Friday, 27 July 2012

The small miracle of giving

A dollar a day. The concept fascinated me. Could I change the world with a dollar a day?
When our church challenged us to put this amount aside for missions, I was thankful that at this season of my life, I could do this. I am a concrete and visual learner, so I bought a glass container for my dining room table. I needed to watch the coins drop, and hear the muffled tinkle as they bumped.  I needed to see them climb the side.  It became a game, as my larger coins went in the jar. I paid with bills, and gleefully hoarded change until I got home and was able to add it to my stash.
Our church held a benefit concert to bring hope to children and young people. Three specific charities were selected, and and I decided to support the organization giving AIDS orphans a chance for an education. The concept that I could touch and improve the life these children infused me with wonder. The next day, however, I began to think about one of the other causes, which involved digging wells to provide fresh water in a third world country. People were getting sick and dying from diseases we don’t hear about in North America, because they had contaminated water. Troubled, I wandered around the house. “The water, Lord. What can I do about the water?” I had already spent my designated amount, but the conviction wouldn’t leave me. Then the jar caught my eye. It was only about one third full, and I hadn’t planned on emptying it yet, but…The coins made a satisfying clamour as they spilled. One third of a jar of coins can still amount to a significant amount of money! I was able to contribute to this cause, also.
Then came the night I had company for dinner, and someone joked, “Is this for tips?” I hesitated. Should I explain? The person asking had no church background. Plunging ahead, I replied, “No, that’s for world hunger, clean water and AIDS orphans.” That led to a discussion of the Christian’s response to world need which wouldn’t have occurred without the jar of coins on the table.
My granddaughter, who was three at the time, noticed the “moneys.” “Did you know there are children who are hungry? Grandma’s saving money in the jar so we can buy them food.” She may not understand money, but she knows children and hunger. I grabbed my wallet and she enjoyed adding coins to my collection. I was thrilled to introduce her to the concept of giving. Every time she comes, she puts “moneys” in the jar for poor children.
Then I understood. I had set out to change the world, but giving was changing my world—and me.
 Amazing dividends for a dollar a day.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The small miracle of light

At 3:00 a.m., my mind isn't functioning at the top of its game.

When I rolled out of bed in response to my doggy's summons, I stumbled into the hallway and hit the light switch. Nothing. Must be burned out. It wasn't until I'd felt my way down the stairs that it occurred to me that all six lights on the fixture couldn't be burned out. The power was out.

I keep a flashlight in a drawer in the living room for just such a calamity, so I turned it on and let Cinnamon out the back door. As I crawled back in bed, I thought, "I hope they get this fixed before morning." They didn't.

When my alarm went off, I faced reality--the power was still off, and my blow dryer wouldn't work. This was a crisis.

I showered in the dark and attempted to fix my hair. The result was flat and hanging in my eyes and I wondered if anyone would notice if I wore a bag on my head on the train. Lunch took precious extra minutes to create as I longed for a third arm to hold the flashlight. Worst by far was the lack of coffee. I stood staring at the barbecue, wondering if I could heat some up on there. If I'd had just a few more minutes--

The spiritual application is obvious. It's possible to survive and cope without light and power, but it's not comfortable.

God knew that.

From the moment He made us, He desired communication and fellowship with us. Adam and Eve walked and talked with Him daily until they blew it. The Old Testament is full of man's attempts to cope with the gap that sin left between us and God. Then God sent Jesus to be our Saviour, our Friend, our Light, so that close communication with God was possible again. Many years ago, I opened my desperate heart to Him, and He has been my Power and Light ever since.

So why do I sometimes stumble around with a flashlight?

The truth is, I forget. Even with years of seeing His faithfulness in all kinds of situations, there are times when my default reactions of worry and fear take over. It annoys me that I can be praying about a situation one minute and find my mind wandering into the land of "what if" the next. Will I never learn? My Father is so patient, and when I despair, He reassures me.

"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Phil. 1:6

So today, Lord, I put the flashlight away in the drawer, and turn on the Light.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The small miracle of stuff

We all have stuff. Nothing wrong with that.
The problem comes when our stuff has us.

The Parable of the Stuff

There once was an elderly lady. She had lived lots of years, and now she wheezed when she walked and puffed when she got up and squinted when she tried to see. For all the years she'd lived, you'd think she would be wise, and in many ways she was. But she had one problem.

She loved her stuff.

