You Have to Believe It to See It

Last week in World History, as I taught about the revolutions and dynasties of China, I also gave the students a few facts about the place, China. The Chinese cut up food when cooking it because it would be rude to make your guests work for their food. China has deserts, mountains, coastline and islands, and a wall you can see from space. They also have some panda bears.

Panda bears only eat two kinds of bamboo. Bamboo is not a nutritious plant. In fact, the bears have to eat at least forty pounds of it a day in order to squeeze enough nutrition out of the plant just to survive. That’s a whole lot of bamboo! Amos once cut down the mayor’s bamboo in Morgantown and carried it to grandma’s house. It is long and cumbersome, but not at all dense and heavy. Forty pounds would be a heckuva lot of bamboo canes.

Do you know how fast bamboo grows? It grows so fast you can see it grow. Really. And it spreads from the roots, sending shoots under ground and up again a few feet away. It can grow an inch every hour, two feet in a 24-hour period. Don’t plant it; it’s a nightmare!

Some people would say isn’t it lucky that bamboo grows so fast for those poor pandas who can only eat bamboo. Others say it sure is a wonderful thing that pandas eat so much bamboo since it grows so quickly. I guess it is a sort of “which came first the chicken or the egg” scenario, but my first reaction is to say, “Whoa, God sure thought of everything!”

I believe God is there, and that he started this journey and he will finish it. That is what makes my instinct to be one of godly praise instead of just appreciation of a lucky happenstance.

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.” Madeleine Le’ Engle

I Can’t See My Plate

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15

Sunday, Preacher Man challenged us to walk through our houses and intentionally give over everything to God. If there is something we can’t give to him, then we know where the stumbling block is and better get rid of it quick.

I have walked around and seen things that would hurt to lose, say if there were a fire. I love the photo albums of the boys growing up. I have sentimental feelings toward objects, like the Bible Matt gave me when we were dating. Losing the emerald ring that I bought with one of my first pay checks would hurt; I was so proud of being able to buy it myself. But I can truly say that I could lose any of those things and it wouldn’t matter. I have given them to God to be used for whatever purpose he intends.

I went to the eye doctor a couple weeks ago and was officially informed of what I already knew; I need bifocals. I started wearing contacts again last year, but in the last many months I haven’t been able to wear them because I can’t see anything less than two feet in front of me. I knew it was time when I realized that in order to eat the food on my plate I was looking under the rim of my glasses to see the food. I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

God has said everything he has is mine, but looking through a new lens I realize there is something I have not reciprocated. My children are mine.

Yes, I have prayed every single day of their lives that they will choose God and that they will serve him their entire lifetimes. Yet somehow I don’t trust God to take care of that. I worry about whether the boys will make the right choice, to serve the one true God. Sometimes I even anguish over how to lead them to the waters of baptism and then down the path of Life.

Now I read the words of the father again: Everything I have is yours.   Suddenly I see that before it is mine, it is HIS. He gave the boys to me for a time to love, enjoy, and teach about their Father. But they are his to start with and his they remain. He didn’t say everything I HAD is yours, but everything I HAVE is yours.

I should have ordered those bifocals sooner. It would have saved me a lot of grief.

That’s Why We Praise Him

France’s King Louis XIV called himself the “Sun King” because he was to be the source of light for all his people. He is considered the first king to attempt Absolutism- absolute power. For the most part he succeeded. He built the palace at Versailles so that the court officials would all be located together where Louis could keep an eye on them. He made serving him a requirement to promotion. It became a geat honor to be the one to hand the king his shirt as he dressed in the morning. Anyone who hoped for an office, title, or pension from the king had to play along.

Louis XIV took his country to war many times. He had complete authority over taxes, foreign policy, and the Church. He built Versailles into a palace that housed 10,000 people. He added rooms, gardens, and more. Then he tore up the bills so that it could not be proven how much money he spent. Whatever Louis wanted, Louis took.
Jesus is the true Sun King, offering light to the world. Jesus has absolute power, but he lets us choose if we want to obey him. He has control over all wars, monies, and policies, and he asks us if we would like to serve under him. He is preparing a mansion for all of his kingdom’s subjects, and we all know how much it cost.

We don’t serve him because we want a promotion. We don’t bow down because we fear for our lives. We worship because he gave, not because he took.

Louis XIV, on his deathbed, told his great-grandson to be easier on the people, to live at peace with other countries, and not to exact so much from his subjects. He was sorry for the way he had treated his people during his lifetime. Jesus draws us to his deathbed every week to remember that he lived a life worthy to worship and died a death that paid all debts. He is a king worth worshipping.

