A Mess of Pottage

“A mess of pottage” refers to something that may be very desirable in the moment, but is of little value when taken in exchange for something less tangible but of immense value. It refers to Esau trading his birthright for a pot of lentil stew in Genesis 25:27-35.

When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (NASB)

Trading one’s birthright for a pot of stew may seem farfetched, but we all misplace priorities at one time or another. Shortsightedness occurs when that for which I hunger is right in front of me. The present presents temptations difficult to resist at times. A dear friend heard my heart and used the mess of pottage reference to help me get my priorities in order. I haven’t heard that expression in decades, but it rang true in my heart as soon as I heard it this week.

Having friends who hear my heart and love God is a blessing I cannot imagine living without. I was at the point of trading a beautiful friendship for a mess of pottage, but God placed Esau’s stew in my path to help me see the folly of such a trade.

Walking in God’s kingdom now is a new concept for me. I smile and shake my head when I think of the number of times I said the Lord’s Prayer without seeing the kingdom as here and now. Christ clearly says “on earth as it is in heaven.” (NASB Matthew 6:9-13)  It is sobering to realize how easy it is to trade a walk in God’s kingdom for a jaunt down my own path. A mess of pottage is all it takes to lose any birthright.

The phrase also reminded me of a beautiful poem I haven’t read in years, “Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Myra Brooks Welch. The phrase is used powerfully in the last verse of the poem.

‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
      Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
      But held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
    “Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?
      Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?”

“Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
      Going for three…” But no,
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
      Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
      And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
      As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
      With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”
      And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
      Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
    And going and gone,” said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,
    “We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
    “The touch of the Master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
      And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
      Much like the old violin.

A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
    A game — and he travels on.
He is “going” once, and “going” twice,
    He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
    Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
    By the touch of the Master’s hand.

The lesson this week was that I am more than I can imagine myself to be. Like the old violin, I have seen myself as battered and scarred; but the touch of God’s hand changed that. God is love, and love is what His kingdom is all about. I tend to sell myself short, but this week I decided to let God play a new tune on my heart. I want the birthright He has for me, and that means seeing myself in His light. I can’t do that on my own, but I can do it if I relax in His hands and trust Him to do what He does best.

It’s Fitting!!

I took care of my two granddaughters while my daughter-in-law was on a mission trip to Costa Rica. I loved having the opportunity to spend quality time with them and my son. Keeping up with two very energetic little girls wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun. I felt ten years younger after ten days and noticed my clothes were fitting differently.

There’s nothing better than clothes that fit well, and that is especially true for me because I absolutely hate wearing them!! Little Mylah is the same way, so getting her ready to go somewhere is like moderating a political debate. She won’t wear anything that doesn’t fit perfectly, and she’s a diva when it comes to the way she looks. I learned to just leave her alone, let her go through the painful process, and pick up all the clothes on the floor afterward.

God used the girls to teach many lessons last week, and one was about the importance of a proper fit. I’ve gained twelve pounds in the past two and a half years because I turned to food to fill a space that food cannot fill. The result was a closet full of uncomfortably tight clothing. I wore yoga pants and comfortable shirts while watching the girls because I had a lot to manage and didn’t want to have to worry about clothes.

When I got home and had time to breathe, I stepped on the scales and couldn’t believe I had lost four pounds. I got the tape measure out to make sure my scales were not broken and was even more surprised to learn that I had lost seven inches!!

Clothing was not the only thing not fitting lately, so God used the girls to teach a fitting lesson. I’ve struggled throughout my adult life with corporate worship. Some places were too tight, and some were too loose. Nothing seemed to suit or fit my spiritual needs. Trying to find the right fit left me frustrated and ready to quit.

A perfect fit is virtually impossible to find when it comes to clothes, but I do have outfits that feel wonderful and look great. I feel great when I wear them, so I can relate to Mylah’s struggle with clothing. Only God knows the perfect fit for my heart, and He showed me how it felt this week. On Tuesday, I shared communion with dear friends and knew I was right where I needed to be. It was a feeling far better than finding that perfect outfit.

Walking in God’s kingdom is about being where He wants me to be. He knows His kingdom is the perfect fit for my heart; and  He knows that once I feel its fit, I won’t settle for anything less.

Philippians 2:1-2 is a beautiful scripture that describes the perfect fit God has in mind. I think I’ll put it on my closet door 🙂

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (NASB)

It's Fitting

Tummy or Heart ??

