Worry Warriors

Did you know that over 40 million people a year struggle with some type of anxiety disorder? From Generalized Anxiety Disorder to PTSD, there are many types of anxiety disorders, and it is the most common mental illness. And for the most part, it is highly treatable.

While most of us probably don’t fit in to an Anxiety Disorder category, it can be said of all of us that we worry. And some of us worry too much. Worrying is both a symptom and a catalyst for anxiety, and can absolutely overwhelm you to the point of paralysis. When we worry, our joy is stolen, our peace is non-existent, and our well-being suffers, along with those around us.

The root cause of much of our anxious worrying is fear. When we are afraid of something, we turn that fear into negative thoughts and run through multiple scenarios of what could go wrong. And there are so many things that we fear!

Rejection

Failure

Abandonment

Exposure

Being manipulated

Losing someone or something precious

Losing control

Accidents

Not getting things finished

Being hurt in a realationship

And on, and on, and on.


Did you know that God does not give us fear? Nope. Fear is not from God. We manage that all on our own.

2 Timothy 17 (Modern English Version)

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.

I think a clue for how to battle worry is found in what God DOES give us. Instead of fear, he gives us power. His power is available to us to help us in our problem-solving. Instead of fear, he gives us love, the strongest emotion a human can give or receive. There is strength for the battle in love. And perhaps most importantly, he gives us self-control, so that when worrying begins to overtake us, we can clang shut that nonsense and focus on things that are going right and the many places we have been blessed.

Power, love, and self-control. Next time you find yourself starting to worry, remember that you have these weapons in your battle bag. You are a worry warrior.

Fear Not, for God is With You. Photo by Michelle Robertson

What, Me Worry?

Over the holidays I spotted a holiday edition of MAD Magazine. I was standing in the grocery store checkout line and there he was, gap-toothed Alfred E. Newman, grinning up at me. MAD Magazine is the iconic snark-fest, anti-establishment publication from the 70’s that was the delight of every sarcastic kid in my South Jersey neighborhood. Somebody would score a copy and it would be passed around like a precious loaf of homemade rye on a Bronx street corner. You would feast on every word and graphic until it was somebody else’s turn and you had to reluctantly give it over. If you were the lucky one to be at the end of the breadline, you got to savor it for weeks. I think (unfortunately) that a lot of my humor was formed in that savoring. I’m kind of proud and ashamed at the same time.

Alfred E. Newman was the de facto mascot, and he answered every satirical cultural problem with “What, me worry?” Everything was met with that response: the nuclear arms race, Watergate, the Vietnam War (Lordy, I am dating myself here)…no matter what was wrong, his response was the same. What, me worry?

Oh, how I long to have that attitude. Wouldn’t you like to be Alfred E. Newman for just one day and say back to every problem, “YOU CAN’T WORRY ME.” Instead, I think we actually go about our day looking for things to worry about. We succumb to a highly contagious disease known as what-if-itis and just what-if ourselves to death.

Meanwhile, God says to us, “What, you worry?”

Joshua 1 (New International Version)

”Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This incredible passage is God’s response to Joshua upon the death of Moses. MOSES. ‘Young Joshua, I want you to continue Moses’ work and lead the people into the promised land. There will be rivers to cross, Hittites to battle, hunger to address, and the people you are leading are not particularly known for their compliance and cooperation, not to mention that you are replacing MOSES, but you go, young Joshua! Take my people into a foreign land.‘

And we think we’ve got trouble!

God’s word to Joshua is the same to us today. Take another look at that problem you are worried about, and remember that God is telling you to not be afraid. He encourages you to not be discouraged. His COMMAND is to be strong and courageous. How can God make such an outrageous request of us as we stand here with our knees knocking? Because he promises to be with us wherever we go.

Wherever you go. The operating room, the divorce court, the psych ward, the funeral home, the test room, the angry conversation, the teenager’s bedroom…God is with you. Be strong. Be courageous. You are not alone.

