Beginnings, Endings, Reunions and a Bar Menu

It was a strange week - a funeral, a reunion, a discussion of agnosticism, atheism, religion and faith, beginnings and endings. Oh, and can’t forget - a bar menu!

An Ending

The traditional end of summer and for my family is the annual family reunion held in Ebensburg, PA. Family reunions are generally filled with lots of joy, some surprise and a touch of scandal. This reunion did not disappoint. We celebrated the life of Laurie’s grandmother who passed away earlier in the year at 101 years old! While a certain amount of sadness was present at the funeral, the overwhelming emotion that was displayed was one of thankfulness and gratitude.

A Reunion

The reunion was fun - as always some new faces, or at least some that were new to me! We got to share our ups and downs, successes and failures. I did way too much talking about Ethiopia and hot sauce! No one ran screaming for the hills but I’m sure they wanted to. Best thing going for me, everyone loves Laurie so they tolerate me! Succeses included a new State Trooper in the family, a wedding, retirement and too many people dealing with illness. We’ll skip the scandal, but suffice it to say that there will be no salacious mini-series based on anything I heard this weekend!

A Beginning

Labor day was spent on our newest concoction - a smoked and roasted poblano and jalapeño hot sauce that is killer. Labor day was a full day of labor! And I couldn't have been happier!

Going into NYC for my one day a week I expected to be hit with a lot of issues and problems after a long weekend but the last thing I expected was to get into a (great) discussion about science, nature, the existence of God, faith, religion and belief.

I am who I am whether I am at work, at home, selling hot sauce at a fair or speaking to a group about social responsibility you always get me. This opens the door to some heavy conversations at odd times. The topic of ‘religion’ was broached, spurred on by the recent tragedies.

Without going through the discussion point-by-point what I came to understand was that I really and truly believe in the overwhelming power of God in our lives if we would only accept it. God is real. Jesus gave us a clear set of directions that challenge us each and every day. When we don’t live by these directives we fall down, we stumble, we fight, we go to war. But when we live out what Jesus has commanded of us, we embrace, we care, we love.

What are these commands? Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is and he tells us straight-up: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-39).

But how do we do that?

While Jesus was alive he gave us a pretty simple blueprint that we can follow. He tells us (and I paraphrase):

You want to get into heaven? Then do these things: if you see someone hungry, feed them, if you see someone thirsty, give them a drink. If they are naked, for my Father’s sake, put some clothes on them. Care for the sick, visit those in prison.

Have you ever spent time in a soup kitchen or shelter? Collected clothing for the poor? Raised money to feed and educate those in need? If you have, I bet the last thing on your mind was a religious war. Does that mean we shouldn’t be indignant when we see injustice? Should we just ‘accept’ terrorism? Of course not. But what do we counter evil with? More evil? No! We stop evil with the only thing that has a chance against it - with love.

We cannot stop being who we are - we will never win that way. 

After Jesus rose from the dead Jesus confronted Peter with the one question that would cut any of us to our core:

“Peter, do you love me?” When Peter says he does, Jesus does not command him to conquer and vanquish those that do not believe. His great commission, to spread his message to the ends of the earth is summed up in his challenge to Peter. “If you love me, then feed my lambs, take care of my flock.” (John 21: 15-19)  

The challenge is, how do we do that? I would love to hear your answers to that question. I am still struggling with it.

It was a strange way to begin the week but somehow I felt rejuvenated, renewed. For me it was an affirmation of the direction that my life has been taking as I dwell more closely on the voice of God working in my life. It is not an answer so much as an acceptance. God is real, God is alive, Jesus is working in and through us. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, educate poor we are truly and unquestionably doing his work.

A Bar Menu

Now, finally, our exciting news. A local restaurant, Big Heads Grill and Pub is designing a fall menu using our hot sauce! John and Tim (the General Manager and Bar Manager) are very excited. I can’t wait to taste the items - and to invite you all to come out. Who knows, we may have a little party!

Feel free to comment, share, post, criticize, chastise - I would love to be able to have an open dialog on anything I've written.



Matthew 22: 37 - 40*

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 25: 31-46*

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

John 21: 15-19*

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

*All bible passages are from the New International Version.