Taste and See

Can you believe July is almost gone?! Here we are, half way through summer, and I have been completely lazy! So much for cleaning, organizing and purging the house. And you, my friend? Have you accomplished all your summer time goals? Have you enjoyed the fruits of your labours? If you follow along on my social sites (please do!) then you will see our garden tour and the little harvest we have been enjoying. The rest? Not so much. However, such is the journey, so I will not fret.

Recently, we have also enjoyed a few backyard bar-b-ques with friends and family. It’s a good, Canadian thing to do in our short summer months… burgers on the grill, potato chips and watermelon. Which makes me wonder: Why do we enjoy shooing bugs off edibles all in the name of celebrating scorching heat? Whole other muse, I suppose. But. We have indulged in our fair share of shooing this summer already.

Which brings me to this week’s muse. A book review for “Taste and See” by Margaret Feinberg. Hoping to “discover God among Butchers, Bakers and Fresh Food Makers”, I devoured the book in about 2 days straight. It’s a quick read. Margaret takes us on her journeys (literally — she travels) to discover more about six of the foods Feinberg says have “spiritual significance” in the Bible: fish, figs, bread, salt, olives and lamb.

I quite enjoyed the journey, and each chapter brought on a whole new appreciation for the basic biblical staples. I especially loved the bread baking tour… my adventures with sour dough have given me a whole new appreciation for the art of baking and how complicated bread actually is! It would be an excellent small group study. Especially if you are a foodie! I encourage you to visit Feinberg’s sites (here) should you wish to see more about the book.

I love food. Which can be a curse and a blessing, but that, too, is for a different muse. I was eager to slice open the book and taste the adventure of the Israeli staples, and Feinberg’s insights into how the Bible uses food as a way in which God nourishes us… more than just physically. He wants to “…nourish our souls with transcendent joy and supernatural community and divine presence.” (pg. 22). Plus, there are recipes!

I’ve been learning and growing and thinking about this whole idea of “wholistic” spirituality…mind, body, soul, community. I often don’t take the time to consider how great food is a part of this. Can you image what a piece of chocolate is going to be like in heaven? Or what it will be like to have a cup of coffee with Jesus? Or bar-b-ques with the master priests of old? (okay maybe not that one… they tended to burn everything).

But you get it… God gave us this wonderful commodity and diversity of tastes to enjoy ! And sharing meals with others is a way to bond us in community, in conversation, and in care. I am reminded that we should always be thankful for such blessings. I am learning to take a deeper look at the bounty before me and the things it represents. Land, weather, growth of tiny seeds. Hard work, passion, patience. We take it for granted and mock His blessings with our “God is goods” and “Johnny Appleseed” prayers.

I’m about to clean out our fridge. My son just informed me the last bag of milk has curdled. We are having leftovers for dinner. I am not the next home cook about to be drafted for Master Chef … but this book has been a good reminder to “Taste and See” that God is good, His mercies endure forever, and He is the master of my world. I pray that you, too, will be welcomed to his banquet table with others and share in the community of Jesus followers, as we shoo a few flies away together at the picnic table this summer!

For Just Such a Time as This

So, my beloveds, you will forgive me if I go off the rails a bit and get a little philosophical with you for this post. It’s just the way I have been feeling these days. Have you ever considered what on earth are we doing here? What is the purpose of life? How do we explain the very reason for our existence? Okay — that’s even too deep for me.

What I have been wrestling with, and musing about lately, has been this whole idea of being in the perfect place at just the right time. I am happy where I am… but wonder if there is more. I know God has a plan, but what do I do about it? What is my role in this big, wide universe? How do I fit?

There is a philosophic consideration out there called the “Anthropic principle” that basically says (and don’t hold me to this as I am neither a cosmos expert, nor philosopher!) that the universe’s fundamental parameters must be absolutely perfect for life to be possible here on Earth for us to survive as human beings. A little closer to the sun, we fry. A little farther, we freeze. A force like gravity, or nuclear push and pull, is one iota off, and we all secretly implode or spontaneously combust or something… which leads many to believe that there must be a Creator out there who designed it that way…

But let’s hone in a little closer to home, shall we? I was reminded this week of many summers ago when we were up enjoying the Kawartha regions, and a particularly fierce summer thunderstorm hit. The ones where the sky turns that evil looking green-grey and the sheets and sheets of rain pour down in curtains of water. Violent lightening had struck an old tree and split the large trunk in two… we only heard the resultant thud as the split branch fell — exactly inches — okay a single inch— away from my brother’s brand new vehicle! A vehicle he had purchased about a day or so before! Was it luck? Was it God’s great providence? Was it simply a co-incidence? We were left amazed that the limb had been split exactly in a spot where the pieces would fall exactly perpendicular to the car, in exactly opposite to the other tree half, etc. etc. etc. Much like the philosophers, we contemplated the “what if’s” of the situation.

photo via Michael Bratton Toledo, Ohio… i.e. NOT our tree…

Perhaps you are like me, and think about the “what if’s”. Or the “what now’s”. Or maybe you spiral down into the even deeper realms of the “oh Phooey’s*” (* insert whatever word you deem appropriate here for your own thoughts) and you call out in desperate prayers to God and ask the hard questions. I got your back on this one. I’m here with you, musing about all that holds the balance of the universe together and the philosophical orbits of what is our place, right now?!

