Toast! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Feeling a bit on the crummy side today? Perhaps you’ve even begun to feel that life itself is rather crummy. You know, crummy weather, crummy traffic, crummy coworkers?

angel cover v5As we celebrate the third year of our web-series Angel in the Kitchen, we’re reminded of a valuable lesson we learned … from our toaster! Yes, just about everything we encounter in the kitchen (foods, cooking, and appliances) seems to help illustrate truths about life, love, and relationships. And our faithful little toaster is no different. We use the word faithful, because if we were to call him our “Brave Little Toaster,” Walt Disney Studios could sue us. And we’d be miserable begging on a street corner. No, really!

Besides, “faithful” truly fits our toaster. He’s waiting for us, there in the kitchen, each morning. Always ready to serve us our daily bread at the flip of a lever — golden brown, never burnt. Always cheerful with a positive attitude — at least, that’s how we choose to imagine him.

Most of the time. Some mornings, however, it’s as though our toaster woke up on the wrong side of the counter. He has this stinking attitude, as though something’s smoldering inside. Oh yeah, and on such mornings he apparently takes his bad day out on us, by burning our toast! We dare not say anything, though, because he might start flinging sliced bread in our faces.

What’s his problem? Clearly our toaster is feeling a bit crummy. Let’s define “crummy”: miserable or wretched; shabby, inferior, or … even worthless!

Hey, li’l guy, you’re not inferior — you’re wonderful! So what’s got you down?

He’s not talking! So we need to use some toaster psychology. That’s when we remember that another, older definition of “crummy” is “full of crumbs”! Yes, that’s it! Whenever our toaster starts to smoke and emit the smell of burnt bread, we remove the tray from his base and, sure enough, it’s filled with crumbs!

An appliance garage similar to ours, inhabited by mild-mannered appliances.

In order to keep our faithful toaster happy and performing at the top of his game, we have to periodically shake off the crumbs that accumulate around his metallic feet — er, base! We follow this step with a gentle wipe-down of his tray, and then return him to the appliance garage located atop the kitchen counter. Wait a sec. Please excuse us. “The Masked Toaster” insists we call it the Avengers Tower — headquarters of that famed team of culinary crime fighters, Captain Can-Opener, The Mighty Thor (our blender), and Iron Griddle! (No, we are NOT looney! But our appliances ARE a bit eccentric!)

Getting back to what we asked you at the beginning of this article, “Feeling a bit on the crummy side today?” If so, understand that it’s not just toasters that can accumulate crumbs. In life, we too need to periodically shake off the crumbs of hurts, disappointments, and offenses; which can pile up and keep us from performing at the top of our game. We won’t “function” properly, or accomplish anything, all because we’re too busy fuming over the things in life that didn’t work out, or just don’t seem fair, or right!

When you allow the sometimes crummy comedowns, consequences, and circumstances of life to pile up in your heart, these things begin to smolder inside. Soon you’ll be “burning up” emotionally; “smoking” over past mistakes, hurts, and disappointments. And, like our toaster, you’ll start stinking in your thinking. Follow that darkened path and you’ll end up as toast!

Things don’t always work out as we planned. And we don’t always get what we want. But, to quote a pseudo-Chinese proverb, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Furthermore, at one time or another, we encounter “crumbs” in the form people who are uncaring, insensitive, and downright rude. In fact, crumb can be defined as an untrustworthy or contemptible person! And — even when interacting with dear friends and family — we can slowly accumulate the crumbs of offenses, which can lead to unforgiveness and eventually bitterness; which can burn us up emotionally! When this happens, we’re toast!

The disciples of Christ faced this problem, as they travelled from place to place spreading the Gospel. Some towns accepted them and extended hospitality. Others rudely rejected the disciples and their message. We can imagine this rejection was both bewildering and upsetting. Perhaps it even angered these men. Who could blame them? Have you ever tried to bless someone with an act of kindness, and received nothing in return but ingratitude and scorn? Well, sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Jesus understood how quickly and easily the crumbs of offenses can pile up; and He didn’t want His disciples “smoking” over these social slights. So He admonished His followers, “If people do not welcome you, leave … and shake the dust off your feet….” (Luke 9:5 NIV) Jesus used the analogy of “dust” to represent rejection, mistreatment, and disappointments. But He could have just as well said, “Shake off the crumbs!” Of course, at the time, no one would have understood what in the world He meant — because no one owned a toaster 2,000 years ago!

Regardless, God doesn’t want you burning up inside, fuming over people who’ve wronged you, and stinking in your thinking! That means you can’t allow the “crumbs” to get inside your spirit. So, when hurts come, or things just don’t go as you planned or hoped for, shake the crumbs off your feet and keep moving forward! “Pursue peace with all, …lest any root of bitterness springing up should trouble you….” (Hebrews 12:14-15 BLB)

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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, had been raised in a very different and somewhat limited environment. She was used to certain foods and routines, and she was more used to being confined long hours in a crate than to having the run of the house. 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 refried beans 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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