Turkey necks!

I’ve been buying frozen marrow bone slices for my dog at Publix for years. He loves chewing them and I am certain that they are great for keeping his teeth clean. Someone somewhere discovered a market for marrow bones among dog lovers, so the price has steadily increased. The last batch I bought went for $2.19 a pound!

However, marrow bones are not always easy to find at my neighborhood Publix. Over time I have established that the truck delivers them on Thursday nights and they may be available on Saturday morning, but you better get their early. They are popular!

For the past two weeks, I’ve been looking for a new supply of marrow bones. But the meat case where I usually find them has been filled with turkeys for Thanksgiving. And not just turkeys. Turkey necks. Piles and piles of packages of turkey necks. I asked myself, “What in the world do people do with turkey necks?”

Well, it turns out you can do a lot with turkey necks. You can sear them, roast them, eat them and enjoy them. But most importantly, you can give them to your dog!

What? You don’t give turkey bones (or chicken bones) to your dog! Do you want a boatload of trouble? Well, as it turns out, dogs love them and it is fine to give raw ones to your dog. I learned about it here. Cook them, and you might have trouble. Frozen or dried? A treat!

I am not the first to discover this treat. The packs of turkey necks at our Publix are selling for $3.49 a pound! Yep, someone is making a fortune on something many people simply tossed out in the garbage. Never again. My doggo will now also get some turkey necks!

More thanksgiving memories

A few years ago I jotted down a few memories, too You can read them here.

In the wake of yet another Thanksgiving, I’ll pause to remember Thanksgiving celebrations from my past. My most vivid ones are from my high school years.

Those were high school marching band days, and we played our inter-league rival Interboro High School on Thanksgiving day. Kick off was typically at 10 am on a cold fall day in suburban Philadelphia in a packed stadium. It was the last game of the season, so it was a big deal whether we were playing home or away.

By the time I got home, it was two or three in the afternoon. We had time to play some football in the street in the afternoon. My mom usually prepared a traditional thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn or green beans, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. It was dark when we sat down to eat, so we must not have sat down for supper until about 5 or 6 in the evening.

I rarely remember family coming to be with us or us going to visit family. In retrospect, I’m puzzled by this, since both of my grandmothers and other family lived within an hours drive of our house. But in my recollection, we celebrated the holiday as an immediate family. I am pretty sure my dad only got Thursday off, so it was just a one day event. We three kids took turns washing dishes; God help you if thanksgiving was your turn!

I can’t remember every going shopping on Friday. If Black Friday was a thing, it wasn’t a thing for my family. I do remember that on Friday, my mom would set out the turkey carcass out in the center of the table, and we would pick leftover meat for our meal. After that, my mom would use whatever was left for turkey soup over the weekend. I remember that soup fondly for she would often throw in leftover hot dogs and buns.

Thanksgiving was different back then. Now we deal with travel plans, sweet potato casserole (we never had sweet potatoes!), gluten-free pie crust, macaroni and cheese, and having the right beer and wine on hand. I still like to eat, so it’s all good!

Hit me baby one more time

I forget who came up with the genius idea to “pie the pastor,” but it turned out to be a great youth fund raiser about twenty years ago. My youngest daughter, perhaps four years old at the time, clearly enjoyed the experience. I think we charged a dollar a pie. Many members of the congregation kept giving her dollar bills, a little reluctant to throw the pies on their own.

Yep, same little girl only 16 years later (I think) with yet another pie in her hand and many on my face!

I think I’ll do this one more time. I think we may have yet another new generation of pie throwers ready to hit the bull’s eye!

The Pathmark experience

I think my mom was some kind of genius, at least when it came to raising us kids. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she really knew what she was doing.

I’m thinking specifically of taking my brother, sister and I food shopping each week. In the mid-1960’s, the sun was setting on neighborhood markets as a new day dawned for big supermarkets. Our big supermarket was Pathmark, known for big selection and discount prices.

Mom was a devoted coupon cutter. Each time we went shopping, she made a deal with us. If we helped out, stayed out of trouble and didn’t ask for anything, she would split all the money she saved with coupons between the three of us. We could spend it any way we chose. Ka-ching!

So we were usually helpful, fairly well-behaved, and she didn’t have to field constant requests for stuff we wanted. In return, we usually blew the money on candy and learned a bit about shopping. Win-win. I know the money never amounted to much, but we always felt like we had won the lottery!

Genius.

The first domino

Driving home from Jacksonville this afternoon around 4:30 pm, the traffic was beginning to build as I merged onto I-95 from 9B. An SUV just ahead of me signaled to merge in front of me, then hesitated for just a moment. I flashed my high beams, encouraging her to cut in front of me. A little wave out the window and she was on her way.

