One of my pet peeves (as opposed to wild, undomesticated peeves) is when I go to someone's house for dinner and they feel compelled to try out a new casserole recipe on me. It could be a friend, a relative, or a prison escapee. In Alabama the last two could be the same. It's not that I hate going to dinner at someone's home but I do have concerns about being a guinea pig, or the possibility of eating a guinea and not knowing it until the next day when I begin chasing the nearest wheel.

What can you say when you enter a friend's house for dinner and you notice the mice waving a white flag and the family dog pointing to the kitchen and shaking his head? You walk into the kitchen and men in HAZMAT suits are gagging. Finally you sit down at the table, have a nice blessing (unless Aunt Bethany from Christmas Vacation begins saying the Pledge of Allegiance), and you take your first bite. It tastes like it was cooked inside an otter. Without a spittoon there is no graceful way out.

A keen sense of smell will at least give you a warning. If what is before you smells like someone gutted a possum then you have a pretty good idea of how it will taste. Instead of bland nonthreatening comments like, "This is really a meal," or "You should not have gone to so much trouble" you feel like saying "Would you grab that casserole? It seems to be leaving" or "Mmm . . . that wonderful aroma! Is dinner ready or did a whale explode?"

One of episode of The Andy Griffith Show was based on Aunt Bea's homemade pickles, "kerosene cucumbers." The best thing Andy and Barney could say about them was "Mmm . . . that's a pickle!" They tried everything to get rid of them gracefully, even giving a jar to tourists on their way out of town. Ultimately they realized the best approach was to "learn to love 'em."

Whether it is a bad pickle or a questionable casserole at someone's house the process of digestion is simply changing food so that it can be absorbed into the body. Some of the words of Jesus can be hard to swallow. We take seriously his words on prayer and sin (especially someone else's) but phrases such as "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," and "Forgive one another" get stuck in our throats. They never make the journey from the pages of scripture to our hearts. They never get absorbed into our being.

The first part of Colossians 3:16 says "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . ." Like a child at the dinner table we play with the spiritual food Jesus gives us and choose only to digest the words we like, not necessarily the ones that are best for us. We must take all the words of Jesus to heart and practice them until they become a way of life. Casseroles, bad pickles, and Jesus' words . . . the best thing to do is learn to love 'em. 




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