No one will ever eat the rest of these brownies.
When I return to my kitchen to make lunch and clean up, I’ll be scraping the entire rest of this pan into the trash can.
If you share my passion for all things fudgy, you may be feeling a lump in your throat as you imagine such a precious work of culinary genius sliding sadly down into the coffee filters, used Clorox wipes, and empty hot dog packaging.
But your sorrow would be misguided.
Here’s why: These brownies were made with the wrong oil.
Here’s how it went down: Every now and then, Holland delights our entire family by whipping up a batch of cookies or brownies. A few nights ago, she did just that. The house smelled so yummy, and the minute that pan came out of the oven, she pulled one out, poured a glass of milk, and came into the living room.
Me: They’re done?
Her: Yes, but they taste awful. I messed them up somehow.
Me: (“you’re crazy—there’s no way to mess up a brownie mix”): What’s the matter with them?
Her: (wearily) I have no idea.
I didn’t believe her, so I went and cut myself a chunk and popped it into my mouth. Immediately I knew the problem. I walked over to the pantry and looked at the shelf. Yep. Side-by-side were these two bottles. I sighed. It was my fault.
Me: Holland, you used the already-opened bottle of oil, right?
Me: I’m so sorry, honey. I didn’t tell you. That’s my used fry oil.
I used to have a Fry Daddy, which is like a Crock Pot, only for deep-frying things. I simply stored my oil in it and plugged it in when needed. I’d strain it when done and store it for next time. Occasionally I’d change the oil with a fresh bottle. A while back, I threw away the Fry Daddy. Now I fry on my stovetop and strain, store, and re-use the oil a few times before disposing it.
I forgot to tell Holland about it. So she used 1/3 cup of used fry oil in brownies, and they tasted fuuuuuuunky.
When I use that oil later this week to make some fries, wontons, or fish, it will taste deliiiiiiiicious.
What’s the difference? That oil, while it started out just like the other bottle, has been seasoned in a way that doesn’t go with the flavor of brownies. It has had some life experience and earned some flavor that makes it perfect...for a different recipe. When Holland mistakenly used it for a purpose the OTHER oil was suited for, the brownies were edible, but not quite right.
What’s my point? Well, I was thinking. We all start out like clean oil. Fresh and new, ready to be used for whatever our Creator/Chef dreams up. We learn and grow and gain experience and seasoning. Based on our life’s experiences and education and seasons, we become suited for certain things and not-so-suited for others. We get some things so very right and other things so very wrong, and this is all a part of our unique seasoning.
I think the goal is to just be a full bottle of who we’re created to be, and let God decide how to use us. He’s fully informed on where we’ll bring the best flavor. He won’t say, “Oops. I used the wrong oil. Why didn’t somebody tell me what was in there?!” He knows what’s in there already, and He will make sure we blend perfectly into just the right recipes at the right times to make something that people get to experience with delight. And they will complement the Chef.
You might feel like used fry oil that got poured into brownies.
You might feel like that fresh bottle left on the shelf while someone else is getting used.
Or maybe you’re happily bubbling in your perfect pot while friends dance around you like French fries.
Wherever you are in this part of your seasoning, trust the Chef. Don’t look around and compare. Don’t wish your season away. Don’t jump out of whatever recipe He has put you in. And don’t try to jump into a recipe you’re not meant for.
Trust His process, and trust that He’s creating something delicious with your life.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ~Ephesians 2:10
The year was 1983. Miss Parker's 4th grade class at Dale County Christian School in Ozark, Alabama, stood dutifully to the left of our desks, reciting in unison the list of prepositions.
Aboard about above across after against along among around at before behind below beneath beside between beyond but by down during except for from in inside into like near off of on over past since through throughout to toward under underneath until up upon WITH WITHIN WITHOUT!* (We always yelled the last three. I think because we were glad we were done.)
The year is 2016. I woke up before the sun and lay in my bed with a song stuck in my head. I believe my God is good. Over and over, the song played. And I thought about how good God is. And what a difference that makes in how I feel about my life. If I believe that God doesn't just do good sometimes, but that He is goodness itself. He is good.
I was thinking God is good to me.
He is good for me. He's good on my behalf! (Insert old Amy Grant song, "You could be so GOOD for me--good for me, baby!")
He is good around me. He's always at work around me, surrounding my life with His favor "like a shield", scripture says.
He is good during hard times, conversations, situations.
He is good toward others! And that doesn't lesson His goodness toward me! There's not a shortage of God's favor. Ever.
He is good with me. We get to do good together.
He is good within me. He brings me peace that "passes all understanding." (Crazy peace!)
He is good without fail. God is never bad at being good.
I was like, wow, there's a lot of prepositions involving the goodness of God.
