Lesson from the Lunch Bunch

Every Wednesday during the school year I find myself hanging out with some women and children who hunger for the King and His word. It’s a unique kind of Bible Study and it has stretched me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. My friends and I dive in deep, firmly plant ourselves and invest into eternity for the majority of the Day. I have several roles there but one of my favorites it to be the facilitator for the Sheep Lunch Bunch Opening Ceremony.

The open ceremony is when the Sheep friends (Preschoolers to Kindergartners) open their lunches. I instituted the Opening Ceremony some years ago when the chaos of 18 preschoolers all opening their packed-at-home lunches at the same time was too much for me to handle. In those early days there was much confusion over whose Lunchable that was or whose Mama didn’t pack a surprise snack, there are always cheers for the Mama who did. The kid whose Mama packs him raisins every single week, who has yet to tell her he doesn’t like raisins, I sometimes wonder if he does like them every other day of the week. The opening of lunchables has repeatedly proven to be a challenge for pudgy preschool digits with limited dexterity. If one is not careful one can in a single motion sling every item from its individual compartment thus resulting in airborn cookies, cheese, all manner of meats and preschool sized snacks across the room. This never ends well. Tears are inevitable, confusion unavoidable and the day ruined. I had to find a way to bring order to the opening of the lunch boxes so I developed and instituted the Opening Ceremony. Now the eager Sheep have a method and organization to their lunch consumption. A laid out plan to adhere to.

First: Bottoms must be in chairs and Hands in the air.

Second: Everyone gets a dollop of hand sanitizer we “Rub, Rub, Rub tops and sides and Let it dry” The let it dry portion is usually accompanied by jazzy hands.

Third: We give a shout out to Jesus and give our prayer requests.

Prayer-Activities-for-Kids-504328300-585419773df78ce2c3b05c3cI never grow tired of this part. We’ve prayed for the Daddies, all the Daddies represented in the room, for dogs and cats, and Mommies. Hurt fingers and toes and loved ones whom I’ve never met. We have prayed for jobs and work and cars and all manner of things that make up the world we live in. We have celebrated birthdays and accomplishments, new baby brothers or sisters (there has been a repeated request that we pray for Mama because she says she’s gonna have a girl but it’s really gonna be a boy so a baby brudder can have a brudder too). We have thanked God for lunches and Bible study days, and most of all for Jesus Himself who loves us all dearly and without whom none of it would be possible or worth it.

Then there is the countdown, then carefully each one opens his or her lunch at the same time. Some of my adult friends and myself methodically work our way around the room opening packages and food bearing parcels. It is a fabulous good time, one that whets my own appetite for my own packed at home lunch not packed by my Mama but my own hand.

Typically by the time I eat my lunch I am ravenous, having spent the morning zooming too and fro, loving on kids and talking with ladies. Counting and sorting and crafting. Listening and talking, laughing and walking. Praying and studying. It is the makings of an exhausting but good day.

Recently during Opening Ceremony I had made my way to the lunch box of a Sheep friend when after I had opened the prepackaged food items I straightened and headed toward his neighbor to begin the opening process all over again. I felt a tug on my dinosaur tee shirt. My Sweet friend C. loves a dinosaur and has often been extremely impressed that I, a grown up, have worn a dino-tee-shirt “just for him.” I felt another pull on my shirt and looked down, inches from my face was an Uncrustable sandwich.
“Here.” he held the sandwich firm insisting I had forgotten something.

“I opened it Buddy”

“No-o-o You didn’t take off da crust!”

“It’s an UN-CRUST-able.”

“Yeah but you didn’t take off the crust!” Clearly frustrated with my lack of understanding he pointed to the crimped edge of the sandwich.

hqdefaultAs I stood there and tore the non-existing crust off of the sandwich, I mused that this must be how I am with the King. He has a plan, an excellent plan He moves about making sure I have all that I need. He had outlined repeatedly what I am supposed to do, yet somehow I find myself thrusting my proverbial sandwich his way, the one named for not having crust requesting He “Do something like take off the crust.”

