Feasting on Fresh Bread

In her early married years, my sister Susan and her husband arrived as I removed two hot, crusty loaves of bread from the oven. They had never heard of the easy French bread made in a one-quart casserole dish. Today I smile as I remember how they stood at my stove top, cutting thick slices of fresh bread while devouring an entire loaf! Yes, yeast used to make homemade bread is good, but there is another kind of yeast that is not good.

After miraculously feeding a hungry crowd of four thousand with four loaves of bread and a few small fish, Jesus boarded a boat with his disciples. As they crossed the lake, he cautioned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod” (Mark 8:15, New Living Translation).

Are you wondering, “What was he talking about?” as I did? You’re not alone. Jesus’ disciples also wondered the same thing. But as time went on, they came to understand.

In the Bible, yeast was often used to indicate evil. Galatians 3:9 tells why: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (New International Version). Like yeast, it only takes a small amount of evil to infect a good person or group of people, and eventually overtake the entire person or group.

In Jewish homes, preparation for Passover includes getting rid of every bit  of yeast. In Bible times, people used candles to search out even the tiniest crumb of bread made with yeast. Now that’s dedication to God’s instruction through Moses!

This may not be our instruction or custom, but I think it’s a good example to follow in another way. What if we searched our hearts and lives for every crumb of what God calls wrong thinking and wrong doing so that we could pray for His help to rid our lives of it? What would our lives–and our world–be like?

Focus: “Let us … grow strong in the Christian life, leaving entirely behind us the cancerous old life with all its hatreds and wickedness. Let us feast instead upon the pure bread of honor and sincerity and truth” ~ 1 Corinthians 5:8, New International Version.

(This blog post adapted from an April 2000 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

A Prayer Not Forgotten

“Beth, you’re going blind.”

My optometrist’s words sank like a stone in my seventeen-year-old heart. He must have caught my utter dismay because he quickly went on. “Don’t worry. We may be able to stop, even reverse your condition a little, with something new.”

The “something new” he referred to were contact lenses. My heart sank further. How could a high school senior afford anything that cost the equivalent of a college semester’s tuition? My parents couldn’t afford them either.

“I know that,” the doctor said, “but, Beth, I can’t just let this happen. I will pay for the lenses. When you graduate and get a job, you can pay me back a little each month.”

I left the doctor’s office, overwhelmed by his kindness and shaken by the news. I squeezed back my tears and prayed. Lord, you can do anything. Please heal my eyes so that I can see without glasses!

The contact lenses arrived and did stop the loss of my sight. I was so thrilled, I forget all about my prayer, but God did not.

Thirty-seven years later, I raced into the waiting room to share the good news with my husband. “I can see! I can see!”

Back in the examining room, Jim and I learned that the new Lasik surgery had taken the vision in my right eye from 20-400 (legally blind) to 20-25.  A year later, surgery on my left eye had similar results.

As we left the doctor’s office, we marveled at all God had brought together to deliver my miracle. Someone discovered the laser beam. Another invented a machine to harness it for eye surgery. Doctors had to be trained, and I was sure it was no coincidence that my eye doctor was one of eight in the United States currently performing the new surgery.

How precious our prayers are in God’s sight. He responds to them all. To some he quickly says, “Yes!” To others, and for good reason, he must say, “No.” To still others, he says, “Wait.” However, when that right time arrives–it might be years later–he delivers the perfect answer.

Focus: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers” Philippians 4:6 (The Living Bible).

How different our world would be if, instead of worrying, we brought our needs to God and trusted him to deliver the right answer at the right time.

How about You? Do you agree? Why or why not?

(This blog post adapted from a March 2000 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

Quick to Forgive?

I sat on the back porch steps, observing my six-year-old granddaughter attempt to teach the game of Frisbee to her deaf playmate. She launched her new toy through the air. “Come on, Anthony. You can do it!”

Anthony shook his head. Kyra coaxed until he tried and succeeded. In his excitment, he hugged the yellow toy and refused to return it. Kyra begged, but he laughed, playfully holding it just out of reach.

Bursting into tears, she ran to the side yard. Anthony laughed, and her back stiffened. She spun around. Glaring at him, she seized a big stick from the ground.

I leapt to my feet. “Kyra! No!”

My little girl looked at me. Her shoulders sagged and tears puddled in her hazel eyes. Dropping the stick, she darted into the front yard, sobbing. No longer laughing, Anthony followed her. Minutes later they returned. He shrugged and dropped down near the porch steps. Picking up a piece of colored chalk, he began drawing pictures on the sidewalk. Kyra stood stiffly a few feet away. “He was mean to me, Grandma. I’m angry.”

“What are you going to do about it?” I asked quietly.

For a few moments, she thought about it, then grinned and nodded her head triumphantly. “I’m never going to speak to him again forever!”

“Oh,” I ventured. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

Kyra’s grin vanished. “Why not?”

“Well—” Lord, please help me here. “—if you don’t forgive Anthony, you can’t be friends anymore.”

Kyra’s eyes grew wide. “We can’t?”

She climbed the porch steps and snuggled into my arms like a wounded bird. After all, they had been friends since they were babies. I held her close while stroking her silky blonde hair. “Besides, Kyra, Jesus wants us to forgive others, even when they hurt us for no good reason.”

“He does?” That clinched it. She wiggled out of my arms and joined Anthony on the sidewalk. He looked up, smiled, and handed her a piece of bright blue chalk.

Her crisis over, I marveled at how easily my little granddaughter had acted once she knew what God wanted her to do.

Wouldn’t our world be a much happier place if we were all so quick to forgive those who hurt us?

Focus: “Love your enemies! Do good to them! … Your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as sons of God” Luke 6:35 (The Living Bible).

What do say? Is it possible today’s chaotic world be a better place if we were quick to forgive? Why or why not?

(This blog post adapted from a piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)

The Last Supper

Jesus looked around the Upper Room where he and his disciples had gathered to eat their Passover supper. Though they were unaware, he knew his time was near. Within hours, he would hang on a cross, dying an excruciating death for the sins of all mankind. On the third day, he would come gloriously back to life.

His gaze found  Thomas who would doubt him, Peter who would deny knowing him, Judas who would sell him to his enemies. All of his disciples so devoted to him now would run for their lives when he was arrested this very night. At the moment, however, they were squabbling over who would be greatest in his coming kingdom.

Leaving his place at the table, he–the great Lord God among them in human flesh–put on the garb of the lowliest slave in a Hebrew household. Filling a basin with water, he knelt down before his astonished disciples to wash their dusty feet.

When he finished, he said, “I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet” and urged them to do the same because “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:13-15, New International Version).

On the night before he died for all of our sins, Jesus set us a great example of humility. No matter what position, talent or wisdom we might possess, we are to be one another’s humble servants. If we willingly perform even the lowliest of tasks to serve the people in our lives, Jesus promised we will be blessed. Yes, we will be happy!

The apostle Paul expressed the same idea when he wrote that we should …

Focus: Be devoted to each other in brotherly love and honor each other more than ourselves. (Romans 12:10).

How about you? Have you served someone else and found yourself blessed by that simple act?

(This blog post adapted from a March 1999 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love With Shoes On.)