Meatloaf Blues? (Angel in the Kitchen)

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There’s a scene from an old sitcom, and it plays something like this: a teenage boy walks into the kitchen and asks his mom, “What’s for dinner?” After she tells her son she’s lovingly made his favorite, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, the boy whines, “Aww, meatloaf? I just came from Johnny’s house and his dad’s grilling steaks!” Who’s to be pitied more? The poor mom who’s slaved over the hot stove trying to please her family — or her ungrateful son, who’s got the meatloaf blues, a symptom of “the comparison complaint”?

Unfortunately, we all periodically suffer from this complaint. It’s a common malady of the human race, but there’s a cure. Just stop! The kid in the aforementioned sitcom ought to have been happy that his mom cooked his dinner to start with — let alone made his favorite — and we would all do well to stop comparing what we have with what someone else has. Life is more enjoyable when we’re grateful for what God has provided us. And, personally, we LOVE meatloaf, with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy! Of course, we serve a pretty mean meatloaf at our house!

Still, we tend to get caught up in comparing, and when we do, we inevitably reach the same conclusion: there’s always something better than what we have. The neighbors are having steak and we’re stuck with meatloaf! Or, we’re having meatloaf but the neighbors are having meatloaf with gravy! Yes, the dinner is always more delicious on the other side of the fence — or is that grass? After God led His people out of bondage from Egypt, He daily provided them with a perfect food called MANNA! Manna was “a flaky substance” that “tasted like honey wafers.” (Exodus 16:14,31 NLT) The Israelites collected the manna each morning, and we can imagine it might have been a little like Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. To quote Tony the Tiger, “They’re grr-reat!!”

But God’s people started comparing, as we all tend to do, and suddenly they were “homesick” for the foods they ate when they were slaves! Seriously? Yeah, the “comparison complaint” really is a sickness; and we’ll never truly enjoy life if we’re always “sick” about what we could have, but don’t have. How can we enjoy a delicious cool glass of freshly squeezed orange juice if we start contemplating what else we might have had? Remember the TV commercial for vegetable juice? The guy suddenly stops sipping his OJ, slaps his forehead, and cries, “Wow, I coulda had a V-8!” Don’t fall prey to the comparison complaint. Enjoy the moment. “This is the day [or food, or home, or opportunity] the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NLT)

Another symptom of the comparison complaint manifests when we start comparing ourselves to others. Trust us on this one: no matter how beautiful or talented you are, how much money you make, or how big your home is, there will always be someone somewhere who’s just a little prettier, more gifted, more prosperous, more whatever. So … since these things are all relative to begin with, then why compare — and compete? Catch the comparison complaint and you’ll probably also come down with “inferiority fever” followed by “insecurity sickness”!

On the other hand, there will always be those who don’t seem to measure up to you and your standards. Should you take what God has blessed you with as a reason for pride? If you do, then you’re suffering from the vanity virus.

We mentioned we serve a mean meatloaf. We have a friend who started comparing her cooking skills to Wilma’s; and she felt she came up short. As a result, she was reluctant to have us over for dinner. Sad and unnecessary! We all have different gifts and abilities, and there’s no point in comparing. When we do, nothing good ever comes out of it; instead, we miss out on the joy of life. But our friend was mature enough to confess she was feeling a little inferior in the kitchen. We told her not to worry: we’re not into comparing and competing. And we’re grateful whether we’re served pheasant under glass or a plain pizza. Then we reminded her just how talented she was in areas that remain a complete mystery to us.

Our friend relaxed, realized what’s most important, and then had us over for a take-out pizza. And we’re not sure why, but … apparently her fellowship added a lot of extra flavor to the food, because it was one of the best pizzas we’d ever had! Get the lesson here? Please don’t catch the comparison complaint. At first it just makes you sick, but later it can kill your joy. “I ask you not to think of yourselves more highly than you should. Instead, your thoughts should lead you to use good judgment based on what God has given each of you as believers.” (Romans 12:3 GOD’S WORD)

Remember the symptoms: the meatloaf blues, inferiority fever, insecurity sickness or vanity virus. Nip them in the bud before you get an incurable case of the comparison complaint.

