The Day the Cows Came Home

o-COWS-IN-ARGENTINA-facebook.jpg

For reasons I do not know or have yet to fully understand – although I am somewhat convinced it has to do with dependency – financial struggles have been the baseline under which we as a family operate.

There has never been feast or famine, there has always been just enough. The summer months tend to be lean months for our budget, we barely make it to a vacation paid in full. As school starts up and the days shorten, the budget improves slightly and by the calculator-calculation-insurance-finance-53621time the Christmas season rolls around it inevitably proves to be more lean than its predecessor autumn.

We’ve learned to roll with it, define what it is, and in which season we are in. This serves to prime the pump for a miracle. There was a particular day last fall when I and the Holy Spirit alone knew the essential home item, toilet paper, was making its way to the last few sheets. As I took note of such need and asked the King to intercede I had no idea that He had just that day prompted a dear friend to purchase the biggest pack of Angel Soft my eyes had ever seen. Then in a fish and loaves kind of move, that toilet paper seemed to go on and on. When one roll was placed on the holder to either be folded or wadded (I’ve learned there are two kinds of people in this world – wadders or folders – I am the latter, a fact I find ironic as I am disheveled in most areas of life save the one).

The following month The Lord Jesus used various anonymous gifts to sustain us through those lean times: a gift card here, a “I’m cleaning such and such out, you want it?” and the such-and-such would be precisely what we needed. I would find myself recollecting “The Green Grape Story.”

grapes-frozen-fruit-summer-organic-115007.jpegMany years ago, before I knew what it was like to rely on God to provide, I heard this story. I listened and can still recall the details of, at the time, a very foreign concept to me. The speaker was conveying how her young daughter, had requested green grapes for her snack. The Mama knowing full well grocery and payday were a bit away, made no promises that green grapes would be in the near future. That afternoon when the Mama arrived home, someone had left a box of random grocery items for the family and there among the items was a bunch of green grapes. There are times of lean when I recollect the “Green Grape” story, and I am reminded that Jesus knows exactly what we need and delights in giving us good gifts.

The Angel Soft from Heaven has been just one of the tangible ways The King has met our needs, and on a recent Cow Appreciation day I was reminded of another. It is no secret that the Chick-fil-A (CFA for short) is a Martin family favorite. When given the choice, it is always a chosen eatery. As recent as the day before Cow Appreciation Day, I had to decline a request for lunch at the favorite restaurant of choice, noting the dwindling budget and sighting the “sandwich stuff” already at home in the Frigidaire. I reminded my children that we would be dining at home sans chicken and waffle fries. They reluctantly accepted my verdict and we made our way home. Early the following day I was perusing the internet, researching, investigating and figuring out just how to make that tight budget just a wee bit more flexible when I stumbled across the Cow Appreciation day info. As a veteran participant I knew the drill: dress up like a cow, get free food. When I made mention of it to my youngest she immediately said, “But we don’t even have a cow costume Mama but you do have that donkey one.” True, I contemplated, could I pass that donkey for a cow? Not likely. The bushy tail and oversized lopped ears are a dead giveaway. Perhaps we could make a cow costume. Perhaps, one but not the required five. “There ain’t no way” was my exact thought as I yielded to the incessant plea to just go see if we had what would be required to construct the costumes.

As we made our way downstairs I gave her the daunting task of finding white t-shirts. I knew full well we did not possess one, much less five tee shirts of coordinating colors. Our laundry piled high on a table makes finding a white shirt in in that pile more daunting than a two inch straw colored needle in a 75 foot haystack. In a matter of moments I had just what was needed for the base of the cow costume. A little more searching and a few minutes later I had a small remnant of scrap black fabric, I began to cut random cow spots.

10969127_g

I expected to get no more than four or five spots but it was as if the fabric just kept multiplying. My scissors cut and the moment I looked away there was always more. The final spot was cut and I began to pin those spots in place. In a few moments I had constructed 5 costumes, cow ears and to my amazement they didn’t look all that bad.

As we arrived at our destination I marveled at how smoothly it had all come together, how the King knew the details, how He knew it would delight the hearts of the Martins to have lunch at their favorite. I marveled at how He provided in a most unconventional way. He knew I was capable of making the costumes, he expected me to take a leap of faith and at least make my way downstairs in search of supplies, and he knew I would be delighted to have an opportunity to craft and create with my youngest.

His word says that He will give us the desire of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4) I forget the delight part. I am all about the “give me” part, but the truth is when we delight ourselves in Him, He puts the desire in our heart and we can trust that desire is in essence His desire and He will use that for good.