What, you worry??

Look at the birds in the air. They neither sow nor reap, yet God provides for them. Who among you can add one single hour to your life by worrying?
Photo by Michelle Robertson

Mary Poppins’ Bag

Do you remember the wonderful scene from the original Mary Poppins movie where she plops her large carpet bag on the table and begins to pull out things like a hat stand, a large wall mirror, a potted plant, shoes, clothing, and a very special measuring tape? I remember as a child being fascinated by her bag. Can you imagine being able to reach in to your carpet bag and get whatever you needed?

Many decades later, Hermione Granger one-upped Mary with a small and elegant beaded bag that had a lot of useful things, including a large multi-level tent and an invisibility cloak. And her bag was small enough that she could hide it in her sock.

This notion of magical bags is something that children innately understand. Think about it; how many times does your child expect you to instantly produce what they want, often making unreasonable and unrealistic requests? And when it’s possible, don’t you make every effort to respond?

In the same way, we can treat God as though he has a magical bag. We operate under an assumption that we can make requests and God will supply them. All of us are guilty of treating God like a big ATM machine in the sky at one time or another. We use him when we need something, but when our pockets are full, we pass on by. Is this a good practice? Do you ever feel guilty about asking God for things beyond your ability to provide for yourself? Check this out:

Luke 11 (NRSV)

5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Good gifts. We know how to give good gifts to those whom we love. In most people’s minds, this season is all about getting and receiving good gifts. Look at the advertising all around you. Lexuses wrapped in big red bows, overly expensive and lush outfits that dance across your screen, flashing diamond jewelry featured in commercials where the husband/boyfriend gets a big reward of love for choosing the right piece…and in each case, the bigger, the better.

But the question remains, should we/may we/might we treat God like a department store Santa, and go sit on his lap with a big list of “gimmes?”

The answer is yes. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus-like aspect of God. And that’s all right.

You see, God longs to hear the desires of our hearts. God wants the intimacy of a trusting child who goes to a parent in the hope and anticipation of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun. Will he give you things that might harm you? Nope. Will he give you what you need instead? Yup. It is the relationship of love, trust, and honesty that blesses the Lord. When we ask, seek, and knock, we are demonstrating our belief that God is able to respond. That demonstration of faith is vital to us, and to God.

So in this season of preparation, while we anticipate the greatest gift to humankind that the world has ever known, go to God in prayer. Ask away. Watch him reach into his carpet bag and pull out the very thing that you need, even if you didn’t ask for it. God invites us to ask, seek, and knock. It’s pretty much in the bag.

Well, Hello There by Mary Anne Mong Cramer

Black Friday

The history of “Black Friday” includes several versions of how the day after Thanksgiving was named. For a long time, the story was told that retailers operated at a loss all year (written in the books in red ink) until the Friday after Thanksgiving. On that day, holiday shopping pushed profits into the “black,” i.e. written in black ink. This is not entirely accurate, but it is true that with the advent of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade heralding the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, (cue Santa’s arrival at the end of the parade) the holidays are indeed the most profitable time of the year.

But another account has emerged that tells a different story. Back in the 1950’s, Philadelphia police officers dubbed the day Black Friday due to the chaos and crowds that poured onto the streets of the city in advance of the Army-Navy game, which was held in Philly every year on Thanksgiving Saturday. (Go Navy!) The additional traffic and crowds meant that all the police officers had to work that day, and were scheduled for extra shifts to manage the large numbers of people. In addition, shoplifters took advantage of the situation, making law enforcement even more challenging.

Whatever the true reason, Black Friday has emerged to be a day of chaotic shopping, where people arrive at stores as early as 2AM to score that one must-have for Christmas. And coming on the heels of a day full of prepping, cleaning, cooking, baking, and serving, we end up absolutely exhausted after Thanksgiving “break.”

