A Cookie Story
by Steve Collins
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An excerpt from Challenges from Camp Hope
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A Cookie Story
Sean looked up from the wooden figurine on which he’d been carving and glanced over at the clock hanging on the wall. A disappointed frown spread across his face as he realized how quickly the morning had passed. It was already 10:15. In just thirty minutes, the Daniel’s were scheduled for kitchen clean up - and wow! He could hardly wait.
Glancing over in Jerry’s direction, Sean studied Jerry’s concentrated expression. His eyes were drawn close, and the tip of his tongue rested at the outer left corner of his mouth. Sean concluded that his team leader had no idea of the time. Jerry wanted desperately for the Daniel’s to win first place in the Camp Arts and Crafts Competition. They had been assigned the task of carving figurines portraying the story of ‘Daniel and the Lion’s Den’.
“Hey, Jerry,” Sean summoned.
“What?” Jerry responded in an irritated tone.
Nodding in the direction of the wall clock, Sean cautioned, “The time! Look at the time.”
Glimpsing at the clock, Jerry’s eyes widened from their squinted position as he focused on the hands. “Oh man! The last time I looked up, it was 9:40,” he admitted. “I thought I’d get my lion finished by lunch.”
Placing his carving knife down on the table, Jerry looked over toward Lonnie and Benjamin. They were chipping away at their respective chunks of wood. With a sigh, Jerry summoned the pair, “Hey, guys! Better put your things away. We’ve got to head over to the kitchen in a minute.”
“Ohhhh!” Benjamin moaned. “I don’t want to work in that old slop pit, today.”
Lonnie countered, “But we get to eat first, no waiting in line. Plus, we get a leftover dessert pack!” The other three shot Lonnie a disgusted ‘who cares’ look, scraping beans and wieners was not their vision of a fun filled afternoon.
Rising from his seat, Jerry urged the others, “Well, let’s get going, guys. A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
The four Daniel’s put their things away, and then headed down the trail toward the dining hall, and the task, which loomed ahead.
As they reached the back door of the kitchen, all four boys pause for a moment before entering. Gazing at the carefree movement of the squirrels and birds bouncing from tree to tree, the four boys were like criminals standing at the prison gates grasping for a last memory of freedom before starting a life sentence. Then a stern voice sounding from inside the kitchen, snapped them back to the task at hand; kitchen duty. “Hurry up, boys,” the stern command sounded. “And close the door. You’re going to let a fly in.”
The boys knew very well the voice behind the charge. Mrs. Jordan was the camp cook, and she would not tolerate open doors or dirty hands in her kitchen.
“You, boys, go scrub your hands really well,” the rotund lady directed. “And use the soap in the dispenser on the wall. When you’ve finished, let me take a look.”
All the children at Camp Hope really liked Mrs. Jordan. She was actually a very nice lady. But she did not welcome any monkey business in her kitchen.
As each boy finished up, he marched over for a hand inspection from the kitchen’s general. A friendly smile and approving nod signaled acceptance and permission to enter her guarded domain. She directed each boy with some last minute assignment. While they completed their task, Mrs. Jordan prepared the lunch plates. Sean breathed a sigh of relief as he noticed the large tray of sandwiches being pulled from the cooler.
“Yes!” he exclaimed as he nudged Jerry in the side. “Today’s sandwich and chip day. No sloppy scraps.”
The Daniel’s responded with excited ‘high-five’s’ at the blessing they had received. No bean juice on their shirts. No big pot to wash. No shriveled dish water hands.
The boys quickly ate their sandwiches and reported to their workstations as the other children began entering the dining hall for lunch. Sean and Benjamin were on the clean up detail. They emptied the trash barrels as they filled up and kept the tables wiped down. Jerry worked the condiment and beverage table. He stayed busy replacing the empty mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise squirt bottles; filling the ice bucket and beverage coolers. Lonnie helped Mrs. Jordan back in the kitchen. He retrieved a fresh tray of sandwiches from the cooler as the one Mrs. Jordan worked from ran low, kept the dessert tray filled by placing two cookies on each dessert napkin. He was also responsible for ensuring a fresh tub of potato chips was always available. And once, Mrs. Jordan directed him to kill a nasty fly someone had let in the dining hall.
