Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Read The Instructions

Opened the box. Spotted the big round object in another box. Plunked the lightweight object on the kitchen counter removed it from its cradle, yanked the lettuce from the fridge and threw it in the gadget. Oops! Duh. The whole point of it all I had forgotten. Quickly, after I doused the lettuce with water, in the spinner it went. I cranked the handle and watched the salad spinner go! My salad would never need to be rolled in a kitchen towel again. It would be perfectly washed and spun each and every time. Look out Rachel Ray! I was empowered with my new kitchen gadget.

But the result was anything but pleasing to the palate. Allow me to explain. I go to Boca Greenmarket each Saturday in the spring where I find extremely fresh produce often still with dirt and sand attached to the roots (how awesome is that, right?). The week of my salad spinner debut I had bought dandelion greens. I saw that gritty dirt on the roots and got excited. My salad spinner will take care of that!

Seconds after my green bag hit the granite, I got busy. I was a woman on a mission. I couldn't wait to see how fast the salad spinner would dry this green.  A Pavlovian response began to form in me (no not really) as I imagined the whir and flick of dirty water hitting the side of the Lucite bowl. The sound of spinning would be music to my eyes.

I soaked the greens in a bucket of water in the sink, rinsed them once more. Should I cut them first? I shrugged as I tossed them in whole. No time to waste. Into the salad spinner. Round and round my greens carousel. Whir. Whir Whir. Then silence. Sigh. Smile. I was sold before seeing the results. Bone dry, I threw them at once into the olive oiled saute pan. A slight sizzle erupted after a few seconds but no splatters! Success...or so I thought. A kitchen adventure gone awry I would soon discover.

Crunch. Grit between my molars. The dandelion greens had retained sand even though spun.  I washed it! I wasted my money. What a piece of junk. I can't even return it. I threw the box away. What if I had served that grit to company? I never had a problem before. So much for breaking from good old fashioned rinsing and towel drying....The Blame Game - blaming the good Amazon.com reviews, all those raving salad spinning aficionados, those who told me, "once you use one you'll wonder what you did without it!". Yeah right. I shoved the spinner to the back of my pantry next to the canned chickpeas and corn. I figured it wouldn't accumulate dust there - at least until I was able to list it on EBay.

The very next day as I was feeding my Cooking Channel addiction, I decided to fire up my DVR and resume an episode of Fresh Food Fast, a new show with Emeril Lagasse (creator of my husbands favorite appetizer recipe Hearts of Palm - I may just name my first child after him).  Well, wouldn't you know it - that blessed man pulled out a salad spinner for a recipe which included escarole! OMG. That man filled the big round Lucite base with water. He placed the escarole in it and swirled it around in the bowl, rinsed, filled it up and swirled it around again then proudly showed his audience how much dirt was still in the bottom of the bowl even after the second rinsing. He commented on the importance of "getting the grit out" because you don't want your guests eating sand. Where were you yesterday, Emeril!

Yes, on he raved about everyone needing a salad spinner. I sat in stunned silence as Emeril left the spinner to attend to his sausage. His directions and demonstration was perfect! I understood. I immediately felt stupid as I had the directions but left them in the box. I figured anyone could spin salad successfully! I was grateful for seeing this escarole spinning demonstration and am happy to report that I have now been spinning salad greens (and more) for months and never once encountered a spec of sand in it since I spent time with Emeril.

How simple. But how often do we mess up because we manage without instructions? Everything has instructions. Maybe the directions will not be conveniently "in the box" but once we search we will find the solution to just about anything. But like me, I thought I knew everything about what I was doing and as it turned out I knew nothing about a potential problem - grit. I had focused on those thrice-washed heads of organic lettuce that I wash anyways. That lettuce was always pristine to begin with, so I never gave grit a second thought.

And so as always God takes me to His Word. I liken the grit in my story to foxes in the vineyard. In Song of Solomon 2:15-17 we read, "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. Beloved. My lover is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills."

"But it was just a little fox! But it was just a little grit!" No, beloved, a little fox is still in the wrong place and a little grit will ruin the whole meal. But reading the directions provides the solution and gets the reader back on track to success whether that success is merely serving a gritless green or protecting a marriage from deception. In this passage the direction could be stated in one word - flee! See it? "Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills."

The Bible is the instruction manual for life. It literally addresses everything in life for which we need direction. It is the best, most well laid out set of directions available in any language, for anyone of any age. But how often even after having been presented the directions, do we disregard reading the Bible?

Thankfully it is never too late to turn to God's Word, even if you have made mistakes (who doesn't make many mistakes even in a day?). For God's Word provides all we need to live successfully and to thrive like a green leaf in any season.

Thanks for navigating through life with me today in my latest kitchen adventure. I gotta go get a thank you card written for Emeril Lagasse. I might invite him to dinner. Of course I will serve him dandelion green salad (minus the grit of course!) No doubt we will watch the spinner together. The salad spinner will be music to our eyes and our ears. When it stops we may very well sing its praises and exclaim, "Bam! That's what I'm talkin' about!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunny Day Friends

Sunny day friends are those types of people that call you when the party at the beach got rained out and no one else was around to "hang with". Of course you weren't invited to the fun when the skies were sunny.

Sunny day friends are those "friends" that send the invitation way too close to the date of the event leaving no doubt that you were indeed on the "B List."

Just this week I realized I had naively considered one of my friends a rainy day friend. I had placed her on a pedestal in that category - that was until the sun ceased to shine and I experienced a dark cloud day and needed a friend. That friend never showed up - that is until the sun peeked back out after my emotional storm. That friend was indeed a sunny day friend disguised in a raincoat.

How do you know if your friend falls in this category? Hmmm..ask her to worship with you, pray with you or for you, to  come over because you "just need a friend." Real soon you will recognize a sunny day friend vs.  a rainy day friend. Rainy day friends grab their car keys before you ask. They are on their way to minister in a jiffy.

