Good Works and Ground Beef

It was to be a lovely birthday party. Gracie had requested a “camping-princess party.” One can search the General Dollar Store all day but I can assure you, one will not find a princess in a sleeping bag printed upon a plate. My friend, Michelle, had already checked. She called me and asked if I would be up for just such a challenge. I couldn’t guarantee a bunting with a sleeping-bagged princess but I would see what I could come up with. We arrived at the campsite early and hung paper lanterns and buntings, we glittered and sparkled that campsite up so well, the soon to be campfire would pale in comparison to the decor. 

We left the campsite to run by the grocery store for supplies and to pick up the birthday girl and her guests. It was to be a lovely spend-the-night camping princess party. As we stood in the grocery store, I watched Michelle toss buns in the cart, and she declared she had “cow at home” she was picking up.

I knew precisely what she meant, as I too offered my cow, “Do you need me to grab some of my cow, when we run by my house to get my girls?”

She and I, along with several of our friends and acquaintances would purchase and share a cow, have it processed, frozen and would then consume it. She and I had been known to split a quarter of a cow. When we did that she was always responsible for the mathematical part, the dividing of our quarter into eighths. 

We arrived back at the campsite, had pizza for dinner and made s’mores and crafts. Those 8-year-old girls had a lovely time. They laughed and laughed and my friend and I did too. While they danced and played and behaved like little girls full throttle in the middle of a princess camping party, we laughed about things middle-aged women laugh about. It was a glorious night that lives on in my memory as one of my most favorite. The party was set to culminate in a cookout-picnic to include the boys and families of the girls, the next day. 

The next day, the boys arrived, brothers and daddies. I helped to prepare burgers and fixings while a candy crammed crown pinata was strung from a tree by the tallest of the dads. As Michelle removed packages of white-butcher-paper-wrapped ground beef I saw her counting. She was drawing imaginary lines in the air, I watched her hands move, she moves her hands whenever she is figuring mathematical things out. Her fingers dance in a rhythmic way akin to drawing; it looks like she makes plus signs that hover invisibly over the object she is focused on. 

When we first became friends, she was an accountant turned seamstress so that she could be at home with her small babies. She always drew those imaginary lines when she was sewing and figuring fabric dimensions. I have seen her move her hands just like she did over those packages of ground beef more times than I can count. 

She asked me how many buns we had. I told her the total we had purchased the day before. She reached down into the cow cooler and pulled out another package of meat. She pattied the meat into burgers and headed out to the grill. I laid the table with buns, chips, pickles and condiments in an atmosphere of the princess camper theme: pinks, sparkles, shiny napkins and party horns.

At the end of the cookout-princess-picnic I marveled at how the clean-up lacked one element that is always characterized by my party or meal planning. There was not an uneven number of burgers and buns, thereby resulting in either a leftover, bunless burger or excessive buns destined to become breadcrumbs. As I cleaned up, the thought never crossed my mind, the answer lay within the prep work and an action I had seen a half a dozen or more times. 

I was thinking about that event one day recently when I stood over the meat counter at the grocery store and I was trying to figure out how much meat to buy, too little or too much is my typical. I remembered how she stood over those packages of meat. As I meandered down Memory Lane, I had recalled something she mumbled simultaneously as her fingers danced over those 1 pound packages of ground beef. 

Four, into one is a quarter. It would take two packs of beef for every one – an eight count package of buns. When she asked me how many buns we had, she simply calculated that number by four and figured out how many packs of meat she would need. Then she evenly divided those packs into four quarter-pound patties. I stood there in the Piggly Wiggly and I laughed out loud in the direction of the meats. I was amused that I had finally figured it out. 

I am fairly certain, the rump-roast-purchaser to my left was not nearly as amused by my seemingly random meat induced hysteria. 

“Four.” She had simply said “four.” My mind worked as I stood in the Piggly Wiggly, my gaze fixed downward into a sea of red rectangular mounds. 

Four. 

She had prepared perfectly  in advance by way of her mathematical skill the task set before her. I had witnessed her do it numerous times before and never quite figured out how she always managed to get numbers correct. I always just figured it had something to do with how her brain worked. 

It dawned on me later, in that perfection of plan and preparation she is like the Lord. And like my taking a hot minute to figure it out, I am like…well…I am like me. As per usual, sometimes it takes me a while to get it, to connect the dots, and figure it out. 

His  word says is Ephesians 2:8-9, 

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We were created to do good works, not for our salvation but because we are saved. And not just random haphazard works but good, perfect, works that God prepared for us in advance. Taylor made. Specific to me, specific to you. Good works that the King of the Universe determined in advance for us. 

