Genuine

Minnesota is known for a food atrocity that probably has graced the tables of those unfortunate enough to have put it in their shopping carts. My mom was one of them, and I absolutely refused to partake of it. Meat processed into a can with a globby gel around it ranks right up there with eating chocolate-covered insects. 

I watched a documentary where this lady could not stop consuming lint no matter how detrimental it was to her health. When she would hear the buzzer go off on the dryer, she would take out the trap and start swallowing down the fuzz that had collected on it. Another person’s obsession was hand sanitizer that was guzzled down like water.

If this meat product had been included, I would not have been surprised. 

There must be those who love it, though, because there has been an entire booth set up at the state fair devoted to this. These are the ones with stomachs of steel and absent gag reflexes. They stand in line and pay actual money that they worked hard for in exchange for something that is said to be food, but is it?

They fry it, bake it, grill it, chop it, slice it. They pass this off as a versatile food source that is convenient because it’s precooked, and it never dies because it’s questionable if it ever walked the earth. 

I recall innocently wandering into the kitchen as a child as a can of this was opened.  

“What is that?” I asked.

She made me smell it, and the gooey appearance brought on an instant hunger strike.

“You will like it.”  

This always was the beginning of the coaxing me to try something that I knew I already would hate. When another person had to tell me that I would have an affinity for something, I was already putting up all sorts of defenses.

She knew I was the type of kid who would not eat cooked carrots but accepted them as raw. Hot cereal was death, and cooked beets, kill me now. There wasn’t enough milk produced in the industry to help me get those down without letting them touch my taste buds. She wouldn’t let me plug my nose, either, because that wasn’t ‘good table manners.’ 

It made her uncomfortable seeing me suffering, so I had to hide it and try not to cough, which would have sent everything from my mouth onto the table, and well, that would have ruined everything.    

And, now she was leaping to selling me on canned meat? She had clearly lost her ability to think straight after eating products ladened with chemicals like the very thing she was trying to convince me to swallow. 

She never got her way, and it was a good thing she didn’t. All she saw were dollar signs because this was a cheap fix for a meal. I could go munch down grass out of the backyard for no charge to maintain my life span and enjoy it more. 

Multiple articles claim that this cube-shaped charlatan acting as a protein is full of salt, sugar and processed as much as it can be. How did they combat the bad press and the negativity? They made a light version to accommodate those who are health conscious. They took out more of the bad things to make it better. 

Don’t sign me up. 

And, there are recipes out there. I came across one that lists the top one hundred. That is one hundred too many. Someone asked what the best way was to eat this—the answer: straight out of the can. The real inquiry should be: why, why, why? 

One person thought it was great to shape it into donuts and fry them. To add to the choke factor, they suggested putting chunks of it into the homemade ‘dough’. 

The draw is the affordability, and its craze, with some, has earned it an iconic place in society where there is a museum and merchandise you can wear on your body to let the entire world know that you eat meat out of a metal can. And if that isn’t enough, some restaurants have it on their menu, and the health department does not shut them down. 

I don’t find it an accident that it shares its name with the category in my email that junk mail lands. 

I hadn’t put much thought into that folder. I just figured the system was filtering out sales pitches or offers that would be a waste of my time. In a way, it’s nice to have an invisible hand doing that on my behalf. Some analytical program decides that I shouldn’t be bothered with information that isn’t necessary. It’s so close to being royalty it’s a little frightening.  

Away with you, peasant! I am sorry, but she cannot read that right now. She is by appointment only.

I didn’t have to be bothered with it, and I was a better person for it until I was forced to go there. 

I had tried to reset a password, and instead of sending it to my primary folder, it got sent to the dark abyss. After waiting more than the long sixty seconds that it said I had to, it was suggested I check the other location. 

Much to my amazement, I had compiled an assortment of correspondence that left me wondering who had sold my address to satan. There were not just a few but hundreds of inquiries in all shapes and forms soliciting all kinds of things that left my eyes burning. I actually shut them and started hitting delete. 