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” Goethe

That’s Why We Praise Him (Tommy Walker)

He came to live, live a perfect life,
He came to be the Living Word, our Light
He came to die, so we’d be reconciled,
He came to rise to show His pow’r and might, and
VERSE 2:
He came to live, live again in us
He came to be our conquering King and Friend
He came to heal & show the lost ones His love
He came to go prepare a place for us
CHORUS:
That’s why we praise Him, that’s why we sing,
That’s why we offer Him our everything
That’s why we bow down and worship this King,

‘Cause He gave His everything,
‘Cause He gave His everything.

We Aren’t Yet

I walk slowly along the shoreline seaching for a whole sand dollar or an unmarred conch shell. Those are the treasures of beachcombing kings. Occasionally I have found perfection glistening on the sands, washed by the tide onto the slope of sandy dryness. The sand dollars and shells, still wet with their saline waves, cry for the home forever lost when my fingers stretch and my back bends.

I pick up other shells as well. Reds and bright yellows often grab my attention. Flicking them over with a toe, I sigh with disappointment when the underside is broken. Sometimes, though, a broken shell is still beautiful enough to place in my plastic bag, collected for the glass jar at home on the buffet.030

But whether the shell is still in its perfect state or is only collected for its bright color, it is never as beautiful on my buffet as it is on the beach. Shells are more beautiful on the beach, shining in the sunshine where they belong. Today I am only a shell in a buffet jar collection. I am not what I will one day be.

051

Alas For Those That Never Sing

I think I know myself. I am a fairly honest person; some would call my honesty frankness. I tend to be pretty frank with myself, too, so I guess I figure “you give what you get”. Anyway, I think I am a 50/50 risk taker. I am not a risk taker of ridiculous risks, like bunjee jumping or snake charming. But, a risk that has little risk of death involved, I will likely attempt.

Last year I finished writing my first book. I was, and am still, nervous about it. I had to learn a lot in order just to figure out how to contact  publishers about my work. I had to overcome the fear that my writing would only be liked by friends and family and probably no one else would ever care to read a word I write.

Now my big risk is writing another book, this time a work of fiction. Fear drifts through my mind like thick fog on a mountaintop, hiding the words that wait to be written. What if I only had one book in me? What if I can’t really write an entire piece of fiiction? But I know that the only way to see what can happen, what possibilities are there, is to try, to take a risk. I have to step out into the fog, wave my hand in front of me and feel for the obstacles, and then embrace the unknown.

Telling my story is like giving birth: a beautiful, painful, necessity.

Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them. Oliver Wedell Holmes

 

Let It Be To Me

I know my Christmas posts are late in coming, but in the hubub of holiday busyness, writing falls low on the priority list. Travel, shopping, other events and parties, wrapping, cooking, cards, and calls fill my days, and perhaps my mind, to overflowing. But now in the stillness of a January freeze I contemplate. Would I have uttered, “Let it be to me”?

An angel showed up, certainly like Mary, I would listen. I love babies and children, and to have the child of God would be perfection, surely. Yes, God, let it be to me as you have said. But babies and burp cloths are not what she really agreed to.

Mary quickly agreed and said, “Let it be to me”, but she didn’t know what lay ahead- a baby in  a manger in a strange town, a son who is considered so crazy that you fetch him home, his death as a criminal. Had she known all of that, would she still have said, “Let it be to me”?

God doesn’t give us the whole picture at once. It would be too overwhelming. But He knows my heart. He knows I want to say, “Let it be to me”, and He answers, “A little at a time, my child.”

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”b 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”c 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be bornd will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.   Luke 1:26-38

Jesus’ Lifetime of Suffering

The manger and the tree are put away. The returns have been made, the furniture put back in place, and school books are tossed on the stairs. Yes, Christmas is over.

2000+ years ago it meant that Mary’s breasts ached, Joseph was job hunting in an overpopulated town, and the baby cried a lot. Christmas was far from over. Christ had come and, at the same time, had not yet come. Mary and Joseph had a lot of work ahead of them. They were new parents, confused and bewildered, and deservedly so.

Others parents wonder how this tiny life happened and how they will cope. Mary and Joseph really didn’t know how this tiny life happened, and it sure didn’t seem like things were going the way God would want His son to be cared for; confused and bewildered didn’t even begin to describe them.

The days flew by and soon toddler Jesus was walking and talking. The family moved a couple of times and then found themselves settling down in Nazareth. By now Mary and Joseph had a couple more kids and had figured out how all of this was supposed to work.

Perhaps now the gossip that had followed them in Bethlehem would die down. But people are slow to forget a scandal, and children are cruel. I wonder about the Torah lessons and if Jesus was made an example of during class. I wonder if kids whose parents talked too much would later during a game spit the ugly words out at the child Jesus. I wonder if he cried at the sting of the words, or even the sting of a stone.

Having a mother’s heart, I feel the pain Mary must have felt as her son was treated with disdain. Joseph was a good man, treating Jesus as his very own, but a father’s love can only shield so much, and children are cruel. But the times that I want to shield my children turn into the times that help them grow into men. Learning to live through life’s pain is part of learning to live. So Mary held her tongue.

