Posts Tagged ‘leftovers’

LeftOvers #3

Posted: December 29, 2007 in Of Spiritual Things
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 (This is the second of a many part Blog and part of the message I am giving Dec. 30th at Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, MN and thoughts for a book I would love to write. If you want to check this blog often, click on the RSS feed link on the very bottom of this page, then this site will be put in your “feeds” drop down in your explorer bar or favorites. Hope you can figure it out.)

      This past November I was studying through the book of John and teaching at the H2O Café about Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand just outside of Bethsaida. John chapter six is a fascinating chapter in its entirety, but something jumped out at me that I wanted to make sure I came back to some day. Well this is that “some day.”  John 6 :1-14 tells a story of Jesus on a small hill where he sat down to teach his twelve guys, but like so often happened a large crowd of people found him and swarmed up the hill towards him. Jesus asked the guys how they could go about feeding the crowd to which they came up with five small barley loaves and two small fish.  Jesus took that small peasant’s lunch and divided it so many times that it ended up feeding, to satisfaction, the entire mob, which some say may have numbered over 20,000. This part of the story in itself is quite amazing but Jesus tacks on just a little bit more, I believe to make a point that is seen throughout the scriptures.  John 6:12,13 goes something like this out of the NASB, “When they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.” 

     Yes there it is, Leftovers.  I started asking myself, “Is this a reoccurring theme in the Bible?” A theme that shows God providing leftovers, more than enough, more than they could eat in one sitting?  It’s worth a look.

    I am going to call it the Theology of Leftovers. 

     There are in fact over five hundred verses that speak about God’s providence, his care for us.  There are many verses that tell of his over abundant protection of his people, his superabundance.  He provides leftovers in Nourishment, Belongings, Finances, and in Spiritual matters.  Just a couple chapters earlier Jesus turned water into wine, not just good wine but great wine in fact better wine than the best wine. Look at John 2:1-11.  

Joel 2:24 “The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.”  

 Job 42:10 “Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”  

Psalm 23:4,5 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.”  An overflowing cup is a sure sign of leftovers.

Deuteronomy 28:12 “The Lord will open for you his good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.”   It is only in lending, not borrowing, that there are leftovers.

     Check out Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 8 Where the feeding of the five thousand is presented by Mark along with another great miraculous feeding of four thousand.  Mark tells us the disciples to picked up twelve baskets from the first and seven baskets from the latter.  Interestingly the first miracle was with a crowd of Jews and the second a crowd of Gentiles. (Read both accounts and notice how the disciples respond to the different crowds.)  The truth that was immediately evident was that God wanted to bless both gentiles and Jews. It is also true that God pours out his blessings on people even though they have no faith in him. The crowds didn’t even know that the miracles happened until after the fact. The miracle was not dependant on their faith. And if those miracles weren’t enough eye popping sha-zing for one day,  Jesus tops it off with leftovers for his boys.   Here’s were Mark 8:14-21 grabs my attention. (Please read it, before you go on.) Jesus and the twelve jump on a boat and headed for the other side of the lake, a journey that, depending on the weather conditions, may take all day without a strong wind to push them to the other side. They may have had to row.  Can you see it? Twelve guys and their rabbi on a hot day in a boat on the sea of Galilee with only one loaf of bread. If they all had oars and were really putting their backs into it they could row about 3 mph.  I gaurentee they were starving!  So when their Rabbi started down a path to teach them about who to be aware of; all they could think about was the lack of food, to which even Jesus was amazed that they missed a major point when he fed the crowds.   Jesus asks, “Do you not see or understand?” 

 “How many baskets did you have left over from the five thousand? How many baskets did you have left over from the four thousand?” 

 “Twelve.”

“Seven.”

 They remembered. The twelve baskets were probably something like picnic baskets, whereas the seven baskets were probably more like a large sack of some sort.  The word used by Mark is the same word used to refer to the basket that lowered Paul over the wall in Acts 9:25. It may be a form of a sleeping bag or something like that. Jesus said,  “Don’t you understand?”  Jesus was stating in brilliant colors that he is the Master of abundance, the Master of Leftovers.  It seems that it would have been obvious to the disciples that Jesus could provide more food that they could even imagine and right there in the boat.  How many times does Jesus fill the nets of the fishermen, his guys, to the point of breaking, even to the point of swamping the boats.  

 Jesus lovingly asks them if they’re blind.  “Don’t you have eyes?” It just so happens that next in Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus heals a blind man. Hmmm. Mark 8:22-25.  It isn’t just an ordinary healing either, like he usually does. This healing had two parts to it. First Jesus put mud on his eyes and he could see partially, then he touched his eyes again and the man could see fully. It seems fitting to surmise that Jesus did this for the disciple’s benefit. Just as 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly,  but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.”   The literal meaning of “dimly” is to see things in a riddle, where we have to figure it all out and it really doesn’t make since all the time.  But there is a day coming that it will. The riddle the disciples were learning was simply that God will provide more than enough, in fact he will supply more than we can imagine. Ephesians 3:20, “to him who is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or dream…” 

     I would like to say that God always provides enough, i.e he doesn’t allow us to starve, or to go without. And I would like to say that he doesn’t provide an over abundance of blessings, to the point that we are throwing stuff away because we just have too much . But both of those statements wouldn’t be true. Or would they? 

