Saturday, August 13, 2016

Night Light for Couples - Martha’s Secret Ingredient

by Roy J. Reiman

It bothered Ben every time he walked through the kitchen. It was that little metal container on the shelf above Martha’s cook stove. He probably would not have noticed it so much or been bothered by it if Martha had not repeatedly told him never to touch it. The reason, she said, was that it contained a “secret herb” from her mother, and since she had no way of refilling the container, she was concerned that if Ben or anyone else ever picked it up and looked inside, they might accidentally drop it and spill its valuable contents.

The container wasn’t really much to look at. It was so old that much of its original red and gold floral pattern had faded. You could tell right where it had been gripped again and again when the container was lifted and its tight lid pulled off. Not only Martha’s fingers had gripped it there; her mother’s and her grandmother’s had, too. Martha didn’t know for sure, but she thought that perhaps even her great‐grandmother had used this same container and its “secret herb.”

All Ben knew for certain was that shortly after he had married Martha, her mother had brought the container to Martha and told her to make the same loving use of its contents as she had.

And she did, faithfully. Ben never saw Martha cook a dish without taking the container off the shelf and sprinkling just a little of the secret herb over the ingredients. Even when she baked cakes, pies, and cookies, she added a light sprinkling just before she put the pans in the oven.

Whatever was in that container, it sure worked, for Ben thought that Martha was the best cook in the world. He wasn’t alone in that opinion— anyone who ever ate at their house grandly praised Martha’s cooking.

But why wouldn’t she let Ben touch that little container? Was she really afraid he’d spill its contents? And what did that secret herb look like? It was so fine that whenever Martha sprinkled it over the food she was preparing, Ben couldn’t quite make out its texture. She obviously had to use very little of it because there was no way to refill the container.

Somehow Martha had stretched those contents over thirty years of marriage, and it had never failed to effect mouth‐watering results.

Ben became increasingly tempted to look into that container just once, but he never brought himself to do so.

Then one day Martha became ill. Ben took her to the hospital, where they kept her overnight. When he returned home, he found it extremely lonely in the house. Martha had never been gone overnight before. And when it neared suppertime, he wondered what to do— Martha had so loved to cook that he had never bothered to learn much about preparing food.

When he wandered into the kitchen to see what was in the refrigerator, he immediately saw the container on the shelf. His eyes were drawn to it like a magnet. He quickly looked away, but his curiosity drew him back.

What was in that container? Why wasn’t he to touch it? What did that secret herb look like? How much of it was left?

Ben looked away again and lifted the cover of a large cake pan on the kitchen counter. Ahh… there was more than half of one of Martha’s great cakes left. He cut off a large piece, sat down at the kitchen table, and hadn’t taken more than one bite when his eyes went back to that container again. What would it hurt if he looked inside? Why was Martha so secretive about that container, anyway?

Ben took another bite and debated with himself—should he or shouldn’t he? For five more big bites he thought about it, staring at the container. Finally he could no longer resist.

He walked slowly across the room and ever so carefully took the container off the shelf, fearing that—horror of horrors—he’d spill the contents while sneaking a peek.

He set the container on the counter and carefully pried off the lid. He was almost scared to look inside! When the inside of the container came into full view, Ben’s eyes opened wide. Why, the container was empty—except for a little folded scrap of paper at the bottom.

Ben reached down for the paper, struggling to get his big rugged hand inside. He carefully picked it up by a corner, removed it, and slowly unfolded it under the kitchen light.

A brief note was scrawled inside, and Ben immediately recognized the handwriting as that of Martha’s mother. Very simply it said: “Martha—To everything you make, add a dash of love.”

Ben swallowed hard, replaced the note and the container, and quietly went back to finishing his cake. Now he completely understood why it tasted so good.

Looking ahead…

Even though for the first thirty years of their marriage, Ben couldn’t quite identify his wife’s “secret herb,” he knew it was there—and that it made a wonderful difference in his wife’s cooking. If you’re the wife in the marriage partnership, I suspect that you have added your own secret ingredient to many aspects of your marriage.

We’ll be talking about the role of a wife this week and offering several definitions, but most of it boils down to this: As you help and care for your husband, add a dash of love to everything you do.

- James C Dobson

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • “Martha’s Secret Ingredient” by Roy J. Reiman, courtesy of Reminisce magazine. Used by permission.