Is that how Jesus learned to deal with and be merciful to sinners when he was grown? Did living on “the wrong side of the tracks” give Jesus some insight into the pain of those he came to serve? When they asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”, did Jesus remember the childhood of disgrace?

Hebrews says that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered, but he didn’t start by going to the cross. He started by being a baby, a child, a teen; each step of growth a new lesson to learn until ultimately he was ready to obey. Where are you on this journey of obedience? Are you still falling on your toddler hands and knees, or are you stepping forth declaring with your changing voice and body that you “know what you are doing”? Or, have you, like the adult Jesus, learned obedience from what you have suffered?

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:7-10 ESV

Standing As Cheesy Vegetable Soup

I returned from Christmas Holiday to a refrigerator holding the last. The last of the cauliflower. The last of the celery. The last half of an onion and the last few baby carrots. I imagine they all thought they had been forgotten and would be tossed out as soon as I got the chance. Instead, I made cheesy vegetable soup.

I used all of those veggies and the last of the mashed potatoes from our New Year’s lunch to make a delicious, nutritious soup that even the finickiest kid would eat. There was only enough soup left over for a small lunch for me the next day.

John Milton, the famous author of Paradise Lost, was a blind poet later in life. He wrote about his concerns and fears that blindness would limit his ability to serve God:

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,

And that one talent which is death to hide,

Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, lest He returning chide.

“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”

I fondly ask, but Patience to prevent

that murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need

Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best

Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state

Is kingly. Thousands at His bidding speed

And post o’er land and ocean without rest;

They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Sometimes I wonder if I am the last in the refrigerator. I feel like everyone has gone before me and been a steak with stuffed mushrooms and a beautiful salad with balsamic dressing. Now here I am sitting in the crisper drawer wondering if the next grocery run will replace me. I’ll be scraps thrown over the fence to some old goats.

But that is just ridiculous. Perhaps I am still in the crisper drawer and everyone else has had their turn, but God can still whip up a cheesy vegetable soup, and every kid will want a spoonful. I can still serve God, even if I only stand and wait.

 

You Turkey!

IMG_20131231_112444926 (1)This is a picture of a big turkey, nearly twenty pounds. At least it used to be. Way back in November, I roasted a huge turkey. It was more than we could eat, so I froze it in zip lock plastic bags. Last week I took out one of the bags, and we have been having turkey ever since. First, we ate turkey as a main dish. Then I shredded some of it and cooked it with green chilies and tomatoes for a soft taco dinner. Next, I cut up the turkey in chunks and made a heavy gravy for creamed turkey and biscuits. Finally, I threw the rest of the turkey into a gnocchi soup, and there you have it: Turkey.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and we like to think of all of the possibilities it brings. I made a list of all of the things I want to accomplish. I even wrote out a daily schedule to help keep me on task and focused. It’s January 2, and I already have blown the schedule. Twice.

And though I am annoyed with “life” that gets in the way of my schedule and plans, I’m actually okay with the way it isn’t turning out. Because, although every time I ate turkey, it turned into lots of different tasty dishes. The possibilities this year are endless; I just have to keep on cooking.

Happy New Year! And may you enjoy all the meals it brings, whether you planned them or not.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”  Julia Child

Adoption That Keeps On Adopting

One year ago we adopted our newest addition, Captain. The seemingly sweet beagle pup needed a new home. His family was adding another human pup and were concerned about a snapping behavior he had with the youngest child. We drove over to their house to “look”, but Amos fell in love and the look became took.

We took Captain home, and within twelve hours I was ready to return him. He has a mean streak; they were right to be concerned about Captain near a little kid. His meanness, though, seems to be contained to moments when he wants things his way and no other. If he thinks he should be on the couch, and I never think he should be there, then he growls and snaps as he grumpily gets down and goes to his stool. If he thinks he should be allowed to jump up on Matt’s lap and eat off the table, and Matt thinks he should not do thusly, Captain snaps and grouchily glares at us from his designated time-out spot.

Yet, here we are a year later, still feeding, bathing, and caring for Captain. Honestly, if it weren’t for Amos, another family that was “looking” after we did would have had the little guy. But Amos saved Captain, because I love Amos and was willing to forgive the dog his offenses for Amos’s sake.

007It helped Amos’s case that Kelly had come before Captain. I learned some things from her and have a little more patience for badly behaved dogs because of her. Kelly was trouble, just like Captain, wanting her way, peeing on my carpet, dragging fleas into the boys’ beds, and tearing into the garbage. But ten years with Kelly taught me that she was a gift, sent to teach me what it feels like to be my Father.

In this season of gift-giving, look for the gift that gives back unexpectedly. Perhaps a puppy or kitten, perhaps a night in a soup kitchen, or perhaps, just maybe, there is a babe in a manger waiting to grow in your heart.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

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