Fire on the Stove

The smell of Cinnamon is a delicious smell. I can remember those delicious cinnamon toasts that my mother made for breakfast when I was growing up. We would always eat the parts with the extra pats of butter on them first. I can taste them just by thinking about them.

I had not made cinnamon toasts in a long time. I was changing around the spices in my cabinet and had not replaced the container of cinnamon when my husband came into the kitchen. He wanted to know what I was going to cook with cinnamon. I didn’t have french-toast-995532_1280the heart to tell him that I was just cleaning the cabinet so I asked if he wanted cinnamon toasts for breakfast. At our house, we add extra syllables to cinnamon toast. It’s more like “cinnaminny toasties.” I do not remember how that started but it is still what my husband and I call them.

The next morning I was preparing the cinnamon toasts and I looked at my cookie sheet. It really needed a good scrubbing, but that was going to have to wait. I thought I would just put some parchment paper on the cookie sheet and save the scrubbing for later in the day. I should have just used it. It’s not like it was dirty. It just looked dirty.

I usually make cinnamon toast in my toaster oven, but my toaster oven and I had a parting of the way recently so I was using my oven broiler. Never, and let me say it again, Never use parchment paper when using your broiler. It caught fire immediately. I calmly said, “I need some help here.” Eddie turned to see the cookie sheet in flames as I slid it on top of the stove. Let’s just say that I didn’t need a fire extinguisher, but none of my cinnamon toasts survived. We had a good laugh after the excitement was over and then made new cinnamon toasts. I used to have a smoke alarm in my kitchen but it went off every time I cooked so we moved it further away. I had a sign back then that said “Dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off.” I really haven’t had a fire in a long time.

I love the smell of fragrant foods cooking. When I think of the smell of cinnamon I think of cinnamon rolls, apple cider, spiced apples, and apple pie. I think it smells like love. The smell permeates the area and fills the room. I think love must be like that. When someone really loves you, it feels like it is all over you. It is hard to find a place that doesn’t feel loved. I think that is what the love of God is like. He loves us from the outside in and from the inside out. Jeremiah 31:3 ESV says “The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with loving devotion”. Cinnamon draws you in. It brings you to the kitchen from anywhere in the house. Cinnamon leaves such a wonderful smell all through the house. It seems to linger.

I think if God’s love has a smell, for me it must be cinnamon.

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Chameleon Living

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Ephesians 5:1 NLT

The overhead loudspeaker crackled to life. A familiar voice announced a page for an individual.

“Mr. So-and-So please call blah-blah-blah-blah.” There was hardly a pause, “Mr. So-and-So please call blah-blah-blah-blah.” I had no idea to whom Mr. So-and-So was referring and despite the familiarity of the voice, I had no idea what the speaker looked like. The overhead loudspeaker went silent and the familiar matter-of-fact voice of my coworker standing behind me spoke.

“Ruth-Ann’s been in Alabama longer’n I’ve been alive but she refuses to acclimate to the accent. She still talks like she’s in the north.”

I literally burst out laughing and spit out the water I had just taken a sip of. I snorted and turned around.

I knew exactly what he was talking about. I had never actually knowingly laid eyes on Ruth-Ann. I do not know her state of origin, her last name, if she wears glasses or not. If I had to pick her out of lineup I’d have to be blindfolded because I only know her voice; she has a distinct accent, not at all like my own. She sounds, well … northern.

As I pondered on the statement, I thought about the acclimation that takes place when we inhabit a place for any length of time. How we take on the accent of those around us, words and phrases of the speakers. Case in point, I watch a lot of British TV and find myself saying the following:

                    “That’s Brilliant!” Instead of “That’s great!”
“Queue” instead of “Line.”
“Rubbish” instead of “garbage.”
“Bin” instead of “trash can” and “tin” instead of “can.”

Without even knowing it I’ve acclimated to the television vocabulary. I’ve become like a verbal chameleon, speaking like those I have heard.

As I thought about Ruth Ann (if that actually is her name, I have no idea) and her apparent refusal to acclimate to the Southern-speakers around her, I found myself challenged.

This world is not my home, yet there are times you would never know that, not based on my behavior anyway. I look so much that the world and so little like Christ that others can not distinguish the difference residing in me. I walk around so defeated and beat down you’d never know I possessed the joy of the Lord. Perhaps I should live more like Ruth-Ann, with such intention as to not look so much like the world around me and more like the unique me I have been created to be.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 MSG

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Today’s “To Do” List

from Psalm 37

TO DO:

1) Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

2) Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

3) Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

4) Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;

5) Do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

6) Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

7) Do not fret–it leads only to evil.

