Spic and Span! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Pliny the Elder: “Home is where the hearts is.”

Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher “Pliny the Elder” (AD 23 – August 25, AD 79) once stated, “Home is where the heart is.” How true! And all the modern-day gurus of interior design frequently add that “the kitchen is the heart of the home”! Fair enough.  In the same way that the human heart nourishes the body with continuous bursts of blood, from the kitchen come frequent meals that sustain the household. And when you invite people over, if allowed to roam freely, that’s where your guests tend to gather.  People want to hang out with you in the kitchen.  Everyone knows, whether your kitchen is big or small, that’s where the action is!

Before we go any further, let us reassure you: it’s not what’s in your kitchen that’s important, it’s what comes out of your kitchen. A humble heart can supply a whole lot of love! Also, your kitchen doesn’t need to be stocked with all the latest gadgets or high-tech appliances to be functional; nor do you need hand-rubbed custom cabinets or those highly coveted countertops of polished granite.  You absolutely DO need to keep your kitchen clean!!!  Besides the health hazards of a dirty kitchen, face it, nobody wants to wake up to an ugly mess.

Hi there! Make yourself at home. I’ll be out in the kitchen rustling up some “grub”!

It’s not at all appetizing to have a cup of coffee and a danish in a nasty kitchen. And after all, that’s where you prepare the food that you and the people you care about will be eating! Would you want to eat in a restaurant famous for keeping a dirty kitchen? Yuck! In fact, restaurant kitchens are periodically inspected by the health department for cleanliness, and if one repeatedly doesn’t pass muster, the owner is forced to close until he or she cleans up their act! (Literally)

Back to the home: On a recent Dr. Oz program, experts acknowledged that the kitchen is often the dirtiest room in the house! (Yes, even dirtier than the bathroom!) Even in the “cleanest” kitchens, the ones where the cooks always wash their hands and carefully preserve and prepare their foods, there was … (cue the creepy music) … nastiness unseen by the human eye!  (Oh, the horror!) When kitchen surfaces were viewed under a microscope, experts discovered germs and bacteria lurking in corners and crevices. And one huge source of bacteria? The always damp sponge used to wash the dishes was a breeding ground for the little buggers!

Now mind you, these kitchens looked and smelled clean; the people maintaining them were careful and conscientious and thought they were doing a good job. But under closer scrutiny their kitchens — the hearts of their homes — had all their dirty little secrets brought to light! (Now, if you haven’t guessed already, we’re about to compare the kitchen, with all it’s invisible bacteria and germs lurking about, to the human heart.)

There are a lot of nasty little critters breeding in our hearts. Everyone of us needs to take steps daily to keep our hearts sanitized, and hence, healthy. Like our kitchens, we all harbor dirty little secrets, often undetected because we simply don’t take time to thoroughly examine our hearts. Harmful parasites such as wrongful attitudes (prejudice, bigotry, jealousy, envy, strife, selfishness, self-centeredness, pride — hello! — and numerous other mindsets, so please feel free to fill in the blank) as well as unbelief. Sometimes a slight, whether intentional or not, can lead to a person holding a grudge. If not dealt with, a grudge leads to bitterness, and bitterness is a silent killer of the heart!

Sanitizing a kitchen calls for strong measures such as ammonia and bleach (Um, but not at the same time!); getting your heart spic and span calls for similar measures. The idiom “spic and span” comes from root words and imagery suggesting fresh, clean wood and the new beams of a sound sailing vessel. King David understood the need to keep his heart spic and span. He must have done a pretty good job at it, too, because God describes the poet and soldier by saying, “I have found that David … is a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my wishes.” Act 13:22 ISV)  So King David must have been perfect, right? If you believe that, we have some swampland in Florida we’d like to sell you. Check out 1st and 2nd Samuel and try to remember you’re not reading Peyton Place!

But David was loyal and devoted to God. He knew he made mistakes, but he was totally honest with himself and with God. He wasn’t malicious and always tried  to do his best. In other words, his heart was in the right place.

David examined his life daily and asked God to help him in all things. We need to do the same. Read what David wrote in Psalm 51. Spend quality time with the Lord everyday and make it your prayer. Below is just one
precious verse from the chapter:

Create in me a clean heart, O God (and) renew a loyal spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:10 NLT) David is essentially asking God to help him keep his heart spic and span! Let’s join him in that great endeavor.

