“Daaaaaaddy!” The Cry Came Again.

Last week I was spending the night at a lovely apartment that is located on a quiet street with a little lake on the grounds.  It’s always been such a peaceful place and I’m very thankful for it.  I love staying in this place.  On this particular night as I was sleeping soundly in my bed,  I was suddenly awakened by the cry of a child.  

“Daaaaddy!”  I stirred and strained to listen.  The voice came from the apartment upstairs.

“Daaaaady!” The cry came again.  This time I could hear the tears and fears in the call.  Then I heard hard footsteps running down the hall.

“Shuuuuut up!”  An angry voice shouted.  My body froze, breaths were shallow, nerves tight as I lay there stunned at what I was hearing.

The child cried out again and the voice shouted once more, “I said, shuuuut up!  Now!”  Silence.  Fear flooded my senses. I could feel my eyes staring wide into the darkness unable to blink.   After several agonizing seconds that seemed near an eternity, the footsteps returned to the other room.  I heard no more cries but I could not go back to sleep.

I lay there and prayed for the child.  As the minutes passed, my own nerves began to relax from its tension.  My mind wandered to thoughts of my own earthly father.  Never in a million years would my father have shouted at me to shut up.  Never would he have been filled with anger at my call to him.  He would have come quickly to offer comfort.  He would have sought to soothe my fears.  

I realize that there are many in the world who never had a father like mine.  Sadly, there are those who had a father like the one with the heavy footsteps and the angry shouting voice to “shut up!”  Such an angry earthly father could understandably mar one’s feelings toward their spiritual Father.

To those reading this, did you have a kind and protecting father or did you have an angry father that made you afraid to call to him for help.  If your experience with your earthly father was a negative one, may I encourage you that Almighty God is a Father of perfect love, at all times, and He invites you to call to Him at anytime.  Are you afraid?  Call.  Are you lonely?  Call.  Never hesitate.  Call.  He is on the ready to come to you.

He gave a beautiful promise to us in Psalm 91:15, “When they call on me I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them.”  

Never forget, whatever your experience with your earthly parents, your Heavenly Father is always there for you, holding your best interests in His heart — always!  Please call.  He will come.

Our Temporary World

We will all agree that this world gives each  of us a varied amount of difficulties. Some people, it seems, have more than their share of trouble. Any hardship is a potential precursor to the doldrums taking over. The blues can set in, replacing any peace of heart that was keeping us calm on the inside, no matter what was happening on the outside. Why, we may ask ourselves, when everything was going so well, did trouble come again? For some, it seems that every time an opportunity comes knocking, they open the door, only to have it slam in their face! Disappoint piles high. Inner peace fades and disappears.

Perhaps frustrations rise, not because of what we see around us, but because of what we don’t see. It’s so easy to take on the attitude that God’s not helping, rather than reminding ourselves that God uses everything to our ultimate good. It’s easy to listen to the lies of Satan who would say, “see, He’s left you to suffer alone again,” rather than to focus on God’s promise of, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thesalonica to encourage them in all they were going through. He wrote in II Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ. Isn’t it interesting to note that throughout God’s Word, there is never a promise that God will help us to avoid trials, but there are countless promises that He will equip us with everything we need to get through them.

Jesus told His followers in John 14:27, I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” What exactly is Jesus meaning — His peace isn’t like the peace the world gives? To get the answer, we only need look around. What do you see? Things that are temporary. Everything your eyes look at today is temporary. At some point in the future, things will break, people and nature will pass away. The whole world is in a temporary state of existence. Therefore, it stands to reason that, if we look to anything the world has to offer us, at it’s very best, it’s only temporary.

Not so with Jesus! He is eternal. Therefore, everything He has to give us is eternal,too! He can give a peace that the world can’t touch. He gives love that never fades. He gives joy that stays strong in the roughest of life’s seas.  Everything to do with Jesus is unbreakable.

We have to live and work in the world everyday, but we must be careful not to focus on anything the world has to offer as a means of sustaining our inner peace. Remember, anything the world has to offer is temporary.  When we focus on the world more than on God, then a spiritual impairment can set in, blinding us to all God has to offer us; not only to endure troubles, but to get through with strength and joy — for all our days on earth and then into eternity!

It Started With A Peppermint

Today was a day for running errands; lots of errands, things that just couldn’t wait any longer.  My mother and I set off and began fulfilling the things on our to-do list.  One of our errands included a time of waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more!  Groan!  Would the waiting ever end?  Others were waiting, too.  It was a room filled with boredom, frustration, and growing tension.  Don’t you hate waiting and waiting with no apparent end in sight?