Coincidentally, (or maybe not), our topic for Sunday’s sermon was the providence of God. We were encouraged to seek out the examples in the Bible of how He time and time again provides. My thoughts settled, today, on Esther. A woman (strike one) with a lost identity, caught between a rock and a hard place, searching for answers. Answers that would not only shape the future for her as potential queen, but for an entire nation sentenced to death and annihilation. And then she is prompted: “… who knows if perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Mic drop. Dab. Boo-ya. Whatever current gesture you wanna throw out there. God has you (and me) smack dab in the middle of the pit (or King’s palace as it may be) for some reason. Exactly not too close to get burned up by the sun, and not too far to freeze, but exactly within one part in 10 to the power of 55 as to not be pulled apart by the expansion of the universe! (my apologies to every physics teacher I ever had). It’s not our job to debate it. It’s our job to believe and place our trust in the One who placed us there… for just such a time as this.

Lost Luggage

You will forgive me if you are a traveler and have have experienced this story a hundred times; but I am not, and so I share it from the perspective of a newbie, strained in the dilemma of being a “first timer” and all the fresh perspectives it brings.

I recently traveled from my home province to beautiful Nova Scotia for a short stay in wonderful “Wolfville Valley” as I participated in a conference at Acadia University. Although we are pretty experienced travelers, and I have no fear of flying, this was my first solo trip. The event took on a kind of snowball trajectory and I was not super prepared for it. The hubby booked the tickets for me without my consultations, we were unsure about the small details, and the return trip was still not nailed down until the day before I was to leave. This does not bode well for a slightly neurotic rule follower who likes to plan and have all her ducks in a row before undertaking any new task. These facts notwithstanding, I was looking forward to the conference and some alone time with my thoughts.

I strategically packed only carry on luggage to avoid extra costs, and despite his assurances that everything was fine, I made the hubby print out my boarding pass ahead of time. Old school. My emotions were high (see last weeks mid life crisis post) as I said my goodbyes and plodded on through the security lines. I watched as many scanned their electronic boarding passes via their smartphones with all the confidence of world class, techno savvy travelers. Perhaps I will survive my return flight without a solid piece of paper in hand.

The walk to our departure gate was seemingly endless and I struggled to juggle carry on suitcase, bag and old fashion paper work and itineraries, without losing anything on the moving sidewalks (anyone else have a fear of getting something sucked into the end of those things?!) After a marathon trek to the final boarding gate, I plunked down beside two young moms travelling alone with small children and blessed them both, silently, for taking on that challenge!

The staff eventually called that our flight was quite full and that if anyone would like to check your carry on luggage, they would be happy to pop it on the plane at no extra cost. I knew this might happen, and readily took advantage of the call. The moms also packed off their stroller and small child suitcases. I was sure to ask where exactly should we place them? “Just at the door of the plane — next to the stroller.” Okay. Done.

The short flight was uneventful and the slightly smaller airport made baggage collection easy to find. Colourful boxes and bags poured out and around the carousel, until the only ones left were those of us who had checked our bags at the gate! The young mom got her stroller…but no carry on sized luggage had arrived! Great. No big deal though… make a claim, lots of flights in from the big city today… should have your stuff by this evening… they will deliver to front desk, call when it arrives… okay, okay… I can do this. Happens all the time, I have a number to call, a printed receipt even…

The day goes by. No luggage. The evening goes by. No luggage. I call the toll free number. Not yet. I begin to slightly panic. I will have to sit through lectures with no deodorant! I will not have brushed my teeth. I will have to sleep naked! Oh, The horror!

Anxiety: Being consumed by the uncertainties of the Future. But God says: Let Tomorrow worry about itself!

Eventually my small suitcase arrived in a very reasonable time frame, all things considered. And despite my panic and fear of overwhelming body odor, no one seemed to bat an eye, or flinch a nostril. Life goes on. I survived.

As I sat on the flight home (with my carry on safely stowed above my head in the compartment above!) I marveled and mused about the whole idea of anxiety. Those who fear flying, those who struggle with phobias, those who are crippled by the very definition of the word anxiety: being consumed by the uncertainties of the future. I get it. I often feel it. I easily get overwhelmed with the unknowns, the what ifs, the lack of control.

Realistically, this is the big make up of our anxiety isn’t it? That lack of control. If we can’t fix it and be in charge, then who will? As a Jesus follower, I am squarely confronted with the fact that He is in control. God almighty is the only one who knows the future. Every other world view puts our destinies in our own hands. The end of Matthew 6 reminds us that the future will contain trouble, but it’s not my job to worry about it. Tomorrow will worry about itself. The lilies sleep naked all the time — and are all the more beautiful for it. I’m learning -slowly- to not fret at my lack of control. To try and move on and learn and grow. I even scanned my phone generated boarding pass on the way home! Small steps, my friends, small steps.