8) [Hope in the Lord.] For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. (9) And vs. 34 – Hope in the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

9) [Remain meek.] But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.

10) [Don’t be wicked.] The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

11) [Be righteous.] Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.

12) [Be blameless.] The blameless spend their days under the LORD‘s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the LORD‘s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.

13) Give generously & repay your debts. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed.

14) Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. (27)

15) Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no futurfor the wicked. (37-38)

Mama Mended

She handed me the bag with a fancy boutique name I could not pronounce,

“You won’t forget will you?”

My Mama knows my nature to forget things, I assured her I would not. I put the Boutique bag beside me on the front seat. She had told me it was a shirt for a coworker. I knew what she meant. The natural assumption would not have been that Mama went to the fancy Boutique store, the kind with a name that is pronounced “Booty-que” instead of ”Boutique.”

I knew for a fact she was not likely to have been into the fancy store with the fancy name as it was likely located in a mall. She hates to “shop,” is fairly practical, and typically “shops” the on-sale racks. She is always stylishly put together but a less than sticker price cost. When we were teenagers and would go shopping, she spoke the same mantra prior to entering the store, a shopping with teenage girls sort of battle cry,

“I am not buying it unless it’s on sale!”

She wasn’t dressed in a tartan nor did she have her face painted as William Wallace running headlong into a field of enemies, but she was firm. She said it and she meant it. If those name brand jeans that everybody wore and wanted weren’t on sale, we knew not to even ask. The battle cry has become my own as I now too, shop with teenage girls.

My Mama is a mender of things. Hemmer of garments, repairer of zippers, sewer of stuff. Someone is forever asking her to perform the aforementioned to garments and things. She has a standard response, “Let me take a look at it and I’ll see what I can do.” I am not a mender, I do not know my way around a needle and thread like she does. My work is sloppy and elementary compared to hers. I struggle with basics, however, one of my most fond memories of growing up is when she taught my sister and me to sew a quilt square. I chose the “Ohio Star,” a series of squares and triangles sewn together to form something of beauty.

That day she waved in my rearview as I drove away with the unseen garment in the bag. I had no idea what she had done to it. She’d said it was a shirt but that’s all I knew really. I was just the courier. I have transported formal gowns, wedding dresses, swimsuits, pants, dress shirts, Bermuda shorts, a pair of firefighter bunker pants, little bitty baby birthday bow ties. The items she has touched and relinquished to me to return are too numerous to recall.

jacek-dylag-jo8C9bt3uo8-unsplashI made my way to my destination, half forgetting the bag on the seat beside me. As I pulled into my parking space I was mentally mapping out how I would return the garment to its rightful owner. She is one whom I love and adore so and was trying to configure how I just might fit in a quick visit. I was thinking as I realized I was parked crooked so I backed out of my space, looked left and right, and pulled back in just a smidge straighter. I noticed to my left one who was going to the same final destination as the package that I had been entrusted with.

I rolled my window down and yelled her name to get her attention, “Hey can you take this to Casey Rae for me? It’s from Mama!” She nodded and came closer to my cattywampus van. I thanked her as she took hold of the still unseen shirt. I straightened up again, and by the time I exited my van the shirt and the new courier were long gone. I had done my job, I knew that I had handed the precious cargo off to one who was trustworthy and would, in fact, deliver it accordingly.

That evening, Mama asked me, “Did you give the shirt to Casey Rae?”

“No Ma’am, not exactly,” I said in between bites and looked up to see her expression. I knew she would be disappointed; I had not completed my task.

I mumbled between bites, “I gave it to Moffis to give to her.” Mama nodded in approval knowing that the shirt arrived to its owner promptly and just as she had intended it to. As we carried on our conversation about other things I thought about how that bag from the fancy Boutique had been in a sort of a relay, many hands touching it, transporting it, for the achievement of a common goal. Each of the couriers playing a role seemingly unimportant but in reality just as significant as the Mender’s role. I was reminded of this verse, found in 1 Corinthians 3:6

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

That verse says that in the Kingdom our jobs may not be equal, may not seem to be of the same caliber, but are all important. Ultimately it is God who does the big work, the work of Salvation, but every time we carry the gospel to another, we are a part of that work. When I handed off that package to Moffis, I didn’t go into a full explanation of the contents, no more than Mama had when she handed it to me. Yet, our work, the delivery of a fancy bag and its contents, was as crucial as the mending had been. Perhaps if I were writing that verse to fit that scenario it’d read something like this:

Mama mended, Amy carried, and Moffis delivered.