Lilly and Mylah have an ongoing debate that reflects religious debates found in the world. Lilly pointed to her chest one day and said that God was in her heart. Mylah pointed at her round little belly and said God was in her tummy. I don’t believe she meant to start a debate, but she did. Lilly jumped in to say that God was not in her tummy; He was in her heart!!

Mylah defended her beliefs, as only a two-year-old can, and insisted God was in her tummy, not her heart!  I told the girls they were both right. God was in our hearts, tummies, feet, arms, heads, and anywhere else He wanted to be. They settled down to dinner, but the argument resurfaced several times during the next few days.

I kept Mylah on Thursday and Friday, and she revisited the subject as we settled into bed on Thursday evening. She likes to play with my hair while she’s drifting off to sleep, and she was twisting and turning it with vigor after we read her new library book. I detached myself from her grip, turned off the light, and snuggled next to her. She said quietly, “God IS in my tummy.” I told her I knew He was, and she said she wanted Him to stay there. She was looking for an ally in the debate with her older sister. I told her again that God could be anywhere He wanted to be, and she drifted off to sleep.

Christians in this world are just like Lilly and Mylah when it comes to details, doctrines, and denominations. I’m right; you’re wrong. I know God better than you do. God’s on my side! God is this! God is that! The girls little arguent was cute, but similar exchanges between adults are not so endearing. They irritate and leave me wondering, “What ever happened to love one another?” If we would put as much effort into loving God and loving our neighbors as we do into arguing about Him, the world would see a new dynamic that would make them to want a loving relationship with God instead of a place to hide from His fighting children.

The trouble with doctrines and denominations is that they replace relationship. I am amazed at the venom and violence that grow from the lines we draw around God. I suppose it’s human nature to want to corner the market on God, but Christ came to change our nature. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we allowed God to be who and where He wants rather than who and where we want Him? Conflict over creeds will exist as long as there are two churches standing in this world.  Heaven is a place of unity and peace, and I do wish the same were true of the body of Christ.

God is love, and walking in His kingdom is about loving one another in a way that makes the world see the disciples Jesus describes in John 13:35.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (The Message)

Love changes everything if given the chance 🙂

God’s Grounding

Staying grounded without hitting the ground is a challenge, but balance comes more easily when I let go of pride and pity and look toward the Holy Spirit. Looking back throws my heart off center and makes traveling forward impossible. Luke 9:62 makes it clear that looking back is a problem when it comes to following Christ. God’s grounding requires that ground be broken in my heart. He used the image of a plow and a beautiful field to help me understand the importance of focus when it comes to plowing.

But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” NASB

Looking back is the surest way I know to get off track and fall to the ground. My heart has hit the ground so many times that I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just lay down and stay down. God made it clear this morning that the problem with my heart stems from going in one direction while looking in another. I have always been easily distracted and have trouble focusing. It is a nuisance when it comes to completing tasks, but it is disastrous when it comes to living and loving in God’s kingdom.

Christ’s words humble because I am guilty of forging ahead while looking back. I don’t want to let go because I know the plow is keeping me grounded, but I continue to look back. My heart will never be grounded as long as I allow the plow to dig down while I decide whether to trust God and move forward or continue to focus upon what I want. I find myself stuck between where He wants me and where I want to be. If I keep looking back while trying to move forward, I will continue to go in a circle, an easily recognizable pattern in my life.  

Being grounded is about looking ahead and following Christ. His Spirit is pulling the plow to which I cling, and He knows where He’s going. It is where I should be going. God will let pine and look back, but He makes it clear that I am not fit for His kingdom if I do. That humbles and sobers me in a powerful way. God knows my struggle with attention, and He knows how very much I love Him and His precious Word. I hold fast to His love, and I’m not letting go. He reminded me this morning that I have to turn my full attention to Him if I am to learn and grow in His Spirit as He desires.