Even retailers without brick and mortar locations are jumping into the shopping frenzy. We have received offers of Black Friday deals on hotel rooms and rental cars this season, and many of us will be scouring Amazon for those incredible deals that are the make-or-break of our Christmas season.

Since we are talking about Fridays and gifts, wouldn’t we be smarter to take a beat and focus on the gift of Good Friday instead? If any day should be called Black Friday it was that day. The day of the crucifixion was black indeed, even to the point that the sky went suddenly dark and the sun did not shine from the sixth hour to the ninth hour. The tomb was sealed shut in blackness for three days. But on that third day….on the third day, he arose, and everything changed forever. So how dare we call any day black, when we have the resurrection to look forward to? Once he arose, all the darkness of the world shrank back in respect for the Light. That’s why we call the day of Jesus’ death Good Friday. It was good indeed.

Lest you think I am jumping the gun straight to Easter just days before Advent begins, consider this. What was Christmas for, if not for Easter? Why did the angels sing and the shepherds rejoice? Because the Messiah was born, and he came to save us. Easter arrived wrapped in the swaddled cloths of a cooing baby lying in a manger. In the fullness of time, he turned black days into good days. All of them.

So how can we turn Black Friday into a Good Friday? Maybe by finding some way to do good:

1 Timothy 6:17-19 The Message (MSG)

17-19 Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.

Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Do good and be rich in helping others. Be extravagantly generous. This is the way to build up an everlasting treasury that brings life that is truly life.

On Black Friday, you can either be a buy-out or a sell-out. Sell yourself out for the one who made all Fridays good, and go after God with all your gusto. Buy someone’s groceries, pay for someone’s fast food order in line behind you, hold all the doors open, smile more, donate to your favorite charity….find a way to bring light into the black. And if you are brave enough to go shopping, please be especially nice to the store clerks!

In giving, you receive all the things you will ever need. God indeed piles on all the riches we could ever manage. Do you, and the people you are buying for, really need any more?

Early Light by Patti Kohl Kohler.

The Sound of Freedom

Yesterday I sat in my favorite chair by the corner windows overlooking the harbor and I was startled by the sudden sound of jet noise. I looked up and saw Navy F-18s flying low in a tight formation. NAS Oceana is just over an hour away, and it is not uncommon for us to see Navy planes flying training hops over our beautiful island.

For the first eight years of my marriage, I was a Navy Pilot Wife. I am accustomed to the sound of freedom flying overhead. We lived close to Naval Air Stations where jet noise was a constant reminder of what freedom costs our young men and women as they serve in the skies.

And then there was that horrible time when no planes flew for days. After 9/11, air traffic was grounded for two days. I lived just south of the Atlanta airport at the time, and it was Twilight-Zone-eerie to walk the dog and not hear a single airplane overhead. That was unheard of; the Atlanta airport handles over 2,700 arrivals and departures a day. There was ALWAYS airplane noise…until there wasn’t.

On Thanksgiving, we remember the hazardous journey of intrepid immigrants looking to settle in a new land where they could have religious freedom. The first Thanksgiving was a meal that celebrated a late autumn harvest and their successful founding of a colony on a new continent. They gathered to thank God for his provision and their freedom.

Psalm 107 New International Version (NIV)

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    his love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—

    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,

3 those he gathered from the lands,

    from east and west, from north and south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,

    finding no way to a city where they could settle.

5 They were hungry and thirsty,

    and their lives ebbed away.

6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,

    and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He led them by a straight way

    to a city where they could settle.

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

9 for he satisfies the thirsty

    and fills the hungry with good things.

I am thankful for everything God provides; for the beasts of the field, the creatures in the sea, the sunrise over the ocean, and the moonrise over the canal. I am thankful for my family, friends, and a congregation who loves me. I am thankful for all those who serve our country and protect our freedom. I am thankful for my home and my dog, and for everything God has given me that brings so much happiness into my life.

What are you thankful for today?

