Lessons from the Breakfast Buffet

I took on the job of teaching the kids how to maximize the breakfast buffet. We are on vacation and my reasoning runs like this: well-stuffed children will not need a large lunch thus saving time and energy and money. We can just snack our way to dinner. A perfect vacation plan for me, a mom.20140112-120836.jpg

Except that the kids don’t know how to overeat. They naturally stop when satisfied! Unlike me, their parent, my children enjoy their most tasty treats on the buffet and then they do this weird thing…they stop. I get a few more bites in them but it is a challenge neither of us enjoys.

I, however, make sure I get the best of the buffet meaning that I eat the most delectable items. Cereal? That is cheap. Eggs Benedict? More please. I strategize to make sure I squeeze out the most from my experience before my stomach fills to the point of bursting.

Who enjoyed the feast more though? Me who got the most out of it? Or the kids who freely enjoyed it?

Ok. Ink on paper makes it clear. Of course they enjoyed it more! And I see how I miss out when I try to squeeze the last drop of value out of experiences like buffet breakfasts. Instead of taking in the delight of eating a meal I did not shop for, cook, or need to clean up I expend that energy trying to force a maximum perceived benefit. Striving after the wind.

I watch my kids receive with joy and I see what I want to become–an open receptor of these wonderful experiences. I want to receive with thanks what the Lord brings. I want to enjoy without the pressure of enjoying it the most. The most and the best add pressure and a drive that blocks my receptors. The most and the best increasingly seem like a trap that inhibits being in the moment and giving thanks for the gifts He gives.

I continue to decompress here on vacation. Maybe this realization is part of the casting off of the driven-ness I fall into in daily life. I do recognize this striving after the wind in more places than the breakfast buffet on vacation and I grieve what I missed.

A heart of gratitude and thankfulness for what is. Enjoyment of the moment. A settled confidence that another day will come with more to receive from the Great Gift Giver.

That’s a lot to miss out on. It is worth way more than a well-played breakfast buffet.

What blocks your ability to receive freely from the Lord?

 

Do I Love God?

Sunday I stood and sang the words to praise songs emblazoned up on a large screen.  I began the next line…then the next… and found myself singing “I love you, Lord.”  I paused and listened and thought.  The words stuck in my throat.  My love for God fails in comparison to His love for me.  It falls so far short that I hesitate to sing of my love for Him because it feels false.

Prone to wander is more what I feel about my love for God.  I feel it just as the old hymn says, my tendency to wander.  Two weeks ago in the midst of fiery arrows flying at me, my family, my friends, my coworkers…His presence kept me and calmed me.  Now when the intensity of the attack is subsiding and a new normal establishes itself I so quickly wander back to my old ways…my old forgetfulness of His daily presence in the calm.

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All this wandering of my heart and my feeling of it glues my throat shut.  Do I love Him?  It is clear His love is greater.  How do I feel about such an unbalanced relationship?  If I saw a marriage where the couple clearly stated one member loved the other more, that one member wandered but the other held strong and faithful…I would have strong opinions.  My first thought condemns the wayward one and wants equal love for the faithful one.

So it is with me and God.  I am the wayward, He is the Faithful.  We both know it.  To be fully known and fully loved is life changing.  To not be able to repay or fully return that love is humbling and, yet, oddly freeing.  No pretending needed.  He knows me and I can hide nothing.  He loves me eyes wide open.

I will sing of my love for the Lord.  Sometimes there will be a grin as I accept such extravagant love.  Sometimes a tear in my eye as I contemplate how little I deserve His love.  Because true love transforms, I receive His love in hope that I can grow more like Him.

What songs or phrases cause you to pause and ponder?

