By Sherye S. Green
The birth of my first grandchild in June 2013 ushered me down a fabulous new avenue of life. Not only did our family receive a new member, but my husband, Mark, and I received new personas, that of Daddy Mark and Gracie. Since becoming a grandmother, I’ve found myself wishing on more than one occasion that I could visit once again with my own two grandmothers, both of whom had a tremendously positive influence on my life.
All of my grandparents had special names by which my brother and I called them. My paternal grandmother’s nickname was Ernie, a name used by all her friends in Tupelo, and which was derived from her proper name, Ernestine. My maternal grandparents lived in Monroe, Louisiana. Their nicknames, Dadee and Essie, were established by my two older cousins.
Even though Ernie and Essie have each been gone a long time (Ernie since 1979 and Essie since 1999), they continue to influence my life. I am fortunate to have many pieces of beautiful antique furniture and several treasured pieces of jewelry from both. The most meaningful keepsakes, however, are the wise bits of advice they passed along to me. Some are found in their letters, while others are carefully preserved memories, gently tucked into the corners of my heart.
Essie and I both loved words. Often when I would go to Monroe for a visit, she would share with me a new poem or quote that either her priest at Grace Episcopal Church had shared in a recent sermon or that she had gleaned from some publication. The one that has stayed with
me the longest is a simple four-line petition I’ve come to call “The Cornflakes Prayer.” I’ve yet to find an attribution for its content, although a similar version has been found in a collection of Scouting prayers.
“O God, please don’t let me be like porridge,
Slow to warm up and hard to stir.
Make me more like cornflakes,
Always prepared and ready to serve. Amen.”
I’ve discovered in this middle age there is often the tendency to become complacent, to think that the status quo is good enough. The online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines complacency as “a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better.” Like the proverbial frog in a pot of hot water on the stove, we all too often allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security regarding our spiritual lives. Often it’s too late and, like the frog, we’re cooked!
As Christians, we must always be about the business of keeping our blade sharp, of making sure there’s not anything in our lives that would cause us to be less than effective for the Lord. In this middle stretch of life’s road, God is calling to my attention areas of my life that have become staid and stodgy, dull and indifferent, and in need of the transforming touch of my Savior.
One of the things that quickly becomes apparent when looking into God’s Word is that He rarely mentions age when giving us a command. The intensity of the light we reflect from God has everything to do with how obedient we are in following what He has instructed us to do, rather than our age when doing so. Where the culture around us sets boundaries that limit and stifle, like forced retirement from the workplace at a certain age, God challenges us to be His arms and feet in this world until the day He calls us home to heaven.
Porridge conjures up two very distinct images in my mind. The first is a scene possibly from the novels of Dickens or Brontë. One can almost hear sharp wind whistling through cracks in cold stone walls. Young charges at an autocratic orphanage eat their morning mush in forced silence. The lumpy, listless mass of cooked cereal in the bowl looks more like mortar chinking than sustenance for the body.
The other image is from a line in one of my favorite children’s books, The Real Mother Goose. “Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold…” Some sources describe pease porridge as a form of pudding made from dried peas, while others characterize it as a combination of vegetables and leftovers added to a mixture of ground grain and water, then left to cook slowly for days over a fire. Doesn’t exactly sound like one of my hot breakfast favorites, Cream of Wheat®.
The cold cereal, Corn Flakes®, on the other hand, was invented in 1898 by Kellogg’s company founder, W.H. Kellogg, as an addition to a healthful diet. This success story was the result of an attempt to manufacture granola that fell flat. How many of us were raised on this simple, yet delicious breakfast offering!
You and I don’t want to “be like porridge, slow to warm up and hard to stir.” The Amplified version of Romans 12:11 highlights Paul’s prayer for all believers, “Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.”
No matter your age or stage, take a tip from the breakfast table and be “more like cornflakes, always prepared and ready to serve.” The world will be a better place for it.
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian, a teacher at Hinds Community College, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Church Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul.