Peeling Back the Layers

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Did you know that the onion can be traced back to Egypt around 3500 B.C.?  Onions may seem like a humble vegetable on the surface, but peel back a layer or two and you will discover some amazing facts.

Historically, onions had great importance in a variety of ways.  King Ramses IV who died in 1160 B.C. was entombed with onions in his eye sockets.  Dioscorides, a Greek physician in the first century A.D. noted that onions were used to fortify and strengthen athletes for the Olympic Games.  The athletes would consume many pounds of onions, drink the juice, and rub the onion flesh all over their bodies.  Many attributed their success to this process.  Pliny the Elder, a Roman, wrote about the onions of Pompeii.  He believed onions could cure vision, induce sleep, heal mouth ulcers, dog bites, toothaches, lumbago, and control dysentery.   Furthermore, people used onions for headaches, snakebites, hair loss, to pay their rent, and even for wedding gifts.  Onions were regarded as a highly sought after commodity by many cultures in many lands throughout history.

You may be interested to know that in Numbers 11:5 Numbers 11:5We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic:
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there is a reference to the onion.  The previous chapter in scripture contains the account of the Israelites fleeing Egypt during the Exodus.  Whilst this people wandered in the wilderness they lamented the days in captivity when they freely enjoyed the benefits of onions among other items in their daily diets.  The fertile plains along the Nile River produced many varieties of onions, some of which would have been eaten like we eat an apple today and were sweet to the taste, while others greatly enhanced the cooking process by adding flavor.

This gives me pause to think about the story of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in Daniel 1:1-21 Daniel 1:1-21 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 3 And the king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 To whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave to Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. 8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 10 And the prince of the eunuchs said to Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall you make me endanger my head to the king. 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove your servants, I beseech you, ten days; and let them give us vegetables to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked on before you, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as you see, deal with your servants. 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them vegetables. 17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. 21 And Daniel continued even to the first year of king Cyrus.
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.  These young men declined the King’s rich diet in favor of vegetables including…(quite probably)… onions in order to honor God, risking the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar.  Obviously God intervened, so that they would gain favor over all the other men who could consume any food they were served.  However Daniel had complete faith and determined in his heart that God would help him even in the unlikely way of just eating vegetables.

As varied and numerous as all these benefits are, the onion does cause considerable discomfort when one is preparing the bulb by cutting, slicing or chopping it up for meal preparations.  It is the sulfuric compound contained within onions which produces the burning sensation from the strong vapors leading to tears.   This is where my story begins.

My long lost physical family comes for lunch

On a hot summers day in the middle of January not too long ago I sought out my Grandmother’s treasured recipe book for dishes that one has to enjoy to believe.  Many of these recipes contain ‘secret’ ingredients and have been handed down throughout the generations mostly by word of mouth.  Thankfully I had enough presence of mind to record some of the most popular and favorite dishes because now I am the eldest surviving member of only a few left.  I remember watching with eyes ‘as big as saucers’ both my paternal and maternal grandmothers making so many different and wonderful foods from all around the globe, particularly from Eastern Europe, Continental Europe, England and Australia.  My selection of dishes to prepare all included onions so I had lots of chopping up to do and considered carefully because I knew it meant sore eyes.  However, these dishes were tried and true favorites, so I knew there was a lot of hard work ahead and many tears.

Halfway through all the chopping up of many onions, (the biggest ones I could find, and they were whoppers) I could stand it no longer! My eyes were stinging and I hastily grabbed a cold, wet saturated sponge and threw it over my face, pressing deeply into my eye sockets to gain temporary relief.  I really wanted to get this one thing done the night before the big day when my family came for lunch, but knew I had taken on far too much.  I have come to learn that I am somewhat competitive and seek to please others and go to considerable lengths to serve rather elaborately (at this point I am thinking about Martha in Luke 10:38-42 Luke 10:38-42 38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was encumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
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).  Martha obviously was a pleaser too and instead of making a simple meal was involved in ‘much serving’.  I think many of us who enjoy giving hospitality to our guests can empathize with Martha.  When I read this story I can’t help but chuckle because Martha is so relatable to many women.  She obviously felt let down by her sister Mary who was ‘taking it easy’ in her eyes. Martha sought tojustify her pain by telling herself the load should be shared equitably between herself and her sister.

I sat down with a cup of ‘rescue’ tea for a few minutes of time out.  I was exhausted physically and mentally and it was now very late at night.  I considered carefully my options.  Complete the task tonight and suffer the horrendous pain, or go to bed and tackle the rest of these onions in the morning after a good night’s sleep.  To my surprise I chose the second option and went to bed defeated from my efforts.  I had so many other things to do in the morning, none of which could be accomplished the night before because the food needed to be freshly prepared at the last minute.  Oh well, I would look like a red-eyed raccoon when my family came for lunch and resigned myself not to worry about it.

I really wanted the best for my family.  I had a lot of pride too.  My physical family had abandoned me when God called me out of the world a few years ago.  After some verbal abuse they eventually quieted and ‘disappeared’.  They would occasionally contact me if they needed help in some way.  Even though I felt very frustrated at not being able to logically explain supernatural events, I tried to remain a loving mother, sister and auntie, so the lunch was a very big deal to me and God knew this.  I slept soundly.