Cultivated Vines

Our neighbor cultivates a small, self-claimed plot of the common area of our apartment complex.  We pass by in slow motion, our footsteps stall as we navigate the stepping-stones past her garden.  We traipse by daily and the kids are the first to notice the grapes that finally hang from the trellis or the flower bud that bloomed in all its beauty. The delight on their faces keeps routing us past her garden. 20130822-103544.jpg

Her cultivated vines contrast with another arbor we seek shade under.  Vines cover the walkway and we rest there on hot days, enjoying the shade. It took us a while but we finally realized the vines were grape vines too!  Lots of shade but no grapes.  The kids expressed their surprise.  I did too!

Because I grew up in suburbia and I never enjoyed gardening, agrarian pictures of spiritual life come to me in a fog.  I kept thinking of the differences between the cultivated garden and the wild grapevine.  What surprised me is that the untended grapevine provided shade which we enjoyed but it was indistinct and unable to offer bodily nourishment.  It needed trimming, pruning, and cutting by someone with a vision for what it could be–a source of food and shade.

Sometimes I rather wish I was just a source of shade for others.  A place to rest, to have light-hearted fun, to take a break from the heat of the world.  No uncomfortable conversations…no cutting needed.  Or I want to pursue only what seems personally enjoyable.  The vines remind me that is not all God desires for His people.  It falls far short.

He desires for me to become a source of real nourishment for the hungry. He wants to transform me into a tended grapevine, to submit to the cutting and stripping and arranging so that the juice flowing through me from Him funnels to fruit and shade for others.

Again I find myself asking what needs cutting and where to direct my energies, talents, and gifts.  In 7 days my kids all go to school and I find myself with many hours in the day to devote to new things.  My bent is to want to do it all and say yes to everything that comes across my path that seems the least bit interesting.

But, the lesson of the vines reminds me that fruit comes when I submit to the cutting and pruning and arranging of the One with the vision for my life.

Now…here’s where I wish I was the one pruning, the one with the big picture so that I didn’t have to trust so much! But, I guess that is part of what it means to trust…to submit to the hands of the One with the vision.

Cisterns and Springs

Mountain walks provide soul nourishment I never fully appreciated until I lived life surrounded by the noise of dense population.  Exploring and listening to the myriad sounds of silence lifts my soul.  On one such walk, I stumbled upon an interesting contraption to gather rain water and irrigate a small plot of land.  I snapped a picture and filed it away, not knowing for what I wanted to use it. DSC_0019

Fast forward 6 months and here I sit, thinking of that picture.  This image of a cistern captures my attention again.  Cisterns hold finite, defined amounts of water to sustain life.  Someone rigged this one to fill by itself but in general, cisterns require significant labor to fill because water weighs a ton.  Cisterns lose their effectiveness quickly.  Water left a few days becomes stale.  Containers break and they run out when drought arrives.  With cisterns, one knows how much water one possesses, making it easier and practical to divvy out and a source of fear as water runs low.  Rationing is reasonable and necessary with a cistern.

6 months after taking this shot I see what I missed then.  So often I live life as though my sustenance comes from a cistern.  A limited, contained, quickly stale, rationed source.  A fearfully fragile pot that I fill myself through much hardship.  Water weighs a ton.  My spiritual life feels like hard work and I decide on my portions.  I ration my efforts based on how much water I see in the container and the labor I know it takes to replace it.  Exhausting.

So when Jesus speaks of a spring bubbling up, my ears prick.  Springs produce water through no effort.  They spill water all around for anyone to gather.  Their limitless supply confounds the mind as the source stays mysteriously buried underground.  Springs clean themselves and never sit to stale.  Rationing?  Impossible and unneccesary.  Drought may come but the spring reaches farther down to draw up water.  Fear subsides as I see Jesus, the fountain of living water.

As I contemplated the cistern spiritual life I’m prone to lead or the spring-fed life Jesus offers, I want to throw down my heavy buckets and come to Him.  I search for ways I ration my outpouring–and the Lord reveals many–and gather with others at the spring for my daily drink.  The spring always bubbles up and I rest, quenched.

What differences do you see between a cistern and a spring?