Sunday, March 2, 2014

iShelve Not

iPray eVotional

iPray eVotionals exhorts those who pray.  It's the glass of water held out around each month's turn for the runners who can use a quick and easy quench in order to finish strong.

iShelve Not  
Approx. reading time: 7 - 10 minutes

A Cookbook, A Kitchen and well...Me 
As an 8th grader with dreams and ambitions, finding a cookbook in the kitchen was like finding a perfect shaped sea shell at the beach.  It was a rare find, something that seemed to cry out for attention saying, "Don't walk by me like I'm nothing! I've been beached on this deserted island of a kitchen for too long.  Come see the beauty I hold, pick me up and flip through my pages!  Listen close because you might just hear the ocean!"  I was not one to ignore a talking cookbook.

Each recipe had well-staged pictures with easy-to-follow instructions.  I started to consider each recipe as one I might be able to make.  Where these crazy thoughts came from is still a mystery.  The most I had ever done in a kitchen was help set the table before dinner and wash the dishes after my family was done eating.  One things is for certain, a teenage brain is like a car with the keys in the ignition and a sign on the window that reads, "Highjack me please."

This cookbook treasure was being overlooked and I seemed to be the one to find it.  A certain responsibility comes with being the finder.  I read through the ingredients, the prep instructions and took a good look at the pictures as I flipped through the pages.  Could I be the one that was to unlock this book's beauty; turning a two dimensional page into a three dimensional meal that would unlock my family's senses?  The fact that I had just completed Nintendo's game called Super Mario Brothers in one long turn was reason enough to answer that question with a big fat, "Yes!  I'm invincible and the one to do the unlocking."

As the pages passed I realized two things.  First, although the book seemed to be written in English there were enough clues that hinted at a hidden, underground language that only chefs spoke and understood.  And second, I didn't have an interpreter.  Although these things were true, I felt like I had a good idea on what I might be able to handle.  When these unknown words and abbreviated symbols appeared all I needed to do is use the text around it to draw a sensible conclusion of what it might mean.  When a single recipe contained too many ingredients I didn't recognize or an excessive amount of instruction I didn't understand it was on to the next page.

At last I turned a page and gazed upon a picture that intrigued me.  Displayed with a spiral layer of cheese and broccoli within a perfect cylinder shaped meat formation was a meal that beckoned my name.  " me from this page!"  I started to read through the ingredients and to my delight I understood it all.  The prep seemed completely manageable for someone who didn't really know anything about cooking.  I called back, "I'm coming Princess Peach!"  I set out to make my first ever meal, and it was going to be meatloaf!

I needed to organize my thoughts.  That was what I did when I received writing assignments at school. I went through our kitchen cupboards gathering all the ingredients and supplies.  When I knew what we were missing I gave my mom a list of things to buy at the store.

"Hey mom, could you pick up a few things for me?"


It was not abnormal for me to ask for a few things from the store.  Usually the list was more along the line of school project supplies and beautifying products so you can imagine the confusion on my mom's face when I handed her a list that included raw ground meat and frozen broccoli.

"I'm going to make dinner for the whole family," I said.

Added to her confusion was now shock.  If you could read the thinking cloud above her head it would have said, "Where is my daughter and who is this child in front of me?"

"Okay." Was all she said out loud.

It was like having to play level one on Super Mario Brothers over and over again.  Day after day my mom failed to pick up the items causing my new treasured experience to slip farther and farther away.  So much for playing this game in one long turn.  I had to continue to remind her to get the items until she finally realized that I was serious about making dinner for the whole family.  Finally the day arrived when my mom came home with all the things on my list.

That afternoon I kicked everyone out of the kitchen.  My excitement grew as I imagined myself placing the main dish on the dining room table and cutting into the meat that would reveal the artful display.  I also imagined my family's reaction, "Wow, that looks awesome Michelle... and it tastes great too... good job... you will have to make dinner more often..."

This magical ending played out over and over again in my mind as I organized everything on the counter.  I looked at the timing and planned out the afternoon.  Right as I was getting started my mom peeked her head in and asked if I needed any help.