I was sitting on one side of my mother and a young man sat on her other side.  All seats everywhere were filled.  At one point my mother asks me for a mint.  I fish around in my handbag and retrieve a small wrapped peppermint.  She takes it and I pay no further attention.  I don’t see that the wrapper is difficult to open until I hear a voice say, “may I open that for you?”  It was the young man.

I leaned forward and watched as he quickly snapped open the wrapper and handed it back to my Mom.  “I didn’t touch it,” he said, “I’m holding it with the wrapper.

“Yes, I see you are,” answers my mother, “thank you so much.”

“It’s the little things that can be tough,” he said.

From that moment he and my mother began a conversation filled with chuckles and smiles.  Just listening to them made me smile, too.  I glanced at others sitting nearby.  They were caught up in the conversation and grinning at their lighthearted chatter.  There was definitely a lessening of stress in the air and it all started with the simple kindness of opening a peppermint wrapper.

Is kindness that important?  God says something about kindness in Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God though Christ has forgiven you.”

There is nothing in God’s Word that is insignificant.  It’s all equally important.  Therefore, when we have opportunity to obey God’s instruction to simply be kind to someone, we are honoring both God and our fellow man.  One simple kindness blessed, not only my mother, but everyone who could hear the ensuing conversation.  Many people,  who at first appeared as if boredom could be the end of them, were uplifted.  One by one as someone would leave, they would wave, wish everyone well, and we all happily waved and smiled in return.  It turned out to be a lovely afternoon.

There are many things that each of us cannot do, but all of us can “be kind to each other.”  We don’t know what’s going on in someones life, but it might be that a simple kindness could be the difference between hope and despair.  Kindness is never insignificant.

The Dog Whimpered and Quivered

Recently, at the animal hospital where my mother and I have the pleasure of working two days a week, a little dog was admitted who had to have one of her back legs amputated.  The surgery had already been completed when I arrived one morning.  I peered into the cage and was met with two deep brown eyes staring into mine.  Then I saw her body quivering.  I spoke some soothing words and walked away to tend to other things that needed to be done.

Some moments later, a sound of whimpering filled the air.  I looked around, scanning the cages with our various canine and feline patients, and discovered the whimpering came from our amputee.  I walked over and spoke words of comfort once more.  The whimpering did not stop; neither did the quivering.

Opening the cage, I began to stroke the little dog, speaking kind words, looking into her eyes.  After stroking the dog for several moments, she stood up.  I praised her for her bravery at standing on only three legs.  She took a step closer to me, turned sideways, and leaned her weight onto me.  I was so touched at this gesture of trust.  It was also a cry for help.  “Make me feel better,” I could almost hear her say.  Her entire weight was leaning against me.  If I had stepped away, she would have fallen to the floor.  I stroked some more and then gently pushed her back inside and closed the door.

Throughout the morning, every time I looked at the dog, she was watching me.  If I would come near, she stood in readiness for more stroking and leaning.  At one time I took her outside for a little walk.  She strutted around in great confidence, as if she didn’t know she was missing a leg.  She sniffed here and there with every appearance of dog happiness.

When I returned her to her cage, she licked my hand, then turned sideways again for some more leaning and stroking.  I obliged with great joy.  When the time came for me to leave for the day, it was with some sadness that I told her goodbye.  Of course, I couldn’t go without just one more minute of leaning.  It was a sweet moment for both of us.

I kept thinking about the dog as I drove home that day.  It came to me that we humans are not unlike the scared little dog who, as far as she could understand, went to sleep with four legs, and woke up with three!  How many times do unexpected things take place in our lives, leaving us perplexed, causing us to ask with no little amount of bewilderment, how on earth did that happen?  Perhaps the unexpected incident scares us and makes us fearful of what tomorrow might bring.  We discover that inwardly we are whimpering and quivering.

The little dog received comfort when she leaned close, putting all her weight onto me.  We can do the same.  The instruction is given to us in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.”  

When difficulties arise, it is a common, human response to try and sort through it ourselves.  We definitely lean on our own understanding.  While God has given us brains with which to think and reason, He has not made us infallible.  We are always capable of mistake.  Therefore, isn’t it best to lean upon Him who never gets it wrong, who has all the right words of comfort, who holds all the strength we need, who is the author of peace?

