Friday, October 31, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, we were able to play Good Samaritans to a large frog which got stranded in the middle of the road near our house. Living so close to wetlands, we get visitors like him. Apparently he'd been hopping, but dried out on the warm bitumen. Not wanting to see him run over and squished, we poured water over him until he took a great hop into a plastic container, and then we tipped him out in some long grass. It feels good to save the occasional life.
We hear frogs singing all the time in the wetlands, especially at night, which must be a sign of a healthy ecosystem. I've heard it said that frog life is a good indicator of how healthy an environment is. The have such ancient origins, if they start dying en masse, something must be wrong. It's remarkable to think that they do have such a long history, when they are delicate enough to run out of juice in the middle of our road. Perhaps God has simply been looking after them. Their acronym FROG, supports this. You might have read that it stands for Fully Rely On God.
A couple of weeks ago, while it was still early spring, I was hiking with my husband and younger son. We chose a dry track which had some sort of four wheel drive vehicle along it recently, because the tyre ruts it left were full of rain water. It seems some frogs had decided to lay their eggs in these shallow ruts, because there were tadpoles swimming merrily around in them, oblivious to the fact that their home was soon to evaporate. We figured that if those little swimmers don't grow quickly, they'll be left high and dry to sizzle. Will they make it? That's anyone's guess, as we won't be around to find out.
My younger kids sometimes get anxious about reports they hear from the media about global threats to our planet. Climate change, global warming, war, disasters, the list goes on. What's more, we read that earth is on a very specific path in space. If it were to deviate off course by just a few degrees, our globe would be uninhabitable. I remind them that in some things, all we can do is FROG, like the hoppers we rescue from around our house, and like the little babies in the shallow puddles who don't know if they'll live to grow up, but don't realise there's a threat.
I was reminded of a novel I read years ago, by Brock and Bodie Thoene, set in the Second World War. David, one of the soldier heroes, was on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean heading for action. He was always terrified at night, fearing threats from sudden enemy ships, and he didn't even know what cargo their own ship was carrying. He made a few enquiries and found out that it was live ammunition. That might have sent some people into more of a panic, but David decided to take off his uniform, get into his pyjamas and have a comfortable sleep, as he should have been doing all along. He saw that his only real option was to FROG. Basically, it's the same for all of us.
No matter how hard we try to control things, we're all equally helpless when it comes to some things. It makes sense to rely on the creator who was holding all things together before we were even born. We may have the potential to dry out easily, but there is someone who cares. Did you know that it's impossible for frogs and toads to jump backwards? I love the sudden, enthusiastic forward leaps they make, covering several of their own body lengths. Maybe God planned them that way as part of the analogy, to remind us that there's no point getting so anxious, hedging and retreating, that we never do anything.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
The servant had been working hard around the estate from the crack of dawn, and he was exhausted. Some of it had been pretty heavy work, but the last straw was when he was asked to clean his master's muddy boots. He'd expected to be allowed to leave the set for the night, and having to do a thorough shoe polish would take more energy than he thought he had left to give.
The squire's son was the owner of the boots. He was pleading, 'Please let me clean my own boots. Let him go to bed. I've done nothing all day but hang around the Manor House, trying to fritter away time, and I'm bored to tears. It would be a welcome relief.'
They were both denied by the directors. 'You signed up to live authentically, and he would have been the one to scrub the boots, not you. Get used to it. Welcome to the Victorian Era.'
Earlier this week, I was thinking how confusing Christians sometimes make the subject of work. We hear some say, 'We're saved by grace, so all we need to do is rest in what Jesus has done on our behalf. We have nothing to prove anymore. We don't need to race around like Martha. Nor do we want to fall into the trap of having to earn approval through our work. It means nothing, because all we need to do is believe.' This is all true and scriptural, but then others add, 'Yeah, but we're supposed to work hard because we are God's hands and feet in the world. He's created good works for us to do. Grace without works is dead. The Bible tells us those who don't work don't eat, and the sluggard is a shameful blot on society. If we just sit there without doing good works, we should be heartily ashamed of ourselves.' Okay, this is scriptural too, but I remember feeling so confused in the past because they seemed such polar opposites. If somebody had asked me, I'd have no idea which of these two apparently contradictory points of view to claim as mine.
The two lads on the reality TV show make it easier for me to place it in perspective. I think of them as extremes on each end of a spectrum. Neither of them are living the ideal life. The fellow cast as the servant represents the slave mentality. We don't realise that we have been delivered from trying to earn our salvation by obeying all the points of the law, which is impossible. Then we race about getting worn to tears, and still feeling that we fall short. With this mindset, we tend to crumble when somebody suggests that they don't like our work. And we race about, trying to earn approval by pleasing people.
On the other hand, the squire's son discovered that waking up to a clear slate each day, with nothing to do but fill in time while other people do all your work for you, is a poor lifestyle choice too. I believe we are designed by God for meaningful work, not for hanging around always taking and never giving. That's why he was anxious to pounce on any task, such as cleaning the boots, just to have something to do.
