God Wastes Nothing

“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ These are the words of Jesus, after feeding thousands from five loaves of bread and two fish.” John 6:12

These are the words of Jesus, “Let nothing be wasted.”

But what do they mean? Jesus just fed five thousand people with five fish and two loaves of bread, and he’s concerned about leftovers and waste? It seems silly to me, really, that the Provider of All, wants to save some bread and fish for later, in case . . . . Maybe it’s just that I’m reading this at 6:30 in the morning and my mind hasn’t woken up yet.

The words chase me all day. “Let nothing be wasted.” So I understand that God doesn’t waste anything. He doesn’t waste time, energy, resources. That’s good. The environmentalists can rejoice. If Jesus lived on earth today, he’d be the guy who turns off the water while brushing his teeth or washing his hair in the shower.

But I know the words go deeper. God is more than resourceful. Scriptures and stories come to me. The “wasted” years Joseph spent in Egypt, in prison” weren’t a waste at all. David’s years hiding from Saul, running for his life. Not a waste. Paul’s words, “…in all things God works for the good…” No circumstances, sin, or pain are wasted by God.

Ponder the fact that after the miracle, there was more. After Jesus worked, he had more to give. The people’s needs did not surpass the Giver’s gifts. Paul’s words again come to mind, “…him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” Immeasurably more. Jesus not only satisfied the hunger of those five thousand men, he foreshadowed that he had more to give. More to offer than loaves and fish.

He offered his very self on the cross for our sins. He rose from the grave and is interceding for us in heaven. Do you think he’s saying those same words? “Let nothing be wasted.” Is he pleading that his sacrifice not be wasted or go unnoticed, unaccepted?

But how do these words affect my daily life? “Let nothing be wasted.” After God has poured into me all I need, what is leftover? Can I gather those leftover pieces and give them to others? This is the call to ministry. To gather, save, and give. Because really, the disciples couldn’t have hung on to those leftover loaves and fish for too long before rot set in. So these words are also a call to trust. To give freely of what we don’t need in the moment, knowing that tomorrow, the miracle happens again.

“Let nothing be wasted.” I have a feeling I’m going to be pondering these words for a while.

I Married a Human

photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net
photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

He’s asleep when I come to bed, and just crawling beneath the covers I can feel his warmth. His breathing is like a lullaby, and I don’t want to sleep. I want to listen, to absorb all this humanness from him, to ponder the oneness I feel.

I wake up at 4:00 in the morning and he’s gone. Already hard at work for those he loves. I feel empty. Separation anxiety. Yes, I love this schedule when he’s home by lunch, but when I’m cold in the middle of the night? Or struggling with wakefulness? Or wanting to talk to him at 8:30pm but he’s already out like a light?

One of my favorite things about marriage has always been lying in bed next to my sleeping husband. It rouses something tender in me, makes me believe all is right in the world.

To be asleep is to be vulnerable. Sleep is a need, and we might resist, but eventually it gets us.

And every time he sleeps, I have a realization: I married a human.

Though he might look like a superhero at 6’2″, with a broad chest, and a nice curve of bicep on his upper arms, he’s not a superhero. No offense to him, because when he’s pushing that lawn mower for two hours after working half the night, his resemblance to a superhero is strong. Or when he carries thirty pounds of child up a mountain and I can barely haul my own body up, I figure he’s close to attaining superhero status. And when I feel small and safe in his arms? Hero, again.

But I’m not a newlywed anymore, and I know that one of the greatest gifts I can give him is the grace of being human. I can put aside those superhero expectations. When he’s tired, and the doubts crawl in, it’s my turn to hero him, to wrap my arms around him and bring the safety.

I have one superhero. His name is Jesus. He does not grow tired, and he never leaves me. He’s brought me into this covenant relationship with my husband. Together–he and I–we’re needy and vulnerable. But in between the outstretched arms of our Hero? It’s safety and blessing and communion.

 

Ode to Autumn

Fall. My favorite season.

I close the open windows of summer and bask in the new quietness of the inside. The spicy aroma of cinnamon, apples, and cloves overcomes the sweet fragrances of snapdragons, lilies, and roses. Nature walks lead to pockets full of pinecones, acorn hats, and fallen seed pods. Tree limbs bow, yielding to wind’s power. Leaves dry, crinkle, and . . .

. . . fall. They come down, and I receive their beauty like blessings. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). And we do see the shifting shadows around us. The shortening of days, the brisk movement of clouds across the sky, blocking the sun, casting shapes across hilly landscapes.

The thought that nature is hunkering down, preparing for dormancy, ushers me to stillness. Brings me to that place where I can utter, “Speak, Lord.” I feel the clutter drop from my life like the chestnuts from my neighbor’s tree, knowing that if I reach to pick up the busyness again I’ll be pricked by it.

Fall.