I flipped open my Bible to the Book of Jude. In this book in the Bible (the only one that consists of one book with verses and no chapters) Jude who is a servant of Jesus Christ and brother to James spoke these words with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of course!), "But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."

I wondered if sunny day friends came under the category "scoffer". How often do I invite those friends to church gatherings but they fail to show up? Often. Sometimes I see through a lie about having other obligations. Too many times there is suddenly "something that came up." But their invitations for all kinds of parties keep coming while I wonder if there will ever be a time when my friend decides to be honest with me.

I do not confront because secretly deep down I know the truth. But I keep hoping that they will be interested in God, in what I love and am passionate about. I hope the best for them and want to share my love and grow deeper in friendship with them. I want the bonds that created our friendship to go deep so that the history we share and the memories we have made will continue.

Often I wonder, "Where can I find the friend that sticks closer to a brother?" And then I know. SermonCentral  effectively answers my question.

And as I finish typing this compare and contrast of others, God so predictably challenged me, So what kind of friend are you? Silence. I am convicted.

How often do I call a friend without it being about me or me avoiding having to step out of my comfort zone? Guilty.

The Book of Jude concludes with an exhortation: Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
It's not wrong for me to categorize relationships. It's not wrong for me to be realistic about a person's intentions in order to lower expectations. We must all discern where we stand with people. But it is wrong  not to pray for my friends - no matter sunny or rainy day friends. After all - the sun doesn't shine all the time. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Storms do not discriminate.
God loves us each so much John 3:16. This is true friendship and beyond. God's Agape love is for me - for you, for His creation. Stepping out of my comfort zone to be a godly friend is easy when I allow God to give me the love to give others.
Gotta go. My friend is here. We are going to hit the beach. Not a cloud in the sky. But I am prepared. Got a big beach umbrella in the car - just in case. We can both easily sit under it and watch the raindrops or share shelter from the hot sun. After all, there really are friends for all seasons. Have to love them right where they are and hope they love you back. God is love. We follow His lead.
Bye for now.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hello, Hello Again

"Hello?" I responded.
"Hello." Then conversation erupted intended not for me but a voice at the end of the cellphone. A woman two stalls down in the airport terminal bathroom ignored my friendly greeting.

Did I feel foolish? Yes. I did. Very much so. You idiot, she's talking on her cell phone. However, in the seconds before I realized my neighbor was not speaking to me I became excited. Hopeful. Allow me to explain.

Several years ago I entered a bathroom stall in a beach park. I entered feeling fine but realized in short order I had a very sick stomach. My husband stood by outside the door with nary a clue that his wife could not leave the humble abode lest hold her head up without the help of her hands because of an unrelenting dizzy spell.

I had hoped in those interminable moments (which turned into just short of an hour) for someone to enter the bathroom and ask, "Are you okay?" No doubt, anyone entering could hear my sighs let alone smell my dilemma (sorry). However, my pride kept me from asking for help. The stall doors slammed open and shut, open shut, slam, click and lock. Water hit porcelain as the paper towel machine repeatedly creaked  as women in bare feet, women in flip flops, women with children in bare feet, women with children in flip flops entered and exited. You get the idea. Other than the stall door movements, bathroom noises and foot traffic, I sat and suffered in silence.

After I was able to once again place my feet on terrafirma, splash my perspiration-drenched face in cold water and exit the bathroom, I made a vow. Not just to myself (that would be too easy to get out of as I often lie to myself) but to God. God, if ever I hear a woman in a stall that even remotely sounds like she needs help I am going to ask her if she is alright and ask, "Do you need help?"

I thought nothing again of that promise - that is until the bathroom in the airport terminal.

Back to that day. After my first response to "Hello," I waited expectantly for a response. Maybe this was the day that the Lord would use me to bring comfort to someone who was in need. When I realized this woman was not talking to me but was talking on a cellphone, I felt foolish and slightly disappointed but was reminded that I was only responsible to be available. What God does after my obedience is His business.

Who doesn't know the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37? In this parable Jesus tells the people basically (I am paraphrasing) to love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." So a man asks, "Who is my neighbor?" And in Jesus-fashion (love it) Jesus tells a parable (a story with a lesson to demonstrate an important Truth) about the Good Samaritan.

I challenge you to read the parable and come on back. Do it now. Why not?

It did not matter who the man was in need of help. The man was in need. Period. And because of who the passersby were and who the man in need was, the man was ignored. The story of the Good Samaritan dispels the lie that some of us are more important that others. We are all important to God!! See this website for a breath of fresh air....

In the story of the Good Samaritan the man in need was not overtly asking for help (he was half dead). I wonder how the story would have been different if he was able to ask for help. In my case, I was able to ask for help and failed to ask because of my pride. If I had let my husband know that I was in pain, he may not have been able to help me at that time, but at least he would have known what was taking me so long and could have prayed for me outside the door as I endured wrenching stomach cramps. But I did not ask so I did not receive.

Oh God that we all learn to ask for help, to trust that You will send the Good Samaritan to us so that we do not have to suffer in silence. Lord, impress upon Your children - to be servants for You no matter where our feet take us and not just walk on by because of convenience or because we refuse to believe Jesus's definition of "neighbor" as "anyone we happen to come in contact with."

Thank you Lord for that woman being in the airport terminal that day in that stall. I thank you that she was not in pain but just enjoying a conversation with a friend. Bless her now. I pray she knows that whenever and wherever she is when she speaks Hello to You that You will respond, "Hello. How are you? What can I do for you today?"

Thank you for the Good Samaritan and for reminding us that You will give us those opportunities to help and be helped as long as we are open to making friends in the least expected places!