Fake Mashed Potatoes<
Fake Mashed Potatoes
I was still a young mother and our family was just getting started when this story I’m about to tell was just getting its foundation. It’s a story that my kids love to hear me tell even to this day and has become a staple in our family dinner conversations. It all revolves around mashed potatoes. Before I get to that part, let me just set up the story first. My husband and I found ourselves living in Michigan again after almost six years in Rochester New York where we served in a new church plant. I was still at the beginning stages of my own musical endeavors that I did not know at that time would unfold as they have now. We moved back to our home town and rented the house where my husband Jeff grew up as his own parents were moving out to start their own church. We had no idea what we would do at that time, but just that we had to be in Michigan, if only for a short time. As I look back on the years of my life, I can see how God has woven every intricate detail together from Michigan, to New York, to Chicago, to Detroit, to Orlando. Yes, we love the cities! But this time, we found ourselves more in the middle of a “Countrytime Lemonade” surrounding. I grew a garden out back since we had plenty of room, and watched the deer out the back window come up from the woods from time to time. We found whatever jobs we could to make ends meet until we got a little more settled.
Soon, we found ourselves on the pastoral staff of the church Jeff grew up in, serving with music & worship, drama, and women’s ministries. I remember taking some artistic risks that were probably not appreciated by some as much as others, but that’s just the artistic creature God made me to be, although in these circumstances, I knew I needed to tread carefully and know the people I was serving. I had been in drama and musical theater since high school, served as the Vice President of the Drama Club, and had many leading and supporting roles. This was just one of my loves. I soon found myself with a great opportunity to be in a community theatre production of Godspell as one of the leading female roles. It was an awesome experience and the one thing that really stands out is that I became pregnant with my second child and was dealing with morning sickness a lot during the performances and rehearsals. Soon after the production was through by the end of my first trimester, I found myself ordered to complete bed rest by my doctor due to some serious high risks with the pregnancy. Although this was to be my second born child, it was my third pregnancy. The second pregnancy started with critical risk almost immediately and I was on complete bed rest until I miscarried during the second trimester. So I was not going to take any chances and did as the doctor said. I was also getting ready to start college classes again to finish my degree, but since I could not do any walking around, carry anything like heavy stacks of books, or just be too active at all, I had to cancel those plans. I also had to stop my part time freelance job cleaning offices and houses that helped pay the bills. It made things very hard on us financially at this point. Being in pastoral ministry, as many who have been there know, does not pay a lot. Unless you have the luxury of being hired by a mega church, most salaries are pretty meager. But we were happy and knew that this was where God wanted us. We found ourselves getting government assistance for food through WIC as well as getting boxes of food from the church food pantry every week. I don’t think anyone except those running it actually knew how hard up we were that we couldn’t even afford to buy food and formula for our babies.
During our time serving in these roles, I also found myself starting a women’s prayer group. We started meeting at first for a critical prayer need for someone in the church, but soon found that this was the start of an official small group and helped launch more vision for the church to start the whole small group/cell group ministry. Those were some of the most awesome times I can remember, getting together with other great women, most of them in ministry positions, or pastor’s wives themselves, and I found myself so small and humbled that God would endeavor to have me lead this group. But that has been the story of most of my life….using my loaves and fishes and seeing Him do amazing things to multiply and grow them in ways I never dreamed possible. These women also helped clean my house during my bed rest pregnancy, and laid hands and prayed for my little son after he was born when he was sick. This was a precious group with precious women. But as with all groups of people, you can start to see when people’s fears, protective walls, and “old religious wives tales” as I like to call it, can get in the way of growth, understanding, compassion, and peace. It was a learning experience in itself about how people function, think, feel and behave, and I know that I made many mistakes along this journey that taught me well for the future.
Occasionally, our prayer group would all get together early and eat dinner together before our meeting. I love to cook, and have never had any problem throwing together a feast for a lot of people. I usually go overboard and make enough food to feed an army with whatever I have in the pantry…which at this point in time, wasn’t a whole lot since we were living hand to mouth each week. But I really know how to stretch things and make them taste great! Since I was a stay at home mom at the time, I had plenty of time on my hands to prepare. I was thrilled to prepare a meal! It is just something I love to do.
