Friday, February 22, 2013

Give Us Our Lunch, Our Daily Lunch

I went to lunch with the boys today. 

I haven't been in a while.  Last fall I went several times, but I haven't gotten there this semester until today.  I would love to say that I went because it was my idea and I'm a great mom and my kids always come first in my life.  Truth is, I heard my husband tell the boys that one day before school is out he will take off work and come to eat with them.  Busted.  Couldn't I at least spend one of my Friday's (which are always my day off) feasting with those two sweet blessings?

I'm so glad I did. 

Isaiah didn't have much to say about it.  He took my presence in stride.  But the other kindergarteners at his table seemed to be happy I was there.  I got to open some applesauce and some ice-cream.  I got to hear about a play date where cookies were made.  I witnessed the eating of the lunchable tower as one child tried to stick a whole stack of alternating turkey, cheese, and crackers into her mouth, making sure she had my attention as she did. 

Noah seemed glad to have me there.  He told me about his day, how he wants to do the reading program so he can win Hotrod tickets (the local baseball team), how he still had math and recess left.  I enjoyed hearing him talk to his friends about baseball and morning meeting and whether or not they knew their phone numbers, in order to arrange play dates. 

It was a sweet time, and over much too soon.

I think about this and consider that phrase in the Lord's Prayer:  "Give us this day our daily bread."  I have often thought about that phrase as the "please meet my needs God!" part of prayer.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  However, God has been pressing me on it, asking me to see it in a different light:  "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
And then the Gospel of John where Jesus, the Word made flesh, says, "I am the Bread of Life."

When I say "give me this day my daily bread" what I'm really saying is "give me Jesus."  I'm asking not so much for a meal, but for a Man. . . .  Him. . . .   His words. . . .   His heart. . . .   His love. . . .  His witness in my life.  His With-ness with me.

Being with my boys today was what made lunch so special.  I was with them.  I entered their world and was simply present, to hear all about the ins and outs of kindergarten and third grade.  And every day, if I'm really honest, what I most need is to taste and see that God is with me, that Jesus is still made flesh in my life, that He is still speaking Himself into my circumstances.  Just like I showed up for lunch with my boys, He is just waiting for me to open my eyes.  Because every day He is showing up with a feast.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Manna . . . in the Market

In the last few months I have found a new spiritual discipline, a radical act of trust, bursting with the forgiveness of regular practice, the promise that if I don't get it right this time, next time is right around the corner.  And it feels like an excellent way to live into the season of Lent.

Every weekend I head to the grocery, coupons and list in hand, and I try my best to buy just what we need for the week.

Sounds simple.

It is incredibly hard.

Because it takes discipline to not buy the numerous items it takes to use the super value coupon.  Or to add another unnecessary tube of Pringles to get the extra $5 off.  Every super-market excursion is another test of my trust.  Can I trust God to provide for our immediate needs?  Can I trust Him to provide for our needs next week?  Can I only gather that which will feed my family for the next seven days, and leave the following weeks to God's future provision?

I remember the story of the Israelites in the desert.  God's instructions to them were to step outside and gather nourishment for the day.  Not for the week ahead.  Not for the month.  The extra was to be left.  Because for every day that they needed heaven's provision, it would be waiting for them in the morning dew.  But to gather more than that was to gather rot into their tents.

How often have I gathered rot into my home because I could not trust God's provision for tomorrow to be as sufficient as today's?  Truth told, I gather more because I am putting my trust not in God's goodness and faithful steadfastness, but in my own ability to provide, to gather unto myself more than enough to cover all possible scenarios, to gourge my pantry with stuff so that I feel better.  In the gourging I'm finding that I lose touch with my real needs.  When I stuff and over stuff that cart, and then bring it all home, I never feel or see or touch the place where my need meets God's ready provision.

Why bother?  Why care about something so trivial?  This is not covered in The Ten Commandments, and Jesus did not give instructions for grocery shopping.  But there has been that nudge in my spirit for this particular season of my life.  Not for last season, maybe not even for the next season.  But definitely for this season.   I don't believe this is a mandate to be generalized.  Instead it comes as a personal call, an invitation from my Heavenly Father, to live into our relationship of trust in a deeper way.  A practical, rubber hits the road, pennies in the pocket kind of way.  It is deeply personal.  It makes me look at what I really need.  And gives me the opportunity to really appreciate what I already have.

And maybe that is the thing God has been asking me to see all along.  When I'm just concerned with getting, getting, getting, I forget to look around at what I already have.  I forget to appreciate it.  I forget to enjoy it.  And the extra burgeouning around me dry rots from lack of use.  Couldn't somebody else have actually enjoyed the thing I forgot about?  The thing that went in my trash can because I forgot it was there and now it isn't good for anything?

The Manna way of Life keeps me close to the Blessing of the Day.  That subtle Blessing does not escape my notice because I am so cognizant of not filling my cart too full, taking only what is needed, readily enjoying that which comes to me for this specific time.  Because trust isn't only about taking the worry out of whether there will be enough.  Trust is even more about resting oneself in the Good Hands of a Provider who delights to give gifts, the kind that are timely, noticed, enjoyed, and  savored.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Best Hearts

It's funny how things work out really.  When I first started teaching preschool last year, I was teaching everything.  I taught letters, numbers, sounds, and writing.  And Lord have mercy I had to try to teach children math.  Even the basics of moving small objects around so they can be counted makes me nervous.  I not really a numbers person.  I'm more of a metaphor girl. 

