Taste

My mother-in-law is a superhero. In our multi-generational household, not only does she put up with a whole lot of chaos, she also takes on the majority of the dinner-cooking responsibilities. We eat well and are incredibly grateful that she uses her gifts to care for us in this way, but feeding this pack of picky eaters is no easy task!

We’ve got three who will not touch anything ‘spicy’, three for whom a single seed or ‘chunk’ is a deal-breaker, one who turns her nose up at anything contaminated by the slightest bit of onion or mushroom, two who boycott the majority of vegetables, and one who is regularly warned that she can’t have any more vegetables until she eats ONE bite of something else. Cooking for us is exhausting!

In an attempt to remedy this problem, we have a “try one bite” rule. You don’t have to eat a whole serving and one bite, no matter how unpleasant, can easily be washed down with some water or milk. Who knows? You may find out it’s not as bad as you think!

It boggles my mind that after 20 years of following Jesus, I still wake up every morning believing my plans are all going to succeed! I assume nothing will go awry or bring me the slightest ounce of discomfort. I expect that I will go to sleep that night, looking back at my day with a good taste in my mouth.

And though this has happened approximately never, I still seem to think, “Today is the day!”

But instead of everything going my way, interruptions, complications, and irritations abound – leaving me feeling like I’ve been forced to plug my nose and wash down several forkfuls of mushrooms! (blech 😜) People and circumstances seem to have a will of their own and I can’t understand why they won’t do what I envisioned they would do. Some of these yucky bites are just minor inconveniences I didn’t see coming, but sometimes they’re onions covered in mayonnaise (double blech!) and really hard to swallow!

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Every time our plans fall flat or our expectations go unmet, it’s on purpose – the Lord’s purpose. His plan to allow our plans to fail is for our good because we need daily doses of discomfort to remind us that we are not God!

It’s so easy to get lost in the blame game – whether it’s stuffing my face with self-pity and regret over my own mistakes or simmering in a pot of anger over others’. It’s easy to point the finger at ‘the enemy’ and call it an ‘attack’. But there’s a really good chance something – or Someone – much bigger is at work.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
(Psalm 34:8-10)

Everything about God is good and so is everything He does. When things don’t go my way and I see an immediate “better” result, I’m quick to say, “God is good!”. Like the other day when my 9-year-old and I went to Wendy’s for lunch, but they were closed. She was upset, but we looked across the street and realized it was “Kids Eat Free” day at Moe’s! Woo-hoo! In those moments I’m so glad that His purpose prevailed over mine.

But it’s much harder to see that every taste we get of His work in our lives is good. When we’re seeking the Lord, He will be sure that we “lack no good thing”. Although we’d like every taste to be warm chocolate chip cookies, He gives us those less desirable bites to expand our palate so we can acquire a greater taste for His goodness.

If things always worked out the way I set out for them to, my confidence in myself would increase and my trust in my God would decrease. And since I’ve asked Him to help my faith grow, I can expect discomforts to be on my plate daily! They may be hard to swallow, but with every “taste” I am learning “see” Who is really in control.

No matter how they taste going down, all of His works are good. His purpose will always be greater than our pleasure and no matter what He’s serving today, we can say along with the Psalmist: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

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Slow

They’re my favorite animals, but I think they get a bad rap sometimes. Officially designated as the slowest mammals on earth*, sloths move an average of only 40 yards per day**! Their lack of speed even resulted in their being named “sloth” – a word that means “slow” and “sluggish”.

But sloths aren’t lazy – they’re just smart! On a diet of only leaves, twigs, and buds that take days to digest, sloths have little energy to burn which means every action is a purposeful decision – they don’t waste calories on needless movement. Their laid-back lifestyle gives them little reason to rush!

In our fast-paced “go, go, go” world, the perfectly steady, slow motion of sloths is fascinating to us. When I take my kids to the zoo, I feel like I could stand there and watch them for hours (but who has time for that?!).

If we could go back in time and eyewitness Jesus as He walked on this planet, I think we would be mesmerized by His pace. During His three years of ministry, He certainly moved, but He was never in a rush. Even though His supernatural skills were in high demand and the needs around Him were thousands-fold deep, His every action was calculated and He didn’t waste energy trying to do it all.

Jesus didn’t have a need for speed because, unlike us, He had a completely accurate view of God’s eternal plan. He knew that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) and that even if it looked like He was missing opportunities, moving faster wasn’t going to increase God’s ability to work through Him. Even though He saw the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), He did not bow to the pressure to meet all of their urgent and compelling needs. He lived in complete trust that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

If you’ve ever tried to mimic a sloth’s pace, you know that it’s incredibly hard for us humans to do. Our muscles have a difficult time moving that slow and it almost takes more effort than going fast!

As followers of Jesus, parents, employees, friends, family members, and community citizens, we are surrounded by a world of compelling and urgent needs, making “slowing down” seemingly impossible. We’d much prefer to flutter about, using up our valuable energy in an attempt to do it all. The needs are thousands-fold deep, causing us to live in fear of missed opportunities – especially when our skills and talents are in high demand.

In the animated children’s movie, “Zootopia” there is a scene featuring my ever-patient, smiling animal friends as Department of Motor Vehicle workers (If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here: https://youtu.be/ONFj7AYgbko). Officer bunny Judy Hopps and her friend Nick Wilde the fox are working on a time-sensitive case and are in need of some information from Nick’s sloth buddy, appropriately named “Flash”. Flash, even with Officer Hopps’ increasing irritation, sees no reason to hurry, and even stops to tell his co-worker a joke!

