Faithfully Fueled Flames of Sparky! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Over the past year we’ve introduced our readers to all the “angels” in our kitchen: those appliances, gadgets and food items which continue to teach us lessons about life, love and relationships. We wrote, among other things, about how our toaster can “talk”; the call oangelic-pop-up-toaster-smiling-with-wings-and-halo-emoji-102714f the Keurig; and how Fridgey (our refrigerater) enjoys the nightlife. These articles have been collected in two softcover books.

Now we’d like to share a little more about Sparky, our gas range! (Yes, we can be silly at times! What’s your excuse?) Sparky is faithful; even in the midst of a prolonged power outage, our trustworthy kitchen friend didn’t let us down! Please read on.

One fateful Christmas Eve, over a decade ago, Virginia and several surrounding states endured a massive ice storm. The day before, we had prepared a variety of tempting treats to enjoy throughout the holidays, including stuffed mushrooms. All our goodies were crammed into Fridgey, awaiting a bit of rewarming on Christmas day. But on the morning of the 24th, we awoke to the gunshot-loud crackings of tree limbs breaking under the weight of a thick coating of ice. And because we live in the woods of New Kent, barely 30 feet from dense stands of trees in every direction, we weren’t in the least suprised to learn the power was out — a frequent pitfall of having powerlines near trees.

Turned out that power outage affected thousands of homes spread across several states — and in more isolated areas (that would be us) the outage lasted weeks!! But we managed. We transferred our gourmet goodies to a big cooler, and on Christmas night, huddled about the fireplace, sitting in a room illuminated by hurricane lamps, we enjoyed a hot meal that included stuffed mushrooms! How did we heat them?

Well, Sparky is fueled by a huge propane tank behind our house. The local propane company keeps the tank topped off, so we’ve never run out of fuel. And the beauty of propane is that the pressure of the gas forces the fuel through the line and into our home, where it feeds our water-heater and Sparky.

All we had to do was turn on the gas knob, light the flame with a match, and Sparky came to life. We gently warmed the stuffed mushrooms and other foods in a covered skillet, and enjoyed a gourmet meal in the midst of a semi-disaster! So, in a pinch, our faithful Sparky came through, because he’s powered by a dependable source of fuel — and the flow never stops!

In life, those who believe in and follow Christ are also powered by a dependable, neverending source of fuel. It’s called God’s Holy Spirit. When He walked the earth, Jesus said, “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever … the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive….” (John 14:16-17 ESV) The word helper comes from a Greek term that conveys the ideas of “advising, encouraging, comforting and strengthening”: the basic survival gear needed to get through tough times.

With the power of the Holy Spirit we can make it through all of life’s little disasters, whether they’re icestorms or job layoffs or broken relationships. But we need to be careful to maintain the flow of the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. There are certain things that can block the natural flow of this “fuel”; thoughts and actions that can crimp the gas-line, so to speak.

“For you have been called to live in freedom…. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. …But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. …Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.” (Galatians 5:13-17 NLT)

Keep the supply lines open: read and think on God’s Word; talk to your Heavenly Father (praying about your fears, weaknesses and concerns, asking for His guidance, and always thanking Him for all He’s done for you); and stay connected to other believers. When you do, you’ll always have fresh supply of God’s power and influence flowing into your life. You’ll be able to weather any storm … and even dine on gourmet stuffed mushrooms while you’re waiting for it to pass!

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And To Think (How) It Happened…. (Encouragement for Creators)

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Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, he worked variously as a cartoonist for magazines such as Vanity Fair and Life, or as an advertising artist for companies that included Standard Oil and General Electric. But Ted Geisel envisioned using his talents in an entirely different way.

Ted was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was the grandson of German immigrants. Ted’s father managed the family brewery, and had it not been for Prohibition during the 1920s, the creative young man might have ended up making good German beer. But instead, after the brewery was forced to close, Ted enrolled at the University of Oxford, studied art, and became a successful illustrator. Despite this success, however, Ted wanted to write books.

In 1936, while returning from an ocean voyage to Europe, Ted got the idea for a children’s book. He made notes and composed lines of verse while standing at the ship’s rail. After arriving back home in New York City, he spent the next six months writing and illustrating his first book — and rewriting it; and sweating over every little detail of the words and pictures.

How many times do I have to tell you? No. No. NO!!!

When he finished A Story That No One Can Beat, he tucked the original manuscript beneath his arm and started making the rounds at all the major publishing houses. From 1936 through much of 1937, Ted showed his illustrated story to 27 different book editors — none of whom apparently felt it was A Story That No One Can Beat. All 27 rejected Ted’s book. And they all gave essentially the same reasons: your book is “too different” from other children’s material; fantasy doesn’t sell these days; and worst of all, a story told in verse is simply out of vogue! The editors also complained that Ted’s book contained “no moral or message,” and they didn’t care to publish anything NOT written with the aim of “transforming children into good citizens.”

Ted repeatedly argued, “What’s wrong with kids having fun reading without being preached to?” His words, though, fell upon deaf ears.

After his 27th rejection, Ted tucked his tattered manuscript beneath his arm once again, and headed home. Depressed, frustrated, and more than just a little angry, he intended to burn the book when he reached his apartment. But along the way, he bumped into an old friend. The man asked him, “What’s that under your arm?”

“…A book that no one wants to publish,” came the answer. “I’m lugging it home to burn.”

Ted’s friend explained that not three hours earlier he’d been made an editor at Vanguard Press. In fact, he said, “We’re standing outside my new office.” He then invited Ted up to his office so he could look over the manuscript. Once inside, the man introduced Ted to the children’s book editor, who almost immediately agreed to publish the book, but with a single stipulation: “…You’ve got to give me a snappier title!”

Vanguard Press published Ted’s first children’s book, retitled And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, in 1937, with an impressive print run of 15,000 copies. The book received glowing reviews, and it sold reasonably well. But after six years, and a couple of reprints, the book had only sold about 30,000 copies. Ted had earned less than $3,500 in royalties, so Mulberry hadn’t exactly made the author rich.

Geisel’s first book got the same reception as green eggs and ham–which, once tasted, is actually really good!

No matter, Ted was on his way. He continued to create children’s books. He also continued to write and illustrate them under the pseudonym of Dr. Seuss! His later books include The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Today, several decades later, most of these books are still in print, with sales now totaling over 600 million copies. Several have been adapted as animated TV specials, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been made into two big-budget movies, both of which were incredibly successful at the box office!

A “chance” meeting with a man who was willing to lend a helping hand had put Theodore Geisel on the road to success. Geisel once wrote of that
encounter, “If I had been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry-cleaning business today.” What a sobering thought! Imagine a world without Dr. Seuss or Green Eggs and Ham !! Thank God for “chance” meetings and kind souls everywhere, who are willing to facilitate worthy endeavors!

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23 NLT)

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