It’s human nature to be distracted by desire. The body demands attention and will not be ignored, but God’s Spirit is strong and bids me to choose. God never forces me to go His way. He hands me the handle and lets me determine the direction. He won’t put a blinder on me either and lets me look in whatever direction I desire. I’m thankful for the freedom His Spirit brings; without it, I would simply be a drone. He knows my heart must decide when it comes to love, and He knows how difficult it is to not look back. He also knows, and I’m learning, that I have to look to His Spirit if I want to be truly grounded. God’s grounding leaves my heart open and ready to bear His fruit, and He knows that only I can let His Spirit give my heart a new kind of grounding:)

God's Grounding

Traveling Companions

I had a wonderful eight mile walk with a dear friend this morning. Actually, Rita is more than a friend; she’s family. We both agreed that we would not have ventured up the mountainside alone in the near freezing weather, but we also agreed that it was great to be walking. The lesson was clear as I came down the mountain feeling great and ready for whatever God had in store. Walking in God’s kingdom is best with company because fellowship is an essential part of the journey. I’ve learned over the past few years to let down my guard and let others hear my heart, and I’ve found some great traveling companions in the process.

Traveling companions are special because traveling together requires a level of trust and friendship that goes well beyond a casual acquaintance. I must be willing to let others be a part of my life and be part of theirs. Kingdom relationships involve listening, loving deeply, and spending lots of time together. Living and loving together requires commitment, and that’s just the word Rita used this morning. She said, “We’re committed, and she’s right.” We walk about twenty miles a week, but it isn’t about exercising or clocking time and distance. It’s about taking the time to be together in a powerful way. We love one another, and that makes the journey a joy. Two hours pass quickly as we talk and enjoy the beauty around us. On Friday morning, we came upon a young deer. It stood for a long while gazing at us curiously. It would have stayed longer if a jogger hadn’t broken the sweet silence.

Kingdom living is about being committed and taking time for God and one another. It means hearing the hurt, sharing the joy, and trusting God and each other. It’s about non judgment, being my truest self, and allowing others to be the same. Love doesn’t judge or fix, and love is all I need to pack for the journey that leads me to His kingdom. Deciding not to judge is dying to self and allowing God to be God, and it’s a daily decision. Some days, I do a wonderful job and get in a beautiful walk in His kingdom; but some days, I worry, fret. and fuss and get stuck in my muddy mess. As long as I’m on earth, I will have to die in order to walk in God’s kingdom. Dying to self isn’t easy, but I’m finding that it’s much easier than striving, struggling, and digging out of the mud.

Walking in God’s kingdom is a witness walk, not a judgment trudge. Like my morning hikes with Rita, a walk in God’s kingdom is a beautiful commitment to travel together in a way that draws us nearer to God and one another. It also helps that we make sure not to fall into the sin of seriousness along the way =]

Traveling Companions:)

Dead Ends

God placed the image of a very familiar dead end street in my heart this morning. I haven’t thought about Mrs. Norton in a very long time, but God reminded me of the strange little woman who lived near my childhood home. Mrs. Norton captured my imagination as I watched her walk up and down our street each day, talking to herself and ignoring all of us. There were many rumors about her, and I was shocked to learn that she had once been a school teacher. Her husband was dead, and she lived in an old Victorian home that was in a little glen at the end of a dead end street near my home.

Mrs. Norton had long toenails that curled upward, and her cheeks were covered with rouge. Her hair was a mess and her clothing disheveled. Anytime I asked about Mrs. Norton, my mother would warn me not to talk to her. She also told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to go anywhere near her home. One day, my sister Edie and I threw caution to the wind and decided we were going to see the inside of her home. Curiosity got the best of us, so we ignored mama’s warnings and headed down that dead end street.

The house had been grand at one point in time, but that point was long gone. There were rumors that she had once been a very wealthy woman. Her house had the appearance of the classic haunted house, and my knees were knocking as we walked up the rickety steps to knock on the door. I’m sure Mrs. Norton was used to kids knocking on the door and running away. The windows of her home were broken, so I suppose some threw rocks to prove their courage. Our curiosity was stronger than our common sense, so we waited for her to come to the door.

She did come to the door and even asked us to come in. I thought of Hansel and Gretel and of mama’s warnings as we ventured in. She was kind and told us to stay near her because the floor was filled with holes and stacks of all sorts of things. I remember the books; they were everywhere! It was dark and musty inside, and there were cobwebs on everything. She brushed them aside as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do, but I didn’t like brushing against them! I don’t remember much about that visit, but I do remember that she gave us books. We ran home excited about our adventure and our treasure.