When we lean upon our own understanding, we are only subject to possible insight to solve our problems; but when we lean on Almighty God, we lean on the One who guides us along right paths, not some of the time, but all of the time.  When we lean on Him, His comfort floods into our troubled souls and the whimpering and quivering ceases to be.

What Did Joseph Do?

There is little known about Joseph, earthly father to Jesus.  He comes on the scene when we learn that he was engaged to Mary.  By cultural standards, Joseph was probably much older than Mary.  Mary, by contrast, may have been as young as 14 or 15.  The marriage would have been pre-arranged by the two families.  It’s possible that Mary had been promised to Joseph from the time of her birth.

Joseph would have grown up knowing that one day, Mary would be his bride.  We know that Mary was an honorable person.  We know this because the angel that appeared to her said in Luke 1:28, “Greetings favored woman.  The Lord is with you.”  She would not have been given such an accolade by God if it were not so.  Therefore, Mary had to have had a wonderful reputation.  We can imagine Joseph’s anticipation to marry such a good and well thought of young woman.

Then comes the shock of a lifetime: Mary confesses that she is pregnant!  In that culture, such an incident was considered a tragic shame upon the family; even a crime.  Mary could have been stoned to death!  What did Joseph do?  Even with his own broken heart, he did not want vengeance upon Mary.  He planned to quietly send her away to have her child, the engagement broken, and with the passing of time all would be forgotten.  That was Joseph’s plan but it was not God’s plan.

In a dream, an angel of God spoke to Joseph and told him to take Mary as his wife, that she had not been unfaithful; she was in fact, pregnant by the Spirit of God.  Wow!  What did Joseph do?  He believed God, and continued with the marriage plans.

While all this was going on, the Roman government announced that they were going to take a census.  Every man had to return to the place of his ancestral birth to be counted, along with his family, in the census.  Since Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem.  He took Mary with him.

Imagine the difficulty of the long journey.  Mary, heavily pregnant, rode atop a donkey all the way to Bethlehem.  Her time to give birth was drawing near.  Joseph went from hotel to hotel, but because of the census, the town was overrun with visitors.  There was no room anywhere.  We could understand if Joseph became so agitated that he questioned God.  After all, why would God lead them along such a journey if Mary was, in fact, going to give birth to the Christ-child?  It didn’t make sense; however, we see no indication of Joseph losing faith.  He did the best he could, being given a stable to house in for the night.  He must have made a bed of hay for Mary to lay in.  Then, the baby came.  Joseph delivered this God-child and prepared a bed of hay for Him, too.  As he had been instructed by the angel, Joseph named the baby, Jesus.

How perplexing it must have been, but Joseph believed God and trusted Him, even in the midst of such hardship.  At some point after the birth, the census complete, Joseph and his family were still in Bethlehem.  He was a carpenter.  He must have started a business. When Jesus was about 2 years old, Mary and Joseph and Jesus were living in a house.  (We know this from Matthew 2:11).  Joseph the carpenter was providing for his family.  Then, another dream comes to Joseph that will upset their peace and tranquility.

An angel appears in another dream, instructing Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and leave immediately!  Go to Egypt!  Imagine this incident.  Joseph has accepted Mary as his wife in the midst of her pregnancy.  He takes Jesus as his own son.  He has started his carpenter business, and what happens?  He’s told to pack up and leave everything because the King will attempt to kill Jesus!  We would have understood if Joseph protested saying, “Lord, I just can’t leave my business.  How will I provide for my family?  I have orders to fill.  How will it all look?  Isn’t there another way to keep my family safe?”  However, there is no record that Joseph argued with God.  What did Joseph do?  Exactly what God instructed him to do.  He left everything and went to Egypt, not returning to Israel until God told him to do so.

What a wonderful example we have in Joseph.  In the midst of all he did not understand, he chose to trust God.   In the midst of gossip that would have run rampant over Mary’s pregnancy, he trusted God.  In the midst of hardship, he trusted God.  In the midst of danger, he trusted God. In the midst of losing his business, he trusted God.

What was God doing in the midst of all this upheaval?   He was doing what He always does in the lives of His children; He was guiding, protecting, providing, and blessing with His own peace and courage, all along the way.

God hasn’t changed the way He works.  He still guides us today.  Even when situations look grim to our eyes, when danger lurks, when gossip fills the air, when friends and family betray us, when our future appears grey.  Our Father has us in His hands, holding us close.  He is always leading and watching over us.  He loves us and cares deeply about all our concerns.  He is our joy.  He is our peace.  He is our courage.  He is our Savior.  He is our everything to get us through anything.

