When You’re Scared

When was the last time you were afraid of something? Fear can affect us both mentally and physically. You can feel lightheaded, you probably feel your heart racing, maybe you experience a panic attack, or realize that your stomach is suddenly upset … the body manifests a multitude of reactions to fear.

Our 100 lb. dog had surgery last week that made her very wobbly when she came out of anesthesia. We had difficulty getting her in the van and up the stairs, resulting in her losing control of her back legs and possibly pulling a muscle or a tendon. For the next few days, she was afraid of steps. We realized this halfway up an exterior staircase at my father-in-law’s cottage, where her fear caused her to slip through the opening between steps . Fortunately she is large enough that she didn’t fall through, but she froze and refused to go any higher. It was a scary moment for the four of us as we tried to get her up the rest of the staircase. My heart was racing for the next 30 minutes. Being afraid is very strongly connected with feeling out of control, and nobody likes being out of control.

Today we read about the famous and successful Old Testament prophet, Elijah. We harken back to a time when right after a major victory, Elijah suddenly felt afraid and out of control:

I Kings 19:1-8 (Common English Bible)

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”

Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there. He himself went farther on into the desert a day’s journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.

The contrast between the events in the previous passage, where Elijah single-handedly defeated the prophets of Baal, and this image of him cowering under a broom bush longing for death is stunning. It is a good reminder to us that even the strongest and most calm warrior can succumb to fear. The struggle is real.

Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, “Get up! Eat something!” Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. The Lord’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain.

I love the interaction between the angel and Elijah. This angel wasn’t playin’. “Get up! Get up!” We think that someone having an “angelic voice” is a pleasant thing, but that is not what Elijah experienced. No, this angel sounded like a bullhorn in the pre-dawn hours that jolts you awake with its urgency.

“Get up!”

Is God calling you to get up and get moving? Is he trying to awaken you to an urgent situation that requires you to do something? Is the alarm clock going off and alerting you to change your behavior, your attitude, or your thoughts before it’s too late?

Wake up and eat the flatbread! You see, when God tells us to get up and get going, he always provides sustenance for the task and the journey.

So that thing that you have been avoiding, that idea that frightens the heck out of you, or that calling that has you wishing for the broom tree comes with the guarantee of God’s presence and provision.

You don’t have to be afraid.

Wake Up Call by Michelle Robertson


I confess that I have always loved apocalyptic stories. I have a weird fascination with the way the end-times are depicted in these fictional accounts. If you consume a lot of these kinds of stories, you realize that it is not the zombies, walking dead, aliens, monsters, robots, or spaceships that defeat humankind … it is humankind itself. People eventually turn on one another, much to the delight of the enemy.

Our Scripture today reads like a scary scene from a dystopian future. There are warnings. There are consequences for ignoring those warnings. There is death. There are epidemics. There is danger.

There are snakes. (Why did it have to be snakes??)

Paul starts out innocently enough, recalling the history of Israel and the blessings of God’s deliverance from slavery through the Red Sea to the Promised Land. God provided all of their daily needs, and they ate spiritual food and drank from the living waters.

But then the unthinkable happened:

1 Corinthians 10 (The Message)

10 1-5 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ.

But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.

Yes, temptation, that death-eater of all satanic forces, came upon them with laser-beam accuracy and they all fell, one by one.

6-10 The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.

Sexual promiscuity, discontent, the party-culture, the disobedience to God’s will … it all came down on the people until the people all came down.

11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

Paul pulls no punches. We are just as capable of falling as the Israelites. We will fall flat on our religions if we don’t listen to the warnings. We need to drop our self-confidence and immerse ourselves in a culture of God-confidence.

Where is God warning you about your behavior and temptations? Are you listening?

13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

Lent is a time to confront our temptation to stray, be lazy, lie, covet, cheat, and participate in all the destructive things that separate us from God. The good news is that he will help us overcome those temptations IF we turn to him for help and strength. That is a big IF. Too often we are so beguiled by the temptation that we end up running away from God.

Where is God calling you to trust him to help you?

God will never let you down.

Bright Hope for Tomorrow by Michelle Robertson

Anxious Hearts

Do you ever experience anxiety? Anxiety is a biological reaction to external and internal pressures and threats. It is the body’s way of alerting you to hunker down or flee a threatening situation. According to the National Institution of Health, this is the definition of anxiety:

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress. For example, you might feel anxious when faced with a difficult problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. It can help you to cope. The anxiety may give you a boost of energy or help you focus. But for people with anxiety disorders, the fear is not temporary and can be overwhelming.

