Lessons in Unlikely Places

Yesterday, I stepped down the hall at work to use the little girls’ room which is shared by all the businesses on my floor (the office where I work is housed in a huge building). As I made my way past the stalls in search of the “right” one (don’t ask!), I couldn’t help noticing that, as usual, many of the toilets were not flushed. I felt the familiar indignation rise like bile in my throat. Too dramatic? ok…I was irritated. I thought of places where indoor plumbing is a luxury and using the loo is a pre-meditated event. You may have to get a bucket of water from the well in the courtyard in consideration of the next visitor to the “stall.” Instead, we are so blessed that all we have to do is lean forward enough to reach the shiny metal handle and push it down one time! Yet, even that is too much for some.

As I entertained myself with my indignation, a conversation ensued in my head:

“[sputter] what does it take to just flush after yourself out of courtesy to the next user? Some people are so inconsiderate!”

You do it!”

“Do what now?”

“You flush and be a blessing to the next woman who comes in here so she doesn’t have to look for a clean toilet because they’re all clean.”

“Not my problem! I flushed my toilet, let them flush theirs.”

“Serving others isn’t just doing something that people can see and acknowledge you for. Sometimes you get to serve anonymously and God, the only One who sees it, will acknowledge it.”

Ouch. Guess who went a-flushing?

Lessons on the beach

beach shells

OK, can I just say that I found out this morning that sand dollars are false advertising? I’ll elaborate in a second.

My family and I spent the weekend at Fort Myers Beach in a beautiful beach condo, courtesy of some lovely friends of ours. I had an idea for a craft project (does that make me crafty?) that required me to collect some shells, so I hopped across the street to the beach bright and early, kicked off my sandals and made a beeline for the shore, armed with my camera (you never know what sights you may come across), cell phone (you know, in case of emergency) and a ziploc bag (to store aforementioned shells).

First, let me digress a bit. Whodda thunk that you can get a pedicure just walking along the shore? Just occasionally grind the soles of your feet in the combo of wet sand and shells as you walk, and let the water wash over them repeatedly – bam! free pedicure, courtesy of nature!

OK, back to what I was saying. I found quite a few treasures along my walk, some really pretty shells, including a rather large conch and some bits of what looks like mother-of-pearl (well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it until some mother-of-pearl connoiseur can prove otherwise). As I walked, I spotted something large and round that was washed ashore. Let it be a huge shell, I prayed silently. I picked up said object and inspected it. A sand dollar. Only it looked nothing like the pretty white ones I’ve seen in stores and framed art, the ones that are in the picture above (which, by the way, is a stock photo but could have been a snapshot of my collection, minus the sand dollars). This one was brownish-black with fuzz all around the edges. When I flipped it over…ewww! The backside was completely covered with gill-like stuff that reminded me of the underside of a portabella mushroom. I noticed that there were a few others around me and they all looked like that. I dropped it, stepped away in disgust and kept steppin’. A little further up, I stopped to indulge in a beach pedicure. As I dug my ashy heels into the sand/shell pumice, a lady walked up to me. She had noticed me picking shells and proudly held out her hands, with 5 sand dollars in them. “Ma’am, would you like one? I found these back there!” (pointing in the direction I’d come from). I marveled at her enthusiasm. She looked like she’d found a treasure and was eager to share. I tried my darnedest not to poop on her parade and so I nicely declined, thanking her for her generosity.

As she walked away, I marveled. The same object that I had dropped in disgust and walked away from, she had found and gathered like a prize. My trash was her treasure.  What a reflection of life! It made me begin to second-guess my rejection of the ugly sand dollars. Then I thought ‘nah!’

Imagine with me that that sand dollar was a person who had feelings. It would have suffered rejection and a blow to its self-esteem by my insensitivity. I saw no beauty at all in it because I was comparing it to an ideal, commercially appealing image. But then right on the heels of that rejection, God sent along someone who did not see it through the same filter that I did. Instead she saw the raw, natural beauty in that sand dollar and ascribed value to it, pouring salve on the bruise inflicted by my repulsion and restoring its self-esteem.

Who knew that my simple quest to gather shells would end up being a gentle reminder from God about the power of love and checking the lenses through which I see? I love how He can get my attention even when I’m not paying any!

Sizzlin’ Spice (Rahab)

Rahab

Can somebody say “caliente”? Oh yeah! That would be Rahab (Joshua 2:1-21). I call her Sizzlin’ Spice. She was a “working girl”; a woman of ill repute; a prostitute. So why the heck was she in Jesus’ lineage, right? Surely she’s not worthy! 

She was not even an Israelite, yet she had enough faith in the God of Israel that she harbored and protected God’s people from the enemies who were hunting them down.  There she was, with no dignity, integrity or reputation to boast of, yet she knew how to drive a great bargain. She made a deal with the Israelite spies: I’ll cover for you, but in exchange, you guarantee my safety as well as my family’s. She wasn’t only looking out for herself. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Rahab’s story bends the theology of religion. She didn’t fit the mold of the good Christian girl, yet she won the favor of Almighty God. How I wish there was more detail about her life – I would have loved to get to know Sizzlin’ Spice a little more. For instance, what exactly happened after she and her family were saved from destruction? How did she hook up (no pun intended!) with her future husband, Salmon, from the tribe of Judah, the father of Boaz? Yet the Bible tells us all that we need to know about her – a seemingly unworthy sinner, redeemed by her faith in Jehovah and rewarded for her protection of God’s people, to the extent of earning a place in Messiah’s lineage and an honorable mention in God’s Hall of Faith (Heb. 11:31).

You go, Sizzlin’ Spice!