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LeftOvers #2

Posted: December 27, 2007 in Of Spiritual Things
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(This is the second of a many part Blog and part of the message I am giving Dec. 30th at Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, MN and thoughts for a book I would love to write. If you want to check this blog often, click on the RSS feed link on the very bottom of this page, then this site will be put in your “feeds” drop down in your explorer bar or favorites. Hope you can figure it out.)

      Leftovers, where ever you find them in your life, make a huge statement about the life that you live.  If, like our family Christmas celebration, there are an abundant of leftovers in every dish it is a definite sign that we have more than enough in other areas of our lives too. Leftovers make a statement, “We are not living in abject poverty, we have enough to feed ourselves and leftovers for later.”  The remains of every meal at my home is quickly put into a container and tossed into the marvelous cooling invention of the early 1900s, the Fridge, not be mistaken for The Fridge.  We often have a leftover shmorgasbord for dinner replacing the exquisite meals Kristine usually makes.

      If you have just sat down to a Christmas meal with your neighbors and the vittles on the table are spread out in front of you and your mouth is watering like a puppy of Pavlov’s and you look around and notice that there might not be enough, you may think to yourself that you should take smaller portions to start with and maybe seconds if there is some leftover. If the plates are scraped clean and the turkey bones are cleaned off and everyone is looking for more, this may indicate that you really don’t have enough in other areas of life also. Maybe you are living in poverty. Where there are no leftovers there are needs. 

     Often in America the opposite can be regrettably true. There can be lots of leftovers, in fact there can be more leftovers than can be used. If any amount of food is thrown away after a meal you have way too much. I have a friend who refuses to eat leftovers, he hates them. He also complains about not having enough money at times.  Honestly he has too much money and no matter how much he complains about not having enough, as long as he is throwing leftovers out he will always have to much money. It would be amazing to find out how much food the affluent throw away that could feed the poverty stricken. Dueteronomy 24:19 is all about leaving the leftovers behind for the poor.

     Leftover Cuisine

     My favorite leftover meal is lasagna, in fact Kristine will make more on purpose because it is so good on the second day. Mashed potatoes also score high on the list, not as leftover mashed potatoes but fried potato patties, hmmm.  Some times I just put a bunch of random stuff on a plate and toss it into the microwave for a quick, “Can you Guess What This Is?” dinner. Having a fridge is truly a blessing when it comes to preserving leftovers, although the fridge can be a curse too. I remember my dad would get pretty peeved whenever he would find a container of food in the depths of the fridge that was taking on a life form of its own. He didn’t have much in his fridge growing up so that kind of waste just wasn’t acceptable. Some leftover food needs to be heated up in the oven to keep it a touch crispy. Microwaved pizza gets soggy.

      Isn’t it interesting that God gave the Israelites Manna to eat, but told them not to have any leftovers. They were to get just the right amount, if they saved it over night until morning it was full of maggots. I’ll bet it only took one time to figure that out. Exodus 16 tells that story.  It seems God could have been trying to teach them to be content with what they have and to trust God to bring more the next day.  There was always enough and never too much. A time with no leftovers. They were only thinking about their stomachs at the time God provided the manna, but there is so much more to leftovers than food. There is also belonging, finances and spiritual, all of which the Israelites had just the right amount of throughout the forty years they roamed in the sands of the middle east.

Can it be that the right amount of leftovers in each of these four areas are always provided…no need and no waste?  That exploration will be next.

LeftOvers #1

Posted: December 27, 2007 in Of Spiritual Things
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(This is the first of a many part Blog and part of the message I am giving Dec. 30th at Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, MN and thoughts for a book I would love to write. If you want to check this blog often, click on the RSS feed link on the very bottom of this page, then this site will be put in your “feeds” drop down in your explorer bar or favorites. Hope you can figure it out.)

     Our ’98 Chevy Venture was bloated like a popcorn bag in a microwave with gifts, snow pants, coats, hats, mittens, boats, several changes of clothes, traveling food, Christmas food, snacks and goodies, toys, blankets, pillows, boxes of wrapped gifts and some how we managed to squeeze in our four boys and Kristine and I, as we headed out for Grampa’s house, several hours away through dangerous blizzard-like conditions and past multiple stranded motorists deep in I-90’s ditches.  The white nuckle drive ended after a few hundred, “Are we there Yets?” and a bag of corn chips.

   We were in Worthington, MN, Kristine’s home town, for Christmas with Kristine’s entire family; Grampa and Gramma, two brothers, a sister, their spouses and twelve nieces and nephews and one extended wife – that would be Jenna the wife of the oldest nephew, Ryan. With all of those kids, sixteen in total, we borrowed a church’s gym for our Christmas day celebration.  Lots of room to run and all without breaking anything in Grampa’s house. Lots of games. Lots of presents. Lots of food. Lots of Love. 

