Easy Open! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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There’s this funny comedy sketch from the old Carol Burnett Show, in which Carol’s character enters her kitchen with several bags of groceries. She’s hungry and she’s looking forward to snacking on some of the treats she just purchased. Unfortunately, she can’t get any of the bags, boxes or cans opened! Over the next 5 minutes, she struggles in vain to get into various packages, and toward the end succeeds only in opening a gash in her thumb! She hurries to apply a band-aid, but … she can’t get into the protective sterile wrapper!

Have you ever experienced anything like this? We have. That is, one of us routinely struggles with opening kitchen items! Yes, one of us is container challenged! A bottle of cola? We need a pair of pliers to unscrew the top! A bag of chips: we need heavy-duty kitchen shears. And you know those wide-mouthed caps that come on those huge plastic bottles of laundry detergent — the caps that double as “wash load” measuring cups — we still haven’t quite figured out that one!

Once, we got this plastic tub of little frozen cream puffs, and we had to read the opening instructions three times before we figured out what the manufacturer was telling us. We located this nearly imperceptible indentation along the edge of the container, and (according to the label) needed to pry up near this indentation in order to “break loose” a tab. Once the tab broke loose, all we had to do was lift the lid at that corner. One big problem: we couldn’t get the plastic to break! We had to go to the garage and get a screwdriver, and then spent several aggravating moments digging and twisting into the edge of the plastic lid. Maybe the real  “cream puffs” were outside the box!

Sometimes we wonder if the engineers who design these cans, bottles, boxes and bags aren’t enjoying a private little joke at our expense. Then we remind ourselves that consumer goods are supposed to be hard to open — and there are good reasons why! Manufacturers want to protect their consumers, for one. They don’t want shoppers easily opening a can of mixed nuts in the aisle at Walmart to see if they’re salty enough to suit their tastes — or to simply satisfy a sudden snack attack — and then putting the container back on the shelf. Manufacturers want to protect their products from being consumed, contaminated, pilfered, and possibly even poisoned! (Yes, that actually happened a couple decades ago.)

Furthermore, cleaning fluids and over-the-counter drugs labeled as “childproof” need to be just that: impervious to the curiosity and tenacity of industrious little kids! The downside of “safe and secure” packaging is that it makes it really tough for some of us to get into a bag of cookies or a box of crackers! We’re all for safety, but does everything have to be so hard to get into?!?!

Grrrr–struggle, struggle–ggrrrrrrr! Oops!

Well, not everything in life is hard to get into. In fact, there’s at least two things we can think of that were actually designed to be easy to get into: the Family of God and, by extension, the Kingdom of Heaven. These two things aren’t even childproof! Jesus said, “…Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 Berean Study Bible)

The instructions for getting into God’s Family are easy to follow. It’s all outlined in the Word of God — and our Heavenly Father even made getting into His Word easy! The Gospel of Salvation through Christ is simple enough that even a child can understand it, because God wants everyone to have easy access to Him.

We may have trouble opening a can of spam, but opening our Bibles is a breeze! We may have trouble getting into a bag of chips, but getting into God’s Spiritual Family is a cinch: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name….” (John 1:12 NASB)

Want God to open the way for you? Just follow these “EASY OPEN” instructions: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved..” (Roman 10:9 NLT)

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Critical Care for Creative People

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As long as someone somewhere is trying to accomplish something, there will be critics. And as long as there are critics in this world, you’ll hear or read negative, even ugly, comments on just about everything under the sun. If you’re a creator, inventor, entrepreneur, athlete, leader, business professional, or ___________ (fill in the blank), your work and quite possibly you yourself, will be criticized at some point. Critics will take special aim at you — whether you deserve it or not. And a few will try to get in some cheap shots. Fact of life. So you need to learn to be bulletproof.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan, like many leaders before him, came under frequent attack while in office. We can imagine the political criticism of his policies, whether legitimate or unfounded — along with all the slurs, jokes, and trivialities that accompanied it — had to get old fast. But Reagan never seemed to get frazzled by his critics. In fact, the media labeled him The Teflon President, because nothing nasty that anybody was spouting seemed to stick. Reagan simply let everything slide off his back.

There are two kinds of criticism: valid and invalid. If you encounter valid criticism (Truth), try to learn from it and improve. “To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring….” (Proverbs 25:12 NLT) However, if you encounter invalid criticism (unwarranted, untrue, or immaterial), take it with a grain of salt. Never allow such barbs to pull you down. Think about the motivations behind invalid criticism:

1. Money: There are professional critics who get paid to “evaluate” books, movies, music, sporting events, food, restaurants, public figures — you name it. The best of these critics try to be honest, unbiased and realistic. The worst are nit-pickers who find great pleasure in exposing the minutest flaws and tearing things apart, usually to be entertaining. Face it, critics get paid to be critical. Many feel if they can’t find something wrong, they’re not doing their job thoroughly. Weigh the value of their OPINIONS, and discard any unjust or unfounded criticism. Then move forward.

2. Jealousy: We need to explain this one? Seriously? Okay, there will always be people who are envious of your accomplishments, especially if THEY aren’t successful. Writing or saying bad things is often an attempt to minimize what you’ve achieved, and justify their own shortcomings. Some people try to lift themselves up by lowering others. Soar above it!

3. Fear: No one wants to be left behind! Your friends and family may fear you’ll succeed, while they won’t. By the way, fear and jealousy are critical collaborators. Negative comments from a fearful person should elicit a degree of compassion. Smile and encourage these cowering critics. Don’t take their words to heart.

4. Competitiveness: You may not know this — heh! — but people are competitive. We’re born that way: a baby will compete for a mother’s attention; children quickly learn games rooted in competition; teenagers compete for friends and acceptance; students for scholastic honors and college placements; and adults in the workplace jockey for career advancements. It’s best to not allow this motivator to rule your life and control your thoughts and actions. Many do, though. So, when they try to minimize your achievements, don’t allow their negative comments to DISTRACT you from your personal goals.

5. Pessimism and negativity: Some people are just plain negative. Some actually have a critical spirit; and these people will always find something to complain about, something to nitpick. Antidote: continue to be positive; let these people pick their nits. You have more important concerns.

There will always be critics in your life, people who don’t want to see you rise higher; who may even hope you fail; people who want you to stay right where you are! Understand the motivations behind invalid criticism.  Love the critic, but let the criticism bounce off you. How did Jesus respond to His critics? For the most part, He didn’t. He stayed focused on His mission and mostly ignored them. Go, and do thou likewise!

“We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.” (2 Corinthians 6:8 NLT)

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