Sunday, January 29, 2012

Short & Sweet

When I say "sweet," you think icing, pink sugary frosting that licks the tops of round cherry-chip cookies. When you bite into one, a rush of candied-fruit flavors floods your mouth. But one cherry-chip cookie is simply not enough to satisfy your hunger for something sweet, so you keep searching...

Maybe "sweet" makes you think of a childhood friendship, that girl you sat next to at lunch who would always trade food with you. One half of your pb&j would morph into pastrami on rye. The two of you would giggle as you ran out the door to go to recess, dashing to the swings where you'd pump your legs with superhuman force in order to swing high enough so that your toes would touch the clouds. That's a sweet memory...

Or is the "sweetest" thing an act of compassion, a time when you knew someone was having a rough day so you decided to go work early and surprise them with a handwritten note that you propped-up next to a caffe latte. When they walked in and saw their small gift, you didn't even have to be looking at them to know that somewhere deep in their heart, they were feeling a sensation of warmth because they were thinking about how someone cared for them.

We often hear the phrase "short and sweet." It really is true that the "sweet" moments in life tend to be on the short side. It might be as fleeting as the taste of frosting on a cookie, the sound of children laughing on a playground or surprising someone with a random act of kindness, but regardless of its length or form, those sweet things bring us meaning.

When I have friends over every Friday night for our weekly Friday Night Dinner Party, I often think about those two or three hours of the week that we choose to spend with each other, sharing a homemade meal, conversation and just having fun. There are 168 hours in the week, yet these few hours stand out for me. It makes me realize that it doesn't take that much time out of our schedules to create a sweet occasion - a moment where we give of ourselves to those we care about, a moment where we show love without the expectation of being loved in return. The moment is sweet because it comes from a good place in our hearts. Even if it is short, we know it's worth it.

Create something "sweet" this week. Savor it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A powerful table

As the small, flaky wafer slowly dissolved on my tongue, a man on stage spoke a message that caused me to hold my breath.

I was sitting in church, taking communion for the first time in my life, and asking that God open my heart and mind to what this experience could bring me. But the thing is, I wasn't really sure what to expect. During masses at my Catholic high school, the priest described the bread and wine as actually transforming into the body and blood of Jesus when people received communion. Because I didn't believe that the bread and wine actually transformed, I decided not to take communion. Even in college when I started attending Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, when it came time to take communion, I would pass the bread and juice, trying to hand it off quickly to the person sitting next to me so that they wouldn't notice that I wasn't taking one.

But then I started to reflect on Jesus' message that he told his disciples during the Last Supper. By sharing in the process of eating the bread and drinking the wine, they could consciously think about the sacrifice he was about to make, giving his life to deliver us from our sins. Through their experience of sharing a meal around the table, they could use that time to reflect on the gift of life itself - the ability to live a life where we can experience the unconditional love and joy that God has for us each day. In the Christian teachings, the table is a place of thanksgiving, praise and awareness.

In my passion for the family table, I was struck by how strong of a connection there is between the act of taking communion and sharing meals around the table. My excitement about eating together at the family table could really take place on Sunday mornings as well. Even if we don't sit around a table during a service at church, as we come together each week, we do share food and drink that reminds us of how blessed we are to be so loved and to share that love and compassion with others.

By now, you're probably wondering what the man said that Sunday that really got my attention.
Although I had heard this man speak on previous Sundays, the message he spoke felt like God was whispering words of inspiration in my ear. He said, "Come to the Lord's table dressed with a loving heart, a cleansed life and a willingness to serve."

How often do we come to the table with that mindset - that before we even sit down in our chairs, we have chosen to fill our hearts with love, that we've made choices that reflect a healthy lifestyle and that we are ready to serve our friends and neighbors. Most nights, I am so eager to eat with my roommate, I practically skip to the table, bounce down on my stool, grab my fork and dive in! Before I take that first bite of chicken and dumplings, my thoughts are more along the lines of, "This smells delicious! Would this recipe be a good thing to serve at our next dinner party?"

But what if I walked to the table and visualized my heart being filled with love and joy, so much so, that it was overflowing. And when I sat down at the table, I would be thinking about what a miracle it is that I was even created and how I hope that with each day, each action I take, it would be inspired by a spirit of love and compassion. All of this, I could think about each time I come around the table to share a meal.

The family table has power, but only when we are conscious of what we bring to it. I hope that this week, we can be aware of our choice to come to the table dressed with a loving heart, a cleansed life and a willingness to serve.