The Olde Sweet Shoppe

Originally written for Faithwriters weekly Challenge – Thursday 11th February 2016 – unedited

I’ve just eaten a turtle, and it was delicious! Not the kind that swims in the sea and lays its eggs on İztuzu Beach (that’s in Turkey, you know). This one came in a cellophane bag from Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe® – “Purveyor of the finest confectionary”. His body and shell were made of deep green jelly that became paler as I turned him towards the light; as my teeth sank into his back, a mix of flavours not easily identified rushed across my tongue until I encountered his belly; the white foam resisted for a moment, and then the turtle was no more.

But Mr Simms has filled this bag with other delights from long ago: Jazzies – half-inch chocolate buttons covered in tiny sugar balls that crunch under your teeth;  jelly beans in a host of fruity flavours; jelly babies with barely discernible features;  a collection of foam and jelly sea creatures; white chocolate mice (I never understood why anyone would create such a thing – but they taste delicious); and the pink and white chocolate confection that mimics an ice cream cone.

All these flavours from the past bring back memories of the tuck shop across the road from my high school: shelves filled with dozens of sweetie jars and bottles of our favourite pop. We’d ask for “half-a-dozen cola cubes, a handful of rhubarb and custard, and couple of kop kops”. These last were small, round, black medicated sweets, supposedly for coughs and colds. But it was a sign of strength to be able to suck them till they disappeared. Then we’d ask for a drink: a mix of Tizer, Vimto and dandelion and burdock. The result was a muddy brown mess that had no recognisable taste. But to us it was delicious.

Compared to the heady days of my youth, my taste buds no longer get much of an adventure. We eat the same few dishes week in week out, many of them ready prepared by the supermarket giants. Genuine home-made food is a real treat. And the occasional gourmet meal has my taste buds tingling – and the pace of life slows as I savour the moment. Delicious!

I can’t help wondering if the same process has happened in my relationship with God. In the early days, there was excitement at everything new. Looking back to my teens and twenties I can recall several occasions when I was really conscious of God’s guidance – through scripture, other Christians or directly by his Spirit. As a Christian leader, I’m sometimes so caught up in the everyday busyness of organising, managing, doing and recording that moments of excitement are rare. The days sometimes seem bland, like ready-meals in the supermarket.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. Whilst waiting patiently for the day when he would be crowned king, David encountered many troubles at the hands of his enemies. In hiding in Gath, David became afraid of the king and feigned insanity (1 Samuel 21:10-14). Afterwards, he wrote about his experiences, not as a lament but in praise of God’s goodness. In the middle of his poem David says: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

I’ve just eaten a crocodile; not the kind that lives in a river, but one with a body of red jelly with indefinable flavour and a white foam belly that resists my efforts to chew. The flavour takes me back to the tuck shop across from my old high school.

O Lord, as I dip into your word, remind of the times you have upheld and delivered, guarded and guided me; and let me taste again the goodness of your love and power in my life. In Jesus name.

 

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About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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