Ten years ago, he fell into my heart and sent down thick roots. And nine years ago, October 15, our I do’s not only fell on the ears of friends and family, but rooted deep into God’s heart. A holy covenant formed. That man of mine, he still falls a bit deeper every year. And when I fall, he catches.

I slip my feet into socks, the first time in months, and the threads hug my toes—a feeling that by January I won’t even notice, but now seems foreign. I light a candle. The soft glow from the string of white lights twining around my bookshelf seeps through my skin and brightens my heart. Tea on the stove, book in hand, afghan across my lap, and Strauss waltzes on the iPod. Thanksgiving floats through my soul as subtle and prominent as the pollen stirring up my sneezes.

And can I mention that great game? Football—the grinding of padded warriors working together, fighting, winning, falling. The delight of my loved ones, cheering, smiling, laughing, yelling at a television screen.

Yes, as an introvert, I love the intimacy of fall. The winding down, drawing in of nature. The time for gathering close what really matters—food for the soul—and storing it up for the barren seasons of life. Harvest time, a season of celebration for His provision. The garden finishes its offerings, and the dirty potato I pull up paints a silly smile on my face. I made this. I grew it. For this non-green-thumb, that sense of accomplishment is a grace gift.

Fall.

As a church musician, I pull out the Christmas music, begin to anticipate the bursting in of the baby Savior. The joy of the incarnation washes over me, like the pelting rain against the window. I let Christmas linger in the distance, the light at the end of the tunnel, and I keep my eye on it throughout the pumpkins, the football, the pilgrims, and the turkeys. Always, Christ coming . . . as flesh, as divine, into my life, wrapping around the sin and yanking it out by the roots.

Soup simmers on the stove next to the fresh applesauce, and so much simmers in my heart. Hopes for my children, quiet moments with my husband, prayers for the peace of the world, love for friends and family.

Fall. What do you love about it?

Chase Me

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“Mom,” he says, “Will you chase me?”

I don’t want to. Not really. There are dishes to wash and clutter to pick-up, not to mention it’s eighty degrees in my house. But the request of my three-year-old sears me. The hesitancy with which he asks, as if he fears I might reject him . . . it wins me over. So I say, “Yes,” and immediately a grin blossoms on his face, his countenance shines—and, oh, I’m seared again, right in the gut of my heart. He’s off, and the anticipation of his laughter only heightens my joy, tells me I made the right choice to enter into this pursuit.

How long will he ask me to chase him? When he’s seven, will he still ask? How about at ten? And when he’s fifteen, will it be me asking, “Let me chase you. Let me in your life. Let me laugh and hold you like you still fit on the curve of my hip.”

This chase—it strikes me as a picture of life.

“Will you chase me?” I ask my husband. Will you show me again that wanting me means coming after me, following me into the corners of my heart where cobwebs gather? Will you wrestle my discouraged soul to the ground and pin it with words of grace? I need to know I’m worth chasing. Not once upon a time, but all the time.

And he does. But most importantly, He does. The Hound of Heaven chases. Never tires, only pursues.

After romping around the house with my son, I pause to ask the Lord: Will you chase me? Will you chase this undisciplined life and place on me a mantle of your Spirit? Pursue me with your favor, because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

And do you know what He says? “I won’t only chase you. I’ll catch you.”

The God who chases, catches. Folds his hand over my life like a door, securing me, latching me inside, away from flaming arrows. You’re worth the chase, He says. Worth the nails.

And you are, too. Do you know it? May the God of grace catch you today.

Open our Eyes, Lord

“The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.”

Exodus 15:3, from the Song of Moses celebrating the Lord’s deliverance of his people from Egypt.

Some days, trials and tribulations slap at us. Eat out our hearts and pin our weary bodies to the ground. Deliverance seems like a far-off hope. A mirage of wishful thinking.

Open our eyes, Lord.

Sometimes we wake from sleep and know the Lord is near. Like Tuesday, two a.m., and I wake and pray, see a picture of a friend surrounded by angels. And I know: The Lord is a warrior.

Open our eyes, Lord.

Several days later, I sit at the table, breaking fast with a first-grader and a pre-schooler, trying to make it through the morning routine. My son is grumpy, fighting a cold. “You have a virus,” says his sister. I decide he’s well enough for school. He goes off to pout, and again the sister speaks wisdom, “He doesn’t know Jesus is always with him. He has to learn.” We all have to learn.

Open our eyes, Lord.

Sometimes we get worked up over the small things. She cries those six-year-old tears, so many tears her breathing becomes staggered. How do I explain there’s nothing to fear? I’m going away for the evening, but I’ll be back. It’s the usual Wednesday night routine, but tonight her heart can’t get on board with it. “Please, stop,” I say, “You’re making yourself sick.” So daddy rubs her back as I go off to church. In the morning, all is well. Turns out, mom was right. There was nothing to fear.

Open our eyes, Lord. 

“When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:15-17

 Do you know who’s fighting your battles today?

Open our eyes, Lord.