I wonder if He looks at me quizzically, liked I looked at my 4 year old friend C. and thinks the obvious, “I’ve got this. I’ve got you. I am doing something. More than you know” yet at my insistence He takes the that Uncrustable of a situation and pulls that crimped edge off because he loves me, because He knows I am anxious about it and because He is kind.

My friend C. recently gave me a prized dino toy. It is a blue squishy T-rex. His Mama told me he sorted through eighteen other dinos to find the one he knew I would love. He was right, I do love it. I keep it in a bag and can readily access it. C. suggested I “squeeze it lots ‘cause it’s squishy.” I do as he suggested and I am reminded that the One who loves the Whole Wide World also loves me and that He was willing to go to extraordinary lengths because of that love. He did not shrink away from death, He intercedes on my behalf, and regularly peels the crust off my Uncrustable Sandwich.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Cease striving and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

Peter: Chosen & Holy

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(If you haven’t read April’s first article on Peter, check it out here.)

Thoughts on 1 Peter… continued.

As mentioned before, Peter uses the word chosen several times in his letter to the exiled Jewish believers. It seems such a contrast to how they must’ve been feeling though…these believers are exiled from their home! They’re suffering persecution. They’ve fled for their lives. They’re experiencing everything but “chosen-ness” at this time, are they not?

However, herein lies the beautiful tension of being a chosen people of God, we are chosen to accomplish much more than our own narrow plans, our personal agendas, our finite purposes. We are chosen for the glory of God, to glorify the One who has indeed chosen us. And then there’s more

The richness of Peter’s letter begins early on in just the first few verses. He says these believers have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit

And there’s the more… The sanctification process.

He’s working to make me holy.

He’s working to conform me to the image of His Son.

He’s working to sanctify me by the Holy Spirit.

I recently finished reading through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and on into Numbers. God is teaching the children of Israel how to be His people, how to live as holy. He gives them the guidelines and demands of receiving His blessings within this chosen community. And, He’s giving them the Tabernacle where He will dwell with them.

Image result for public domain picture tabernacle utensilsThe utensils in the Tabernacle are deemed as holy and are set apart, sanctified, for service in the Tabernacle. So often those utensils and other pieces were sanctified or made holy by blood or even fire. The process was intense and – if I may say so – quite gruesome at times. In order to purify an instrument for service, blood had to be shed, and sprinkled or applied or poured; a fire had to be lit while the instrument or the sacrifice itself endured or was consumed by the flame.

From the beginning, God has demonstrated to us that holiness doesn’t come by way of sheltered pampering and soft caresses. No, not at all. It comes in a violent way. Fire. Blood. Pain. Struggle. Trial. And if I may be so bold, we shrink back from this because we are not aware of the un-holiness that lies within, the depth of our un-cleanness. We cannot possibly recognize and acknowledge our colossal need for the strenuous cleansing that is required to make us holy. Glory to God for His abundant Grace. Amen!

Peter knew these things and he knew his fellow Jewish believers simply needed reminding. The trouble is seeing by faith the holy outcome while we’re in the midst of the fiery making. He reminds them, “You’re being sanctified by the work of the Spirit. Hang in there. The outcome will be worth it.”

So often we lose sight of these precious truths. The truth is we are a chosen people. The truth is we are being made holy. The truth is that God is working on our behalf and for His glory.

In the midst of the trial, there is a Craftsman and He knows exactly what He’s doing.

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The Main Thing…

I have the privilege of helping coach my little girl’s softball team over the next few weeks! We had our first game of the season last night. We are the Lilies!! For the last couple of weeks we have practiced and prepared fielding the ball, batting and learning the process of how the game works! We end each practice with a devotion and prayer and talk about encouraging each other on the field and off! We talk about loving Jesus and how that is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing. Softball is fun and we want to do our best but the main reason we are there is to lift up Jesus!