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“It’s Different!” (A Tale of Pizza, People, & a Pretty Pooch)

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Several years ago we adopted a gorgeous Shetland Sheepdog from a breeder and trainer. Misty, as we renamed her, was more used to being confined long hours in a crate than to having the run of the house. She also was used to certain foods and routines. Now that Misty was living with us, she needed to adjust to new things and new ways and, mainly, having more freedom. Misty needed to get used to everything being different. But her period of adjustment took over a year; for months, each new room she encountered in our home seemed to unnerve her. She tended to hang out in only one room, and typically a certain corner of that room. When we’d walk into a different room, Misty acted like she wanted to follow us, but she would refuse to enter new territory.

“Want to sit on the sofa with us, Misty? Just long enough to get a family photo?” Not really. “Want to go for a walk in the woods, Misty?” Um, lemme think about it — I’ve never gone down this particular trail, and it’s … well, it’s different!

Eventually, using lots of love and patience, we coaxed Misty out of her shell, and got her used to embracing new experiences. But until then, whenever Misty encountered something she wasn’t familiar with, we’d chuckle and say in unison — in a cute, playful tone, as though Misty herself were saying the words“It’s different!”

We’ve met people who have the same outlook on life as our pooch. We know someone who loves Tex-Mex cuisine, and has dined at some pretty authentic Mexican restaurants. This person KNOWS what a good chile relleno tastes like … with Spanish rice and fresh guacamole. And so do we. We frequent this little cafe where the whole staff speaks Spanish and the food is as authentic as it gets. However, there are also times we’ve been in a hurry and stopped at Taco Bell. The food is far from authentic; it’s handed to us through a window, usually by a young gringo working his way through college; and it’s served in paper wrappers or styrofoam containers. IT. IS. NOT. AUTHENTIC! But know what? It’s tasty! Really tasty! It doesn’t taste like what we’re used to getting at that little Mexican cafe, but does it need to? It’s good, all the same. It’s just different. Alas, that “someone” we mentioned — who KNOWS good Tex-Mex — would rather do without than eat at Taco Bell.

Pizza is another food that suffers from the “It’s different!” mentality. We love authentic New York style pizza, and especially from this wonderful Italian restaurant where all the waiters speak broken English to us and Italian to each other. Hey, when in Rome…. But we are not pizza snobs! We’ll also eat and enjoy Chicago style pizza, Dominos takeout, “thin and crispy” ones from Pizza Hut, and even frozen “pizza” from the grocery store. Of course, each of these pizza experiences is different, and if we insist on comparing one to another, some of these pizzas are going to come up short. Personally, we don’t think a cheap microwave pizza tastes anything like the one we get from our favorite Italian place. But does it need to? As a TV snack, it’s not bad at all. It’s just different.

Different shouldn’t automatically translate as “not as good as” or “bad”! Different is … just different. But we live in a world where people are constantly comparing — everything! We compare (and rate) foods, movies, books, ministries, churches and people, to list only a few. And like our maladjusted pooch Misty, when we encounter something that’s new or different, something we’re not used to, something not like what we were expecting, many of us give it a low score, often needlessly. We compare it to what we know, like, want, and expect; and when we realize “it’s different!” we devalue it and may want nothing more to do with it.

We’ve listened to ministers who pace the floor and shout, wave their hands and work up a sweat while preaching the Word of God. We’ve also listened to ministers who stand behind a podium, calmly and softly teaching from the Bible. And we’ve heard everything in between. These ministers are different. Do we need to compare them as though they were frozen pizzas? Despite being different, each has something to bring to the table; each presents the Word of God with a unique flavor.

Let’s be bold — and fair! Let’s approach the different and the unfamiliar with a spirit of adventure — and evaluate every experience based upon its own merits, not on the merits of something or someone else. Don’t assume that because “it’s different” that it’s not as good, especially when dealing with people. Different cultures, different denominations, different ethnicities, different styles, different likes and dislikes. It’s all good, even if “it’s different!” Remember, Jesus said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (John 7:24 NLT)

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