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

The Truth and Nothing But the Truth

How do you respondwhen someone openstheir heart to you?.png

Have you ever felt alone? Do you feel like no one gets you? Like others don’t or can’t understand what you’re feeling or going through? I’m amazed at how many of us—though surrounded by family and friends—feel alone in our daily struggles and spiritual battles. As I read my morning devotional, I realized why so many of us are keeping our deep hurts to ourselves and trying to face them alone.

Some days I feel as if I live on the edge of a razor and could fall off at any moment. It’s hard to say that out loud, because I know how this works: People will want to fix me. The truth is, I don’t think “fixed” is what I’m looking for. What I want is what I wish we’d been able to do a long time ago—to tell the truth, first to God, and then among friends, in a community of understanding, for as long as it takes to heal.
— Sheila Walsh, In the Middle of the Mess: Strength for This Beautiful, Broken Life

Wow! I get that. It’s difficult to open up these days because so many people react one of three ways:

1) They look at you with disdain. After all, you’re a Christian, a leader in the church, and no longer a spiritual babe in Christ. You should know better. You should do better. At this point in your spiritual walk, you shouldn’t have these struggles. You should be beyond such things like they are. Well, the truth is, everybody struggles with something. Your spiritual battles may differ from mine, but struggles are struggles. The fight is real. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. And the last thing we need is for others to look down on us and kick us while we’re down. So, instead of risking it, we hold back and keep our battles to ourselves.

2) They hand out Bible verses like band-aids or happy stickers and say, “There, don’t you feel better now?” Actually, no, I don’t. I’m not saying the Word of God isn’t powerful and that those healing passages of truth aren’t what we need, but I’m saying we need to be careful how we deliver that truth. Slinging Scripture at someone without taking the time to show love and compassion conveys the message we don’t care enough to put forth any real effort to encourage them or sympathize with them. We’re too busy to do more than pass along a few key passages of Scripture that we assume are remedies for whatever ails us. Again, I’m not belittling the power of God’s Word, but we need to be careful not to beat others to death with it.

3) They want to “fix” you. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve dared to open my heart to someone only to hear them reply, “Here’s what you need to do,” and then they give me a list of dos and don’ts. That, or they wave a dismissive hand and mutter some meaningless platitude like, “You just need to let it go,” or “Just don’t let it get to you.” So many times I feel like replying, “Oh, okay. I see now. I’m so glad you pointed that out. I didn’t realize I needed to let it go.” Seriously? I didn’t bear my burden so I could be “fixed.” I opened my heart hoping that person would put their arms around me and say, “I’m here for you,” or “I’m praying for you.” Or maybe even ask, “Is there anything I can do?” or “Is there any way I could lighten your load?”

Why do we, as Christians, make it so difficult to be honest with one another? Shouldn’t we—of all people—offer grace and compassion to our brothers and sisters in Christ? But instead, we’ve created an environment where too many of us are ashamed of our burdens and feel compelled to keep our hurts to ourselves because we think others won’t understand or will think less of us if they knew about our struggles. So, we bury the pain as deep as we can and plaster a smile on our faces for the entire world to see, but inside, we’re so lonely and discouraged and crying out for someone to care about us enough to allow us to be ourselves—our real selves.  

I began this devotion intending to encourage those who are lonely and hurting, and to that end, I want each of you to know I’m here for you. If you want to talk, I’m willing to listen. If you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m available. But even more than that, we have a Heavenly Father who knows, understands, and cares. He is full of love and compassion and more than willing to meet you where you are. No matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve fallen. He’s waiting with open arms and a listening ear.

Although I didn’t intend for the devotion to take this turn, I believe it is of the Lord, and I want to address all Christians. Take time for others. Please don’t be too busy or concerned with your own affairs you can’t (or won’t) take the time to bear another’s burdens. And, if someone thinks enough of you to open their heart to you and to let you see their raw, broken insides, consider that as a show of love and trust in you. Don’t betray that by treating them with disdain, brushing away their problems as no big deal, or trying to “fix” them. If they ask for advice, by all means, give it. But chances are they just need someone to be there for them so they don’t feel alone. Won’t you be that someone?

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2

Where Do You Place Your Burdens?

We need to lay our burdens down, but unless we're putting them down where they belong--at Jesus' feet--we're only creating spiritual clutter..png

My dining room table often serves as a catch-all for the many things that are carried in and out of my home.  We typically enter the house from the side door, so a quick turn to the left, and there's a nice, open table to lay down our many burdens.  Unfortunately, the busier we get, the more cluttered the table becomes.  For example, it wasn't but a few days ago that I cleaned off the table, but to look at it now, you'd never know.  The empty box from my recent shipment of books occupies one end of the table.  Miscellaneous mail is scattered across the other end.  Receipts.  Bags. Birthday cards.  Gifts. You name it, you can probably find it on my dining room table.

The problem with this "catch-all" system is two-fold.  First off, because the table is cluttered with stuff, Jason and I must eat elsewhere.  There is simply no room for food or fellowship in the midst of the chaos that is my dining room table.  Secondly, laying down our burdens at the table is not the same thing as dealing with them.  They're not only constantly in view, but they're also in the way, creating the necessity of handling the same stuff over and over again until I eventually grow weary enough of it to put it all where it belongs.

So often in life, we are so weary and heavy laden that we simply cannot wait to unload our burdens.  The problem is that we often do as I do with the loads of stuff I dump on my dining room table.  We create a temporary solution that isn't really a solution at all.  Instead of taking our burdens where they belong, we drop them at the first opportunity, not realizing that we'll have to continually stumble around them until they're cast out of sight. 

And in the process, we're creating another problem.  There's no room left for food or fellowship with the Father.  Let's face it, it's nearly impossible for us to focus on the nourishment of the Word and our sweet fellowship with the Father when we're surrounded by a cluttered mess of burdens and worries.  Burdens and worries, mind you, that should have been dealt with immediately instead of merely set aside in hopes that they would magically disappear.  And without the food and fellowship of the Father, our spirits grow more weary and our hearts more heavy.

It's so easy to let my dining room table get cluttered.  When I walk through the door, the first thing I want to do is set down my heavy load.  But wouldn't I be better off to set everything down where it belongs instead of creating more work and frustration for myself in the future?  The same can be said in our spiritual walk.  Yes, we need to lay our burdens down, but unless we're laying them down where they belong--at Jesus' feet--we're only creating more frustration and spiritual clutter, which will eventually drive a wedge between us and our Savior.  It's time to stop the clutter!  Who's with me?

 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
— I Peter 5:7