I devote a part of my morning to erasing these that seem to keep finding me every day now. Instead of taking the time to get rid of a week’s worth, I found that if I keep up with it, it’s less time-consuming. 

I began to wonder how one gets a job sending out these invitations? There seems to be some thought that goes into the type of emojis and bold capital letters. Not so much the English language is considered, but someone is making a living doing this, somewhere, hoping I will click on the link. 

Outside of the R-rated biddings for my attention, some offer compensation for the legal problems that are plaguing me. In contrast, others want me to finally claim that sum of money sitting in my account for ages with interest collecting. Why am I not responding to the sweepstakes I entered that would give me the life of my dreams?  

At the same time, the IRS is going to put me in jail for something, Amazon loves me and wants to give me a $1000 gift card, and a long-lost relative wants to find me so we can catch up and wouldn’t you know they live in a foreign country? How wonderful that someone in my family tree branched out like that and made something of themselves, stealing credit card numbers in a coffee shop across the ocean.

While all of this might be tempting to some, I have no problem sending them out of sight forever. 

So, why do I do this? Because I know they are there now. Before, I didn’t. I lived in ignorance, and it was beautiful. 

One of my concerns is that if I should die, what would someone think if they opened up my email and found all of these racy, desperate pleas? Just sitting there, like I hadn’t removed them, as if it was okay. I couldn’t live with myself after death if that happened. So, it’s now part of my daily existence to keep up a good image, even if it’s just for me to know, and to save some poor unfortunate soul if I depart. 

The other thing is, I don’t like fake.

Almost every single one of these is based on a scam and trying to bait people into circumstances that aren’t good. This is where the deception begins, where words are used to manipulate and entice into something that has absolutely no substance. I have seen so many people, usually those who are looking for something that is missing, fall for these types of schemes, thinking it will be life-changing. 

After taking over as my dad’s power of attorney, I had to fight off a company that kept coming to him for money that he shouldn’t have been spending. When they wouldn’t leave him alone and flooded his mailbox with their emotionally driven requests, I sent them a letter explaining my position in his life, which put a stop to it. It seems to quiet the waters when you toss the word ‘lawsuit’ out there. 

It ends your valuable customer status quickly.

I am not the only one who doesn’t like shady offers. Look at what this says from Psalm 101:3:

Help me to refuse the low and vulgar things; help me to abhor all crooked deals of every kind, to have no part in them. (TLB)

They inundate us and constantly seek our attention, but we have the choice to remove them from our experience. 

It’s a worthwhile endeavor to start thinning out those things that pose as real but aren’t. From food to friends, God wants you to have the best, and it will be genuine. 

Nightmares, right here

Spill

When you live in a state that gets snow and a lot of it, you are in a season where you have to adjust your thinking when you walk into the house and remove your shoes. There is nothing more annoying than to step in a puddle of water left by the boots of another before you. Somehow, the rug got missed, and you come in unknowingly and find your foot soaking wet. It doesn’t get any better when you remove your socks and then step into another wet place with your bare feet, which are already freezing.

This is where analytical thinking takes over. You have the choice to hop across the room for the paper towels, so you only leave one track versus two to clean up or move faster and have to deal with more of a mess.

If you do not attend to this immediately, you run the risk of this happening for the rest of the day, and words you would not say that many times in a row stream from your mouth as you use multiple pairs of socks and now you have to do laundry because you have gone through all that you own.

Another object that can cause the same havoc is the dog’s water bowl. A pleasant morning can take a turn when you hit that, sending it all over you while trying to put something in the garbage, which then tips over. Within moments of getting out of bed, you wonder what you have done to cause the forces of nature to already be against you.

Adding insult to injury, you go to the fridge, and someone has precariously balanced a can of something on the very edge of the shelf to fit it in because no one has taken the time to declutter and throw unwanted items. It flies out and lands on the foot that went unscathed by the water bowl and splashes all of you. Just go back to bed for the week.

I sat down at a grocery store in a section that had tables and chairs so I could look over my list for a second because there is nothing worse than to make your way through the aisles, get all the way home, and discover you left the one thing that you needed the most.

