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Heavenly Humor for the Chocolate Lover's Soul
75 Chocolate-Covered Inspirational Readings
By Christina Banks, Jean Fischer, Janice Hanna, Glenn A. Hascall, Anita Higman, Linda Holloway, Cheryl-Elizabeth Jackson, Eileen Key, Tina Krause, James Low, Valorie Quensenberry, Sara Rose, Rose Turnbow, Laura Wegener, Missa Zifzal
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
I Just Want a Hug!
May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.
Psalm 119:76 NIV
The preschool children sat silently on the rug, eagerly waiting to begin. It was a few months into the school year, and we had a well-established routine. After a busy morning of activities, the class members would sit on the Circle Time rug and wait to get their behavior sticker for the day. When a child received six stickers on his or her chart, he or she could choose a piece of candy out of my prize bucket. Just looking at the little faces beaming up at me from the carpet, I could tell which children were having their "treat day" that day.
That morning, the prize bucket was distressingly low. Only a handful of candy sat in the bottom of the container.
I followed the routine anyway, making a big show of calling the child's name and checking if he had obeyed that day. I handed out stickers and allowed those who had finished their charts to get a prize out of the bucket.
"Luke," I called. The little boy rushed up to the front, hopping from one foot to the other. I handed him his sticker. He placed it on his chart with great care and grinned up at me.
"How many stickers does Luke have?"
The class counted six.
"Great job, Luke!" I said.
Luke stood at the bucket for a long time, indecisive.
I normally waited for the children to choose their treat before calling the next child's name, but this day we were running behind schedule. I had only one name left on my list.
"Gabby, you did a wonderful job obeying today." She took her sticker and jumped up and down with glee. Her chart was full. She rushed to the prize bucket, nudging Luke out of the way. She quickly made her choice and sat down, clutching her treasure. Luke still stood by the bucket like a stone. I left him to take his pick and closed out our morning program with prayer.
A loud sob punctuated the quiet.
"What's wrong, Luke?"
"I just want a Hug!" he sobbed, large tears cascading down his freckled cheeks.
I wrapped my arms around his quivering frame and tried to soothe his distress. But he would not be comforted.
"Not that kind of hug," he said, pushing away from me. He sniffed. "I wanted a chocolate one." He pointed to Gabby. Chocolate smeared her face. There were no more Hugs in the bucket.
Some days I feel just like Luke. After I've taken my time, weighing all my options, whether it be buying a house or applying for a job, that Hug that I've decided on is snatched away by someone else. I'm forced to look at the smeared chocolate on her cheek and think about what I've missed out on. But unlike Luke, I find comfort in the hugs of my Father, who is able to comfort me when my world falls apart and someone else gets the last piece of chocolate.CHAPTER 2
Cocoa as Currency
Glenn A. Hascall
"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
While a guy named Juan is hand-selecting coffee beans and placing them on a burro, his brother, who rarely divulges his name and may have an aversion to donkeys, sees riches in an altogether different bean.
Introducing the Theobroma cacao tree. Ancient Aztecs valued its fruit—the cocoa bean—enough to consider it currency. Unlike the Aztecs' cocoa beans, our currency—paper money—is not edible, nor does it grow on trees.
I was introduced to the rich heritage of cacao at Jose Pizanos. Yes, they served both Mexican and Italian food, but that's not the point. This small restaurant in a small town in a very small state served the most amazing derivative of the Theobroma cacao. I often referred to the result as "Liquid Gold."
Would I ever be satisfied with packets of bland powder again? Every cup of hot chocolate I had before this introduction seemed little more than tepid brown milk. It lacked the silky texture, the full burst of chocolate that strangely seemed at home with either tacos or pizza. If contented sighs could be bottled and sold, I would be a rich man, for contentment escaped my lungs with every sip.
I have had more expensive hot cocoa featuring the brilliance of peppermint, cinnamon, or vanilla. I've entertained melting mallow, been disturbed by the suggestion of adding chili powder, and yet I still long for another taste of Liquid Gold.
While I no longer have easy access to Jose Pizanos, I can recall asking for hot chocolate on days when the temperature hovered near one hundred. Sure, there were some patrons who stared as if I needed time in a padded cell, but there were also those who gave me a knowing look and raised their own cocoa jars in honor of refinement and good taste.
In order for the Theobroma cacao to dazzle us with the brilliant possibilities associated with cocoa and chocolate, a precious cacao seed had to die. In that death came the growth of new trees bearing cacao pods that showed off brilliant colors in the jungle near places like the Andes Mountains or in Africa. The end result was harvested, roasted, and made ready for an entirely delicious purpose.
We may appreciate how easy it is to purchase cocoa, but we don't see the hours spent harvesting, chopping, roasting, transporting, and the ultimate refining that delivers chocolate worth eating and drinking. God has made so many things in nature that help us understand Him better. I like to think cocoa is one of God's great examples.
