17 January, 2008

But I cooked that just for you!

This time of being at Language School has taken our normal family routine and turned it on its ear. Schedules have changed, free time has changed, and roles within the home have been adjusted significantly.

One of my newly acquired responsibilities is to cook breakfast for the family on weekdays before we go to school. Now before you go and feel too sorry for my wife and daughters, you need to know that my cooking is not too bad. I like to cook and actually have a fairly extensive list of things I can make, considering my gender. So each weekday morning I am challenged to find something tasty, nutritious, and quick to prepare.

It has come to my attention that there is a somewhat negative scenario that can occur when you are responsible for preparing a meal for people. I have actually discussed this scenario with my wife before, but in that instance I was the giving end instead of the receiving end.

What happens is this: The person responsible for preparing the meal uses their mind and hands to lovingly craft some delectable representation of culinary art. The food is carefully served to the intended benefactors, and the proud artisan awaits with bated breath for them to taste of their masterpiece. And then it happens.

- I'm not very hungry
- I'm not feeling well, I'm not going to eat
- This doesn't look very good

These and other possible statements are the dagger thrust into the heart of the chef.

Now I am quite sure that I have thrust many more of these daggers than I have ever received, but a week ago I got stabbed.

Usually the dagger thrusters aren't even aware of the wound they have inflicted. Rarely is it done intentionally, and many times it passes without them realizing anything has even happened.

But for the person who poured themselves into the preparation, only to have it sit untouched and unappreciated, it can be a painful experience.

Obviously, I have embellished the story a bit, but the scenario is certainly a real one. When it happened to me recently, it got me to thinking about my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

I wondered, since I am made in the image of God (or at least the original pattern was...), does God feel like this whenever I don't utilize that which He has lovingly prepared for me? Perhaps hours of theological debate could be had over this question, but the moral of the story for me is still the same.

God has given to us as Christians so much. His provision out of a heart of love for his children is magnificent. But how often do I leave God's provision for me on the table, untouched and unappreciated.

Specifically, God has impressed upon me the importance of putting on the spiritual armor provided in Ephesians chapter 6. The armor is there, lovingly crafted and prepared for us to benefit from, but many times I do not take advantage of his provision. Now if God has provided for my protection, but I leave the armor in the closet and consequently get shot in the chest by a fiery dart, who do I have to blame?

God promises and provision are so great, I could make a long, long list of things He has set on the table for us to partake of. How many of those things am I "eating" and benefiting from?

And to take it even further, how do I make God feel when He has lovingly provided for me and then I walk away from it without so much as a taste?

My eyes have been opened to the importance of showing appreciation to those that prepare food for my consumption. But more importantly my eyes have been opened to the importance of utilizing all of the provision of God, not just the flavor that sounds good to me at the time.

What provision have you left on the table untouched?

14 January, 2008

Reductor de Velocidad

Whenever you take your course on survival driving in Costa Rica, one of the lessons you will learn during your first week is the meaning of this phrase, reductor de velocidad. For most of you this item will be better recognized by its English name: speed bump. Loosely translated, it means "velocity reducer", and they definitely do their job well.

Lots of countries utilize speed bumps, but here in Costa Rica they have some that resemble small mountains. The car God has blessed us with, a Toyota Corolla, is a great car, but it definitely lacks in the area of how high it sits off of the ground.

Because of this, we have to slow to a crawl while crossing the velocity reducers in order not to loudly scrape the frame of our car across the raised mound of concrete.

Sometimes the speed bumps are helpfully painted a bright yellow. Sometimes they are left as black as the road around them so you don't see them until it is too late.

Although I might complain about the speed bumps sometimes, I do realize and appreciate their function. Without them, there would be a lot more accidents or the potential for them.

These reductors de velocidad got me to thinking the other day.

God uses speed bumps in my life.

There are times when I get to moving along too quickly in my life and I need to slow down before having a crash of some sort. Some times God allows me to crash, but many times He puts a speed bump in my life in an attempt to slow me down for my own good.

There is a difference between a speed bump and a wall. If you hit a wall you will stop, but a speed bump is only designed to reduce your velocity.

Here are some examples of speed bumps that God has used to slow down my pace.

- Illnesses (my own or my children's)
- Long unavoidable lines
- Power outages
- Received phone calls
- Friends or neighbors dropping by

Slowing down at speed bumps is still optional isn't it? You can choose to hit them going full speed and get over them quickly. Now you will probably trash your car and leave your muffler behind you, but it can be done.

In the same way, I can choose to not yield to the speed bumps God puts in my life. I can plow right through them being frustrated and irritated that my "agenda" was disrupted, or I can take the God provided opportunity to slow down and catch my breath.

Has God ever put speed bumps in your life?

It is far to easy in today's world to develop a lead-foot lifestyle. We have a tendency to keep the petal to the metal all of the time. Praise God that He will intervene at times and give us the chance to regulate our speed back to something healthy.

What kind of speed bumps has God used to slow you down?

11 January, 2008

Lunch Sharer or Lunch Trader?

Back to school. Our 3 week break is over and it is time for us to begin
our 2nd trimester of Language School. The schedule is an hour longer
this trimester due to the large group of students that are beggining
their studies in December. Because of this longer schedule, our girls
are in class longer and therefore need to take their lunch each day,
whereas before we all got out at noon and ate lunch together at home.

Yesterday my almost 5 year old, Avigail, was telling Keeley and I how
she has been sharing her lunch with several of her friends. After doing
the fatherly thing and explaining to her that it was kind to share, but
she needed to make sure she personally ate enough of her lunch in order
to not be hungry too soon, I started to reflect on this desireable trait
my daugter was exibiting.

Thinking back to my elementary school days, I could clearly remember taking my lunch box to school (Scooby-Doo if you must know...) and eating lunch with my friends in the cafeteria (aka the gym). I recall having three distinct categories of items in my lunchbox most days.

First, there was the necessary, but mostly boring main item, usually a sandwich of some variety. Second, was the slightly more appealing side item, commonly potato chips. And then came the third, and most important item, desert. Desert came in many different delicious forms. Anything made by Hostess, Dolly Madison, or Little Debbie was always a big hit.

In the economy of lunch box items, category one items were nearly
worthless in terms of trade value. Category two items had a little
value, especially if you had the envogue flavor of chip. But category
three items were as good as gold.

As each pre-adolescent boy unlatched and opened his cartoon themed metal
lunch box, a quick scan of the contents was made and eyes become fixed
upon the prized pieces. The lunchroom floor is now open for trading.
In a mad flury of bids, rejections, counter-bds, and deals closing, the
trading process begins and ends. Usually everyone ended up happier at
the end of trading (unless you traded for an "unknown" and ended up not
liking it).

So what does this have to do with my daughter? As I already mentioned,
she is a lunch sharer. As is evident from my story, I am (or at least
was) a lunch trader.

My daughter simply shares her lunch with her friends without asking for
anything in return. She enjoys giving away that which is valuable to
her simply because it brings joy to others. As I reflected on my days
as a lunch trader, I realized that I only gave away that which was
valuable to me if I was going to receive in return something of equal or
greater value.

Have I carried that same "lunch trader" mentality into my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do I only share with others that which is valuable to me when I am going to receive something in return?

The answers to these questions has prompted me to get on my face before God and ask for his forgiveness.

I want to be a man who freely gives of all that God has entrusted to my care. God please make me a lunch sharer.

Are you a lunch sharer or a lunch trader?

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