Stirring Spoons by Beth Smith (My Mom)

When you simmer stew, if you don’t stir the pot, food can stick to the bottom and ruin the dish. Stirring also lets you check on what’s in the pot, culling anything that doesn’t belong.

  • Oops! That carrot got too brown. It must have stuck to the bottom.
  • Too much flour. Look at those lumps! Out they come.
  • My goodness! What’s that tomato stem doing in there?

God often stirs us to keep us from sinking down to, and sticking at, our lowest level. Or he may allow us to be stirred in order to remove what doesn’t belong.

What does God uses as stirring spoons? People and circumstances. A stirring may go like this, in your head, that is:

  • “If she asks me one more time to clean the garage, I’m going to throw something.” What’s in that pot? Anger?
  • “If he doesn’t clean that garage, I’m not going to cook for a week. He’ll starve.” (Hmmm, is that a little revenge floating to the top?)

Try to find what’s being stirred to the surface in the life of this fictional lady:   

“I’m never early, never late. Jane always admires my perfect timing when I pick her up. Ugh! I told those kids to bring in their bikes. I’ll be late now because I have to do it. I’m going to ground them for a week.

“Hi, Jane. Get in the car. No, I’m not late. You must have come out early. Well, good grief! Look at that stupid, careless driver! He didn’t stop at that stop sign, and look at him on his cell phone, thinks he’s so important. Humph! Where’s a cop when you need one? Well, if we just had a good governor, things would be different. Man! Politicians! Lazy bunch of no good…I hate that guy on the City Council, you know the one who…”

Stir. Stir. Stir! What came to the surface, provoked by nearby people and circumstances? Impatience, judgmental attitude, meanness, self-righteousness, pride, covetousness, anger?  We surely don’t want those stuck in us. So…

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV) tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses stirring spoons, often those irritating people and circumstances to show us our weaknesses and to help us become more like him.

What do we do? Here’s a hefty starter list:

  • Thank God for whoever or whatever brought a sinful reaction to the surface. (We have to see it before we can get rid of it.)
  • Ask God to bless the person he used.
  • Give the reaction to Jesus with open honesty. Hatred, self-righteousness, pride…there’s no need to disguise it or analyze it. Just acknowledge that Jesus died for that sin.
  • Repent, be truly sorry, and desire to change.
  • Ask God to replace what the stirring spoon revealed with the fruit of his Holy Spirit.

This week when a stirring spoon comes along, let’s all follow those steps and rejoice that we aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. We’re getting rid of a lot of junk. God is working on us for our good, and that’s worth the stirring.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Sometimes I have trouble gleaning life lessons from Old Testament history. Such was not the case last week. Here’s what I read in Isaiah 10:12-15 (emphasis mine.)

I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.  For he says, ‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings…’”

To which God responds:

  • “Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
  • or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
  • As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
  • or a club brandish the one who is not wood!”

In the verses that come next, the wrath of God is described in most disturbing detail, providing a strong warning.

We talk—and write—a whole lot more about what pleases God than about what displeases him, but I was struck by this passage. When we are blessed with goods or accomplishment, success or victory or achievement of any kind, it is always a gift of God, meant to be credited as such. We are only the ax, the saw, the rod, the club. He is the wielder in every case.

Soli Deo gloria! To God alone be the glory!

photo credit: josch12 via pixabay.com

Be Careful of Your Calling

 

photo-1533154613417-407cfcf6abb2 king castle jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash

Years ago, I saw a movie called “The Man Who Would Be King.” It was based on a story by Rudyard Kipling and, as I recall, (spoiler alert) things didn’t turn out well for the men who sought royalty. Many of us, at one time or another, have dreamed of a fiefdom, a castle, or eight-year rights to Air Force One. The book of Judges provides a different perspective on high positions, though. It says,

“One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’” (Judges 9: 8-13),

God made some to be rulers, yes, but he made many of us for humbler tasks, just as he made the olive tree for oil, the fig tree for sweet fruit and the vine for wine.

Do you ever look at your life and find it lacking some element of grandeur you expected in your youth? Perhaps you’ve missed your calling. More likely, though, you’ve simply honed your calling and, hopefully, come to see the importance of simple tasks. We each need to ask ourselves only this question:

“Am I doing what I believe God would have me do right now, today, living the way he has called me to live?”

If your answer is yes, press on, knowing that you are giving glory to the King of Kings. (None of us were ever meant to heap up glory for ourselves anyway.) If, on the other hand, your soul searching leads you to believe you have sidestepped your calling, please don’t look back. Instead, look forward, asking God how he would have you proceed as you re-commit yourself to following him.

And if you’re willing, let me know your calling and commitment. I will pray for your strength, your courage, and your direction.

 

Photo by  jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash.