Graduation!

Mom of 4 here proudly proclaiming the college graduation of “the baby!” Those of you who have been there know the feeling. I don’t say this with pride. I say it with relief. Whew! We got through it. Finally the last child will be “off the payroll” as their dad likes to loudly proclaim.

Graduation has become a huge thing in our society. When I was a kid all I heard of was high school graduation. After heading to college I realized there was a college graduation too. These landmark events have become so popular that we now have Kindergarten graduations, elementary graduations, junior high graduations, and who knows what other graduations I am blissfully unaware of. We do these to mark accomplishments and rites of passage into the next phase of life, a worthwhile thing to do.

But what about spiritual graduations? Not something we hear of unless we have a freind or relative studying for the ministry and headed toward a seminary graduation. Perhaps we should consider marking the spiritual milestones of development in a more concrete way?

UnknownYears ago I read a book called Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis. It made an impact on our household. The book embraced the idea of marking and celebrating those spiritual developmental mile markers in the lives of our children. While being focused on dad’s and sons, and describing the age-old customs of knights and pages and squires, the book offers insight that can be applied for parents of girls and for Christian mentoring situations as well.

Our family decided to embrace this idea of honoring important spiritual life events, and we chose to mark the age of 13 as an important developmental stage and the launching pad for our children to begin to develop their own spiritual disciplines and start on the road to spiritual adulthood. My husband and I thought through what we perceived as the building blocks of our Chrsitan lives and honed this down into a family creed so to speak. We completed the noble aspect of it all by designing a family crest, a family ring, and a celebration to launch each child as they turned 13 years old.

Here’s what we came up with. For you it could be something different.

The 4 corners of our Christian foundation we decided were: love, faith, purity, and God’s Word. (Those may not make sense for you – but they were very specific to the path God had led us on through our lives.) We chose symbols to represent these four pillars and used those symbols to make our family crest. We then chose 4 colors that represented these 4 traits, used those stones to design a family ring, and found a jeweler who would make what we wanted. In our research to determine our 4 prime characteristics we wanted to see in our kids and in our own lives, we had uncovered many scriptures. We typed these up in a document. At each child’s 13th birthday we held a celebration – a dinner out or a friend group and dinner at home – and gave each child their ring, their family crest, the document of scriptures, a challenge by Mom & Dad, and a prayer over them that they would grow in Godliness.

Love – We chose love because we realized that God is love, we love because He first loved us, and loving God and loving others are the 2 great commandments of the New Testament. We understood that we were to love others as we loved ourselves.

Faith – Scripture reminded us that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) We desired for our family and each child individually to be God-pleasers. We knew that salvation is by faith and we longed for each child to come to Christ and live their life with Him as their Savior and Lord.

Purity – Matthew 5:8 says blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Old Testament scripture reminds us that obedience to God to live His way is better than sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22) Our parental desire was to have children seeking to live a pure life that flows from a heart so in love with God that it wants nothing else.

God’s Word – This last one is not a personal characteristic I know, but it is THE key to growing in Christ and developing His character. Early on in our Christian walk both my husband and I had been discipled/mentored in a very methodical way. We had been taught to dig into God’s Word and apply it to our lives. We knew this was a must for raising the next generation to be sold out for Christ. Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:16 speak to the power of the holy scriptures to work change in our lives.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16

So what is my point today? To challenge you to think. Think about ways you can acknowledge and celebrate spiritual milestones with family, kids, and friends. The Old Testament is full of celebrations that God instituted for Israel to keep for all generations. These celebrations reminded them of their spiritual heritage, the faithfulness of God, and  their purpose on this earth. Let us give our kids the gift of “graduation” celebrations as they develop in their Christian walk and in life.

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Princesses, Magic, and Broken Graham Crackers

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Disney World. My little girl grew up and married her handsome prince. What can I say? He takes her now. I was going on this trip, but I was going to babysit in the hotel – until they decided not to take the baby. What can I say, my granddaughter only turns 4 once.

disney-2456306_1280There were quite a few differences in my trip 18 years ago.  The one thing that struck me as so cute was all the little princesses that were visiting the park. There were princesses of all ages, cultures, and languages. I saw Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, Belle, Mulan, Tiana, Jasmine, Rapunzel, and Aurora. I even saw a few Tinker Bells and a few Simbas. Then there were the Star Wars characters and the Princes. It was precious. The children could be whoever they wanted to be. It’s Disney Magic. We went to the Bibbidy, Bobbidy, Boutique and had a “Fairy God Mother in Training” dress up our little birthday girl. We had a wonderful time watching her as she became the princess on the outside that she is on the inside.

