Archive | gather up the fragments

on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

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how to truly end waste

spanish moss

This post is part of a series. Part One, Part Two.

I am hesitant to sign up to host an angel, because I’m not always a perfect hostess. What if I’m in a bad mood and fail to make conversation or I burn the casserole and forget to buy butter? And yet, when scripture says some of us will “entertain angels unawares” we are being warned not to neglect showing hospitality to strangers. Do we not think that human strangers also report to God? That He is not watching them just as closely as He watches His angels? We are to be hospitable to everyone (never knowing if they are an angel or “merely” a child of God.)

I think we tend to keep our planet and it’s animals, eco-system and human life very separate from the spiritual realm. Stories of miracles and angels interacting with mortality are like quick visions of meteors streaming across our view of the milky way. If you believe in them at all, you think they happen once in a blue moon and never guess that you yourself might be looking up when such a thing occurs.

That is probably why it has taken me so long to write this series. I had a lot of thoughts on waste, but they all seemed disconnected. There was the truth that kept sinking deeper into my mind that God wastes nothing in our lives, not even pain or loss. And then there was the ordinary type of waste. Actual trash we put in our dumpsters and time we spend worrying about our crooked mouth and un-plucked (or as I like to call them, “free range”) eyebrows.

I do believe in meteors and I believe that sometimes they crash into planets or other things in space before they burn out, like a miraculous meeting of two kindred spirits (only a little more explosive.) That’s the way this series was born. Suddenly I realized that my thoughts were connected. All waste is the same. Everything comes from God. God wastes nothing. We waste everything.

Material waste is a huge, huge issue in our world. Not only is it greatly hurting the planet itself, it is hurting people directly. I recently read that 1.3 billion tons of food produced world wide is wasted or lost each year. (That’s 1/3 of the annual production.) While some of this food is lost or wasted in production, most of it is wasted by consumers, particularly in the United States. In 2010, an estimated 33 million tons of food waste went into U.S. landfills and incinerators.

How is this hurting people? A billion people are malnourished today.

While I was whining about what was on my plate and wishing I could throw my stir-fry to the dog, my baby brother was being born in Port-Au-Prince and growing a huge, bloated belly. Waste hurts people because they need what we are throwing away.

Do you know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? Do you know why God had to burn the whole county down with fire from heaven?

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49, emphasis mine.)

And that’s when I realized how to truly end waste. Waste has a natural enemy, and it’s not recycling. The natural enemy of waste is gratitude.

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You never, ever throw away something you are truly grateful for. I was not grateful for the ice left in my cup after drinking a glass of water, but the children at the orphanage would clobber for the sink to grab it from the drain, grateful (if not also a little greedy.) We throw away food and clothing and time and relationships because we simply don’t appreciate them. We do not bow our faces to the floor and thank God for the things we scrape off of our plates.

When you cultivate a heart of gratitude, you cease to waste. And when you see the gift and the beauty and grace in everything that comes your way, you never think of throwing it out. You keep it, you use it, you share it, but you don’t waste it.

If the people of Sodom had taken their excess of food and used it to aid the poor and needy, we would’ve know they were not proud. They would’ve been a grateful, humble people, probably honored in scripture rather than held up as an example of despicableness. That’s the irony of the holiday season. We want more, grab more, covet more and waste more during this season than any other. Why can’t we see that we have more to be grateful for than we have to complain about? Why don’t we see that we are filthy, filthy, filthy rich?

In her wonderful book, Discipline: The Glad SurrenderElisabeth Elliot writes:

“The goodness and love of God choose the gifts, and we say thank you, acknowledging the Thought Behind as well as the thing itself. Covetousness involves suspicion about the goodness and love of God, and even His justice. He has not given me what He gave somebody else. He doesn’t notice my need. He doesn’t love me as much as He loves him. He isn’t fair.

Faith looks up with open hands. “You are giving me this, Lord? Thank you. It is good and acceptable and perfect.” Pg. 108

So back up a bit, look at the big picture. The sky is full of meteors and you’ve been given eyes to see.

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gather up the fragments

all that is ever ours

This post is the second in a series. Read part one here.

