Thanksgiving in the South

Our community’s continued growth reflects the changing face of Georgia. Transplants from faraway places now call our state home. These newcomers represent a rich diversity of heritages, traditions, and cultures. However, they sometimes find Southern holiday customs perplexing. For those not blessed to be born and bred below the Mason-Dixon Line, I would like to offer this primer on celebrating Thanksgiving in the Deep South.

Thanksgiving Normal RockwellFirst and foremost, turkey is ALWAYS the main course at a Southern Thanksgiving feast. We hold no bias against the beef, fish, and pork food groups, but poultry reigns supreme on November’s fourth Thursday. We learned from our mothers who baked turkeys a golden brown, waiting until the surgically inserted, plastic pop-up button indicated the proper degree of doneness.

Frying the bird in peanut oil provides an acceptable alternative, although many a good ole’ boy bears the proud grease scars of holidays past. In more recent days, slow smoking a turkey over a grill has also gained in popularity and acceptance.

Real Southerners serve DRESSING with their turkey entrees. Crumble together a few pones of cornbread with onions, shortening, spices, and salt. Then bake in the oven until the grease bubbles and the top turns a crusty brown.

Let me be clear on this point: stuffing is something put in a pillow! Why would anyone cook a side dish in the backside of a turkey? Think about it. If you must put something inside the bird’s body, place a few scoops of Crisco into the cavity.

Turkey and dressing require a heaping helping of artery-clogging giblet gravy. Giblets resemble sausage and pork rinds—you will enjoy them more if you remain uncertain of their origins. Find the plastic packet of unidentifiable bird parts and cook them until tender. Combine the innards with roasting pan broth and Martha White flour. Simmer until a spoon stands straight up in the mixture. Then pour the concoction liberally over everything on your plate.

A standard side dish at Southern Thanksgivings is sweet potato casserole. If you cannot find the orange vegetable in the grocery aisle, yams form a viable alternative. Cream the cans’ contents with brown sugar and butter. Then cover the soufflé with a marshmallow blanket. I personally prefer small marshmallows but their bigger brothers serve equally well.

No Thanksgiving repast is complete without cranberry sauce. It provides a festive color and piquant flavor. REAL cranberry sauce comes in a jellied cylindrical shape with the can ridges still imprinted upon its side. Simply slice the jiggling mass into quarter inch thick slabs. I knew a woman with no raising who once served real cranberries combined with some other fruits and nuts. I just shook my head and said, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Southern hospitality dictates a hostess provide bread for the post-dinner rite of plate-sopping. Any bread will do, but the bake-and-serve rolls with the four ridges on top remain the norm. Classy homes also provide real butter. Serving the spread in its original foil wrapper on a dinner plate is acceptable table manners.

The feast concludes with a multiple choice selection of desserts. True Southerners consume at least one slice of pecan pie along with other cakes and sweets. We save pumpkin pie for Yankees and other foreigners. The entire dinner is washed down with sweet iced tea. (If you have to SAY “sweet” or “iced” tea, then you’re not in the South.)

After dinner, good manners dictate one loosens a belt two notches before sinking comatose into an easy chair. Most men “watch” the football game while taking a long nap.  Later in the day, leftovers can be consumed to fill up any empty corners.

And finally, before, during, and after the meal, do not forget the real reason for the day. On this uniquely American and Christian holiday, give thanks to God for the many blessings of life—including the grace to celebrate Thanksgiving in the South!

 

 

 

 

The Five Senses of Fall

Sights of fall:

Fall LeavesBurning bushes ablaze with God’s glory, holy ground graced by human souls. Sugar maples aglow with distilled sunshine in the twilight gloom. Pomegranate red sunsets painting the western sky. Harvest moon slinging a scythe through a harvest of glistening stars set against black velvet infinity. Indian corn’s color-freckled kernels bursting from a brown husk. Orange light dancing in hollow pumpkin eyes. Leaf carpeted yards in rainbow muted hues. Frost glazed windows and lawns warning of winter’s advent. Thanksgiving tables boasting divine bounty. First leaves falling, fluttering, flipping, flopping. Smoky breath steaming in the morning chill.

Sounds of fall:

Crisp, crunching, cackling, crackling leaves underfoot. Raucous honks of migrating geese southward bound. A college crowd’s cheers, a referee’s shrill whistle, and the solid thunk of toe-meeting-leather. Fussy, chattering squirrels scampering up trees, burying ripe acorns, and insulating winter’s nests. Ding-dong of doorbells and “Trick or Treats!” of costumed children. Sanctuary radiators hissing and sighing as hot water warms their aching bones. Swish-swish whispers of corduroy pants passing by. Patter of acorns as oaks shed their summer burden. Fingernail-on-the-chalkboard scratching of scrapers on ice-blinded windshields. Reverberation of a bouncing basketball on a high school gym floor.

Smells of fall:

Wisps of smoldering leaves wafting along gentle breezes. Vegetable soup bubbling and boiling on the stove. The arid smell of burnt dust as a heater is turned on for the first time. Chimney smoke’s hickory and oak scented breath. Hot apple cider stirred with cinnamon sticks held close to the face. Aching lungs drawing great draughts of chilled air.

Feelings of fall:

Sweater weather mornings and shirtsleeve afternoons. Crisp, cool sheets at bedtime. Snuggling deeper under cozy quilts at the alarm clock’s ring. Cold tile shocking bare feet. Slick feel of ever earlier Christmas catalogs filling the mailbox. Squishy, squashy, stringy, slippery pumpkin guts sliding between children’s fingers. Carving a jack-o-lantern’s face in knife-resisting pumpkin rind.

