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