FOOD FOR THOUGHT: "We have confused God with Santa Claus. And we believe that prayer means making a list of everything you don't have but want and trying to persuade God you deserve it. Now I'm sorry, that's not God, that's Santa Claus." - Harold Kushner *********** A Very Special Meal Mirabai Chrin Once there was a very poor and devoted woman who always prayed to the Glory of God, asking very little, if anything for herself. But one thought, one desire continued to recur and finally she asked: petitioning the Lord, that if it were possible she would love to prepare a special meal and have God share at her table. And God, in His Love for this goodly woman, said He would indeed come the next day and share a meal. Filled with ecstasy, the woman went out the following morning with her meager purse and purchased such delicacies that she felt would please the Lord. Returning home, she prepared a banquet and waited patiently for her most honored guest. Soon there was a knock on the door, and when she opened it, there stood an old beggar asking for something to eat. Being a woman of God, she could not turn the beggar away, so she invited him in to partake of her table. The beggar felt as if he was in a dream - such a feast set before him. He finished all the food, thanked his hostess and left. The woman was only slightly disheartened, she gathered up her purse, her coat, and hurried back to town to get more food for her special guest. Her funds were less now and so the food was not quite so elaborate. Nonetheless, she lovingly prepared another meal and sat to await the arrival of the Almighty. A few hours went by and there was a loud knock on the door. This time it was an old gypsy woman with no teeth, who was deaf, who spoke quite loudly and was, rather rudely, insisting that any true believer in the Lord would not deny her something to eat. Though the woman had no more money with which to buy more supplies, she invited the woman in and offered her a seat at the table. The gypsy ate everything, did not even thank the woman and left without closing the door. By now it was beginning to get dark both inside and out. The woman's faith was strong, so that, though somewhat distraught, she did not give up, but rather, looked around her humble house to see if there was anything she could sell in order to buy more food to set before the Lord. She hurried to town with a little silver cup that had been in her family for several generations, but she was willing to part with it for the great honor that God was going to bestow on her - the sharing of a meal. Late in the night she rushed home to prepare yet a third meal. She waited and waited until, once more, there was a knock on the door. Holding her breath, she slowly opened the door to find yet another poor man in the guise of a wandering monk, in search of a meal. Again, she offered hospitality, with as much grace as she could muster in her disappointment. This man also ate all that was set on the table and left after blessing the woman for her kindness. So discouraged and dismayed was she that all she could do was nod slightly, in acknowledgment of the thanks. Now it was too late, with no way to buy any more food and no more money with which to buy it. She got down on her knees, weeping such heart-broken tears. She asked God what she had done wrong. Why had God not come to share at the table as He had promised? And God, in all His Divine Compassion and Mercy, lifted the woman off her knees, and holding her close to His Heart, said, "My child, I enjoyed your hospitality so much that I came three times!"