This morning, I am especially thankful for all of you who want to be in God’s word every day. You make At Water’s Edge possible. Bless you, and THANK YOU for reading, and especially for sharing!

We give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind today. God satisfies the thirsty when we turn to him, and fills the hungry with good things. It happens every time we open the word or sit at the table. Have a wonderful feast today!

Flying High by Jamie Mathis

Connections

The logic of a four-year-old is astounding. Connor and I sat on the floor and created four animals out of mega blocks. We made a moose, a dog, an alligator, and a giraffe. Then Connor realized that our animals were likely to go running amuck, so we needed to build a fence. We sorted out all the short four-peg blocks for the bottom row, and then started to build a second layer. I handed him a single-peg block to begin the top layer and he said, “Nana, we need one with two or three so we can connect the bottom row and the animals can’t get out. Otherwise they can kick through it.” He picked up a three-peg block and placed it across two of the bottom row blocks, connecting them.

Yup. Confounded and corrected by a four-year-old.

I was reminded of the simple lesson that “together, we can do more.” I belong to a denomination that is highly connectional, and that is our greatest strength…and our most vulnerable aspect. A global connection is a heavy and weighty thing. When we think and dream together, it is powerful. When our differences are too big to overcome, the connection starts to break.

That is the macro-lesson, and I don’t have any answers for it. But taken in the micro, this logic of a four-year-old can reap many applications. Marriages are strengthened when both parties ensure the connection is strong by putting the needs of the other first. Families are happier when the connections are real, uninterrupted, intentional, and focused. Work teams function better when roles and responsibilities are interconnected and people work together toward a common goal.

I spent time with a large group of friends at a restaurant recently and realized at the end of the meal that I had not exchanged any words with one of them, other than our initial greeting. I was regretting this until my husband, who sat directly across from him, remarked that he was playing games on his phone the entire evening. Suffice it to say that it is hard to connect with someone when he or she is already connected to something else.

But to take it even smaller, think about your connection to your Maker. From the moment of your conception you were connected, even if you didn’t realize it.

Psalm 139 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

God knit us together in our mother’s womb. The choice of brown or blue eyes, black or blond hair, vanilla or chocolate skin, is all part of his artistry. He is our first and most intimate connection, and like Connor’s animal fence, his connection with us acts as a safety barrier if we just follow his direction:

5 You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

It is all too easy to disconnect today. That thing in your pocket that “connects” you to the world disconnects you from the people right across the table from you. Real connection is what we were built for from the very beginning.

When we lose our connection with each other, we lose our humanity. When we lose our connection with God, we lose all that is holy.

Where is God calling you to connect today? Do you need to reach out to someone who is being ignored (or ignoring you) and have a real conversation? Do you need to stop the crazy of your life and reconnect with God? Are you so busy doing for others that you need to connect with your own soul?

We aren’t meant to do this life solo. God longs to be fully engaged in our daily everything and creates community for us to build one another up and be his people. Let him come in with his mega blocks and provide a safe space. Together, with God and each another, we CAN do more.

Connor’s Animal Fence

Covenant

I love the word covenant. For me, it may be one of the most significant words in the Bible, just after salvation, peace, and forgiveness. Covenant describes the reason all those other words exist. In a Biblical sense, a covenant is a solemn agreement or contract between God and his people that is flesh-and-blood binding.

In the Old Testament, covenants were made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. These covenants were promises God made to never destroy the earth again, to provide land and descendants, to bless those who followed the law, (and punish those who didn’t) and that the house of David would produce the kings of Israel. Not to mention THE King.

In the New Testament, we have the end-all-be-all covenant of Jesus, known as the New Covenant. The New Covenant came as a completion of all the old laws, ways, covenants and promises. In the New Covenant, God promises to offer forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of his son on the cross. All who believe will receive eternal life.

In every case, God is the agent of the covenant-making. He initiates, he declares, he invites, and he promises. Every type of covenant relies on both parties doing their part and agreeing to the terms as presented.