Perfect callings that each of us are to fulfill. We are not all called to be preachers and teachers. We are not all called to be writers and speakers. We are not all called to international missions, but we are all called and created for a specific purpose in the family of God, in the Body of Believers.  

Michelle asked me to merge the world of dainty princess and rustic camper because she knew and had the confidence (even if I didn’t) in me to pull it off. She sees in me a potential I do not always see, and in that, yet again, demonstrates how she is like the King. 

Digestion

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. Psalm 119:15

Charles Spurgeon, in his devotional book Morning by Morning asks, “Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life?” A great question to ponder today.

We have all, most likely, found times in our lives when we were doing all the Christian disciplines, yet growing in Christ seemed to evade us. We felt stagnant maybe, or perhaps legalistic. We read the word faithfully, but it fell on our hearts with a cold distant feeling. We prayed, yet without fervency of spirit we had known before. We attended services with believers, but went away unchanged. We probably asked why, and evaluated our lives for any sin and prayed to be delivered from that drought of the soul.

Spurgeon makes a very interesting observation as to why this may be that we can “go through the motions” yet not advance in our Christian walk. It all has to do with digestion.

In the physical world, digestion is crucial. Food can go in the mouth, but if an illness causes the body not to be able to digest the food the body goes without nourishment. I saw this happen with an elderly family member whose body was declining. Her chart was first labeled her with “failure to thrive.” Food was no longer enticing to her. And eventually, because her body was no longer processing the food it received, her system began slowly failing.

In the spiritual world just as in the physical, digestion occurs when the nourishment taken in is processed and broken down in order to benefit the health of the person. Our stomach digests food slowly over hours. Similarly, our spiritual food cannot be used effectually if it is gobbled down in a quick ten minute reading of scripture before work or listening to a 30 minute podcast from our favorite Bible teacher on the commute home. Those are simply ways to take the spiritual food into the mouth. This food needs to be mentally digested too. Do we ever go on to chew up this food and begin to digest it in a way that it nourishes our soul?

It takes active meditating on the things of God to get the real soul-nourishment from them. Time needs to be spent dwelling on it to digest it. Don’t just read the Word of God, meditate on it. Don’t just listen to the podcast, contemplate its impact on your life. Spend time as my granddad used to say “ruminating on it” to get its full flavor and meaning and benefit.

We are a microwave society and want to have everything now. But the deeper truths of scripture that will grow us more and more into the image of Christ come only through a deep contemplation and consideration of the meaning of scripture, in order to apply it to our lives. Find a quiet place away from the bustle – which isn’t quite as hard during this coronavirus pandemic – and focus on God’s Word. Meditate on it. Pray over it. Journal what God is speaking into your heart. Allow His Word to do its job of feeding you and growing you into His likeness.


I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:99

Flying From the Nest

The nest is empty. But the nest of the heart still holds the fledgling offspring as if they were newly hatched. A mother’s heart doesn’t turn loose just because a warm body is no longer in the bedroom each night.

Whether just down the road in their own place, hours away at college, married and establishing their own family, or halfway around the globe; they are still her little nestlings. Her heart thrills and mourns with every joy and tragedy she hears they experience. She grieves and prays over their heartaches and losses. She exults over their accomplishments and adventures as if those achievements were her own.

When the babies take flight our heart realizes that the pains and joys of childhood do not hold a candle to the grown up pains and joys that cause the heart to ache with overwhelming despair or rapturous delight.

Today Mama Bird, if you find yourself fretting over a little birdie who is eternally tied to your heart yet physically out of reach, try to remember our Father in Heaven and His care for our little birds.

~ I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. Psalm 37:25

~ May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. Psalm 90:16

~ But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. Psalm 103:17

~ Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26

~ Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Psalm 112:1-2

~ May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children. Psalm 115:14

~ Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Psalm 127:3-4

~ Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord. Psalm 128:1-4

~ And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:21

He meant for them to fly from the very beginning! And it is good. Trust Him!

Soft Landing

We were sitting outside in a breezeway. The early morning sun had risen high above us when a few short hours ago it had been behind us. We were sweaty and hot but not miserable. We had gathered to do what we have been called to do, and in that calling I think it fair to say, we all find peace and encouragement. There are five of us that are co-laborers in that calling. We are all ages, different places in life, all having different careers, husbands and children, all different yet all the same in sharing the goal of  ministry. 

I am convinced that it is the Holy Spirit that binds us all together so well. The oldest of our team is a grandmother, they call her “Cheech.” She has a gaggle of granddaughters that we as a team have become quite fond of. We have declared, they too are our coworkers in Christ because one or more of them is with Cheech on any given day. 

