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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Faithfully Fueled Flames of Sparky! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Over the past year we’ve introduced our readers to all the “angels” in our kitchen: those appliances, gadgets and food items which continue to teach us lessons about life, love and relationships. We wrote, among other things, about how our toaster can “talk”; the call oangelic-pop-up-toaster-smiling-with-wings-and-halo-emoji-102714f the Keurig; and how Fridgey (our refrigerater) enjoys the nightlife. These articles have been collected as a softcover book published by Ravens’ Reads, and a second volume is in the works. 

Now we’d like to share a little more about Sparky, our gas range! (Yes, we can be silly at times! What’s your excuse?) Sparky is faithful; even in the midst of a prolonged power outage, our trustworthy kitchen friend didn’t let us down! Please read on.

One fateful Christmas Eve, over a decade ago, Virginia and several surrounding states endured a massive ice storm. The day before, we had prepared a variety of tempting treats to enjoy throughout the holidays, including stuffed mushrooms. All our goodies were crammed into Fridgey, awaiting a bit of rewarming on Christmas day. But on the morning of the 24th, we awoke to the gunshot-loud crackings of tree limbs breaking under the weight of a thick coating of ice. And because we live in the woods of New Kent, barely 30 feet from dense stands of trees in every direction, we weren’t in the least suprised to learn the power was out — a frequent pitfall of having powerlines near trees.

Turned out that power outage affected thousands of homes spread across several states — and in more isolated areas (that would be us) the outage lasted weeks!! But we managed. We transferred our gourmet goodies to a big cooler, and on Christmas night, huddled about the fireplace, sitting in a room illuminated by hurricane lamps, we enjoyed a hot meal that included stuffed mushrooms! How did we heat them?

Well, Sparky is fueled by a huge propane tank behind our house. The local propane company keeps the tank topped off, so we’ve never run out of fuel. And the beauty of propane is that the pressure of the gas forces the fuel through the line and into our home, where it feeds our water-heater and Sparky.

All we had to do was turn on the gas knob, light the flame with a match, and Sparky came to life. We gently warmed the stuffed mushrooms and other foods in a covered skillet, and enjoyed a gourmet meal in the midst of a semi-disaster! So, in a pinch, our faithful Sparky came through, because he’s powered by a dependable source of fuel — and the flow never stops!

In life, those who believe in and follow Christ are also powered by a dependable, neverending source of fuel. It’s called God’s Holy Spirit. When He walked the earth, Jesus said, “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever … the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive….” (John 14:16-17 ESV) The word helper comes from a Greek term that conveys the ideas of “advising, encouraging, comforting and strengthening”: the basic survival gear needed to get through tough times.

With the power of the Holy Spirit we can make it through all of life’s little disasters, whether they’re icestorms or job layoffs or broken relationships. But we need to be careful to maintain the flow of the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. There are certain things that can block the natural flow of this “fuel”; thoughts and actions that can crimp the gas-line, so to speak.

“For you have been called to live in freedom…. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. …But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. …Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.” (Galatians 5:13-17 NLT)

Keep the supply lines open: read and think on God’s Word; talk to your Heavenly Father (praying about your fears, weaknesses and concerns, asking for His guidance, and always thanking Him for all He’s done for you); and stay connected to other believers. When you do, you’ll always have fresh supply of God’s power and influence flowing into your life. You’ll be able to weather any storm … and even dine on gourmet stuffed mushrooms while you’re waiting for it to pass!

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