Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
My Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
From the farm in rural South Western Kansas
Every year I make Pumpkin Pie. I love the flavor, the creaminess and the crust mixed with it all. On this special day I also use “real” whipped cream. Ummm. Nothing like the rich thick flavor of the real thing. But something else that is really special for me is the recipe. I use my mothers ingredients for the pies that were made all through my childhood.
The secret ingredient is Molasses. Her pumpkin pie had a dark rich sweetness that was unlike all of the others. It is easy to make and tastes so good! (If you want the recipe – click here)
I have always had a really complicated relationship with my mom. My life was deeply wounded by some of the dynamics of our relationship and at times it is hard for me to think positively about it allt. But, after all, this is Thanksgiving and we are supposed to be thankful!
So, this is one way for me to be thankful.
My favorite meal is spaghetti. Once again, I make my mom’s recipe. It is nothing like anyone else’s sauce. It also has a secret ingredient that makes it different! I won’t tell you what that is because to do so would give away the family secret and I might get in trouble! Just kidding, it is Worcestershire Sauce! It also gives a rich unique flavor to an otherwise typical tomato sauce. But, it is something I thoroughly enjoy and it seems that when we invite others to join us for this delicious meal, they also enjoy the flavor.
Yes, my mom has been difficult. I have at times felt jealous of others who had a mother who taught them the love of Christ, sought the Lord for their salvation and promised them good things would come from knowing Jesus. But not for me. My mom didn’t discuss anything of God other than to say her understanding of God was very personal.
But, a few years ago, I realized that my mom did lead me to Christ! Maybe not in the conventional way, but the complications and resulting wounds brought me to my knees in 1982 where I had no where else to turn but to Christ! So, for that I became thankful.
Yes, when I taste of the goodness of Pumpkin Pie each Thanksgiving I think of my mom. When I share spaghetti with my friends, I think of my mom too.
So, this Thanksgiving I want to have a thankful heart for my mom because she did give me some things that have deeply impacted my life. She taught me to “live in moderation”. She gave me a sense of competency early in life because she didn’t do it all for me and asked me to do things for myself. I learned to cook, clean, make my bed, do laundry, wash dishes, buy my own clothes, and build a life of self sustenance. So, it seemed to bog me down at the time, but today I live out of those tools of life every day. For that I am also thankful.
Thank you Lord, for giving me the mom that you did. I found You, and found myself from my life experiences as a result of having the mom I did.
I also want to say “Thank You” to all of youl who pray for us, support us, and receive from the things we do. We love you and are incredibly thankful for our friends and family.
“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.” Romans 1:7-9
Like Paul expressed to the Roman Christians, you are all very special to us. We pray for a time when we will all be together in eternity sharing of the real feast with Jesus.
Have a great Thanksgiving and see if you can see thankfulness in some of the challenges in your life. God can show you what they are.
Mom’s Recipe for Pumpkin Pie
Makes one 9 inch Pie so just double it for two! You’ll probably want enough to share.
1 1/2 Cup Pumpkin
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ginger
2 Tablespoons Molasses
1 Cup Carnation Evaporated Milk
Mix all together in mixing bowl with electric mixer
Pour into a pie shell prepared in a pie dish
Bake for 45 minutes in a 425 degree oven
When serving, top with REAL whipped cream for the fullest experience!
Of course you can use can spray whipped cream, non-dairy topping, or vanilla ice cream.
Friday, November 19th, 2010
Soul-full Movie Behind the Scenes
Healing from Racism and an Amazing Salvation
Oh, this is a God story for sure. You must read it. A surprise around every corner.
In April of 2009 Randy Lawson, a friend of mine, said he had a new photography gig to take production stills for a local independent film production. He was in a precarious position since he had just severely broken his arm and would find it a challenge to handle all of the equipment. So, I asked if he would like some help. I had always had an interest in theatrical work and wanted to be a part of something like this. So he took me along as his “roadie”.
I had no idea what I was in for, but from the beginning of this project it was apparent that there was something in this for me if I would just go along for the ride. So I began carrying camera bags, back-drops and lighting accessories for Randy. I remained quiet and just observed the process. It began with several days of taking pictures of the people who were auditioning for parts in the cast.
The film was primarily built of an African American cast and took place in a lower income, inner city setting referred to in the film as “The Hood.” The plot included a story of a young man who’s life had turned upside down from his dad going missing and his mother’s death. An older white friend of his mom’s became his foster dad. The story builds as he pursues his desire to be a hip-hop artist and gets involved in some pretty challenging dynamics and relationships.