As per usual Cheech was working away and the Baby Girl of our group at just barely a year old became slightly disgruntled with her position in the stroller. Our leader, The Writer, she is actually a writer where I just dream of being one. The Writer loves a baby and pounced on the opportunity to hold the fussy Baby Girl. The Writer had been sitting next to me, and our conversations had meandered like a cool stream on a hot day. We would pause and pick up, each conversation refreshing to the soul. We paused again, for her to pick up the fussy baby. She bounced Baby Girl and talked softly to her. The Writer and I exchanged stories of the babies in our lives, the very babies that are headed off to college or are already there. 

Our own babies that once would snuggle in close, when the days were long but the years were short. We reminisced about a time when toys littered floors, diapers filled shopping carts, and snacks were always within reach. I found myself joyous and sad at the same time.Baby Girl was getting sleepy so she fussed some more.We talked and she entertained Baby Girl who soon did as babies do when sleep overtakes all other desires. I giggled as Baby Girl nuzzled in close to my friend looking for a soft spot to rest her head. 

The Writer is tall and lean. She is beautiful and graceful. She has features that often remind me of an English Aristocrat from bygone days. Her dress is uniquely her own, her clothes are often long and flowing and just give credence to her appearance. She carries herself beautifully, sometimes she reminds me of someone walking among clouds. She is genuinely beautiful. However, if you ask her, she takes none of the credit and gives it all to Jesus. That is just how she is. He gets the credit for all of the good things that she is. 

As Baby Girl shifted back and forth, The Writer  laughingly said, “It’s all the sharp edges.” She is thin, and unlike me, her bones are not covered and softened by even an ounce of adipose. The truth is, I do not have a sharp edges anywhere unless I happen to have a pair of scissors in my pocket. I have often said babies are fond of me because I can give them a soft place to rest. Eventually Baby Girl found a satisfactory spot to lay her head and dozed off in the arms of The Writer, both were in a place of happiness and rest. The Writer sat back in her folding chair, baby in arms, and we continued where our conversation had left off. We talked of plans and of the Lord. We always talk about the Lord. If our conversation steers away from the Lord, she always brings it back to Him, she is just like that. 

The Writer appears sharp in places. If one judges on outward appearance alone, one would think she is not a soft place to land. And it is in that regard she reminds me of the Lord. 

It would not be so far-fetched to say to some, “He can appear harsh, distant, and uncomfortable.” He is by definition often with the appearance of  the sharp edges. But when you take the time to know Him, to talk with Him, to learn His character, you realize He is the best of places to land. He is full of grace and beauty, truth and authorship much like my friend, The Writer.

 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul andspirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Snapping at Flies

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise. Ephesians 5:15

Our cute little black Grand-dog brings much humor to our lives. One of the funniest things to watch him do is chasing flies. Yes, you read it right. He hates flies, and chases them gnashing his teeth trying to catch them. If he does catch them, he actually eats them. Gross! I know.

One day as I was watching him, I began to wonder if Satan doesn’t sit back and laugh at us some days watching us snap at the flies he sends buzzing around us. You know what I mean? Flies like: a comment on Facebook that we just can’t let go and keep checking to see if the OP (original poster) has responded to our comment, a relationship based on jealousy that constantly buzzes around our heads as we say to ourselves, “She just did that to 1-up me,” or even the flies at church of little slights or offenses or feeling “Uninvited” as a recent book title proclaimed.

Satan knows how to bug us. Pun intended. He knows how to get us distracted with silly, meaningless situations that grab our whole focus and leave us unobservant of the things The Father would have us notice. Things like: the pain that Facebook poster is dealing with that makes her post harsh, critical things, the friend’s need for unconditional love that God wants us to give to them while letting Him (not others) fill us, or the loneliness and emptiness of those around us wanting to feel accepted and significant just like we long to be.

Let us not go around acting like silly dogs, ladies. It’s not near as cute when we do it as when my little dog does it – not cute at all. Satan knows how to bait us. He wants to get us so distracted with useless flies, that we miss the important things worthy of our focus and attention and energy, like nurturing and discipling our families, caring for the lonely and broken, and steeping our minds in His Word.

I know I’m not the only one who has ”read my Bible” with dozens of those flies buzzing around my mind and gone away totally unaware of having heard from the Father. Sometimes I can’t even tell you later in the day what I read about because my mind was so distracted.