One of the traditions of the Upward games is that at the end of the game, a player gets the game ball. Last night for our team, it was an easy choice! I was coaching on the first base side when our team was on the field. One of our precious little girls (they are 5 and 6) caught the ball and got an incredible out on first base! It was a classic stretching catch softball-1577610_1280that would have made the ESPN highlights had the camera crew been there! After the dust settled, the little girl from the other team took her helmet off and headed back toward her dugout. As she left first base, our sweet little player grabbed her and gave her a big hug and said “sorry for getting you out!” I was a mess!! Needless to say, this precious little soul was the recipient of last night’s game ball!!

We met together after the game and had the honor of giving out the game ball and talking over how well the game went! We looked into those little faces and told them that softball is “good” but that JESUS is the main reason we are there! We talked about how proud we were of this little girl for her great play at first, but the hug and her encouragement was the most important thing. Sharing JESUS with the player from the other team was what was on her little heart! She was there to play softball but she did not forget the most important thing!

As I got ready for bed last night, I was thinking back about the game and that precious little girl’s face and her sweet little arms as she hugged the other player and encouraged her! I thought what a beautiful picture that was of her heart and how she was doing her “job” on the field but how JESUS was where he heart was! She used a regular opportunity in what she was doing to reflect the love of GOD. In that brief moment, the face of Jesus was a little brown-eyed blonde softball player standing on first base! The question floods my mind “Where am I?” Where am I sharing and encouraging and lifting up and praising? Where am I standing and sharing the gospel? Can people talk to me and hear the “good news” or do I get so wrapped up in my “job” that I forget “the main thing”?

passion-3111303_1280God gives us breath and life to be able to share the gospel through our everyday lives. We do not need a stage with lights and a crowd, sometimes a dusty softball field will do. He sets divine appointments in our path, and all He needs us to do is take them. I love the words in the praise song that says, “Your praise will ever be on my lips.” If we lived our lives with His praise on our lips each day, what a testimony we could share when we have a captive audience! The gospel is good news and God is matchless and powerful and gracious and we live in a world that is in desperate need of these things.

Someone in your path today needs to hear that God SO loved them that HE gave His Son for them and for their salvation. Someone needs to know that HE is the lover of their soul and the lifter of their head. There is a soul today searching for their purpose and their place and the world wants to make sure they do not find it. We have an urgency to share what HE has done in our heart with the folks around us! That’s the most important thing!!!

“For GOD so loved and dearly prized the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes and trusts in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16

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Stand Firm

I have said before that we have a little wiener dog in our house. She is a mini-dachshund but I rarely spell dachshund correctly. Her name is Pepperoni Sausage Dog. We call her Pepper for short. She may weigh 5 pounds on a heavy day. She is a dog food snob, she only likes the cheap stuff from the General Dollar Store, she is playful and we have taught her to say “I Love You” and “Mama”. She is rotten to the core and loved like crazy by the Martin 3. I am her favorite for reasons I have yet to figure out. Maybe it is because I am the Alpha of this pack or the fact that I am the provider of that cheap dog food, or maybe it is that when I take a nap she likes to cuddle up close to me. She has taught me much since she became a Martin. I once wrote an entire blog about a lesson she taught me pertaining to the daddy in our house.

girl-2518950_1920She is stubborn and in some ways predictable. Often she seeks refuge with me, she climbs onto my chest and will back her hind end close to my face. I push her down, correct her. I would like to say she immediately obeys never to return to that behavior again; if I did say that it would be a complete lie. She gets down, turns her long reddish-brown sausage body back and proceeds to climb back atop my person.

Recently Shelton was playing with her, he was pretending to “get Mama” she tends to be very possessive of me and gave him a short bark to warn him I was not his, but instead I was hers. Shelton laughed (so did I) he outweighs her by forty times yet she barked as if they were the same size. She backed herself up and her 5 pound self honestly felt heavier to me. I noticed that she had so firmly planted her scrawny paws into my chest that she was giving the impression that she was heavier, bigger, she had anchored herself and had no intention of giving up her ground despite her gigantic opponent. In her little wiener dog brain she must’ve reasoned that I was hers and she wasn’t about to back down because she had the backing of the Alpha Mama. Her little paws were so firmly planted that they dug into me and I recoiled, as the moments progressed and her opponent teased attack, she got heavier. I commanded her perceived threat to “leave her alone” and he yielded. She became lighter but I was thinking back to the pressure she had exerted just moments before that.