Some of you know better than others that the past couple of years have had some really painful chapters for me. My little sister moved out under less than ideal circumstances, I wrote a book and faced rejection, I lost some dear friends to various enemies and even called off a relationship I planned on keeping forever. The golden light has spilled out of all these holes and I have seen God glorified, my heart has grown wiser and the lose ends are tying new knots, stronger than old ones. And yet, I still cry myself to sleep sometimes, just missing someone (or wondering what I’m missing.) I still have letters I’ll never be able to read again sitting in a box under my bed. I still skip certain songs.

Something that I’ve learned over and over again for the past few, bumpy years is that God wastes absolutely nothing. He wastes nothing and especially not our pain. Pain is perhaps what, in the end, bears the greatest fruit.

I couldn’t agree more with C.S. Lewis who said,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 

Isn’t that just the undeniable truth? When do we cry out to the Lord? When we see a beautiful sunset? At most that makes us say a short prayer of praise. When do we cry out to God? When we realize that we can’t live with the pain that only He can relieve.

Sometimes I think that I’ve wasted a lot of my life worrying about petty things, but I find comfort in the fact that I’m not sovereign and that the God who is wastes nothing. I can learn from those years and grow out of them and I can see reasons for everything that has happened to me. I don’t have the option of becoming a victim because I’ve been a willing character in an epic story.
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The term, “gather up the fragments” comes from a story of Jesus’ ministry that has recently mesmerized me. Matthew 14 tells us about Jesus speaking to well over 5,000 people when they become hungry. The disciples urge Him to send them away to find their own food, but He said, “They need not depart.” Bewildered by this, the disciples reminded Jesus that they only had five loaves and two fishes, but He seemed to think that this was enough. Then, as the King James Version reads, “…he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”
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gather up the fragments
But the miracle is in this line: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”
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God multiplies what we offer to Him and uses it to fill us. I love how John notes:  “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”
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Just as God wastes nothing and allows nothing to return void, Jesus refuses to waste  the food that He’s just produced by miracle. At first, it seems kind of odd. After all, if that bread and fish was left on the grass and went bad, couldn’t He just make some more when they needed it? Why doesn’t He just “bless and brake” again?

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Because, for some reason (probably propelled by the same incomprehensible love that sent Him to this earth in the first place,) every creature and part of creation matters to Him. There are lots of babies, but every one is a miracle (as Marilla Cuthbert says) and there are lots of moms and lots of singles and lots of retirees but you are unique to God. You will never be created again. Your children may be like you but they can’t be you. You were handcrafted, one-of-a-kind. I can’t help but think that it would please God if we adopted a similar code for creation. Creation is under our feet, for our use and pleasure, but it is also His creation. My mother just joyfully shared this G.K. Chesterton quote with us at the dinner table:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

You may look just like your Aunt Monique, but you couldn’t be more unique and when God created you, He thought, “Aha! I have made something completely knew and I love it.” 1 Corinthians 3:22-23 says: “…whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Because when everything belongs to your father, it comes to you in the form of an inheritance. In a way, all is ours, but in a greater way, all is God’s and so when He says that we must “gather up the fragments that nothing be lost” and when He reminds us that He used knitting needles, not factory machines and conveyer belts to create us, we have a new perspective on creation. It is ours, but it’s also His and we must care for it as if every blade of grass, every cricket, every sunset is unique. To God, it’s personal.

If Jesus ate leftovers and God wastes nothing, if everything is handcrafted and unique to The Creator, perhaps recycling isn’t just for hippies and reducing waste isn’t just for Earth Day. Perhaps that is another reflection of The Gospel and our commitment to our father, just like adoption and fidelity and evangelism and generosity.

As Christians, we never actually lose anything. Like the loaves and the fishes, the small things we offer up are always multiplied by our miracle-working God. Just like the eco-friendly folks say, there is no “away” that we can throw things too. The same goes for this whole universe. When we give something to God, it is truly safe. Amy Carmichael said,

“All that is ever ours is ours forever.”

When Jesus was anointed at Bethany, His disciples had a pretty good point. After all, the expensive perfume in the woman’s alabaster case could never be sopped up again and that money could have gone to the poor. But was it wasted? Jesus replied:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

For someone who felt strongly about caring for the poor, Jesus gave this “extravagant” woman high praise, much like he did for His friend Martha who was “wasting” her sister’s precious time.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us and all of the pressures and stressors of ordinary life, I hope to be like Martha who chose “the one thing that will not be taken from her.”

