Notes from Jan

Picnic Sundays and Baloney Sandwiches

August 15, 2022

Yesterday was our annual church picinc. It was a beauty, after several days of high heat with humidity to match. Folks brought their best salads, desserts and appetites. Kids and some adults brought swimwear to enjoy the backyard pool in Levon and Cathy’s yard, our hosts.

We sat on folding chairs, around tables covered in familiar red and white checked tableclothes. It brought back my Georgia years, when our small Baptist church held dinner on the grounds. Several times a year, it followed Sunday morning church. This was our idea of eating out. It was when the finest cooks and bakers flaunted their best for our Sunday picnics.

Faster than the heat warranted, deacons in overalls hauled sawhorses to the side of the church yard where grass struggled to grow in red Georgia clay. Then the men placed planks atop, forming tables. Next, the women unfurled tableclothes, held in place by mason jars filled with fresh cut flowers.

Finally, the feast arrived, cradled like the treasure it was: pinto beans, fried okra, turnip greens, cornbread, sliced tomatoes, greenbeans, fried chicken, butter beans, country ham, biscuits, homemade pickles, watermelon still warm from the patch it was plucked from. And towards the end of the table sat pies, cakes and pitchers of sweet tea to wash it all down with. And close by, women in aprons, protecting their Sunday best. This was farm to table fresh, made from scratch. Everything.

So, what’s with the baloney? Well, yesterday’s picnic reminded me not only of dinner on the grounds in Georgia, but one of my favorite stories. Bob Benson wrote it in his book, SEE YOU AT THE HOUSE. While most isn’t in quotes, this is Bob Benson’s story.

As I recall it, he’d gone to church, then realized it was picnic Sunday. So when church ended, he raced home to grab something to bring. In the fridge, he found a piece of dried up boloney, a couple of slices of bread and not much mustard. He went knuckle deep into the jar to get as much as possible, then spread it on the bread and slapped the baloney between. Last, he tossed it in a paper bag and headed back to the picnic. One happy kid.

When he arrived, families had already started eating and he looked for a place to slip in. Then he heard his name, “”Bobby, why don’t you come sit with us, honey?” Well, if it wasn’t the best cook in the church who’d called him over to join her family. He sheeplishly replied,” M’am, I only brought a baloney sandwich.” And she said, “Why, Bobby we just love baloney sandwiches. Come share with us and we’ll share what we’ve got with you.”

And so he shared what he had and they did the same. He thought years later, that’s a whole lot like Jesus. We come with our worst to offer and Jesus says,” Just give me all you’ve got and I’ll do the same.” How foolish if we clutch and cry, “You’re not getting my baloney sandwich!” Bob Benson ended the story with, “Really, Jesus doesn’t need our baloney sandwiches but we need all He’s offering us. “

Sometimes that’s been me, clutching, crying, refusing to trust Jesus with the worst in me. Truth is, there’s not a day goes by I don’t need what Jesus offers for my baloney: forgiveness, grace, patience,purpose, mercy, perspective, wisdom, peace and JOY for dessert. Which takes me back to how most of our Sunday services ended back then. We sang “Just As I Am” as an altar call. So folks with a stale baloney kind of life could come on down the aisle and trade it in for a feast they knew they didn’t deserve but needed for real life.

“Just as I am , Thou wilt receive

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve

Because Thy promise I believe

Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Anyone tired of their baloney sandwiches?

I know for a fact, Jesus keeps a place at the table for the likes of me and you.

And we get to come, just as we are, any old day.

Not just on Picnic Sundays.

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10 Comments

  • Reply dale August 15, 2022 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks Jan. A wonderful picture of grace. Come to my table always has been His invitation.

    Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 16, 2022 at 9:28 am

      Remembering times around the table with you and Marty and our families. We talk about “saying grace” before meals but the meal and all who gather are wrapped in Grace. I first heard Bob Benson at one of the Gaither’s Praise Gatherings. Such a great storyteller! And you and Marty have been great friends. Still are!

  • Reply Rita Smith Dove August 16, 2022 at 10:09 am

    Beautiful, Jan! We just celebrated my Mom’s 100th birthday. One of our Cousins in her tribute, talked about how my Mom and her sister would, along with other families in our rural church, cooked the most delicious dinners the 4th Sunday in August. It was the “opening of our revival and Homecoming Day”! The cooks served the dinners out of the trunks of their cars. They cooked full meals at home, plated and packed them in their trunks, and then handed them to people as they came by after the last of four or five services. My husband called it a marathon preaching Sunday.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 18, 2022 at 1:32 pm

      How beautiful, Rita. Happy birthday to your wonderful Mama! If she did nothing more than birth and raise you, she did this old world a big favor. And you blessed Gordon College and beyond. Thank you for sharing this story. I look back and think how so few did so much with so little. Like the little boy with his small lunch of fish and bread that Jesus blessed to feed thousands. I thank Jesus for folks like your Mama. They gave us a taste of the great feast all God’s children look forward to, by faith.

  • Reply Valerie McCoy August 16, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    Jan…….positively, beautifully, eloquently, unselfishly, lovingly
    written. You are a treasure and this offering is perfect!! Thank you friend.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 18, 2022 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you, dear Valerie. What would we do without Jesus and all he offers and provides day after day. And all the men and women who made and still make us feel welcome at their tables. As I heard many of those aproned women say with their lives and words, “We’re blessed to be a blessin’!”

  • Reply Maggie Rowe August 17, 2022 at 8:13 pm

    Oh Jan, I love this reflection. I grew up Baptist, but somehow our rural Illinois church didn’t have the “dinner on the grounds” tradition. I’m not sure why. They still call it that down here in NC. I’m thankful, though, that the Methodists host pretty good potlucks also. More importantly, I’m grateful I can bring my baloney and trade it for manna. Please consider compiling your posts into a book someday (and don’t wait too long, please.)

  • Reply Jan Carlberg August 18, 2022 at 1:43 pm

    Baloney for manna. BA heavenly trade. Except as I recall Bob Benson’s story after hearing and reading it years ago, he swapped baloney for friend chicken! The fried chicken Jesus offered. As for compiling these notes and posts into a book, thanks for the encouragement. The Lord knows I need an editor and sombody who’d know how to snatch it off this computer and make something happen. I’m willing, but not as able as I once was. But thanks for the nudge.

  • Reply Wendy August 22, 2022 at 10:21 am

    What a beautiful, wonderful story!!! <3

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 23, 2022 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you, very dear Wendy. Stories matter and this is one of my favorites.

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