How lovely that Jesus came.  How life changing to know Him.  Merry Christmas everyone!

 

What Do I Do About It?

I have shared before, what I call, the wisdom of Lucy.  Lucy Shockney is a dear friend whom I met in France where she and her family were missionaries for many years.  God has blessed Lucy with terrific insights into everyday life.  Recently she shared another nugget of gold.  She was talking about the difficulties in life that come to us all.  No one is exempt from hard times.  Lucy writes:  “If the question that plagues you is ‘why,’ knowing why doesn’t solve the problem.  The real question is, ‘what do I do about it?”‘  That’s the one that solves the problem, that refuses to submit to circumstances.  The ‘whys’ are a distraction.  The ‘what am I going to do about it?’ is the road map to greatness.”  I find her thoughts simple and yet profound.

It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of doubt, depression, and anxiety.  To ask why is easy and even understandable.  We want answers to our melancholy.  We want it to go away, so we ask why?  However, as Lucy pointed out, to merely mull over the why question will do nothing but distract us from the road to our liberation.  Indeed, it is in asking ourselves, what are we going to do about it, that the path to freedom from our despondency will be revealed.

So, what, exactly, can we do about it?  Two answers come to me.  The first has been a favorite of mine from the time I became a Christian.  It’s found in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and I will show you great and mighty things that you do not yet know.”  Isn’t the truth of that verse amazing?  The promise is: just by calling to Father, He will answer, and He will reveal truth to us that will aid us in our troubles.  It’s not a maybe or possibly so; it’s an “I will.”  Anytime God says “I will,” it is well worth our time to meditate upon that truth and follow it through.

The second thought that comes to me in regard to, what can we do about it, is found in Matthew 7:7.  Jesus was talking with His followers, encouraging them how to live successfully in this troubled world.  He said, “Keep on asking, and you will receive.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  I have listened with sadness to some Christians who have misunderstood this verse.  Some actually believe that God is being somewhat cruel, insisting that “keep on asking” means, if we ask enough times, He will answer.  Oh, my!  That interpretation is so incorrect. What would enough times be?  Five?  One hundred?  It’s absurd to consider that Jesus would be so callous to the things that hurt us.  That’s not how love works; therefore, that’s not how Jesus works.

So, what is He saying?  He’s telling us that every time we find ourselves in some situation of despair, then ask, seek, and knock.  He says to keep on doing this with every trial that comes our way.  With every new feeling of sadness or with every new burden that weighs us down, we must seek Him and His help.  We must so diligently ask, seek, and knock that it becomes a habit in our lives.

As Lucy reminded us, when we quit focusing on the ‘why’ and focus instead on ‘what can I do about it,’ then we put ourselves in the way of deliverance from all that drains our joy.  So, when troubles come, and they will, what can we do about it?  Call to Father.  Ask His help.  Seek His comfort.  Knock on the door of His guidance, and He will show you great and mighty things that you never even dreamed about.  It’s a promise.

A Lovely Cup Of Tea

I had my plans all set for the day.  I was going to help make life easier for my mother.  I made a list in my mind: wash the clothes, vacuum the floor, run some errands, get the Christmas tree out of the attic, wrap presents.  I knew this would be such a help to her.  So, I set out joyfully checking the items off the list as they were completed.

When I returned from errands my mother said, “How about a cup of tea.”

“Not now, Mom,” I replied, “I just want to get the things done on my list.”

I put a load of clothes into the washing machine.  I got the tree out of the attic along with the decorations.  Tree up – check.  Decorations on – check.  Then I took out the vacuum cleaner to attack the carpets.

I heard my mother call out, “Are you ready for that cup of tea?”

“Not yet, Mom,” I said, “you go ahead.”

“No, I’ll wait to enjoy it with you,” she answered.

I turned on the vacuum but her words, “I’ll wait to enjoy it with you,” echoed in my brain.  It wasn’t the cup of tea that was important to her; she just wanted to spend some time with me, just enjoying being together.  I turned off the vacuum and left it standing in the middle of the living room floor.  The second load of wash could wait.  I had plenty of time to wrap presents.

“I changed my mind, Mom,” I called out.  “I’m ready for that cup of tea.”

“Okay!” she called back joyfully.

As we sat together, sipping tea, talking about everything and nothing, I said a silent prayer of thanks to Father for reminding me of what’s important.  It’s not always doing.  Many times, it’s just being.  As my thoughts continued, I held back a tear that was trying to escape, as I imagined that one day there would come a time when I would long to have a cup of tea with my mother, but she just might not be around for me to do so.

