Nothing’s Wasted (Angel in the Kitchen)

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We have a friend who’s a folk artist. A few years back he carved and painted two small refrigerator magnets that have become prized decorations in our kitchen. One is the Planters mascot, Mister Peanut; the other is the Pillsbury Doughboy, Poppin’ Fresh. Both are well made and absolutely nail the characters.

Our friend also likes to cook — Southern-style! Once, he said that whenever he boiled potatoes for mashing, he’d drain off the water and save it. The “broth” contained a lot of the starch from the spuds, as well as the potato flavor that’s currently popular in breads. He’d use this liquid instead of plain water whenever he made biscuits. The biscuits held together better and had a richer flavor!

It’s similar to what we do when boiling chicken for certain dishes: we save the “stock” and use it to flavor soups, casseroles, and our favorite chicken and rice dish. Guests often ask what gives the rice such a savory flavor. We always give the short, direct answer. But the longer, indirect answer is that we don’t waste anything; what many people decant, cut away, and cast out — assuming it to be worthless — is always put to good use in our kitchen. Even fruit and vegetable peelings can be composted.

Another item we save and “repurpose” is stale bread. We use it to make stuffing and bread pudding. Why waste a good thing, even if it appears to be “bad” — just like the cloudy liquid left over from boiled potatoes. In the kitchen, EVERYTHING that’s seemingly of no value, seemingly a “lost cause” or a “complete waste” can serve a good purpose. Savvy cooks never waste. And neither does God.

The savviest “cook” in the kitchen of life is our Heavenly Father, and He never wastes anything. He simply repurposes it for His use. That means the fallout from a failed relationship or business venture will be put to good use in our lives. God may use a painful or embarrassing experience to teach us a truth, help us develop better character, or get us ready for a bigger challenge. Sometimes, He simply wants to get us on the right track again, so that he can fulfill our special destiny.

He uses defeat to make us stronger. He repurposes grief to make us compassionate. He allows closed doors and missed “opportunities” to keep us out of trouble. He doesn’t waste anything.

Whatever we’ve suffered, whatever we’re going through, whatever mistakes we’ve made, God always finds a good use for these “bad” experiences — which seem at the time like “lost causes”; like a “complete waste”! But in God’s kitchen there’s no waste. Every tear you’ve shed, every heartache you’ve endured, every moment of sorrow and suffering, doubt and despair — He’s restructured into something new and more wonderful. We usually don’t know what God is cooking up. Nor can we often see how He’ll repurpose something wrong and destructive into something right and renewed. But His Word explains to us that He continually does so. We can trust Him that our losses, our failures, our sorrows are never wasted. He is truly the God who renews, repurposes, restructures and reuses all we have and have gone through — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“…You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result….” (Genesis 50:20 NASB)

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28 NLT)

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Grounds for Offense? (Angel in the Kitchen)

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For some time now, we’ve faithfully related all of the wit and wisdom we’ve gleaned from the eccentric collection of kitchen tools and appliances inhabiting our humble home. Each of these “kitchen angels” has a unique message to announce — about life, love and relationships! We’ve only to “listen” for it. For instance, while dicing onions, Mack the Knife taught us the importance of knowing what you’re cut out for in this wonderful world; and the onion … as we tearfully chopped the poor guy to pieces … gave us new insights into human relationships. No, really!

Mr. Keurig, who daily brews delicious mugs of coffee while shooshing, sighing, and flashing friendly little messages, shared with us the benefits of finding your own unique voice, and … well, the list goes on. Speaking of Mr. Keurig, a relative newcomer to our kitchen, it’s high time we introduced another, older member of the family — one who’s been with us for many years, a veteran of countless culinary campaigns, who’s valiantly served us … coffee by the potful!

He’s generally unassuming and soft-spoken, the strong silent type. You know, more a gadget of deeds than words. But now he wants his “say”! Not to worry, however, because given the very nature of this guy, he’ll never blurt out anything inappropriate. Of this we’re certain, and we’ll explain why. But first, heeeere’s Mister Coffee!

Hey, tough guy. Take a bow, while we discuss your sterling character!

Mister Coffee is in the Kitchen Angel Reserves. We only call upon his services for those really big jobs that Mr. Keurig can’t handle all by himself. Now, we’re not minimizing the efforts of Komrade Keurig; after all, he’s the fastest java brewer on the block. (Shh! Please don’t let him know that we live in the woods and our nearest neighbor is a five-minute walk down the lane!) And he can brew a cup of hazelnut coffee in one minute, and a cup of mocha the very next! But sometimes, when we’re hosting guests, we need VOLUME more than variety.

Never fear, Mister Coffee’s here! He can produce up to 12 cups of joe faster than we can ask our numerous guests, “Cream and sugar?” And his potent brew is always delicious — except for one occasion when we forgot to insert his special paper filter. Because Mister Coffee’s filter wasn’t in place, we got a nasty-looking sludge that was part coffee and part disgusting grounds! True, there was a form of coffee present in this thick black liquid; but no one would be able to benefit from it, because of the nasty, bitter grounds that were present. Anyone attempting to drink this noxious brew would have choked on it!

Mister Coffee gazed up at us from his spot on the kitchen counter, and sighed in exasperation. We knew exactly what he was trying to communicate: his filter absolutely must be in place, or what comes through will not be palatable! No matter how fresh the blend, no matter how stimulating the brew, if the stuff isn’t properly filtered, then no one will benefit from it. In fact, anyone consuming it will probably get sick!

This truth applies not just to Mister Coffee, but also to each and every one of us.

In life, we often hear statements like “She has no filter to her brain” or “He’d do well to filter his mouth”! We usually get such pronouncements right after someone makes a comment that is hurtful or embarrassing. Young children, for instance, don’t seem to develop a filter until much later, and are prone to say things which would make their parents blush. Quite forgivable, though, because they don’t know any better. (But we do.) So parents should teach their children that some questions are too personal, and some observations are too embarrassing — or just plain inappropriate. Learning to develop a “filter” is part of the maturing process.

In a spiritual sense, our Heavenly Father desires that we, too, “grow up” and develop a “filter.” He wants us to apply a Godly characteristic that will filter our words and deeds, while blocking the wrongful attitudes and actions that can leave people with a bitter taste. What is this filter? The Apostle Paul states,  “…Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ….” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT).

Having the filter of love properly in place will keep us from blurting out the first thing that pops into our heads, which is usually the wrong thing
to say. The filter of love will ensure that our conversation is always refreshing to those who hear it — that our words are potent but palatable, beneficial and not bitter, invigorating and not insulting. In fact, without the filter of love, our speech is a lot like what Mister Coffee brewed up the day we forgot his filter: a noxious and obnoxious blend of nastiness that benefits no one.

But don’t take our word for it! The Bible states, “[If I] could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.” (1 Corinthians 13:1 TLB) Noise is defined as harsh, unpleasant, and unwanted sounds; and the term comes from the same Latin root word for NAUSEA. Yes, without love to remove the bitter “grounds,” we can indeed sicken people with our speech.

So, when conversing with your spouse, or a child, or a friend, or a coworker, make sure your love filter is in place! And whenever you’re about to confront anyone regarding an issue or a problem that’s affecting you or someone you care about — whether in the area of human relationships, a job, a faith community, or life in general — please pray first! Ask God to help you speak the truth in love; to remove any feelings of resentment, self-righteousness or selfish motives; and to filter out any hateful, arrogant, or demeaning words. Don’t give the world “grounds” for offense: more bitterness, more discontentment, more prejudice, more division (including separation and divorce); or an easy excuse to neglect the truth.

“Love is patient [and] kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. …It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

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