Bringing the fish


God does bizarre things. He solves problems in ways that sometimes seem convoluted, confusing, and down-to-the-last-second crazy. The answer rarely comes in the straightforward way we’d imagined, yet it comes. Stories of these miraculous solutions abound — the check (or tax refund or bonus or raise) arrives the day the bill you thought you couldn’t pay is due. Doctors mention scary words like aneurysm and cancer and inoperable — so we do the tests and pray and suddenly, although the doctors can’t explain it, the condition is gone or the symptoms weren’t what they seemed. We lose a job and panic, worried about how to provide for our families, but then another, better opportunity presents itself and we wonder why we didn’t leave the old job sooner. He always delivers — somehow, some way.

For years I have read the Bible stories about the fishes and the loaves. Jesus fed 4,000 people with seven loaves and a few fishes, and then fed 5,000 from five loaves and two fishes. He’s not limited in His ability to provide, nor is the percentage of increase the same each time. But whatever it is, whatever He does, it’s always enough — and usually it comes with leftovers, too. Because we’ve read these stories in the Bible, and witnessed the way God has provided in our lives, no one has to convince us it’s possible. We know.

Sometimes, though, we overlook one fact. Someone had to provide the fish.

Sure, He can create something from nothing, and there are plenty of times that He does. But, more often, I think, God works with what we bring to Him. We must stretch our hands forth with our offering, literally or symbolically. We must plant a seed of giving with our tithe and offering money. We must put our own egos and desires aside in order to make room for His presence. We must offer Him our whole selves — bodies, heart, mind and soul — and mean it when we ask Him to use us. God will multiply. He will create. He will increase — when you give him what you have to start with. Don’t ever fall into the enemy’s trap of believing what you have is not enough, that God won’t come through because of your failings and weaknesses. Stand tall, and speak out loud: “Lord, I may not have much, but I come to you with the fish. Multiply it. Do your thing. I believe.”

Laying ourselves at the altar


When my daughter Anna was a toddler, if she hurt herself, she would lay the damaged appendage on a pillow. It didn’t matter if it was a bruised shin, a rash on her arm, or a stubbed toe. Propping whatever was sore on a soft, fluffy pillow — sometimes with a fuzzy, warm blanket over the pillow for extra emphasis — immediately made it feel better. Whatever hurt would get better, as long as it was lovingly cushioned and gently propped on something soft.

One day, Anna was running a fever. I left her in the living room watching TV, and when I went in to check on her, I wanted to laugh and cry all at once. She had taken all the pillows from the couch and laid them, end to end, on the floor. Then she stretched her little feverish body out on top of them, her entire body cushioned by the pillows. Every part of her hurt, therefore her whole body needed to be cradled. Because of the relief she found there, she was now sound asleep.

Sometimes we need the same thing. We come to the altar and kneel, offering ourselves for His service, for His use — well, at least we offer parts of ourselves. As adults, with our own hurts and bruises, we hold things back. I want to be used by You, God, we might say, but secretly we’re hoping not to be asked to step outside our comfort zones. We want to help – until we feel the nudge to help someone we don’t know and we feel awkward walking up to them. Or we want to give, but only give our money, holding selfishly onto our time. But maybe it’s time we let God get hold of all our parts. It’s time to lay them all on His merciful altar, cushioned by His grace. So that He can get hold of all of us, and use us as He sees fit.

Writing Prompt

In response to the following "Drops of Inspiration" writing prompt posted on Internet Cafe (http://www.internetcafedevotions.com/2009/08/august-drops-of-inspiration-writing.html):

Sometimes your medicine bottle has on it, “shake well before using.” That is what God has to do with some of His people. He has to shake them well before they are ever usable.

-Vance Havner

I think anyone who has come to the Lord as an adult, letting Him into her life, understands the idea of being shaken up. In a sense, we expect that. We are so different on the inside – in our thoughts, feelings, outlook – that once we have “found” God we assume it will have to shake up our lives. If things stayed the same, what would be the point?

