What’s Stewing? (Angel in the Kitchen)

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What’s cookin’? A stew! Stews (and stewing) are as old as cooking. A Roman cookbook published during the 4th century AD mentions stew; but most of us know of an even earlier reference to the dish, in the Biblical book of Genesis, which historians believe was written between 1410 and 1450 BC. As recorded in Genesis 25:27-34, an apparently extremely hungry Esau — who also was apparently extremely short-sighted — sold his Jewish birthright to his younger brother, Jacob — for a bowl of meat and lentil stew. Esau thereby gave up pretty much everything that counted in his culture, but hey, can we really blame him? After all, we’re talking about STEW here: a tender, savory mixture of meat, fish, or poultry, and assorted vegetables — cooked with a little water for an extended period over a low heat. Stewing foods means that the cook brings them to a slow boil, and then allows them to simmer. Meats and veggies stew in their own juices, allowing the flavors to truly blend and seep in. Meats are suffused with the aromatic flavors of spices and fresh veggies, such as onions, peas and carrots. Hungry yet? Well don’t forget that rich brown gravy that envelopes most stews! Mmmm!

There’s another definition of the verb STEW: to worry, to sulk or to fuss. And as with the culinary definition, performing this “action” yields similar results: a stew! In this sense, a stew means a state of agitation, uneasiness, or worry. Interestingly, the emotional “cooking” process is pretty much the same. A mixture of different, and often conflicting, thoughts and feelings fill our minds, and we allow these thoughts to simmer. For an extended period. Over a low heat, as our emotions come to a boil. The results of our stewing are that feelings of fear, hurt, doubt, and anger blend together and seep in — deeply! The results, however, are far from pleasing.

We’re all familiar with the idiom “to stew in one’s own juice”; but when we do this, negative thoughts and emotions penetrate deeper and deeper, the way spices penetrate and suffuse stewed beef. Hurts, when allowed to simmer in our hearts, can suffuse our attitude toward every situation and every one. Anger, after a long period of stewing, can lead to bitterness and an inability to forgive. When we allow worry to simmer in our thoughts, we eventually become nervous wrecks. And fear? Allow fear to simmer very long with your other emotions, and soon its horrid flavor will taint your entire outlook on life. In any of these scenarios, we’re essentially “cooking” our own hearts and minds, only this emotional stew doesn’t produce tender results.

God doesn’t want us stewing over stuff. That’s why he admonishes us to take several important steps. For instance, are you mad about something? Are you upset with someone? “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26 NLT) Meaning: resolve your issues and/or turn the situation over to God, trusting Him to heal your hurts. In other words, get over it before the day is done, so that you can move forward.

Are you facing big problems or issues that have you worried? “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT) Hey, this verse says it all. Besides, worrying accomplishes nothing but a sour stomach.

Fearful? “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT) “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)

Has someone hurt you? “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” (Roman 12:14 NLT) Stop stewing, before all the wrong juices seep into your soul. “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT)

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How to Make Friends and Be POPular (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Why do some people make friends more easily than others? For that matter, why are some people more likable than others? Tough questions. Before we discuss these issues, let’s take a break and pop the top on an ice-cold can of soda.

Did you know that Coca-Cola goes all the way back to 1886? Like a lot of sodas, Coke was initially sold in drug stores, because at the time, people strongly believed that carbonated water was beneficial to health. We doubt nutritionists would agree with this today — but carbonation does have some soothing qualities. Besides being thoroughly refreshing, a cold ginger ale can calm an upset stomach. An icy bottle of Pepsi on a hot summer’s day is sublime. Mountain Dew is a great pick-me-up and is extremely popular these days; but when we were kids, nothing could beat a Coke! “Things go better with Coke” — even if this is the “Pepsi Generation”!  Actually, we now drink Diet Rite. (When we’re not drinking water, God’s health beverage.) Every calorie counts, you know.

All these drinks have one thing in common. They’re bubbly. Effervescent. Fizzy. Most people enjoy bubbly drinks. The fizz adds pizzazz. One thing’s for sure, when the fizz is gone, the soda is far less palatable. And when cola goes flat … yuck, it’s worse than Kool-Aid. We’d rather do without than drink a flat soda. A can of pop with no pop has far less to offer. Again, those little bubbles tickle our senses. We love the effervescence!

People are like cola. When they’ve lost their effervescence — their enthusiasm, their excitement toward life — when their personality and outlook on the world go flat, they’re far less tolerable. Most of us love to hang out with bubbly people, so bubbly people make friends more easily. They have a sparkling personality that comes from a positive attitude and a contagious enthusiasm.  Such people become very POPular!  When we’re around them, we feel encouraged, uplifted, and invigorated.

On the other hand, the bad attitudes and sour dispositions of people who’ve gone “flat” can be hard to swallow. No one enjoys being around a negative or bitter person. Why would we? Do you have a “woe is me” family member with the ability to rain on your every parade? Have you ever dealt with a coworker who knew any given project was “doomed to failure” before it even got started? Have you ever visited an “all gloom and doom” friend, and afterwards felt like you were ready to commit suicide? “Flat” friends and family are no fun. Their fizz is all gone. All that’s left is the nasty Kool-Aid of their bleak outlook on life — and who wants to drink that?

What’s our point? We need to try and be tolerant of these folks. We often can help lift their spirits. Inject some fizz back into their lives. BUT we don’t want to BE these folks! We want to be POPular (in a good way), bubbly, encouraging, uplifting, crisp, cool and sparkling! Besides being friendly, THAT’S how you really attract people and make friends. But getting back your fizz requires certain steps; and keeping your effervescence requires certain precautions.

You can’t constantly fill your head with negative, pessimistic, gloomy, downer thoughts and ideas if you want to stay bubbly and be a part of the “Pop Culture.” Ever watch a depressing movie and walk out of the theater all depressed? Hey, we’re not asking you to never watch a tear-jerker, or to avoid people with nasty attitudes; but you need to make sure you pour into your life more good stuff than bad. Here’s what the Apostle Paul has to say about it: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

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