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Tammy Real-McKeighan

, Spiritual Spinach

I like a little food with my salt.

Give me a blob of ketchup sprinkled with salt for my french fries and I’m a happy girl. I’ve salted TV dinners.

I’ve even put salt on cantaloupe.

So naturally, I was intrigued when my daughter-in-law Rachel and I went to Salt City.

That’s the nickname of Syracuse, New York. The city got that name due to the salt industry that sprang up there many years ago.

Rachel and I went to the Salt Museum, which is in Liverpool, N.Y.

It’s an interesting place.

There, we learned that Native Americans, known as the Onondaga discovered these salty springs. In 1654, they took the Rev. Simon Le Moyne, a Jesuit priest, to the springs, which they didn’t drink from because they believed an evil spirit had made the water foul.

But when Le Moyne tasted the water, he realized it was just a spring of salt water.

So they made some salt from it.

The springs would be visited for the next 100 years with the first commercial production taking place in 1774, when escaped slaves were said to be boiling the very salty water (brine) and selling salt to the Onondaga.

Commercial development followed after the Revolutionary War and people made fortunes from it.

The museum has a room that shows how the salt was boiled.

A salt boiler was a person with a tough job. Museum information says these people worked in 90-degree heat and terrible humidity for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Salt boilers could be injured or burned from the scalding splash of brine or a fall into a kettle of it.

And here were folks who really could have used vacation time.

From April to November, they had no break except July Fourth or Thanksgiving Day — or if they were too sick or injured to come to work.

In a typical salt block area, 6,000 gallons of water were brought to a rolling boil. Workers loaded wood or shoveled coal to keep the brine boiling.

Those poor people must have felt as if they were working in something akin to hell.

But salt production there began to decline after the Civil War and new salt reserves were found out West.

The final blow came when a hurricane did extensive damage in 1926 and more than 125 years of salt production came to an end.

I found this fascinating and started thinking about references to salt in the Bible.

There are some interesting Bible verses about salt.

Some examples:

Tasteless without salt.

  • The long-suffering man, Job — who lost his 10 children, plus servants and livestock — knew the value of salt when in his misery he said:

“Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? My soul refuses to touch them; They are like loathsome food to me.”

Poor Job probably wasn’t hungry after all that loss. And I can’t blame him for not wanting to eat an egg white without salt. I don’t like that too well either.

“Covenant of Salt.”

  • Three places in the Old Testament mention this.

Bible scholars say salt — which has been used to purify and preserve food — symbolizes the unbreakable and permanent relationship between God and his people.

I love the idea of God confirming through something as simple as salt just how faithful he is to us.

In regard to speech.

  • I’m reminded to watch what I say when read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

I want my speech to be palatable to people. I want them to be blessed by what I say.

I can’t tell you how many times the Holy Spirit has brought this Bible verse to my mind:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

I’ve repented many times over stuff I’ve said.

And I remember my Aunt Ena saying, “I never regretted anything I didn’t say.”

Obviously that doesn’t mean we won’t regret saying something good, like “I love you,” but Ena’s words have encouraged me when I kept quiet rather than say something rude.

All this aside, most Christians probably think about salt when they read what Jesus told his disciples:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matthew 5:13)

What does this mean?

I’ve wondered.

In reading commentaries, I think I’ve learned this:

Jesus was telling his disciples how important it is to hang on to their virtues, which by definition are things like integrity, compassion and loyalty.

Their lives had to be seasoned with grace.

They needed to seek God and strive (certainly only by relying heavily on the help of our Lord) to be like Christ — to follow his example.

If their lives weren’t as they should be, they were like salt that’s lost its savor.

Could it be Jesus knows people in this fallen world — with all its deception and heartache — must see Christians who demonstrate hope, faith and honesty even in tough circumstances?

It can be so hard.

There are times when the enemy of our souls — that sneaky, consummate evil in this world — seems to come at us with both fists.

That’s why I think we must cling to God so much, constantly seeking his help to stay on track.

I’m far from perfect.

But one of the best compliments I ever got came from a woman who said: “You’re not perfect, but at least you try.”

Thinking about Scripture helps.

I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, telling his disciples “to watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation.”

That’s a great prayer.

I think of the New Testament book of James, where this dear saint urged his readers to ask God for wisdom; to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry; and to get rid of all moral filth.

And he told them not just to listen to God’s word, but to do what it says.

We must rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, allowing God to work in our hearts and change us.

Then — by the grace of our Lord — I think people will be able to see what the Apostle Paul listed as the fruit of the spirit — the evidence of God working in our lives — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control.

It’s a tall order, but we’re not helpless.

We have God — who created the whole universe — his son Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the word of God.

And I have to believe that’s enough to help even goofy people like me — who like salt on their cantaloupe.

Tammy Real-McKeighan is a reporter with the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.

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