Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Manna Hoarding and Cheerios in the Closet

This from Lena:
When we arrived in the States last June, I was sure my fascination with shopping for things I can’t get in Peru would fade after a month or so, but that wasn’t the case. In my family, we always joke saying, “Hey, did you know there is a sale at Kohls?!!?” (There is always a sale at Kohls).  Even though I know that much of the shopping has been totally reasonable, I find that there are heart issues that have surprised me with their voracious spirit—an inner demand for more, for “enough” that is impossible to satisfy.
When the Israelites were miraculously delivered out of slavery (and into the desert), they went immediately into God’s training program for How To Be God’s People.  They were free, but they were out in the dessert with all they owned and all their families. They were like a traveling metropolis, with no way to keep themselves in food and water—the most basic of elements. I am always fascinated by God’s delivery system for the manna that saved their lives.  Manna was delivered only by God’s hand, it was delivered daily, it was un-hoardable, it was provided in such a way as to never be too much or too little regardless of how much you gathered, and the only time you could gather extra was in preparation for the Sabbath. God was clearly their only source for food, and He insisted that they trust Him to provide what they needed, but only when they needed it. Nothing more, nothing less.
These rules remind me of the process of adoption and the way parents need to proceed to form a secure emotional connection to their children—especially those who come to their new home having been a victim of neglect or abuse or lived in extremely impoverished situations. The new parents have to be the only ones to feed the adopted child, the only ones to care for their needs, so that trust can be built. They have to learn to trust their parents enough to accept in their hearts that they don’t need to hoard food for later—for just in case things go south—in case they need to make a quick get away.  It seems to me that when the hoarding stops, it is clear evidence that trust is formed—something to celebrate!
It has been so clear to me lately that the impulse to hoard is a clear sign that the hoarder does not trust that what they need will be provided. As a child of God, it means that I am still thinking I may have to keep a suitcase ready in case this God doesn’t come through. In my own heart, I find myself needing to cling to scripture. I tell myself, “Lena, if he dresses the lilies so beautifully, how much more will He take care to dress you?” The orphan in me fights back, but the loved adopted daughter declares her security, and says, “My Father is a good father, and He will provide everything I need!”

So I do regular checks for cheerios in the closet. It’s a journey, like everything else! Hoarding gives me a false sense of security that doesn’t satisfy and a nagging worry over scarcity, but trusting the hand of the Father gives peace and an opportunity to prove his love, not only to me, but to those who walk with me and have their own stash hidden away that they need to surrender. Even cheerios eventually go stale sitting in that closet, but his mercies are new every morning, and his manna is ready for the day. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ps. 66:11 -- Suffering and God as athletic coach

This, from Bill:

Ps. 66:11 is strong and, for many, hard to reconcile with their concept of God. It says, "You led us into a trap;  you caused us to suffer. (NET)" To understand it, it is helpful to look at the verses before and after.

    66:9 He preserves our lives
    and does not allow our feet to slip.
    66:10 For you, O God, tested us;
    you purified us like refined silver.
    66:11 You led us into a trap;
    you caused us to suffer.
    66:12 You allowed men to ride over our heads;
    we passed through fire and water,
    but you brought us out into a wide open place. (NET, Ps 66:9-12)

This is a great juxtaposition of concepts. In the heart of it is God as athletic coach or good father. He intentionally puts the trainee under pressure so that when real pressure comes, the person can withstand it and come forth victorious. 66:11 is really strong, "You led us into a trap; you caused us to suffer." In today's culture the goal of life is pleasure and comfort. In God's culture, the goal is strength and freedom. Some people say that it is unjust for God to cause us to suffer. This is either evidence that the Bible's depiction of God is untrue (since a good God would never do that) or that the God of the O.T. is cruel and should not be worshipped. Ironically, they would not say the same of  a drill sergeant at boot camp or of one of the coaches on "The Biggest Loser." There is an understanding in those contexts of the classic adage, "No pain, no gain." In the passage above, the difficulty the we press through is the very thing that produces victory. The suffering is the lesson that "preserves our lives and does not allow our feet to slip." (verse 9) And that, brings us to freedom; i.e., "into a wide open place. (NET, Ps 66:12)"

Over the last year, I've gained about 10 pounds. That has caused its own kind of suffering and, yet, I still have a very high opinion of ice cream.