In our family, my special assignment in preparing the Thanksgiving meal is peeling potatoes. After years of practice, I’m really good at it, and I don’t have to concentrate. That gives me a chance to think about deep subjects. So, last Thursday morning, I spent my peeling time thinking about — peeling potatoes.

I thought, “Why am I throwing these peels away? I like their flavor when they’re part of a baked potato. And I’ve enjoyed them when they’re mashed together with the fleshy part.” “But,” I was told by the Kitchen Supervisor, “in our household, Thanksgiving mashed potatoes have to be smooth and white.” So, I threw them away.

After my chore was done, I went to the computer to do my follow-up research. I found a surprising number of articles debating the nutritional value of potato peels. There was a lot of disagreement, but I was impressed with one serious research project which concluded that, though the vitamins, minerals, etc. are different, an equivalent quantity of potato peel provides approximately the same amount of food value as potato flesh.

Then I realized that there are other throwaway parts of our Thanksgiving meal tradition. Before a turkey is sold to us by the market, a butcher has cut out and discarded its digestive organs, including the stomach and intestine. My continuing computer journey told me that these are eaten in some parts of the world. In fact, “chitlins” from various animals are considered delicacies in many cultures. Our family’s store-bought turkey had a small bag in it containing other internal organs, including the liver, giblets, heart and neck. Some people just throw these out into the trash, but my wife Judy uses them as the base of a delicious gravy.

Even though this was my day off, I started to think of spiritual analogies. We all have throwaway parts of our lives. There are things that matter, like work, family, worship and serious hobbies. And then there are throwaway things. Some of us can remember some throwaway years, when nothing significant seemed to be accomplished. But there are also daily throwaway times and tasks that don’t seem to amount to anything important. Here are a few I thought of:

  • Time spent in front of the mirror in the morning putting your face on
  • Your Commute to and from work
  • Boring periods between tasks at work or home
  • Phone browsing, games, chatting (or whatever Millennials do)
  • Channel surfing in front of the TV
  • Twilight sleep times, dozing off at night or waking up in the morning

The Apostle Paul wrote that a wise person who wants to get the most out of life will “Redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:14-15). What does that mean? Can the throwaway parts of our lives be redeemed, rescued, saved?

I’m going to look over some of the wasted time and energy in my life that I tend to just trash as useless and see if any of it is redeemable. I bet God will help me discover that there’s a lot of nutritional value in those potato peels.

— Pastor George Van Alstine