Life Lessons from the “Chopped” Kitchen

I watch a lot of Chopped on Food Network. Not as much Chopped as West Wing, but it fascinates me. First, there’s the whole process of opening up a basket of random-esque ingredients and figuring out in 20 or 30 minutes of TV time how to turn them into something past edible and headed in the direction of delicious.

I cooked a couple of meals like that in San Diego last summer. Unfamiliar kitchen. New friends with a tangled web of food needs. Five big bags of groceries purchased by someone else who was, blessedly, a great deal more benevolent than the Chopped folks. A grill I didn’t know how to use. And, on the first night, about 2 ounces of olive oil to feed 12 people!

Amazingly, it all turned out great! And I have to admit, I felt a bit like I’d just won Chopped.

Then again, the whole mystery basket – vs – clock thing isn’t the only thing that intrigues me about Chopped

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Am I talking to myself?

I’ve been reminded, lately, of the old saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.”

In my world, there have been teachers falling from the skies!

The glitteratti cast from my recent trip to Sister Giant…U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, James Forbes, Jean Houston, Marianne Williamson, Michael Lerner, William Barber, Cenk Uygur, first year Congressional Representative from the State of Washington Pramila Jayapal, and on and on.

More familiar friends like SARK & Dr. Scott Mills & my Planet SARK writer buddies, Anne Lamott, Walter Brueggemann, Frederick Buechner, Todd Jenkins. You get the drift…

If you need a good book, look up some of these folks!

And, a bit closer to home, huge dogs and mighty mini women. 

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One (big) change and an invitation!

If you’ve been reading along for a bit, you’ve heard me tell the story about my high school biology class and the project that involved trips to the beach and setting up, balancing, and maintaining aquariums. The big thing I learned was that one change in a system changes everything.

This is my life at the moment!

Luther is our one change. Our newest rescue Newfie. Young. Shy with moments of boisterousness. Clueless in many ways. Increasingly mouthy. Omnivorous. (Inhaling what falls in his bowl. Treats. Gnawing on toys. Pillows. A couple of attempts on quilts, which is a non-starter around here. The metal legs on a table near my chair.)

Phoebe is still recovering from surgery and doing really well on the four-footed injured-reserved list.

Sarah, on the other hand, is our everything changes girl. Explanation to follow. First a memory.

Twenty-seven years and two weeks ago, I preached my senior sermon in the chapel at Columbia Theological Seminary. It was quite a day.

The morning began with tornadoes in the area. Dave, who was 10 at the time, had to go to school dressed as his favorite book character. Being a bib overall kind of mom, I was hoping for Tom Sawyer. Or Huck Finn. 

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…the world will know peace

The year I was in the fourth grade, my grandparents came to Chicago to stay with my sister and me while Mom and Dad went to Florida for a meeting. When my folks came home, Granny pointed to me and proclaimed, “This child can’t see!”

It seems she had noticed that I sat close to the TV and squinted a lot, especially when I was reading, which was most of the time. Apparently a conversation with my teacher confirmed Granny’s diagnosis. This being ages before one-hour opticians, it took about two weeks before I had my first glasses.

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Different Can Be Safe!

Today, Squirrel came to visit.
And yesterday.
And the day before.
And, in all probability, tomorrow.
At first, I barely noticed.
Mostly because Squirrel is same.
When Hawk came, he was different. Novel.
Today, Squirrel came to visit.
He brought no missing puzzle piece.
No sudden insight.
Just a reminder.
With, perhaps, an old truth for this time.
And, oddly, with a call to action.
Help heal the world.
Today, Squirrel came to visit.
Chattering and sorting the bounty of the winter garden.
This to keep.
That to toss away.
Choosing same over different,
As we learned at the beginning of time.
Squirrel. And you. And I.
Today, Squirrel came to visit.
Living both the beginning and the healing of fear.
Of racism and other stubborn plagues of our world.
Same is safe. Different is not.
Deep in our DNA.
Our history.
Our stories.
Today, Squirrel came to visit.
And so I went,
The Fiercely Compassionate Grandmother,
Having a blast, waving at babies.
Becoming more familiar.
More safe.
Smiles, too, of course.
Today, Squirrel came to visit.
In case you missed him,
Won’t you join me, waving at babies?
A little more fun.
A little less serious.
Through new eyes, different can be same!
Different can be safe!

Read more at Grandmothers Are In Charge Of Hope, pg. 73-74.




Despite Our Fear And Anger

They say everybody needs a hobby. If you’ve been hanging around for a bit, you may have realized that I have sort of an odd one. I watch West Wing.

Some of my friends have suggested that it may be more of an addiction than a hobby. They might be right.

For years now, I’ve watched West Wing. A couple of episodes most nights. More when Guy’s Grocery Games is the only thing on Food Network for 12 hours in a row. Lest you miss the magnitude of what I’m saying, this has been going on for years.

I’m not sure how many. Enough to have worn out seven seasons worth of DVD’s. My kids got me Netflix so I could keep watching. I, who was definitely NOT the president of the AV club in high school, actually learned how to make it work, just so I could watch some more.

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A Prophet for Then and Now

I cut my preaching teeth in rural Tennessee, the historical home of the KKK. A summer internship after my first year in seminary. It was not an easy time. A young and enthusiastic boss, finding his own voice. Told not, for the first intern, to come back with a student of the female persuasion.

Then there was the whole thing about standing up in front of people who did not know me and doing my best to interpret the word of God. Not the word that seemed easy for that day. The word designated in a fancy calendar called the lectionary, which is a three year plan for reading through the entire bible. A lesson from the Hebrew scriptures. One from wisdom literature, usually the Psalms. A gospel lesson. And one from a New Testament letter.

Read three or four, if you were new-fangled back then, and brave. Focus on one or two in a sermon. Forget Karl Barth, and leave the news entirely out of it, if you’re hoping to survive. Or, pray hard and allow the Word to speak. A big job for a very new professional Christian.

And the vital presence of people of actual faith, opening their arms and their ears to a single mom and a really cute kid, trying to find their place amongst the people of God in an old southern Presbyterian church.

An old southern Presbyterian church in the late 1980’s that was somehow surviving a young pastor. The most liberal preacher they had ever known. Surviving an inter-racial family in the congregation. Surviving conversations they had never had before.

I learned a lot that summer. I am learning, still.

One of the biggest things I learned is that people of faith often confuse beliefs–theology, if you will–with things that feel safe because we’ve always done them that way. Hymns. Neighbors. Marriage. Politics. Neurologically, familiar equals safe.

It doesn’t always work in the Kingdom, here on Earth.

Are you opposed to racism? Get to know some people who don’t look just like you do.

Are you opposed to sexism? Look beyond gender to see new skills and enthusiasm.

Are you opposed to injustice? Feed the poor. House the homeless. Shelter the oppressed. Defend the children. Protect the civil rights of all.

There’s the word that’s hard.


Because “all,” in America, means all.

I remember when Dr. King was killed. We lived in Chicago. Riots rocked the city. Children were afraid. And nobody in my world had answers.

And yet, America was changed.

It is time to hold that change dear. To honor the sacrifice of those who fought for a different future. To act as people who have been changed. To live as those who believe. Perhaps time, now, more than ever before.

The most important message in this moment comes from Dr. King:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

The answer is, now, as it was then, and long before then, the way to change the world.

It’s our turn.

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach