Tag Archive | chocolate chip cookies

The Best New Thing since Sliced Bread

Sliced Bread

I remember the first time I heard that expression. I was living in Chicago and working at Northwest Industries, Inc., the fifth largest corporation in Chicago at the time. Northwest was a diversified holding company with about a dozen companies making products that ranged from tubular steel (as in the Alaska pipeline) to underwear (Fruit of the Loom) and cowboy boots (Acme Boot Company).  I worked in the corporate office located on the 63rd floor of the Sears Tower. As a business analyst in the Information Technology Department, I was part of a team that was always trying to come up with more creative and efficient ways of analyzing data to predict, report, and hopefully enhance profitability. Frequently someone would claim that their idea would become “the best new thing since sliced bread.”

sliced bread photo

I always liked that expression because it was so tangible. When I was a pre-schooler, before my mom got a job outside of the home, my mom used to bake our bread from scratch, once a week, four loaves at a time. My job was to brush a little Crisco on the top of the loaves when they came out of the oven so that the crust would be nice and shiny. Mom usually sliced the bread for all of us, but occasionally Mom wasn’t home, and I would have to cut a slice by myself. I remember how hard it was to cut a slice evenly. Whenever I tried, the top would be just the right thickness and the bottom would come to a sharp edge. Looking back, I can see the real value in being able to have bread that is already sliced.

I still occasionally use the “sliced bread” expression. A few weeks ago it came to mind as I was reading a new little devotional book, 101 Moments of Hope by Edward Grinnan, the Editor-in-Chief of Guideposts Magazine. 101 Moments of Hope is a tiny book that came along free when I ordered a larger book by the same author, The Promise of Hope. I guess I might describe the junior size book as the best thing since sliced bread, or maybe a better comparison would be the best devotional reading since Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, another one of my favorites that I kept re-reading for four years straight. For a glimpse into the engaging style of Grinnan’s reflections, here’s one reflection from the “Winter” section of the book.

101 Moments of Hope

SALLY BROWN MAKES A BEELINE

Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith…? [James 2:5 RSV]

cocker spaniel 2My little dog Sally Brown teaches me many things, and as usual I learn in spite of myself. The other day on my lunch hour I was impatiently walking her around the block (dragging might be a better word). I didn’t have much time, and I let her know it. But cocker spaniels have relentless noses.

Around the corner came a man – I’m tempted to say old man, but there was really no telling – dressed in a soiled and ragged overcoat, grubby strands of dark hair half-tucked up under a frayed watch cap, his eyes sagging and sad. I, a seasoned New Yorker, glanced away.

But Sally made a kind of scurrying beeline to him, her stubby remnant of a tail vibrating in excitement. It was an utter mystery to me why she picked out this sorry soul to greet with the joy of a long-lost friend. My hand tightened on the leash. I wanted to pull her back, but self-consciousness got the better of me and I slackened my grip.

Sally sat demurely, obligingly allowing herself to be adored and stroked by the grimy hands. She gazed up at her admirer appreciatively. His features softened, a spark ignited in his eyes, and he smiled. “You beeeaauutiful girl, you!” he exclaimed quietly. “Thanks for saying hello.”

He never looked at me. Quickly, he straightened up and was off. I stood and watched the man disappear down the street, wondering how he would have responded if it had been I who had stopped to say hello.

God, sometimes Your smallest creatures have the largest hearts. Help me to do unto others with a larger heart.

[Edward Grinnan, 101 Moments of Hope: Inspiring Thoughts for Everyday Living,
©2011, Guideposts, New York, pp. 10-11]

I’m about half done reading 101 Moments of Hope. I’m tempted to read more than one reflection a day, but I’m disciplining myself so that the book will last me 101 days. I can hardly wait to begin my devotional readings each morning with this little book waiting to be picked up. It’s the chocolate chip cookie of my devotional readings. To really mix my metaphors – see why I say it’s the best thing since sliced bread, or Jesus Calling, or a chocolate chip cookie?

chocolate chip cookie - split

Note: The book can be ordered online from Guideposts directly or from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other online bookstores.

 

Salty Cookies, Burnt Cereal, and Learning Curves

 

My mom worked in Madison during most of my growing up years.  She compensated for not being around home to supervise me as much as she would like by suggesting projects for me to do by myself, especially during the summer.