The next day, I woke up excitedly and hurried to get to the kitchen.  I stood at the kitchen sink and closed my eyes and prayed to God. It was a very simple prayer, which asked for help in the cooking, for everything to turn out right and for the ability to cope with the inevitable tears.  I did not realize that while I was chopping the onions God was supernaturally intervening for me.  I kept thinking one more onion, another onion, now the next, until I finally came to the last one.  I burst out in laughter realizing that there was no pain, no vapor, no rubbing of the eyes, NOTHING!!!  I kept thinking ‘I don’t believe it’!’ but of course I did.  I was so full of joy and marveled at how this could happen.  God heard my simple prayers, even a quick prayer that I did not kneel down for.  I could not contain myself.  My son was the first to arrive and I told him what happened.  Kurt smiled and was very pleasant about it all and said ‘Mum, I believe you, but do you think God has the time to do such a trivial thing like that?’  I must have been beaming from ear to ear and I said quite calmly, but confidently ‘Well He does because that is what just happened’.

God is utterly amazing and to think we have the rest of our lives to establish and promote a deeply rich, close relationship with Him;  one of many tears, much laughter, joy, sorrow, hurt, pain, anguish, and always love.  I could not relate to God the Father only six years ago, because of the lack of a good physical father/daughter relationship.  However, now I can laugh with God.  He has such a great sense of humor.  Developing this relationship is intensely beautiful and like nothing else.  Now I am learning what pure agape love is and how to love others too including my physical and spiritual family.  I love how God is not a respecter of persons as the Apostle Peter states in Acts 10:34 Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
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.  We can always trust and believe that God will attend to each one of us perfectly!  He simply cannot make a mistake.   

Some of the lessons I have come to learn as the layers are peeled back to reveal just what is truly in my heart of hearts on this incredible journey that will transcend a lifetime:

1. Know Yourself

So we can correct things which need to be corrected and we all have those things that need correction.  No one is exempt.  People pleasing is good to a degree but not if it interferes with one’s own spiritual and physical health.  Certainly there will be no people pleasers in the Kingdom.  (Galatians 1:10 Galatians 1:10For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
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)  Spiritually we must please God always.  Mary was all eyes and ears on our Lord.  She was probably not even aware of all the food serving because of what Jesus Christ’s message contained.  Mary was not distracted whereas Martha was consumed with anxiety, worry and stress (Matthew 6:25-34 Matthew 6:25-34 25 Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature? 28 And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Why, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
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).   The physical must not take precedence over the spiritual. 

2. Plan to Put God First

Plan and then plan a backup plan.  Refine your plans. In the future, I plan to cook the same recipes but well ahead of time and freeze some dishes, so I do not put myself under so much pressure again.   We too need to align ourselves with the Master Planner of the Universe.  God has plans for everyone (Jeremiah 29:11 Jeremiah 29:11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
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).  Let’s take a few moments at the beginning of our day, or if you are a night owl then in the evenings and plan to put God first.  Then list all the things that we need to achieve the following day.  Maybe add a shorter list of items that we want to achieve.  You will be amazed how productive you can be if you put God first in your day. 

3. Forget About Pride

I not only wanted my relatives to be amazed at my cooking skills but I was seeking their approval.  I wanted to make up for all the time lost, by spoiling them.  I did not need to go over the top with all the serving, but I wanted to.  I had not seen my family for so long.  My pride wanted to be stroked with nice comments based on the time, work, and effort I had put into the meal.  I wanted recognition! (Proverbs 16:18 Proverbs 16:18Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
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)  I am such a competitive person in many things I do.  I did not realize this before God called me.  I grew up this way as that is how the girls in our family could get noticed.  I was sick and tired of being invisible.  Remember we are never invisible to God.  He sees everything we do.  He even knows how many hairs are on our head! That is how intimately He knows us.  Once again Father causes me to smile over the specificity of this.  (Matthew 10:30 Matthew 10:30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
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Luke 12:7 Luke 12:7But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
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4. Give Yourself a Reality Check

Do not allow day to day things to take over from the most important part of your spiritual journey.  Aim to achieve a balance, but always put God first. (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
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)  It can be difficult to figure out exactly what that balance is.  It is even harder to be objective about it, because we will tend to justify and want things that are not good for us. (Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
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) Wisely weigh your decisions.

5. Examine the Why of What We Do

God is certainly interested in the why, because He searches the depths of our hearts right to the inner core.  (Psalms 44:21 Psalms 44:21Shall not God search this out? for he knows the secrets of the heart.
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)  Thankfully, our just and loving Father does search our hearts to know what motivates our actions. Sometimes our actions look pure, such as serving others, but not always.  Check your real motivations in order to ascertain what is driving you.  Conversely our actions may not look pure to others on the surface, but God knows exactly where we are coming from.   We can take great comfort in that.

6. Faith Without Sight

Whilst God does not reveal His form to us now, He certainly reveals Himself in so many ways.  Since I had worked with these onions and they made me cry. I was amazed that they were not the next day. It was like God was telling me I know how much you love your physical family and how much you miss them and I know you will not compromise with any pagan festival in order to keep them in your life, so here is a very small taste of things to come because that is how much I love you and all My children. God will give us so much more if we will just trust Him. In Matthew 19:29 Matthew 19:29And every one that has forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred times, and shall inherit everlasting life.
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, Mark 10:29-30 Mark 10:29-30 29 And Jesus answered and said, Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundred times now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
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and Luke 18:29 Luke 18:29And he said to them, Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house, or parents, or brothers, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,
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we are told what we will receive if we give anything up in this lifetime.  If we are loyal, obedient and faithful, God is pleased.  How good is it to know that we can please our Creator?

Allow God to peel back your layers with you. You will get to know yourself and be able to deal with whatever is hiding deep within the core of your heart.  It is not easy and it can be very painful, but it is worth it.  Matthew 19:26 Matthew 19:26But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
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tells us all things are possible with Him. 

For more interesting reading please see the Bible study guide, Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion .

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