The Secret Ingredient (Angel in the Kitchen)

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To quote the Pillsbury Doughboy, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven”! That’s the idea behind the recipe for Amish Friendship Bread, a sweet, stirred quick-bread with a cake-like texture and a mild cinnamon flavor. The reason it’s called friendship bread is because the recipe calls for a cup of sourdough starter (a mixture of yeast, flour, sugar and milk) which is shared among friends in much the same way as a chain letter — only with tastier results. Here’s how it works:

Someone first adds a package of dry yeast (dissolved in a little warm water) to one cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. The yeast mixture begins to ferment, but for the yeast to remain active, the mixture must be “fed” every 5 days by adding another cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. On the tenth day, the starter is ready for use, but there’s FIVE cups of the stuff! Solution: use one cup of starter to bake a loaf of delicious bread, give away three cups of starter to friends (who then begin their own 10-day cycle), and save the last cup of starter to begin the next cycle. So, every tenth day, a person either has to bake 4 loaves of friendship bread, or connect with 3 new friends who don’t already have starter. Obviously, the process can continue forever, and eventually the starter spreads through entire communities. A sweet idea!

No one’s absolutely sure who started this tradition. Elizabeth Coblentz, a member of the Old Order Amish and the author of The Amish Cook, writes that true Amish friendship bread is “just sourdough bread that is passed around to the sick and needy.” That’s still pretty sweet. Tuesday we shared God’s recipe for Keeping Your Priorities Straight. It boiled down to Love the LORD … with all your heart, soul, and mind (which is the first and greatest commandment) and then love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-38) Clearly the secret ingredient in God’s favorite recipe is LOVE. And as we mentioned in a previous post, love makes everything in life taste better.

Love is the “starter” for God’s special brand of “friendship bread.” He commands us to share it until it’s spread throughout our world. In the verse above, specifically the second half of Keeping our Priorities Straight, God commands us to love others to the same degree we love ourselves. That’s some pretty intense affection, folks. It reminds us of what we traditionally refer to as The Golden Rule — which is a distillation of Matthew 7:12 (GOD’S WORD): “Always do for other people everything you want them to do for you. That is [the meaning of] Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets.”

In other words, if you want people to be kind to you, show you respect, and be sensitive to your needs, then you must also do these same things for others — be they black, white, red, or polka-dotted; male, female, young, old, rich, poor, or what have you. We are never closer to God or more like Him than when we love others: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16 NLT)

It’s not always easy. We can all be a little unloveable at times. So we need to try to understand what other people are going through. We need to try to see things from their perspective. And when we honestly disagree with someone, we need to do so lovingly and without disrespecting the person. “Speak the truth in love….” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) Your homework for today is to read 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter”; then go out and share some starter — LOVE!

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Painter of Moonlight! (Encouragement for Creators)

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Reflection on the Thames, Westminster, 1880

You’ve probably never heard of John Atkinson Grimshaw, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work. His evocative Victorian landscapes are frequently reprinted as posters, or used to illustrate the covers of classic mystery novels. Today, among those in the know, Grimshaw is the acknowledged master of the Nocturne, a style of painting that depicts night scenes, or subjects veiled in twilight. James Abbott McNeill Whistler — well known for one of the world’s most famous paintings, Whistler’s Mother — once remarked, “I considered myself the inventor of Nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures.”

Boar Lane, Leeds, 1881
A Street at Night

Grimshaw created night-scapes of amazingly accurate color and lighting. He gave his work such vivid detail and realism, that it’s been described as “sharply focused, almost photographic.” Grimshaw frequently depicted city street scenes and moonlit views of the docks in London and Glasgow; but he managed to capture only the charm, and none of the grit and grime of the Victorian Industrial Age.

On Hampstead Hill, 1881

On Hampstead Hill is considered one of Grimshaw’s finest works, a night-scape that exemplifies his skill at capturing the mood of the passing of twilight into night. So adept was Grimshaw at painting lighting effects that he was able to capture both the mood and the minutest details of a scene. He could capture the seasons of the year, or the type of weather; and his “paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth….” His work was popular with London’s middle class, and it sold well and quickly. When you look at his vivid lighting effects, you may understand why we like to think of Grimshaw as the Thomas Kinkade of his day.

Liverpool from Wapping, 1885

Not much is known of Grimshaw’s life. Unlike most painters of his time, Grimshaw did not leave behind any journals or letters. We do know that he was born September 6, 1836 in Leeds. In 1856 he married, and in 1861, at the age of 24, he shocked his parents with the news he was giving up a stable and well-paying job as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway, to become a painter. And he struggled for eight years, painting birds and fruit, before he developed his unique style and found success.

In the Golden Gloaming

On the back of one of his canvases, Dulce Domum (1855), Grimshaw wrote, “mostly painted under great difficulties.” But John Atkinson Grimshaw wanted to pursue art, and he was willing to pay his dues. We present his lovely work today, to move you and inspire you. If you’re a novelist or a composer or an illustrator, it’s “visual music” to create by.

Southwark Bridge and St. Paul’s

“There is a splendor of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars….” (1 Corinthians 15:41 HCSB)

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