Christ-Followers & Popcorn

Christ-followers are like popcorn.

No kidding.

Maybe I have too much fall festival, fireside, popcorn moments on my mind right now, but I was suddenly struck with some obvious similarities.

So “How?” you ask.

bowl-food-popcorn-37348.jpgPopcorn is not the same thing when it comes out of the bag or pan as it was when it went in. Popcorn kernels are small, hard, unappetizing, and inedible. I think I’d have to be literally starving to eat one intentionally. It’s not that they don’t contain the same nutrients before and after being popped. It’s simply that they have to be changed before they are consumed as popcorn.

Likewise, Christ-followers are not the same after they come to know Christ as they were before knowing Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) we are told “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We may come to Christ as mean, bitter, hateful people, full of selfishness and underhanded motivations, hard nuts to crack as they say. But when Christ begins wooing us and we turn loose of the reigns on our own life allowing Him to remake us, we become gentle, joyful, peaceful people, filled with the unconditional love of God. The fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives causing us to become tasty morsels that nourish the world and produce usable fruit in our lives. We become those fluffy white buttery bits, rather than closed off hard kernels.

chef-cooker-cooking-8717.jpgPopcorn has to undergo some heated times to fulfill its purpose and become the yummy, useful thing it was meant to be.  I’ve occasionally wondered how popcorn was discovered. Did a mom in ancient days accidentally spill some kernels into the fire as she was pouring them into the pan, only to have a tasty treat pop out and hit her apron a short time later? Who knows. But I do know that it takes fire or extreme heat. Even in the random 100 degree heat of a Southern summer’s day, I have never had the popcorn in my pantry accidentally pop. It takes REAL heat. Fire.

Fire can be dangerous. Going through a fiery trial of life feels dangerous too. You wonder if you’ll survive. But those fires are useful in our lives, just like they are in the life of a kernel of popcorn. If popcorn doesn’t face the fire, it doesn’t become the crunchy treat it was meant to be. It could never be used for food and would not fulfill its designed purpose without great heat being applied. Just like a silver smith, our Father God uses our fiery trials to fashion us into the vessel He means for us to be.

In fact, He uses fiery trials in many ways. As with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He uses those fires to display our faith in Him which causes even the unbelieving Nebuchadnezzars of the world to glorify His name. He uses those fires to guide us in the direction our life should take, just like the pillar of fire guided the children of Israel where to go. He uses the fire to burn away the dross, the sin, in our lives and make us pure silver that accurately reflects His image to the world. He uses the fires to change us, refine us, remake us.

Popcorn doesn’t make itself. It takes something bigger and greater than the popcorn kernels to take them and make them into something new. It takes people like you and me putting the popcorn and oil and salt in the pan and taking the time to do the process to transform them into something better.

And so it is with Christians. It takes someone outside our self, someone bigger and greater than us, to transform us. We cannot remake ourselves. How many times have we tried and failed. We read a self-help book and feel like that is just what I need. We then set out to make ourselves better. That may last 2 weeks or 2 years, but ultimately we discover real change on the inside cannot be self-manufactured. It can ony be produced by our Creator God. He is the only one who can make us into a new creation. He changes us slowly, over time as we abide in Him and His word abides in us. He is the Chief Corn Popper, not us. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (3:6-7 ESV)

popcorn-1433326_1280The aroma of popcorn draws people from all around to want it. Just walk into a theater and you’re hit by the aroma. Mmmm! Your mouth waters and you end up with a bucket in your lap and buttery fingers! Walk into a Baptist preschool hall on a typical Sunday morning and you’ll find a trail of grown ups sniffing out which room has popcorn for refreshments that day. It’s an almost irresistible aroma.

As I follow my Savior am I drawing a line of people, and creating a furor by those trying to get what I’ve got? If I’m walking in His ways, spreading His aroma, I will be. Sweet sister, if you find yourself worn out from one more needy soul asking you to pray with them or seeking your godly counsel, a stranger pouring out their burdens to your compassionate heart as you sit on the bench at the park watching your kids play, or a pastor asking you to teach another study, then there is a sweet smell of Jesus attached to you! I’m not telling you to never say No and wear yourself out, I’m telling you keep smelling good! The hungry, needy, perishing world needs to be drawn to the sweet fragrance of Christ in us.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15 ESV)    

alcohol-background-bar-452744.jpgIts saltiness improves its taste. Whenever I eat popcorn, I grieve for people on low salt diets. I would probably never eat it again if I couldn’t use salt on it. It just isn’t good.

Our world is just not good without the influence of Christ-followers. We hear the rudeness, the cursing, the downright mean-spirited comments of the world almost daily through social media and television. Woe be unto us if we are participating in it rather than being salt and light: the peacemakers and spreaders of love, hope, faith, mercy, and the Gospel. Our world is as tasteless as unsalted popcorn when we are not being Christ’s ambassadors and letting Him pour us out of the salt shaker.