The boys stayed quite busy and their time on kitchen duty quickly passed. Before they knew it, the dining hall stood empty once again; and their kitchen chores were finished.
“Well, boys!” Mrs. Jordan proclaimed. “I must say your group is one of the hardest working crews, I’ve ever had helping me. Daniel must be pleased to have such fine boys assigned under his name.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Jordan,” responded the four boys in unison.
“Guess you boys can run along now to your afternoon activities. We’re all finished up here.”
With that proposal, the boys quickly turned and filed out the back door. Just as Lonnie was closing the screen door, Mrs. Jordan reminded, “Don’t forget your treats, Lonnie,” slipping a brown paper bag into his hand.
“Oops!” he responded. “I sure about forgot ‘em.”
“Well, I slipped you two of each flavor,” she hinted.
“Just like the denominations, huh,” he added as he turned and headed down the steps.
“Yes, Lonnie. Just like the denominations,” she reassured.
“Thanks, Mrs. Jordan!” Lonnie shouted as he ran to catch the other Daniel’s headed up the trail.
“Lonnie,” Jerry questioned. “What did Mrs. Jordan give you in the bag?”
“Cookies! I told you we’d get extra dessert for working in the kitchen. But you guys didn’t believe me.”
“We never said we didn’t believe you,” Benjamin quickly countered.
“Yeah,” Sean added, “we just didn’t get as excited as you did about it.”
“Well,” Lonnie went on, “I told Mrs. Jordan, while we were working, that you guys didn’t think working in the kitchen was worth getting extra dessert. She said sometimes it’s a lot easier looking back on hard times than looking through them to the good times. Some people make more of things than they really should. She said, I was looking beyond the valley and saw the reward on the next mountaintop. While you, guys, were looking down in the valley and worrying what was down there. Mrs. Jordan said you should always be looking ahead. But make sure, it’s straight ahead, where you’re looking.”
“Yeah,” Sean conceded. “I guess we made more of the kitchen work than it turned out to be. The time did go by pretty quick.”
“And the work wasn’t hard either,” Benjamin injected.
“Plus,” Jerry added with a smile. “We have a friend who looks straight ahead, then shares his cookies with the ones who didn’t.”
Stopping, Lonnie opened the bag of cookies.” What denomination do you want, Benjamin?” Lonnie queried.
“Huh!” Benjamin responded.
“Cookies!” Lonnie announced. “They’re like churches.”
“Cookies are like churches,” Sean quizzed?
“Sure,” Lonnie continued with an air of confidence, “Mrs. Jordan told me all about the story of the cookie.”
“The story of the cookie,” Jerry questioned?
“Yeah! The story of the cookie,” Lonnie replied. “Mrs. Jordan told me all about them while we were working together.”
“See,” Lonnie continued as he reached into the brown bag, pulling out a cookie. “This is what we always thought was a plain cookie. No filling or frosting. No added flavor or seasoning. Just your basic cookie.”
“All right, Lonnie,” Jerry snapped. “We already know what a plain cookie is. How does that make a cookie story?”
“Simple, Jerry,” Lonnie went on. “Mrs. Jordan said to make a plain cookie; all you need is some sugar, some butter, and some flour. Mix it all together. Bake it. And out comes a delicious, crisp . . .” Lonnie smiled as he took a large bite from the cookie he held, before adding, “Cookie! Umm!”
Pitifully, the other three boys looked on as Lonnie savored the flavor of his simple cookie. Noticing the pout of their expression, Lonnie passed the bag to Benjamin. He quickly pulled out a chocolate frosted cookie, and then handed the bag to Jerry. Jerry chose peanut butter before allowing Sean a pick from the brown paper bag. Sean peered into the sack and decided on a pecan chocolate chip cookie. All four munched on their chosen cookie. Sean handed Lonnie the shrinking bag of treats. Lonnie took the bag and started up the trail.