Our passage from Isaiah today speaks directly to those who have an anxious heart. It is a beautiful reminder that God is always with us in every situation, and we can count on him to come and save us:

Isaiah 35 (English Standard Version)

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

The times we are living in right now are filled with anxiety. You can’t go through a day without experiencing some anxiety over the pandemic, driving in heavy traffic, the climate crisis, violence in our streets and across the world, worry over the economy and jobs, raising children, marriages falling apart…the list is endless.

A friend shared that after several life-challenging events, she is struggling so much with anxiety that she realizes she needs to find help. She said that this gave her a sense of shame and disappointment. I know that those feelings are real, but I countered that if she were experiencing symptoms of diabetes, she would see a specialist and possibly go on insulin. It is the same with anxiety…getting professional help puts no shame in that game. That is the smart move.

When anxious thoughts overwhelm you, close your eyes and imagine Isaiah’s vision of the waters breaking forth in the wilderness, streams flowing in the desert, and burning sand turning into a pool of cool water that brings life to the animals who drink there. Take a few deep breaths, pray and meditate, and go for a walk. And if anxiety is persistent and pervasive, a good therapist is in order, just as you would seek help for a heart condition. God can use ALL things for your good if you let him.

Behold, your God will come…he will come and save you.

The Burning Sand Shall Become a Pool by Amanda Williams

Raining Bread

Do you know someone who is quick to complain about EVERYTHING? People like that can just suck the joy right out of you. Nothing is ever good enough. They’ve had better somewhere else. The food was not hot/cold/fast enough. The movie didn’t speak to me. The sermon was too long/short/dry/humorous. (Some people think you shouldn’t laugh in church. Thank goodness none of them worship in my church!)

Let’s face it. As a people, we can be very hard to please.

God suffered this negative nelly reaction when he rescued the ungrateful Israelites from slavery and hardship in Egypt. After parting the Red Sea so that they could escape to the Promised Land, God got an earful about how they would have rather died in Egypt, where at least their oppressors gave them the occasional sandwich. Their hunger in the desert made them “hangry,” and the complaining began as soon as they arrived. How quickly they forgot their miraculous deliverance!

At first, they took it out on Moses and Aaron. Moses quickly reminded them who it was that had delivered them, and who will continue to provide for them:

Exodus 16 (Common English Bible)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” 

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.”

God had devised a plan to not only feed them, but to teach them to listen to his commands and trust that he would provide. By instructing them to gather only enough bread for one day at a time, they would be trained to realize that they could count on God to “give us this day our daily bread.”

We need that kind of instruction, too. We so often want to be self-reliant. God wants us to be God-reliant.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

As if on cue, the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud. Maybe the people could see it more clearly because they were looking up instead of being cast down and focusing on all their troubles. Too much navel-gazing isn’t healthy for anyone.

11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

The scripture calls into question our own response to God. When things go wrong, do we remember the many times he has delivered us from trouble? Or do we focus on the new problem that has raised its ugly head?

Do you trust God to deliver you?

Manna comes in many ways. God even provided a double portion on the sixth day so that they could rest on the sabbath. By looking for his manna in unexpected places, we open ourselves to God’s initiative in our situation. Look around you. Look UP. The Bread of Life is present in every situation, no matter how deep your troubles are.

Then you will know that he is the Lord your God.

The Lord Appeared in a Cloud by Michelle Robertson

Bee Still

When it comes to gardening, I have a real “black thumb.” I don’t come by it honestly. My Dad was a terrific “green-thumb” gardener and I grew up eating fresh vegetables from his back garden. Plants die easily in my care, including silk ones. You think I’m kidding. I received a gift of a beautiful plant in a ceramic holder a few months ago. I put it on my coffee table and was so grateful that the giver had chosen an artificial plant for me. A few weeks later I returned from a long trip to discover that the leaves had turned black. I can’t even tell real plants from fake ones.

I have a raised planter at the side of my house that I was determined would hold some vegetable plants this year. I make this determination every year. Friends have built a new house on that side, and so my garden of weeds is making me a little self-conscious, as my new neighbors will be able to look down into it from their upper deck. I read that we shouldn’t tend our gardens until the temperature is above 50 degrees, so as to not disturb winter pollinators who take refuge in dormant gardens. The world’s bee population is being decimated by insecticides and climate change, and we all need to do our part.

When the temps rose, I went out to really study it and see about taking down all the weeds so I could plant some tomato plants in their place. Lo and behold, my “garden” of weedy wild flowers is full of bees. I have decided to just neaten it up by trimming the edges, and I may put a sign in the middle that says “Bee Garden.” Perhaps the kindest thing I can do is just let the bees have it…I don’t think I can kill them if I just leave them alone. If I can’t grow plants, maybe I can grow bees!

In our passage from the fifteenth chapter of John, we see the image of God as a Master Vineyard Keeper. He lovingly removes unproductive branches and trims the remaining ones to produce more fruit.