Since they needed an older white man to be a foster dad, Randy was cast in the film as “Big Jack”. He had not acted before but was up for the challenge. The other cast members were also primarily on their first gig with acting and, as a matter of fact, this was the first film for the screen writer and most of the crew as well. So Randy and I were in good company.
After a couple of rehearsals Randy told me that they needed another “white” guy to play his cousin, “Officer Mike”. Since I had always wanted to try acting, I pondered the opportunity. I was a little timid about stepping right out there to ask for an audition for the role so I waited to respond to Randy’s suggestion.
They had not filled the roll of Officer Mike, so at one rehearsal I offered to read the part. It seemed that was my call to play the role, so I just moved into it without any official communication from the director. I was now, by default, “Officer Mike.”
So, a filming schedule was set and the first scenes were scheduled to be done. Since I was still a “roadie” for Randy I just set aside my time to be present to help in any way I could. None of my scenes were scheduled for the first night of filming so I felt relaxed and ready to observe our first film set.
We arrived at a very seedy place in town where there were lots of condemned properties and some crazy neighborhood activities going on. The scene was an alley with overgrown brush and vacant buildings. As the crew got set up I began to feel very uncomfortable with the surroundings to say the least.
At this time in my life I was beginning to build Grace Rivers Ministry and write a book on relating to the world around us with the gospel in mind. As you might imagine, I had a culture crash that night. Having spent the majority of the previous 25 years of my life segregated away from these types of surroundings this was all quite a challenge. I might add that the director for the film at the time frequently used very rough language and smoked pot most of the time. He was later dismissed from the film production crew. Since he was the director this added to my level of discomfort as well.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me quite firmly, “John, if you are so self righteous and uncomfortable here, how will you ever reach people in this world?”
I thought, “this world is not “G” rated.” Then I was reminded of the scripture where Jesus says:
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. John 17:15-16
God completely reoriented my perspectives right there. As we began to film, the director stopped everyone and said, “We are not taking one more step here until we have prayed together”. I don’t know if I was more shocked at the pot smoking or the request to pray! So, he asked a young lady there to pray. She prayed for the lordship of Christ over the production, the safety of the cast and for Jesus to bless our work. Little did I know at the time how that prayer would be answered. I felt even more confused but trusted that God was hearing my heart and hopefully the heart of those who were there who knew Him.
After filming the first scene the director announced we were going to do a scene that I was in. Oh, my gosh, I was not ready for this. Anxiety entered my heart and I was being asked to step into a role immediately that I had not prepared for. I stumbled through it and I am sure I frustrated the other actor in the scene to no end. What else could I have done? It wasn’t on the shooting schedule. The next day I worked hard at memorization and learning my parts. I didn’t want to go through that again.
The shooting schedule took a turn and we were going to spend the next week or two at the home of the screen writer, Baby Dre. As we entered his home early in the morning it was filled with wonderful aromas; bacon, eggs, muffins, a full breakfast fare had been prepared by Dre. As his wife and children attempted to move around all of our equipment we were greeted by Tina with tremendous grace and a welcoming spirit.
Let me give you another picture to ponder. Dre was not your average suburban husband and dad. He was a very dangerous looking guy. With long hair usually in a pony tail, body piercings, tattoos, a watch larger than my cell phone on his wrist and a full “grill” of metal in his mouth, Dre was another dichotomy of life. He was kind, welcoming, and kind of quiet as long as he wasn’t playing his gruff role as a drug selling icon in the hood. I felt curious and yet confused here too. Who are these people? What is their life really like? What I experienced was surely different than I has invisioned. Each day I found my life to be challenged to sort through my responses to all that I was experiencing.
Someone asked Dre if he went to church at a church near his home. He replied, “No, my wife is a minister at another church but I don’t go there either.” But he was obviously loved by his wife and two kids. This man was a forklift driver, a cake baker, a screen writer, and so many other things that just didn’t fit into a neat little profile that I had built up in my mind.
I learned my lines, became more comfortable with my role and found the process to be very interesting. But, the day came where we were going to be filming at a recording studio. They found one that we could use. Randy and I got all of our stuff together. It was a Sunday afternoon and we had arrived at an empty office building heading for the basement. We entered a very seedy looking recording studio. The room was filled with smoke, some of it the pot smelling kind, and some really scary dudes working there. So, in we came with lights, cameras and preparation for action. Once again, I was a fish totally out of my own familiar water!