The Daily Readings for August 13, 2016

Judges 16:1-14
Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her. The Gazites were told, "Samson has come here." So they circled around and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They kept quiet all night, thinking, "Let us wait until the light of the morning; then we will kill him." But Samson lay only until midnight. Then at midnight he rose up, took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The lords of the Philistines came to her and said to her, "Coax him, and find out what makes his strength so great, and how we may overpower him, so that we may bind him in order to subdue him; and we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver." So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me what makes your strength so great, and how you could be bound, so that one could subdue you." Samson said to her, "If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that are not dried out, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else." Then the lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not dried out, and she bound him with them. While men were lying in wait in an inner chamber, she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he snapped the bowstrings, as a strand of fiber snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known. Then Delilah said to Samson, "You have mocked me and told me lies; please tell me how you could be bound." He said to her, "If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else." So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" (The men lying in wait were in an inner chamber.) But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread. Then Delilah said to Samson, "Until now you have mocked me and told me lies; tell me how you could be bound." He said to her, "If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and make it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak, and be like anyone else." So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web, and made them tight with the pin. Then she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

Acts 7:30-43
"Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 'I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.' "It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, 'God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.' He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, 'Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.' At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: 'Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? No; you took along the tent of Moloch, and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; so I will remove you beyond Babylon.'

John 5:1-18
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids-- blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me." Jesus said to him, "Stand up, take your mat and walk." At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, "It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." But he answered them, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take it up and walk'?" Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, and I also am working." For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 107: Part II Posuit flumina
33   The LORD changed rivers into deserts, and water-springs into thirsty ground,
34   A fruitful land into salt flats, because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.
35   He changed deserts into pools of water and dry land into water-springs.
36   He settled the hungry there, and they founded a city to dwell in.
37   They sowed fields, and planted vineyards, and brought in a fruitful harvest.
38   He blessed them, so that they increased greatly; he did not let their herds decrease.
39   Yet when they were diminished and brought low, through stress of adversity and sorrow,
40   (He pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes)
41   He lifted up the poor out of misery and multiplied their families like flocks of sheep.
42   The upright will see this and rejoice, but all wickedness will shut its mouth.
43   Whoever is wise will ponder these things, and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

Psalm 108 Paratum cor meum
1   My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and make melody.
2   Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn.
3   I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4   For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
5   Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, and your glory over all the earth.
6   So that those who are dear to you may be delivered, save with your right hand and answer me.
7   God spoke from his holy place and said, "I will exult and parcel out Shechem; I will divide the valley of Succoth.
8   Gilead is mine and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my scepter.
9   Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I throw down my sandal to claim it, and over Philistia will I shout in triumph."
10   Who will lead me into the strong city? who will bring me into Edom?
11   Have you not cast us off, O God? you no longer go out, O God, with our armies.
12   Grant us your help against the enemy, for vain is the help of man.
13   With God we will do valiant deeds, and he shall tread our enemies under foot.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 33 Exultate, justi
1   Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous; it is good for the just to sing praises.
2   Praise the LORD with the harp; play to him upon the psaltery and lyre.
3   Sing for him a new song; sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.
4   For the word of the LORD is right, and all his works are sure.
5   He loves righteousness and justice; the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.
6   By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts.
7   He gathers up the waters of the ocean as in a water-skin and stores up the depths of the sea.
8   Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all who dwell in the world stand in awe of him.
9   For he spoke, and it came to pass; he commanded, and it stood fast.
10   The LORD brings the will of the nations to naught; he thwarts the designs of the peoples.
11   But the LORD'S will stands fast for ever, and the designs of his heart from age to age.
12   Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD! happy the people he has chosen to be his own!
13   The LORD looks down from heaven, and beholds all the people in the world.
14   From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze on all who dwell on the earth.
15   He fashions all the hearts of them and understands all their works.
16   There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army; a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.
17   The horse is a vain hope for deliverance; for all its strength it cannot save.
18   Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him, on those who wait upon his love,
19   To pluck their lives from death, and to feed them in time of famine.
20   Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21   Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.
22   Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you.

The Forward Day by Day Meditation for August 13, 2016

From Forward Day By Day

Psalm 108:2 (NRSV) Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn.

This seems to be “stir up Saturday”—and in August! It reminds me of a collect in Advent, but why wait for December to stir things up? Today’s gospel tells the story of an invalid, crippled for thirty-eight years, lying by the pool at Bethsaida, who always seems to be missing his opportunity to enter the stirred up waters of the miraculous pool where many have been healed. Finally he is healed by Jesus, who definitely stirs things up by performing the act on the sabbath.

In our lesson from Acts, Stephen is in the middle of his homily, a sermon that starts out well but stirs up the crowd to the point that they stone him for the gospel he is preaching. And in Judges, we hear about Samson whose mighty exploits stirred things up across the land.

