The Cheese Stands Alone!

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We often make baked ziti, which (for those poor souls who’ve been culinarily deprived) is a lot like lasagna — layers of noodles, marinated
ground beef, and different cheeses. Once we took a huge dish of it to a friend’s house to share, and it was absolutely delicious! Wish you could’ve had some. 🙁


When we returned home we were tired, so we did the cook’s equivalent of that old housekeeper’s trick, “sweeping the dirt under the carpet.” Well, it’s not THAT bad. We decided to wash the messy pyrex baking dish in the morning — after we slept on it, so to speak. So we stuck the dish into the oven, where we wouldn’t have to look at it. Bad move!

Who wants to wake up to a messy dish in the sink? Not us, which is why we hid it. Honest, we were going to wash it the first thing when we got up the next morning. Only we hid it a little too well. “Out of sight, out of mind.” We didn’t give that dirty dish a second thought! Not the next day, when we were busy writing; nor the next, when we ran errands; nor the day after that, when we … well, long story short, we didn’t use our oven for days! Sure, we cooked on top the range, but we didn’t need to bake anything.

When we finally did open the oven, to look for the pizza pan — What? You don’t store your pizza pan in the oven? Ours won’t fit anywhere else! — we were confronted by that messy baking dish. Sitting there. Alone. In the dark. Sulking. Hardening the cheese and sauce of its aching heart … until all that was left was a dried up, crusted over scab of forgotten ziti. Okay, we’re being dramatic. But the cheesy residue of our long-forgotten meal was almost impossible to clean up.

We destroyed our kitchen sponge, using the coarse side of it to scour the dish — and to no affect. That cheese had hardened to cement. A jackhammer wouldn’t have been totally out of the question, but we settled on an SOS steel-wool pad and several minutes of hard labor. A just penalty befitting our crime of neglect and forgetfulness. And then — yuck! — we needed to toss out the SOS pad!

In life, just as in dirty dishes, we all face problems that are much easier to handle when dealt with quickly. Sooner or later, we all manage to make a mess of something, and it’s a lot easier to clean up our messes when we deal with them immediately. Hiding from an issue, avoiding an unpleasant task, leaving a hurt friend or family member to “harden” while we “sleep on it,” only makes the job more difficult — if not impossible to handle.

When dealing with people, never allow angry or harsh words to thicken and crust over, creating a barrier that separates a relationship. After an argument or misunderstanding, work quickly to resolve matters, bring peace, and heal damaged emotions. “I’m sorry” should never be the least-used words in your vocabulary! Don’t wait until later, either. “Don’t go to bed angry.” (Ephesians 4:26 GW) Swallow your pride; for the sake of harmony, humble yourself and seek the person’s forgiveness. “…God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 ESV)

Keep those relationships sparkling!

There are far too many cheesy messes in our homes and workplaces, our neighborhoods and houses of worship. And in many cases we’ve allowed them to harden. Know what? God wants us to do the dishes — no matter how hard we need to scrub. “…If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar … and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there…. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matthew 5:23-24 NLT)

Take care of your cheesy messes before the job gets tougher. Don’t put it off. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Things will just get harder. Do it quickly, so both your dishes and your relationships will sparkle.

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The Secret Ingredient (Angel in the Kitchen)

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To quote the Pillsbury Doughboy, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven”! That’s the idea behind the recipe for Amish Friendship Bread, a sweet, stirred quick-bread with a cake-like texture and a mild cinnamon flavor. The reason it’s called friendship bread is because the recipe calls for a cup of sourdough starter (a mixture of yeast, flour, sugar and milk) which is shared among friends in much the same way as a chain letter — only with tastier results. Here’s how it works:

Someone first adds a package of dry yeast (dissolved in a little warm water) to one cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. The yeast mixture begins to ferment, but for the yeast to remain active, the mixture must be “fed” every 5 days by adding another cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. On the tenth day, the starter is ready for use, but there’s FIVE cups of the stuff! Solution: use one cup of starter to bake a loaf of delicious bread, give away three cups of starter to friends (who then begin their own 10-day cycle), and save the last cup of starter to begin the next cycle. So, every tenth day, a person either has to bake 4 loaves of friendship bread, or connect with 3 new friends, who don’t already have starter. Obviously, the process can continue forever, and eventually the starter spreads through entire communities. A sweet idea!

No one’s absolutely sure who started this tradition. Elizabeth Coblentz, a member of the Old Order Amish and the author of The Amish Cook, writes that true Amish friendship bread is “just sourdough bread that is passed around to the sick and needy.” That’s still pretty sweet. Tuesday we shared God’s recipe for Keeping Your Priorities Straight. It boiled down to Love the LORD … with all your heart, soul, and mind (which is the first and greatest commandment) and then love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-38) Clearly the secret ingredient in God’s favorite recipe is LOVE. And as we mentioned in a previous post, love makes everything in life taste better.

Love is the “starter” for God’s special brand of “friendship bread.” He commands us to share it until it’s spread throughout our world. In the verse above, specifically the second half of Keeping our Priorities Straight, God
commands us to love others to the same degree we love ourselves. That’s some pretty intense affection, folks. It reminds us of what we traditionally refer to as The Golden Rule–which is a distillation of Matthew 7:12. “Always do for other people everything you want them to do for you. That is [the meaning of] Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets.” (GW translation.)

In other words, if you want people to be kind to you, show you respect, and be sensitive to your needs, then you must also do these same things for others — be they black, white, red, or polka-dotted; male, female, young, old, rich, poor, or what have you. We are never closer to God or more like Him than when we love others: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16 NLT)

It’s not always easy. We can all be a little unloveable at times. So we need to try to understand what other people are going through. We need to try to see things from their perspective. And when we honestly disagree with someone, we need to do so lovingly and without disrespecting the person. “Speak the truth in love….” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) Your homework for today is to read 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter”; then go out and share some starter — LOVE!

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