I was drinking something out of a glass without a lid. After one sip, I knocked it directly into my lap. My workout pants were instantly a sponge sucking up all of the liquid. I jumped up, grabbed anything that would have been in the path of it, and looked to my daughter for help, whose eyes were gigantic.

She, way slower than I would have liked, started to wander, trying to find napkins or anything to assist me. I could not believe how she walked unhurriedly to come to my rescue. Later, she said,

“I was concentrating! Do you want me to panic when I am trying to help?”

Yes! I do.

“It appeared that you did not care when you did not go quicker.”

“I think better when I go slower.”

“While you went slower, the water was soaking into my skin more.”

Seeing my horrible situation, a man sprinted over and handed me a towel. We still don’t know where he got it or where he came from. She threw a bunch of napkins my way to start cleaning up the table.

I froze in place when it happened, but now I had to move.

“I feel like my water broke. I never had this happen in real life. I can cross this off my bucket list now,” I said. “It’s not as glamorous as they make it out to be.”

“I am sorry this happened,” she said. I looked over at her again with a highly wet napkin in my hand as I tried to mop up the damage. That’s when she burst out laughing so loud she couldn’t contain herself. Just when you think they are sincere.

“No, really, I am sorry…” and she couldn’t finish what she was saying because she kept getting hit with laughter. Which then made me laugh.

“Where did that guy come from?” she asked, trying to catch her breath.

“I don’t know, but he moved faster than you did.”

Now I had a decision to make. Do I leave and come back later with dry clothes on? Or do I bite the bullet and walk around with water seeping into places I would rather not have it be? Every time I moved, it made itself at home even more than seconds before.

With every wince, she tried to be sympathetic, she really did, but she couldn’t help her giggles that kept surfacing.

“I feel like I have to walk like I just got off a horse. If I do that, it’s bearable.”

“Let me see how bad it looks,” she said.

I turned all the way around so she could see me from all angles. The front of my legs had dark spots where I had been flooded.

“It’s not that noticeable. I can hardly see anything.” That’s what they all say.

“That’s because the worst of its in a place that cannot be seen with the human eye right now.”

“Put your coat on. That will cover up most of it.”

It was true. I was in good shape until I started to walk, and a draft began.

“You would not believe how cold I am right now,” I said. When we got to the freezer section, the temperature dropped significantly from my waist down.

By the time I was at the checkout, I didn’t notice it as much. I had on moisture-wicking pants, so they had gone to work, giving me a false sense of security. I exited, and a brutal wind chill cut across my lower half, reminding me that I wasn’t home free yet. Running to the car to speed up my departure wasn’t the most exciting either.

“Are you really getting into the car ahead of me?” I asked as she jumped into the passenger side.

“I am COLD!” She said as her hair whipped her across the face.

“Really?”

I could either argue my point or get the cart back. Another sprint wasn’t going to kill me. Sitting down on my cold car seat would.

“I wish I could drive standing up,” I said, with my entire body pushed away as far from a seated position. My head was on the roof as I dangled my keys in my right hand, putting off the unpleasantness that was about to come.

I slowly slid down to face the inevitable. Breathing always helps just when it doesn’t.

“I am going to have icicles where I do not want them,” I said in between clenched teeth.

When I got back home, I became so involved with putting everything away, and my other daughter started telling me about her day, I completely forgot all about the incident.

About an hour later, my daughter said,

“Are you still wearing the same pants you had on in the store?”

I looked down and realized I had forgotten all about it.

“Oh, my gosh! Yes! They have totally dried!”

This sent her into another wave of laughter.

We have secrets that we think are so big that we cannot divulge them to another person. But, God wants us to walk in freedom, so a trusted person will come across your path at some point that you can tell everything to. You will know when you find yourself suddenly talking about something you would have never imagined expressing.

If you haven’t had this happen, pray for it. A person will be sent so you can unburden this weight that so heavily keeps you in a place that feels like torture. And, the one who is supplied to help you won’t ridicule you, they will make you see the truth of a situation that probably isn’t as bad as you think it is and will lead you into breathing easy again.