I want to try to remind myself that in all I do, I'm not working for validation from humans, but partnering with God. We work for the satisfaction of stretching the bodies and brains that were designed to be used. We don't do it to prove to others or ourselves that we're good people. We do it because God designed us in His own image, which includes His delight in creating things. It's so sad to think of thousands of people working at something which isn't stimulating just for the paycheck at the end. We work because we notice a need, whether it's for people to be helped, stories to be told, or inventions to be introduced, just because we know it's something we can willingly fulfill. We don't respond blindly to guilt trips, doing shoddy jobs because these 'favours' don't utilise our strengths.
My kids are growing so fast, and my eldest is now an adult (they tell me). As I grow older, I'm beginning to realise how valuable each moment of time is. This post is a challenge for us to choose what we know deep down is the right work for us, and ignore the thousands of urgent demands to get sidetracked with busy-work, to earn a smile and a pat on the back. Even when these are great endeavours, each individual has the right to stand back and decide, 'I need to be about my own calling, not his or hers.' So the sort of work we should be about will be different for each of us, but we will know, when we stop to examine the honest place in our hearts.
Monday, October 6, 2014
I bought a new tub of honey today. Facebook has been challenging us to think of normal things which we appreciate, and I've got to put honey on my list. Today's purchase made me remember a homeschooling excursion the kids and I took with a group years ago, to a local, Adelaide Hills honey operation. It's situated in a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere, and we knew the owners, a husband and wife team who used to attend our old church. They led us through each stage of their business until the end, when Buzz Honey jars as we know them, are ready to be distributed among all the shops.
I was very impressed with how hard the staff work each day, to ensure that people have a sweet spread for their toast and cups of tea. Like the farmers who provide other produce, conditions must align perfectly for honey to happen. There must be a variety of nectar bearing flowers and healthy hives. But I couldn't help being just as impressed with the dedicated labour of their thousands of unpaid workers in their black and yellow striped uniforms. It's incredible to think of all those bees doing it just for the sheer love of it. Instead of thinking, 'I wonder how I should spend my life?' they just know what business they should be about. And the Buzz Honey family can rest assured that none of the bees will ever pull a fake sickie to go off to the beach instead. They are fully dedicated to the making of honey, because it's their calling. It's in their DNA.
But is honey really so significant, that God made a whole class of insects dedicated to processing it? I set myself the challenge of searching for the blessing of honey in the Bible. It's definitely hidden away there on several occasions. During the famine, Jacob sent his sons to plead a second time for food in Egypt, hoping to butter up the gruff ruler with some of their local honey, among other things. Years later, God promised to lead the Israelite slaves out of Egypt back to a land 'flowing with milk and honey' as an incentive to make them willing to leave. Then, when they'd settled in their land in the time of the Judges, Samson was very impressed to find some bees had made a makeshift hive out of the carcass of a lion he'd killed. He even wrote a riddle about it.
In the time of the kings, Saul declared that his army must fast completely until the enemy Philistines were vanquished. His son, Jonathan, wasn't around to hear about the oath. Jonathan stuck the end of his staff in some honeycomb and licked it, and we're told 'his eyes immediately brightened.' When Jonathan found out about his father's decree, he sensibly reasoned, 'My father has caused trouble for the country. Look at how my energy was renewed with just a little bit of honey, compared to how weak and faint you guys are.' And he averted the punishment of death.
Honey appears in the New Testament too, as part of John the Baptist's staple diet. I imagine he might have used it to dip his locusts into. I wouldn't blame him for wanting to sweeten them. If it's good enough for John, it's good enough for me, although I'd pass up the locusts. Honey gets enough mentions to make me think it's a pretty good sweetener, anyway. (I don't think sugar gets one plug from Scripture, although it didn't really take off until Medieval times. It wasn't unheard of in ancient times though. Persia's King Darius invaded India in 510 BC and found 'the reed which gives honey without bees, presumably sugar cane.) I haven't even mentioned the many times honey is referred to in the books of Psalms and Proverbs as something sweet, desirable, even health-promoting. Those bees really are carrying out a fabulous work.
Maybe, when we think about it, we're not all that different from the bees. Many of us do quite a bit of work solely for the love of it, just because we consider it part of our calling. In my case, I'm thinking of parenting and writing. Nobody who ever throws their heart and soul into either of those two things can be accused of being in it just for the money! Yet like the bees, those of us who do these things don't give them a second thought, because we'd rather do them than stop (thankfully for our families). Every so often, somebody says, 'You work so hard on these things, it really is a shame that there isn't a regular minimum wage,' and we think, 'Hey, yeah, that would be nice.' But it really doesn't make a lot of difference to us either way, because we're not going to stop the work we do. And if we are like the bees, it follows that our work may be like honey. A stable family of happy, good-humoured kids and several books to inspire others do add their own type of sweetness to the world.
Perhaps a good antidote to those grumbly days is to spread a bit of honey on some toast, and remember that we're just the same as those hard-working bees.