Category Archives: Faith

Fresh Eyes: Another Lesson from Puzzles

I hope you are all healthy, calm, and have plenty of toilet paper. What a surreal couple of weeks we’ve had.

Like many of you, my workplace is closed. I’m staying home, working on things I can do from a distance, and keeping myself busy around the house. My husband is moving our son home from college, so for a few days I’m social distancing with just the dog and the internet for company. Naturally, I decided to pull out a puzzle – the wide, rectangular puzzle that doesn’t fit on my card table.

You know about my puzzle habit; I’ve written about it before. I like the quiet, orderly, accomplishment of a jigsaw puzzle. You can work on them while doing other things, like watching television or talking. You can spend five minutes at the table, or lose hours.

Yesterday I was working on my difficult new puzzle, and the later it got, the harder it was to find the pieces that fit. I thought it was because I did the easier part first. There are a lot of tiny details in this puzzle. I eventually called it a night.

This morning I wandered up to the kitchen and sat down with my coffee. Immediately, I started to see pieces that filled the holes in my puzzle. Pieces were flying into place. I was baffled – I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet!

In that moment I felt like God was speaking to me. “Sometimes you need to step back and take a break to see things clearly.”

In light of current events, that resonated with me deeply!

We suddenly have time on our hands, and we’re inundated with information and misinformation about this virus. People’s lives and livelihoods are in danger. Supplies are hard to find. The future is uncertain. How do we sort through it all, find the truth, and act on it? How do we find peace in the chaos?

The answer is right there in my puzzle lesson – step back, take a break.

Rest on these words:
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

1 Peter 5:17 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Stay healthy and sane, everyone!

Broken Stones

Wow, wow, wow! The second half of February involved about three million things, and it lasted about thirty seconds. Crazy. But I’m here now – thanks for sticking with me!

 

We sang a new song in church recently. It’s called Hallelujah Here Below by Elevation Worship, and the first verse goes like this.

We are an altar of broken stones
But You delight in the offering
You have the heavens to call Your home
But You abide in the song we sing
Ten thousand angels surround Your throne
To bring You praise that will never cease
But hallelujah from here below
Is still Your favorite melody
My first thought when we sang that song was that it reminded me of one of my most prized possessions. Not jewelry, or money, or my favorite shoes, but a drawing my son made when he was about five or six years old. It features his then-favorite football player, LaDainian Tomlinson, and the words “Go LT!”
When Jacob drew that for me, I was impressed, though the drawing itself is not what one would call “impressive.” But it was the first time he put words and pictures together in a drawing. The figure is human-looking, and the colors were chosen to match reality. Jacob knew that I loved football, just as he did, and he chose the subject of his picture thoughtfully. (For some interesting reading about child development as seen through artistic development, click here)
The drawing will never hang in a museum, but it hung on my fridge for a while, and has hung inside one of my kitchen cabinets for over a decade (even through a remodel). Every time I see it, I think of the round-faced little boy who so proudly drew it for me. I remember how he went through a phase where he called me “Honey.” I remember the way he smelled as a baby, and how he would smile at me with his whole chubby face. Now that he’s in college on the other side of the country, those memories are more valuable than ever.
I love that drawing because it was a sincere gift and a sign of development from someone I love.
God feels the same way about us.
God owns everything. He created the universe. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere at once. He is far beyond what we can even understand. Yet He chooses to inhabit the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). He chooses to use us even though we are weak, fragile, and imperfect (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
The song above says “We are an altar of broken stones.” That comes from a passage in Exodus 20, where God is instructing the Israelites about building the altar. Verses 24 and 25 read:
“An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.”
What the Lord is saying to Israel is that He isn’t looking for perfect. He’s satisfied to have us use earth and raw stone as the tools we use to worship Him. He’s looking for willing. He’s looking for that sincere gift that shows our development, and our love for Him.
Rest in that today. You don’t have to have it all figured out. God isn’t keeping His distance until you’re good enough. He delights in you, His child. (Psalm 149:4)

You Are That Man, And So Am I

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1-9 – emphasis added)

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Recently my pastor has been preaching on the stories in the genealogy of Jesus, from Matthew chapter 1. Last week he was talking about King David and Bathsheba. The Israelites were at war with the Ammonites when King David (who probably should have been with his troops at the time…) wandered onto his rooftop and caught sight of a woman bathing on another roof. Lust, abuse of power, adultery, and an unplanned pregnancy followed. Then, to cover his tracks, David brought the woman’s husband home from war, hoping they could pass off the pregnancy as his own child. But the husband, Uriah, refused to sleep with his wife while he was home, so David arranged to have him killed in battle, and took Bathsheba as his own.

This is where the prophet Nathan comes into the story. The quoted text above is how Nathan approached David to confront him about his sins. The story got to David. He was ready to strike at the wealthy man who would steal a beloved lamb out of laziness and greed. Then Nathan dropped the bomb. “You are the man,” he told David. David had everything. He was the king. He had wealth, fame, and military success (does the name Goliath ring any bells?). He had at least two other wives, too.

So what does David and Bathsheba’s story have to do with hunger, poverty, and fair trade? The answer is in Nathan’s words. “You are that man!”

Do you have a place to live? According to a Yale study, 150 million people around the world are homeless, and as many as 1.8 billion lack adequate housing.
Do you have food to eat? According to the UN World Food Programme, 795 million people in the world, about 1 in 9, do not have enough to eat.
Do you have access to clean water? About 4 billion people, nearly two-thirds of the world population, experience severe water scarcity at least part of the year.
Do your children have a chance to grow and learn, or are they faced into (often unsafe) work as children? According to Compassion, 152 million children worldwide are victims of child labor, and nearly half of them are age 11 or younger. About half of employed children work in hazardous conditions. Most of them will never receive an education beyond primary school, and subsequently they will struggle with low-paying jobs all their lives.

