Spice It Up!

To everything there is a seasoning?1.png

We don't get into too many of the reality television shows, but lately, Jason and I have thoroughly enjoyed a show on Netflix entitled Worst Cooks in America.  I thought I was a pretty bad cook, but after watching some of these contestants, I feel much better about my abilities in the kitchen.  My favorite occurrence would have to be the episode where one of the guys attempted to make grilled cheese.  (Picture, if you will, as he tosses two slices of cheese on the griddle and the resulting mess.  I was rolling in the floor!)

One of my favorite contestants was a cute, bubbly blonde who had a unique approach to cooking.  On several different occasions, her coach watched in horror as she combined flavors and ingredients that had nothing in common, such as seasoning her hamburger with cinnamon (wrong on so many levels to me!)  Yet, when it came tasting time, he had to admit the results were excellent. By the third or fourth episode, he was calling her "the mad scientist." In the end, her risk-taking and "think-outside-the-box" mentality brought her victory, and she won $25,000.

I'm not opposed to thinking outside the box; however, I'll be the first to admit I'm not exactly a risk taker.  No, I prefer to keep things safe and predictable.  Perhaps, that's why I grow so anxious when God begins combining flavors and ingredients in my life that seem to have nothing in common and that I feel cannot possibly result in anything remotely pleasing.  Like the cooking coach, I watch in horror as God sprinkles in a little chaos here and a few money troubles there.  I cringe as He adds a spoonful of health issues and a dab of heartache.  The more He "cooks," the more certain I become that the end result cannot be tasty.  Yet, history has shown me over and over again that somehow, just like the bubbly blonde, God pulls it off, and Romans 8:28 becomes a reality in my life once again.

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us "To every thing there is a season."  I think I would be safe in saying, "To every thing there is a seasoning."  And when it comes to cooking up the perfect plan for our lives, God is the Master Chef.  Trust in His finished product even when the combination of ingredients seems a little iffy.

Grilled cheese, anyone?

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28

Living By Faith

Do you believe?.png
And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.  And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.
— Matthew 9:27-30

Have you ever put yourself in the place of a particular Bible character?  If so, did the story remain pretty much the same?  Probably not, huh?  For example, in the story above, if I had been one of those blind men, the story would have probably gone something like this:

"And when Jesus was come into the house, Dana came to him: and Jesus saith unto her, Believe ye that I am able to do this? She said unto him, 'Yes, Lord.  Well, that is, I want to believe, but I'm not sure I really do.  I mean, after all you are God, the Creator, the Almighty.  There really isn't anything you can't do, but this is a big deal here, and I'm just not really sure that I completely believe that you can heal me.  I want you to, and I think you can, but I'm not sure that you will.  Does that answer your question?'  Then touched he her eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And her eyes were not opened because she was healed according to her faith, which was sadly lacking. So she stumbled away in darkness and sadness."

Wow!  Not exactly an encouraging tale, is it?  Yet it is how too many of us live our lives.  Believing, yet not believing.  Wanting to live by faith, but instead living in constant fear and doubt.  Knowing God, yet never really allowing the truth of His divine nature to sink in.  It makes me wonder how many wonderful things I've missed out on in life because I was dealt with according to my faith, which is far from what it should be. 

Enough is enough!  My fear and doubt are getting me nowhere, except possibly to an early grave.  It's time to stop fretting and start trusting.  It's time to take God at His Word and to leave every facet of my life in His hands.  It's time to get to know God better than I've ever known Him before.  It's time for me to be able to answer, "Yes, Lord, I believe" and truly mean it.

How Do You Handle Bad Days?

Even on the worst of days,God is worthy of our praise!.png

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, the kind where anything and everything goes wrong, and tasks take three times longer to accomplish than they should. I had one of those days this week.

I woke in a good mood considering I was facing a project deadline that day. I had a plan and most of the day set aside to work on the project, so I wasn’t overly concerned. But then, the day began in earnest.