“Hey, Lonnie!” Jerry shouted. “What about the cookie story?”
“Yeah!” Benjamin and Sean insisted as the three hurried to catch up with Lonnie.
Oh, yeah,” Lonnie continued, “the cookie story. Like I was saying, Mrs. Jordan said you have your basic cookie. Every cookie recipe in every cook book list butter, sugar, and flour as the three primary ingredients. Every cookie has to have them to really be a cookie. But over time, people baking cookies started adding to the basic recipe. They added things, like cinnamon, nuts, chocolate, and uh, other things.”
“Like peanut butter,” Jerry quickly noted as he munched away on his peanut butter cookie.
“Yeah, peanut butter was one,” Lonnie conceded without argument as he continued with Mrs. Jordan’s cookie story. “She said different cultures began to influence the cookie as it was introduced to different parts of the world. And even though a lot of different tasting cookies came about, they were still all built on the basic cookie recipe.”
“Yeah,” Sean interrupted, “I kind of see what she’s saying; all Christians believe in Jesus, and the Cross, and the Resurrection. But as Christianity spread around the world, it was changed a little by the different people’s ideas.’
“Oh” Jerry responded with a puzzled look, “I didn’t hear Lonnie say anything about Christian stuff in his cookie story.”
“I know what you mean, Jerry,” Lonnie conceded. “I thought Mrs. Jordan had kept her head in the oven too long when she first started in on the cookie story. But then she explained what she meant; kind of like what Sean was saying. She said while Jesus was living on Earth, He explained the recipe needed to live with Him in Heaven. The Apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit to write down the instructions in the New Testament so the recipe could be preserved after they had died. Then kind of like Sean said, Mrs. Jordan explained as the Good News spread around the world, the local customs and ideas got mixed in with the basic recipe, or the people determined the recipe actually meant something else. So all the different church denominations are like all the different flavored cookies. Different churches have different kinds of music, different hymns, even different ways to receive communion and baptism. As long as you follow the basic recipe, you can choose the flavor of your choice.”
“But what about the cookie frosting?” Benjamin broke in. “My cookie was a plain cookie, but it had chocolate frosting.”
“Mrs. Jordan claimed,” Lonnie informed Benjamin, “That there are two reasons for putting frosting on a cooking. The first is for flavor. They enjoy the basic cookie, but the recipe book may have offered different ideas to try. The second reason is to decorate. They may not think their cookie is pretty enough to display, so they cover it up with decorative frosting. Some people put so much frosting on the cookie that it’s difficult tasting the cookie buried under the big clumps of frosting.
She said a lot of Christians are embarrassed by their faith in Jesus and try to cover up the true message with pretty music or fancy buildings. But if you scrape off all the icing, you can still find a good cookie at the core; that is unless you really don’t have a true cookie beneath the frosting - and are trying to cover it up. She said that many people are deceived into accepting something that’s not really a true cookie. You know, cookies made from artifical sweeteners or fake butter. Things like that!”
Lonnie paused, munching down the last bite of his cookie, then added. “She said you could just go on and on with the cookie story and how it compares with the Gospel.”
“I see how it all ties together, now,” Benjamin acknowledged.
“Me, too,” Jerry boasted. “How about you, Sean?”
“Yeah, I understood it from the start,” Sean reminded.
“Oh, yeah,” Jerry recalled; then glanced down at his wristwatch. “Man! Look at what time it is. We’ve got to get moving.”
“Yeah,” Benjamin said. “We’re supposed to be down at the lake, swimming.”
The four boys raced off toward their cabin to gather their swimming attire. But the sight of one of Mrs Jordan’s cookie, or any other simple homemade cookie, would never be the same.
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