John 15 (Common English Bible)

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 

People-branches are trimmed by the word of God. When we read scripture and allow it to take root in our lives, our behavior changes accordingly. We stop doing unproductive things and engage in activities that grow our faith and pollinate the world with God’s message.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 

John reminds us that apart from God, we can’t do anything. Did you get that? Apart from God, you can’t do anything. I know people who are very proud of their self-reliance, as though everything they have achieved and everything they possess is by their own hand. Yes, hard work and perseverance are part of success, but apart from God, we have nothing. God calls us to remain in him and he will cause us to produce much fruit.

If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.

Today is a good day to be humble and thank our Master Gardener for everything that he provides. Our true vine is our source of all things! Let us take root in his word. Thanks be to God.

Sound Roots and Branches by Lainie Reed

Is God Here?

Can you think of a time in your life when things were so chaotic that you wondered “Is God here?“ A death, divorce, terminal diagnosis, a national event like 9/11, or anything currently happening in America might cause you to ask such a thing. Anytime we sustain a shock to our system we are tempted to question God’s presence and activity.

Such was the case with the struggling Israelites as they made their way across the desert. Tired, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, they quickly forgot how God had just delivered them from certain death in Egypt. They voice their fear that they might be looking at certain death in the wilderness:

Exodus 17 (The Message)

 1-2 Directed by God, the whole company of Israel moved on by stages from the Wilderness of Sin. They set camp at Rephidim. And there wasn’t a drop of water for the people to drink. The people took Moses to task: “Give us water to drink.” But Moses said, “Why pester me? Why are you testing God?”

But the people were thirsty for water there. They complained to Moses, “Why did you take us from Egypt and drag us out here with our children and animals to die of thirst?”

When they looked at their immediate circumstances, it indeed seemed as though God was absent. Their thirst and exhaustion were the only things they could see. Any hope for the future based on the deliverance in their past was wiped from their minds. Desperation set in.

Have you ever been in that kind of wilderness where all you could see was pain and despair and you forgot how God had loved you through your wilderness wanderings in times past? It is easy to forget.

Moses cried out in prayer to God, “What can I do with these people? Any minute now they’ll kill me!”

5-6 God said to Moses, “Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I’m going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink.”

You see, the people hadn’t arrived at their final destination yet. They needed to keep moving forward. They needed to be obedient to God’s call to become his people and follow his way. They needed to have a smidge more faith. God was trying to lead them out of their thirst and into a land flowing with milk and honey…they just needed to keep moving forward.

6-7 Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said, “Is God here with us, or not?”

Where is God telling you right now to just keep moving forward? What circumstance has you so momentarily paralyzed that you have forgotten his goodness to you in the past?

God goes before you. If you look up with the eyes of faith, you are sure to spot him there on the rock where the waters of peace, hope, justice, and consolation await. Is God here with you? You betcha.

And the People Will Drink by Michelle Robertson

Pandemic Promises

Think back to everything you know about God’s promises. Perhaps you can even claim a time in your life when you were the beneficiary of one of his promises. The list is endless.

For me, the biggest promise made in the Bible is when Jesus told us that he would never leave us. He explained to his disciples that he was simply going ahead to prepare a place in heaven for us and then reminded them (and us) at his departure that he is always with us “even unto the ends of the earth.”

This morning’s Psalm is a great reminder of an Old Testament promise that God made to us after the Great Flood. You may remember from your Sunday School lessons that when the flood waters receded, Noah saw a rainbow in the sky. God explained that he put it there as a reminder of his promise that he would never again destroy the earth.

Hold that thought in your heart as we read Psalm 105. This Psalm recounts the miraculous delivery of the Hebrew nation through the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army close at their heels. God delivered them from slavery and deposited them in the Promised Land. He lived up to his earlier promise that they would not be destroyed.

What promise can we claim from this in regard to the pandemic?

Psalm 105 (New Revised Standard Version)

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
    make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually.

I hope that the pandemic has brought us enough of a “pause” as we’ve followed stay-at-home orders to seek the Lord and his strength. This has been something I have tried to do in my personal discipleship….to seek his presence continually. How are you doing with that?

Remember the wonderful works he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold,
    and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
    for dread of them had fallen upon it.

Egypt was GLAD when they left! The might of the Lord was so great, they were relieved to be rid of Israel from their land. God provided light, food, and water for his people in the desert.

39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
    and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quails,
    and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
    it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
    and Abraham, his servant.

43 So he brought his people out with joy,
    his chosen ones with singing

What does this say to us, a pandemic people? It tells us that this time of sickness WILL END. It reminds us of God’s mighty power to deliver US, his people. It reassures us that at the appointed time the virus will be wiped clean from the earth and the pandemic will be over. Thanks be to God!

God always remembers his holy promises. Let us come out with joy and sing to the Lord.