This year has been quite different in how our classrooms are set up.  The children come to the classroom I teach in to work on literacy and art.  The other pre-K classroom across the hall is where math and science are taught.  And the way it shakes out is that I get to do art.  HALLELUJAH!  I love this!  Those artistic leanings in me find natural expression as I guide little ones in the creation of boundless loveliness.

And everything has a process.

Especially when the medium is messy.  Especially when there are so many tender souls involved.  Especially when the propensity for cutting and gluing oneself is greater than what could ever happen to the canvas in front of them.

This week we made handprint hearts.  In honor of Valentine's Day.  In honor of our theme for the month: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30).  They turned out great.  But there was definitely a process involved.  (If you doubt the wisdom of this, I invite you to unleash a room-full of four year olds loose in your home with bright red paint copiously smeared on their active, little hands.)

We did this project last year, and I remembered a few things.  First, make sure all sleeves are safely rolled up past the elbow!  And second, it is easier to do one hand at a time instead of two hands at once.  Little ones have such a hard time placing their hands in just the right way.  And third, ask them to close their eyes while you place each hand exactly where it needs to go.  Otherwise they try to put their own hand where they want it, in just the way that seems right, yet it never really lands right.  But if their eyes are closed, it's easier for them to keep their fingers together, to let you ease out the thumb just enough, and to place that print in just the right place.  Then we switch hands and do it again, laying that second print in just the right place so that a perfect heart is formed.

I don't know how many times I said, "Little darlin, you're gonna have to let me do this."  And those sweet boys and girls would squint their eyes shut and try hard at trusting me to make their hand prints into something exquisite and beautiful.  The best hearts were the ones where that child just rested his or her hand in my grasp and let me lay it down where it needed to go.   At one point I looked at my co-teacher and said, "I wonder if this is how God feels?"  Little ones always think they know best.  So do we.

And everything has a process.

The scripture painted on my heart and mind this week as I ponder God's processes in my life, in my family's life is this: 
"With all wisdom and insight He has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Him, things in Heaven and things on earth.  In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to His counsel and will, so that we who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:8-12).
God accomplishes everything, all things, according to His counsel and will.  So that we can live for the praise of His Glory.  And everything in God's way of doing things has a process:  Especially when the medium is messy. Especially when there are so many tender souls involved. Especially when the propensity for cutting and gluing oneself is greater than what could ever happen to the canvas in front of us.

I see sometimes what God is getting at, the broader picture He is painting with my life.  But He asks me to close my eyes and trust Him anyway.  Apparently He knows better than I do how my best efforts would put my hands in all the wrong places, and the picture would no longer be clear, and the beauty would not be His, and His Glory would not be mine to live in or live out.  I always think I know better than He does what would work and what wouldn't.  Yet after a few run-ins with the messiness of the stuff of my life, I have learned better.

The best hearts were formed when the little one's trusted me to place their hands in just the right places.  And my heart is formed best when I trust God to place me in just the right places.  I can almost hear Him whisper, "Little darlin, you're gonna have to let me do this."

Friday, February 01, 2013

I'm Melting . . .

I've been pondering the message for almost a week now.  The one whispered gently on my Sunday morning run.  The glinting light captured my attention:  Trees and ice and sunshine together raining diamond drips of water onto soft grass, newly bare roads.  The ice storm last Friday made a mess of things, but the beauty it left still leaves me breathless, even after it has all melted away.  My cold heart is melting because I saw the Melting.

Each little branch of every single tree in our neighborhood was lined in ice, and glistening.  It made the whole world look shiny.  And in the beauty I forgot all was frozen.  Then I saw the drips of water, coming fast in the warming sun. 

It's a wonder I was even able to stay on the road.  My feet kept carrying me on the three mile path, but my eyes were riveted to the right and left, trying to see the power of warmth and light bringing what was ice-covered and frozen back to life.  It struck me as prayer, the thought coming fast:  "I wonder if this is what it is like when we pray?"  I pictured what intercession must look like in heaven, when we wrap the Love and Light of Jesus around those we care about, when our hands are helpless and all we can do is let the ache of our hearts reach across chasms to comfort those we long for.  At first glance the ice doesn't look like it is going anywhere.  The frozen gleam holds fast.  But if you stop looking at the tree branches and look carefully below them, you see the truth.  That ice is really turning to water, and quickly it falls away.

I am stunned by the clarity of the Revelation:  When we sit still in the Love of God it accomplishes something in us we may not even realize.  One day our limbs and life are all locked up in a frozen captivity.  Then one day we wake up free.  Sometimes it breaks off of us all at once.  Sometimes it is the patient drip, drip, drip of our prison falling away from us. 

I am stunned when I consider its message for me.  Because I realize my life is the tree that got melted, that was liberated from a deep freeze.  One day something within me just woke up happy.  And I began asking myself the question I cannot let go of:  What is the greater miracle?  For God to give us what we long for, or for God to give us a heart that longs for what we already have? 

God can certainly do both.

The song that comes to mind was actually the one we played as our bridal party walked into the church at our wedding:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
Different times of our lives call for different miracles.  But we always assume the first one is the one we most need.  Like scales dropping from my eyes I realize God has given me the second one, and I am so deeply grateful.

I walk gingerly in this awareness.  Because I know that any day's needs may necessitate the other kind of miracle, the kind where I need God to do something radical, something new, something that remedies the circumstances we are in rather than the heart that perceives them.

But of course, even those kind of miracles still produce a change in us.

Because God is all about melting away prisons, drip by simple drip.