One of my favorite modern uses of the word covenant is in the wedding ceremony. It appears in several places, and is in the prayers when we refer to “this solemn act of covenant” and ask God to bless the union. At the end, we invite the bride and groom to “seal your covenant with a kiss.”

(As an aside: we stopped inviting the groom to kiss the bride when we finally realized that the old liturgy assumed the bride to be an object to be given away by her father at the beginning of the ceremony and kissed by the groom at the end. We now ask the family to “present this woman to be married,” and both bride and groom are invited to “seal the covenant with a kiss.”)

In a marriage, we have an equal partnership of covenant-makers. Each benefits from the mutually agreed upon terms from a position of parity. But not so with our covenant with God. We are not his equal. We cannot hope to match what he can give as part of his covenant agreement. It could not be more lopsided, and yet, there it is:

Hebrews 8 The Message (MSG)

A New Plan with Israel

6-13 But Jesus’ priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he’s working from a far better plan. If the first plan—the old covenant—had worked out, a second wouldn’t have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said,

Heads up! The days are coming

    when I’ll set up a new plan

    for dealing with Israel and Judah.

I’ll throw out the old plan

    I set up with their ancestors

    when I led them by the hand out of Egypt.

They didn’t keep their part of the bargain,

    so I looked away and let it go.

This new plan I’m making with Israel

    isn’t going to be written on paper,

    isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;

This time I’m writing out the plan in them,

    carving it on the lining of their hearts.

I’ll be their God,

    they’ll be my people.

They won’t go to school to learn about me,

    or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons.

They’ll all get to know me firsthand,

    the little and the big, the small and the great.

They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven,

    with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean.

By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.

The New Covenant offers us the opportunity to be a part of the kingdom of God. God will write this new plan in our hearts. It is a plan that offers us his kind forgiveness, where repentance results in our sinful slates being wiped clean. God desires to be known firsthand. He will be our God and we will be his people. Did you catch that? The God who created the entire universe wants to be our God! He wants to be known in the little and the big, the small and the great. Can you even imagine?

The only thing we can do….the ONLY thing that God asks…is accept this gift of covenant. We can’t earn it, we can’t reciprocate in kind, and we certainly can’t mechanically adhere to meticulous laws to prove ourselves worthy. We just have to open up our hearts and receive the promises of God.

And that’s the best news of all. God has made a promise to us, and God always keeps his promises. How will you respond? What will you do with this gift? Can you keep up your side of this covenant?

God invites all to come to the table he has prepared before us. Will you accept?

God’s Creation, Offered Without Price. Photo by Patti Kohl Koehler

Neckties

Consider the history of the necktie. Legionnaires in the 2nd century B.C. wore the first neckwear, according to some historians. Their cloth bands were worn as protection from the weather. Other people cite the 3rd century B.C. terra-cotta statues of Chinese warriors as the first evidence of neckties. They wore neck scarves to protect the source of their strength, i.e. their Adam’s apples.

Most experts, however, date the initial appearance of what led to the modern tie back to 1636. Croatian mercenaries hired by King Louis XIV wore cloth bands around their necks to ward off natural elements and sword slashes.

Today, however, men don’t need to protect themselves from weather, assaults to their Adam’s apples, and hopefully not sword slashes. So why the tie? Most men find them uncomfortable and bothersome. Loosening the tie is often the first thing a fellow does the minute he leaves the office. I mean, even the word neck-tie sounds restrictive.

Neckties are a means of uniformity. Imagine the workplace of the 1960’s without men in neckties. Imagine the church of the 1990’s without men in neckties. Uniformity was the goal, and neckties were the instrument that tied it all together. Blessed be the tie that binds? Not when it is tied around the neck!

Thank God we are over that.

Ties, hats, gloves, and heels have faded away as mandatory “Sunday morning best.” Society has accepted the fact that it is so much more important to show up than to show off.