As I sat near the floor, weary of the smoke and questionable characters, I once again questioned what I was doing there. I was reminded of God’s challenge to me to consider the goals! I was to be in the world, but not to be of the world! It was very uncomfortable for me but with that in mind, I reoriented my goals and accepted the challenge in front of me, and the people, with as much grace as I could. I wondered what they were thinking of me! Here I was a suburban character who was not only from a different culture, but one of the few white guys anywhere around. I was surely the odd man out.
The cast and crew we were working with were so friendly and accommodating. Here we were, two white guys from the suburbs coming into this movie set seemingly from out of nowhere. We were clearly the minority not only in color, but in culture and life perspective. But they accepted us completely. They were kind, and didn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable with us.
I began to soften and embrace them too. How could I not? With A warm breakfast fit for the gods, friendly welcomes, and encouraging words to help my lack of acting experience, I started to become endeared to these folks.
As the filming proceeded and the project twisted and turned, I began to experience something no less than miraculous. God was at work deep in my prejudiced heart. He was rooting out racism, judgment, and fear.
Joshua Boucher (Trey) and John Smid
After we were finished with the majority of the filming I was driving around Memphis and I noticed something remarkable. Racially divided to a major degree, black and white racial color is on most people’s minds every day in this city. But this day, something was deeply different for me. As I looked at the black guy in the car next to me or the black woman at the grocery store, or the black student walking home from school, there was something strangely missing from my mind and heart. I was not longer afraid of them. I am not talking about a fear that they are going to shoot me, rather the fear of difference. I had struggled for a long time with not connecting with black people out of a concern that I would offend them, or they would feel racism from my heart. But now, it was GONE! I felt strangly comfortable around people of color.
During a later shoot we were in a public park and two black men rode up on bicycles to watch. I went over to them, fear gone, and started talking with them. We laughed, joked, and felt connected. So much so, that when they left, we hugged! Oh my goodness, this is a real change in my heart. How did that happen?
It happened from me experiencing true human kindness and acceptance in a very challenging situation. It was the love I felt from people that were extremely different from me in color and culture. This wasn’t a polished, programmatic situation, it was doing life with people where we embraced and accepted each other. My heart was deeply changed from my interaction with Dre, his family, and the others in the cast.
When the filming was finished I called Dre and asked him if I could come and see him. So in agreement, I went to his home. I told him about my history in a white washed Christian ministry for so many years. I affirmed his hospitality and kindness, then I told him of my heart change regarding racism. His reply was interesting.
He told me that as he writes screen plays he has an underlying motive to work towards racial reconciliation. He was encouraged to hear my story about the racial healing that was occurring right in front of him in the movie production process. He also told me that my role was a last minute thought. He had not written it into the screenplay on the front end. I was amazed and wondered if God had led this man to write my part so that He could work deeply in my own heart something that needed to change.
Due to some challenging circumstances after filming ended it seemed that the film had been put away. I questioned whether or not it would ever see the light of day. I just chocked it up to a life experience and was thankful for all that I had learned through it.
But, there’s so much more to the story…..
Randy called me during the summer of 2010 to tell me some awesome news.
He said he had run into Dre and that he looked quite different from the last time we had seen him. His long hair had been cut and he had a new story. He had become a born-again Christian! He was going into the door of the offices of the church where his wife is a minister. Well, that was certainly interesting.
Randy Lawson, Producer, at the premier
So, Randy reconnected with Dre and they arranged to get the film footage and continue the process of completing the film. As they worked feverishly together to edit the film it became clear to Randy that Dre was certainly a new creation by God.
When the editing was close to being finished, they decided to invite a group of young folks from the “hood” to view the film for their feedback. Mind you, the film is a hard story about a young man in the hood who gets wrapped up in drug running and a negative lifestyle. At the end of the presentation, they all applauded with enthusiasm. They loved the film!
During the question review at the end, one young girl asked Dre what happened to his wig from the film. His reply was, “Well, it wasn’t a wig.” So, he opened up to share how he came to cut his hair after he had given his life to Jesus. The event closed with Dre sharing the gospel with these young kids from the hood.
Who would have ever known that this would happen? A very low budget film created by a bunch of first timers who didn’t have a clue what they were doing, would be something that has already dramatically impacted so many lives, mine included.
Victor "Baby Dre" Chaney and John at the Premier
So, on this November night of 2010, we will go to see the first public premier of “Soul-full”. As I talked with Dre he was outwardly quiet and distracted as was typical fro him but explained that internally he was very excited to see his time and effort come to the big screen. There was a pretty full theater and lots of interactive commentary throughout the presentation. That was a good sign since the audience seemed to connect with the film.
