What Never Gets Reduced? (Angel in the Kitchen)

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In today’s economy it’s important to stretch every dollar. So, if you’re like us, when shopping for food and other household items, you try to be thrifty. We take advantage of advertised specials and try to stock up on the things we frequently use when they’re on sale. We also redeem coupons. But we save the most money by shopping at the “Reduced” section of our supermarket. We find canned and boxed goods, bakery items and meats, at almost half off the regular retail price. Why are these items marked down so much?

Most of these items are damaged. Or rather the outer packaging is damaged. Boxes tend to get battered during shipping. Cans suffer dents and dings. Baked goods such as sliced bread can get a little smushed — probably from shoppers squeezing the loaves to check for freshness. Cakes and pies sometimes crumble about the edges. Apples and oranges pick up a bruise or two from being jostled about and bumped by other fruit. Meats go from crimson to dull brown, because after sitting a couple days under the bright fluorescent lights, the food coloring they’re injected with starts to fade. Really, instead of calling it the “Reduced Items” section, the manager could rename it the “Damaged Goods” section.

Now mind you, there’s nothing actually wrong with these items. The bruised fruit is just as fresh and nourishing as the unbruised. The boxes and cans no longer have that “perfect” appearance,  either, but the food inside is just as tasty. The meats may look too old, but they’re not. And the baked goods may look like they’ve been knocked around a bit, but they’re still delicious! So why are they reduced?

Because these items look a little worse for wear, a little beat, many people don’t want them. Others will accept them but — because they view these “slightly damaged” items as “second best” — ONLY if the price is right. There’s nothing wrong with these goods, but shoppers have nonetheless devalued them.

Okay, why’d we write four whole paragraphs about reduced groceries? To make a point: many of us today may be feeling like “damaged goods”! True, life has a way of dealing some blows; we start collecting “dings” and “dents.” We get battered by circumstances, bruised by our mistakes and failures. We get smushed when others try to squeeze us into doing things their way. We get categorized as being too old (or too something). We may be feeling a bit crumbled about the edges, and a little beat. Maybe we’re feeling like we’re second best, because some not-very-savvy people have devalued us.

We don’t need to feel this way. Our “packaging” may look a little worse for wear, but in God’s economy each and every one of us is priceless! Some of us may have failed in marriage or business; some of us may be dealing with a wayward child, or battling an addiction. ALL of us have made mistakes. But God doesn’t relegate us to a “reduced value” section. In society we may LOOK like damaged goods, but we are NOT!  God sees beyond our less than perfect lives. He sees the potential inside each of us. Which is why He gives us all a second chance — and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and a … you get the point. God’s “mercy endures forever”! (1 Chronicles 16:34 GOD’S WORD) “…His lovingkindness is everlasting”! (Psalm 136:26 NASB)

“Don’t judge by … appearance…. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

You make mistakes, but you’re not a mistake!  You may have failed, but you’re not a failure!  You may have lost, but you’re not a loser!  Thank God, we don’t need to be perfect to please our Heavenly Father. We just need to be faithful. (Matthew 25:21)

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A Little Teamwork Can Be a Lifesaver (Encouragement for Creators)

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The cool thing about creators is that we find them in a variety of occupations. Creators aren’t just writers, artists, actors and filmmakers. Chefs create and cook new culinary masterpieces. Crafters design and assemble unique works of art. Inventors and entrepreneurs create new devices, processes and services, and then find new ways of marketing these. In fact, there are as many types and examples of inspired creativity as there are facets on a diamond — or flavors in a pack of Life Savers.

Clarence Crane created the first Life Savers candy in 1912. Not much is known about the Cleveland, Ohio, candy maker, except that he was the father of yet another creator, the famed American Poet Hart Crane. We do know, however, that Clarence Crane invented Life Savers as a “summer candy” that would resist melting. His circular mints were molded to resemble the flotation devices used at beach resorts. Crane didn’t own machinery needed to mold his “Pep-O-Mint Life Savers,” so he contracted a pill manufacturer to press the mints into shape.

In 1913, Crane transferred his “diamond” to Edward Noble, a New Yorker who would further “polish the gem.” Noble bought Crane’s Life Savers formula for $2,900. Noble started a company that had the capability to mix and mold the candies. He also devised a better way to package Life Savers to prevent the candies from going stale. His company hand-wrapped rolls of Life Savers in foil and then affixed paper labels. The process proved to be labor intensive, but in 1919 Noble’s brother Robert, an engineer, developed machinery that completely automated the wrapping process.

A year later, Robert Noble continued to be a creative force in the company. He expanded on his younger brother’s entrepreneurial vision by first introducing newspaper ads and then expanding the company by building larger, more streamlined manufacturing facilities. He also began introducing a spectrum of colorful new flavors.

In 1921 the Nobles created fruit-flavored Life Savers, which were translucent, almost crystalline in appearance. In 1925, the company further improved its manufacturing process and devised a method of actually putting a hole in the center of the candies. The original chalk-white mints were simply molded to resemble lifesaver flotation rings. The new Life Savers were introduced as the “fruit drop with the hole”!

The Nobles continued to promote their candy by creating special box displays that allowed LifeSavers to be positioned next to the cash registers in cigar stores, drug stores, barber shops, and restaurants. They held the price at 5 cents  for years, encouraging shoppers to trade that nickel in their change for a roll of Life Savers. To say the candies were popular is an understatement: during the Second World War, the little Life Savers were a heat-resistant favorite candy among the Armed Forces, and a sweet reminder of life at home. And to make sure there were enough Life Savers to go around, competing candy companies willingly donated their own sugar rations to meet the production demands of the Nobles’ company! That’s teamwork!

Great ideas and savvy innovation are simply facets of the “creative diamond”! One creator may unearth a “gem”; another cuts it; another polishes it. You can be creative, either by inventing, creating, innovating or facilitating. “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-8 NLT)

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