So with neckties out, what should we wear around our necks?

Proverbs 3 New Living Translation (NLT)

3  My child, never forget the things I have taught you.

    Store my commands in your heart.

2  If you do this, you will live many years,

    and your life will be satisfying.

3  Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

    Write them deep within your heart.

4  Then you will find favor with both God and people,

    and you will earn a good reputation.

Loyalty and kindness. The perfect neckwear for any occasion! This type of necktie will help you find favor with God and people alike. When we tie the things God has taught us around our necks, we will have a satisfying life and a good reputation. Now that’s a necktie everyone should have in their closet.

I once had a conversation with a teenager about church clothes. Michael was the son of the school bus driver and never attended church. I knew him from the High School marching band, where I volunteered as a chaperone and band announcer. All the kids knew me, but most didn’t know I am a pastor. Michael had spent the weekend at Taylor’s house, and when they awoke on Sunday morning, Taylor’s mom called them to breakfast and told them what time to be ready for church.

When Michael arrived, he looked around at all the people dressed up for church, and all the men wearing ties. He found me and immediately came up to me. “Miss Betsy, I am so sorry to be wearing my band t-shirt and jeans in your church,” he said. “I spent the night at Taylor’s house and my Mom didn’t know we would be coming to church.”

I looked him in the eye and asked, “Michael, are you in a church?” He replied, “Yes, M’am.” I said, “And are you wearing clothes?” He laughed and said, “Yes, M’am.” “Then you’re obviously wearing church clothes, so have a seat.”

The Gospel is a message of freedom, not restriction. Church is a place of harmony, not uniformity. Come on in and find a seat! We’re just glad you’re here. There is no dress code in God’s house. In my church at the beach, the acolytes wear flip flops and the pastor never wears a tie. Got clothes? Come on in.

This leash is as close to a necktie as I’ll ever get.

Percolating

Back before Keurigs, way before Starbucks, even before drip coffee makers with automatic shut-off switches, there was an ancient device known as a percolator. You might run across this historical artifact today in an antique store, the Pawn shop, or any local church’s kitchen.

It was a thing of beauty and simplicity. A basket that holds the coffee grounds sits atop a long, thin metal cylinder. This unit is inserted into a metal coffee pot. Water is poured into the pot, and the attached cord is plugged in. As the water heats, it bubbles and percolates up through the cylinder and over the basket, running through the coffee grounds and magically, you have coffee. You couldn’t pre-set it the night before, and you had to unplug it to turn it off, but hey, if it was good enough for the original Apollo astronauts, it was good enough.

I love the idea of percolating. Heating something up, bringing it to boil, channeling the bubbles, and then watching it produce something well-considered is a joy. Good things come when we percolate. Sermons, ideas, stories, arguments, speeches, hanging wallpaper with your spouse, new ventures, movies…all manner of things benefit from taking the time to percolate.

Percolating should precede any major decision we make. Thinking about divorce?Percolate. Contemplating a move? Percolate. Ready to pop the question? Percolate. About to send an angry email/post a snippy retort/yell at your teenager? PERCOLATE.

The reason percolating is so effective is that it gives you time to step away from your immediate and emotional response and allows the Holy Spirit to weigh in with other ways to go about doing the same thing.

Opening ourselves to God’s guidance always pays off. I learned the hard way not to immediately fire off an email when I was deeply aggravated. I learned that after a time when I fired off an email when I was deeply aggravated. I regret it to this day. How about you? Ever wish in hindsight that you had waited for the right words to come to you?

Matthew 10 (The Message)

17-20 “Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news!

And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

That’s why percolating is such a helpful practice. In the slow warming up of an idea, in the increasing heat of a completed thought, and in the bubbles of the Holy Spirit rising up in your spirit, your finished product will be soooo much better. Like the best cup of brewed Sumatra with heavy cream, it will be a delight rather than a thin and possibly nasty version of what it should have been.