Tastes of fall:

The crisp crunch of a Red Delicious apple, juice lips-escaping and chin-streaming. Mouth puckering persimmons before the first frost. Carnival cotton candy and corn dogs. Buttered, toasted, salted pumpkin seeds and pecans. Fried peach pies piping hot from the oven. First-cold-snap chili, spicy and steamy. Hot cocoa with a whipped cream cap. Turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and sweet potato soufflé, cornbread and rolls, pumpkin and pecan pies. Muscadines fermented by sunshine and aged on the vine.

During this fall season, see, hear, smell, touch, and taste that the Lord is good!

Reboot Your Life

Intel ChipI bought my first computer in 1992. In an age before Pentium or Core chips, my Compudyne 486SX boasted a blazing speed of 33 megahertz. I paid extra for a SoundBlaster audio card and a pair of cheap speakers. Windows 3.1 took a slow eternity to load. A small hard drive met my modest demands, and the modem’s speed marginally surpassed two tin cans connected by a string. We primarily employed the machine for word processing and children’s games.

In 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, noted that that the number of transistors per square inch had doubled every year since the invention of the integrated circuit. He predicted this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. Today’s version of “Moore’s Law” states that computers will double in power every eighteen months. The consumer corollary is a computer’s original price will be halved in the same time period.

Moore’s words proved prophetic. Over twenty years after my first foray into modern technology, my present home computer contains an Intel Core i3 chip with hyperthreading technology capable of speeds 3.4 gigahertz. CD and DVD burners have superseded the antiquated 3.5 inch drives. Sleek LCD screens take a fraction of the space required by their older, bulkier CRT siblings. Despite the technological advances, however, I still use our home computer mainly as a glorified typewriter and to surf the Internet.

My generation did not grow up with computers. Modern technology still intimidates us. I employ a computer extensively at work; however, I remain technologically-challenged. Sooner or later, I know in my heart-of-hearts that pushing the wrong button will cause the computer to explode in my face.

When problems occur with a computer, I feel helpless. Any glitch causes me to call the tech equivalent of 911. However, most consumer assistance has now gone on-line. Which leads to the chicken and egg question of how do I get assistance about going on-line if I can’t go on-line?!?

Computers are akin to modern cars. Once upon a time an informed driver could pop the hood and fix whatever ailed the engine. Today’s chips and modules defy a layperson’s attempts at repair. Only trained personnel with the proper equipment can diagnose and solve a problem.

RebootHowever, the most common solution to computer problems is literally found at everyone’s fingertips. When a computer becomes neurotic, the first and best thing to do is turn the blessed thing OFF. Wait a few minutes and enjoy a cup of coffee. Then turn it back ON. The geek phrase for this procedure is called “REBOOTING.” For some reason known only to gremlins of technology and nerds with pocket-protectors, this simple solution will cure a surprising number of computer woes.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life could be rebooted occasionally? Problems, anxieties, and worries would vanish with the push of a button. The past could be erased and a new future begun.

Human beings are not computers, but God is in the business of new beginnings. The apostle Paul said those in Christ are new creations in which the old has passed away and the new has begun. The old problems don’t necessarily disappear; however, the Lord gives us fresh solutions and perspectives.

Allow God to reboot your life and begin anew today.

Growing Older

People define “old” in a variety of ways. Some folk panic on their 40th birthday. AARP eligibility begins at 50. Medicare and Social Security start at 65. In the United Methodist Church, clergy face mandatory retirement at 72.

Regardless of definition, we all grow older every day. Like those warnings on car mirrors, it’s closer than it appears! One person said: “I knew I was going to get old—I just didn’t realize it happened so young!” Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.

You might be growing older IF:

  • You get free coffee at McDonald’s without asking.
  • Pretty girls call you “sir” at the mall.
  • After bending down, you stay in case anything else needs to be done down there.
  • The only thing you exercise is caution.
  • Your body makes the same noises as your coffee maker.
  • Your retirement portfolio is heavily invested in metals: you have silver in your hair, gold in your teeth, steel in your hip, and lead in your pants.

Age is ultimately relative. After all, OldER is a comparative term. OldER than who or what? Older normally means older than ourselves. However, older gets younger in a hurry. In my own experience, ages I once considered OLD are now MUCH YOUNGER.

I knew a group of World War II veterans who enjoyed meeting for breakfast at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken. A member of their group was about to celebrate his 90th birthday. One friend kidded the birthday boy by saying, “I don’t know that I would want to live to be 90.” Without hesitation, the man replied, “You would if you were 89!”

Growing older brings with it unique challenges and blessings. However, we believe that our Lord is with us in every age and stage of life. Too often we look forward to the future or reminisce about the past rather than living for God in the present. The only time we can serve God is TODAY.

The Bible also challenges older adults to continue a life of fidelity and service. The Bible does not mention an earthly retirement plan for Christians, but the benefits are out of this world! So it’s important to finish strong. Using imagery from the Olympic Games of his time, Paul wrote about fighting the good fight and running the good race. We are challenged to cross the finish line at full speed.

OldER adults also set an example for the church. They teach by word and deed what it means to live as a mature men and women of God. Older Christians serve as pioneers of faith, blazing a trail forward into the future.

My greatest heroes and heroines of faith are older Christians I have been privileged to know over the years. Their words, actions, and attitudes have shaped my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ in every age and stage of life. They teach me how to live—and how to die—as a person of faith.

We are called to serve God in every age and stage of life. We honor those older than us for their wisdom and example. As pioneers of faith, they mark a path into the future. In turn, we are pioneers for others.

In one of his last books, Dr. Seuss reminded us: You’re only old once! So make the most of it.

You're Only Old ONce