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Essential Ingredients

Kathleen Kohler

"Please, Mom? Can I make the pie, please?"

Nine-year-old Ben's request caused me to hesitate. Money was tight with my husband Loren laid-off work, and groceries often in short supply. But seeing the excited expression on Ben's face and hope in his eyes, I handed him the bag of frozen pie cherries. "Do you need any help?"

He pulled the yellow mixing bowl from the cupboard. "No, I got this, Mom."

"Okay, just follow the recipe." To avoid hovering, I left the kitchen while Ben made his first from-scratch pie. I tackled the mound of clean laundry waiting on the couch. Later, while I carried stacks of folded clothes to the bedrooms, the aroma of almond extract and cherries bubbling in the oven wafted through the house.

When Loren arrived home that evening after working on a car for a man from church, I hollered downstairs. "Dinner."

Ben, Joe, and Bethany raced to the kitchen. Ben swooped the cooled pie from the counter and turned toward Loren. "Dad, look what I made today."

"Mmm...Cherry's my favorite." He patted Ben on the shoulder. "We better eat dinner so we can have dessert."

Gathered around the table, we bowed our heads while Loren prayed.

Scraping the last bit of mash potatoes onto his fork, Loren swallowed, then wiped his mouth on his napkin. "Now, how about some of that pie?"

"I'll get it." Ben scooted away from the table so quick, his chair nearly toppled over.

He placed a generous slice of pie in front of each of us. "Too bad we don't have ice cream to go with it."

"I'm sure it will taste great without it." I smiled. "You did a beautiful job."

He beamed with pride. "Thanks, Mom."

Cherry juice dripped from my fork as I sunk my teeth into my first bite. I posed a weak smile, and swallowed, trying not to gag, then washed it down with a big gulp of water.

Ben studied each of us as we tasted his baking creation. "Well, what do you think?"

Before we could answer, Ben heaped a piece of pie onto his fork and shoveled it into his mouth. A tortured look clouded his face. Shaking his head, he spit mushed pie onto his plate. "Blah, that's terrible." He grabbed his water glass. "I don't understand. I followed the recipe same as you, Mom."

"Well, you made a perfect crust," I said. "And that can be tricky."

Grimacing, Joe and Bethany pushed their plates away, as Loren set down his fork. "I think you added too much salt."

By the time a few years passed, Ben had turned into quite the accomplished cook. His special homemade fudge and divinity were in high demand from his landscape customers and the owner of the local hardware store.

One morning, decades later, I closed my Bible after reading Ephesians 4. As I contemplated Paul's list of essential ingredients to our Christian walk, the salty pie incident flashed through my memory. I considered the verses I'd read and Ben's long-ago baking mishap. Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us the attitudes and behaviors to avoid as well as the best ones to use in building a Christ-filled life.

As followers of Christ, God instructs us to rid our hearts of anger, rage, brawling, bitterness, and slander. These inferior ingredients spoil the flavor of everyday conversations with family, friends, and coworkers. Instead, he says to be kind and forgive each other, and fill our hearts with compassion.

It's clear, whether you're baking in the kitchen or walking with Jesus, how important it is to follow the recipe. Just like a pie baked with proper ingredients, a life lived for Jesus is Oh, so sweet!

A Heart Restored first printed December 16, 2014 in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

© 2014 Kathleen Kohler