Do you ever find yourself saying, “I really need (insert something you do not actually need)?
Do you ever throw things out just because you don’t like them anymore?

Do you ever throw away food or waste water?

Then you are that man. And so am I.

Feeling bad about being fortunate doesn’t help anyone. I’m not pointing this out to make you feel guilty. I’m saying this to remind us to think about your spending. Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Buy fair trade when possible, or second-hand. Research companies that don’t use child labor. Put some effort into creating less waste. Think like the old World War Two era slogan: Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without.

You don’t have to be perfect, just strive to do the next right thing.

It’s a Small World, After All

Happy Food Shelf Friday morning! It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I wrote a blog post. As you can imagine, a lot has happened since I last wrote. My son turned eighteen, and we went through his senior year of high school with all that entails – ski season, orchestra concerts, and college decisions. I took on a second job in the spring managing the social media accounts for a small business. We did some traveling over the winter. Next came Jacob’s graduation and the big grad party. After a busy summer, we moved him across the country, to the Seattle area, for college.

I could not be more proud of the man Jacob is becoming. My son is studying to be a pastor. He has a tremendous heart for God and a desire to love and serve people. It’s exciting to watch him step into his adult life. He’s having adventures out on the west coast, making new friends, and doing great in school.

It’s also the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. My barely-adult man child and his twenty year-old car are over 1,600 miles away, on the other side of two mountain ranges, and I know exactly zero people there. Or I should say I did know zero people out there. Every single step of the way, God has shown me that although my husband and I may be far from our son, He is right there with him.

  • Over the summer we got information about Jacob’s roommate, and the roommate’s mom works right there on campus. They also have other kids who live far from home, so they know how we’re feeling.
  • Modern technology makes instant communication free and easy.
  • One of Jacob’s high school friends moved to the exact halfway point of the long drive he’ll be making to get home in the spring.
  • The university helps connect students with jobs, and Jacob got hired at a local church within a week or two of arriving. That gave him a job, but also a church home.
  • His professors and advisor have been amazing. So have his RA’s and his new friends.

The icing on the “small world” cake came a few weeks ago. I was on Facebook, and I saw that a young family from our church had an incredible job offer and were moving to Seattle. I thought that was interesting, so I clicked on the comments, where I saw that they’re not just moving to Seattle, they’re moving to the same suburb where Jacob lives – within walking distance of him. We’ve chatted, exchanged phone numbers, and talked about churches and things. When we visited Jacob over Thanksgiving and attended his church, it was absolutely surreal to greet another member of our church family. It made the world feel a lot smaller!

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

As a mom, I’m used to feeling like I’m the one in charge. I’m used to doing the research, and making the decisions and purchases. I always knew that God was in control of my family and our futures, but I also felt responsible. When your child gets on the school bus, you lose some of that control. When your child drives, you lose even more. When your child moves across the country, you have a whole new awareness of how powerless you are.

Thank God He’s not powerless.

When I am weak, he is strong (2 Corinthians) – but even when I am strong, He is stronger! God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. In this season of my life, I am grateful for the many ways he has reminded me of that and showed Himself to our family.

 

I’m glad to be here again, blogging and sharing life with you. I’ll be back every Friday with inspiration, information, and resources. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram (@foodshelffriday), Twitter (@foodshelffriday), and Pinterest. Thank you for caring about the world’s hungry and going on this journey with me!

The Lost Wallet: Pursuing God

43157226_10215898189221025_4163176722738446336_o.jpgNo offense to my dad or my pastor, but I have a new favorite preacher. This Wednesday I had the privilege of listening to my son preach at his youth group. As a parent there is nothing better than watching your child live for God and hunger to share his faith with others. This wasn’t J’s first sermon, but it was our first time hearing him. With a few under his belt he didn’t think we would make him nervous any more.

With his permission I want to share with you what he taught on Wednesday.

One day last year, while at school, Jacob reached into his pocket at lunch and realized that he didn’t have his wallet. Logically, he began retracing his steps. He asked his teacher if it was found in the classroom. He dug through every nook and cranny of his car. When he got home he looked all over the house. No wallet. We all know this feeling, don’t we? The only thing Jacob could think about all day is where his wallet was.

On the second day, J filed a report at school. In the report he had to list the contents of the missing wallet. It held his driver’s license, school IDs, a (frozen) debit card, his library card, and a whopping $12 in cash. As he put it, “twelve dollars is just twelve dollars, and a couple pieces of replaceable plastic,” yet the perceived value of IDs, bank access, and a little cash stayed on his mind. Like a pebble in his shoe, he just couldn’t think about anything else.

Jacob challenged his youth group to think about God the way we think about a lost wallet. If our faith was on the forefront of our thoughts every day, how amazing would our relationship with God be!?! And God is so much infinitely more valuable than a couple pieces of plastic and some cash. He is worth our pursuit!

  • God commands us to seek after Him – See Deuteronomy 6:5-9
  • Pursuing God will help you overcome temptation. – See Matthew 4:1-11
  • Staying close to God makes it easier to see the things he wants to show us. – See Proverbs 3:5-6

Jacob eventually found his wallet. It was in his backpack, crammed into the pages of his calculus book. When he found it, he rejoiced; he cheered and ran around the room! Finding his missing wallet brought so much joy and a sense that all was restored in his world. Imagine how much greater we’ll feel when we find closeness with God!

God is not a Sunday only God. He’s not an Easter and Christmas God. He’s not a Wednesday night youth service or bible camp God. He is an every day, every hour, every minute, there for you God who wants to have that kind of intimate relationship with you!

The pursuit of God is never in vain. Consider Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Go after Him, He’s waiting for you!