The town of Sterling, Nebraska has little more than 500 residents yet it played a large role in my childhood. This hamlet is South of Lincoln. During my childhood it was a winding drive down country roads. The sign for the town of Bennett was my checkpoint. I knew once we turned South onto highway 43 the roads would become much more rural. We might wait for long periods on this two-lane road blocked because cattle broke free from their barbed wire enclosed pastures. In fall the arms of combines spun the wheat and hay, while there were also corn, sorghum and soybeans in fields only feet away from the road’s edge. We all groaned, as we passed the large pig farms and that putrid smell that no tightly closed car window could keep out.
Turning at the town of Adams it was a short journey down route 41 until you reached the edge of Sterling. The first thing that I notice now when venturing down these roads is a church with the neon cross on its steeple. Somewhere in that steeple is a crack were hundreds of bats stream into the darkening twilight. As you pass you can see them eerily flying into the distance. I also notice how small and separated this community is from anything we might call urban.
It is on one of those few Sterling streets that a turn of the century house stands. When my family visited it the white paint was cracking and falling all around. The porches wood was weather worn and the frond screen door made the most god-awful creaking noise. We made this trek to a place of no consequence to most of humanity because that is where my grandparents lived.
When we all got together at this house it was my family. A family filled with family sized love and problems. This house was where my dad pulled Kohlrabi out of grandma’s garden and ate fresh slices off his pocketknife, where uncles competed lifting weights in the garage, where there was always a bowl of hard candy in the living room, where the only children’s book was Puss in Boots, where grandma gave me a handmade stuffed bear made of brown corduroy for Christmas, where sibling rivalries and bitterness had risen from adolescent fights to lifelong resentments and where mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews and cousins came together.
Grandma always looked tired, but happy to see us. She ignored our bickering and fighting, retreating to her kitchen when things got too dicey. I can see her now standing over that stove in her nightgown looking startling like my father does now. She is scooping a teaspoon of bacon rendering and one of Crisco into the bottom of a cast iron Dutch oven to fry up lunch. Chicken with giblets, pounded flank steak, pork chops or even cow tongue would sputter and hiss in that hot fat and oil. Cream and butter smashed into softened potatoes and were set next to gravy made from the bottom of the frying pan. The green beans that I had picked and snapped into a yellow bowl were now boiling in a pot on the stove. Jars of homemade pickles were brought in from the pantry. Just before calling everyone to dinner a rhubarb crumble, pineapple upside down cake, apple or cherry pie was placed on the kitchen table to cool.
It was that moment of silence that was the payoff. That moment when everyone was too busy devouring the green beans, fried chicken and sipping sun tea to talk or fuss. There was only the clanging of unmatched silverware on chipped plates. Although none of us were close to being rich in that moment I am convinced that we shared a moment of abundance. We had collectively stopped and settled into the present moment. We were able to exhale for just one moment and enjoy the gifts that overflowed our plates and dribbled down our chins.
Abundance is a word that we often try to avoid. Our obsessive accumulation of things are brushed off as part of our personalities. The striving to succeed, to gain power or to experience life to the fullest are seen as outcomes of our economy, society and culture. Yet, when we want to rail against the pollution, mental illness and addictions that accompany our unhealthy lifestyles we rail against the word abundance. Abundance becomes a dirty word that clergy pull out to shame us from our daily routines.
However, instead of making abundance into a dirty word, maybe we are merely eating at the wrong table. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
The prophet Isaiah while speaking the words of God reminds us that abundance is not a bad thing. Abundance is only found in the unfathomable depth of God’s mercy. If we connect through prayer with our creator we would find it is in the divine that life and love are contained. Abundance comes from knowing the source of all good things and not allowing the bad things to separate us from the divine.
I will tell you what some wise people told me once when I related to them that I no longer felt connected to God anymore.
“I am so sorry. That must be terrible. I hope that you find that connection again. I will keep you in my prayers.”
It was because of their merciful answers that I was once again, slowly, able to see the divine and to feel the acceptance that can only come from a creator whose thoughts are not my thoughts, whose ways are not my ways. I thank God that they are greater than me, because by myself I would never find enough mercy, forgiveness and life.
At that table, in that moment of silence I was thankful, thankful for the wonderful abundance that my grandmother had prepared for me. In the same way I hope to live every moment thankful for the abundance that comes from a creator who shows me love, life and more mercy than I would have ever given myself. It is that God of life that can glorify your world with hope.
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment