Thanks to the military, my husband’s schedule is never a sure thing. Aside from long nights and phone calls at 4 am to confirm the paperwork he signed or to call him in to evacuate planes, there’s the constant change in shifts. After nearly a year on the midnight shift (similar to the traditional third shift), he spent about six weeks on days (the traditional first shift) and was recently moved to swing shift (basically second shift) for a few weeks. Once those weeks end, he will be some sporadic days of work and appointments, then some leave and then off to deployment in the desert for four months. Life married to the Air Force, even in our ‘easy’ corner of the world, stateside with minimal danger and longer station assignments, is hardly predictable or consistent.
All that is to say that the last few weeks while he has been on swing shift have been challenging. Our time together is minimal because I’m usually in bed by the time he gets home and he is still asleep when I get up in the morning. We usually have about half an hour together before I go to work. And then he is gone when I get home. It should be no surprise that I highly value the time spent around a dinner table and this schedule makes this impossible. It has put quite the damper on my cooking spirit! When I was single, I still cooked for myself quite a bit, but now that I’ve got someone that I get to cook for, lacking that is such a bummer!
So tonight I insisted on cooking (a bit) and putting together some of my favorite flavors to make:
Barbeque Chicken with Cornmeal Mush
(fancy people call it polenta)
1 c yellow cornmeal*
3 c beef or chicken broth (water also works)
2 c cooked, shredded chicken**
1/4 c barbeque sauce (recipe below, or your favorite bottled sauce)
Toppings of your choice, such as:
sliced raw onions
cole slaw/raw cabbage
- Bring the broth or water to a boil in a shallow saucepan. Once at a boil, whisk in the cornmeal bit by bit, whisking rapidly until smooth. Stir quickly and regularly to avoid clumps. Allow to cook over medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes, depending how thick you’d like it. Add a dollop of butter or margarine, if you like it a bit creamier.
- Toss the chicken with the barbeque sauce (below) and spoon over the cornmeal mush. Allow each person to top with pickles, peppers, cole slaw, etc as they prefer their own barbeque. The cornmeal mush is like the cornbread!
Kansas City-style Barbeque Sauce (adapted from Food Network)
Yields 1 quart
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c ketchup
3 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs corn starch (+ 3 Tbs water, whisked into a cornstarch slurry)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp liquid smoke
- Bring the oil to temperature in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Before it bubbles, add the onions and garlic, cook until transparent.
- Add all remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch slurry and liquid smoke. Add a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the liquid smoke, then slowly incorporate the cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. Allow to cook for a few more minutes, longer if you like it thicker (it will thicken as it cools, as well).
- Strain, if desired.
*polenta works, too, but it is effectively the exact same thing, just a little more finely ground and about three or four times more expensive
**I use shredded chicken quarters that I boiled to make chicken stock a few days ago (quarters are pretty much the cheapest cut of chicken and have lots of dark meat flavor!)
It really is that simple, and it’s a surprisingly satisfying and staying meal. Cornmeal mush is a remarkably cheap and satisfying starch (as cheap or cheaper than rice and lower in calories and carbs per serving), so it’s good for those rain-soaked lonely evenings.
But thinking about how cooking is less enjoyable when I’m not feeding anyone else, I started to think about spiritual feeding. I’ve heard it many time, perhaps you have, too, from someone explaining why they’ve left a church and started looking for another: “I just wasn’t being fed there.” (Note: this is usually said by someone that has floated around to multiple churches in a short period of time.)
What do they mean by that? They weren’t getting anything out of it. This is a dangerous place to be, because it turns church and worship into an act of consumption. The focus has turned from giving God his glory to getting our spiritual cup filled for the week. As hard as it may be to accept, church isn’t about us. We are there to worship the living God as the community of His children. We aren’t there to hype ourselves up for the week.
It also puts all the responsibility of our spiritual growth and development squarely on the shoulders of someone else. Of course our pastors and mentors are there to teach, encourage and assist us in our walks, but the responsibility is always our own. Is it fair to put the weight of our salvation on our pastors? Not only is it not fair, it isn’t realistic. Many pastors already struggle with ‘caring too much’ and trying to avoid martyring themselves for their congregations. We can’t hold our pastors responsible for our spiritual walks. They have all the fears, struggles and insecurities the rest of us have, and are seeking to minister to you in yours, despite their own.
So then, if we aren’t supposed to be seeking after ‘being fed,’ then what are we supposed to be looking for when choosing a church? I think we need to remember how we learned to eat as children:
- Babies are first completely dependent, relying in the womb on their mother’s nutrients.
- Then after birth, they are dependent on their mother’s milk, then food they are fed.
- As toddlers, they learn to feed themselves, but they still need an adult to provide the food.
- By early adulthood, they can both feed and provide for themselves.
- Then, once they have learned to feed themselves, they feed others– spouses, children, guests, elderly parents.
If we expect to remain in the ‘being fed’ stage, at best, that makes us spiritual toddlers. Is that really where we want to stay?
Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians 3, when we expresses his frustration with the Corinthian church and its quarrels and squabbles. He calls them “mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (1 Corinthians 3:1b-2) Frustration might actually be an understatement here. Paul isn’t even just disappointed; he’s angry. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want Paul angry with me. (Do you remember what he did to Christians before God met him on the road to Damascus?!) Paul’s expectations for the Corinthians is that they will, even without his constant guidance, will continue to grow, learning to feed themselves.
That is not to say that we are not supposed to begin as infants. Peter tells us to be “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3) But we must grow up! We must progress toward feeding ourselves and then, to feeding others! Our pastors and churches help us to taste that the Lord is good and encourages us toward proverbial healthy eating when all we want is the bowl of ice cream.
So stop changing churches because you “aren’t getting fed.” Put in the time and effort and stop expecting to be spoon-fed your salvation. You are not a mere infant in Christ anymore. It’s time to graduate to toddler status. You don’t need the ‘here comes the airplane’ anymore.