Wednesday, December 22, 2010

To Be Loved by a Child: A Christmas Meditation

Me and my grandson Georgie, this holiday season, hugging it up in the kitchen!

There is a particular heart-tugging, almost aching sweetness that comes with being loved by a child, isn’t there?

“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” the prophet announced.

“Why a child? A baby? Why didn’t God arrive fully grown?” I wonder.

Perhaps, in part, it was because there is nothing to compare with being loved by a child.

When my 3 year old grandson Georgie came to visit us last week from Seattle, his mother Julie said he carried a chicken nugget in his pocket everywhere he went the day before --to the bank, to his preschool, to bed -- determined to give it to his Nonny upon arrival in Colorado. My heart melts to be loved like this by a child.

When Georgie came with us to our church, after the service he asked me if I would take him around the room to show him the babies being held by various moms and dads. He did this when he visited our church in September as well.
“Me like babies,” he said, as he pulled me toward them. Once he asked a 3 month old baby boy, “Do you want to play with me?” as if he were fully expecting an answer and for the babe to hop down and play tag with him.

(Here's Georgie stroking his little cousin Titus's arm, his older cousin Nate looking on. I have so many pictures of Georgie with babies like this, being gentle, and completely focused and fascinated with them.)

I can’t help but wonder if Georgie senses that babies have arrived here, fresh from the hand of God, and wants to be near them to just breathe in their lingering fragrance of heaven. Perhaps the way the wise men and Shepherds wanted to be close to the Christ Child laying in his mother’s arms.

Jesus, ever welcoming of children, once called a little one to his side and -- to the probable shock of the grownups around him-- said:“Unless you come as this little child you cannot enter my kingdom.”

In essence,He was saying, “You think you are here to teach children so much about the ways of the world. But I tell you the truth: they are here to teach you so much more about God than you will ever realize. So squat down, look them in the eye and pay very careful attention.”

Babies teach us about divine, unconditional love as they gaze into our eyes with an adoration and trust we know we have not yet earned, nor will we ever really deserve.

Toddlers teach us to play, to slow down, to see the rainbows in oil spills, to receive hugs and kisses that so melt our hearts that we hardly notice their muddy hands or peanut butter smeared faces. (Or the age and condition of a well-worn chicken nugget in their pocket.)

Children teach us to love so deeply and fiercely that we would slay dragons to protect them from hurt and harm, if only we could.

Each time with spend a moment with a child and really open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to receive their truths, we step a bit closer into the Kingdom of God.

Every time we give rapt attention to the least of these, we welcome the Christ Child anew.

And if you look into the wonder-filled eyes of a child this holy season, you may also find Jesus welcoming you.

No, there’s nothing on earth quite like the glory and sweetness of being loved by a child…. it is here, so often, that the sacred sneaks up on a human heart, toppling defenses so Love can more freely seep in.

(Georgie at age 2, giving Baby Titus, 6 months, a little loving head rub.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nostalgic Tex-Mex Chicken Casserole

This was one of the more popular casseroles popping up in our home and at church suppers everywhere in Texas in the 1970's. Hungry for chicken enchiladas in a hurry tonight, I remembered this recipe, had the basic ingredients on hand, threw it together in no time. Satisfied my craving for Mexican food, while also reminding me of my mother's home cooking. Greg loved it, went back for seconds!

Ingredients for a small pan (will serve 4, double to serve 8)

9 corn tortillas (softened with a little splash of water, between to plates & zapped for a few seconds in the microwave)
1/2 onion & 1 large clove fresh minced garlic, sauteed (you can also add leftover corn, sauteed green pepper, a handful of sliced black olives, left over tomatoes, a few beans -- this is a great clean-out-the fridge casserole)
1 can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
2/3 c. velveeta cheese (I used some grated pepper jack to replace some of the Velveeta)
1 c. bottled salsa
1/4 - 1/2 c. skim milk
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced (I use the breasts from a rotiserie chicken)

1 1/2 c. grated cheddar (or any combination of hard cheeses you like)

1/2 c. sour cream (may also use Ranch Dressing)

Sliced, pickled jalepenos for garnish

Preheat Oven 350

In a large saucepan, saute onions in olive oil until brown and crisp-tender. To this add cream of mushroom soup, Velveeta cheese, 1 cup salsa. It should be about as thick as queso at this point, but if you feel it is too thick, thin it with some skim milk so it is creamy and "stir-able."

To this mixture add diced chicken breast and stir to coat.

Line a greased 9 by 9 inch casserole or 9 inch deep dish Pyrex pie pan with 3 corn tortillas, torn in "chip size" pieces. Pour 1/2 the chicken-cheese mixture over the tortillas then 1/2 c grated cheese. Follow with 3 more torn corn tortillas, more chicken-cheese sauce, 1/2 c. grated cheese. Top with last of tortillas, last of cheese, and dot with dollops of sour cream and sliced jalapenos if desired.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted, casserole is heated through and edges are turning a golden brown.

Tasty served with fresh slices of tomato, avocado and pineapple.