We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Rethinking Mealtimes

So, who's the main person who feeds the people at your house? The one who cooks, packs lunches, and makes sure everyone is fed and nourished? In my home, it's me. I enjoy it most of the time.

Do you sometimes resent all those hours in the kitchen because of the more worthwhile items on your TO DO list?  At times, I do. Especially this season of the year. Recently, I heard a statement that has revolutionized the way I think about the time I spend in the kitchen. 

"Jesus took time out of His sermon to feed people."

I found the story in all four gospels. People had come from far and near to hear Jesus teach. When "the day was already far gone," Jesus sent the disciples among the people to search for food "that these may eat." All they could find was a little boy's lunch, consisting of five barley loaves and two small fish. In the end, Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children from this little lunch, lovingly prepared by an unnamed mother that morning. Several ideas stand out in bold as I read this story.

  • Jesus asked the people to sit down, which they did, in groups of hundreds and fifties, "looking like so many garden plots" (The Amplified Bible). Even though the hour was late, they didn't "eat and run" or eat standing up. They sat down.
  • Jesus gave thanks. A simple tradition that acknowledges a heavenly Father who takes care of us.
  • The food was simple yet nutritious: fish and bread.
  • This picnic was an organized affair, not a free-for-all. Lots of helpers made it work. Jesus distributed "to the disciples and the disciples to those sitting down."
  • There was plenty. The people ate "as much as they wanted."
  • Nothing was wasted. Jesus gave specific instructions to "gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost."
  • In the gathering dusk, the people went home with more than full stomachs. The experience touched them. "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."
All worthwhile activities, wouldn't you agree? So much more that just getting the crowd fed. Translated into our century: a simple menu of plentiful, nutrient-dense food. A table of seated family members and guests. The giving of thanks. A setting for conversation, for sharing the wonder of daily miracles, for telling stories that reflect God's faithfulness. A feeling of warmth and belonging. It doesn't always happen this way, I know. Yet even though mealtimes have their challenges, perhaps these observations are worth our consideration. Perhaps there's another way to view our work in the kitchen.

The next time we're tempted to sigh over the endless cooking and baking responsibilities and all that goes with it, or even feeding a baby every three hours around the clock, let's remember how Jesus took time out of His important kingdom service to feed people. There's a whole lot of worthwhile-ness in that! 

Quote by Jennie Allen, Restless: Because You Were Made for More, W Publishing, 2013, video for Lesson Six.
Story from Matthew 14:14-21, Mark 6:33-44, Luke 9:11-17, John 6:1-14. 
Photos from bing.com

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Ultimate Trade-off

I've been anticipating the holidays coming up. The first Christmas without the man who, year after year, came huffing and puffing down the stairs and over to the tree on Christmas Eve, huffing and puffing because of all the "heavy" gifts he carried down for me. When the girls were little, they squealed with delight. The tradition continued all the way up until 2014. Who would have dreamed this Christmas would be different? We're already feeling the loss.

My wandering thoughts have also reflected on what Christmas meant for Baby Jesus. His represents the greatest loss of all, really. The reality of this came together for me at the mall . . . 

Sleigh bells jingled in the background, and lights twinkled as I waited at the end of a long line of strangers to exchange my cash for my daughter’s Christmas gift. In a limited sense, I became poorer so she could become richer. When we give a gift, we sacrifice money—and ultimately time. Yet my transaction didn’t make me truly “poor” or make her truly “rich.”

But what if our family left our suburban home with only the clothes on our backs? What if we left our cars in the garage, our furniture, our technology, our clothes, our freezer full of food, our education, our jobs, our children’s school, and all that we have and do. And what if a refugee family from a third-world country moved in and suddenly acquired all we left behind . . . while we took up their life of hand-to-mouth poverty? We, who had been rich, for their sakes would become poor that they might gain our riches.

What if a billionaire traded places with the poorest of peasants? 

What if the Son of God became poor for earthlings like us?

Jesus willingly embraced the ultimate poverty. He left His Father and all that encompasses the celestial sphere to become a helpless infant. He took on human limitations. The hand that formed the heavens with the moon and the stars, wrapped themselves around a teenage girl’s finger as she lovingly swaddled Him in homespun strips of cloth. He became utterly dependent on the people He created—for milk, for shelter, for protection. Although He was the Word from the beginning, He had to learn to talk. Taking on humanity demonstrated no small sacrifice. He traded all of heaven’s glory for our sakes so that we could acquire all He left behind.

We celebrate Christmas because a Savior came to provide eternal life. We sing carols about joy, celebrate with candlelight services, and re-enact the Nativity. We rejoice in the benefits of His grace.

But Jesus experienced unfathomable loss. Loss for a sinful people who may take the incarnation for granted. And if becoming a baby wasn’t humbling enough, He gave up His life as the ultimate sacrifice. For our sakes—all because He loves us.

This Christmas, l hope we will remember God’ unspeakable gift. It’s through His poverty we become truly rich.

Joy to the world!

 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV).

 Reprinted, in part, from Christian Devotions.