I chased her away, "Don't come in!  It's a surprise!"  Although there were a few abbreviated marks in the recipe that I didn't understand, it wasn't anything I couldn't figure out on my own.

Spices and bread crumbs were massaged into the meat.  I pounded the mixture flat and squared it off into a thin layer making sure the dimensions fit perfectly with the baking pan.  Then I added a layer of cheese followed by a layer of broccoli.  With the layers complete it was time to roll the creation into a loaf.  From the moment I saw the recipe I looked forward to getting to this point, the point when a math equation becomes clear.  All I had to do was plug in the right numbers and the answer would appear.  Carefully I maneuvered one side over itself and slowly rolled it up so that it resembled a loaf of bread.  It worked!  It looked better than the picture in the cookbook!  Finally I placed it in the preheated oven and set the timer.

With every level successfully completed came a greater sense of accomplishment.  I washed the measuring spoon and cups.  The left over food went back in the refrigerator and I set the table for dinner.  The house started to smell delicious.  As I flipped through the cookbook I thought to myself, "Maybe I could play the part of my family's chef more often."

Ding!  It was the timer.  I called my family to get ready for dinner and they did.  As they found their seats I removed the meatloaf from the oven.  The juices dripping out of the sides made it look like the most mouth watering dinner ever created.

As I set the meatloaf on the table my family sort of nodded.  When I cut in and the beautiful swirling layers were exposed they seemed a bit more impressed.  I explained that their vegetables were conveniently cooked right inside the meatloaf.

As a good host would, I served everyone else before myself and they started to eat before I had even sat down.  Here it came.  The last flag...the answer to the math problem...the sound of the ocean...

The room was silent. I waited.


"Yea, it's um, strong."

My mom asked me how much salt I put in the dinner.

All of a sudden I noticed I was standing in quick sand.  I was sinking into a trap of disappointment. I thought I had unlocked the hidden treasures of the kitchen's cookbook only to find myself facing the wrong answer.

"I followed the directions.  I measured everything."  As I took my first bite, I quickly realized that the taste did not match the beautiful smell and display.  It was so salty that one bite was hard to swallow.  Had I been highjacked?

My first time ever making dinner for the family on my own, without an interpreter, and the car was stopped, facing a dead-end street.  In the kitchen for hours only to present a salty mess.  When I was taught to be the salt of the earth I don't think this is what God had in mind.

My family continued to try to be as polite as they could, as to not to hurt my feelings.  I managed to pull my two feet out of the quicksand and drag my heels into the kitchen.  Where was that silly cookbook?  I looked at the directions.  4 tsp of salt.  I looked at the measuring spoon that I used.  I put in 4 tbsp.  I had failed!

I could hear my siblings whispering about what they should do and that they couldn't finish it.  I walked back into the dining room, defeated.  My family quickly silenced their whispers and tried to smile.

"It's okay," I told them, "I messed up.  You don't have to eat it."

The entire room sighed with relief and the sun came out a black cloud hovered over my head.

Noticing the storm of a crushed spirit coming upon me, my sister tried to make me feel better, "It looks really good."

My mom added, "It smells good too."

My brother couldn't help himself, he had to add the punch line to this enormous joke of a dinner, "It just doesn't taste good."

Laughter filled the room and I gave a slight smirk, but didn't really find any of it funny.

After all that work, hours of planning, preparing, little misread ruined the entire thing.  I could have used an interpreter and since I didn't have one I never played that game again.  The cookbook went back on the sandy shelf and the unfortunate conclusion was made that the cookbook was meant to be someone else's find.

Thrive Over Survive
Looking back I can see that it was such a little fix, a small scale adjustment!    I wish I could go back and give that teen a little bit of insight and perspective that might have lead to a series of different choices.  Maybe, just maybe, I would enjoy creating dinners for my family today.  God only knows the awesome things I could have done for Him and with Him if I had not shelved that book. 

