Grounds for Offense? (Angel in the Kitchen)

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For some time now, we’ve faithfully related all of the wit and wisdom we’ve gleaned from the eccentric collection of kitchen tools and appliances inhabiting our humble home. Each of these “kitchen angels” has a unique message to announce — about life, love and relationships! We’ve only to “listen” for it. For instance, while dicing onions, Mack the Knife taught us the importance of knowing what you’re cut out for in this wonderful world; and the onion … as we tearfully chopped the poor guy to pieces … gave us new insights into human relationships. No, really!

Mr. Keurig, who daily brews delicious mugs of coffee while shooshing, sighing, and flashing friendly little messages, shared with us the benefits of finding your own unique voice, and … well, the list goes on. Speaking of Mr. Keurig, a relative newcomer to our kitchen, it’s high time we introduced another, older member of the family — one who’s been with us for many years, a veteran of countless culinary campaigns, who’s valiantly served us … coffee by the potful!

He’s generally unassuming and soft-spoken, the strong silent type. You know, more a gadget of deeds than words. But now he wants his “say”! Not to worry, however, because given the very nature of this guy, he’ll never blurt out anything inappropriate. Of this we’re certain, and we’ll explain why. But first, heeeere’s Mister Coffee!

Hey, tough guy. Take a bow, while we discuss your sterling character!

Mister Coffee is in the Kitchen Angel Reserves. We only call upon his services for those really big jobs that Mr. Keurig can’t handle all by himself. Now, we’re not minimizing the efforts of Komrade Keurig; after all, he’s the fastest java brewer on the block. (Shh! Please don’t let him know that we live in the woods and our nearest neighbor is a five-minute walk down the lane!) And he can brew a cup of hazelnut coffee in one minute, and a cup of mocha the very next! But sometimes, when we’re hosting guests, we need VOLUME more than variety.

Never fear, Mister Coffee’s here! He can produce up to 12 cups of joe faster than we can ask our numerous guests, “Cream and sugar?” And his potent brew is always delicious — except for one occasion when we forgot to insert his special paper filter. Because Mister Coffee’s filter wasn’t in place, we got a nasty-looking sludge that was part coffee and part disgusting grounds! True, there was a form of coffee present in this thick black liquid; but no one would be able to benefit from it, because of the nasty, bitter grounds that were present. Anyone attempting to drink this noxious brew would have choked on it!

Mister Coffee gazed up at us from his spot on the kitchen counter, and sighed in exasperation. We knew exactly what he was trying to communicate: his filter absolutely must be in place, or what comes through will not be palatable! No matter how fresh the blend, no matter how stimulating the brew, if the stuff isn’t properly filtered, then no one will benefit from it. In fact, anyone consuming it will probably get sick!

This truth applies not just to Mister Coffee, but also to each and every one of us.

In life, we often hear statements like “She has no filter to her brain” or “He’d do well to filter his mouth”! We usually get such pronouncements right after someone makes a comment that is hurtful or embarrassing. Young children, for instance, don’t seem to develop a filter until much later, and are prone to say things which would make their parents blush. Quite forgivable, though, because they don’t know any better. (But we do.) So parents should teach their children that some questions are too personal, and some observations are too embarrassing — or just plain inappropriate. Learning to develop a “filter” is part of the maturing process.

In a spiritual sense, our Heavenly Father desires that we, too, “grow up” and develop a “filter.” He wants us to apply a Godly characteristic that will filter our words and deeds, while blocking the wrongful attitudes and actions that can leave people with a bitter taste. What is this filter? The Apostle Paul states,  “…Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ….” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT).

Having the filter of love properly in place will keep us from blurting out the first thing that pops into our heads, which is usually the wrong thing
to say. The filter of love will ensure that our conversation is always refreshing to those who hear it — that our words are potent but palatable, beneficial and not bitter, invigorating and not insulting. In fact, without the filter of love, our speech is a lot like what Mister Coffee brewed up the day we forgot his filter: a noxious and obnoxious blend of nastiness that benefits no one.

But don’t take our word for it! The Bible states, “[If I] could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.” (1 Corinthians 13:1 TLB) Noise is defined as harsh, unpleasant, and unwanted sounds; and the term comes from the same Latin root word for NAUSEA. Yes, without love to remove the bitter “grounds,” we can indeed sicken people with our speech.

So, when conversing with your spouse, or a child, or a friend, or a coworker, make sure your love filter is in place! And whenever you’re about to confront anyone regarding an issue or a problem that’s affecting you or someone you care about — whether in the area of human relationships, a job, a faith community, or life in general — please pray first! Ask God to help you speak the truth in love; to remove any feelings of resentment, self-righteousness or selfish motives; and to filter out any hateful, arrogant, or demeaning words. Don’t give the world “grounds” for offense: more bitterness, more discontentment, more prejudice, more division (including separation and divorce); or an easy excuse to neglect the truth.

“Love is patient [and] kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. …It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

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Menace of the False Start; or Making a Dent in the Pulps!

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Lester Dent: Master of the False Start

We’ve all been there, whether in the course of pursuing a lofty dream, or simply working hard to achieve a worthwhile goal. We often encounter circumstances and situations that can — if we allow it — kill our enthusiasm and destroy all our hopes. These “dream dampeners” come in many forms, from lost opportunities to failed attempts, from unexpected obstacles to sudden setbacks, from closed doors to dead ends. But one of the most sinister situations of all is the infamous “false start.” Nothing can dash our hopes more quickly than believing we’re finally on our way, or that we’ve finally arrived — at last! — only to have the bottom fall out beneath us.