So as you sit ’round the fire this fall munching on your warm buttery popcorn, let it remind you to evaluate your life. Are you in the fire in life? Then God will use it to make you who he intended for you to be. Are you spreading the aroma that draws people to your Father? Are you adding saltiness to the world?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

Sin Sickness

I do not love vomit. I would venture to say I am in the majority more than the minority on this one. After all, how many people do you know that say “I love vomit.” My Mama and my Husband both say they “refuse to vomit.” There are times though when one just can not help himself, or herself, times when the Tummy Bug hits and emesis is an inevitable nemesis.

Recently I was doing what I do, I was just meeting a little one, when she looked at me and without warning vomited all over me. I was covered in soured milk colored mucus filled vomit. Her vomit lying on my skin. Inside I was squirming. I wanted away from that nasty throw-up, yet the little one who was now in my arms – I had instinctively picked her up – needed my help. I reassured her all would be well. I spoke gently to that little Lovey and told her even though we had not yet been formally introduced, I was pleased baby-child-close-up-47090to make her acquaintance and was there to help. She showed no gratitude. She didn’t smile. She did not wrap her sickly arms around my neck and express to me how grateful she was that I was wearing her vomit and aiding her. Rather she cried and fought and smeared the vomit further. After I did a quick wipe, bathed her, wrapped her in a warm blanket and set about seeing to my own hygiene, the King does what He will do oftentimes. He showed me something beautiful.

I was wearing the yuck of another, of one who did not even know me. I had taken upon myself the gross of someone who was not grateful and did not have the capacity to do so. I was wearing the sick of one who needed my help yet could not ask for it. As I washed in the sink beyond my elbows for sometime and cleanliness began to take over I saw my King hanging on a cross wearing my sin, a substance far worse than vomit. He willingly allowed Himself to be covered in it so that I could take on His Righteousness. I wondered in that moment, as He hung on that wretched cross, having endured a beating that left Him unrecognizable, if He was squirming on the inside as I had been. I wondered if He wanted to rid Himself of the nastiness of my sin and ugliness of heart. As I rinsed and readied myself for my next task I gave Him thanks for His willingness to exchange my proverbial vomit for His literal righteousness and healing.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

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Stories of the Rescued

On our journey, we will face difficulties that cannot be remedied with human wisdom or skill.

We are not alone.

Psalm 107 tells the story of the suffering and rescue of four groups of people.

1. Wanderers.

Wanderers aimlessly follow the wrong path looking for home.
Wanderers suffer hunger and hopelessness.

Some wandered in the desolate wilderness,
finding no way to a city where they could live.
They were hungry and thirsty;
their spirits failed within them. (Psalm 107:4-5 CSB)

2. Prisoners.

Prisoners experience the consequences of rebelling against God’s Word and despising God’s counsel.
Prisoners suffer darkness and chains.

Others sat in darkness and gloom—
prisoners in cruel chains—
because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the counsel of the Most High. (Psalm 107:10-11 CSB)

3. Fools.

Fools are afflicted with physical suffering because of their rebellious ways.
Fools suffer pain.

Fools suffered affliction
because of their rebellious ways and their iniquities.
They loathed all food
and came near the gates of death. (Psalm 107:17-18 CSB)

4. Workers.

Workers go about normal daily business when a sudden storm beyond their skill to navigate overtakes them.
Workers suffer uncertainty and fear.

Others went to sea in ships,
conducting trade on the vast water.
They saw the LORD’s works,
his wondrous works in the deep.
He spoke and raised a stormy wind
that stirred up the waves of the sea.
Rising up to the sky, sinking down to the depths,
their courage melting away in anguish,
they reeled and staggered like a drunkard,
and all their skill was useless. (Psalm 107:23-27 CSB)

Can you relate to these stories?

Somewhere along our journey, we will experience, or see others experience, hopelessness or darkness, pain or illness, uncertainty or fear.

So what solution does Psalm 107 give for this kind of suffering?

Cry out to God.

Psalm 107 tells us that wanderers, prisoners, fools, and workers alike cried out to God in their suffering.

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
he rescued them from their distress. (Psalm 107:6 CSB)

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
he saved them from their distress. (Psalm 107:13, 19 CSB)

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress. (Psalm 107:28 CSB)

God is our deliverer.

In our trouble, He can rescue.
In our trouble, He can save.
In our trouble, He can bring us out.

For the wanderer who cries out, He will lead them by the right path to a city where they can find a home.

For the prisoner who cries out, He will break their chains and lead them out of darkness.

For the fool who cries out, He will send forth His word and heal them.

