Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chocolate Obedience

I am ashamed to admit that I am a person who does not like to share her food. I don't want you to look at my plate. I don't want you to touch my plate. And I've been known to slap the hand of someone who has the temerity to reach for a French fry from my own personal kiddy meal sized portion. My husband knows this about me and, being a person who enjoys teasing his wife, he always attempts to steal my food. After all, it is just plain entertaining to see someone who spends a good deal of her time reading the Bible and praying totally lose it over a trans fat laden morsel of overcooked potato.

The Lord has not been impressed with my parsimonious attitude about what is mine. That's understandable, because everything I have is a gift from God, and He doesn't like to see me being selfish with His other children. Beyond that, there is a divine principle at work here. The seed of wheat must fall to the ground and die before new life springs forth (John 12:24). The things we try to clutch to our hearts and keep, we lose. Release them to the Lord and you may be sure that He will restore to you more than you lost. This is the promise of Mark 10:29-30: "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age…and in the age to come, eternal life.'"

Early this morning my husband observed me heat a small piece of cinnamon roll in the microwave. Just as I ushered it lovingly to my mouth he said, “Can I have that?” My response was to jam the entire rather large bite into my mouth as quickly as possible. I immediately felt guilt. Later, as I prepared to leave for work, I searched hurriedly for a snack to eat mid-afternoon. I chose a half of bar of dark chocolate and with it in hand I turned to tell my husband goodbye. I felt remorseful over my earlier selfish attitude and apologized for not having been willing to give him my cinnamon morsel, because he would have unhesitatingly given it to me had our roles been reversed. That's what is so funny to him. He is unfailingly generous in such situations while I, the Sunday school teacher and Christian author wannabe, am unfailingly stingy.

His response to my apology was to grin widely and say, "OK, can I have your chocolate?"

The old selfishness caused my face to contort and my hand to tighten onto MY chocolate...and then I deliberately walked forward and placed it on the table before him. He immediately attempted to give it back but I gave him a kiss and nobly said, "No, no, I'm going to be 'big' about this!" And I walked out the door.

When I got to work, I checked my mailbox as usual. My box is high, just above eye level, and I’m used to tugging at the edge of papers and envelopes only to have whatever is resting on top of them shower down around me. I’ve gotten into the habit of pulling with one hand and being prepared to catch with the other. Today when I pulled out the sheets of paper that were in my box a shower of gold wrapped candies fell into my outstretched hand. The local parent’s group had provided treats for each teacher—three mini bars of chocolate.

Scriptures: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38).

"Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (Matthew 5:42).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't Look for Clouds on a Sunny Day

In the 70's I was a fan of The Carpenters. Their lyrics and music managed to be simultaneously gentle and heart-rending, and served as the backdrop for a number of emotional events in my young life. Their song "Rainy Days and Mondays" was particularly meaningful for my not-yet husband John and me.

When John was a college sophomore, I was a senior in high school. He made the 90 mile trip home each weekend to see me but had to return to school each Sunday afternoon. Mondays were always particularly difficult days for both of us. He longed to be back at home but instead would find himself in a room with 200 other college students listening to a lecture that he didn't want to hear. And, since I had decided that he was the answer to all my hopes and dreams, I would spend Mondays writing his name in the margin of my notebook and wiping away tears. If it would happen to rain on a Monday things just seemed ever so much worse, and in the spring of 1972 there seemed to be an inordinate number of rainy Mondays. The Carpenters' song came to represent longing, unrest and a desire to be anywhere but in the place that life had sequestered us.

This morning I was in my mother's room cleaning when "Rainy Days and Mondays" began to play on her radio. I was in a negative mood, tired of January, tired of awaiting with anxiety the birth of my first grandchild, tired of stressing over a twenty-year-old son, and tired of taking care of my mother. The song reached out tendrils of despair and longing and wrapped them around my heart, and I felt suffused with depression.

And then, like a dash of cold water putting out my self-generated fire of self pity, a thought so clean and clear that it could only be from the Lord spoke clearly, “It is not Monday. And it is not raining."

I am no longer the young girl who believed that a human being could satisfy the longings of her heart. I have learned that God orchestrates all of the circumstances of my life, both those I perceive as being joyful as well as the ones I view as grievous. In my years of walking with Jesus I have found that in every circumstance of my life He provides richly for me, so that with Paul I can say that I have learned the secret of happiness in all seasons.

I am particularly grateful today for His forgiveness for bad behavior because as I indulged in my rainy Monday frame of mind I was unkind to those I love. On a sunny Thursday in this season of my life I choose to praise God for who He is and for the things He has done.

Scripture: I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NIV