Loaves

As a kid there was one thing I looked forward to about church every Sunday: the end of the service. Though the little kids only had to sit through halftime, the bigger kids had to stay. Not only was I bored, but after getting there early and then sitting through Sunday school and church, I was hungry!

Unless it was a communion Sunday – because then we got food! But not really. I remember anxiously watching the ushers bring the loaves of bread around and then, following my mother’s instructions, ripping a ‘small’ piece from the loaf. ‘Small’ meaning the largest piece I could get away with, of course!

As I watched the ushers carry the almost-full loaves of bread back to the front of the sanctuary, all I could think was how unfair it was. Surely there was enough for everyone to have had more! There weren’t that many people in the room – why didn’t they just pre-cut the bread and let everyone have a whole slice?

Well, I guess it would have been hard to wash down with that tiny half-sip of grape juice, anyway. 😉

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If you’ve ever had a ‘good’ quiet time with God, then you know what I mean by a ‘good’ quiet time with God. One of those times where you close your Bible or devotional and, with a deep sense of satisfaction, think “Wow! That’s so good!”. Sometimes it’s just the inspiration you need to face a challenge coming at you that day. Or a verse that brings you to your knees in awe of our great God. Or even a conviction you’ve been avoiding.

Whatever it is, feeling like you’ve heard from God in a personal way rocks. There aren’t many words to describe the sense of fulfillment it brings!

John 6 tells the story of Jesus miraculously turning five barley loaves and two fish into enough food for over five thousand people. With word of His healing abilities spreading rapidly, large crowds were before Him at every stop. And in this “desolate place” (Matthew 14:15), after many hours of watching and listening to Jesus, the people were understandably hungry.

So He fed them. And He didn’t just provide enough for each of them to have a bite – they all got “as much as they wanted” and ate “their fill”. (John 6:11-12). There were even leftovers!

After not only witnessing a miracle like this, but physically experiencing it for themselves, you can imagine the people were then hungry for more! So when they couldn’t find Jesus in that same place the next day, they followed Him to “the other side of the sea”. (v. 25)

But when they found Jesus, He said to them: “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.’” (v. 26) Jesus could see their hearts and knew exactly how to expose them. They were there because they wanted more – not because the food was a gourmet treat or because they were desperate for some free eats – they wanted more of the “WOW!”. The physical sensation of experiencing Jesus’ miracles firsthand was a ‘meal’ worth chasing!

In verse 35 Jesus assured them He was worth chasing – but not for the reasons they had been doing so: “‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” In Himself, Jesus had something to offer that would be more fulfilling and more satisfying than anything He could do or any way He could excite their senses. And they would experience that when they believed in Him just for Him – not for what they could get out of Him.

When I open my Bible, flip to today’s page in my devotional, turn on that worship song, or close my eyes to pray, I’m aware that there are loaves upon loaves of ‘stuff’ to be ‘gotten’ from Jesus. I know that He has the power and ability to “WOW!” me by exciting my senses with His words or His presence. But am I only going to Jesus for what I can ‘get’ out of Him? Am I after my “fill” or just after Him?

No matter how I feel as I get up to move on with my day, I can be assured that Jesus’ promise in John 6:35 is real. No matter how small the portion feels, I will never leave hungry or thirsty when I come to Him!

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Label

It’s amazing how much stuff we humans accumulate. Especially when we’re kids!

Last week, after tripping over one.more.thing. while tucking the girls in at night, I decided it was room-cleaning time. Though we try to make light ‘pick-ups’ part of our routine, every now and then we need a total overhaul! And with a lost library book as extra motivation, it was time.

Picking the stuff up was the easy part. Figuring out what to do with all the stuff was the problem. Is it trash? Recycling? Donation? Are you sure you need to keep that?

As the process dragged on, it was hard not to think about how much easier it would have been to go through the room myself. As an adult, I have 40-ish years of experience with “stuff,” and as their mom, I know what should be labeled “keep” and what should be labeled “GO”. But convincing them of that was a much harder task!

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When one of our students wants to start reading the Bible, I usually suggest they start with the book of Mark. It’s short, so it’s reasonable to set as a goal and Mark’s “to the point” writing makes it easy to get a solid picture of who Jesus is.