As I drove on, I thought to myself, “Why did I do that?” I’m not always that generous on the highway. More often than not I’m more like, “You’re not cutting front of me. You can merge when I pass. And good luck with that!” And I never think twice about it.

But today was different. I was feeling good, kind, friendly and compassionate. And you know why? I had just had a great experience in Jacksonville. I had to return to the Apple store to get a battery replaced in my MacBook, a necessary chore I hadn’t been looking forward to. When I got to town center, behold, I nabbed a parking spot right in front of the store. As I walked in, I was immediately greeted and my computer was taken in back for the replacement. I knew it would take two to three hours, so I had brought work to do. But no sooner did I sit down with my grande Sbux, when my phone rang. My computer was ready to pick up. I didn’t believe it. In less than thirty minutes? I listened to the message twice. Still dubious. I headed back to the store, found another very close parking spot, and picked up my computer. Yes, it took less than half an hour!

So, on the way home, having had a very positive experience, I was feeling very friendly on the road. You want to cut in? No problem! Have a great day! Whereas I often feel impatient and annoyed driving on the interstate, I was feeling pretty good today. My great experience translated into a great experience for others.

It’s a domino effect, isn’t it? Some initial act of kindness tips that first domino to begin a series of positive events. I made up my mind in that moment that I would try to be that first domino more often.

Burger King!

I vividly remember when the Burger King came to Ridley Park. I don’t remember the year, but I it was somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, so that would put it about 1969? Not only did it come to our town, but they built the restaurant less than a quarter mile from my house. We were so excited! All we had to do was walk down the hill and down the pike (Chester Pike) and we were there.

These were the years when fast food franchises started popping up everywhere. I can’t remember if there was a McDonald’s in town. But there was a Gino’s where we would sometimes get a sack of hamburgers for supper. Wendy’s and Arby’s didn’t arrive till high school.

Now just because Burger King was a stone’s throw away doesn’t mean I went there very often. But it seemed like all the other kids on the block did. They always seemed to have money for fries or a coke. My parents only gave us money on allowance day. I might have gotten $1 a week or maybe every two weeks when my dad got paid. Even though a burger only cost about $.15 back then, I didn’t often blow an allowance on fast food. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was even allowed to go there by myself.

In retrospect, I’m amazed at how enthralled I was with fast food while growing up. It was new, convenient, exciting and delicious for young palettes. I ate plenty in college and as a young adult. Now, I hardly ever eat fast food. Chick-fil-A might be the exception, but even’t that’s getting old. Either that, or I am.

A convenience and a delight!

At some point while raising my childen, a trip to the “corner store” became a special destination. I think we went there as a reward for good behavior, maybe after a good report card, or sometimes combined with a trip to the library. The corner store was nothing more than the gas station convenience store a few miles down the road. At least that’s how it looked through my adult eyes. Why does it have a special appeal when you’re growing up?

Just walk in the door and you’ll remember. It’s aisles and aisles of candy, cookies, soda, icees, chips, nuts, hot dogs, donuts, and ice cream. It’s every treat you can imagine crammed into a very small piece of real estate, practically heaven on earth. Even as an adult, just walk in the door and your eyes are drawn to coffee, beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets, as well as all the things listed above. Like I said, heaven on earth!

These folks know what they are doing. They know that as soon as you walk past all of that on your way to the bathroom, you’ll definitely buy something on the way out. The store won’t make much money on gas, but the profit on snacks and soda is huge.

Yes, these folks know what they are doing. That’s why the Buc-ees franchise will do very well as it moves out of Texas into other states, including my home state of Florida. Before long, we’ll have two Buc-ees within half an hour drive of my home.

Yes, technically Buc-ees is a gas station convenience store, but it is about the size of three Walmart stores. It has all the heavenly treats mentioned above plus clothing, furniture, souvenirs, toys, sporting goods, tools and automotive supplies and more. Though we stopped at Buc-ees just outside of Dallas to fuel up for our ride home, we left with nuts, barbecue sandwiches, some homemade potato chips, kolachis and a tub of chicken salad. And we saw Buc-ee the beaver himself, who was making an appearance at the store. Buc-ees is much more than a convenience store. It’s a destination for a fun family outing. Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, espcially the convenience store.

I remember when a 7-11 was built in my hometown of Ridley Park probably sometime in the 1960’s. We thought that was the coolest thing ever. Imagine, a convenience store open from early in the morning til late at night! You could go just about any time to get milk or bread or soda. And they had Slurpees. They were new and they were fantastic! I don’t know how they made them then and I don’t know how they make them now, but I still think they are delicious.

Just a few years ago, the Wawa chain began building stores in Florida. People here went berserk. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. I grew up a few miles from the dairy farm that would become the “town” of Wawa. Back then, life was shifting from having milk delivered to your home in a glass container (now that was convenience!) to going to a Wawa store to buy a gallon in a plastic jug.

