Since attending my uncle Jack’s funeral this past week, I’ve been thinking of times I remember being with him on family occasions. My daughter, Jennifer, took her first steps at Jack and Juanita’s house. Eventually my thoughts traveled to other experiences of my younger days. Such as our family trip to Pennsylvania.  Cyndy, the three boys, and myself replicated part of that trip in August of 2010. The trips were also on my mind because I am flying to Philadelphia this week for the Religion Communicators Council’s national convention.

Be that as it may, the story from the Pennsylvania trip when I was a teenager that came to mind was when we were driving through the farms in Amish country. The view was gorgeous and breath-taking. I think I even put down the book I was reading – I always read when we drove long distances. We drove through miles and miles of farms and fields.

We passed several produce stands – which were larger, as a general rule, than the stands I was used to seeing in Texas. The stands in Texas were mostly single farm stands whereas the Pennsylvania stands were co-op. After the third stand, my mother said “we need something sweet.” We pulled into the next stand, mom went looking and came back with several pounds of cherries.

We left the produce stand and continued our journey. The four of us ate cherries until we were nearly sick. Then mom spotted a nut stand.

“Now I need something salty,” mom said, after which dad pulled into the stand. This time she came back with a pound or two of a nut mixture.

We continued down the road, stuffing ourselves with nuts. Fortunately, we had some cherries leftover. With the sandwiches and lemonade mom had made, we were able to stretch the sweet and salty cycle for most of the day. However, during the unfolding of the sweet and salty saga, another story unfolded.

As we ate lunch and switched between salty and sweet, we put our reading material down, turned down the radio, looked out at the scenery, and shared observations and stories.

After a while we quit eating and were just talking and sharing. The salty and sweet episode was, at the outset, giving in to selfish urges. But, rather than simply giving in to the urges, we used it  as a time to have a conversation and draw closer to each other.

Which is a lesson I have kept with me since our family vacations all those years ago. For one thing, a family vacation is not about having a perfect time, leaving all the problems behind. A vacation is about having an experience together out of the ordinary (facing different problems) as a family. When the vacation is over, you remember the good times the most, not the difficulties.

The other part of the lesson pertains to the sweet and salty episode in particular. In different forms it occurs in every vacation, and life itself. Satisfying urges is not, in itself, a bad thing. But if we let the urges control the circumstances, the urges become more important than the fellowship and our faith. God made food to feed us, but Jesus also said “is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

Peace be with you.