Lots of Leftovers.

     When it comes to American Christmas celebrations leftovers are expected, if not encouraged. After the Patriarchal Prayer the ladies set out the smorgasbord of celebratory victuals that attracted hungry revelers like bees to an open can of pop on a warm summer day. Some how by the end of the line my plate was over flowing with all the scrumptious Christmas fodder it could support. The aroma in my nostrils matched the taste on my tongue which caused me to eat way to the point of explosion. But, as with all Christmas traditions, I didn’t stop eating when I was full.  There were many leftovers. Leftovers that were screaming, “Eat me!” So I obliged. I didn’t want to make one of the sister-in-laws feel bad, so I made sure I ate a lot of everything.  Throughout the day the leftovers remained available and my stomach continued to swell.

     Food isn’t the only leftover at Christmas time.  Last year we bought lots of toys for our kids for Christmas, only to discover that they only played with one, and the others got destroyed or sold at the next summer’s garage sales. This year there’s no leftover toys, we only bought them one thing, which has turned out to be a great decision.  A recent article suspected that a billion dollars worth of gifts will be unwanted at Christmas and will be returned, sold on Ebay, or put under the bed to collect dust until it’s thrown away.

     Sadly most of those gifts are stacked on top of the already massive credit card crisis, or possibly it’s an epidemic. This year we were determined not to go into debt buying presents. We wanted some money to be leftover. To make this possible a budget and cash in hand was the best way.  I know we are being forced into using debit and CC cards now, but I cherish the days of receiving change from a purchase. Leftover money is always a good thing, and if a bit of discipline is coupled with it the piggy bank could pay for next year’s Christmas presents.

    I couldn’t talk about Christmas Leftovers without mentioning the greatest Leftover of Christmas. Love. I cherish the days leading up to the 25th when cheer is in the air. It seems that people give a bit more of themselves and are slightly more grace filled. It sounds so cliche-ish, but it’s true, we all treat each other a bit better throughout December. Then January rolls around and the Grinch comes back to town. I love the Christmas season because there are lights on trees and decorations all over the town. There’s lots of love to go around, like a glimpse of what it could be if only we could capture the leftover love and spread it around throughout the rest of the year. The truth is, there is plenty of leftover love, the problem is its just not used.

It’s not about having leftovers, it’s about using leftovers.

     Leftovers.  There is a lot of meaning in leftovers…something I will be exploring in the next few entries. I believe that God is the God of Leftovers.

Studying through the book of John with my students on Sunday mornings has been an amazing adventure. John was so good at his descriptions of feeling and emotions in his writings. This past week we took an intimate look at John 6:1-14. I am sure that over the thirty years of my Salvation Journey I have read this story of Jesus feeding the 5,000+ a hundred times, but this time it became amazing.

There is something to take out of every single verse. I don’t have the time to go into every verse but one of the main themes that I have point out is this, “On the edge of the miraculous is the ordinary and the impossible.”

Bread and FishThere on a hill Jesus sat down to teach his twelve, little did they know that they were about to be in the midst of an amazing display of power. Jesus looked up and had compassion on the huge crowd flowing up the hill towards him. Even though this same crowd would some day cry out “Crucify Him,” Jesus loved them; loved them enough to ask Philip where they could find some food to feed all of them. This is interesting because Philip just happened to be from the nearby town of Bethsaida, which most likely only had a few thousand people in the entire town, which would mean these people had been out walking all day, from somewhere else, trying to find Jesus.

Jesus sensed they we hungry and tired. Philip and Andrew, and I am sure the rest of the twelve, analyzed the situation and came up with the obvious sequitur – there isn’t enough money or food that could give each person even a scrap of Passover Cuisine.

“…Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” How far indeed.

Of course Jesus took the impossible and turned it into a miracle, feeding every person to tummy rubbing goodness. That was amazing enough. He could have stopped there and we would have been awed as we staggered back. But Jesus, no he had to one up himself. He commanded his twelve to gather up the leftovers, a basker for each of them.

Jesus, not only is he the master of creating miracles out of the impossible but he is the master of creating leftovers. All throughout the scriptures God produces more than enough. I call it the “Theology of the Leftovers” Ps. 23:5, Ps. 34:9, Job 42:10, Joel 2:24, Mal. 3:10, Eph. 3:20, and the list goes on. He grants “immeasurably more,” “twice as much,” “one hundred fold,” “heavenly floodgates.”

And…what does his miracle percolate through? Our poverty. In John 6:1-14, Jesus took “five barley loaves and two small fish,” and produced an abundance. Barley was the bread of the poor and most likely, because it was the Passover, the barley loaves were flat bread, i.e. without yeast-not fluffy. The fish were probably small sardine sized fish. The offering of food was from poverty and turned to greatness.

Two final thoughts…I must give God all I have–out of my poverty–and expect him to make it great, because…on the edge of the miraculous is the ordinary and the impossible.