And that's how I came to be reciting the prepositions in my bed at 6:00 this morning.
There's a preposition in the (complete) list that wasn't included in the one I memorized. It's the word despite.
God is good. Despite me.
"Despite: without being affected by; in spite of." (Thanks, Google.)
Despite my successes or failures or stupidity or brilliance or fear or stress or grace or achievement, He remains good.
Our behavior does not affect the goodness of God.
This also means our behavior does not affect the goodness of God to each other.
Consider: Other people can't prevent God's goodness to you. What He wants to do for you cannot be blocked by someone else.
Your blessings do not threaten my blessings. And vice versa.
Our failures do not offend God and restrict His goodness. Jesus made sure of that for us.
God doesn't pull away and give the cold shoulder when we don't get everything right.
He remains forever good.
Despite how things look at the moment. The voices you're hearing. The bill that's looming. The shoe that's dropping.
He is good despite. Without being affected by; in spite of.
You've probably heard all the cliches.
"Life is hard. God is good."
"God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good."
I hate cliches. Mostly because they usually pop out of the mouth of some well-meaning Christian at the time when we least need a cliche to trivialize what we're dealing with.
"She's in a better place."
"Keep your chin up."
But for real. If God is good...all the time... then, whatever is bugging you is somehow being used by God to develop you.
If God is good, and His goodness has no limit, then my slice of the pie doesn't mean less pie for you.
Her opportunity doesn't mean less chance for me.
His job success doesn't translate to a lid on yours.
That guy who is determined to make your life difficult might change if he believed that God is good to him too.
When we forget that God is actively working His goodness on the periphery of our lives, we live in fear.
When we believe that He is unfailingly, unstoppably, unflinchingly, unwaveringly, determinedly, brilliantly GOOD, there is LITERALLY nothing to worry about. (Shall we start an adverb list next?)
The enemy can throw all his darts. He can try to whisper worries. He can threaten and roar all he wants.
But when you shout back, MY GOD IS GOOD, and embrace ALL that that means for you, YOU WIN.
Whatever comes up today, stand by your desk and recite it with me. Repeat it over and over so you never forget it.**
I believe my God is good. Aboard about above across after against..
You can't see it. The fear will grip your heart like a baby fist around a handful of hair.
I believe my God is good. Along among around at before behind below beneath beside between...
I believe my God is good. Beyond but by down during except for from in inside into...
Stand up straight.
I believe my God is good. Like near off of on over past since through throughout to toward...
Stomp your foot.
I believe MY GOD IS GOOD. Under underneath until up upon...
Say it like you mean it, dammit!
I BELIEVE MY GOD IS GOOD. WITH WITHIN WITHOUT!!!
We're in this together. We'll yell it together. We will not forget. We will not lose the words. We're filled up and fully equipped and we know everything we need to know: OUR GOD IS GOOD.
*Yes, I did type that list (mostly) from memory. No, it doesn't include all the prepositions in existence. But hey, I'm 41 and I still remember the words. Rote learning works, people.
**I would like to thank Miss Parker. And Mrs. Holcomb. And Mr. Underwood. And all those teachers who made us recite stuff in order to remember it.
Me: Can you put some lotion on my back? (Squirting some lotion onto his hand.)
Eric: This hand is dirty. Hang on. (Switching the little blob from left to right.)
Him: I just coiled the extension cord in the garage. I forgot to wash my hands.
Me: (Gross, but) Oh! Did your battery charge?
Me: How much?
Him: (Sheepishly) Full charge.
Flash back to last night
He returns from the garage, "It's still not charged. Maybe the wall outlet doesn't work right."
(Two hours earlier)
Coming in the door, "I must have ruined my battery by unplugging it for awhile before it was fully charged earlier. Sometimes if you mess with the charge, it ruins the battery. It's only 2% more charged than it was earlier."
"I just bought that battery charger after my other one was stolen. Maybe it just doesn't work. Maybe I need to return it."
"Oh man, my battery's only at 67%, and it's been two hours."
"I think I'll go fishing, but I need to charge my trolling motor battery."
Back to today
Me: This is SUCH an analogy for your life!!
Him: I suppose so.
Me: You should write a blog post!
Him: YOU write a blog post.
Me: Fine. I will.
Why this struck me
We wake up one morning (or one month or year) and have an idea. "I would like to ___________." And you think about how fun/cool/exciting/effective/wonderful/nice it would be.
So you start wth your steps of preparation to make it happen. Enroll in a class/set up a plan/submit an application/buy something/sell something/talk to someone/plug something in.
And then you wait.
And you check back every few hours/days/months/years.
The progress is slow.
So you start looking around at all the moving parts and begin questioning things.
This isn't happening how it's supposed to.
