Jan 172012

My wife, Tish, has, over the last few years, lost her sense of smell.  That’s not the worst thing in the world.  It even has a bit of an upside.  She can’t smell our wet Springer Spaniel.  She can’t smell … well … me, after a dinner out at Armando’s, our favorite Spanish restaurant.    Her life is in no imminent danger because of her loss of smell.

But, her loss of smell carries with it an unspoken tinge of sadness. She can’t smell the clean sheets, or a fine spring morning, a good cup of coffee, or her favorite perfume.   Probably most disconcerting of all, she can’t smell food.   And, because she can’t smell food, she is unable to really taste food   For her, there is no subtlety, or variety, or nuance in what she eats.  It’s all just … food.

I’ve tried to persuade Tish, when we go out to eat at Armando’s, to order, say … just rice and beans, instead of the more expensive Seafood Paella.  After all, to her, it all tastes the same, and would save us at least $20.   She refuses.   When asked “why?” she simply replies, “Because, in my mind, I remember what it tasted like.”   So, we order the incredibly seasoned Paella for Two, and my job becomes assuring Tish that it still tastes as good as she remembers.  It’s actually a delightful assignment.  I get to eat fabulous Paella.  I get to be with my wife.  And I get to stretch my communication skills (I don’t have the most sophisticated palette.)   All of this because my sweet wife is determined to “taste by memory”.

The poet David once encouraged me to “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” which is fine … except when my ability to smell is damaged, or when my palette is skewed.

Here’s the truth:  sometimes I can’t even come close to tasting the goodness of God.  Life is stale, boring, with all the excitement of a bowl of white rice.  That’s when I find it’s important for me to have a “Taster”.  Someone, like the poet, to help me “taste by memory”.  (The guy also wrote, “Why are you so downcast, Oh my soul?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him.”)

This year, if, for you, life has lost its’ savor, don’t despair.  Find yourself a Taster.  Someone to remind you that God is good, and that you will yet praise him.  And, this year, if, for you, life is tasting particularly full and rich and sweet, make a point to be the taster for someone else.  It’s a delightful and important job.  And, frankly, it’s not even all that important that you have a very sophisticated palette.  (Trust me.)


Apr 232011

Little Choga

We found her on Little Choga Road, in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of North Carolina. It was pouring rain, and forty degrees out. She looked like a drowned kitty … well … she WAS a drowned kitty. It took us about an hour to coax her up to my truck. We’d get close to her, then she would hiss and snarl and dart away. If it had been up to me I would have left her out there to hiss and snarl at somebody else’s truck. But my daughter and wife would have none of it. Eventually they caught her and wrapped her in a coat and brought her home, where the two of them ganged up on her to give her a warm bath. (Ever try to give a bath to a cat? Yikes!) We named her Little Choga, after the road where we rescued her. The next day my wife drove her to the vet, where she (the cat, not my wife) received about eighty five dollars worth of shots and vaccinations and pills. This cat has been showered with love, and affection and food, and pills and about everything else that you’d think a drowned mountain kitty would crave. This is a much loved kitty.

Here’s the problem. She seems scared to death of us, and so, for the last two weeks, she’s been camped out under our bed. She won’t come out. Every once in awhile I’ll force her out, and hold her for a few minutes.  But, as soon as I put her down, she’s back under that bed. I wish I could speak cat. I’d tell her, in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS, “You stupid cat! Don’t you get it?! We went to a whole lot of hassle to rescue you.  We’re on your side! We have no plans to do you any harm! We’re not going to cook you! We’re not going to feed you to our dog! We’re not going to turn you into violin strings! We’re just going to love you. COME OUT FROM UNDER THAT BED!!!”

Of course, I don’t speak cat, so she seems to remain confused. What’s a guy to do? Well, I plug along the best I can. I keep feeding her, and occasionally, when she’ll let me, I stroke her ears a bit. Who knows? She may come around.

And, all too often, here I hide, curled up in a tight little ball, under my bed, hissing and snarling at the One who loves me most. I tell Him, in ways both obvious and obtuse, “You’re not gonna get me. I’m staying under this bed ‘cause you are too big!” And that’s when He reminds me (He DOES speak human, you know) in a nice, soft, don’t-frighten- the-stupid -human voice, “Hey. I’m all for you, Kiddo. That’s why I rescued you in the first place. I’ve got everything you’ll ever need, and I want you to enjoy it. Just come out from under that bed.” Some days I hear him and stick out a paw. Some days I just stay curled up under here. But He keeps at me, thank God. Who knows! One day I may actually come all the way out and let Him really stroke my ears.

Apr 202011

Godly Audacity

Recently, while in New York City, my wife and I were walking back from dinner when we saw this brightly lit sign: “Genius Tailor”. Fortunately, I had my camera with me, and was able to snap a photo. I simply loved the audacity of this sign. “Genius Tailor”. It sort of says it all. Here is a guy who has landed on who he is, and what he’s about. He’s a tailor. But he’s not just a tailor.  He’s a genius tailor, and secure enough in that knowledge to put it in lights.

This morning, as I sat in my favorite coffee shop and memorized a short monologue for an upcoming event, I relived a recurring realization: I simply love what I do. I love writing. I love acting. I love knitting together a story or monologue and moving an audience or a reader somewhere further down the continuum toward Real Life.  I don’t quite have the audacity to announce “Genius” in big, bright letters. But, I do believe that it’s what God made me good at. So … maybe I should have that audacity.  Maybe it would be Godly Audacity.   The Book says, “We have this Treasure in clay pots, to show that the real power is from God, and not from us.”  I think that sometimes our problem might not be in claiming “Genius”. Our problem, instead, might be in thinking that “Genius” comes from us and not from God.

So … today, as you carpool kids, or sit over coffee with a friend, or organize an event, or prepare a talk, or pay your bills, or rehearse a song, or administrate an office, or tailor a suit, or … whatever it is that you stitch together… I hope you have the Godly Audacity to land on “Genius,” knowing that it is He who gave you the thread in the first place.

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