As a grown-up, I mostly avoid convenience stores. For me they are a necessary travel evil. Sometimes the bathrooms are clean-ish. But not often. Sometimes the coffee is tolerable. But not often. Sometimes you get to see Buc-ee the beaver. But not often. However, the kid in me is hopeful.

No more prayer? Plenty of prayer!

Our county school board recently opened a meeting with an invocation by one of the local clergy. From what I’ve read, this was the first time a prayer was spoken at such a meeting since the early 1970’s. After much conversation and conflict, they decided not to continue that practice.

I remember being asked to give the opening invocation at a high school graduation in Coventry, CT in about 1989 or 1990. Another local pastor spoke a benediction. It was the only time I was ever invited to pray at such a school function. It was certainly a different time and place. I’m not aware of any non-Christian religious organizations in Coventry at the time. Any prayers offered from representatives of the local churches would be from a Christian perspective. Today, you might get a prayer from any of a wide range of faiths in the community that you may or may not be comfortable with.

I also had the opportunity to give the opening convocation at a session of the Iowa state legislature in the mid-90s, when I lived in Des Moines. the senior pastor of our church handed it over to me, and I thought it would be a great experience. It was. Afterwards, I received an impressive certificate signed by the governor of Iowa and my representative. The only comment I received that day was, “Thank you for keeping it short.” Apparently, not everyone invited to pray got to the point as quickly as I did.

I was also invited to pray before an after a special gathering of a garden club in our town last year. They were planting a tree in memory of some members who had passed, one of whom had been a member of our church. My words were overtly Christian, cause that’s what I do, but no one seemed to mind.

I’ve heard invocations at a variety of university and government functions. Unfortunately, they are so watered down in order to include every belief that I don’t think God Himself would even know we were talking to Him. So why even bother?

I believe it is much better for us to pray for our nation and government each week when we gather for worship. I believe it is important to thank God for our leaders in our own personal devotional prayer. I believe it is much more important to teach our children to pray and be good citizens of both heaven and the United States. It has been a privilege to gather with teachers and students around school flagpoles for prayer. I am thankful for the chance to teach children about prayer in the school at Good News Club each week.

If we are taking advantage of the many opportunities we have to talk to God, we won’t have to worry about trying to wedge one into a community meeting. Plenty of them will have already risen before Him like incense.

Lunch, conversation and communion

Today I took a ride to a nursing home about twenty-five minutes from the church to visit and bring communion to one of our members there. I arrived about half-way through lunch, so I pulled up a chair to the table where Janey and three others were enjoying a meal of country-fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, roll and some cake.

I’m not sure if these folks were having any kind of conversation before I arrived, but they sure were eager to talk once I joined them! After I introduced myself as Janey’s pastor, the man to my right, Clint, let me know that he had been a long time member of the Scottish Reformed church and also a big fan of R. C. Sproul. He explained that he was rehabbing from a stroke. He must have made great progress. I couldn’t detect any lingering symptoms. He was from Orange City, but was really from south of Denver, CO. The flight path from the airport went right over his family’s 280 acre ranch. How he loved watching the planes take off and land, just like I did when my dad would park the car at the end of the runway at the Philadelphia airport. We both were sad that you couldn’t do that these days. You can’t get near a runway anymore.

On the other side of Janey, a quiet man named John slowly and deliberately worked his way through his lunch. He ate every crumb. When no one was watching, he then took Janey’s drink and her piece of cake. She was pretty surprised to find only a bite left when she was ready for dessert! She she confronted him, he just smiled. I said, “That must be pretty good cake!” He smiled even more. Janey asked for and got another piece as well as a glass of ice water. Everyone was happy. John asked me where I was from. He was from Daytona Beach, but knew folks in Holly Hill and Ormond Beach, too.

A third diner didn’t say anything during the meal. But I did get a “Goodbye” from her when I left.

The room was pretty busy as nurses gave out medication and other caregivers gave out meals and collected dishes. I couldn’t take Janey back to her room since her roommate was getting some xrays. So we had communion right there at the table when she was done her lunch. I know the others were listening as I read the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers and marveled that so many didn[t return to give thanks. After communion I prayed with her and I know I heard a few other voices when we said the Lord’s Prayer.

I imagine every pastor has ministry moments like this. A little worship service around a table in a nursing home or assisted living facility with some you know very well and others who just happen to be there. They may not remember that moment. They may not remember I was there. But the Lord hasn’t forgotten them and I know He treasures those moments. As the song says, “His eye is on the sparrow and He watches over them.”

On my way home from these visits, I often think, “I hope someone comes to see me one day.” That sentiment reminds me of how valuable those moments are.