She wasn't rich, and truthfully, some of her stuff was in tatters. But it was hers, and she got anxious whenever she couldn't find it. Some of her family took some of it away, because her room was crowded, and they were afraid she would fall over it. She became upset and thought they had stolen it, and she demanded they bring it back. In fact, whenever she misplaced anything, she immediately assumed it was stolen. She had her stuff in boxes and cartons and bins and in a container under the bed. She never went out, and  never had fun, but her stuff was safe. She had her stuff. Or it had her.

That's an extreme example, but keeping a balance in this area is a continual challenge. We want stuff, and then we want better stuff. When it get it, it needs to be washed and ironed and cut and fertilized and cleaned and maintained and polished and vacuumed. Our stuff takes a lot of work.

There was a man in the Bible who cornered the market on stuff.

"Speaking to the people He went on. 'Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.' Then He told them this story. 'The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself. 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grains and goods, and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well. You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life.' Just then, God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods--who gets it?'  That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God." Luke 12:13-21 (The Message)

The key to the whole "stuff" thing is attitude. God doesn't say not to save for retirement, or that you can't own and enjoy things. The reason why this farmer got called to task was his attitude. He was focusing on looking after his stuff, rather than sharing it. He wasn't looking to help the poor with his bumper crop, he was building bigger barns.


It was probably 40 years ago that I had the privilege of hearing Corrie Ten Boom speak in person. Her words imprinted on my soul and molded my life. She said, "Hold everything in your hands, lightly. Otherwise, it hurts when God pries your fingers open." As someone who had everything taken away by the Nazis when her family hid Jews during the war, she learned this lesson.

So, I was wondering--what's in your barn?

Is God prying open your fingers in some area of your life?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The small miracle of expectations

The day had been a culinary disaster.

I have a reputation as a good cook and an even better baker/dessert maker. At work, I am always trying new recipes, and usually they are great. Usually.

The other day, I made something called "Strawberry Cream Dessert." Cookie base, jello, cool whip, strawberries, orange juice.--sounds like the perfect treat for a hot day. When I went to cut it into squares, it hadn't set. No problem. I'll use a spoon and scoop it onto the plates.

I have to tell you--it looked like pink vomit.

Residents who were brave enough to try it assured me it tasted alright, but my reputation was bruised. Everyone who approached the cart which held the plates of the stuff, backed away and said, "What's that?"

I went home and began to make dinner. Hunter wasn't going to be in until 8:00, and in my mind I had a lovely dinner planned. Chicken done on the rotisserie, green beans almondine and raspberry ice milk made in our new ice cream maker. I put the chicken on, and ran upstairs to get changed. In the five minutes that took, my chicken turned into a crispy critter. Apparently medium is too hot.Discouraged, I pulled off as much burned skin as possible, and covered the damage with barbecue sauce. Not beautiful, but acceptable. I dumped the package of beans I bought three days ago in to pot and discovered they were rotten. Next stop was the compost. I looked at the ice cream maker and decided tonight wasn't the night for its premier run.

When I cut into the chicken, it wasn't done. It had to make a trip to the microwave. Twice. My expectations of a "lovely dinner" were in tatters.

If there's one thing I've learned about expectations, it's that they can mess you up. It's important to dream and have goals. Some of my goals are much loftier than a good meal or a fancy dessert, and I've worked hard to accomplish them. There is a balance to be achieved between pursuing goals and dreams and releasing my expectations to God. I often lose sight of the balance.

The key is this: "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." Ps. 118:24

Each day is a gift from God. My job is to be thankful, and honour Him in it. It's not about me, it's about Him. The cool thin is, when I make it about Him and rejoice in the day, whatever it brings, He makes it about me and teaches me. Not long ago (like last week) I would have had a good cry over a day like that. I would have said all kinds of nasty things in my mind about what a loser I was. I would have lost my joy.

But I am learning (learning being the operative word--I have not arrived in this area) to give my expectations to God, and lighten up. We laughed about the chicken and made wraps. Hunter reminded me of a certain blueberry pie disaster the week before, and I reprimanded him for bringing that up, and we laughed again. The "pink vomit" at work brought smiles to many faces, and made for much hilarity all afternoon. The sting is already gone. Only the joy remains.

Some of my dreams are of paramount importance to me, but I have learned to release. I will work and study  and market and do whatever is needed. But at the end of the day, it is His, and I will have joy.