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table talk and a new series

fall colors

The meal was a simple one of eggs, bacon and fried potatoes but the preparation had been almost strenuous. My dad had fried the bacon on a skillet on our grill, my mother had fried the chunks of red potatoes one little batch at a time at the stove and I had scrambled eighteen eggs (which barely landed a pile on each plate.) The meal had been gobbled, glasses of milk and pomegranate juice guzzled and coffee sipped. My mom leaned her face on her palm.

“Does anyone have any ideas for Thanksgiving this year? I know we’re all thinking about Christmas already, but we need to remember to be thankful first.”

We glanced at each other over sticky forks. Jubilee started off on a rabbit trail about what she wants to get everyone for Christmas. “You did say something about Christmas, didn’t you?”

Eventually we circled back around and began to open up. Jubilee ran and grabbed a few leaves off of our thanksgiving tree and we read the verses aloud. My dad begins to speak and soon we were all sharing things we are thankful for: warm clothes, warm water. A homeschool football team. Unusual fall colors (thanks to our Autumnal rainfall!) The benefits of living in a large college town. It’s amazing how a good conversation is sometimes just a question, or a paper leaf, away.

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Soon the talk turned to those “less fortunate” and how we might help them by sharing what we’ve been given. Earlier my dad had to told us about the little girl he’d seen in the ER the night before. She suffered a head injury and may never wake from her coma. He tells us her mother is beside herself. We talk about aging out of foster care, about homelessness and abuse. We mention human trafficking, abortion, hunger and jiggers. We talk about slave children on cocoa farms and how every single purchase really does make a difference to somebody.

I begin to share about the lady I’d met just that morning who doesn’t have a sink in her bathroom, and how she told me she was going to spend Thanksgiving at a place where they serve meals to the needy and I how I thought she was going there for a meal, but she is going there to serve. My voice snags at the thought and I stop talking and just wipe away the tears. We are so blessed.

The children ask questions and we travel from Haiti to Latvia to Bryan, Texas in our conversation and we are trying to hammer it into them that, around the corner, down the road, Jesus’ feet need to be walking and His hands need to be healing and that’s us. I tell them about Ann’s talk at Allume and the part where she told us that we’re all Queen Esther-s inside of the palace walls. We’re the only people that can help those begging at the gate.

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The dishes cease to clank and our stomaches are heavy with (too much) good food. We collect the plates but there are no “fragments to gather” because we’ve licked the platter clean. We cheerfully help each other rinse the grease off under purified water and load the glasses into the shiny dishwasher and pour Mommy’s homemade detergent into the door.

I make my way upstairs in a hurry and open my lap top. There’s this series I’ve been dying to write here but I’ve just been floating down the river of thought gathering things from this bank and that but now I’m tipping over the waterfall and I have to write.

(Would you join me in a short and likely scattered blog series on the idea of “gathering up the fragments”? Thoughts on gratitude and giving? Reflections on Emmanuel and why He came to us?)

Last night as I breathed under my covers, I looked out the big window I’ve stubbornly kept uncovered and marvel at the audacity of the Christmas story. I wonder how many folks going to Christmas parties this year with their cross necklaces and cheery nativity sets and chocolate Advent calendars actually believe the story. Have you thought about it lately?

I mean, God the creator, ruler of the universe, all-knowing and all-powerful, chose to be conceived in the womb of a poor virgin girl, born among livestock and manure in a stable room, raised by a carpenter, rejected, betrayed, tortured and finally butchered naked on a cross at the age of thirty-three.

He who knew no sin knew our sin intimately at that moment. Every evil act, every creepy motive, every cruel word. Every moment of hatred and bloodshed. Every desecration and rebellion. He bore that sin and became it and then gave up His spirit. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and then returned to His dead body after three days to clarify things for us one more time before ascending into Heaven and promising to return for us.

This is not Frosty the Snowman singing, “I’ll be back again someday.” This is The King of Kings promising to return for us. We who refused Him room at the inn. We who started an infanticide in hopes of ending His life. We who called Him crazy. We who betrayed and denied Him. We who pulled out His beard and spit in His face. We who doubted, and doubt still…

The moon has gone behind a cloud and I can hear raindrops plinking on my balcony furniture. I roll over. There’s nothing to see out in the dark and my mind is back at that stable. I’m somewhere between the piglets and the llama, kneeling in the grimy hay. I’m staring at a seemingly ordinary baby and my jaw is dropping in utter confusion. “Why, Jesus? Why would you come for us?”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

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