One of the themes that’s easy to pick up on in the first two chapters is Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ authority. Proclaiming Him from verse one as the unique and only “Son of God,” Mark then tells of Jesus receiving a sign of this authority at His baptism: “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (1:10-11)

Then, without wasting any time, Mark dives right into the proof. In verse 22, he describes that those in the synagogue “were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” In verse 27, they were “all amazed” that ‘”He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”’ Verses 40-41 describe Jesus’ authority over disease and the human body: “‘If you will, you can make me clean.’… ‘I will; be clean.’” Chapter two begins with Jesus using this authority over the human body to prove His ability to forgive sin.

In our 21st century American life, the word “authority” makes us roll our eyes. We like to make our own decisions and be the judge of what’s right for us. We’re self-aware and know what we can handle, after all. We’re also experts on labeling our “sin” and deciding whether or not we can keep it.

In our “relationship with Jesus”-focused 21st century Christianity, it’s easy to forget that Jesus is not only “friend,” but also “Lord”. Yes, He loves and cares for me. Yes, He is filled with compassion and I can lean on Him for support. But I can’t forget that when I signed up to receive Him, I also received His authority into my life.

My heart is as frustrating as my kids’ room in the dark – it seems like I keep getting tripped up on one.more.thing I didn’t know was there. And the worst part is when Jesus comes in and starts telling me what to do about it! After labeling it with its real name (I’d prefer if He kept it a little more ‘politically correct’), He tells me what to do with it. Then, if I don’t do it, He keeps bugging me about it. (Recently, after several attempts, He got me to get rid of my ‘guilty pleasure’ TV show – He can be a real stinker sometimes!)

There are days when I wonder why He doesn’t just get it over with and clean me up, already. Surely with all that authority and experience, He could just snap His fingers and with a ‘spoonful of sugar,’ make it all go away.

But as a good parent, Jesus knows the process is more important. He knows “relationship” happens when I make the choice to acknowledge His authority by agreeing with Him about my sin and then obeying His instructions about it!

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Content

Speaking of marriage… I’m a cup-half-empty kind of girl who married a cup-half-full kind of guy. Or more accurately, I’m a cup all-the-way-empty girl who married a cup all-the-way-full guy. My husband doesn’t just see the positive side of every situation, he can’t even fathom that a negative side exists!

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The origins of this test, used to separate optimists from pessimists, are unknown, but the results are often spot on. Those of us who look at life through a general lens of “have” tend to see that the cup contains something. And those of us who look through a lens of “have not” tend to notice that the cup is missing something.

But science tells us we’re both incorrect – because the cup is actually full. Even if there isn’t a single drop of liquid in it, it is always filled with something – air! And air isn’t nothing. Air is matter – it has mass and takes up space. It is made of molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases. It may look like “nothing,” but, given the fact that we can’t survive more than a few minutes without it, it’s more like everything!

When Paul wrote the closing of his letter to the Philippians, he took some time to thank them for their generosity toward him and his ministry. He reported that he was now “amply supplied” because of their choice to “share in [his] troubles” by sending him aid “when [he] was in need” (4:14-18).

But as a teacher, Paul did more than just thank them – he also took advantage of the opportunity to educate them on an important spiritual truth:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (4:11-13)

As a follower of Christ, Paul looked at “content” through a general lens of “have” rather than “have not”. Even if the Philippians had not supported him financially, he knew “the secret” was to see his glass as always full, even if its contents were invisible to the physical eye.

We all want to be content, and for many of us, “content” is what will happen when our cup gets filled – a.k.a. when we get married. As young (or not-so-young) single people, we dream of meeting the “one” who will complete us and be the puzzle piece that fills up all our unmet needs.

And then we actually get married – and find out that’s not the case! After elevating our spouse to a god-like level, idealizing their need-meeting abilities, their idols come toppling over – and we fall right down with them. Every time I sense frustration and discontent in my relationship with Tim, I know it’s because I’ve been expecting him to fill a cup he was never meant to fill.

Laurie Krieg and “Hole in My Heart Ministries” compiled this list of the core needs God placed inside of humanity before the Fall in Genesis 3. These needs are present in all humans, and, though they can be met in part by other humans, are only met fully and completely by God Himself:

I need to be . . .

