Beneath the Crust (Angel in the Kitchen)

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It’s obviously a matter of personal taste and preference: we love a loaf of crusty French bread — crispy on the outside, soft on the inside — and one of us (The better half?) absolutely adores the end slices from a loaf of bread! The extra crusty end piece from a loaf is known as the “heel.” (And, no, in this case, “You are NOT what you eat!”) But apparently, there are those among us who don’t particularly care for the crust, the more chewy part of a daily baked essential.

We may like our bread crust, but we can still sympathize with those who don’t. We can also remember a time from childhood when we mostly ate around the crust, leaving a pathetic-looking brown ring of over-cooked dough on our plates. Sometimes, however, we’d prevail upon our parents to neatly trim away the crust on our jelly sandwiches, creating a nearly perfect square of tender, strawberry- or grape-flavored goodness!

Spoiled? No doubt. But for most kids, downing the crust from a sandwich is almost as daunting as swallowing multivitamins the size of horse pills! But it’s not just kids who like having the crust cut off their sandwiches. Many adults do, too! Which is why several companies market “crust removers.” (Sounds euphemistic for a mafia hitman.) Most of these gadgets look like big square cookie cutters, and come with names like “The De-Cruster” or “The Krustbuster.”

Removing the crust from a sandwich results in an almost magical transformation: a cheese sandwich with the crust ON is a … well, a sandwich; something suitable for a picnic in the park, or a snack while watching TV. Cut away the tough crust, though, and suddenly your cheese sandwich is respectable enough to mingle with the guests at a wedding reception or other dressy occasion. A sandwich with the crust removed is transformed into a … canopay(??) … uh, canopy … canopoly…. Sigh! A fancy little finger food fit for VIPs!

Sara Lee must recognize this truth: the company began marketing their “Crustless Bread” in 2009. (So now, you can have your cake and eat it, too; which never really made sense to us, because who in the world buys cake unless they intend to eat it?) And chefs continue to devise recipes that call for the crust that people are cutting off their cana— their sandwiches. Our favorite one is for bread pudding, so feel free to mail us your excised crust.

All this crusty commentary is to make a point: some people want this dry, chewy exterior removed. It’s not a matter of being finicky; it’s a matter of preference.

God likes the crust removed, and no one in their right mind should question the Creator of the Universe concerning good taste! God makes sandwiches? Not that we know of, but He does make people. And then He trims away the crust.

In baking, the exterior of the dough comes in contact with more heat, and hence forms a thick crust that’s dryer, harder and tougher. In life, people take the heat of failures and rejection, mistakes and disappointments, pain and grief. People generally form a thick crust of fear and mistrust, selfishness and self-sufficiency, and often just plain grumpy unsociability! This protective crust is spiritually dry — not to mention tough and hardened. It insulates people from the world at large. It can prevent us from ever reaching the soft hearts buried within!

Ever meet someone with a crusty personality? “Crusty” is synonymous with irritable, cantankerous, bad-tempered, grouchy, snappish, and downright ornery. Or, to sum up crusty in a single word: uncivil. God created humans as relational beings. We were designed to enjoy the company of others, and to benefit from a close personal relationship with our Creator. So, the last thing God wants is for us to be crusted over by bad habits and attitudes, or just plain stinking thinking.

God transforms us by trimming away the crust. We slowly change (both naturally and supernaturally) from being an ordinary sandwich filled with sin and error … to an extraordinary canapé that’s tender and easy for others to partake! (Ha! Yeah, we actually can spell it.)

Next time you sense that God is cutting away some of the more crusty parts of your life, relax and rejoice–He’s preparing you for an exclusive gathering in His Kingdom!

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts … during the time of testing in the wilderness…. But encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:7-8, 11 NIV)

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Cool it! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Steam burns can be bad. When steam hits flesh, it goes from a gaseous state back to a liquid state. This is a chemical change that releases energy in the form of more HEAT. That’s why steam cleaning in so effective, and why steam burns are really bad. Steam releases heat that penetrates deep beneath the skin. And it can actually do damage under the surface. On top, the skin is inflamed, but often the wound is much deeper. That’s why it’s important to apply ice to a steam burn and cool the flesh quickly. Ice soothes, but more importantly, it also dissipates all that heat.

We recently compared people to tea kettles. Just as the water in a kettle gets hotter and hotter, building up internal pressure until it finally vents its steam, people frequently allow the pressures of life to build until they can’t handle any more — and they suddenly have to vent! They erupt like a volcano, spouting scalding emotions and often caustic comments. Sooner or later we all have volcanic venting, but as we explained, our more violent eruptions can be avoided by letting off steam with the Lord, a little each day: spend time reading God’s Word and talk to the Lord about the pressures you’re facing. God longs to hear every little detail of every little problem in our lives, and letting off steam in His direction is much safer and far more productive. He always has the answers and once we get things off our chests, we’re calmer and better equipped to interact with others.

To avoid spouting off, daily vent with the Lord, cool your head and calm your nerves with God’s written promises, have the quiet time you need each day to prevent the pressures of life from building up inside you. But what do you do when someone vents at you?  Yes, steam burns hurt, and the damage often penetrates deep! When people suddenly vent in our direction, the eruption of frustration and anger can be pretty scalding. Anger produces angry words. And misery really does like company, so hurting people often say hurtful things. It’s important to remember not to take it personally when someone suddenly vents at you. No, you don’t deserve such treatment — who does? But remember, the person has lost emotional control. He or she may say things they don’t even mean to say, things they don’t even believe to be true, but again, out of stress, frustration, anger, hate, fear, disappointment, jealousy — name your poison — the tongue can become a wicked and deadly weapon!

Try to avoid steam burns in the first place. Never shake a kettle when it’s starting to boil inside. That’s often the reverse of what people do. If they realize something’s bothering someone, a coworker, for instance, they will frequently try to stir things up even further. Never poke a hornet’s nest with a stick, no matter how long the stick or how fast you can run. Why would you, anyway?

If you’re minding your own business and get caught in the blast of venting steam anyway, then please remember, IT’S NOT PERSONAL! These things happen. Treat an upset person the same way you’d want to be treated whenever you — and you eventually will — suddenly vent. Do what you can to cool down the situation. “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)

Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing you can say, good or bad, that will help the situation. Sometimes distraught people don’t want (or need) to hear your platitudes. In these situations, just keep your mouth shut and wait for the steam to dissipate. Keeping quiet may actually help the person cool off quicker. Now, not saying anything also means that you refrain from communicating non-verbal messages using your face and body language. No smirking, no eye rolling, no Mister-Spock-eyebrow-lifting. Be sympathetic. “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 NLT)

Did you get a steam burn from someone you love, respect, or otherwise care about? Put some “ice” on it. Quickly, before the heat penetrates more deeply! Cool the hurt and soothe the pain by taking it to the Lord in prayer.

“Come with your wounded spirit! Come with your broken heart! Whatever, then, be your present situation, seek the promised help of the Holy Spirit. He has a healing balm for all….(John MacDuff, The Throne of Grace, 1818-1895)

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