Simple Connections

Simple Connections

Is there any better aroma than from freshly popped corn? One of the simple ways I miss Jim is not having a little blue bowl of popcorn handed to me when we settled in to watch a ball game, which happened frequently.  A couple of verses in Jeremiah 18 brought popcorn to my mind and inevitably inspired this blog.  A long stretch between popcorn and pottery, you say?  Bear with me.

3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands. So, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” (My emphasis) Jer. 18:4 (NIV). I was delighted not only because the analogy illustrated God’s intimate interest in restoring Israel from their brokenness and continues as He re-shapes us as we mature, but the verses also reminded me of my nephew, Jared, who while majoring in pottery in college, designed a pottery corn popper for the microwave. Consequently, my memories whisked me down popcorn lane.

As a kid, I rarely thought about eating popcorn, let alone popping it.  Mom used a hammered aluminum pot on which a popper stir-rod and lid just fit.  She popped a dishpan-full of corn at least once a week, just like her dad did.  They shared the reputation of eating until the last kernel was gone.  When Jim and Mom met, their mutual love for popcorn bonded them on the spot. We were all interested to learn that Jim’s first teenager job was popping corn at a movie theater which probably shaped him to become a ‘professional’ corn popper the rest of his life.

As newlyweds, when Jim was a student at Baylor, we had no corn-popper and no extra money to buy one, so every Saturday he brought a bag of pre-popped corn from the Piggly Wiggly grocery store where he stocked shelves. He ate the entire bag because it was too salty and oily for me. We eventually invested in an air popper which allowed us to reduce the salt and oil and it served us well for years.

Naturally, our kids and grandchildren were brought up on Dad/Gpa Jim’s favorite snack. Granddaughter Laura and her husband, Kurt, surprised Jim a couple birthdays ago with nephew Jared’s pottery popcorn popper.  When Jim removed the pottery popper, his eyes lit up because we had watched videos of Jared’s pottery making. Jim examined the indention in the bottom and read the recipe aloud which called for a certain amount of corn and oil. He was exceptionally pleased with this perfect gift and could hardly wait to try it out.

With the simple and quick microwaveable pottery popper Jim popped corn several times a week. Sometimes I’d smell popcorn when I came in from aquatic classes at 10 am.  His bowl was the largest of a nest of bowls and, like my mom, he ate until the last kernel was gone.  He usually cleaned up the last hand-full left in mine, as well. It’s no secret why popcorn reminds me of Jim. I had popped corn the night before I read those verses in Jeremiah. Everything seemed to fit together naturally.

Something as simple as popcorn beckoned pleasant memories of Jim and my mom and gave me a good reason to email Jared to find out how to order one for a friend. Unfortunately, he is not making them anymore since he doesn’t have a shop and the necessary tools. He’s moved on from college pottery. So, the pottery popcorn popper is not only an original designer model but one of very few. Too bad, folks, because it pops the best corn and every kernel in jiffy-time with little mess. You can believe that I’m being super-careful with it, because it’s breakable.

Applying the Jermiah verses parallels what I spend much of my time doing, encouraging clients and friends to understand and appreciate God’s love and his willingness to re-shape us when we break apart and run into problems. Often the subject during sessions focuses on communication glitches at home, parenting, as a work mate or with the extended family. Any source of grief.

Another simple connection that bonded our family and friends over the years was breakfast in the park. Because Jim had so many meetings, funerals, and wedding rehearsals often claiming Friday family-nights, finding family time required constant shifting. We finally designated Saturday breakfast in the park, away from the phone (no cell phones in the 70’s). Sometimes, we’d invite the kids’ friends to join us.  The only time Jim ever cooked anything besides popcorn was breakfast in the park.  Seeing their dad flip pancakes, fry bacon or scramble eggs, something besides preaching or leading business meetings, delighted them. After breakfast we played ball, hiked or just visited with friends or overnight company which happened regularly. Sometimes after breakfast Jim would take a different route home and we’d end up at Dairy Queen. He loved ice-cream about as much as he loved popcorn.

Family rituals are not only simple connections when children are very young through high school, but the bonding importance of rituals becomes even more evident after kids leave the nest. If you’d like more information, a section in Jim’s and my Coaching Kids book deals with the benefits and wisdom of rituals. The next time you get together with friends ask the question: what did your family do?

Another simple memory-trigger occurred this week when daughter Kay delivering several bags of groceries placed a Payday candy bar on the table. She said, “You didn’t pay for that”. And I replied, “I know what to do with it.”, then began to cry, as I’m doing right now.  Kay’s bringing her Dad’s favorite candy bar was a tender symbol of our shared sense of missing him. Since I prefer dark chocolate, I rarely indulged in a Payday, but that’s what I had for lunch that day. Her sensitivity ministered to my heart’s hunger in providing a spontaneous and deeply-satisfying unique remembrance. Speaking about Jim is so comforting even though accompanied by tears.

Simple little triggers like a candy bar or popcorn are potentially gifts of joy. Knowing what people like or do not like is very important.  Surprise your parents, grandparents or shut-ins with their favorite treat or a kind reminder of someone they have lost. And don’t be concerned if reminding someone of a lost loved one brings tears because shedding tears is also healing.

Simple connections are priceless. Whether through our time, resources or actions, our goal is that the works of God might be displayed. Give while you live by listening, coaching, assisting or with physical gifts: cooking, sewing, weeding, etc.

The verses in Jeremiah were spoken by God to encourage Jeremiah for the work that He was calling Jeremiah to do in life. Every piece of clay (us) is valuable to Him. He has satisfying and workable plans about what our reshaped future could be.

God can shape us even when we are marred or broken.  He, as the masterful potter, is eager to create new, useful and lovely pottery from our shattered or worn-out pieces, no matter how old we are. Our responsibility is to relax and let him work.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10 NIV

The Apostle Paul wrote: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  Rom: 9:20-21 (NIV)

Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I Thess 5:11 (ESV)

Father, please help us to be pliable clay in your hands.