BillyCoffey.com
BillyCoffey.com

From concentrate

May 19, 2009  

My family keeps a steady supply of orange juice on hand. Not the kind in a carton or a jug, though. The kind from concentrate. No other form is allowed. My rules.

I know there isn’t much difference between the sort of juice you get from concentrate and the sort of juice you get any other way. Not when it comes to taste, at least. I’ve sampled. No, concentrate is used in our home for another reason. It’s a reminder of sorts, something tangible that helps keep me focused on one of life’s greater truths.

My mother always had orange juice concentrate in the freezer. Easier on the budget, she said. And though my childhood interests tended to involve things far away from the kitchen, I was always around when she made orange juice. The process amazed me.

One frozen tube, small enough to fit into my tiny hand, suddenly transformed into an entire pitcher of juicy goodness? Simply by adding some water? To most, it was a powerful example of human ingenuity endeavoring to make the world a simpler and more orderly place. To me, it was a minor miracle.

Though water seemed to be the magic ingredient, I always thought it an unnecessary step that took a bit away from the finished product. Why bother? Water didn’t taste good. It didn’t taste at all. On the other hand, the stuff in the tube had to be loaded with taste. Sweet, with just a hint of sour. Delicious.

So why not forget the water all together? Why not just serve it right out of the tube?

According to mom, that wasn’t such a good idea. Concentrate on its own was awful, she said. It was too sweet and too powerful. That’s why water was the magic ingredient. It diluted the concentrate and made the juice drinkable.

I never bought that.

One day, alone in the house, I decided to see if she knew what she was talking about. I climbed up on a chair, took the concentrate out, and peeled off the cover. After a few minutes of letting the orange goop thaw in a bowl, I sniffed and smiled. Heaven awaited.

Thinking back, I probably should have taken a sip. Just in case. But I didn’t. I took the biggest gulp I could. Swallowed half of it, too. The other half was launched right back out through a retch that spewed the juice through my mouth and nose and left me teary eyed. I coughed and hacked and, for a moment, almost blacked out.

Mom was wrong. The concentrate wasn’t awful. It was worse.

How could something be so sweet and have too much taste to drink? And how could diluting something so bad make it so good? It didn’t make sense then.

It does now.

Because I’ve spent years wanting a concentrated life. Years on my knees, asking God to help me be and do more. My days were filled with too many mere moments. I wanted defining ones. Moments that lifted me up and rescued me from the hum-drum of life.

And there have been some, to be sure. Like the moment I met my wife. Or when I first held my children. Or the moment I knew beyond all doubt that there was a God Who loved me. But those moments have been surrounded by years of seeming nothingness, when the days seemed to drift by rather than stand out.

I hated those times. A waste of living, I thought. But I’ve learned to think differently. I’ve learned that we may be proven in our defining moments, but we are made in our quiet ones.

Drinking life right out of the tube would sooner wear us down than lift us up. Rather than enjoy its taste, we’d spew it out. It would be too sweet and too powerful to swallow.

Which I think is why God in His infinite wisdom gives our greatest blessings to us over time rather than all at once. Why our days seem to have much more of the same old than the different new. Time, I think, is the magic ingredient. It waters things down. Which is why the wait we mourn for the dreams we have may in fact be His greatest gift.

It makes the living more delicious.

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Comments

35 Responses to “From concentrate”

  1. gzusfreek says:

    What a wonderful way to look at it. I never think that those “concentrated”, sweet moments would be overwhelming and worse than awful all at once.

    We serve a fearfully wonderful God.

    (I snuck the OJ from the tube too :p :x)

  2. RCUBEs says:

    That’s a refreshing picture!

    Don’t our lives need that “spiritual water” too? Then, we have nothing to brag about that we did those “concentrate moments” alone. Because we know that without the water, we are not drinkable. God bless.

  3. Tammy says:

    I’ve always been impatient with time, thinking when am I REALLY going to do God’s work.

    I loved this statement you made:
    “I’ve learned that we may be proven in our defining moments, but we are made in our quiet ones.”