At the end the cast walked forward and Dre entered the picture. He shared with the crowd about how he had always had long hair and how it symbolized his old life. He said he had cut his hair that was tainted with the world he had come from and would grow new hair, fresh with the new life he was engaged in. Easily speaking of becoming a Christian, the crowd applauded his story and the success of his first film being shown on the big screen.
God uses the simple to confound the wise. The confusion about this movie continues. I was confused about the pot smoking and the opening prayer. I was confused about the loving hospitality from the strong gruff man with the long hair, and now I remain confused about how God saw fit to change my heart though such a strange project.
We just do not fit into any box do we? God is at work through some very strange places in some very strange ways but in the end, He is doing it all for good. Our good.
Who knows what is next! There may be a “God” sequel to this article. I sure hope so.
Friday, November 12th, 2010
Through the Windshield of My Life
1965 Chrysler 300 – Grandpa’s Beauty Came Into Our Driveway
“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
I know, you are thinking, “How does this scripture have anything to do with the Chrysler 300?” Read further and you will understand my thoughts.
In 1965, my grandpa and grandma came to visit us in Omaha driving up in a brand new 1965 Chrysler 300 four door hardtop. This car was an awesome beauty to behold. Outside it was deep wine burgundy. A color I have never seen on another car since then. It was metallic and shined deeply in the bright sun. My grandpa kept his cars with impeccable detail so you can imagine after driving 500 miles from Denver he had to have the car washed upon their arrival. I was so excited to get a ride in his car.
Huge changes occurred in 1965 for the American car. They had just designed almost every car with “curved” side glass rather than the traditional flat windows. This made cars much more sleek and this car was no exception. It had lines that were drawn with an artist’s eye into a long sleek beauty.
So, the next day Grandpa asked if I wanted to go for a ride in his new 300. Oh, boy, you bet! I got inside and he immediately showed me the price sticker with all the options listed. The final price was $4995.00! that was a huge amount of money in 1965 and this car had everything on it. I looked around the interior and saw “pearl” white everywhere. The dash, the doors and the seats were all so beautiful. Then I noticed the steering wheel, it was a crowning jewel. It was a swirly pearl white like nothing I had seen in a car before. I was mesmerized by the combination of the wine exterior with the pearl inside. He started up the car and put down all the windows. That was a cool feature of the hard top, driving with the side windows down gave it an even sleeker look.
As it ran with smooth precision Grandpa explained to me that this car had a “muscle car” engine in it. With a four barrel carburetor and a 413 cubic inch engine, he said this car would beat anyone on the street. We backed slowly out of the driveway for our test drive. As we moved onto the street, my very elderly looking grandpa, who was completely bald and wore tinted hexagon rimless glasses, stepped on the gas and the car felt like it went out from under us. This was on a straight residential street that was 25 miles per hour! It was a quick burst of speed but he just wanted to show me what “she” would do if you stepped on it. I was so excited!
Then he turned to me and said, ” Do you want to drive it? Come over here and sit on my lap. ” I didn’t even think about the illegalities of what was happening, but oh my gosh, the steering was so easy and it was so cool to see things from behind the driver’s seat. I think I got to drive about a block.
We got back into the driveway and talked further about his new car going over the window sticker with a fine toothed comb. This was an amazing and beautiful car. I got into the back seat and found the smooth form of the bucket seats in front were like a sculpture shaped with human hands to a fine form. And, by the way, in 1965 bucket seats in a four door car were extremely rare, so this four door was quite the sport’s car in every way.
I have looked over the years to see if I could find another one like it but all I can think is that maybe this was a one of a kind special order that would never be seen again.
So, again, what does this have to do with God forming man out of the dust of the earth?
Recently I was reading the book of Genesis and found the passage below to capture my imagination. I have excerpted this from the Amplified Version because it says exactly what I want to convey.
And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth. Genesis 1:28 AMP
We often hear the question, “Why did God create us?” An answer many of us have heard is to “glorify Him”. So, what does it mean to glorify Him? I have often struggled with this question because it is so ambiguous. What can I do to glorify God?
As I ponder this scripture today, I am encouraged beyond belief. If God asked us to subdue the earth through using its vast resources then I think of it this way. Everything that I do as I work every day, is somehow connected to subduing the earth! When I clean house or mow my yard I am bringing order to disorder, shine to dullness, taking trash to an appropriate place to dispose of it.