On those days when life seems too hard and we reach for some cocoa or chocolate to console ourselves, maybe the chocolate itself can cause a chain reaction in our brains that says, "Because God loves me, He continues to harvest, chop, roast, and refine my life—for my good and His glory." Then with that comforting news lodged in our minds and hearts we can commemorate the occasion by consuming the reminder.CHAPTER 3
Nothing like a Cup of Hot Chocolate
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NIV
I shivered as I took out the garbage and wondered if the trucks would make it through to the neighborhood. There were over four inches of snow on the ground, and that's a lot for the Atlanta area. Schools and businesses were closed due to the icy streets.
I waved to a couple of neighbors who were outside. Then Deidre came out with her garbage can. She frowned and stood in her snow-covered driveway, hands on her hips.
"Have you ever seen a mess like this? I just had to pick up Monica from school after dropping her off an hour ago. And now I can't reach Vern. All I'm getting is voice mail on his cell. The roads are a mess."
"Deidre, I'm sure he's fine. Why don't you come over for a cup of hot chocolate?"
"Monica's on the computer. Give me a minute, and I'll be over." She flew back into the house and a short time later, she was sitting in my living room by the fire.
She spotted the china tea set on my coffee table, lifted the lid of the sugar bowl, and peered inside.
"What, no sugar? What am I supposed to put in my tea?"
"Deidre, I made hot chocolate, remember? But if you'd rather have tea ..." I walked into the kitchen.
"Oh no, I like hot chocolate just fine."
I came out of the kitchen, bearing two cups of hot cocoa.
"I'm so upset." Deidre took her cup. "Vern never communicates with me. I wish he'd call."
"C'mon, drink your hot chocolate. It'll do you good."
"Mmm, hot and milky, it warms me up, right down to my toes. Very comforting."
"You know, Deidre, when I'm worried about something, I pray about it and God always comforts me. So long as I trust in Him, He's with me through those rough and difficult times."
She looked down. "Yes, I suppose that's the right thing to do."
"C'mon, let's say a little prayer." We prayed and asked God to keep Vern safe.
When the phone rang, I checked the caller ID. "It's Monica," I said, handing Deidre the phone.
A few seconds later, she said into the receiver, "Oh did he? Well, I wish he'd called earlier." She hung up the phone.
"Vern called. He forgot to charge his cell; thoughtless of him. He's on his way home."
"That's great. Don't be too hard on Vern. Be thankful he's fine. God took care of him."
"Yes, He did." She took a sip. "Boy, that hot chocolate sure hit the spot." She rose to her feet. "I'd better be going. I do feel better." She hugged me. "You must come over tomorrow. There's no hot chocolate, so you'll have tea. And I'll be ready for you. I have sugar."
I opened my mouth to tell her I don't take sugar in my tea, but she quickly darted across the street. I smiled to myself as I shut the door. Thanks be to God for the comfort He gives those who seek Him. Nothing like a cup of hot chocolate.CHAPTER 4
God's Thoughts toward us
How precious to me are your thoughts [concerning me], O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.
Psalm 139:17–18 NIV
Valentine's Day was approaching. The only way I was getting chocolates was in my dreams. A week beforehand, a booth was set up in the university building where I worked, advertising that singing telegrams could be purchased for the holiday.
My office faced a hallway where streams of students passed by after classes. One afternoon I noticed a very handsome Keanu Reeves look-alike grad student walking by. Usually guys like this made me nervous. I found myself either tongue-tied in their presence or looking in the other direction. This guy was so out of my league that I didn't feel shy around him. I figured he'd never look at someone like me. I sensed a kindness in him that touched me. Each day as he passed, I gave him a bright smile. He had a heart-stopping, killer grin that made a girl forget to breathe. Daily, I looked forward to his strolls by the office. For those few seconds when our eyes connected, I was the only one in his world. This gave me comfort and confirmed I was quite possibly beyond pathetic.
Valentine's Day finally arrived. UPS men, who looked close to cardiac arrest, scurried past my office all day with bright floral displays. The scent of flowers filled the building.
Moments after I arrived home that evening, there was a knock at my door. I opened the door to find a delivery man with the most beautiful arrangement of ruby red roses. Touched and surprised, I clutched my hand to my chest.
"Ma'am, the lady down the hall isn't home. Can you sign for these?"
My heart fell to my shoes. I quickly hid my disappointment and scribbled my signature.
"Thank you," he said. "You've saved me an extra trip. This day is kind of a killer, ya know?"
"In more ways than one," I wanted to say as I scooped up the flowers that proclaimed somebody's love for someone other than me.
A month later at work, on a day with the hint of spring in the air, I had my back to the front door of my office when I heard someone enter. I turned to find the gorgeous grad school guy that walked by daily, standing there with a bouquet of yellow flowers.