But sometimes God shakes up an entire church. That’s when it can become especially painful. We don’t always know the reason, and we can’t always know if He’s the one doing the shaking. But we do know that all things work together for the glory of God. So that’s when we need to remember something that is true of medicine. Medicine is good — if it’s the right medicine, prescribed correctly, and taken in the right amounts. When things happen that threaten the temporary peace, when people’s feelings are hurt and we don’t understand why things are happening, all we can do is trust the Great Physician. And pray that our doctors are properly connected to the source, that they know the right medicine for the specific ailments, and that those who need it take the correct amounts (properly shaken, of course). Sometimes, the medicine tastes bitter. Sometimes it has yucky side effects. But if we continue on the course prescribed for us, in no time at all things start to look better. And soon, we’re back to normal, not really remembering how miserable it was to be sick.

Writing for Him

As much as I’ve talked about writing, I haven’t written much this summer. I’ve been busy, as most of you are, too. I am the queen of organizing and multitasking, but my natural abilities seem to be impaired. Is it the three kids needing to be in different places several different times every day? Is it “working mom” guilt — if I were a good mom, I’d go to the pool with them/make signs for the lemonade stand/stop resenting the interruptions? Is it the stress of trying to be available and proactive to my clients when I’m really planning activities, running to the store, packing for short weekend trips, or breaking up sibling disagreements? Those factors certainly contribute to the situation, but I think my lack of writing is directly linked to the lack of solitude. When others are around all the time, I don’t stop and relax. I don’t pray like I should. I don’t focus on the quiet but extremely important pursuits.

Someone asked me once why I didn’t study writing in college. It’s because I didn’t have anything to say. I had opinions, but I didn’t have confidence that anyone would be interested in my thoughts. It wasn’t until I opened my heart to the Lord that I thought my words could matter to anyone else. It wasn’t until He inspired me that I wanted to share my soul with the world. When I’m walking with God, I find myself with much to say. He continually reveals things to me. It’s as though my eyes are wide open, the veil has been lifted, and I can see more clearly. Colors are more vivid. Sounds are more vibrant. Every activity, every observation, every experience imparts a spiritual lesson. I don’t have to search for them. They’re right there, practically written for me.

So I guess this lack of inspiration is proof of a painful reality. My relationship with God right now isn’t what it should be. I’m recycling my writing, foraging through old notes and files for something I can use again. When no words are coming out, there must be no words going in. When words aren’t going in, it’s because I’m not listening. When I’m not listening, it’s because I’m too busy. I’ve chosen to live in the secular world and not dwell in the secret place of the most High. I’m doing it on my own and without Him.

For me, writing is an act of faith. A hope and a belief that God will step in. If I offer myself as a vessel, He will speak, He will encourage, and He will inspire. He will have something to say, and I get to be a part of it. So I sit down to write tonight, knowing it’s the first step towards rebuilding the relationship I know I can have with Him. Knowing that even if I have nothing to say when I start, He will find the good and show it to me. Even in my weakness — especially in my weakness — He will shine. To God be the glory. Forever.

Queen Anne's Lace

I remember summer days in the country as a child. Long, sticky, hot, boring days. Time crawled by so slowly. Sometimes, when I was out of books to read, I would wander around outside and pick Queen Anne’s Lace from the edges of the fields around our house. Frilly, delicate, lacy blossoms, too pretty for me to believe it’s really a weed. Occasionally, I would take some inside, cut the long stems short, and place them in a little green ceramic pitcher of my mom’s. After adding drops of food coloring to the water, I would wait.

The hungry plant would soak up that water, slowly climbing up the tall stalks and seeping into the tiny white flowers, spreading across the face of the blooms, eventually changing them to a pretty pink or blue or green.

God works on us that way. We might look OK on the outside to start with, but we’re so thirsty on the inside. When we immerse ourselves in God – His presence, His church, His Word, His people – we start to be changed. From the inside out. Most people don’t see it at first and may think nothing is happening. But if they wait long enough, they will see the glorious burst of color spreading throughout our lives, changing us forever, coloring our world.