Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Jar

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.  Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.” – Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

Now that sounds strange to our 2019 ears, doesn’t it?  Bread on water makes mush! Ewe!  But the meaning of these verses is so accurate for today’s life.

“Cast your bread upon the waters” is an allusion to the sowing of rice.  The rise was cast (thrown for sowing) into a wetland, and the cattle would trod it into the earth.  After “many days” the rice would grow and there would be a harvest. 

From that harvest we give.  We give to many – as many as we can.  We don’t hoard it for ourselves, as it will spoil.  Fresh grown rice can become rancid if not completely dried.  It can mold, and spoil.  We give what we have today because keeping it can lead to it spoiling.

But the spoiling isn’t always the rice.  When we keep what can help others, we spoil our own hearts, becoming selfish and uncaring.   

As I read this passage today, the last line struck me with the vision of a jar.  A jar holds just a certain amount.  You can’t overfill it, you can’t stretch it to fit more.  We have one other thing that we cannot stretch, our time. 

We are all allotted a certain amount of time on this earth.  Each day we pour out a little more, and a little more, and one day there will be no more time in that jar. It’s in that jar of time we can choose to show kindness and charity to others, or selfishly consider only ourselves.  But regardless of the decision made each day, time flows from the jar.

As this world become eviler every day, hoarding our good deeds, not giving a “serving to seven, and also to eight”, not only affects those we see in need, but society.  Your charity and kindness to others has a ripple effect.  Your children see it, and they give.  Your friends see it, and they feel the need to be kind to others as well.  Those who receive your kindness, also desire to share that kindness.  But when you hold back, it’s like a river running into the ocean, dammed up.  The ripples from that direction stop.

Friends, today we have time trickling out of our jars.  Pour out your kindness on others and watch the ripples flow!  For friends, there is coming a day when all branches of kindness will be dammed up, and this world will cease to have caring people.  There will be no doors held open, no “God bless you” to a sneeze, no simple smiles to the mother fretting over a wild child at the grocery, no compassion on the sick, no help for those that fall and fail.  Love one another today, because that jar is soon going to be empty, and God needs your compassion to create ripples.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Thorns and Briars

“For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.” – Luke 6:44

This morning as I sat looking at the blackberry blossoms outside my window I began to reminisce.  I spent many summer days growing up gathering black berries with my grandmother Ruby.  We would go deep into the fields, find the briars, and start picking.  Quite often we would pick gallon buckets full.  We would pick early while the sun was just coming up to avoid as much heat as we could but would often pick until past noon. 

We always wore long sleeves to protect us from the thorns on the briars.  Even on those hot July days with the suffocating humidity of Kentucky I was grateful for those sleeves.  I would liken a thorn prick to that of a paper cut.  It’s a tiny little thing that can hurt for days!  And the scratches can make your arms look like you’ve been in a cat fight.

I often wondered why God made thorns on those briars when He also put delicious fruit on their, knowing we’d want to eat it.  Yes, the thorns keep some animals from the berries, but deer, birds and other critters don’t mind them!  Deer will clean a blackberry bush of all its berries, no matter how deep into the bramble the berries are.  And now I realize, there is a second purpose to those thorns.

When you look at how a blackberry vine grows you see that its trunk is small.  It’s not much bigger in diameter at the root as it is several feet down the branch.  But if you’ve ever tried to pull a branch from the bramble, you find it doesn’t come out well.  It’s the thorns! They hang and capture with each pull that branch that is moving out of the briars.    With a branch that is so small, the briars help support each other.  They hang on each other.  Each branch has thorns that support other branches as it grows and entwines the entire plant.  The higher they grow with this support, the more sun they get and the more berries they produce.  Yet, even with the weight of the berries, the branches are supported.

Sometimes we are the branch, and sometimes we are the thorn.  We’re placed in the lives of those around us to lift them up as we are being lifted too.  It’s not always pleasant, and it can be somewhat confining and uncomfortable.  But, we grow in such environment. 

I think of the years of raising my now adult children when I write this.  Sometimes I’ve had to prick them and pull them back into place, and sometimes they pricked me and showed me my place!  But I’ve always allowed them to grow as high as they can grow, and they’ve allowed me to be the best Mom I know how to be.  Never confining, continuously guiding, and always supporting; that’s a mother’s job. 

Likewise, our spouses, coworkers, and friends receive the same support and guidance.  It’s in lifting others up and helping them grow stronger that we are most like Christ.  His desire for us was to “love one another even as I have loved you”.   And now I reflect on the crown of thorns that sat on His head, and how meaningful that really was.

But I must also warn that you, dear friend, can become part of bramble that will not let you out as well.  Be careful who you associate with, who you work with, and who you create an everlasting “bramble” with through marriage.  You need support to fulfil your purpose in life.  Grapes won’t do well if planted in a blackberry bush.  Those pricks are counterproductive to the fruit it needs to bear.  Grapes need completely different care than blackberries.  If you entwine yourself with those who are not like you want to become, you’ll either suffer from the relationship or adapt to it.

Pick your briars well - but pick one! Make sure it’s one that will support you and carry you higher.  Make sure it doesn’t conflict with your dreams and purpose.