Why do we all get so busy with life that we forget the value of time spent together?  We do the same thing in our walk with God.  With the best of intentions, we list all the things we want to do for God: church attendance – check, contributing to the church fund – check, cooking a meal for the poor – check; the list goes on and on.   It’s all very good things to accomplish, but in the midst of our busyness comes the whisper of God that says, “Come to me, my loved one.  Are you tired?  I’ll give you rest.  Are you troubled?  I’ll ease your burden.  Just come to me.  Soak up peace and strength for the tasks at hand by resting in my presence. Take the time.”

You know what?  After that lovely cup of tea with my mother, I still had plenty of time to do all the things on my list, but it was all the more peaceful for having taken time to sit, enjoy, have a  cup of tea.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 

 

The Lady On The Train

The past several posts I’ve been walking down memory lane.  I can tell you why.  I’m working on my next book which will be a collection of stories from my travels.  I hope you will enjoy it.  Today I take you with me on a journey that took place nearly 37 years ago.

I was embarking on my first overseas trip as an adult.  I flew from Atlanta to New York; from New York to Iceland, and from Iceland to Germany.  I was met by a couple (whom I had never met) who had instructions to put me on a train bound for Salzburg, Austria.  I was led to a compartment with six seats, three on each side.  I sat in a middle seat and was told that my reservation would take me all the way to my destination.  I was to learn that this was a mistake.

As the train eased forward, my tired body fell in with its rhythm and I dozed off and on.  At times the train would stop at stations along the way, letting off some passengers while taking on others.  At one such stop, a man opened the door to our compartment.  He looked at his ticket, looked at me, and said something in German.  I didn’t know a word of what he said, but I sensed it was not good.  The man left, but returned with the conductor who also said something to me that I couldn’t understand.  “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak German,” I heard my nervous voice speak.  The conductor then pointed to me and the aisle outside.  I understood the gesture and got up to leave.  The conductor took down my two suitcases from the overhead and set them outside.  The man with the ticket took my seat.  The conductor left.  I didn’t know where to go or even how to ask what I should do now, so I sat where I was.  I was balancing atop my suitcases, looking into the compartment with six people looking back at me.  Awkward!

Suddenly the woman who had sat opposite me stood and left the compartment.  I watched her disappear down the aisle.  In minutes she returned with the conductor.  She motioned for me to get up.  I did.  The conductor picked up my two cases and we followed the woman.   We passed through several carriages until we came to a particular compartment — in the first class section!  She opened the door and motioned for me to go inside.  I wanted to politely protest, to explain that I couldn’t sit there, but I could not speak the language, so I did as I was gestured to do.  I sat in one seat and the woman sat next me.  She smiled.  I smiled in return.   For hours we sat in companionable silence, me dozing off and on while she browsed through a magazine.  At one point when the train stopped, the woman stood up.  Impulsively I stood, too.  The woman motioned no and gestured for me to sit down again.  I did.  She smiled, waved, and was gone.  The conductor never returned and I sat safely for the rest of my journey.  I can only deduce that the woman purchased first class tickets for both me and herself.  What kindness!

I have experienced many such acts of kindness from strangers coming to my aid in my journeys, and I have had the opportunity of being that stranger to aid someone else.  It’s part of the thrill of traveling to new places, and it provides opportunity to,  “Be kind to one another…”  Ephesians 4:32  The power of kindness cannot be measured.

I was 23, alone, and traveling through a country where I didn’t speak the language, going to a place I had never been, but God had a stranger ready to help.  We never need fear when God leads us to unknown places; after all, it is Him who is in the navigator’s seat and, “He knows the way that I take…”  Job 23:10

 

“I wanted to scream!” she said

Like people across America, yesterday I was taking special time to think of all that I’m thankful for in my life.  The list going through my mind was long.  In the process of the moment, the thought of someone very special to me came to mind.  Her name is Galina.

I met Galina and her husband 25 years ago in a former Soviet Republic.  We became fast friends which quickly moved into being more like family.  The days and weeks I would spend in their home remain some of my sweetest memories.  I don’t recall a day passing that Galina didn’t laugh about something.  She is like that to this day; no matter any difficult circumstances that may take place in her life, she will find a way to smile; she will be laughing at something.