So as with every dinner conversation, things come up, people open up, and you can really read into them. One of the things that I have observed and learned in all my ministry experience with people is that a lot of Christians, myself included, sometimes act like spiritual babies. What I mean by that is that we are still drinking spiritual milk instead of learning to eat the meat and feed ourselves. We can get in the rut of coming to church every week, every time the doors are open, attend every ministry opportunity we can, and listen to what we’re “fed” by those in the pulpit, by those we’ve heard say things throughout our lives with no solid foundation or backing, and we take them as spiritual truths without really seeking the truth for ourselves. We put the responsibility of our spiritual growth on whether or not the pastor’s sermon was good, or moved us, or if the worship music was to our liking, or moved us spiritually. I always detest it when I hear people guage God’s presence on whether they were emotionally moved, or if the music felt good, or the sermon spoke to them personally. As if we can demand that “God shows up” based on what we do! He is not going to show up, He has already been there. It’s up to us to move closer to Him. If we’ve felt any distance, it’s not because He’s moved away, it’s because WE have. It has nothing to do with how good your church runs. My spiritual growth is up to me, not anyone else. And it just reminds me that we accept these old spiritual wives tales as truth just like we think we know the difference between real and fake mashed potatoes.
Now to the main title…fake mashed potatoes. What’s that all about? As we were sitting having dinner together before we started our prayer time, the women were all sitting around my tiny little table, saying how everything was so delicious that everyone had made. Someone, I don’t remember who, started the topic about the mashed potatoes and how the ones we were eating were “so good, unlike those fake instant mashed potatoes” which they all hated. It was only the “real mashed potatoes” for them! As the women were carrying on about the mashed potatoes, I glanced over to my counter by the stove where I had left the generic black and white government issued bag of “fake mashed potatoes” on the counter. While the conversation chattered on, I quickly went over to the empty bag and threw it in the garbage before anyone was the wiser. We continued on with a lovely dinner and prayer time after that.
I tell that story to my kids all the time because they actually LIKE the fake mashed potatoes! And one of the key points I tell them about that story is that most people don’t even know they’re eating “fake mashed potatoes”, just like many things in life we think are real, but really are not. The things we think are mandatory, really don’t matter as much as we think they should. The things that we sometimes believe because we’ve heard it said so many times by misinformed people, especially taking things at face value without seeking the truth for ourselves, are the things we keep believing without ever really knowing the truth because we are still spiritual infants. That conversation was not about proving the women wrong or telling them they were eating the fake instant mashed potatoes and didn’t know what they were talking about. It was a lesson for me about the habits of people when they become spiritually complacent, about when people can make judgments based on false truths, about how people can repeat things that are sometimes Biblically inaccurate, and are often times prejudiced and hypocritical remarks that stem from our own weakness and fears. Sometimes the louder we bark out about something we know nothing about, the more foolish we show ourselves. “Even a fool is counted wise if he keeps his mouth shut.”
The more I learn, the more I realize how much I really don’t know at all. There are so many mysteries, grey areas, unanswered questions, and it can drive a person to a point of spiritual ugliness if we continue in our complacency to believe things we’re told without exploring all the options and angles for ourselves. The more rules and conditions we put on our spiritual living, the more complicated it becomes, because we’ve made it that way. It’s about living by the Spirit as Jesus said. It’s not about religion, denomination, or works. Whether you peel and slice potatoes for hours, then boil and mash them, or use the instant flakes, it’s all still mashed potatoes. It’s all good stuff. Get God, seek God, and take in His presence every day. Taste and see the Lord is good. It’s as simple as that.
For more in-depth reading, here are some scriptures that go alog with this rant. Enjoy!
“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”
James 3 – Taming the Tongue
“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
“ Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
1 Peter 2:1-3
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Living by the The Law/Spirit:
Galations 3 – entire chapter
“Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith. The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”
Mark 7: Jesus speaks of Rules & traditions
Matthew 23: The seven woes – Jesus speaks towards Pharisees
Loaves & Fishes:
John 6:1-14 /Mark 6:30-39: story of loaves & fishes