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Paul Newman, Ice Cream and Faith - Musing for 5/19/22

Jesus at the Home of Martha and Mary

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:38-42

There’s a story I recently read (I think in an old Readers Digest) that the writer swears is true. According to the author the story took takes place years back in a tiny, picture-postcard New England village — a town where, it so happened, the actor Paul Newman was fond of vacationing.

Of course, lots of other folks visited this beachside community too.

As the story is told a woman and her family were visiting there from Michigan. They were on a two-week vacation and had heard rumors that Paul Newman was in town but had never seen the award-winning actor.

Early one Saturday afternoon while the kids were resting from a morning of fun on the beach and her husband was watching baseball on TV, the woman went into town to get a few things at the general store. When she was leaving the general store, she noticed what her kids called the BEST ICE CREAM SHOP EVER and was suddenly craving a double-dipped chocolate cone, and the thought of enjoying it without kids tugging at her was too hard to resist. So, she put her bags in her car and headed over to the little café to get her ice cream cone.

As she walked in, there was only one other customer in the place: a man in jeans and a T–shirt, sitting at the counter having a cookie and coffee. Idly, the woman glanced his way, then did a double–take. One further look at those baby–blue eyes confirmed it: her fellow customer was none other than Paul Newman.

Newman noticed her presence and nodded graciously in her direction. Then he went back to his coffee.

“He just wants his privacy,” the woman thought to herself. “Just order your ice cream. Pretend there isn’t a famous movie star sitting a few feet away.”

That’s exactly what she did (although — as she later told the tale — her heart was thumping the whole time and her hands felt clammy).

Calmly (or so she thought), she watched the clerk scoop out her ice cream and pack it into the cone, never looking once in Newman’s direction. Then she handed over the money, accepted the ice–cream cone and change, and headed out the door without a sideward glance. As the screen door slammed shut, she congratulated herself on how coolly she’d handled the whole situation — like a real Hollywood insider.

When the woman reached her car, she realized something wasn’t right. Something was missing. In one hand she held her change, but her other hand was empty. “Now where’s my double–dip chocolate ice–cream cone?” she asked herself. “Could I have left it in the store?”

Sheepishly, she went back in, hoping she’d see the cone still in the clerk’s hand or maybe in one of those holders on the counter.

But no. She looked to the left. She looked to the right. No sign of the missing cone. She was just about to ask the clerk if he remembered handing it to her, when she happened to glance over in Paul Newman’s direction. Those blue eyes were sparkling with amusement.

Flashing his trademark, pearly–white grin, he said, “You put it in your purse!”

It seems in her star-struck state she had become quite distracted!

It is so easy to get distracted from the important things and it does not take the likes of Paul Newman to make it happen.

As we enter this time of year with its school endings and graduations and start of summer and vacations and so much more, we can easily let the important things in our life and especially our faith life be moved over to the side.

Of course, the more I think about it the more I realize that there is not a quiet time of the year. Think of it - after school ends is Fourth of July and Back to School and Fall and Football and Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas and the New Year and Valentines and Spring Break and Easter and it just keeps going.

There is no quiet time of life. I am not sure there ever really was.

Quiet time for prayer and study and worship and spiritual practices only takes place when we are intentional in making it happen. Of course, that means staying focused on what is truly important and avoiding those things that may distract us from our walk with God.

If we fail to do this suddenly, we might discover our faith in the bag next to the melted ice cream.

In this time with its never-ending distractions, may we continue to “choose what is better” as we remember the call of God in our lives as given through the Lord’s prophet Micah – to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.


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