Maybe the sloths get it and we don’t. Maybe they see that life is over in a flash and there’s no point in wasting our energy getting things done just so we can get more things done. Maybe if we intentionally and purposefully slowed down we would see that so much of what we think we’re doing to “help” is actually just our pride – after all, our skills are in high demand and if we don’t do it, who will?

A couple days ago, after having an extra-rough morning with one of our girls, I took her out for a special “Mommy Date” so we could chat. As we ate donuts, I asked questions, trying to get to the root of the problem. My mind was reeling with ideas as I thought about plans and strategies we could use as parents to help her navigate these frustrating times.

As we were driving home, I was still in “This-is-my-opportunity-to-be-Superhero-Fix-It-Mommy” mode and was so focused on my conversation with her that I ran a red light and ended up in the middle of a busy intersection, frantically trying to maneuver my car to safety. I was so focused on the problem and my plans that I forgot that my purpose in that moment was to simply drive the car and keep my child (and other drivers) safe!

Pride is sneaky and it’s so easy to get caught up in the urgency and opportunities that touch our lives. We don’t have the low muscle tone of a sloth, so our attempts to follow Jesus’ example of slowing down are going to take some effort. I need to practice regular evaluation of my heart’s intentions and my understanding of God’s purpose for me in any given moment. I may perceive that my skills and talents are in high demand but they are never a necessity to an all-powerful God!

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
(Psalm 127:1-2)

P.S. Speaking of slowing down, I’ll be taking a some blog-time off to give my brain a rest – see you in a couple weeks!

*https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/it-s-official-three-toed-sloths-are-the-slowest-mammals-on-earth/
**http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/why-are-sloths-slow-and-other-sloth-facts

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Clear

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There’s nothing like a cool August morning on Lake Groton in northern Vermont. You just can’t beat waking up in a lakeside cabin, grabbing a cup of coffee, and walking outside to take in the crystal clear view of green mountains reflecting in undisturbed waters.

One morning last summer, though, the view was anything but clear:

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Thick, heavy fog had completely covered the lake surface, making it impossible to see the other side – or even the lake itself!

When I first walked outside, the only things visible were the dock and chairs. But as the morning went on and the warmth of the sun evaporated the mist, things began to appear.

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With every minute that passed, more was visible. The trees became greener and the blue of the sky was increasingly revealed.

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After about an hour, the last of the low-lying clouds retreated and our view was fully restored.

Isaiah 44:22 says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” This verse is such a fascinating picture of God’s work in our lives! The disorienting sinful nature we are born with continually clouds our judgment, leaving us in a fog when it comes to right and wrong. And not only that, it also obscures our view of God and His work in our lives.

But because of His great love, we who were once “strangers,” unknowingly “alienated from God” and “darkened in [our] understanding,” have had our eyes opened so that we might be “reconciled” and, therefore, “brought near”*. When our sin is “swept away” by the blood of Christ, our view of God is no longer hindered by its haze.

The thought that I – a tiny little human – could somehow be given a even glimpse of the splendor and majesty of the God of the Universe boggles my mind! Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to be content with a glimpse because I want to see it all – I so want to understand God and mostly, I want to know exactly what He’s doing in my life. But like the clearing of the mist, God’s revelation of His work never happens all at once.

In Mark 8:22-25, there is a story of a blind man whose sight was restored by Jesus:

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Notice that Jesus’ work in the blind man’s situation happened in two stages. He was given sight, but at first he could only see partially. It was in Jesus’ continued work where the man’s vision was fully restored and he could see everything – including his Healer – clearly.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

(Romans 11:33)

God’s work in our lives is often exactly that – “unsearchable” and “beyond tracing out”. This is frustrating for us, but He doesn’t work like a television show where all the pieces come together, the answers are revealed, and the mystery is solved in an hour or less. Sure, we hear stories of people looking back and seeing clearly how God worked in a situation, but that doesn’t mean that’s a guarantee for us. There may be many things we never understand.

In Isaiah 44, prior to the verse mentioned above, God goes into detail describing the exact sin His people, Israel, were guilty of:

“The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.”

(Isaiah 44:12)

The idols God’s people had chosen over Him were gods made with human hands – they were gods originating in human minds whose ways fit into human understanding.

As author Peter Scazzero describes: “God is immanent (so close) and yet transcendent (so utterly above and far from us). God is knowable, yet he is unknowable. God is inside us and beside us, yet he is wholly different from us… Most of the time we have no idea what God is doing.”** If we’re going to call Him our “God”, then we must come to terms with the fact that He is not required to work only in the realm of our human perception!

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Looking back, that morning at Lake Groton was anything but disappointing, because even in the fog, the view was still worth looking at! The process was beautiful and in rushing it we would have missed out on an amazing experience.

Clearly, God is more interested in the process than the product because, as Jesus illustrated in His healing of the blind man, the process involves the greater thing. The experience of His loving touch as He continues His work in our lives will always outweigh the lesser product of our understanding of it.

*Ephesians 2:12, Colossians 1:21, and Ephesians 4:18, Acts 26:18, Colossians 1:22, Ephesians 2:13
**”Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”, p. 129

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