For the worker who cries out, He will still storms to a whisper and guide them to the harbor they long for.

And how do the rescued respond?

They give thanks.

Let them give thanks to the LORD
for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all humanity. (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31 CSB)

Some difficulties are consequences of our own choices.
Some difficulties are simply a result of living on this broken planet.

In every difficulty, God is our deliverer.

His faithful love is unconditional.

His faithful love endures forever.

He is good.

He is our Redeemer.

God doesn’t just rescue us from difficult circumstances. He redeems us from the power of the enemy. He buys back every despicable thing we’ve ever done, having already paid the price for our sins on the cross. He blesses us with new life today, and eternal life to come.

Let’s join the rescued in giving thanks to the LORD and telling others what He has done.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD proclaim
that he has redeemed them from the power of the foe (Psalm 107:1-2 CSB)

Father, You are my deliverer. Your faithful love endures forever. Thank You for the reminder today that You can rescue, You can save, and You can bring me out of every difficulty. You are good. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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James Spann’s Labcoat & The Fried Green Tomatoes

I like a good southern food. Years ago I learned to cook green tomatoes, okra, potatoes, chicken, squash… all the same, and the best way… fried. Dredged in flour or cornmeal fried in oil in a cast iron skillet. That’s the only way I know to do it. Perhaps I am the only one, but as I have said before, I am food weird. I do not particularly enjoy the foods I cook. There is one exception to this rule, and that would be when I make southern home cooking. I come from a long line of “Pickers” while they cook. Just seeing that in print looks weird – I should clarify. When one prepares food one may “pick” meaning to taste one’s food during the “fixing” phase or one does not “pick” meaning one does not partake of one’s food during its preparatory stages.

I tend not to be a picker, again when making southern foods, this is the exception. I am compelled to eat that first bite of fried okra, fried green tomato, steam-fried potatoes and onions, or fried squash. I am convinced that southern fried foods must line the Marriage Banquet table of the Lamb and His Bride, but I have one complaint about such near to manna from heaven.

My one complaint about fried food is how it makes the house and my clothing smell. It annoys me terribly for the aroma of fried foods to infiltrate my clothing and walls forcing me to smell it long after the I’ve cooked and consumed such delicacies. The odor serves to taunt me.

Recently I found myself frying up some green tomatoes. My Mama had joined us for supper and as we ate them she said, “These taste just like my Mama’s.” She turned to my youngest child and said, “Your Mama makes the best fried green tomatoes.” I might’ve blushed a little at such an esteemed statement of praise. As supper drew to an end and we cleaned up, suddenly I remembered James Spann’s lab coat. It had been in my kitchen and surely had taken on the aroma of supper’s fried smell side effects.

man-1378638812bhr.jpgScott Martin was the something-or-other of the Weatherreadyfest of 2018. As the something-or-other he was responsible for helping to get things ready and prepared for an event in St Louis. One of Our local favorite meteorologists, James Spann, was scheduled to do something that requires a lab coat. Scott Martin mentioned this in a to-do list kind of passing, and I set my eyes to looking for and acquiring said lab coat. Scott Martin knows me well enough to know if I am given a task I will do my best to accomplish it. Lab-coat for local celebrity needed, must be minimal is cost, and “not dingy-looking.” Consider it taken care of.

As it would happen I found the perfect specimen at a local discount store. The kind of discount store that is random at any given time, boasts a variety of “discounted” items and is not necessarily known for its neat and organized appearance. The kind of store that doesn’t give you the hangers when they wad up your purchase and toss it into a flimsy plastic bag with some other store’s name on it. Perhaps if I had of received a hanger none of the following would have happened.

The day we made the purchase, I hung the bag with the wadded attire on a chair in the kitchen with every intention of hanging it up and ironing it as needed. Then I had planned on carefully packing and sending it to St Louis for the event. By the time I realized I had left it there in that bag, it was too late. Fried green tomato smell permeated the white cotton coat. I imagined for a moment Mr. Spann walking around the stage, giving his presentation alongside Ginger Zee, both getting a whiff of old fried green tomatoes every time he raised his arm and directed the audience’s attention to tornados and polygons. I imagined him stopping mid-sentence, looking for a plate and Ginger smelling his coat which served as a reminder of her time in Alabama. I imagined him slinging the taunting garment aside and mumbling something about a dry cleaner and some Febreeze. As my active and hardly accurate imagination took over I was reminded about the King’s Word and what it says about smells. Aromas.

That we are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:15 “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

We are to be so covered by Christ that he infiltrates every part of our lives in such a way that folks know we are a part of Him. His love should be like that Fried food infused coat that we put on and it permeates everything that we do. In essence, the aroma of Christ is Love, and that love should stick with you and wherever you go, just like the aroma of southern fried goodness.

Colossians 3:12-14  (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

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