So take a beat. Stop and breathe. Suspend your need for instant gratification and sloooow youuuuur rolllll. Give God a chance to enter in, and let percolation have its way. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply them. You’ll never regret letting God percolate inside you.

Fresh brewed.

Use Your Mannas

Breakfast was a thing when I was a kid. Nobody had ever heard of (or would have approved of) “intermittent fasting,” this new, cool way to describe skipping breakfast. No, indeed, the first sensation of the morning was the smell of toast (Oh God, I miss the smell of toast!) and the sweet scent of Cream of Wheat doused with a spoonful of sugar and drowned in whole milk. This was the manna of my childhood, the sustenance that enabled me to walk close to two miles in New Jersey winters to school, (Uphill! Both ways!) and the provision laid out by my mother that communicated love with every bite.

It seems that biblical manna was not too far off from the breakfast mannas we grew up on. More Frosted Flakes than Cream of Wheat, it was a sweet, crunchy coriander-like substance that appeared on the ground in the mornings when the Israelites were immigrating through the wilderness toward a promised future. When they began to complain that the food provided in their slavery in Egypt was better than starving, God whooped them upside the head with grace and provision. He is a much better parent than the rest of us.

Exodus 16 The Message (MSG)

16 1-3 On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, the whole company of Israel moved on from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”

4-5 God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration. I’m going to test them to see if they’ll live according to my Teaching or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have gathered, it will turn out to be twice as much as their daily ration.”

The manna rained down, and quail was also provided. Just your basic meat and bread meal, home delivered by the Lord himself. He was doing home delivery meals before home delivery meals were cool.

God was trying to teach them to depend on him, so he only provided enough for one day at a time, with twice as much given on the sixth day so they didn’t have to work for it on the Sabbath. If the people gathered too much and tried to hoard it, it turned smelly and wormy over night. That’ll teach ya!

This manna appeared like a fine dew on the ground, and God instructed them to go and gather it. Because it was a substance completely of heaven and never before seen on earth, they called it man-hu, a Hebrew word that roughly translates into whatizit?

I think God provides whatizits all the time. Bread from heaven rains down on us daily, but we are too busy complaining to notice. The sun rises every morning bringing warmth, but we’re focused on the cold front and the low temperatures. A baby is born, a miracle unto itself, but exhausted parents reminisce about the sleep they don’t get anymore. A husband comes home with a gift that isn’t quite right, and the wife focuses on the imperfection. A wife prepares a meal and burns the broccoli, and the magnificent pork loin is overlooked. A worker with paycheck in hand spews his discontent over his coworkers every day after work, ungrateful for the job that provides said paycheck. We do it all the time. WE LOVE TO COMPLAIN.

People, use your manners. Better yet, use your mannas. Everything you have is a gift of God. Your home, your work, your family, your food…there is nothing you possess that isn’t a part of God’s grace and provision. Quit thinking it’s all about you and your abilities. Where do you think those abilities came from? We would be nothing without God. God provides, and we receive.

A few years ago I spent the night at our church volunteering in our homeless ministry. These people are wandering in the wilderness of NOTHINGNESS. The ministry itself is their manna, and they are completely humbled and grateful for warmth, a blanket, a meal, and a smile. As I was settling into my cot, complaining about the discomfort of a cot, one of our guests came over to me and asked me if I like fresh pineapple. I do. I love fresh pineapple. She went to the guest room and returned with a fresh pineapple for me. I was shocked, and tried to refuse. She had purchased a pineapple that day and the store was having a “buy one, get one free” deal, so she wanted me to have her free pineapple. It meant the world to her to give a gift to the pastor, so I accepted it.

Manna. Bread of heaven. Whatizit? It is you, giving away your pineapple so that someone can share the sweetness of the sustenance God provides you. Go and be someone’s manna today, and let grace, mercy and gratitude rain down on you.