God is so kind that I have been given more than one who will all say the same things to me in response without anyone knowing except for me. That’s always an indication that God is at work when you hear the same message that brings comfort.

Just like when I unexpectedly gave myself a shower in the middle of a store, revealing this hidden part of yourself will feel uncomfortable at first, but then you will forget all about it. When you let another person or two bring you the support you need, you see the feelings of fear begin to lift as they bring you up higher.

In Ephesians 4:25, we are given a warning against not letting others know true, deep things and how this, in the long run, creates problems,

Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are parts of each other, and when we lie to each other, we are hurting ourselves.(TLB)

Whatever you see on the outside reflects what is happening on the inside of you. If you want to associate with like-minded, caring people, then you will have to change your ways. You can swim in the deep end or wade in the shallow, safe parts of the pool.

In Ephesians 4:15, it is explained how this will work out to your advantage,

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth, and tell it in love. (Message)

If you insist on hiding, you will, and it’s miserable, stunting your spiritual growth. But, if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and trust that others can help, a whole new world will open up before you. You will see the good in people, and it will prove to you that you are not alone or crazy. Hold yourself back, restrain your authentic self, and live in a minimal way. Or let it spill.

(At least pretend to hurry…)

Best Advice

“Pick someone in the room that you think God wants you to talk to.”

This wasn’t my usual Saturday morning, but I chose to attend a workshop to learn how to hear from heaven more acutely. I wasn’t the only one as there were probably fifty of us who had shown up. It seemed that we were willing to jump over some barriers to access higher abilities.

One of the mental hurdles I have had to overcome in this area is that I am “hearing voices”. That implies that this practice isn’t usual and should land one in a padded cell with a syringe plunged into the upper arm.

How many Hollywood productions have been made that depict a character who gets a bad nose bleed or excruciating headaches when they have otherworldly experiences? They spend most of their time clutching their foreheads and try not to hemorrhage. The brainwashing has been that if you have a gift to interact with the divine, you have to suffer physically or be super weird.

If you get past all that, bring on the poltergeist and dark forces ready to wreak havoc in your home. Who wants to tangle with an unruly spirit that will require an exorcism? Just because you went looking for answers, now you have to move.

If that doesn’t stop a person, then the sheer fact that the One who made everything would want to speak is somewhat staggering. Why would God want to take the time to talk to us? Isn’t that kind of presumptuous with all the trouble going on in the world?

Any one of those scenarios can keep us closed down and shut off.

I knew exactly who I was to speak to on that particular morning. The entire hour that we sat listening to the presenter talk about his experiences, my attention kept being directed to a woman across the room. It began with a slight nudge.

“Do you see the lady with the purple glasses?” the still, small voice whispered.

I scanned the attentive audience, and I saw her wearing reading glasses. It’s always subtle at first like that. It seems like it’s my idea to look up, but later I realize I was told to.

I focused back on what was being taught.

“Do you see her scarf? It matches her glasses.” Accesories are important.

As people began looking around to see who they should pair up with, I went right to her and said,

“I’m supposed to tell you something; I have no idea what it is.”

“I’m so relieved you came over. This is so hard for me to do, and I want to learn how to do it, but I’m a little scared.”

“I think we all aren’t totally comfortable with it, but we can try.”

She and I went to a quiet corner away from everyone else. We were given easy-to-follow instructions on how to get a message.

First, we were to ask what God wanted this person to know. Next, we were to ask for a specific verse if there was one and then to get a vision of what was needed. That sounds like a lot, but we were told we could do it, so the idea was to believe we could.

I started by asking the first question. Both of us shut our eyes, and she grabbed my right hand. I had to brush away the thought that I was with an absolute stranger. I didn’t know her even thirty minutes ago, but now I was to deliver important news from God.

“A special place has been prepared for you at the table,” I said. I could see her sitting in an elaborate venue, surrounded by others and being served. She looked relaxed with a radiant smile.

