Monday, September 22, 2008

The Pressure Cooker Process...

Personification of Fall
Currier & Ives Lithograph, 1871

Today is the first official day of Autumn! This is a transitional season that moves us from warm to cold weather, it is a primary season of harvest. In Western cultures, personifications of Autumn are usually pretty, well-fed females adorned with fruits, vegetables, grains, and wheat that ripen at this time. In most ancient cultures autumnal celebrations of harvest events were important events on the calendar. These events centered around the harvest of autumnally ripe foods that were harvested and stored for winter use. The predominant moods of these autumnal celebrations was a gladness for the fruits of the earth.

Having come from a family of farmers I am well familiar with the gathering and storing up of fruits, grains, and vegetables for use in the long winter months. In my family, this is the final push in canning and preserving. My maternal grandmother always planted a very large garden. Every summer brought bumper crops of all kinds of vegetables and fruits. My mother and aunts would gather in my grandmothers kitchen to can the bounty of the summer harvest.

My fondest memories of this season were when my grandmother still lived at the old home place in a three room house. The old wood burning kitchen stove would be stuffed with wood and the water reservoir filled. Big white porcelain pots with red rims came out of the cupboards and sat atop the stove at the ready to sterilize mason jars. Row upon row of hot jars would stand at the ready waiting to be filled with fresh hulled peas, ripe red tomatoes, cucumbers which turned into crunchy pickles, beets and beans, jams and jellies, and all manner of good foods.(photo source)
When all the foods and jars were prepared and ready for the canning process, my grandmother would bring out the pressure cooker. It was a big shiny silver pot with its little silver dancing top. As the contents of the pot boiled, the little top spun and hissed in wobbly circles. My cousins and I were totally fascinated by it. The cousins and I were not allowed in the kitchen during the pressure cooking process. The explanation given was that the pressure cooker might explode.

The mere fact of a possible explosion held an even greater fascination for us so we would try to sneak peeks into the kitchen only to be shooed away. What seemed like excitement to us was in reality possible danger. We did not realize that under the wobbly hissing top sat glass jars in boiling hot water filled with
equally hot produce. If it were to explode, there would have been boiling water and produce accompanied by glass shrapnel flying all over the place which more than likely would have resulted in serious injury. Being children, we were focused on the excitement of the actual explosion not on the outcome of the fall out.

As an adult, I can relate to the pressure cooker process in a whole new way. At times, I can feel my contents, my thoughts and emotions, begin to bubble, simmer, and boil as heated external pressures mount. I feel that little top beginning to hiss and wobble accompanied by steam and the need for release. In the heat of the moment, it is all about the explosion, the release of internal pressure, the escape of pent up contents. No forethought is given to the fallout, who might be injured after our contents have spewed.

My grandmother once told me of a time when she was a young girl helping her mother to can when the pressure cooker did indeed explode. Luckily, no one was injured by the glass shards but there were a few minor burns from the hot contents coming into contact with tender human flesh. Unfortunately, I must confess that I have had more than my fair share of such explosions. The hissing top on a pressure cooker is to let out the steam so that pressure won't build up to the explosion point. It is a safety gauge that gives warning that the contents are under pressure. As believers, we too have a built in safety gauge that warns us when we are under too much pressure, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prompts us through our thoughts and emotions. When our thoughts run awry, we need to take them into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:5). When our emotions are raw it is a signal that we need to be still in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 46:10). If we ignore these warnings as the pressure mounts, we will explode.(photo source)
I can think if no greater injury or damage that comes as a result of such an explosion as that which we do to the tender feelings and heart of another human. More often than not, they are innocent victims of the fallout. We may be feeling pressed in on all sides (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) and the first innocent bystander that crosses our path is bombed by a tirade of our emotions and words. We may try to soothe them with an apology or by trying to explain away the pain by putting the blame on the situation or someone else. These offerings are but a band aid that cover up the wound but do not ease the pain.

The truth is that we own our emotions and out thoughts, they come from within ~ not from without. Yes, external pressures are real, they do exist, and they are often used by our Heavenly Father to test, teach, or refine us (Psalm 66:10; Isaiah 48:10; Proverbs 17:3) . That is the purpose of the flame and external heat. The refining process requires great heat. Often, we have no control over the length of time or the temperature it takes for this process to occur. What we do have control over is the internal contents and our response to outside pressure. Scripture tells us that what comes from within comes from the heart (Matthew 15:18; Matthew 12:34, Ephesians 4:29).

Perhaps we have some boiling bitterness, some simmering sin, some bubbling resentment, some hissing hidden emotions, or perhaps it is burning thoughts or scalding words that are ready to spew. All of these are matters of the heart. No one else has the power to make us feel, think, or speak. If we become angry at another, that emotion comes from within. There may have been outward circumstances that prompted the emotion which is not sinful in itself, rather it is our outward response to the emotion that can lead to sin. These little pressure cooking exercises are sent to us by the Father so we can correctly learn how to handle contents that are under pressure.

In all the years that I remember my grandmothers pressure cooker never exploded. When the contents were finished cooking and the sealing of the jars was complete, there always stood a bountiful harvest that fed and nourished one farm family with enough to share with friends and neighbors. When the sealed jars were opened, there was always a delightful pop and a tiny hiss, a sigh really. What has been preserved inside was always good, nourishing, filling, and tasteful. It was never rancid, foul, or rotten.
Much like these jars, we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) . When we allow the Spirit to control our internal contents what has been preserved will be good. It will nourish others. It will cause us to react in a tasteful manner. We can sigh with contentment at the Spirits infilling rather than spew forth that which is rancid, rotten, or foul. Under the Spirit's control we too can reap a bountiful harvest of peace while under pressure. This will lead to a celebration of gladness for the bountiful fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9) which enable us to have self-control, to treat others with dignity and respect, with the added bonus of being pleasing in the sight of our Heavenly Father.

Miss Sandy


Charmingdesigns said...

Hi Sandy, I sent another email...did you receive it? Laurie

Helen Read said...

wow, Sandy! Such great thoughts - and I just love your vintage images! The canning reminded me of childhood memories - and even some of my own young adult memories! I don't do much any more, but used to can quite a bit from my large garden. You are right, this IS the time of year!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Miss Sandy, you've got another winner here. You are sending this somewhere, right? If not, you must for this is beautifully written and it's a perfect illustration of the tensions that anyone can identify with.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I don't know when your header changed, but I love perfectly autumnal and the burlap background is terrific, too.

Judy said...

A wonderful post, Miss Sandy...such good analogies! I have my MIL's pressure cooker...and the vintage instruction manual. It's a keepsake only...and maybe now it will also remind me of what to do when my life is feeling rather like a 'pressure cooker'.

Susie said...

My mom and aunt use to use a pressure cooker to do canning as well. That thing use to scare me to death. Unlike you, I didn't want to be anywhere near it.

Thanks for this post Sandy. Here lately I don't really like what's in my own "spiritual" pressure cooker. Thank you for these reminders.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

I love to see all the canning jars lined up filled with nature's bounty.

Bejeweled said...

What vivid memories you paint in words! And such a insightful metaphor.

Fall is in full swing here. The trees are changing, the mornings are cold and misty. We don't can, but we have our own family rituals for fall tied to the garden and it is nice to work out there mulching and setting up seed stations for the winter. Just love fall!

Catherine Holman said...

Hi Sandy,
I haven't been visiting much lately and I so miss your beautiful words. Thanks!

bluemuf said...

Miss Sandy, all I can say is this is so inspirational.

Thank you
Hugs Karen

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