Of Rice and Relationships (Angel in the Kitchen)

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We caused quite a stir with a previous article, “A Stirring Message,” in which we discussed the importance of stirring things up: certain foods
and beverages require stirring to obtain the proper flavor and consistency; similarly, each of us should “stir up” the gifts and talents God has bestowed, in order to bring out our best and most consistent qualities.

However, when it comes to certain methods of cooking, we get the best results by NOT stirring! For example, good cooks agree that if you want to prepare rice that’s fluffy, not gooey and sticky, the secret to success is simple: don’t stir the pot!

Rice is a staple food in numerous countries, including the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, respectively the birthplaces of Wilma’s father and mother. In their cultures, serving sticky rice is an unpardonable sin, which is why Wilma’s Mamita taught her the secret to good rice: fill the pot with just enough water to cover the rice, bring the water to a boil, add the rice, reduce the heat, cover it — and then leave it alone! Do. Not. Stir. It!

Stirring the rice mixture will upset the proper balance of steam, and also cause the release of excess starch (which results in the grains becoming gooey and sticking together). But for many cooks, following this simple tip is easier said than done. Some of us just can’t resist removing the lid and stirring things up! The same can be said of our relationships. The secret to success in all social interactions is simple: don’t stir the pot! Ignoring this basic truth can lead to some sticky situations and generally makes a (gooey) mess of things.

The well-known idiom “stirring the pot” can be defined as: promoting feelings of annoyance, agitation or dissatisfaction; by encouraging tension and conflict between two or more people — or groups of people — in order to make trouble or to elicit a strong emotional reaction. Simply put, “stirring the pot” involves any words or actions intended to get someone emotionally worked up!

We all know someone in life, next door, at the job, down the street, who seems to take great pleasure in stirring things up. They revel in creating strife, division, and needless drama. Sometimes these people are just bored, so they try to liven things up at someone else’s expense. Sometimes the “pot stirrer” has more selfish reasons, and hopes to gain some advantage over another person. Sometimes, however, there are more devious psychological motivations at work. For instance, because “misery loves company,” a discontented person will do his best to stir up discontent.

Really? How sad.

Pot stirring can take many forms, such as teasing or “joking” about an emotionally painful relationship or situation; making provocative statements intended to fuel the flames of discord; or … repeating gossip!

Spreading rumors — or simply repeating the news about someone’s problems, setbacks, and relational confrontations — can stir up more bitterness, more strife and more division. It also hinders God’s ability to heal emotional wounds and bring unity.

The Bible gives a strong warning to would-be pot stirrers: “There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven: haughtiness, lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, sowing discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19 TLB) This, of course, is not an all-inclusive list of the actions and attitudes that grieve our Lord. But interestingly, stated together in this single verse, are several offenses which clearly define the act of stirring the pot. And if God “hates” these thIngs, we can assume that He does not prosper the pot stirrer. In fact, the opposite is true: God bestows His particular blessings on the peacemaker!

“Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous — with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!” (Matthew 5:9 AMPC) Let’s receive this as the primary lesson of God’s “Pot Principles.”

The second lesson is for all those of us who at one time or another have been on the receiving end of pot stirring. If you’ve been the victim of gossip, or falsely accused, or punished for doing the right thing, God wants you to keep your cool — to paraphrase the fictional character James Bond, shaken but not stirred! — and remain in peace. Life is not always fair, but then, you knew that. Right? Furthermore, God is our advocate; He is always just, so we need to trust Him to vindicate us in any given situation. The Biblical Joseph did this, and things worked out better than he could have imagined. Read his hair-raising life story in Genesis 37-50.

You finally ready to stop stirring the pot?

The third lesson of God’s Pot Principles dovetails nicely with #2. It’s always best to let God do the stirring. Be stirred by His Word, by His goodness, power and wisdom. “He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT)

And remember, stirring the pot is bad for both rice and relationships!

“Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication, to my cause, my God and my Lord. Vindicate me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness; And let them not rejoice over me.” (Psalm 35:23-24 NKJ)

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Close Shave with the Critics! (Encouragement for Creators)

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In 1782, Giovanni Paisiello composed an Italian comic opera based on the 1775 French comedy The Barber of Seville. The work was extremely popular with both audiences and critics, who hailed it as a triumph. For over three decades Paisiello’s opera was considered the definitive version of The Barber. Then, in 1815, Gioachino Rossini composed a new and very different version of the same comedy. Rossini’s opera met with incredible resistance. Paisiello wasn’t at all pleased to hear of this new version, and neither were his legions of fans! Just who did this upstart Rossini think he was?

Rossini’s version premiered on February 20, 1816, at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. When the young composer arrived for the performance he was greeted by an angry mob. His associates hustled Rossini into the theater where, a short time later, an audience composed mostly of Paisiello’s passionate and vocal supporters jeered and hissed throughout the performance. Not only was Rossini’s Barber of Seville a total failure, but also, before it was over, several on-stage accidents had occurred.

Undaunted, the composer arrived a few days later for a second performance. On that fateful day, Rossini was again hurried through the mob. The audience was quieter, and the performance went far more smoothly, but afterwards, when Rossini left the theater through a back entrance, he was met by the same mob as before. Only this time, his entourage failed to keep away the crowd. Yes, the mob closed in and the next thing Rossini knew he’d been dragged off his feet. A moment later he found himself hoisted up … and carried atop the hysterical crowd, as the people paraded their new operatic hero upon their shoulders through the streets, praising the name ROSSINI !!

Today, few remember the name or work of Paisiello; but Rossini’s Barber of Seville has endured as one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music. Even more than two centuries later, its popularity on the modern opera stage attests to its greatness.

We all know the expression “That’s a hard act to follow”; but if you’re a performer, musician, or writer, and you’re following in the footsteps of someone who’s famous and successful; or if you’re simply trying something new and different, take heart. Many times the naysayers know nothing!

When director Tim Burton announced that the comedic actor Michael Keaton would be playing Batman in the 1989 movie, fans gasped. “Are you kidding! ‘Mr. Mom’ can’t be Batman! He’ll ruin the movie!” Well, Burton was doing something different, and his film was a box-office bonanza. So how did Keaton manage in a darker role? Just fine. And he even returned for a sequel. In fact, when Keaton moved on and Warners recast the part, the fans lamented.

Nearly two decades later, Warners decided to reboot the franchise, and it’s new director, Christopher Nolan, announced that Welsh actor Christian Bale would be playing Batman. “You can’t be serious!” the fans yelled. “The sicko from American Psycho is going to play our hero?” Hey, come on, that’s why they’re actors. Bale’s portrayal is now considered by most fans to be the definitive Batman, and after three movies it’s tough getting used to another actor in the role. But Ben Affleck, in yet another incarnation of the character, did a fine job. No, it doesn’t always pay to be a naysayer.

Someone once said, and it may even have been director Steven Spielberg, that Harrison Ford was too well known as the space pirate Han Solo from his Star Wars movies; and that he’d never be able to convince audiences that he’s the adventurous straight-arrow archeologist Indiana Jones. In fact, the part almost went to Tom Selleck, who bowed out at the last minute to continue starring in Magnum P.I. But after Raiders of the Lost Ark and its three sequels (a 5th movie is in the works) … well, Ford obviously proved any naysayers wrong.

Do you have any naysayers in your life? Persevere! And prove them wrong!

“God never changes His mind when He gives gifts or when He calls someone.” (Romans 11:29 GW)

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