The pressure that her 5 pound max body was exerting was becoming painful. Yet the more threatened she felt the firmer she stood. I soon put her down to begin my to-do list for the day, but that mini-wiener put me to pondering.

She looked at me as if to say, “I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Why’d you put me down?” She was standing her ground. She knows if push comes to shove I’ve got her back, well in her world anyway. If the kids won’t give her a tasty scrap, I likely will, even if by accident on my part, by way of kitchen messiness and clumsiness. She knows that I will make sure she is snug in a bed when it is cold and that she has lots of time in the backyard to chase lizards, chipmunks and other wiener foe. She knows and is secure in that. She knew if she firmly planted her feet that as long as she was in my lap, that annoying teenage boy would not be able to get her.

dachshund-2794944_1920Her physical demeanor and presence changed as she firmly planted those little paws, she stood firm, her bark insisted she meant business. She behaved as if knowing I would intercede on her behalf, shoo that boy away, and give her the reprieve she sought.

In that moment the King spoke. He reminded me that my Sausage Dog was more obedient than I tend to be when in a battle against an insurmountable foe. When he commands us regarding our adversary the devil, the one that desires to steal, kill, and destroy, He commands us to “Stand Firm,” to hold our ground and trust that HE will fight the battle and intercede on our behalf.

2 Chronicles 20:17 says “ You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” Too many times I spend so much time barking loudly and looking around at the circumstances that I do not Stand Firm and I do not keep my eyes on my King.

My little wiener knew and stood firm in the truth that, she is mine and that I would move on her behalf. She did not have to fight the battle as long as she stood her ground, those little paws digging into my skin. She stood firm knowing her Master was behind her and ready to take action. My Master, my King too, stands behind me, ready to move and take action on my behalf.

Our little Pepper is as much obedient as she is ferocious, not very, but she is most definitely thought-provoking. May I stand as firmly against the enemy as that mini-wiener did against hers.

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At the Table: Where Life and Truth Meet

by guest author Joni Shankles

Most of us have asked the question, “What is my purpose?”

For me, that question has often taken a paralyzing turn. I think, “What is MY purpose? What is the one thing I’m supposed to be doing with my life to glorify God…and what if I miss it?”

Like most women, I fight feelings of inadequacy and fear.

I can scroll through social media and think, my life isn’t as interesting as hers.

I can look through Pinterest and think, my house isn’t as beautiful as hers.

I can read blogs and think, my thoughts aren’t as profound or funny as hers.

I can even watch a video Bible Study and think, I don’t know as much as she does and I don’t look as good as she does, so no one would ever want to listen to me.

How can I ever find my purpose?

I have to put down my phone and pick up the Word.

In the Word, I read Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

He [Jesus] said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In the Word, I read Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I’m learning to find my purpose in these three commands:

Love God.

Love people.

Make disciples.

 

These are the priorities of Jesus.

Jesus loved God by doing everything His Father commanded.

Jesus loved all people, especially the ones others rejected.

Jesus made disciples by sharing the truth while he shared His life.

Jesus spoke the truth to crowds on occasion, but He lived the truth before His disciples daily. He demonstrated that the best way to learn to live the truth is to watch it lived in others. At the tables of tax collectors, sinners, and friends, Jesus shared the truth and showed how to live it.

This is the ministry of Jesus.

We all need someone in our everyday lives to teach us the truth and show us the way to live it. Screens won’t do.

I am realizing that much of the truth that I know and live today, I learned first around a table with godly women who were willing to share their lives with me. My life changed, my marriage changed, and my kid’s lives changed because these women made room at their tables and invited me to join them.

beautiful-businesswomen-career-601170.jpgI think about the women around the tables during my decade of Tuesday morning Bible Study. I think about Mrs. Bobbie, who got up from her table of friends to walk across the room to hug me and tell me she loved me every time she saw me enter. I think about the women who let me sit and listen and ask questions only when I was ready. I think about the women who invited me to lunch, who shared stories of everyday life, of marriage and kids and struggles where truth meets reality. I was changed week by week, not because of the truth I heard from a screen, but by the truth I saw lived out by women across the table and around the room, women I saw in my daily life in the carpool line, at Walmart, and at sports events. I could trust these women with my questions and know they would pray for my deepest needs. I learned to parent by watching these women navigate through daily challenges. I can’t tell you the names of all the Bible studies we did in those years, but I can tell you name after name of the women who loved me, prayed for me, worshipped with me, and lived the truth out before me.