And I’d bet I’m not the only one who has gotten a case of the mulligrubs, feeling so sorry for myself that I don’t have the mental energy to reach out and take a meal to a hurting person, or call someone who is down, or even bother to speak kindly to the people in my household. I become so self-focused because of those flies that I am not living out even the basic commands of the Word of God. I waste my energy on a useless chasing after things that don’t matter.

It’s time we focus on God’s purpose for our day. Let’s give up the petty distractions of the enemy for a rich life of obedience to God that will yield joy in our souls and something much more worthy of our time and effort than those silly flies.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Early Will I Seek You

by guest author Kimberly Hargreaves

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

This morning I was sitting in the living room praying, reading, and seeking more intimacy with God. Seeking to be ready and willing when He calls me into uncomfortable places. These past several months, He has been waking me up early to get into the word. I know giving Him my first fruits is pleasing and beneficial to Him, and to me. But yall, I struggle with mornings. I am not a morning person at all. I have always been more productive at night. I clean at night, read at night, work at night. I just seem to get more accomplished during those night-time hours.

But I hear Him better in the mornings. My day starts off in the right direction, and I know He is trying to break that night owl spirit within me. So, up I get. As I was sitting here this morning, I eventually heard little feet hit the ground. I heard the door creak open and I knew a little person was about to join me in my quiet time. 

My youngest always comes looking for me in the mornings. I hear those little feet pattering through the house, and I can always tell where he is by the sound of his feet. Whether I’m reading from the back porch, in the living room, or the bedroom, he always finds me. His face lights up and he gives me a sleepy grin. He hops in my lap and cuddles. He is quiet and he listens then. (If you knew my youngest, you’d know this is a big deal.)  He is the sweetest and most receptive during those first morning moments. And that’s when I realized… that’s exactly what God wants from me. 

I’m most receptive in those first morning moments. So, He says, “Come, seek me first. Come to me like a little child. Give me those first morning moments. Dig into my word first. Feel my embrace and rest in my peace.” That morning smile from my boy brings so much joy. How much more pleasing it must be to my Abba when I am obedient in finding Him first, and giving Him my first morning moments. 

Psalm 143:8 “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you, show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

A Meditation on Psalm 121

Open in a time of prayer, turning your heart to your Father.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?

Lift your eyes to heaven.

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

You’re Helper is your Creator. Tell Him the areas you need help.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.

He won’t bail on you, but will be there to help you in all your struggles.

Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

He offers shade and rest when you are weary and battle-worn.

The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

He offers round the clock protection from all the forces of nature that come against you.

The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

He offers protection from evil and guards us forever!

Praise His name and worship Him today!

Mr. Beaver gets it Right

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

This is one of my favorites. 

He isn’t safe but He is good.

It took me a while. 

Some things do. 

It takes me a while to figure them out, that is.

I tend to think of safe as a physical manifestation. I wear my seatbelt because it keeps me safe in a car crash. I look both ways to cross the street because that’s safe. I lock up medications and keep poisons out of the reach of children. I know the phone number to poison control. When my children were babies, I didn’t just have a car seat properly installed in my car, I took the multi-day course and test to learn and be certified to do it myself. 

I am hypervigilant to keep myself and those I love safe, and safe is good – but this Mr. Beaver quote seemed to contradict that entirely.

I like safe. I like predictability, and I like knowing what to expect. 

By nature I am none of those things so I tend to gravitate towards those things, those types of people. My husband is that way, safe, loyal, predictable. Most people use the terms “easy-going, relaxed.” I am rarely easy-going or relaxed. I think the term is “high-strung” definitely not “safe.”

I rocked back and forth between this quote for a time. Had he (Lewis) gotten it wrong for the sake of authorship, good writing just to sell books? I ruminated over this one like a year-old piece of salt water taffy, and I kept coming back to the acknowledgement in the statement about his character, 

“He is good. He is King.” 

After months (yes, months) of pondering, I realized it was my definition of safe that was the actual issue. I thought safe was keeping me from harm and in that regard I was not entirely correct. I had only viewed safe in the terms I had outlined above. Physical safety alone. 

What I had not taken into consideration were the other aspects of His nature that I can not understand. His ways are not my ways; His thoughts are not my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8) If they were, then I would have on my hands a messiah of my own making and He would cease to be God. 

When we follow Him, when we walk in tandem with Jesus, our lives are never going to be the same. We are confronted with the things that are unpredictable, unprecedented, and have the ability to stretch us, to transform us, and to make us more and more like Him everyday. 

We are no longer in place of expected predictability but rather remarkable, unpredictable, benevolence. 

He is not safe, not like I traditionally think of safety, but He is good, He is God, and …

HE IS KING.