The Cloak of Invisibility

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Harry Potter. I’ve been watching this series of movies with Steve over the last several weeks. Some are delightful. Some are surprisingly dark. I’m not here to extol or vilify J.K. Rowling, though. Rather, I’d like to focus on one of her many creative inventions—the Cloak of Invisibility.

Harry receives the cloak as a gift. It allows him, no surprise, to become invisible each time he hides beneath it. Thus he is able to escape danger on occasion and to become privy to otherwise forbidden conversations. I’d like to have such a cloak, wouldn’t you? No such luck.

However, there’s another cloak of invisibility we can have—that we are actually instructed to use on many occasions. It’s the cloak we can don whenever we are tempted to flaunt our efforts, to have our good deeds recognized. The Bible talks about not “letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing, about doing our good deeds in secret.” This is somewhat counter to our current culture, but can still become our personal mode of operation. It’s the aftermath that’s tricky.

Following our Lord’s direction, and blessing someone in a secret way, can be great fun, actually. The trick is to give God the silent glory and then remain silent about the situation henceforth, never “accidentally” slipping into “wasn’t that cool?” mode.

Need some encouragement to keep with the invisibility plan? First, take a gander at Matthew six. Then consider enjoying this novel: Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas, © 1929. It’s the story of a man who decided to put his cloak of invisibility to good use throughout a lifetime filled with acts of kindness. If you choose to read it, let me know what you think!

The Trumpet

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Have you ever blown your own horn? You know, slipped an extra “let me tell you how cool I am” comment into a casual conversation? Dropped name or two? Described a few particularly shining accomplishments? I have, and I always feel like a heel afterwards. Pride of that sort has no place in life of a believer.

Recently, I managed to keep my trumpet silent. Let me see if I can tell you about the situation—and what it taught me—without sounding a single note.

I have a good friend who wrote a great book about a wonderful way she helped change the world. I loved it. About midway through the book, she told about an unnamed person who passed along an important piece of information, something pivotal to her future efforts. I’m pretty sure I was that person, and for a moment I was pretty proud of that fact. But then reality (and the Holy Spirit) flooded my mind with this simple fact: God allowed me to learn that piece of information. Then he put me in the right place to share it with my friend. And he could just as easily have chosen someone else for the task.

A trumpet sitting on a shelf doesn’t make a single sound of its own accord. Majestic tunes issue forth only when a master musician picks up the instrument and begins to play. You and I are trumpets. Our music is a joyful gift from the King of Kings.

When the Lord chooses to use us, great things are done. Sometimes they look great right away. Much of what we do each day won’t seem all that important until we look back on it from the other side of heaven. But all the greatness comes from God. We are simply his instruments. We can make ourselves willing. We can stay in tune with him. But all the music is still his.

For a musical reminder of all our Lord does, Google “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” or check out Wayne Watson’s beautiful rendition on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDrEkkfs6FQ

 

The Lean

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Michael Jackson could do a number of things I can’t do. At the top of that list are singing, dancing and doing “The Lean.” You know the lean I mean, right? Feet in one place, head in another? I’ve seen other performers defy gravity, but the secret of that move eludes me. (So do photos of that move, so you’ll have to use your imagination.)

Sadly, I can be really good at another kind of lean. Case in point: Not long ago, I was on a hike with my husband–great guy, beautiful surroundings, pretty romantic actually. Suddenly I realized my head was not where my feet were. I was hiking with Steve on the outside, but inside I was planning my grocery list. (Sick but true.) Have you done that as well? Have you ever played Go Fish with your kids while mentally planning your next menu? ‘Listened to a troubled friend while wondering when you’re going to get your inbox emptied out? We miss so much when we do that.

I think we become less effective as servants and sharers of the love of Christ when we lean. When my concentration is divided, I’m really saying to myself (and to the people I’m with if they catch on to what’s going on inside my brain) something like, “I have so many important things to do. These people are a bit of an interruption to my agenda. I certainly can’t give them my full attention, because then I might not get all my needs and goals met today.” Or maybe I just haven’t developed the habit of full attention in this world of distraction. Either way, I’m trying to learn to be completely engaged in the moment at hand. It’s a way to love others, to up my gratitude level and to practice contentment.

There’s another kind of lean that’s just as destructive. It sounds something like this:

“Life will be better when…”

“I can’t wait until…”

“If only it was time to…”

My mom calls that “wishing your life away.” And that’s just what it is. If we live with that mindset, we’ll miss the moment—and even hard moments are not meant to be missed. We’re meant to live through them with full reliance on our Lord.

I think both varieties of the lean are part of the Devil’s ploys to keep us looking away from today, and to steal the joy God wants to give us right now.  I’m praying that, from here on, my head and my feet will stay together in the same place!