In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. Titus 2:3-5 CSB

 

I think about my friend Ann, who has been making room at her table for me and my family for more than twenty years. At Ann’s table, our kids did their homework together, celebrated the day’s victories, and shared disappointments. We met at Ann’s table to eat her home-cooked meals, play games, and laugh at hilarious moments only Ann could adult-business-businesswoman-515169create. With neither of us having parents or other family in town, Ann’s family and mine joined forces to celebrate big occasions and holidays together. When unexpected repairs made our house unlivable, Ann took us in for three weeks and we both cried when our house was habitable again. At Ann’s table, my children gained a second mother and we all learned the healing power of laughter. And because Ann invited us to share the chaos of daily living, I learned that hospitality is not about what is on the table, but who is sitting around it.

A joyful heart is good medicine…Proverbs 17:22 CSB

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 NIV

Don’t go to your brother’s house in your time of calamity;

better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Proverbs 21:10 CSB

 

I think about my friend Tracy, who always joked that at her table we could solve the problems of the world (and for a while, we did solve the problem of me wanting more blond in my hair). The problems of the world came to Tracy’s table when she opened her heart and home to take in foster children. Through the eyes of these precious children, I watched deprivation become plenty and despair become hope. At Tracy’s table, I close-up-coat-eating-139681.jpgwatched God’s supernatural love heal physical and emotional pain. When Tracy invited me to join her at fast food tables for visits between her foster kids and their birth parents, I learned more about forgiveness and the painful process of reconciliation. And as Tracy’s table got bigger and bigger, I learned about the beauty of adoption and began to appreciate more and more my own adoption into God’s family and my place at His table.

Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah 1:17 CSB

You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16 CSB

 

people-2567915_1920I think about my friend Pam, who is always ready to meet me at the table of our favorite Mexican restaurant. At these tables, we have studied the Bible chronologically over chips and cheese dip. In dark times, we drop everything to meet at the table for companionship and encouragement. We share our lives. Pam’s wise counsel is one of my most precious treasures. At the table with Pam, I have learned that God redeems all things.

Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life. Proverbs 19:20 CSB

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 CSB

Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130:7 NIV

 

dinner-2330482_1920I think about the women I met in the Romanian cities of Timisoara, Hunedoara, and Hateg. I think about the tables in their homes where they welcomed me and shared what they had. I think about how we gathered with other women in their churches to worship, singing songs together in our own languages. And I think about the tables at their churches where we gathered afterward for a shared meal and time of fellowship. At tables in Romania, I learned a little bit more about what heaven will be like, where people from every tribe and every people gather before God’s throne to worship, and where one day we will all gather at the table for the wedding supper of the Lamb.

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!

Revelation 7:9-10 CSB

 

What do these incredible women in my life have in common?

They know their purpose. They love God, love people, and make disciples.

They refuse to be immobilized by insecurity. They stop falling for the trap of comparison that says, “But I’m not _____(fill in the blank with the name of any popular speaker or writer).”

They share their real lives, inviting people like you and me to the table to share life and truth.

As I reflect on the most critical times of my spiritual journey, I realize I didn’t need someone famous, I needed someone real. I needed someone in my daily life whose heart belonged to God and whose life reflected a desire to live the truth. I needed someone whose love for me and desire that I become more like Christ would cause them to drop everything and meet me in my time of need. I needed someone face to face, someone who could see beyond the mess I was to who I could become. I needed someone to listen to the Spirit and catch a vision for how God could be glorified in me.

rustic-334080_1920.jpgI needed to come to the table.

At the table, I learned to love God more.

At the table, I learned to love others well.