“Do you spend a lot of your time giving to others and not yourself?”

“Yes. I’m a pastor, and I’m always helping other people but not me.”

“Do you feel guilty when you take time for yourself?”

“Yes.”

“God wants you to know that you need to take time for yourself and let other people help you. You are burning yourself out trying to be nice.”

“You’re right,” she said quietly. Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt calm, but I had no idea if what I was saying would be accurate. To have her confirm it kept me going.

“I see you wondering if you can clean up the tables or get the other people something to drink. God says no. Sit down.”

She laughed.

“That’s me. Right when I start to enjoy myself, I think I have to jump up and do something, or I’m being lazy.”

“You aren’t giving yourself a break. You are going to break down. So listen to what is being said. God is telling you to rest. Let others serve you for once. You are supposed to enjoy life just like everyone else. You can be happy even when you aren’t working. Don’t let people take advantage of your kindness. Put up boundaries and have some balance. Otherwise, you aren’t going to be able to help anyone. You are going to start resenting the whole thing.”

When we opened our eyes, she got out a tissue to wipe away tears.

“It’s hard for me not to do it all for everyone all the time.”

“Do you ask for help?” How did I know to ask that? Because we had a lot in common.

“No. I try to do it all myself. I don’t like asking for help, and no one usually offers.”

“Then you have to ask, and don’t feel bad about it.”

“I will. I don’t want to burn myself out. I like what I do, so I don’t want to ruin it.”

Then it was her turn to be in the hot seat to see what I needed to hear. It took her a minute to pull herself together after what I had said.

She retook my hand, and we closed our eyes.

“God, what do you want Chris to know?”

I instantly saw myself sitting in a canoe drifting in a river. The sun was bright, no one else was around, and it was peaceful.

“Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest. God wants you to rest. I see you floating in a…a..a..” She paused like she couldn’t find the right word.

“Canoe?”

“Yes!” She said. “I didn’t want to say it was a boat because it isn’t.”

I saw everything before she said it, and when I would describe something, she saw it too.

“You are sitting in a..” She was at a loss for words again.

“Meadow? With flowers all around me?”

“Yes! And God wants you to rest and see the beauty of creation. Don’t be so busy that you don’t stop and see it.”

In the end, we walked away, no longer not knowing one another.

We didn’t have special powers come over us. There was no chanting in Latin involved or burning of incense. What did we do? We asked.

There are many sources of information available to all of us anytime we want. The news will tell you what’s going on. And usually, it’s not good. If by chance, you get Chinese food, a fortune cookie can be your guide. But that generally wears off and doesn’t provide a lot of depth.

I recall having a Magic Eight Ball when I was a kid. I would think of a question and shake the heck out of it, hoping for the answer I wanted to hear. Through the little window, the smoky blue water would reveal words on the plastic triangle inside. The worst result was: Answer Unknown. How frustrating is that? I wasn’t any further ahead in life with that response! It proved to be unreliable, leaking all over the place, and it got tossed.

I realized that after taking the class that it’s vital to be able to hear on a level that is above the physical to benefit myself when I cannot sleep and I don’t understand a difficulty I am up against. Another advantage is to use it when bringing comfort to others. It’s amazing to speak something that immediately brings relief to another. You know it isn’t you, but it is straight from heaven.

You can begin to apply this from Jeremiah 33:3:

Call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (ESV)

Then there’s a bonus thrown in if you do:

How happy you are to believe that the Lord’s message to you will come true! (Luke 1:45, Good News Translation)

When you take the time to get quiet and ask for answers, it builds your confidence and boosts your mood; it changes your mindset and strengthens the bond between you and the unseen realm. And just like anything else that you give a priority in your day, it becomes easier to execute.

Soon, you will only want to seek that which offers you something of great return like nothing else can. You won’t want to settle for anything that leaves you feeling unfulfilled and empty. You don’t have to chase it down like a crazy person, thinking that others have the answers for your life. And you come to know that God directly gives the best advice.

(THEN WHAT?!)