Sometimes stirring things up can be a good thing even though it can lead to big trouble. Many of us steeped in the traditions of our faith really don’t want such stirrings; we don’t want to be disturbed or troubled. But if we don’t stir things up on occasion, our very souls can fall asleep.

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NIV Devotions for Couples - Model Parenting

1 Thessalonians 2:1–16

We were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children . . . we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:7–8, 11–12

The apostle Paul gives us a beautiful model of the church: a family in which leaders think of themselves as loving parents who are called to care for and encourage those they lead.

But Paul’s use of the analogy of parenthood in 1 Thessalonians 2 may have surprised some in the church. This was before the study of child development, so the parents of Paul’s day probably didn’t spend much time thinking about the emotional or spiritual needs of their kids.

So for Paul to say that he and his fellow missionaries, Silas and Timothy (see 1 Thessalonians 1:1), had acted like nurturing mothers and encouraging fathers was no doubt radical thinking for many. Paul assumed that a loving, caring parent doesn’t just order a kid around and demand respect. Instead, a good parent is supportive, sets a good example, offers comfort and care when a child is struggling, and guides the child as parent and child each try to live lives “worthy of God” (2:12).

Today some Christian parents believe that their most important role is to teach their children to be obedient and to respect authority. If they fail to do this, they think their children won’t respect God’s authority and will fall away from the faith. Such parenting can take on an air of infallibility, become harsh and demand absolute submission. In a family with this type of parenting style, children are punished for disrespecting parental authority or questioning a parent’s God-given right to boss them around.

That is not the way God parents us. True, our heavenly Father asks for obedience to his commands—and he punishes those who persist in rebelling against him—but he is also compassionate, slow to anger and faithful to forgive. He doesn’t demand our respect; he wins it by his loving care and mercy. God doesn’t push us into obedience; he invites us to follow Jesus.

We want so badly to raise our children well that often, instead of graciously guiding our children toward abundant life with God, we fearfully pull them away from the evils of this fallen world. Instead of offering our children grace and guidance when they make mistakes, we pour shame and disappointment on them, hoping the guilt they feel will ward off future trouble. Parenting out of fear may work in the short run, but it does little to help our children become the hopeful, loving people God created them to be.

Parenting gives us an amazing opportunity to participate in the formation and training of another human being. Like Paul and his fellow church leaders, parents who offer their children encouragement, comfort, guidance and discipline are building the church of the future, the church that will continue to bring the love and grace of God to a hurting world.

Carla Barnhill

Let’s Talk
  • What is our philosophy of parenting? What is the role of parents in the life of a child? How should parents handle disobedience and disrespect?
  • How can we offer the kind of encouragement and comfort that Paul talked about to stepchildren or foster children who might still be getting to know us? How can we work together to help children in this type of situation adjust to a new family unit?
  • How can we positively influence the kids we know who may not have a positive model of marriage and parenting?

Standing Strong Through the Storm - ENCOURAGEMENT

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

In Eritrea, Helen Berhane, with more than twenty other young women, was imprisoned in a shipping container that held only eighteen people. In her book, Song of the Nightingale, she shares what happened:

When [the guard] had locked us in and left, many of the women were furious and upset, and began to complain and cry. I tried to find ways to encourage them, and to make our situation more bearable. I encouraged everyone to sit on the floor in a circle and I began to speak to them.

‘Remember that the walls of Jericho came down because of praises. If we keep complaining, we cannot win. Instead we must continue to pray, praise and sing. Satan wants to use discouraging words as a weapon against us, so we must continue to praise God in all circumstances.’

I could see some of the women nodding.

I continued, “When the Israelites were approaching the Promised Land they sent spies ahead. Many of them returned saying that the people were so huge the Israelites could not hope to beat them, and so they cried all night. But crying and complaining cannot solve our problems. Let us be like Caleb and Joshua. The larger our enemies are, the more of a feast they will make for us! Just think about the woman who suffered from bleeding and who believed that if she only touched the hem of Jesus’ robe she would be healed. In the crowd she was the one who had faith and it was rewarded. We should not be like these people endlessly fighting amongst themselves. We should just reach out to Jesus and have faith.

This helped us to feel more accepting of our situation, and so we got into the habit of talking about the Bible, praying and singing in the container every day.[1]

RESPONSE: Today I will pray, sing, and talk about the Bible rather than focus on my discouraging situations and relationships.

PRAYER: Lord, may I use Your Word as an encouragement to endure with hope in You.

1. Helen Berhane, Song of the Nightingale (Colorado Springs: Authentic Media, 2009), pp. 38-39.

Verse of the Day - August 13, 2016

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Read all of Ephesians 2