This isn't working right.
Maybe I'm using the wrong equipment.
You question yourself.
What if I'm not qualified for this?
What if I'm doing this wrong?
Maybe I broke something along the way.
The blaming starts.
If she hadn't said that...
If he had only done...
I'll bet it's his/her/their/my/our/God's fault this isn't working.
And finally we give up the stressing and just decide to go to bed/rest/wait it out/have a "oh, screw it all"/give it to God moment.
And one morning we wake up and realize IT HAPPENED.
Even though Eric was convinced that his battery was not going to fully charge...Even though he eventually decided (because he's a really good man) to take me grocery shopping instead of fishing yesterday, he left that thing plugged in. And the battery charged. Today, he can go fishing if he wants to.
My word for you (and me and Eric--all of us) today is this: It may not look like anything is happening.
The progress may seem SO. SLOW.
But STAY PLUGGED IN.
Because the dreams and ideas God has put in your heart are still in His heart for you.
Don't give up. Maybe stop stressing. Stop blaming. Choose to rest. But don't unplug.
At the right time, you'll be fully charged, and you'll see it--whatever IT is for you--come to pass.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Don’t worry. This is not the result of a New Year’s goal to start blogging. I just found this little bit of awesomeness in my time with God this morning and thought maybe it will help you too.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
So. If you need wisdom for dealing with your situation today, ask God, and it will be given to you.
But here’s the part I really love. “Without finding fault.” Meaning, if you find yourself in a tough spot and ask God for wisdom, He will NOT look back at you and list all the reasons why it’s your own dumb fault for getting into that spot. He will NOT make you feel sufficiently guilty before He gives you the ability to make a good decision.
He simply gives generously to all.
It doesn’t even cost you. Jesus paid for your free access to God’s wisdom.
Proverbs 2:7 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
So. If you’re just honest about where you are today and ask God for the brains to get you through or out of or around your situation, your request will be granted.
And He’s not stingy about it. He doesn’t eke out a tiny little smidge of smarts.
He grants a treasure of common sense. A treasure! Not a tip! An abundant wealth of all you need to make the choices that will carry you someplace good.
Go for the ask.
Good stuff, right?!
I met some new friends recently who mentioned that the idea of daily Bible reading and journaling was a little intimidating. I think this is pretty common, which is why I created The Simple Journal, a starting place for encountering God each day. In this journal, I share my daily process and provide 30 days of inspiration from one of my own journals a couple years ago, as well as space to write your own experience with the scriptures and topics. Since The Simple Journal is only available at the campuses of The Crossing Church, I promised to share a quick guide here this week.
Here's the format I use. Maybe it will help you get started on your own.
pause. Before you read your Bible each day, pause and ask God to clear your mind of worries and distractions, and ask Him to talk to you. This is important because otherwise you might miss the voice of God's Spirit in this time with Him...and then what would be the point?
read. Finding a place to read can be daunting. You can find suggested daily verses in lots of places online, but I'd suggest BibleGateway.com and the YouVersion app. Caution: If you're new to scripture, beware of read-the-whole-Bible-in-xx-days plans, because the focus is accomplishing the reading rather than finding something that means something to you as you start your day. STOP when a verse or topic stands out to you.
ramble. After you connect with a particular verse, ramble a bit about it. Just write what you're observing in scripture or thinking about faith/life. I often copy the verse into my journal because it helps me absorb it better. Don't worry about what you write. You never have to show it to anyone.
pray. I like to finish by writing out a prayer. Just use your regular words and tell God what you are thankful for, what you think, what you need. Writing out your prayers helps you stay focused and also gives you a way to keep up with your requests and His answers!
pause – read – ramble – pray
You can do it!
Here's a sample of what this looks like from a page in my journal:
Journal entry - September 1, 2013
But God made the earth by His power, and He preserves it by His wisdom.
With His own understanding He stretched out the heavens.
When He speaks in the thunder, the heavens roar with rain.
He causes the clouds to rise over the earth.
He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from His storehouses.
The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge!
Just a reminder of the power of God…and the powerlessness of me.
This isn't about being down on me. It is about being up on Him!
He's Creator. His wisdom established the cycles that preserve the earth. He invented photosynthesis, reproduction, the water cycle, the solar system, the seasons. He causes things to grow and die and go back into the earth so something else can grow.
And He offers me His wisdom. WHOA.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone…
Don't try a combo of God's wisdom and my human logic.
God, I need wisdom. Your wisdom is infinite, and you promise to give it to me without making me feel stupid for asking.
So… could you give me some today, please?
Thanks. I'll be listening.
My book, The People Mover, is available on Amazon and Kindle. In it, you'll find Bible verses in each chapter, that you can use as a starting place for Bible reading as well.