And at the table, I was discipled and learned to do the same.

At the table, I didn’t just hear truth, I watched it in action.

 

So, these days, I’m learning to ask myself another question.

I’m learning to ask, “Where are my people?”

If I know the purpose of my life is to love God, love people, and make disciples, then my guiding question becomes, “Where are the people God has given me to love and disciple as I grow in my love for God?”

It’s time I die to the pride that is the root of feelings of inadequacy.

It’s time I stop being afraid I will look foolish or fail.

It’s time I stop sitting on the sidelines playing it safe.

It’s time I realize that God isn’t holding my favorite Bible teacher or blogger responsible for discipling the people who are longing for a seat at my table.

It’s my turn to do the inviting.

It’s my turn to do the discipling.

It’s my turn to find my people.

 

What about you? What do you need?

Do you need to know your purpose?

Focus on the big three:

Love God.

Love people.

Make disciples.

Do you need to know where to find your people?

You are likely to find them gathered around a table – in your home, at your place of worship, in your workplace, or in your community.

And like me, you will discover this:

The truth you need and the ministry you were made for are waiting at a table near you.

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The Lesson of the Patio Egg

This past year my daughter gave me a lovely little invention called a Patio Egg. It is an egg-shaped ceramic vessel in a cute little macrame netting for hanging it. It is at the same time decorative and useful. It’s functional purpose is to rid my patio of those arch-animal-antenna-biology-169357.jpgenemies of any Southern girl – mosquitos! It is a simple invention really: fill the egg with the correct amount of the oil mixture and hang it up near your outdoor eating area. The porous ceramic absorbs the oils and gives off the aroma which drives away those pesky creatures for weeks to come. A pretty decoration, a light scent, and no villainous bugs!

My analogy today is very straightforward. We are that egg – that earthenware vessel. God saves us and cleans us up. But do we become just a pretty decoration or do we prepare ourselves to be used for the purpose He created us for? That preparation for us, like those oils measured into the egg, is the Word of God pouring into us, Almighty God leading and directing us, the Holy Spirit filling us.

Who prepares that egg for us? We do. We prepare ourselves. Everyday.

We immerse ourselves in the Word each morning. We continue constantly in prayer daily to seek to obediently follow the leading and directing the Father gives. We open our hearts to the filling of the spirit and allow it to seep through us saturate us, and change us as we absorb the scent of the Holy Trinity. We are then able to give off the aroma of Christ to all those around and to fulfill the purpose we were created for. But the filling, the aromatic essence, and the purpose are achieved only when we prepare our clay pot. Scripture tells us:

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:5-10

We carry this treasure in jars of clay. When we know Christ, He infiltrates every bit of us, He consumes us. We carry Him around with us everywhere. He fills us with His light and in turn we give off that light, that sweet aroma of Jesus, revealing the Gospel of His death, resurrection, and life in the very way we live out our lives. Even in those times we are in despair. When we’re crushed and devastated. When we feel abandoned and beat down. Our hope in Christ bears witness to a hungry world even when we are at our lowest points.

What is your jar of clay, your Patio Egg, like? Is it dusty sitting in a long-forgotten corner? Is it chipped and broken and feeling useless? Is it polished and shiny and beautiful, just sitting on a shelf offering no real value? Is it unfilled, offering up only a pretty decoration with no effect on its environment? Or is it full of healing oil, filled with the Word, shedding the light of Christ wherever you go, offering hope and grace and mercy to a dark and desperate world? Sit in His presence and allow Him to fill you and saturate every pour of your being! Then go! Be light!

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Wash, Dry, Pray

About 3 months ago I was doing laundry. I had pulled out a load of whites, bleached and ready to be dried. As I pulled those chlorine laden clothes, towels, and sheets out of my washer, I inhaled deeply. Bleach always reminds me of my Grandmother, I called her Mam-maw. She lived in a time when in her words,

“We might didn’ta had nothin’ but we were clean. Bein’ poor ain’t no excuse for bein’ filthy.”

I had heard her say those words countless times as I grew up.

