Thursday, March 3, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?                  Matthew 16:26

Usually when I write my blog post, the topic has come up from some reflection or thought that has emerged while cooking or eating of the meal of the day.  This one came from a long progression of ideas that came from many different sources.

For our meal, we ate Juevos Rancheros Casserole and Water Gate Salad.  Water Gate Salad isn’t a green salad in the traditional understanding.  It is green in the pistachio pudding sense.  My children enjoyed it.  Maybe too much.  When my daughter requested seconds, she asked for “ice cream.”  Blessed, I suppose, is the child who gets ice cream for supper.  The salad does have fruit and nuts in it, both healthy.  I added some apple for good measure.  But the pudding and the Cool Whip might equalize or negate the good.  Who can say? 

In this lovely week, I have also been reflecting on our early – and joyously welcome – spring.  The weather has been warm, the trees budding, and I have been thinking about the things in life, in the world, that we need to keep ourselves going.  Lunch and coffee with friends this week – as we shared with each other our celebrations and struggles – made me think about how friendship may well be one of those things we need.

But the core of my reflection came down to this:   I’m not really all that sure that we know what we need.  If I were to ask my daughter, she would likely say “ice cream.”  The truth is that most of us have a rather distorted notion of what we actually require for our well-being.

I have recently become hooked on a new TV program.  I am fascinated by the show “Heavy” on A&E.  I find the plot riveting, even though it is the same every week.  People who are dangerously obese take on a drastic and excruciating program of exercise and diet to try to make a change.  They are, so far, always successful.  The program has not yet shown a failure.  I am drawn in to their anguish and their joy at overcoming both the physical and the emotional challenges of returning to a normal and healthy weight.

In watching this show, I began to think about how too much of a good thing really can be terrible for us.  The opportunity itself can be more than many of us can bear.  Our scripture tells us that “God . . . will not let you be tested beyond your strength” (1 Cor 10:13).  That does not, however, mean that the bakery won’t, or the jewelers, or whatever store does commerce in your particular area of weakness.

And I’m not so sure we are as up on the notion of discipline as we ought to be.  As a mom, I think about the subject of discipline all the time.  I carry toys in my car for the kids to play with when I drive them places.  Invariably, they want to keep them when it’s time to get out of the car.  Do I let them take the toys, then take the trouble to replace them myself, all so they can have toys when they want them with no effort of their own?  Or do I make them leave the toys in the car while they take the 20 steps to the house where there are thousands more toys?  The answer seems obvious.  I should do what grows character and discipline in them.  But that is easier said than prying an airplane out of my son’s hand.

If you are reading this, you are not likely tempted by a toy airplane.  But you are tempted.  Most of the things that entice us as adults are available through others who will profit from providing it.  It is no surprise, then, that rarely will they, or anyone in our adult lives, point us in the direction of self-control.  Few, other than ourselves, will benefit from it.  So we are left with little to no encouragement to do the things we ought to do; to limit ourselves, to be disciplined.  And in our country, we have nothing but opportunity.  Nothing but abundance around us.  Nothing to stop us from throwing discipline to the wind.

So right this moment, I would like to encourage you to be disciplined.  Whether your need for restraint is in regards to food, to shopping, to TV time, or to grown up versions of the toys that my kids play with, make the choice to stop short of giving yourself everything you want.  Instead, think about what you really need, compare it to what you have, then decide to make do with less for the sake of your own character and soul. 

Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
Luke 12:16-21

In his parable, Jesus pointed to the small value that things actually bring to us in the long run.  And beyond simply being unnecessary, too much of anything can actually hurt us in the end.  It isn’t called The Parable of the Rich Fool for nothing. 

Perhaps this is why friendship is a true need.  Who else can help us to draw the lines that we would rather not draw between needs and wants, healthy and unhealthy?

So while I will serve my kids Water Gate Salad – the leftovers have gone to school in lunch boxes – neither it nor ice cream will be a staple on my kids’ dinner plate, or mine.  May we all find a different way to live richly and well.

Blessed eating!

Water Gate Salad
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple
1 (3 ¾ oz) pkg. Instant pistachio pudding
1 (9 oz) pkg. Cool Whip, thawed
1 c. miniature marshmallows
½ chopped pecans or walnuts
Drain pineapple, reserving juice.  Mix pineapple juice with pudding mix.  Mix in whipped topping.  Fold in marshmallows, pineapple and nuts.  Mix well.  Pour into 9x13 in pan.  Chill overnight.  Cut into squares to serve. – Greg Wade

Note:  In a nod toward healthier eating, I substituted chopped apple for marshmallows.  It was still very good.

Juevos Rancheros Casserole
8 eggs                                   1 c. salsa
1 c. sr. cream                      A pack 4 Mexican cheese
Place salsa in a pie plate.  Sprinkle cheese over salsa.  Blend eggs and sr. cream.  Pour over the top of the cheese.  Bake at 375o until center is not wet. – Kyle Lewis

Note:  Though there is protein in the cheese, I added a little bit of chicken to this recipe. 


  1. Thanks for sharing these new and old recipes. I can't wait to try the egg casserole, and oh what memories I have of Watergate Salad!

  2. Watergate Salad is good stuff. There is no denying it! What are some of your memories?

  3. When our children were growing up they, too, loved Watergate Salad. It was a Christmas Day meal tradition and often on Thanksgiving Day, too. One of our daughters--she was 12 or 13 at the time--renamed it "Pond Scum" as she "shoveled" it down. Just thought I would share that contrast of the "ice cream" that your daughter at her younger age is naming this "healthy" dish.

    Wondering about someone's ice cream being someone's pond scum when it comes to what we think we need. Makes you think, doesn't it?

  4. Susan, I take it from your comment, that your daughter didn't mind eating "pond scum" in the least! Very creative name, however.

    This salad and Coca Cola Salad are both congealed "salads" (I'm not sure they deserve the title) from my childhood. But until making them, I didn't recognize either by name. I certainly won't forget them any time soon. I'm glad to know that so many others share the food memories.