    Jesus,himself, had “quiet ones” before the REALLY work began.

  4. April says:

    You drank orange juice concentrate straight out of the can? Oh, the very thought of it!

    This was another amazing post, Billy! I love how you, in your own way, encourage us to dig deep inside ourselves to find purpose and meaning in the “little things”. Blessings over time, rather than in one lump sum, does make life a lot sweeter!

  5. katdish says:

    It’s all in the mix, huh? Great analogy.

  6. Anne L.B. says:

    Okay if I apply another brilliant Billy bit another way?

    God seems to have put in me a personality that’s pure concentrate. On good days people call me “energetic” or “intense.” On bad days people who love me call me “overbearing.” (I’ll refrain from mentioning what others think of me.)

    If I want to be sweet, I need a whole lot of Living Waters in my life. Without the Holy Spirit I prove too hard to swallow every time.

  7. Helen says:

    True. It would be overwhelming to experience that high all the time….and we’d never learn to appreciate it.

  8. Annie K says:

    Not sure I could handle endless defining moments in my life, and I’m sure God knows this.

    For me, I seem to always be looking for the adventure (it’s that gypsy in my blood) but God wants me to seek out adventure in my heart. Between him and me. Not life and me.

    Oh, and the OJ from concentrate, that brought back guuuhd memories. Great story Billy!

  9. Lianne says:

    Fantastic.

    You are absolutely right about this. Life is filled with just enough bitter and sweet moments to balance the gaps in between. If all the experiences in our lives were sweet, I don’t think we’d appreciate them so much.

    I can only imagine how painful snarfing orange juice concentrate was. I am hurting just thinking about it.

  10. sherri says:

    This is great stuff.

    SO true, Billy.
    I’ll think of this everytime I make my juice. Thank you.

  11. Chatty Kelly says:

    Your writing is so powerful! I just love this post. (Never mind that I prefer fresh squeezed).

    My life oft seems watery too, but those bits of concentrate that get added…mmm, mmm, good.

  12. Seeking Grace on the Narrow Path says:

    Again my friend your analogies amaze me. Praying for you. Do not give up . . . God is using your writing more than you know. Thank you for blessing my heart today.
    Your sister in Christ,
    Bren

  13. lynnrush says:

    Wow, faith compared to juice concentrate: “…gives our greatest blessings to us over time rather than all at once”

    But it’s so true, Billy.

    And I whine when I have to “wait” for things. You know? IT’s just God spreading things out, right?

    Nice post, my friend.

  14. The Things We Carried says:

    Fabulous! I love the way you did this. Thought provoking. I love orange juice, always had it in the house growing up and totally relate to the picture you have drawn so cleverly.
    (You reminded me of my oldest sons when you drank the juice. I had to laugh! It made me miss them being home all over again, as I often do.)

  15. casey says:

    This is a beautiful object lesson. I think I’ll share this with my kids in our morning devotions tomorrow.

  16. Luke says:

    That is very good. Very good.

    ~Luke

  17. Joanne Sher says:

    Billy. This is exceptional(as usual). I am going to remember this analogy for a VERY long time. And I may have to start buying OJ concentrate more often (though I am CONVINCED the non-concentrate DOES taste better!).

  18. jasonS says:

    Love it as always. If we see clearly, so many of those “big” moments came because of the stillness of the other moments. It all flows together…

  19. Julie says:

    Billy, I loved this one too… you know I just love them all. I love the simplicity of the truths woven into your everyday stories… I am a kindred heart…

    I loved the part that talked about the waiting and how we are made in our quiet ones.

    I’ve seen it… it’s true. I’ve been in the “quiet moments” for several years now and what I have learned in the midst of them is that they have their purpose… for in the stillness God becomes God in us.

    I have gotten to know that verse, “Be still and know that I am God”…well during this time… I now understand it. A verse I once feared, has become one of my favorites, as in the stillness I have found God, deeply planted in ME.

    Thanks for this beautiful analogy!

  20. Tracy says:

    Amen and Amen!