Affirmed: Overwhelmingly approved of
Desired: Specially chosen—no pretense necessary
Included: Wanted in this group, team, or partnership; belonging
Loved: Unconditionally accepted
Nurtured: Cared for; held
Purposed: Filled with a sense of profoundly mattering
Rested: Re-centered and reset in mind, body, spirit; includes having fun
Safe: Unafraid; trusting everything is under control
Seen: Noticed inside and out
Unique: Delightfully special
(Read more about these at: https://www.himhministries.com/core-needs.html)

As a follower of Christ, I want to believe that He is all I need, but when I have this other human right here who could meet those needs, I want him to do it! I tend to look at like this: Tim fills my cup first and then Jesus can fill what’s left. But the reverse is true: Jesus has already filled my cup, and anything Tim adds is only the overflow.

Your cup is constantly full – even if it looks and feels like it’s empty. When Paul said “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” (4:13) he wasn’t talking about receiving supernatural power to succeed in life or reach his goals, he was talking about receiving the supernatural vision to see the air as a thing. The contents of your cup may not always seem tangible, but they’re necessary to your survival!

Which of the “core needs” listed are biggest for you?

Which have you been depending on others to fill, rather than God?

Which can you thank God for already filling today?

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Fresh

Everybody poops.

Yes, it’s true. Even though we don’t like to admit it. Especially when we’re toddlers.

Though it’s been years since diaper-changing was a part of my life, I have many not-so-fond memories of the potty-training process. I’m sure there were some toddlers out there who, keenly aware of their own bowel movements, immediately reported them to their parents and asked to be changed. But this was not the case in our family.

For my (and I think most) children the process looked something like this: Poop in diaper. Resume normal activities which include sitting, standing, rolling, etc… as if nothing ever happened. Hear parent’s suspicion that you may need a change. Vehemently deny parent’s suspicions. Continue sitting, standing, rolling, etc… until said parent finally picks you up and uncovers the proof. Whine and cry during entire changing process as if it was the worst thing that ever happened to you.

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It’s easy, as a toddler, to get comfortable sitting in our own waste.

And just as easy as an adult.

I wrote last week about the “work[ing] out” of our salvation, and how our faith gets its greatest ‘workout’ in our relationships. And if that’s true, then being married is like being in continuous, intense, marathon training!

There’s something about spending many years living with, dividing chores with, making millions of decisions with, and putting up with the quirks of another person that draws the sin right out of you. It’s uncanny how all of my greatest flaws and deep-rooted pride make their stink known, especially when Tim and I disagree!

For me, and maybe you, too, the process looks something like this: Get in disagreement. Believe I’m right (because I am, of course! 😜). Sense pride making its way out. Sit, stand, and roll around in it by taking personal offense that my “rightness” is not being acknowledged. Sense more pride. Sit, stand, and roll around in it some more by adding “tone” to my comments until I feel like I’ve “won”.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul offers up some solid advice on how to live like Christ in our relationships. In chapter 3, his focus is on false teachers in the church who had been leading the Philippians to put their confidence in their “flesh” rather than in what Christ had already done. In response to their error, Paul proved that he, if anyone, did have reason to put confidence in his flesh, but one encounter with Christ revealed to him that those attempts to achieve “righteousness” on his own were nothing but “rubbish” (Philippians 3:4-9).

Because of this, Paul encouraged the believers to “press on” toward Christ by “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (3:13-14). For Paul, Christ meant a clean, fresh start where he left behind the burden of pride – both in his attempts at righteousness and his failures at achieving it. No longer dwelling in his own mess, he was free to move toward what Christ had in store for him.

Clean, fresh starts are available to us at salvation and also at any everyday moment. But in the heat of an argument, it’s so easy for me to act like a toddler! There’s something in me that’s aware of the mess (the Holy Spirit seems to have an impeccable nose for it), and yet I’d rather just sit in it. Because admitting it and letting go of it by making a change seems too hard.

In chapter three of their book, “You and Me Forever,” Francis and Lisa Chan provide a serious marriage “workout” challenge: “The one who wins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ”. It’s crazy how I can be fully aware of the stench of my pride, but everything inside of me wants to keep pressing on for the “win” with my “toned” presentation of facts and feelings.

Over several months of marriage counseling (one of the best things we’ve ever done!), Tim and I have learned the magic of the simple phrase: “Can I try that again?” In any moment, a fresh start is available. A simple request to “try that again” pushes the pause button, pulls us both down off our high horses, and allows us to start the conversation again – minus the “tone”.

Yes, it’s hard to acknowledge my pride in the moment, but forgetting what lies [in my] behind is the surest way to free us up to move toward each other and toward Christ!

(Full credit for this illustration goes to Jessica Mello, my dear friend who is deep in the throes of toddler parenting 😲)

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