A Defining Moment
On a blistering hot windy day in northwestern Oklahoma when I was about twelve, my dad took us kids down to a small red-brick building next to the railroad tracks; the "ice man" crushed a big block of ice and sent us home with a bag filled with the chips. My mother got out a stainless steel pan, mixed together some milk, sugar, vanilla and eggs, turned up the heat and then nursed that sweet soup until it almost but never quite came to a boil. She sterilized a silver canister, poured in the thickened liquid and inserted a steel contraption with two wooden paddles. My dad took the canister out to the garage, put it down into an old wooden bucket with peeling paint and then packed in the ice chips. The final step in this carefully orchestrated summertime ritual was to sprinkle rock salt on top of the ice, push the mechanism with the wooden handle on top of the canister and then top off the whole thing with an old towel.
My younger brother was first to sit on the towel-covered bucket while my sister, next oldest turned the handle. When her strength gave out (about the same time as his butt got too cold to sit any longer), she took his place on the bucket and I turned the handle. There were five of us children, and each took a turn sitting on the bucket to hold it down while the next oldest sibling worked the handle. Finally, when the turning got too hard for us, dad sat on the bucket himself and cranked that handle until it proved too much for even his strong arms.
With much pomp and circumstance, he removed the towel, released the handle, carefully scraped away the brackish ice and opened the lid to that canister. We each scooped out a bowl of homemade ice cream for ourselves and gathered in the backyard to enjoy it. By this time, the departing sun had left the sky bright red and orange, and the hot wind had turned to a cool breeze. In that moment when I gulped down a big mouthful of sweetness, I had a religious experience. I knew that there was something good in life. That no matter what troubles or disasters or failures might come my way, the essence of life is good. And that goodness I called God.
My favorite word for God is "goodness." The Psalmist wrote so long ago, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8 ESV) Life has handed out a plentiful share of traumatic experiences that have battered my poor tired soul and rendered me helpless. But I cannot doubt the goodness of life. When I count my blessings, those precious units of goodness, the painful memories yield in recognition of the greater power of goodness.
What are some defining moments in your own life story? How have these experiences shaped your understanding of life? of God?
What are your favorite names for God?
Who are some of the people who have shared "units of goodness" with you? What are some ways you can share "units of goodness" with others?
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