Good News and Better News … January 1st, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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“When life gives you lemons…”

Hold out for some nice oranges. See if you can’t pick up some fresh strawberries. Even some marked-down bananas would be better. Lemons need too much sugar to be drinkable–and often still end up tart.

It was my deep, abiding pleasure and joy to begin our 2018 tour across this great nation by sharing my heart at Saint Andrews United Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

It is ably and gently pastored by an open-faced and friendly brother named Brad. He sent along Jim, Chris and David to help us set up on Saturday, and they all treated us like kings instead of the vagabonds we be.

As I sat behind my keyboard before the service began and watched the congregation gathering, my heart was ablaze with the blessing of contentment. Even though I have lived for a decent season on Earth, I am still jubilant and optimistic over the possibilities of seeing humanity achieve its better potential by negating the available lemons and shopping for more fruitful possibilities.

And the lemons are available.

So my message to all I will encounter this year will be very simple:

  • Stop believing that lying is acceptable.
  • Mean is not and never will be good.
  • And prejudice is not common–just prevalent.

Once we accept these lemons, attempting to sweeten them, we can find ourselves frustrated and stuck with a drink that is still sour. Why? Because it’s got lemons in it.

So stop accepting the social lemons that make us believe we are trapped in our humanity instead of blessed by God to revel in it.

The command for this year is monumental: We will be kind to those of our own kind.

Of course, I’m talking about people. You may feel free to enjoy your pets, you can admire the wonders of nature, you can insist that you have the loveliest home in town, but we will be evaluated on how kind we are to our own kind.

The good news is, Saint Andrews has got the message.

The better news is, they don’t have to make lemonade.

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If I was going to make a cherry pie … June 7, 2012

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I’m not, by the way … going to make a cherry pie.

I don’t like to bake. It’s not some chauvinistic sensation that the kitchen belongs to the woman, for pot and pan rattling. I like to cook. I just never got into baking confections and such. Lots of people like to do that kind of thing. I have a granddaughter who thinks that baking a cake is the easiest way to get close to God (or at least to get people to worship you like you are one…)

I am more a baker of good intentions, similar to the individual who came up with the phrase, “If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake. But since you didn’t give me much notice, you’re stuck sharing a Little Debbie…”

Oh, how handsome this one turned out. Tasty, too.

Oh, how handsome this one turned out. Tasty, too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But due to the magic of story-telling, and just my particular whim for the day, let us imagine that I WAS going to bake a cherry pie. Now, let me tell you, I picked cherry pie because it is NOT one of my favorites, but if you run across a particularly good one, it is well worth the exertion of picking up a fork. So what makes a good cherry pie? There are four elements.

1. The crust. Putting together a good crust for a pie is underestimated in my opinion. I once purchased a frozen pie crust from my grocer and tried to use it to construct some sort of dessert possibility. The crust was so tough after it was baked that even my dog wouldn’t eat it. (And let me tell you, he has astounded me with some of his choices…) Yes, a crust is more than an outer garment for a good cherry pie. It is more or less the tantalizing part that draws us into the concoction in the first place. It should be flakey, tender and really, almost be able to stand alone as a pastry unto itself. Lots of people spend a lot of time on a good crust.

2. The next thing is determining the sweetness. Cherry pie should be sweet, but not too sweet, very similar to the personality of the cherry itself. It is almost the definition of sweet and sour. It shouldn’t make you pucker but you also shouldn’t require a shot of insulin after indulging. Picking the right amount of sweetness for your cherry pie is probably better suited for the angels. How much sweetness IS good to put into such a project before the grains of sugar grit in your teeth or each bite from your particular piece reminds you more of lemons than cherries?

3. The filling. Now, you might think that the filling is the same thing as the sweetness, but not so. The filling has to have a particular thickness, depth and texture to it–and be present enough in the mixture to hold the lid of the pie up so it doesn’t sink down–with top crust nearly lying on bottom crust. How you fill your pie determines whether one slice actually looks like a serving, or if it just lies there on the plate, flat and lacking promise.

4. And finally, the cherries. You might think they are the most important ingredient in the cherry pie, but I don’t believe so. Certainly it would be wonderful to have top-notch A-1 cherries in your pie, but if the sweetness, crust and filling have been given enough tender loving care, you can put in a few second- and even third-string cherries for the line-up. As long as they attempt to hold their shape, maintain their color and could pass for a cherry during a blind taste test, they should be just fine.

Yes, most people are more concerned about the fruit in their pie than the outer crust that introduces itself to the public. But it’s rather doubtful that you will ever get people inside to inspect the fruit if the outer casing is unappealing or drives them away with its nasty taste.

So if I was going to make a cherry pie, I would put my main emphasis on the crust, which we might refer to as “the greeter.” Then following that would be the sweetness, which we could call “the host.” And then, I would carefully concoct a filling that was suitable for my endeavors, which we might name “the guest speaker.” And finally, I would select good cherries, but not be too bigoted in my perspective, creating the all-important “janitorial staff,” which is there for the clean up.

Now, of course, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy to this whole essay–because I don’t know what I’m talking about and there will never be a practical application produced by my hands. Still, sometimes it is fun to project forth images of what you think you might be able to accomplish–and then to intelligently NOT proceed to demonstrate your ineptness.

But in conclusion, this has been what I think about what makes a good cherry pie. Otherwise, you ought to just go down to the grocery store and pick up one of those Hostess ones in the wrapper, which have been tested and proven to be able to survive a nuclear winter.

Cherry pie:

  • good crust
  • stay sweet
  • lots of filling.
  • and a family of different-sized and quality cherries.

There you go. (For what it’s worth.)

Maybe this is why the myth was begun that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree. Maybe it was his way of getting back at his mother, who was a really, really terrible baker.

   

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