For a young teen the disappointment overshadowed any potential and one failure represented a series of failure that I did not think I could handle.  Settling for the easy and fast way to be fed and abandoning any desire I might have had to bless my family with a meal led to my most common, single serving, self-prepared meals throughout high school and into my college years.  Microwaved frozen burritos or microwaved "baked" potatos.  Yes, I survived but my healthy eating habits, my pallet as well as my desire to bless others with a good meal did not thrive.

Is that the best God has for us?  To live in a constant state of survival sprinkled with some self gratifying pleasures that don't last long?  Or is His best more along the line of thriving?  Thrive, marinated in God's deep and purposeful love!

When I think about the shelved cookbook I can identify with King Solomon when he makes the life altering argument in Ecclesiastes that in the end life is sweeter when it has been lived in relationship with our God.

"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them'" Ecclesiastes 12:1

"Remember him-before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

After 6 chapters of establishing how meaningless life is with an earth-bound perspective, King Solomon encourages us to honor God...and the sooner the better! 

"For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?" Ecclesiastes 6:12

Don't shelve it, letting the days go by with an earth-bound perspective.  King Solomon had all that the world could offer and in all his wisdom he too wanted to go back to the youths and encourage their hearts to enjoy life WITH God.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:15-17

Living in a way that gives purpose and opens opportunities for God to use us for His glory and for our good...that is what iPray all of us would grab off that shelf sooner rather than later.

When to Unshelve
I knew a man that wished he too could go back and do things a little different.  One of his last messages before the Lord took him home was a message to the younger generation.  This man was my Opa (my step grandpa).

Disappointments and misreads caused him to shelve the Bible and the opportunity to connect with God along with it.  He watched many of his family members become Christians throughout the years, discovering what it meant to know God and live for Him.  Their hopes, dreams and passions became purposeful.  One daughter, then another.  His wife, grandchildren and then other family members.  They experienced great spiritual freedom and joy at all kinds of levels and my Opa stood in the middle of it.   Still, with a hardened heart he shelved a treasure, thinking it was good for someone else, but not him.  My Opa grew increasingly bitter as his health declined.

Weeks away from meeting his maker, my Opa's daughter sat by his bedside.  Again she asked him if he would pray to God and know Him through His Son Jesus Christ.  It was a tender moment as he let go of all he had been holding onto.  The earth-bound perspective that seemed to keep him in spiritual bondage blew away like ashes in the wind.  My Opa made the life-altering decision to know God through His Son Jesus for the very first time.  A hardened and bitter heart melted away.  My sister heard the one piece of advice he wanted to leave to the younger ones, "I wasted so much time, years I cannot get back.  Tell all the others this: Don't waste a day by living that way, know God now and live a better life than I did."

There is no better time than right now to connect with God.


...that you will not ignore the treasures in God's living Word - The Holy Bible.  That the two dimensional pages of God's words in the Bible will become a three dimensional reality.
...that the Spirit of our Lord will unlock the beautiful love language of the Bible to you.
...that when your magical endings do not pan out the way you expect, you will not give up so quickly on living a life of faith that unlocks true treasures.
...that when you do not understand, you will abandon any earth-bound conclusions and cling to eternal truth.
...that you will never choose to shelve a relationship with God because of glitches and disappointments but instead choose to see what God can do in and through you in those moments.
...that God, who is so faithful, will provide encouragement, interpretation and help.
...that when the not so favorable court ruling...the loss of a job...becoming a single unbearable that, "Nothing else can be done" you will run TO Him rather than shelving Him.
...that you will know that above all else, life is sweeter lived WITH God.
...that your life will be less about surviving, and more about thriving.
...that right now will be your time, now and not a moment later, to pray and connect with your creator.

In Jesus Name iPray, Amen.

ALL for Him,
Michelle Fozounmayeh

In This Issue
A Cookbook, A Kitchen and well... Me
Thrive over Survive
When to Unshelf
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Michelle Fozounmayeh

Michelle Fozounmayeh
A joy filled wife and mom that enjoys writing, praying, speaking at women events and being an Area Coordinator with the ministry Moms In Prayer International.




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