Living with Intention: Butter or Margarine

and sometimes I have to do it all in COLOR

In the third grade, I joined the Brownies. They were the little Girl Scouts in training in their brown cotton uniforms, accessorized with bright orange neckties and a felt beanie hat. 

One afternoon after school, the brown clad girls gathered at the church to churn butter. We took turns raising and lowering the plunger on the churn. While we waited our turns, we worked on individual portions of butter by shaking baby food jars filled with heavy cream. I was very near the “this is not worth it” point in the process, when I discovered a little glob of butter congealing in my jar.

The troop leader gave us some bread and we fished out our little butter globs swimming in the leftover buttermilk so we could taste the product of our efforts.

I hated mine. It tasted sour and reminded me of the smell of the school cafeteria with its trashcans full of half-empty pint cartons of milk souring in the open air.

Parkay was my butter. It was a better color, yellow instead of white, and it was shiny and easy to spread. I liked it on white bread after being slipped under the broiler until the butter-less parts of the bread browned and the oleo melted and bubbled.

I unapologetically liked the fake stuff. Fake appealed to me more than the real. I preferred corn oil pretending to be butter. And that is where I stood concerning margarine and butter for a very long time.

I was a college-educated mother when I discovered butter again. A friend of mine set out butter on a dish way before her guests arrived. The butter was room temp and ready to go when her homemade rolls came out of the oven for dinner.

Those of us at the table were young and just beginning to talk about food, giving it some status in conversation around the table. We weighed the pros and cons of food choices apart from what our mother’s had set in front of us just years before.

It took quite a bit of mental discipline to not take a pat of the butter for each bite of the warm bread. It was that good. I mentioned how much I loved it, but clarified by saying, “I didn’t eat it often because of the saturated fat.” My friend took the liberty to expound on the horrors of margarine, hydrogenated oil, how margarine was “hands down the worst food choice” of the two.

I was over my head in the conversation, but I liked her argument. There was no Google then and I wasn’t up for research at the library. That day I decided that butter was the better choice.

If you were to peek into my refrigerator right now, you would wonder if my love affair with butter was true? Sitting on the shelf surrounded by kalamata olives and red pepper relish, sits a tub of “creamy buttery spread,” margarine.

The truth is: I still like the taste of margarine and how it slips smoothly on the blade of my knife. I never remember to get the butter out so it can come to room temperature. When the butter is cold and hard, I go for what is good, easy, and acceptable.

Life can be like the choice between butter and margarine. It is so tempting to go the path of least resistance, to let what is easy become our first choice, to choose what may be good at the moment without considering future implications, to rationalize and resign ourselves to the cynical attitude---if margarine doesn’t kill us, then butter will.

We neglect making real choices, intentional ones and live a disjointed existence, with little direction, simply because we keep all our options out on the table.

We refuse to choose what is best over what is good. We feel powerless, emotionally driven, and out of control.

Maybe the best choice isn’t butter or margarine?

Last night I pooled olive oil on a salad plate, cracked pepper over it. We swiped pieces of torn bread into the liquid gold, cold-pressed, extra virgin.

Our choices matter.

Our goals matter.

The motivations behind our choices matter.

Every choice we make, in every moment we are given matters.

I’m not advocating for some legalistic way of living, but I am saying it is unwise to live mindlessly and think it doesn’t matter.

It’s true when it comes to eating and true when it comes to living out our lives in Christ. Every choice we make demands our attention. When we choose wrong----when we sin, we confess. If we are wise, we will learn from our bad choices and allow them to tutor us, allow our wrong choices to move us forward--even when, from a human perspective, it would seem that we are loosing ground.

There is a way that seems right to a man,

But its end is the way of death. (Prov. 14:12 NKJV)

We need the Holy Spirit’s help. We desperately need our choices to be His choices. We want to walk the path that leads to life in all its fullness.

God wants that for us, the full life. He wants it more for us than we want it for ourselves. 

Jesus chose to put on our skin, to wear our uniform, feel our pain, face our choices. God chose Jesus to live our life, die our death so that we can live with purpose, confidence, with strength and devotion--- in the power of his resurrection.

Butter or margarine? I don’t know. I’ve been reaching for the olive oil a lot lately.

What I do know is I want to live daily with a deep desire to choose Christ, His life, His purpose for me, His will above all else. I don’t always make the right choices. I let those poor choices become my tutors. I move forward day by day, one choice at a time, one grace at a time. 

Choices happen. Even choosing not to choose is a choice. That is why we need to be in God’s Word and we need time with Him in prayer. Whether we like it or not, our daily choices effect others more than we want to admit. We influence the world by our choices. This is sobering and true.

Now, could you pass the butter?

How do you resist the path to least resistance? When are most aware of how your choices impact the lives of others?

Photo: Robert S. Donavon, Flickr

Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Emily at Imperfect Prose


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