God Keeps His Promises

The Back to Egypt Committee

Every institution has one. It is typically self-appointed and is often the first group of folks to greet the new boss on the first day. Stakeholders of a sort, they want to be sure that (1) nothing changes, (2) traditions are honored, (3) the new leader respects the culture of the institution, (4) it is understood that THEY represent the culture of the institution, and (5) nothing changes.

When the institution is the church, this group is fondly referred to as the “back to Egypt committee.” Let’s read Exodus 16 and see where that nickname comes from.

Exodus 16 (Common English Bible)

The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.”

In Moses’ new appointment to the Church of the Wilderness Whiners, he had to contend with the self-appointed leaders who expressed a wish to go back to Egypt where they had been enslaved and abused for years. “BUT we were fed MEAT there! We could eat our fill of bread in Egypt! Why, oh why did you bring us to this desolate land to start a new life of freedom? We wanna go back to Egypt and die!“

Friends, the people were HANGRY.

The next part of the story is a reminder of how gracious, loving, and caring God is. It’s a good thing I’m not God, because I wouldn’t have had this much patience. Would you?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” 

Our good and gracious Father responds with not only food to meet their immediate hunger, but a proper lesson in depending on God for all of their needs. See what he did with the sixth day? He provided a double portion for the next day, which was the sabbath.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.”

Notice that Moses does a little blame-shifting here. He says that even though he is the leader who brought them this far, it’s not really his fault. Of course, we clergy-folk never do that! Except for when we blame the internet/sound/tech feed, or the District Superintendent, or the rules of our denomination. Or that time we pointed accusingly at the bishop for making us preach on controversial issues, or outed the loud church member who actually was actively trying to undermine our authority. Or when…..OK, we clergy people sometimes shift blame as well. Leadership means shouldering the responsibilities of everyone’s decisions and quietly trying to remain gracious and patient through the consequences.

Listen, negotiating life in the desert is hard on all of us. Remember this when you are in a situation that is changing all around you. LIFE IN THE DESERT IS HARD ON EVERYONE. The pandemic has certainly proved that.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

This is possibly the best part of the passage. “They turned to look TOWARD the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared.” This is just one of many times in scripture when we are promised that when we look for God with our whole heart, we will find him. Even in the desert places.

Change is inevitable. Change is all around us. We can never go back, but God is out in front, leading us into our future. We will all be painfully aware of this as we attempt to re-gather for worship at some point.

11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

So quit your complaining! Take it up with God. He hears our grumbling and whining and he provides. God is truly good to us, much more than we deserve. No matter what desert you are in right now, the glorious presence of the Lord is already there, right with you. Just turn and look for him.

The Glorious Presence of the Lord by Michelle Robertson

Slaying the Leviathan

I have been fascinated by the word Leviathan ever since I was a child in Sunday School and heard it for the first time. According to Merriam-Webster, a Leviathan is defined as a sea monster defeated by Yahweh in various scriptures; a large sea animal; a totalitarian state having a vast bureaucracy; or something large and formidable.

Formidable, like a two-year-old having a tantrum. Or a pandemic. Or a terminal diagnosis. Or an angry church member.

I was surprised to see the way Leviathan is used in this Psalm. Here we see a playful image of a sea creature splashing around and romping among the ships. What a delightful picture!

Psalm 104 (Common English Bible)

Lord, you have done so many things!
    You made them all so wisely!
The earth is full of your creations!
25 And then there’s the sea, wide and deep,
    with its countless creatures—
    living things both small and large.
26 There go the ships on it,
    and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it!

I love this twist of meaning. It serves to remind us today that no matter what large and formidable thing is confronting us, it is all under God’s command, and he can turn something threatening into something placid in an instant. Indeed, everything and everyone waits for God for sustenance, fulfillment, and even life itself.

27 All your creations wait for you
    to give them their food on time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled completely full!
29 But when you hide your face, they are terrified;
    when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to dust.
30 When you let loose your breath, they are created,
    and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again.

Did you need to be reminded today that God is in control of his creation, even when everything you see seems to be saying otherwise? I did. Viruses, riots, protests, fear, violence, hatred, judgment, slander…all of it falls under his power and purview. Yes, it seems large and formidable to us. But God touches the mountains and they smoke.

31 Let the Lord’s glory last forever!
    Let the Lord rejoice in all he has made!
32 He has only to look at the earth, and it shakes.
    God just touches the mountains, and they erupt in smoke.

So let us sing to the Lord and be pleasing to him, and him alone. And may he slay the Leviathan in your life, whatever that may be. Rejoice in the Lord, always.

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive.
34 Let my praise be pleasing to him;
    I’m rejoicing in the Lord!

Spouting Leviathan by Karen McCauley

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.