Disney World is definitely a place full of wonder and joy where your handsome prince could be just around the corner. Life is magical there unless you want a snack and your goldfish cheese crackers are actually shaped like goldfish and not Mickey Mouse. Can food-2202364_1280you imagine someone offering you fish-shaped goldfish in Disney World? Is that even allowed? Or what if your graham crackers are not in full crackers but part of them have broken off. How could that possibly happen?

How can anything not be perfect in Disney World?

Imagine reality settling in. Eventually, that is what happens to all of us. What happens when that handsome prince turns out to be the proverbial frog? Or when you lose your glass slipper for good? Or when snacks do not meet your expectations? Or if your job loses its magic? That exciting job has lost its luster. Or the boss says you are no longer needed? What happens when the money runs out? Or maybe sickness has entered the picture. Perhaps infertility.

God tells us in his word to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV.

Philippians 4:6 ESV “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

One of my husband’s favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20 ESV “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” We have found this verse to be true.

Not even Walt Disney, himself, could promise that life would be all Disney Magic. One of his famous quotes is “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” (Goalcast)

Jesus offers us Life Everlasting. In Matthew 11:28 ESV, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Philippians 4:19 ESV “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

waiting-71011_1280When life is not what you expect it to be or when your dreams are not coming true, give them to Jesus.

Mathew 6:33 ESV “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Philippians 4:13 ESV “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

 

 

Strange Economic Times Indeed

It felt awkward to have someone serve me, after all I’d come to serve that week and not to be served. I’ve learned long ago that I am filled by pouring out. It’s a weird economy. So when they offered a free lunch post-VBS, my low budget jumped at the chance. I feed teenagers now and with that feeding comes a hefty grocery bill. It is especially hefty during Vacation Bible School Week.

Many years ago I’d forged one of my dearest and best relationships over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich over just such a lunch. We both held wiggly babies, brown paper sacks on the table in front of us. Those wiggly babies are teenagers and now they too serve in VBS. That mama and I have been friends going on decades now. I treasure that and had it not been for that PB&J I am not sure we’d be the friends we are today. A free lunch and a chance at friendship were all it took for me to say yes when my teens asked if we were staying.

As I stood in the serpentine line that meandered around the corner I smelled grilled burgers and dogs, the kind that someone else cooks and never seem to be replicated at home, the kind that only requires that tiny packet of ketchup. I spied mamas and grandmamas with little ones herding them like disobedient cats. Chatter came from every direction, and crafts and goodies from the day littered the premises.

I was near the end of the line. It took a while before I finally reached the door leading to the food line.

burger-cheese-dinner-161674A gloved hand reached out to me and the Womenslife minister asked if I wanted a hamburger or hotdog. I paused. She repeated clearly. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard her. I had heard her. I just wasn’t sure. (I was thinking back on that moment and the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie has gone to see Santa to request the coveted Red Ryder BB Gun. He has stood in line but when faced with the gravity of requesting the prize he goes completely blank and repeats “football” in a robotic fashion.) I chuckled at how I must have appeared to sweet Sheila, standing there, blank-faced, stunned into having to choose, a hamburger or a hot dog. In a Ralphie-like response, I squeaked out “hamburger.”

I was handed various side items and then a drink of my choosing. I sat down at a table next to my own teen, the once wiggly baby, and asked how his day of herding 3rd graders had been. He filled me in on the “flight risks” and “runners.” Being that he was a former runner, a kid at risk to vanish in the blink of an eye, abandoning VBS to the unexplored other things, I suppose he is akin to them and has a knack for picking them out of a crowd of 8-year-olds.

We sat at a table and P.K. handed out napkins. He made his way around a room full of volunteers, shaking hands, speaking words of gratitude and appreciation. Offering extra napkins to sticky fingers, messy faces, and Mamas in need. Paper napkins, that week I’d handed out my share, placing little cookies on each one for snacks. Now I was the recipient of those same kinds of napkins. I cast my eyes down as I thanked them, those who were serving me, but felt filled up by their kindness and sincerity of appreciation.

It was awkward to be served and not to serve but as the tables turned and I was being served I was reminded why the King came. To serve and not be served and how it must fill Him up when I serve others. A strange economy indeed.

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