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 Pleasing Aroma! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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As previously discussed, people are drawn to pleasing aromas. The smell of fresh bread baking in the oven will draw friends and family to your kitchen like bees to honey. And know what? There’s one very pleasing fragrance that attracts our Heavenly Father. It’s the irresistible aroma of PRAISE!

When we thank God and exalt Him in our words and music, we are in a sense offering up a sacrifice to Him: “the sacrifice of praise.” (Psalm 50:23; Jeremiah 33:11; Hebrews 13:15) Sacrifices made in Old Testament times gave off a fragrance that God described as “the pleasing aroma of your offering.” (Leviticus 26:31) As such an offering, our praise smells absolutely delicious to our Lord; and it draws Him near to us, the source of the “pleasing aroma”!

Psalm 22:3 teaches us that God “inhabits” or “dwells amid” the praises of His people. When we honor God with our songs of praise and worship, He quickly joins the festivities!

Having God close by is definitely a good thing! Besides, it’s only right that we honor the One who blessed us not only with life, but also with eternal life! “Praise the Lord! How good to sing  praises to our God! How delightful and how fitting! (Psalm 147:1 NLT)

But exactly how often should we praise the Lord? “I will praise the Lord at all times [in every situation]. I will constantly speak His praises.” (Psalm 34:1 NLT) King David, the Psalmist, gave us an example of this: “I will praise You seven times a day because all your regulations are just.” (Psalm 119:164 NLT)

What should we praise God for? “…With my whole heart, I will praise His holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for Me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and … fills my life with good things.” (Psalm 103:1-5 NLT)

Where should we praise God? Wherever we are: at home and in school; on the job and at play — and NOT just in our houses of worship. The definitive answer, however, is “in His presence”; and He’s everywhere! “Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise” (Psalm 95:2 ESV)

Under which conditions should we praise God? In what circumstances? Only when things are going our way, right? WRONG!! When we praise God in spite of our situation in life, despite adversity and heartache, we really are making a “sacrifice of praise”! God realizes this, and He finds the aroma of our offering that much sweeter.

“…Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise; the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV)

Facing a challenge? Struggling through a bad situation? Or are you just hurting today? Praise God anyway — through your pain and tears. Praise directed at God will take the focus off you and your problems and put it on God, the problem solver; the miracle worker; the God of all comfort. And God will join you wherever you are. He’ll sit by your side, work on your behalf, and raise your spirits!

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