Here’s the thrilling story of a man who endured several false starts and dead ends on his road to success.

During the mid-1920s, a twenty-two-year old telegraph operator for Western Union dreamed of bigger, better, and more creative, opportunities. He was a voracious reader and a big fan of the dime-novel magazines known as the pulps; and he was confident that he could write stories just as exciting as — if not better than — the ones being churned out monthly in dozens of these cheap adventure magazines. So, over the next three years, while working a mostly uneventful graveyard shift, now as a telegrapher for the Associated Press, Lester Dent wrote and submitted story after story. And in return, received rejection after rejection from the editors of these pulps.

Finally, Dent made a sale! Street & Smith’s prestigious Top Notch magazine agreed to publish one of the writer’s adventure stories, “Pirate Cay,” in its September 1929 issue. Dent felt he was well on his way: he had made his first professional sale to his beloved pulps, and subsequent sales shouldn’t be that difficult — not for a paid and published author who had cracked one of the leading fiction markets! Then again….

Dent continued to struggle as a writer, and continued to receive rejections from other publishers. And even Street & Smith didn’t seem interested in Dent’s subsequent stories. Then, quite unexpectedly, Dent was contacted by Dell Publishing Company in New York City! Someone at the company had chanced across “Pirate Cay” and wanted to hire him to write exclusively for their magazines! What’s more, Dell was offering a salary of $500 per month! An astounding amount for the time.

Dent was astonished at his good fortune. He’d never expected his writing career to make such an abrupt (and lucrative) course change; but he wasted no time in accepting Dell’s generous offer. At long last, Dent had arrived! Or had he?

At the beginning of 1931, Dent relocated his family to New York, where he settled into his new position as a Dell magazine novelist. He learned the secrets of being a prolific plotter of pulps. (Repeat that three times fast! ) He also taught himself to write quickly, and to produce exciting fiction that required few edits or rewrites. Life was good! Of course, all this was happening during the Great Depression. And Dell had overextended itself at the newsstands. The publisher’s entire line of pulps imploded less than five months after Dent had “arrived” — both literally and figuratively.

Dent was out of a job — and back to square one, submitting stories to various magazines, sometimes making a sale, but more often getting a rejection notice. And even Street & Smith, which had published Dent’s first story, wasn’t buying his fiction. The shadow of financial difficulties was darkening the writer’s future — and it would take another kind of “shadow” to rescue Dent!

Street & Smith was enjoying great success with their new mystery pulp, The Shadow. In fact, the magazine sold so well that the publisher was releasing a new Shadow novel every two weeks. But the editors at Street & Smith were worried: one man, Walter Gibson, was writing all of these pulp tales; and if anything should happen to Gibson….

Suddenly remembering that promising new writer they’d published many months earlier, the editors at Street & Smith called on Dent to try his hand at writing a Shadow novel. If Dent did a good job, he’d become Gibson’s backup on the popular feature … or so Dent was led to believe.

Lester Dent spent the next three months writing The Golden Vulture, an exciting novel in which he perfectly captured the dark atmosphere of a Shadow adventure, while nailing the mysterious character Gibson had created. The editors loved it! Dent had done it! He was going to be working on one of the most avidly read new pulp characters of the day. Or was he?

Street & Smith applauded Dent’s efforts, paid him for his novel, and then promptly filed it away for a rainy day. “All that work,” Dent may have thought, “for nothing!” How many more false starts and setbacks was he to face? (How many false starts have you faced, dear reader?) Dent kept on writing, and he never lost hope in his dreams — and neither should you!

So the writer was mentally and emotionally prepared for the next opportunity that came his way. Street & Smith wanted to create another pulp hero to further capitalize on the success of the Shadow. Only this time, the publisher wanted elaborate adventure stories featuring a character who would use science and gadgets in the same way the Shadow used magic and disguises. Such grand and brainy exploits were exactly what Dent wrote best, hence, following the writer’s successful Shadow-novel tryout, the editors at Street & Smith invited Dent to help create their new character and write his first adventure.

Dent might have wondered if this were yet another false start, another dead end. If he did, he certainly didn’t allow his reservations to dampen his enthusiasm. He hurried home and immediately got to work on the now legendary novel, The Man of Bronze, which Street & Smith published in March 1933, in the premiere issue of Doc Savage Magazine. It marked the beginning of 181 pulp adventures for the character who was the forerunner of comic book superheroes (and who served as one of the inspirations for Superman, the Man of Steel.)

Over the next 16 years, Dent would write most of these 181 novels, which are still in print: from 1964 to early 1990, Bantam Books reprinted these adventures in popular paperback editions; and the novels are currently being released by Sanctum Books in a format that resembles the original pulps magazines. As a result, Doc Savage is just as popular today as he was 70 years ago. In fact, proving the character is still a hot commodity, Hollywood has announced plans for a big-budget Doc Savage movie with Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson playing the “Man of Bronze.”

With so many false starts and dead ends, Lester Dent could have lost hope and abandoned his dream. We’re glad he didn’t! “He does not fear bad news [lost opportunities, failed attempts, closed doors, false starts, dead ends, delays, setbacks, self doubt and disappointments of every kind]. He is confident; he trusts in the LORD.” (Psalm 112:7 NET Bible)

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