Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No Butter Needed

Give us this day—our daily bread.

There is bread rising in my kitchen. A treasured family recipe. The dough is half-way through the first rise. I wanted to have fresh bread for lunch, and so early this morning I started the process.

We bake a lot of homemade bread at our house. The tradition and recipe came from my daughters’ beloved Granddad. He introduced us to fresh bread.

Inevitably when the loaves come from the oven, everyone asks, “Who is the bread for?” If I explain these loaves or rolls are for us, everyone starts looking for the bread knife. Butter is an afterthought. We always want the heels. Fresh, hot and soft. The scent is absolutely luscious.

After everyone devours what they want (usually there isn’t much left, unless I have made a double batch), we put the rest in a zip-lock and store it in the bread basket. The left-over bread does not disappear as quickly. The second day it is still good for sandwiches, by the third day the remains are forgotten (I am working on a crouton recipe!).

Stale bread.

I thought about the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus told them to ask their Heavenly Father for their daily bread.

In Jesus’ time, bread was baked daily. Women baked bread themselves or went to the village oven and bought their bread—enough for their families for the day.

Interestingly this is how manna was provided for the Israelites—enough for the day for the family. Don’t bother to try and take extra. Don’t try to gather more than the day’s needs. The extra you gathered would spoil and couldn’t be used or eaten.

God was teaching the Israelites dependence on Him for even the most basic of sustenance. Each morning as they went out to gather the manna from the ground, God was visually and concretely giving them a living metaphor for their lives. Daily God would provide for their needs. Daily God would provide the bread that would curb their hunger and quiet their growling bellies.

The Israelites, however, grumbled like spoiled children, “…you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” They complained about the food seeming plain, about being dry, about not having any flavor. (Yet, Scripture tells us that manna tasted like something made with olive oil and wafers with honey—doesn’t sound plain to me.) But, they wanted leeks, onions and garlic from Egypt. They wanted meat; they wanted spices. They complained they had lost their appetite.

In spite of their petty complaints, grievances and disobedience God provided for them anyway. His faithfulness was not lessened in quantity or quality by their whining. He rained manna down, and it was available to all.

Recently I heard someone talk about the Word of God tasting like sawdust. They read their daily measure of Scripture, but it tasted dry and mealy in their mouths.

Lately, I have been missing the Word of God—the daily Bread of God. I have been reading good materials (great writers) and participating in a bible study (a good and necessary one), but it hasn’t been manna for me. I had spoiled my appetite. Because of my busy schedule and over-stimulated taste buds I neglected gathering my daily manna.

I got hungry.

My spirit growled. I tried to fill it with leeks, garlic, meat, melons, cucumbers—everything but bread.

Finally, I went to the bread basket and pulled out the remains of the loaf I made several days ago. It wasn’t fresh. The loaf was no longer soft and warm. The scent had dissipated. And there was nothing left to do but make croutons.

Stale bread.

I wanted fresh bread.

This week I went back to gathering my daily manna.

In spite of my neglect and distractions and disobedience God provided for me anyway. His faithfulness is not lessened in quantity or quality by my lack of discipline or spoiled appetite. He is still willing to rain manna down for me. He will provide bread for my growling, hungry spirit.

I opened the Scriptures and began to read. And read.

And read. And study.

And read some more.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Fresh bread from the oven.

No butter needed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Funeral

I attended a funeral today.

I do not like funerals. I fought a mental war all day yesterday and last night about whether or not I would go. How silly, yet how real was the struggle.

Why? Funerals are heavy and somber events. They are shrouded in sorrow. Hurt is tangible.

Funerals make people feel awkward. They move us out of our comfort zone. What words do you say or not say? What gestures will be sincere and authentic? How do you avoid being trite? What do you do for people whose pain is evident in their eyes and body posture?

Steve asked me this morning what changed my mind about attending? What caused me to decide to go?

Because some things just simply aren’t about us. Some events are just not about our comfort levels. Some hard places in life aren’t about what WE say or do; it is about our willingness to be present.

Our presence indicates, at varying levels, our willingness to enter into the sorrow and help carry it.

Will the grieving remember each individual who was there? Most likely not, but what will be remembered is the collective body that came together to express grief, offer support and give love.

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