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A Pal to Success (Encouragement for Creators)

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It’s a familiar plot in old Hollywood movies: something dire and unforeseen happens to prevent the star of a hit show from performing; but the show must go on! So a talented but as yet unknown understudy quickly steps into the role. And in a magical quirk of “fate,” a talent scout, who just happens to be in the audience that night, sees the potential of the understudy, and … a star is born!

We’re not sure how often this happens in real life, but we do know of one such success story from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The circumstances were a bit different, this time involving a stunt double working in a movie production. It’s an inspiring tale which should reassure creators of all kinds that dreams do come true!

MGM film studios were bringing a beloved novel to the big screen. Their casting department auditioned 1,500 performers for the plum role of the movie’s title character. One of these hopefuls was the hero of our little story, an unknown at the time, who was destined for legendary star status. Alas, however, he did NOT get the part. MGM casting felt his look was all wrong. They said his eyes were too big, and they weren’t crazy about the shape of his forehead!

MGM discovered and promoted many great movie stars during it heyday.

Despite their rather insulting opinions about our hero’s appearance, studio casting nonetheless recognized his talent. They hired him to be a stunt double for the star. Oh well, a job’s a job, right?

Hollywood veteran Fred M. Wilcox was hired to direct the new picture, and MGM asked him to produce a low-budget film shot in black and white. Wilcox, who was forced to find ways to stretch the film’s budget, decided to take advantage of a massive flooding of the San Joaquin River in central California. The river’s raging waters would afford the director free “special effects,” and add immeasurably to the movie’s quotient of thrills.

There was just one problem. The lead actor refused to go into the water — or anywhere near it, for that matter! Enter our hero, the stunt double.

The director needed to capture a complicated five-stage shot that called for the star to swim across the raging river, drag himself out on the far bank, where he was to lie down, then attempt to crawl while lying on his side. In the final stage of the shot, he was to lie motionless, totally exhausted. Our hero’s “manager,” a man named Rudd Weatherwax, approached Fred Wilcox and explained that his “boy” could do it — in one take! And he did!

Our hero’s performance was stellar. In fact, the director was so impressed by his new star’s performance that he had “tears in his eyes”! The executives at MGM were also impressed. They immediately released the original actor, and hired the stunt double to play the title role! They also realized their new star would guarantee the film’s success at the box office, so they upgraded it from B-movie status to an A-list production filmed in Technicolor.

Pal’s manager, Rudd Weatherwax (left), and director Fred M. Wilcox (right) discuss a scene with the popular movie star.

Hollywood’s newest discovery was a natural in front of the cameras! He performed with ease and enthusiasm, and he never required more than one or two takes. Oh, and he did his own stunts!

Who was this actor? What movie are we discussing. Please forgive us. The details we’ve shared are all true, and should inspire your fondest dreams of being discovered, or making the big-time; even if the details do pertain to a dog!

Pal (right) in a scene from Lassie Come Home, opposite his leading lady, Elizabeth Taylor.

Animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax first met the collie named Pal (June 4, 1940 – June 1958) when the dog’s owner brought him in for obedience training. Pal had a bad habit of chasing motorcycles; and although Weatherwax was unable to break the dog of the habit, he saw Pal’s potential in other areas. He purchased the collie in 1943, and took him to audition for the lead in MGM’s feature film Lassie Come Home. The rest is not only Hollywood history, but also a genuine piece of American pop culture.

Pal was the first Lassie. Actually, Pal was Lassie — in a successful string of six movies and two television pilots (which promptly sold and went into production as a series starring Pal’s son, Lassie, Jr.). The Lassie character, still played by collies from Pal’s bloodline, continues to delight kids of all ages. And Pal, the Patriarch of Pooch Performers, was described in The Saturday Evening Post as having “the most spectacular canine career in film history.”

Asked what advice he’d give to other creators and dreamers, Pal enthusiastically stated, “Woof, woof, woof!” (Translation: “Have fun chasing cars — and never give up on your dreams!”)

God, as much as any of us, loves a success story. And in life, He strongly supports the underdog! (Bad pun, but true statement.) And if a four-legged performer can make it, then so can you … whether in business, or the arts, or other pursuits.

Jesus said, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? …And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Matthew 6:26, 30 NLT)

Have faith. Work hard and continue to create good works. And follow your dreams!

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