Scattered, Smothered Jesus Love and My Waffle House Hashbrowns

Waffle-House-menu

When I was younger than I am today, I would listen to AM radio with my grandmother.  Perched above her washing machine on a stack of old phone books and Sears catalogs in her kitchen, the radio was to only one or two stations.  They were AM 1230, WMFR (sometimes identified as “We Make Furniture Radio or W Mighty Fine Radio) in High Point or WSJS, AM 600, the broadcasting arm of the Winston Salem Journal and Sentinel Newspaper.

Both stations began in the wake of the Great Depression well-served the needs of their communities.  Programs featuring birthdays and obituaries were among my grandmother’s favorites.  She loved to know who needed a cake and who needed a casserole.  On my birthday (an others in our family), she would call my name in to the station early in the morning, so the disc jockey “Max Meeks” could  read out my name (with the others sharing my day) and wish me a happy birthday.  All those celebrating on a given day then went into a hat for a drawing.  Winners received a gift certificate to the K and W cafeteria, an oil change, and a cake from a now defunct bakery.  I loved radio birthdays.  The expectation of the day, when combined with getting up early to hear my name on the radio was a gift in and of itself.  Besides that, what would I do with my oil change?

One of their occasional but regular programs was someone I called the “recipe lady”.  I am sure people like her are thriving in the digital era.  Her idea was simple; she went on the radio with hosts all of the country cracking the secrets of famous, copyrighted recipes, so folk could make the same thing at home.   If you wanted to make McDonald’s special sauce, she knew how to duplicate the flavor, taste, and consistency.  Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, she had those in the bag.  Anything like that, this woman could do.  Send her a few bucks and a self addressed stamped envelope, you too could get her monthly newsletter with all her recipes and latest discoveries.  So what did we do?  I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a letter to a woman in the Midwest and said, “Send me your recipes”.   I bought a stamp, which was a single quarter, and wrote my own address on the envelope:

Richard L Bryant

RR 3 Box 267

Trinity, NC 27370

Forthwith, my empty envelope was mailed to somewhere in Minnesota.  About two weeks later, I was a member of the recipe club.

The newsletter looked much like the ones my local school sent home every few weeks.  Typed on an ancient typewriter and copied on a mimeograph machine; there were plenty of ideas for my mother and grandmother to attempt.  That’s how it worked, they attempt and I eat.  When I attempted, I made messes.  The Holy Grail, however, wasn’t there.  Where were the Waffle House hash browns?

All these other things seemed incredibly nice, especially if I wanted to recreate the magic of Main Street in my back yard.  But there was no Waffle House.

How do you describe color to someone born blind?  Or explain Mozart to someone who’s deaf?  For me to talk about eating at the Waffle House and consuming their hash browns presents much the same challenge.  I guess I’m in love with the Waffle Hash Browns.

Look at how they are presented, everyone who comes through the door are offered these six choices:

Traditional; Scattered and Smothered (Onions); Scattered, Smothered and Covered (Onions and Melted Cheese); Scattered, Smothered, Covered and Chunked (Onions, Cheese, and Ham); Scattered, Smothered, Covered, Chunked, and Topped (Onions, Cheese, Ham, and Chili); Scattered, Smothered, Covered, Chunked, Topped, and Diced (Onions, Cheese, Ham, Chili, and Diced Tomatoes)

What more could one want in food or a relationship?  Shakespeare died 400 years ago this weekend and knew a thing or two about love.   In Sonnet 116 he said, “But bears it out even to the edge of doom.  If this be error and upon me proved.” “It” may be love or “it” may be smothered and covered, chunked, topped, and diced hash browns.  Chili and onions, (like love) may bear you out to the edge of doom but if this isn’t right, I ask you to prove it.

Yes, I did and do love the Waffle House.  As you might have guessed, there are no Waffle Houses or hash browns on the highway between Moscow and Kiev.  What do you do when what you love leaves you behind? Do you wait or do you learn how to make your own hash browns (i.e. cut vegetables, make chili, and dice tomatoes), even if they’re not in the recipe newsletter?

The disciples loved Jesus like I love hash browns, and then some.  On the other hand Jesus wasn’t the manager of a growing chain of Waffle Houses along I-85 between Richmond and Atlanta.  The disciples aren’t being prepped for some do it yourself investment scheme in the wake of Jesus’ hasty departure.  The disciples weren’t shift workers or franchisees.  They were his friends.

He wants his friends to be able to do his work and ministry exactly as he’s done it.  Jesus is not offering the disciples a newsletter to create the closest approximation of his healing and teaching.  He wants them to do exactly has he’s being doing over the past three years.  It’s not good enough to have something fairly close to McDonald’s special sauce or Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits.  It all has to be from the original restaurant in Nazareth.  This is how people will spot authentic Christianity, in the taste, and using Jesus’ original recipes not fabricated menus or educated guesses.  The world will know who we are because we use the key ingredient from Jesus’ menu.  What is this key ingredient?  It is love.

Once Jesus has turned the neighborhood over to us, the responsibility to be Jesus in the world falls on our shoulders.  This should not come as surprise.  The resurrection is embodied in each one of our lives.  If the world is going to “taste and see” that the Lord is good, they will know it by how well we follow the recipe we’ve been given.  The defining feature of that recipe is love.  It is impossible to make something else taste and look like love.  Oh, the church can fake it till we make it for a short time, but eventually; the world will it figure out; our biscuits did not come from Red Lobster.  They will see that our love is not of Jesus Christ.

“When you love each other,” John says, “this is how everyone will know you are my disciples.”  Richard’s translation:  When you take what you love (maybe Hash Browns) and make it your own and start to share it with others; that’s when people will start to see you’re serious about being Jesus in the world.    That’s the neat thing about being in love with Jesus and hash browns; it doesn’t take much to take your love on the road.  If you can shred potatoes, dice a few veggies, and make some chili, you’ve got the real thing.  There are no trade secrets in the Waffle House hash brown world.  The Waffle House Illuminati are keeping nothing under wraps.  It’s the same way with Jesus.  Loving people is no secret.  Anyone can do it.  It’s just hard.

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