Once she told me the following story which kept me spellbound!  She told of a time when the country was still a part of the USSR.  Galina became very ill and was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with appendicitis.  The appendix needed to be removed and quickly, but there was a problem; the hospital had no anesthetic to put her to sleep.  Can you imagine how wide my eyes grew just in hearing that part of the story?

“What happened?” I gasped.

“I clutched the bed rails and lay there while the surgeon took out my appendix,” she replied.

“Did you cry?” I asked, while clutching my right side in empathy.

“I wanted to scream!” she said, “but I knew I had to be still.”

She went on to tell me that she felt the surgeon’s hands inside the incision.  “The best part,” she told me, “was when I could feel the surgeon sewing me up.”  Suddenly I wanted to scream, too, but the story didn’t end there.  She explained that, when the last stitch was done, she was taken into recovery and told she could now let go of the bed rails.  She tried but her fingers were solidly holding on.  A nurse pried free one finger at a time.  Listening to the story, I gasped yet again, when she told me that the intensity of the ordeal was such that, as the nurse loosed her fingers, the skin on the palms of her hands actually peeled off!

“The healing of my hands was the worse part of it all,” she told me.  “It took several weeks before the skin restored and the pain stopped.

Whew!  Does the reading of this story do to you what it did to me?  Gasping, mouth-opened, feeling of horror washing over?  How did Galina react with the retelling of this event to me?  Why, she laughed, of course.

In 25 years of our close and dear relationship, I have watched her and her family face life’s struggles that come to all of us, and with my every observation of Galina, she was and is an example of the power of laughter.  How thankful I am to Galina for her heart, and to God who created each of us with the ability to laugh.

If at all possible, find something everyday to smile at and to laugh about.  There comes healing of the heart with every chuckle.

“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.”  Proverbs 15:13

 

 

Just A Rotten Apple

You know how it is when a memory just pops into your mind for no known reason?  Such a memory came to me yesterday.  It took me back to a bumpy bus ride in Central Asia.  I had been to an open air market to purchase some fresh vegetables.  Lugging my heavy bags, I boarded a local bus that would take me back home.  The bus was packed full; standing room only.  I squeezed through several people to make my way down the aisle.  Then, as the bus lurched forward, I grabbed hold of the back of a seat to steady myself.

A mother and her little girl were sitting in the seat.  The girl looked at me.  I smiled.  She smiled but buried her face in her mother’s shoulder for just a moment before peeking at me again.  We played this little game for several seconds before she decided to eat what she was holding.  I watched her take a bite of an extremely bruised apple.  In fact, I told myself, it was a rotten apple.  I could see no place on the apple’s surface that wasn’t brown and yucky looking.  Even so, the little girl was happy enough and took another bite.

She kept glancing at me and I kept smiling in return.  I watched as she whispered to her mother.  Whatever the girl said, the mother nodded yes.  Then the girl reached into their bag and took out another rotten apple.  Smiling up at me she offered the apple.  My stomach turned a flip.  Ugh!  I did not want a rotten apple!  Even so, I accepted the apple to the girls’s delight.

I thanked her and started to put the apple into my own bag, but the girl’s face dropped.  I realized she wanted me to eat the apple right then and there.  I knew what I had to do.  I turned the apple around and around in my hand looking for the least bruised spot.  There weren’t any.  So, smiling again at the waiting little girl, I put the apple to my mouth and took a bite.  A huge smile lit up her face.

The little girl wanted to give me a gift.  She gave me all she had to give.  It wasn’t the best but it was given with the greatest of good intentions and with much joy.

Do you ever feel like you have nothing worthwhile to offer to God?  Do you look around at others and conclude that they are more talented than you?  Others, you tell yourself, have so much more to offer.  You don’t even compare.  All you have is equivalent to the rotten apple.  Ever feel that way?

Remember the story in John 6?  The crowds of people listening to Jesus had been there a long time.  They had to be hungry but there were no towns close by to get food.  The disciples told Jesus that the only food they could find was a boy’s lunch of a few fish and some bread.  Everybody there knew that this lunch was a pitiful offering to take care of so many needs.  Even so, what happened?  It tells us in verse 11, “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people.”   He did the same with the fish until everybody was fed.  The boy gave what he had, inadequate as it was, and Jesus performed a miracle.

Jesus never changes.  We must not forget that fact.  You and I may feel that our gifts and abilities are inadequate.  We may feel that our finances and material possessions don’t add up to much, but Jesus will always receive what you give.  He can still multiple the loaves and fish of our lives, making them count for His Kingdom.  It’s not what we give that matters but the attitude in which we give it.