If you work in accounting, when you go to work to analyze a business practice, you are helping to bring order to disorder. When you teach children, you are helping them to learn to be productive members of society in order that they might assist in taking care of our world and the people in it.
But let’s take this even further. God said he made man out of the dust (elements) of the earth. I also pondered what this actually means. When scientists evaluated the makeup of the human body they have told us that we are made up of water, chemicals, atoms and numerous other elements that are found in the earth. God took those elements and “subdued” them into a miraculous form that made the first man, the animals, living creatures, plants, and everything we see.
I am taking an intellectual leap to say that subduing the earth means to do as God did. Take the elements we have been given and make something greater, more useful out of them! This brings glory to our creator God! To take care of, to steward, to improve upon the earth and everything in it, pleases the One who made it and gave it to us.
When a man heats silica (glass) to a specific temperature then turns it on a special rod he can create beautiful glass objects, vessels, and so many other wonderful things. This is bringing silica into subjection of the artist. When lumber company received raw trees they will cut the tree in its raw state into a manageable form so it can be used to build homes, furniture, and works of art. Through man’s creative abilities there are limitless possibilities as to how the “dust” of the earth can be made into unspeakable wonders.
When the creative hands of the artist press, form, and carve exotic woods, they are put to use in creating a violin, a harp, a clarinet and other instruments that can fill the air with wonderful music! Does this bring glory to God? Or as the metal artist tempers, forms and molds brass into a saxophone, a trumpet, or a flute which, when played by the gifted musical artist, bring us joy, peace, celebration and certainly glory to the Creator who provided those elements for our use.
As Andrew Lloyd Webber took the music in his heart and mind and placed it on paper to be read by men and women his notes became some of the most beautiful musical scores that we can hear. Is it any wonder why we can feel such movement in our hearts as we listen to certain music or see someone dance with perfection? Certainly it is because someone is allowing their God given talent to be put to work in creating artistic pleasure.
I have a friend who is an excellent photographer. I was looking through some of his pictures finding amazing beauty as captured through the lens of his camera. I thought, “how did you see that? Where did you find that flower?” or “Wow, she is beautiful!” I learned that through the discriminating eye of the photographic artist he captures an image that is placed in a manageable framed segment so that I can enjoy it’s intricacy. I saw a forest, he saw the delicate flower in the middle that I couldn’t see. This too brings glory to God. Bringing His creation into a form so we can all enjoy it, is pure worship of the One who gave it to us to enjoy.
Of course, we can use our talents in perversion that certainly brings grief to God and can wound others. But in this writing I want to bring the incredible wonder of God’s command to Adam to subdue the earth to our minds to encourage and lift up our hearts.
Everything we do every day, when we’re centered on the One who created our world, is worship. Its glorifying to His Name whether it is coming from a bookkeeper or a house keeper.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
I have often thought of this passage in the context of having to work every day and to find a way to make sure I did it with integrity and the right attitude. But now, I find a deeper meaning that is energizing!
Worshiping God through subduing the earth!
So, back to the 1965 Chrysler 300.
As I think about the real message here, my mind thinks of the elements of the earth. The steel, chemicals, natural elements that have come from the earth have been subdued by creative human beings. The designers, mechanical workers, artists, business management teams etc. have all worked together to make an automobile. Not a vehicle just to drive, but to enjoy, to look at, to appreciate and to make memories with.
The beautiful, wine colored, work of art in that car and it’s amazing pearl white interior glorifies the Creator! We can call it materialistic, or we can chose to call it an amazing response to the elements of the earth that God has given us to subdue, to rule over, to use in our daily lives, to bring Him glory!
It’s no wonder why my heart takes a few extra beats when I see an “American Beauty” roll up beside me. God’s heart is beating as well when He sees something we have done with what He has given us. Much like our joy when we see a colorful picture that a child has drawn. They have drawn it with the wax from the earth that has been subdued into a Crayola Crayon! Creation itself cries out in worship of our Awesome, Amazing God!
He replied, I tell you that if these keep silent, the very stones will cry out. Luke 19:40
I think with or without our hands, the elements of the earth speak to God’s glory. As we harvest them, mold them, bring them into subjection through our hands the God of wonders will be glorified!
How amazing is this? Today the work of your hands is part of the stewardship of the creation he has given us! As he formed us out of the dust, He has called us to do the same.
Now sing for joy to the One who is joyful about what you are doing with His creation.