One project was learning to bake cookies. One of the first times I baked cookies all by myself, I must have misread “teaspoon” and “tablespoon.” I made some very salty oatmeal raisin cookies. Another time I forgot to take all the cereal boxes and crackers that were stored in the oven out of the oven before I preheated it. When I smelled smoke and saw a black cloud drifting out of the stove, I ran to the barn to get my dad. Together we ran back to the house. He put on thick work gloves, and pulled all the hot black smoldering boxes out of the oven. Fortunately, there were no flames.  Then my dad went back to the barn and I went back to mixing up the cookie dough. I was able to bake the cookies just fine in the well-preheated oven. When my mom got home from work, she was a little surprised at all the damage I had done by simply baking a batch of cookies, but she was pleased that I had run to get my dad before doing even more damage. She was also pleased that I had finished making the cookies. At least we had some good fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies to eat, even if we no longer had any cereal and crackers. There was a learning curve for baking cookies, but I mastered the skill well before I was in high school.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there is a learning curve for just about everything I’ve learned to do – from riding a bike to driving a car, from playing the piano for Sunday School to playing the organ for church, from designing a brochure to building a website. As a general rule, regardless of how good I may think my first effort is, the second time I do something is always better. That’s the learning curve.

The learning curve I’m currently mastering is writing and publishing a book. I’ve been writing a book about hospitality for a couple years. I’m very excited about this book. It’s based on the experiences Mim and I have had in being hospitable. We have welcomed literally thousands of people into our home – some as friends and family, others as bed and breakfast guests, assisted living residents, and seekers on spiritual retreat. The Bible says a lot about hospitality, and we’ve learned a lot about hospitality in our life experiences. The purpose of the book is to put all that knowledge together into a coherent message about the importance of hospitality in our lives.

Last year, as my book on hospitality was beginning to take shape, it suddenly dawned on me that I’m at the beginning of a new learning curve – the one for publishing a book. I decided I should try to gain some experience along this new learning curve before I actually publish my book on hospitality. The message of this book is very important to me. I want it to be the best book I can possibly make it. That means it shouldn’t be the first book I publish. The absolute law of learning curves has convinced me of that.

So, what should I publish as my first book?  I want it to be something good even if it is the first project along this learning curve. I quickly realized that there was an obvious answer to what should be my first book. I’d already written most of it. I’ve been writing a blog post every Monday for the past couple years. I have nearly a hundred reflections written. The theme that’s common to most of these reflections is finding messages from God in everyday life.

With the help of a friend, I selected 52 of our favorite reflections – one a week for a year for anyone who wants to read them at the same pace as the readers who have followed the blog.  I grouped the reflections around common topics like VALUES, PRAYER, MUSIC, JAIL, and a few other topics, to accommodate readers who would prefer to read a whole section of the book in one sitting. I tried to edit the reflections so that they flow smoothly from one to the next. Finally, I added a title and subtitle – Listening for God:  52 Reflections on Everyday Life. Currently, the same friend who helped me select the reflections is doing a final edit of the book for me. She hopes to complete her editing this week.

While she’s doing that, I’m deciding which independent publisher to choose to publish the book. Should I go with the independent division of a major publisher in the Christian book market, like Thomas Nelson or Guideposts? Or, should I take a more do-it-yourself route and do almost everything, except the actual printing of the books, by myself?, I went to a couple publishing seminars at the University of Wisconsin this past summer to help me make this decision. I’m learning all kinds of things about publishing – book cover design, interior page layout, e-book formatting, distribution channels, ISBN numbers, US copyright registration, and lots more. This is a fun learning curve to be on!

This week I hope to decide on the publisher and email my book to them. In two or three months, my first book will be published – a paperback of about 200 pages and an e-book for people who prefer to read books on their Kindles and Nooks.

I’m moving along the learning curve. Soon I’ll be able to get serious again about completing the first draft of my hospitality book. I’ve already set aside the second week in November for a week-long writing retreat at Christmas Mountain. I want to complete my first draft of this, my second book, while the publisher is finalizing and publishing my first book. Then I can study all the mistakes I made at the beginning of this learning curve, so that I don’t repeat them in publishing my second book. Anyway, that’s my plan. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

I’m sure there’s still a lot for me to learn along this latest learning curve, but I think I can safely say I won’t burn the cereal and crackers again. Each learning curve is filled with new adventures.