When people ask where I get ideas for this column, I tell them I have many inspirations, and at the top of this list is the Lord.
Sometimes people ask where I get ideas for this column. I wish I could say they bubble up out of a brilliant mind (hardly!) or come in a dream where my only part is to be the mystic stenographer. Not quite, although a few times I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night to write down a thought-fragment that pestered me with wakefulness until I shushed it with paper and pen.
My usual answer — one that’s much more mundane — is, I’m a noticer. I keep my antennae up for the things life will teach me about God if I’m paying attention. I particularly like the paraphrased rendition of Psalm 19:1-2 from “The Message” (the Bible in contemporary language):
God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.
As the days and decades stroll past, daily helpings of truth are available for the hungry-hearted. Most of the morsels I gather end up in my devotional journal, savored prayerfully and in private.
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Some, like new recipes waiting to be tried, land in my “pondering file;” others find their way into conversations with friends, or as an occasional tweet or Facebook post.
Fewer still are soaked in further study, spiced with metaphors, blended with biblical parallels, and kneaded endlessly (or so it seems) at my humble keyboard until I’ve cooked up fare that I hope is worthy for public consumption in my writing.
Food for thought is everywhere. As a wannabe foodie — which really means, “I wannabe watching other people cook and wanna eat the finished product” — I love those cooking shows on TV.
One of my favorites, “Chopped,” is a competition where four chefs are given a mystery basket of random ingredients they must use to prepare a gourmet meal. In each round (appetizer, entree, and dessert), a chef is “chopped” until only one is left with the $10,000 prize.
Sounds fairly easy, right? Not so much. Contestants must use strange and often completely incongruous ingredients (like pickled pigs feet, lemon Jell-O and rice crackers) and are given a very limited time to cook. I’m often amazed at the ingenuity and skill with which they transform the weirdest elements into delicious dishes that leave the judges raving.
Perhaps “Madame Day” and “Professor Night” referred to in the Psalm 19 paraphrase might also be understood as proficient culinary instructors. Within each 24-hour period, we’re all given our own “mystery basket” of odd, often incompatible ingredients with which to create a day’s worth of living. The allotted seconds for this small span called “now” are ticking away and will never come back.
What should I do with today? This is not life in the abstract. The components of living are real, textural, messy. A day’s mystery basket might hold a nagging headache, a lengthy to-do list, a car that breaks down, and a friend’s marriage that breaks up, along with the extravagant beauty of a baby’s gummy smile and a kind word from a stranger.
There are weighty decisions to be made (How can I help my child who’s being bullied at school? Should we refinance the house now?) as well as relational exchanges, disastrous or delightful, that make us. Each day comes with some combination of exotic and ordinary, bland and spicy, bitter and sweet. And sometimes we’re simply stumped by what to make of it all.
On “Chopped,” one provision is crucial. Besides the mystery-basket items, contestants have access to a well-stocked fridge and pantry. From these, staples and extras can be used to fill in what is missing, thereby bringing balance and cohesion to their plate. Using the fridge and pantry well is key to transforming the otherwise unpalatable into a four-star offering.
Just when I think what I have to work with is ridiculously inadequate, I remember God has stocked the shelves of my days with reserves of grace, wisdom, strength, forgiveness, and resilience — all I need to transform a day and live with delicious joy in the middle of mystery. Best of all, He gives me the provision of His presence — He shows up in all kinds of ways, through my faith in Jesus.
The first stanza of an ancient Irish hymn written back in the sixth century (attributed to Saint Dallán Forgaill), “Be Thou My Vision,” goes like this:
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me save that Thou art,
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence is my light.
So, about finding inspiration for these columns? Perhaps one line from that hymn captures what I rely on most heavily. “Thou my best thought, by day or by night.” God’s goodness is my best food for thought — and what a feast!
Jodi Detrick is a minister with the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God). She is also a public speaker, an author and a life coach. Readers may send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org