Subtle Spice (Tamar)

Tamar

I call her subtle spice. Tamar, a woman who refused to curl up and die, but went to great lengths to get what was rightfully hers. Her story is found in Genesis 38.

Desperate times called for desperate measures and Tamar pulled out all the stops to make her point. She was married to one of Judah’s three boys. Unfortunately, her husband died and made her a young widow. In order to continue his lineage, the culture of the day demanded that the closest male relative to the deceased would marry his widow so she could bear children on the dead man’s behalf. There was even a title for this man who would continue his relative’s lineage: kinsman-redeemer.

Judah’s second son stepped in, but apparently had his own agenda. Long story short, he died too. Judah, not wanting to lose his only remaining son, withheld him from his kinsman-redeemer duty, promising Tamar that the boy was too young and would marry her when he got older. Poor Tamar. She became a black widow through no fault of her own. What a stigma! As time went on, she realized Judah had no intention of fulfilling his promise, so she devised a plan. Judah himself had become a widower and one day as he was traveling from point A to point B, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and offered him her services, which he so willingly accepted. She became pregnant by him and cleverly produced evidence that he was indeed the father of her twins. At that point, Judah did the honorable thing and admitted that he had shirked his responsibility toward Tamar. He became her kinsman-redeemer and her honor was re-instated.

What a woman! It took guts back in those days to risk reproach and even death by doing what she did, but Tamar was a chick who knew what was rightfully hers and she was not going to let Judah steal it from her. Her spicy-ness was unveiled by the circumstances that prevailed in her life. Gotta love that subtle spice!

Spice Girls of Jesus’ Lineage

Britain's Spice Girls

So…yesterday I was skipping merrily across the pages of the Bible on my way to the book of Jeremiah, when I heard Matthew calling out to me instead. So I flicked forward to said book and started at the very beginning. Why? Because it’s a very good place to start…ok, that was from the Sound of Music, but that’s off the subject.

I started reading Jesus’ genealogy and read through all the “begats”, starting with Abraham, through all the men who begat so-and-so, all the way down to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. It dawned on me, perhaps for the first time, that it was actually Joseph’s lineage, and not Mary’s that was being traced. Funny, I never stopped long enough to realize that. As I thought about it, I realized that Mary’s only biological contribution to Jesus was her physical body which housed the baby as He grew in her belly. His DNA? Completely supernatural. She was no more Jesus’ mother than Joseph was His father. I know, I know, duh! right?

Anyway, so I was intrigued by the fact that out of the 40 men and women who begat each other all the way from Abraham to Joseph, only 5 women were mentioned in the “begats” – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and of course, Mary. Why? I mused. My curiosity led me to look a little more closely at the lives of these women. Next week, I’ll share my findings with you on the ladies I have fondly named The Spice Girls (of Jesus’ Lineage).

In the mean time, y’all have a great weekend now, y’hear? 😉

Just Call Me Thomas

How many times have we read or heard the story of Thomas the Disciple? He has been immortalized by his reluctance to believe that it was really Jesus that the other disciples claimed to have seen after the crucifixion. He declared that he would only believe if he saw Jesus with his own eyes and felt the places in His hands where the nails pierced Him. We’ve even coined a phrase to describe someone who questions or second-guesses: “Don’t be a doubting Thomas!” I know I’ve used that phrase a time or two. This week as I read John 11, for the first time ever, I saw a different side of Thomas and sympathized with him.

Jesus was planning to go back to Judea, the same city where His life had recently been threatened, and naturally, the disciples registered their objection. When Jesus insisted on going, Thomas was the one who piped up and said “Let us go also, that we may die with Him.” (vs. 16). Now where’s that sentence been all my Bible-toting life?! If that doesn’t smack of courage and devotion, I don’t know what else does. Thomas – Doubting Thomas, no less – wasn’t the wimpy, faithless moron that most of us know him as!

Sure he should have known better, having walked, talked and hung out with Jesus for as long as he did. But how many times do I, knowing God’s faithfulness and sovereignty first-hand, and being a witness time and time again to His love, provision and protection, still entertain “Thomas moments”? I think the brother was just having a bad day. Again, I feel him here!

I’ll never look at Thomas the same old way again. Because Thomas is ME!

Do what, Lord?

So…our 21 day churchwide prayer and fasting has us going through the book of John, one chapter at a time. I’m constantly amazed by the Bible, how you can read the same verse a million times and one day you see something in it that you never saw before. Unlike my daughter Bimi, who’s an avid reader and can read the same book over and over again, I never can. Once I’ve read it and I know what it’s all about, it would bore me incessantly to read it again. But not the Bible. It’s truly alive and ‘four-dimentional’!

How many times have I read the story of Jesus feeding 5000 people with five loaves of bread and 2 fish (with 12 baskets left over)? Yet today I saw something in that chapter that I’d never seen before. After the miracle, the people attested to Jesus’ anointing, proclaiming Him a prophet from God and even wanting to crown Him king. He slipped away from them and they later followed Him to Capernaum.  He knew that they were not seeking Him out because of His miracles, but because He’d fed them for free (ha – moochers!) and He told them as much (I love that about Jesus). Yet, despite this, He took the time to love, minister and speak truth to them with grace and wisdom.

I was reminded that I’ll always have people in my life who are there for various reasons. Not everyone in my life will love me genuinely (WHAT?!), yet I am called to love and be gracious to each one regardless, even while manifesting Christ-like wisdom. It’s so easy to “justify” a short or flippant attitude towards someone whom we know has less than ideal motives.

Er, excuse me while I try to find that telemarketer’s number…

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