I started the day as usual by taking Barnabas for a walk. Actually, I should say I tried to take him for a walk, but it was cut short due to circumstances beyond our control. Another dog in the neighborhood had gotten free and insisted on following us. The trouble was, he wanted to follow closely and was insistent on gaining my attention, which Barnabas perceived as a threat to my safety. Have I mentioned Barnabas is VERY protective of his mommy? He behaved admirably and tried to scare off the dog without doing any harm to him, but the other mutt wouldn’t take the hint. He continued to follow, which meant Barnabas kept stopping to confront him. Long story short, after not having even reached the end of our street, we turned around and returned home—me feeling frustrated and Barnabas feeling cheated out of his morning walk.

After having my devotions (which I definitely needed at that point), I called Barnabas to ready him to try our walk again. As soon as he reached the living room, he promptly threw up all over the floor and my shoe. Lovely! He’s been fighting off a cold, and the drainage has been causing stomach upset, so I wasn’t totally surprised by this emptying of his stomach contents, but I was feeling a bit annoyed.

After cleaning up the vomit (I hope you’re not eating right now) and giving Barnabas some bread to calm his stomach, we finally made it out for our walk. I was hoping to make it quick since we’d already lost so much of the day, but that wasn’t happening. My sweet pooch was in one of his moods where he needed to sniff every blade of grass and check out every pile of leaves. I could have hurried him along, but I felt sorry for him for having his first walk attempt thwarted and then getting sick. So, I indulged him and let him go at his own pace.

Finally, I could start on my project, which quickly turned into a nightmare of file size and format issues, program malfunctions, and one hiccup after another. After a couple of hours of fighting problems, I took a lunch break to regather my composure. When I opened the freezer door, I realized the ice box had shifted at some point, which meant the freezer door hadn’t closed all the way, which meant everything in my freezer was a soggy mess. SIGH!

After lunch, I got back to work on my project, hoping all the bugs had worked themselves out and things would run smoothly from then on. Didn’t happen! The problems continued. Every step was met by error messages and the idea that maybe what I was trying to accomplish wasn’t possible. . .at least, not for me. By the time Jason got home, I was a complete mess!

See, I told you I had one of those days. The question is, how do we handle bad days? What do we do when problems overwhelm us and our patience runs out? How do we respond to unmet expectations, dreaded delays, and frustrating situations?

Well, I’ll tell you in a moment, but first, let me share with you what NOT to do. This is how I handled my lousy day. First, I whined and complained and cried. Then, I sent Jason out for pizza, which I greedily enjoyed and washed down with a soda, followed promptly by a rather large hot fudge sundae. (Please don’t judge me!) Yes, I tried to drown my sorrows in comfort food. Did it work? Temporarily, but then I felt guilty about the number of calories I had consumed in one sitting, which made me feel frustrated by the amount of exercise I would need to do to work off those “comfort calories.” So, in the end, my bad day remedy was unsuccessful.

There are several people in the Bible, however, that handled their bad days in the right way. For the sake of time, I’ll only share two with you.

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.
— Job 1:20

In the first chapter of Job, God’s faithful servant experiences a day worse than any I could ever imagine. In a matter of hours (or possibly even minutes), Job lost nearly everything he had. His children. His livestock. His barns. His servants. Gone. In the blink of an eye. Talk about a horrible day! So, what did Job do? According to the verse above, he worshipped. Say what? Worship? In such a dark hour? Yep, that’s what he did. And he wasn’t the only one to respond to heartache in such a way.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
— Psalm 34:1

Most scholars agree David penned this psalm when he was in the cave of Adullam. Fleeing for his life from the angry King Saul, David sought refuge in Gath, which was enemy territory. When the king of Gath sent David away, he found safety in the cave of Adullam and was joined by over 400 other “misfits” of the time. Despite David’s misfortune, this psalm is one of unending praise. Even after a series of bad days, the psalmist was able to say, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Continually. In the good days and the bad. When things are going well and when they’re falling apart. Just like Job, faced with considerable opposition and loss, David worshipped God.

So, how do we handle bad days? If we follow the example set forth by these men and countless others, we’ll worship God. Praise Him in the sunshine and in the rain. Praise Him in the good days and the bad. Worship Him for who He is because no matter what we’re going through, God never changes. He is and always will be worthy of our praise!

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
— Philippians 4:4