Stuffed bird, empty heart

Nov 25

My mission was to pick up a few apples at the grocery store. How hard could this be?

If you don’t know, the male double-helix shopping code is to “get in and get out without any complication.” So I thought this was going to be an easy assignment.

But little did I realize I would be faced with such a variety. Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome Beauty, McIntosh, Fuji, Gala, Jonagold. There were yellow, green, red, and even multi-colored varieties. Where would I start? I felt a vortex of indecision swirling around me. My breathing got shallow and I almost bailed on the assignment. But then I would have to come up with an elaborate story involving a police chase or a gas leak or swarm of birds winging through the aisles.

I finally made a choice, but the experience still weighed on me as I drove home. I considered the intricate weave of choice, abundance and blessing. It was amplified by the stories the next Sunday from the high-schoolers from church who just returned from a real mission trip to Mexico.

Thanks for nothing

They arrived at the small, poor village in identical new vans. Suburban teenagers in crisp jeans with white ear buds dangling from their pockets soon realized what poverty looked like. Their job was to help build homes. Considering the villagers lived in crude shacks built of scrap sheet metal or reinforced refrigerator boxes, the pre-fab huts were a big improvement. Still, not one of these teens would ever have to live in something so simple.

One girl spoke about the experience and was most impressed at how utterly satisfied these people were. She told us about the worship experience in the village church.  The prayers were filled with the word “gracias,” uttered dozens of times.

“Over and again these people thanked God and never bothered asking him for more. They had nothing, but they thanked him for everything,” she recounted.

apple pie happy

 

 Stuffed bird, empty heart

I think about those villagers, and others in my life, who are struggling to make a living, clawing their way through everyday existence. Why are they so abundant in good spirits, praise, and joy? And why are the rest of us so . . .  needy?

This time of year we tend to give praise for our bounty. The plump, plucked turkey and mounds of potatoes are dolloped with ample reminders to give thanks for God’s blessing. And we should always be

grateful. But to be honest, I don’t always do so well in the land of plenty. In my richest days I’m also the most self-indulgent. In fact, all of this abundance of goods might not be best for me.

Equating abundance with blessing is deceptive. Just because I can buy Aloe-infused bath tissues or honey-dipped crackers doesn’t mean I’m blessed by God. Standing in a world surrounded by choice isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be.

I am much more blessed when I have simplicity. When I clamor for mystery and relish the uncertainty, I take the first steps into the Promised Land. And there I find an abundance of blessing.

Still, I never want to take anything for granted.

Pass the apple pie.

 

19 comments

  1. Great reminder, David. “They had nothing, but they thanked him for everything,” That’s the biggest take away I’ve had from each mission trip I’ve been on . At church yesterday the pastor reminded us of the difference between “Thank God for______” and just “Thank God” Big perspective difference.

  2. joepote01 /

    “When I clamor for mystery and relish the uncertainty, I take the first steps into the Promised Land. And there I find an abundance of blessing.”

    Yes, God’s blessing takes many forms…and few are what we expect…

    • Joe, my pastor has been preaching about staying in the discomfort in our lives just a while longer. We are too quick to escape. And so it is with this…embrace the times of nothingness.

      • joepote01 /

        I agree. Not only do we miss part of the blessing by too quickly fleeing discomfort, but we also miss part of the healing process.

  3. The blessings noted in the Beatitudes are so counter-culture these days. As you said, David, abundance and blessing aren’t necessarily the same thing. Good call!

    • What do they call the Beatittudes that flip things on their head? And the other scriptures…first be last, if you want to lead, be a servant … also run counter to our culture

  4. Well said David. Understanding what we have and how much we tend to either forget or just refuse to say thanks is a very telling jab at our self-sufficiency. Thanks for the reminder.

    (Oh, I’m reading “Growth in Leadership” and was curious what your specific role in it was. It really is a helpful, practical book).

  5. Dear David
    The saying goes that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely! I think the same is true with earthly riches. The more you have the more you desire. Paul said it well when he told us that he found the secret to be content in abundance and in need; to know Jesus and to be found in Him!
    Blessings XX
    Mia

    • Good thinking here. So the more we have the most lust after the wrong things. The less we have, the more we crave for the right things.

  6. David, I have learned to be grateful for even the (seemingly) silliest things, those things we tend to forget, but I pray as you do, that “Still, I never want to take anything for granted.” Still learning! Great reminder for giving thanks, David! May you and your family have a very blessed Turkey Day!

  7. Oh, David – I loved this. This piece feels more . . . relaxed? than some. I like everything you write, but it’s fun to see you cogitate a little on something as seemingly mundane as buying apples. Great job. (And I loved the closing line, too. I mean, let’s be real, right?)

    • And I learned a new word! “Cogitate” I like it…It sounds much better than, “Gonna go drown my head in deep thoughts.” Diana, i’m always grateful for your encouragement. I really don’t like choices at grocery stores. It’s a little … much

  8. hisfirefly /

    David – yes!! We are slow to praise Him, even in our abundance
    While He delights in hearing our heart praise in the midst of lack
    Can we fund those places we are poor in spirit or have we become blind?

    Loved this piece, loved the chance to “smell your breath” this weekend too!

  9. “Equating abundance with blessing is deceptive.” True. I am bewildered in the toothbrush aisle.
    Thank you for this.

  10. Aw! A fellow pie-lover. Now every time I enjoy a piece I will think of you and the wealth of abundant choices, avoiding self-indulgence, and the source of true blessings. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.

  11. I totally relate to those apple and toothpaste aisles. Abundance also complicates things because the choices overwhelm. I’m all for simplicity.

  12. I became so aware of this when I visited Mongolia on a missions trip. They live in conditions that are worse than many homeless people in the States, yet they are all so content and happy. It really made me feel disgustingly materialistic.

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