny.)

Proof of this transformation can be found in the fact that I just downloaded a recipe for cooking stone ground grits in the slow cooker – here is the picture of the grits from this recipe, in a cup I might add!  [http://addapinch.com/cooking/easyrecipe-print/2224-0]  Apparently, I have morphed into a quasi-southern girl, I guess!

Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.
Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.

I am at a loss, though, about one question … can you eat just one (1) grit?   Who would want to … it certainly would not fill you up.  But you never hear that “a grit” was served at the meal.  You only hear of “grits”, plural.  As a collection of grits, they are beneficial and healthy; and, with some cheese melted into them, they taste incredible.  In short, grits are better when there is more than one.

Moving to the spiritual plain, I think grits are somewhat like Christians.  I am not talking about being in a commune or cult, nor am I advocating withdrawal from society to be with your group alone.

You certainly can be a Christian all alone, and indeed, your relationship with Jesus Christ as a child of His is intensely personal.  No two people come to the Lord in the same way, and He ministers in and through His people in unique ways equipping them with various abilities, all for His purposes.

But, Christians are called to meet together for teaching, preaching, fellowship, and ministry.  While our faith in Jesus is personal, it is not in isolation. We come together as a family of believers and worship our God and His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..  Some of our houses of worship are large and grand.

Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!
Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

Some are not are grandiose, or as ancient.

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC
Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Some are more rustic, but the Spirit of our Lord resides within the believer and, when we come together, there is the Spirit of the Lord.

Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

And sometimes we even come together in our homes, to study the Bible, pray and fellowship with each other.  We come together as did the early church in Acts 2:42, 27:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The writer of Hebrews said:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

We do not become Christians simply by being around Christians.  We must have our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ for that new birth transformation to occur.  But, we will have a hard time staying on the path of Christ if we do not avail ourselves of one of the means of grace provided by our Father, His Son and The Holy Spirit – the Body of Christ, the Church.

A grit will still be a bit of ground corn even if it is not with any other bits of corn.  But it will not serve its purpose until and unless it is with a group of other grits; and then it will become nourishment for those who consume them.

A coal burning brightly in the fireplace will still be a coal even when it is taken out of the fire and put on the side.  But it will go out without the nourishment of the fire.  It will not be doing that which it was created to do unless and until it is returned to the fire so that it can burn hot and provide light and heat to those around it.

A Christian can be a Christian without being an active part in the Church; but the likelihood is that the light will become dull and the witness will be shallow and undernourished without regular intentional fellowship, worship, teaching, studying, serving and communion with fellow Christians in the Church.

Father, thank you for the lesson of grits.  May I determine to be part of a Bible believing church that follows the pattern of Act 2 in learning the Scripture and the apostles’ teaching, in prayers with and for others, in fellowship with Christians who worship and serve my Lord Jesus Christ, and in regularly sharing communion with fellow believers as we remember the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  Thank you for the means of grace you so marvelously provided.  Forgive me when I have either ignored them or taken them for granted.  Such arrogance is sin and I ask forgiveness, in my Lord Jesus’ Name.

WHERE IS THE PEACE?

Our world is so frenetic, we often feel that we are penned in by so many obligations that there is no way out. We have the calendar calling our name when the alarm rings in the morning. We have the cell phone buzzing to tell us people need our viewpoints immediately, whether we are ready or not. We have the children calling for our attention even as we are trying to work or fix breakfast. We have our spouse who seeks our attention even as we are preparing the evening meal. We have the iPod clanging that we have new emails that have not yet been read, and when we break into our activity to attend to the emails we find that they are advertisements for products we don’t need. The telephone distracts our attention with a recorded message for the politician or for the survey that some marketing company wants. Then there are the charities that call, the handicapped, the symphony, the church, the various ministries that we support … EVERYONE wants our attention on a daily, hourly, minutely basis! Peace is a desired characteristic of our daily, personal life but it often seems to be an illusion of the highest order in the reality of daily duties.

But then the news wreaks havoc on any semblance of peace that may otherwise have survived the daily distractions. Something extraordinary is subject of “Breaking News” and our mundane disturbances are brought into sharp focus as being what they are, relatively minor inconveniences.

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC
Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Indeed, we have become aware of such “Breaking News” this past week when hatred interrupted a prayer service by barging into the walls of a beautiful, historic church in Charleston, South Carolina when a gunman opened fire and killed nine innocent people.   (Picture of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, taken from the church website.)

Because of the cell phone videos and the media coverage swarming the area, we who are miles away from the scene participate in the shock and sickening disgust at the carnage the actions of a lone gunman can cause. The actions were particularly malevolent given the place in which they occurred; the sanctuary of a church where people go to pray and seek solace from God and their brothers and sisters in the Faith. Such evil is almost impossible for us to contemplate.

Clearly chaos was released into that building that day. But, the gunman’s actions did not kill Christ’s peace notwithstanding the havoc wreaked on the victims’ physical bodies. The Spirit of peace, of love and of forgiveness was brought into dramatic contrast to the spirit of evil when the victims’ families told the gunman that, despite their profound grief, they forgave him and were praying for his soul.

Such love and peace is impossible on our own. Jesus commanded that love was to be the primary characteristic of His people. John 13:35. The Apostle John said:

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

I John 4:16.

Jesus further instructed that He would give peace, even in times of extreme distress. One such time recorded in Scripture was when Jesus told His disciples of His imminent betrayal, trial and crucifixion. Needless to say, His disciples were confused and afraid.

After telling them that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to them, He said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:17.

Then just before His crucifixion, Jesus told them:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Easter Empty Tomb Depicted at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England
Easter Empty Tomb Depicted at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

The empty tomb is evidence that death has been overcome; Satan and evil have lost the cosmic war. Although in the short-term it may seem that evil is winning the contest, Jesus is the final victor. In other words, no matter what happens, we can have peace because, as He promised in John 16:33, He has overcome the world, including the evil therein!

Without a doubt, hatred won the headline for the day – but, those believers who were praying at the time of the shooting won the war.  Through Christ, they were victorious over evil on that dark day in Charleston.  They are with their Savior and are beyond any pain, tears or grief.

Because Jesus has overcome evil and death, His believers can have peace …

  • a peace that is resident within them through His Holy Spirit;
  • a peace that overcomes the evil in the world;
  • a peace that enables the victims’ families to forgive in the midst of their grief;
  • a peace that is truly beyond understanding. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.

This peace was on display when the victims’ families expressed love and forgiveness for the one who had inflicted this unutterable loss on them.  No one was hiding their grief — this peace was transcendent over their grief.  This is the peace that is available to all who believe on Jesus’ Name and repent from their sins, accepting Him as their Savior.

Do you have this peace?