The cows came home that afternoon, full and happy, giggling over bad jokes and puns that were “udderly” hysterical, having made a day of delightful memories. I marveled at how once again He who is good provided.

horizontal20cad

Thingamabobs? I Got Twenty… I Want More!

Just like The Little Mermaid, I have a ton of junk. So why is it that I am still browsing Amazon for things to add to my wish list? Why do I go to Barnes and Noble when I have thirty unread books at home? Why do I clean out my closet only to fill it with more v-necks? If you live in America, you probably know what I am talking about. We know we don’t really need new tennis shoes, but wouldn’t those lime green ones look so cute on our feet? We know we already have fifteen coffee mugs, but doesn’t that one with the quirky quote fit perfectly into our palm? We know we just bought a new journal, but isn’t that one totally adorable and completely reflective of our personality?

Although I have everything I could need materially, I still have a consumer mentality. Do you ever find yourself in that same boat… or Target aisle? I know that having belongings does not make me more or less godly, but if God really has complete control of my life then what does He have to say about the way I spend my money? Recently, I have realized that I fill my life with objects more when I am not as in tune with God. When I am not following God’s heart as closely, I have a gaping chasm in my life that I try to fill with brightly colored JUNK. Sure, I could use those tennis shoes to walk to a homeless shelter and share the Gospel or use that coffee cup to share some caffeine with a friend in need of a listening ear, but do I? Nope. I hoard. I save. I keep to myself. Because in my selfish heart, those belongings were never intended to further the Gospel. My selfish heart intended those belongings to fill my empty heart so that I can wander farther away from the God of “people before things.” This is when my consumer mentality becomes dangerous: when I consume to replace God with possessions.

anjali-bernhardt-furniture-pinterest

Even though we pretend that this is a new phenomenon, the conflict of objects before God is nothing new. From Solomon in the Old Testament to the rich young ruler in the New Testament, generations of believers have dealt with the problem of how to handle materialism. Solomon was given divine wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:6-12) by God, but he still struggled with looking for satisfaction in possessions. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon explains all of the material ways he tried to find satisfaction from wine and gold to houses and concubines. However, he concludes, “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Eccl. 2:11) Did you catch that? “NO profit under the sun”! So where is the profit in life? If the profit is not under the sun, then it must be above the sun. God is the only profit. God is the only thing that will satisfy our hearts. We know this. But do we KNOW know it? In the deepest caverns of our soul, do we truly believe that only God can fulfill our life purpose and make our life profitable and worth living? I am honestly not there yet. I am still holding up my, “But it was on sale!” excuses.

So is there any hope for us? Is there hope that we can fix our Disney-amplified need for “gadgets and gizmos aplenty”?

Let’s skip ahead to the New Testament. Our relatable friend, the rich young ruler, had similar issues. He came to Jesus in Matthew 19 with questions about what good things he should do. This guy obviously had his life figured out. He had money and the power to rule even though he was still young. (How did he pull that off?) But he was still dissatisfied and searching! He came asking Jesus for more answers. He had even tried being religiously obedient and following all the rules, but he had to ask, “What am I still lacking?” (Matt. 19:17-20). Y’all this next part gives me chills. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete…'” Here we go! Ready for the answer to being complete? “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matt. 19:21)

Uh-oh.

Is that really the answer, God?! To be complete, we need to have less? To be complete, we must give away our possessions? To be complete, we have to leave our home and follow a homeless Messiah? That is not logical to every cultural compulsion that having more things makes us feel more complete. And while we are on that word “complete” I want to clarify its meaning, especially since many of your Bible translations may say “perfect” instead of “complete” in verse twenty-one. In Greek (I know it’s another language, but this is important!). In Greek, the word for “perfect” or “complete” is teleios which can mean 1. brought to its end; finished 2. wanting nothing necessary to completeness 3. perfect 4. that which is perfect. So to be finished, wanting nothing else to be complete, or to be perfect we must follow Christ’s command to let go of physical possessions in exchange for spiritual treasures in heaven.

3ea8851a625e74ddb73671a42d6cddb2

 

[Side note that someone needs to hear: this word teleios is the same “perfect” that Jesus uses in Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are to be finished as Jesus is. We are to be complete as Jesus is complete. This verse is not a call to perfectionism, but a call to wanting nothing else and being complete in Jesus as we already are!]

 

 

All considered, I do not know if God is calling you to sell your house and live transiently giving away your money to every person who lives beside you in a cardboard box. However, I can say without a doubt that Jesus wants you to find your satisfaction in Him and not in belongings. You must personally seek out God’s will for how He wants you to use your belongings for Him. Just make sure that God and His Kingdom are always the focus of your material world. When we use things for God and not as a god, we will find ourselves finished, complete, and lacking nothing.

hqdefault