Mama was not happy when she saw those books and found out where we had gotten them. She never did spank me and rarely raised her voice, but she put Edie and me in the tub and scrubbed us until we were pink all over. She was especially attentive to our hair, and I suppose she was concerned about lice. The books went straight into the garbage can, and our clothes were put on the back porch. Edie and I never went back to Mrs. Norton’s, but we had a grand adventure that we shared with the kids in the neighborhood. We both decided it wasn’t worth another one of mama’s scrubbings to revisit her. Besides, she said she would tell daddy if we ever did it again!

Mrs. Norton lived on a dead end street in more ways than one, and I’ve been on too many of those dead end roads myself. God reminded me that a dead end is a wonderful place to hide my heart, and it can even be a happy trail; but it leads to nowhere. I’m learning that walking in God’s kingdom is much better than happy trails and dead ends. Joy comes from obeying and trusting Him, and I love enjoying what God so graciously gives. He asks that I give Him everything for a reason. If I don’t, I’ll never be able to get off those dead end streets. Mrs. Norton was stuck in the past and could not move forward. I may not have her appearance, but I have shared her desire to hold on to what I have lost. I see now that I miss all God has for me in His present and presence when I dwell on that dead end street.

There are many folks in this world like Mrs. Norton who have given up or shut themselves away from the world. It’s not easy to move on when love is lost, and separation from love is the definition of hell. I wish I had been able to learn more about her story because I’m sure it would explain her odd appearance and behavior, but I pray remembering her will make me more mindful of those in my path who are on a dead end street and need a little love. 

Spinning in God’s Kingdom

God placed the image of a spinning top in my path this morning to help me understand the importance of movement when finding the balance He desires. The physics behind a spinning top offers a powerful lesson in walking in God’s kingdom. According to eHow, the potential energy within the top is released, changing to kinetic energy, the energy of movement and motion.” Allowing God to change my potential energy into movement and motion is what walking in His kingdom is all about. The axis upon which my heart must spin is the center of the cross where God’s love came into His world. The Holy Spirit puts my heart into motion.The explanation continues with, “The spinning top rotates around an unseen principal axis. If the top were perfect in every way — perfectly balanced and weighted — and the floor was perfectly level as well, the top would rotate pretty much indefinitely. But most tops aren’t perfect and will begin to lose their momentum.

Humans are imperfect; so I wobble and lose my momentum as I walk in God’s kingdom. Wobbling is part of walking and reminds me that I am a human and need God every step of the way. There is nothing more fascinating than a spinning top, and children love spinning and watching tops as much today as they always have. Jesus is perfect and so is heaven, and His love spins eternally and stands as a perfect example of what God’s love does to the human walk. I can never be perfect, but when I am with Him in heaven, I will be able to join in celebrating God’s love in a way that I believe is similar to that perfect spinning top. Little Mylah turns around in circles when she’s dancing or happy, and I thought of her spinning this morning. She wobbles and usually falls to the floor. I do the same as I attempt to praise God. There’s nothing I love more than watching her little dance of joy, and I know God feels the same way about my attempts to love and praise Him:)

When a top is perfectly balanced, it appears to be standing still. God’s love gave Jesus the perfect peace He needed to be still in a world spinning out of control. Christ’s love for all in this world projects from the beautiful center of His being and out into His Father’s world. I must allow His love to project from my own heart in all directions if I am to walk in His kingdom.

Being in the midst of a crowd can be unnerving, and I was a little unnerved as I found myself in the midst of a large crowd of screaming fans at a rock concert on Saturday evening. It was a good lesson in closeness:) The lead singer broke the tension a bit when he asked everyone to look to the right and then to the left. He then asked that we smile, shake hands, or give a high five to the folks all around us. That reminded me that those invading my space were individuals. That’s important to remember in a crowd, especially when the crowd begins to feel like a mob:)

Extending love in all directions is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. Love adds dimension, and the Holy Spirit takes the potential love in my heart and makes it kinetic. Love is meant for motion just as tops are meant for spinning. When I allow God’s Holy Spirit to spin my heart and put me down where He wants me, the movement is much better than my wobbly attempts to spin on my own. Sometimes, I let the wobbling get me down. I don’t want to get back up, but God gently reminds me that I need His love to go on.

When I look at a beautiful top, I see a cross with love extending from its center in all directions. I can envision God putting His loving hand on my heart and giving it a spin knowing that I’m not perfect and neither is His world. He knows, and I’m learning, that His Spirit will always be there to help me love in His kingdom.

Tops