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penny's worth of time

Guest post: The extravagance in a penny’s worth of time

Guest post today courtesy of Mo Morrison, Her blog appears biweekly at http://shakethetree.info/blog.

The widow of Jesus’ day occupies a very different place in society from the religious bureaucracy.  She represents the under-privileged, one of the least fortunate among God’s people.  Throughout the Bible she’s placed alongside the fatherless, the orphan, and the immigrant who owns no property.  Counted among the poorest of the people, we often see her weeping, grieving, desolate and in debt.  The widow’s tragedy is such that with no partner to defend her rights or provide for her needs, she’s vulnerable.

As recorded in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is sitting across from the treasury watching people as they pass-by, putting their money into the offering-box.  He observes the many who are rich putting in a lot of money, and He also sees a poor widow who tosses in a couple of coins.  Jesus gathers His disciples close and says to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others.  For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had – she gave all she had to live on.(Mark 12:43-44, GNT)

The widow offers up two small copper coins that scarcely make a penny, but what seems insignificant in the eyes of men, Jesus sees as extravagant.  Jesus is notably impressed by this widow’s offering.  Where many have deep pockets and give out of their excess, offering up what they’ll barely miss, she gives from empty pockets and out of her lack, gives her all.  And though counted among the least in her society, it’s evident that Jesus counts her among the highly esteemed in His Kingdom.

In this sacrificial offering of a poverty-stricken widow, Jesus points out to His disciples a true and living expression of the heart and spirit of God’s law.  Ultimately, His goal is to lead me to the place where He is free, to help Himself, to my whole life.

In this day and age, time is our most precious commodity. As we navigate the busyness of our daily lives, walking in the light of Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbour as yourself,Jesus wants to know He can bank on us to stop and help someone in need.

Jesus wants to count on me putting my schedule on hold should He bring someone in a vulnerable situation across my path.  He wants to depend on my putting another’s distress ahead of the time constraints of my own day.  If it’s going to slow me down and cost me valuable time, can Jesus trust me to preserve the dignity of another living soul?

To the glory of God where no one else sees, praises or can even repay, am I willing to lend a helping hand and boost the family in their stalled vehicle I noticed in the parking-lot, where I just stopped to pickup my dry-cleaning but they’ve come to a grinding halt on a scorching hot day?  Am I willing to lend an attentive ear to the elderly lady in the laundry room as she opens up to unburden her soul and pour out her sorrow, when my laundry is done and I’m ready to exit stage left?  Am I willing to take the young single mother grocery shopping on a Saturday afternoon to save her time maneuvering on the bus with her little ones, when I have a gazillion other things to get done on my day off?

Indeed, in this day and age time is our most precious commodity.  Yet, with the promise of all eternity, our stretch of time here is like the widow’s drop in the bucket.  We are free to spend ours helping others move forward.

May we be found true and living expressions of the heart and spirit of God’s law, fulfilling its original intent. For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Galatians 5:14, GNT)

Love— a poem

Here’s a viral headline: “Christians nice, talk about love”

This week, my daughter brought home a poem she had written as part of her third-grade class:

Love is pink.
It tastes like lemon pound cake.

It sounds like singing birds, and it smells like vanilla.
It feels like baby hair, it looks like a butterfly.
Love makes me feel like singing.

Inspired, my wife sat down and composed one too:

Love is periwinkle
It tastes like whipped cream.
Love sounds like the ocean waves softly crashing.
It smells like fresh banana bread.
Love feels like a long warm hug.
It looks like a sunrise.
Love makes me feel so peaceful.

In writing these beautiful poems, it turns out they have quite a bit in common with earlier authors who wrote things like this:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. We love because he first loved us. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Or this:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Or this:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

What does it mean to be a Christian? Will they know we are Christians because of… our political stands on certain issues? Because of… the people we are against, the laws we protest, the banks we boycott? Or will they know we are Christians by our love?

Some people think we are naïve in our view that love and prayer are our most powerful weapons: that they can save lives and transform society. If so, we share the naïveté of our savior. As Christians, we are on the wrong battlefield when we spend our time fighting to possess the kingdoms of this world. We need to be focused instead of the kingdom of heaven, and the only language they speak there is the language of love.

Relearning to love after we lost our baby

Compassion for “them”: relearning to love the people we were before we lost our baby

When you read about a horrible disaster— a doomed airliner, a tsunami, anything that suddenly shatters peace and calm and well-being— when you read an article like that, sometimes there are “before” photos. The people in harm’s way are normal people, just doing what normal people do: having fun, laughing, taking selfies… They’re enjoying themselves, and sometimes the photos survive and get published after the fact. You look at the people in those photos, and you can see it in their eyes: there’s an innocence, a naïveté, an uncomplicated trust. They have no idea what’s about to happen to them.

We have photos like that all over our house. They aren’t disaster photos. They are photos of our wedding. Of our family trips when our two oldest kids were small. Of us at the coffee shop, that time we snuck in a date night and my wife surprised me with a little white stick whose digital read-out bore the single word “Pregnant”. That was a good night. We were happy. We took photos.

From that day on, we rechristened our family as “Party of Five”. We bought bunk beds and a mini-van, and a gigantic double-stroller that we called “The Land Behemoth”. After the ultrasound, we started buying boy clothes. One said, “Little Rookie”. Another, we bought in Napa; it said, “Vintage 2007”. And then there was the picture my wife didn’t want to take. I scheduled our church directory sitting about a week before our due date; she wanted to do it after he was born, but the dates wouldn’t work, so we did it beforehand anyway. We didn’t know that was the last photo there would ever be with our entire party of five. We didn’t know there was already a kink in his umbilical cord. We didn’t know we were about to lose a baby.

When something bad happens to your children, part of you has a biological need to blame yourself.

When you look at the people in those pre-disaster photos, sometimes you want to reach through that lens and warn them. How much more so when those people are you? When something bad happens to your children, part of you has a biological need to blame yourself, and for a while, we were so angry at “those people” in our photos. They were so stupid and ignorant. They should have done more. They should have known.

Our baby boy (Boaz, we named him) would have turned 8 this year, and in that time, learning to have grace for “those people” has been an important part of our healing. Many of the lessons we learned from scripture have helped with that journey:

  • Matthew 24:38 says, “…and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came.” In the same way, we had to realize, there was no way we could have known. We did the same things that everyone else does; it was not our fault that it worked out well for them and badly for us.
  • Ecclesiastes repeatedly talks about things that are meaningless. We had fixated on finding the meaning: what was God trying to tell us (or being honest, why was he punishing us)? We finally had to let that go, realizing our need to “find the meaning” was a need to keep control. Instead, letting go and rejoining life was the legacy we wanted our baby to have. As Ecclesiastes finally concludes, “There is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.”
  • For me, the greatest lesson was from 1 Peter 4: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the painful trial that has come upon you to test you, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” The redemptiveness of Christ’s passion was never so clear to me as in the midst of our own grief. His suffering was not wasted, and through our own suffering, the scripture says, we gain a unique partnership in that redemption.

I do not believe that God causes suffering, and I do not agree with the many people who say, “God did this to teach you… whatever.” We live in a fallen world, and we have to live here, because we are fallen too. Bad things happen here. That is not God’s fault, because this isn’t the place he designed us for. But he is here at work in this place too, finding ways to bring redemption out of the heartbreak that inevitably accompanies our life under the sun. As I became fond of saying in the midst of our loss: “Out of soil the devil has sown for evil, God can make many good and green and living things to grow.”

This article originally appeared as a guest posting at Me Too Moments For Moms.