When I was a little girl she would “warsh my hands and face” with the hottest bleach and dish soap water. Just thinking about it now makes me wince. My four-year-old digits would involuntarily recoil as she wiped away any residue my lunch may have left behind. “Hold still Mamie!” I can see myself sitting on that homemade bench next to her kitchen table, my feet dangling, face and hands tingling more from the heat than the bleach. Her hands always smelled like bleach. Even long after her mind went away and her body was still strong, her hands smelled of bleach.

laundry-2000256_640.jpgShe was a hang out to dry king of gal. She shared a clothesline with her sister-in-law and also neighbor. Facing the road My Mam-maw’s side was the one on the left. There was something magical and intoxicating about fresh sheets whipping in the wind. My sister and I would run and play through those linens with a delight and carefree nature I have not known in my adult life. Inevitably Mam-maw would yell out from the kitchen window,

“You youngins better get back from my warshin’!”

She had to have known that we were there, that we had been weaving in and out of those linen walls made of clean cotton for a while. In hindsight I see now that she likely didn’t start fussing until we had wandered to the right side of the line and risked inadvertently pulling down her brother, Big John’s overalls.

As I pulled my own laundry out I spent a moment in my childhood, meandering down Memory Lane. It was the he rust colored spots that yanked me back to reality. My bare feet weren’t on a grassy hill in the clothesline of the past, they were standing on the concrete floor of my basement. As I pulled my recently re-spun load of whites from the washer I noted that my rickety old washing machine had deteriorated even more than the last time, spraying rust colored stains all over my fresh laundry. I sighed, I’d already reckoned that two spin cycles were necessary to drain the clothes. I had long ago noted how the “spin” hadn’t been as effective as it once had and how I had to manually switch the knob to request the spin cycle several times. I had reduced the size of the load all in an effort to reduce the workload of the already taxed and band-aid covered dryer. They were a pitiful pair those two, my washer and dryer.

As I sorted and divided the load into portions to accommodate the dryer, I calculated what a new washer and dryer might cost, coming to the realization that there was no way our budget would accommodate such a purchase. I said a quick prayer. Something along the lines of

“Lord, you know how sketchy this washer and dryer are, you reckon you could provide me with some new ones.”

As I continued on with the laundry task, I pulled from the dryer a fully assembled and intact Lego dude with a cape. I smiled and put him aside. Someone would be looking for him soon enough. I smiled thinking how for years my dryer has chinked with the sound of stray Lego parts, all manner of bricks, and such. The stuff great structures of imagination are made of. I transferred the wets into the dryer, threw in a dryer sheet, and turned to head back upstairs. I had not even made it the ten feet to the steps when I received a text from my husband.

wahser dryerIt said, “Hey do you want a new washer and dryer?”

My stunned response. “Are you kidding me?’

“Nope. They’re used but they’ll be new to us.”

Some friends were upgrading and were getting rid of their old ones; we were the recipients of their good fortune. I marveled at how, not even moments before I had asked, well sort of asked for a new washer and dryer and here in the form of a text message was an answer to that very prayer. The new, used washer and dryer have blessed us tremendously. The dryer still chinks with Lego pieces, and when the washer spins I still look around for a helicopter landing. The new ones are sort of high-tech-like with literal buttons and bells on them, but I am becoming accustomed to them. The old pair made a trip to the recycle plant, which in itself is an adventuresome outing for the Martins.

1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast your anxieties on Him (God) because he care for you.” That day the King demonstrated the very essence of that to me. He alone knew I had prayed that. I hadn’t told anyone. I was too busy meandering down Memory Lane. He knew I needed a faith builder, and he chose to use a second-hand washer and dryer to do it. 2 Timothy 2:13 says that even when we are faithless, he remains faithful. That day as I said that quick prayer I was lacking the faith that the King would move on my behalf. I will admit that even as said it I did not quite believe that I would be the recipient of a new washer and dryer. Despite that though, His goodness was not, it is not, contingent on my belief. He is faithful, even when I am not. Since then, I have yet to do the laundry without the reminder of the goodness and faithfulness of God, and the tangible evidence that He hears our prayers and is our provider.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13