"Hi," I said. I figured the flowers were for his girlfriend and he'd stopped in to ask me an academic question on the way to meet her.
"These are for you," he said, handing me the flowers. "You're always so kind, thoughtful, and helpful to everyone. I had planned on having a singing telegram delivered for you on Valentine's, but the day I came to purchase one, the table was gone."
We all sometimes feel invisible, unappreciated, and unnoticed. We can take comfort in the fact that whether others acknowledge us or not, God is always thinking precious thoughts toward us.CHAPTER 5
The Comfort of Cocoa
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
John 14:18 KJV
The church I grew up in had a wonderful tradition. Every year at Christmastime, we would put on a live nativity scene. The story was piped through the loudspeaker, resonating across the church lawn. I can still remember the narrator's deep, booming voice, even now. People would come from all over the city to watch Mary and Joseph make the trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Okay, so they were really just walking from one side of the church lawn to the other, but we did our best to make it look like they were on a real journey! Once they arrived in Bethlehem, they would settle into the makeshift stable—a lean-to made especially for the production. Life-sized papier-mâché animals filled the quaint-looking stable, looking on as the baby made his arrival.
Onlookers would then ooh and aah as the angel (a coveted role for a preteen girl) appeared to the shepherds (played by both boys and girls, since our church boasted a larger amount of females). A host of angels (kids in their early elementary years) then joined her with their "Glory to God in the highest!" message. Audience members would then watch in wonder as the wise men (often three of the bigger boys or girls) followed the star until it hovered over the stable. Ah, memories!
I loved participating in the event, and most often loved to play the role of Mary. Only one problem: it was cold! Freezing, in fact. I'd wear Mary's baby blue robe over my sweater and jeans, but still shivered nonstop! I could hardly wait for the fifteen-minute break between performances so that I could join my fellow "actors" inside for hot cocoa with marshmallows. There, the warmth would settle in once more and we would laugh and talk about what fun we'd had, shivering our way through the prior performance.
Ah, cocoa! Is there anything more comforting on a cold night? As we gathered around the little kitchen in the church we would warm our hands on the outside of the cup, then take tiny sips of the delicious stuff. And it wasn't just any hot chocolate. Oh, no. We had the real deal, made with cocoa, sugar, milk, and vanilla with lots of marshmallows on top. Yum! The hot cocoa made everything right again. It took the chill off and made us forget the pain we'd just been through. It even gave us the courage to go out and do it all over again!
Have you ever thought about the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life? He's known as "the Comforter," and was sent to live inside us so that we would never have to be alone. In many ways, He takes the chill off like that cocoa. He wraps us in His peace and gives us the courage to go back out and fight the good fight. His comforting embrace reminds us that we don't have to face the challenges by ourselves.
The next time you have a cup of hot cocoa, pause to think of the comfort it brings. Then shift your thoughts to the ultimate Comforter, the one who warms you from the inside out! Glory to God in the highest! What a comfort!CHAPTER 6
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3 NIV
The box of chocolates sat on the coffee table, open and inviting. "I'm not sure that you want to leave those out here," my best friend, Tammy, warned.
"Why not?" I looked at the diagram and chose a milk chocolate caramel.
"Why? I'll explain it to you in two words—quality control. Just wait till my mom notices. She's got a weakness for assorted chocolates."
"I don't mind if she has some. I got these to share."
"Don't say I didn't warn you." She selected a piece of lemon cream and settled back on the couch to watch the movie.
My friend's warning stuck in my brain like caramel to my teeth. A few minutes later Tammy's siblings came in the room.
"Have these been through quality control?"
"Nope. Mom hasn't seen them yet. They're still safe."
"Great." They both grabbed a chocolate cream and sat down to watch the movie with us.
I was beginning to get worried about this whole "quality control" thing. I had almost managed to forget about it when Tammy's mom walked in the room.
"Are these for everyone?" she asked.
"Sure, I got them to share."
She picked up a piece of confectionary delight, turned it over, and stuck her finger into the soft bottom. The gaping pink hole oozed strawberry cream. "No, not that one," she muttered, and to my horror, she placed the punctured chocolate back in the box.
"What are you doing?" I asked in alarm.
"Just a little quality control." She lifted another out of the box and repeated the same procedure. I looked at Tammy in shock. Three more chocolates met the same fate before she found one that was satisfactory and walked away.
Excerpted from Heavenly Humor for the Chocolate Lover's Soul by Christina Banks, Jean Fischer, Janice Hanna, Glenn A. Hascall, Anita Higman, Linda Holloway, Cheryl-Elizabeth Jackson, Eileen Key, Tina Krause, James Low, Valorie Quensenberry, Sara Rose, Rose Turnbow, Laura Wegener, Missa Zifzal. Copyright © 2011 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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