  21. christy rose says:

    The people who learn to enjoy the quiet moments in their everyday life really do appreciate the defining moments so much more!

    Straight concentrate or a little living water added to it to make it go down so much better?

    What a great analogy Billy!

  22. Jennifer says:

    This is the reason why I come back to “What I Learned Today…” over and over and over again.

    Sweet analogy.

  23. twofinches says:

    Billy

    Thsi post was delicious as was this line
    “I’ve learned that we may be proven in our defining moments, but we are made in our quiet ones”

    You inspire me as a writer…really great stuff brother!

  24. Blessed Mom of 8 says:

    Good thing I was drinking anything or my keyboard and computer would be wearing it! LOL!

    That was funny and yet so true! Which always seems to be the case!

    God is so wise to give us just what we need – give us this day our daily bread. Not our lunch or meal for the week – just what we need today. Give us no more than we can stomach or handle. Give us no more than what You know will be best for us. A steady supply of His love is all we need – because His grace is sufficient!

    Blessings and love,
    Jill

  25. Beth E. says:

    Who would’ve thought that making orange juice would be such a spiritual experience??? I’m amazed how you can take the every day, mundane aspects of our lives and pen them into something quite magnificent. Great job, Billy!

  26. Warren Baldwin says:

    Time is the magic ingredient. That is a great truth. I’m going to email this one around Billy. Great post. wb

  27. Nitewrit says:

    Billy.

    Absolutely!

    Larry E.

  28. Denise says:

    Amazingly awesome post, bless you.

  29. lori says:

    Billy….ripped jeans and old truck here…(I’d be the big sister…ha!:))

    Great stuff here…wow…
    “And there have been some, to be sure. Like the moment I met my wife. Or when I first held my children. Or the moment I knew beyond all doubt that there was a God Who loved me. But those moments have been surrounded by years of seeming nothingness, when the days seemed to drift by rather than stand out.

    I hated those times. A waste of living, I thought. But I’ve learned to think differently. I’ve learned that we may be proven in our defining moments, but we are made in our quiet ones.”

    Thankful that wisdom comes with age…Fabulous analogy….I’m going to have to share this one with a group of kids this Sunday…I wish someone would have “poured” this into me when I was a bit younger…

    great stuff here Billy!

  30. Tamela's Place says:

    So beautifully put! I am amazed how God can take this life and with just a little watering of His Word and time He makes our lives refreshing and something that can be enjoyed by Him as well as others. We are His workmanship created for His good pleasure :)

    Your post are so profound but yet simple i love them!

  31. Steph says:

    Very well said! I know the truth of what you’re saying, but I have to remind myself of it all the time. I’m impatient, a change junkie, needing something new and exciting and big all the time. But when I look back, I understand the time in between. That’s when I was becoming who I needed to be for the next big thing.

  32. Matt @ The Church of No People says:

    Great story. I think it’s one of my daily struggles to be content and satisfied in the doldrums of life. I want that concentrate! But OJ is good.

  33. Sockrma18 says:

    “I’ve learned that we may be proven in our defining moments, but we are made in our quiet ones.”

    Wow. Very well said and so very true. I will remember this the next time I feel like everything is boring and life is moving too slow.

    Happy Memorial Day! Hope you get to grill out and enjoy your family!

    Click

  34. Tea With Tiffany says:

    I loved this.

    Bring on the living water, Jesus.

    We need more…

  35. sharilyn says:

    loved the statement: ” we may be proven in our defining moments, but we are made in our quiet ones.” how true. yet we seem to want to rush through those quiet moments to the more defining ones… God is faithful, though, to keep us where He wants/needs us to be… and reminds us to be still.

    also loved what Anne LB said: “If I want to be sweet, I need a whole lot of Living Waters in my life. Without the Holy Spirit I prove too hard to swallow every time.” very well said!! let’s drink it in!!

    whenever i would make the orange juice, i would always scrape a little of the concentrate off the top of the tube…i find the concentrate to be oh, so delicious! as long as one takes it in small bites! :)

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