Years ago, when I really could eat everything without gaining an ounce (oh, the times have indeed changed!), I learned to cook. My Mom encouraged it, despite the occasional disaster she found waiting in ambush in her once-shining kitchen. It took me a while to discover that cooking doesn’t require the use of every pan, dish and utensil you own in order to be successful. This became quite clear when I was told I was responsible for the cleaning as well as the creating. In my kitchen aerobics, I exercised my mind along with my taste buds. Following a recipe, I found it makes a great difference in the finished product if you steer too far away from the prescribed ingredients and doses. For instance, just because sugar tastes better than flour, I don’t want to switch the amounts. Did you know cookies with three cups of sugar and one cup of flour really aren’t that tasty? (Don’t ask…) It matters if you’re baking a pumpkin pie that you use cinnamon and not garlic to season, regardless of how similar the containers might appear. (Again, don’t ask…) if your recipe says to bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, you don’t want to speed things up by setting the temperature for 650 degrees for 15 minutes. It’s not going to bring the same results. (Please, don’t ask…) Through the years, I’ve determined that recipes are pretty reliable, and for the best results, they should be followed religiously…

Religiously, I’ve noticed that it is equally helpful to obey a prescribed procedure for carrying out life to the fullest. The directions are clear and conveniently placed in a single volume for easy access. The Bible has some recipes for living that are simply divine! But, like any favorite recipe, if you steer too far from the stated ingredients, the end result will be far less than you hoped. You don’t want to substitute wishes for faith… nor obligations for service… nor arrogance for knowledge. So, it is essential to spend time READING the directions, growing familiar with them. Of course, one of the painful truths is that we don’t always get it right the first time, so we practice, practice, practice! Then, when you’ve got it down, you start adding your own flourishes of love, honor, and joy that make life delightfully your own unique and holy creation. Through the years, I’ve gotten better as a cook. I’m still working on perfecting my recipe for living, however. That’s why I’m so grateful that God has given me a whole new year to practice. Boy, do I have my work cut out for me… What joy is ahead! Have a glorious new year!

Love,

Pastor John