Forgetting the Fish and Loaves- An Open Letter to Myself ~ A guest post by Lesley Ryden

Dear Me, We have a few things to discuss.  I’m not sure if this letter finds you at 14, or 24, or 34… It matters not.  What I have to say to you is the same regardless.  I could start if off with some niceities about not worrying about that high school boyfriend (or college boyfriend either).  You get to marry the only one who has ever really had your heart.  And depending on where you are on that journey, let me tell you that sticking it out will be worth it around year 10.  It’s really hard up until then, no sugar-coating it.  But ya’ll will find your way to good.  I should tell you not to believe those old-wives tales… you can in fact get pregnant while nursing.  Yeah, that’s a biggie. Chill.  (he is beautiful)  Hey, don’t go dark with the hair.  I know you think it’ll be low maintenance and natural but I promise that magenta is not your color.  So many things to say, but they all end like this:

IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OKAY.

It is.  I know I sound like Mom right now, but trust me (you), she is right.  That thing you are in knots over today, I don’t even remember.  That mountain you are facing right now is merely dust on my boots.  See, it doesn’t matter if we are talking about an algebra test (your's or your kid’s), the number in a bank account, or the grown-up to-do list that is full-grown, it’s all going to be okay.

Remember the well-loved miracle from Matthew 14 where Jesus feeds the 5,000 (men) with a little boy’s sack lunch?  Remember the disciples’ concern and confusion when Jesus told them to have the crowd sit down for a picnic and bring Him the 5 loaves and 2 fish?  And then remember how the masses “all ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over?”   Amazing.  Supernatural provision.  The disciples could have never guessed how the problem of thousands of hungry people was going to be solved.  But Jesus came through.  And it was all okay.

So what you may not remember is this miracle’s lesser-known cousin just one chapter over in Matthew 15 where, according to the heading in our Bible, Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand.  Now, you would assume that as the crowds began to complain about the lack of concessions at this event the disciples would say something like, “Hey, no problem!  Remember how Jesus fed 5,000 just one chapter ago?!?!  We know how this is going to work out!  Relax everyone, it’s all going to be okay.”  But, no.

Here is what we actually read in Matthew 15:32-33: “Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

Are they kidding me (you)?  These are the same disciples that had just picked up 12 basketfuls of leftovers after a strikingly similar situation IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER!!! Obviously, we know their lives were not actually measured in chapters but, seriously, even if it was years later (which it was not), don’t you think they would remember?  Can’t you just picture Jesus throwing His hands up, rolling His eyes, mouth opened at their response?  How could they have forgotten the fish and loaves?

forgetting-the-fish-and-the-loaves But, this is our problem too.  No matter how many times Jesus has come through for us, we tend to forget the fish and loaves miracles in our own life.  There will be situations, problems, heartaches, trials that you will have absolutely no idea how in the world it will work out, and then it will.

I know the anxiety that haunts you in the middle of the night.  I’m the only one who can, after all.  I know that it feels like a semi-truck you can’t out run.  I know that sometimes you can see the driver {name the problem}, the worry, the fear- and sometimes it is faceless.  Faceless fears are no less powerful.  I know.  And this is why I so desperately wanted to write you this letter, why I so desperately want you to get it, why I so desperately want you to remember the fish and loaves. It really will all be okay.

It doesn’t always look like the unexpected check in the mailbox, or the miraculous, instantaneous healing.  It doesn’t always sound like an audible voice from heaven.  It isn’t always a picnic lunch with more leftovers than you can imagine.  It usually looks like a lot of hard work.  It looks like tearfully taking the same test over and over until you pass it.  It looks like waiting, and self-control, and selflessness, and holding our tongue.  It looks like serving someone else in their hard times and putting our’s on the back-burner.  It looks like obedience in the face of rebellious feelings.  It looks like endless nights standing in the middle of the road to prayerfully face the semi.  Sometimes it looks like magenta hair.

And it will all be okay.

So, past self, hear me.  You will graduate from high school and college.  You did the right thing to wait for, you know.  #worthit  Your marriage ends up pretty great, not perfect, but pretty great.  Your kids are stunning.  Somehow the money thing always works out.  Your home is a ton of work, and you’ll have to suck it up and stick with the ugly tile floors longer than you want to,  but good friends will gather here and no one cares.  Texas will feel like home eventually though Florida will always be your heart.  Mom and Dad will be okay with it one day.  Hug Nannie and Papa for me.  Throw the ball to Zip a few extra times.  It will all be okay.  Not easy.  Not always fun.  But Jesus will come through.  When you have Him, you have the miracle.  That’s the only ending you need to know right now.

And future self, hurl some fish and loaves at that familiar, faceless semi tonight.  Please remind me that no matter the problem, the fear, the situation, it will all be okay.  Supernatural provision is what Jesus does best. I love you.  I’m for you.  You can do it.  Well, He can do it for you.

It Will All Be OKLove, Me (You) (Whatever)

Lesley has been wife to the boy next door for 16+ years (although she have loved him for 27), and together they are raising their 2 boys and 2 girls by the grace of God. She is a Florida girl who is planting deep roots in West Texas. She is a part-time homeschooler, a wanna be homesteader, a lover of Jesus and His Word, and an encourager of women. Please check out her blog here and see her amazing heart! Thank you for such a sweet and encouraging word today sister! I had tears thinking back to how much this advice was needed for me during many, many moments in my past! ~B

It's All in the Numbers

After much delay, I bring you the finale to the Are You Feeding the 5000? series. This is part 3 and will be relatively shorter. We've been talking about when Jesus fed the 5000 (or more like 10-15,ooo!) people on the hillside with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. If you want to check out Part 1 and Part 2 first, please feel free. God is all about numbers- I imagine He is like the most amazing actuary in the universe. He loves Him some numbers! He's counting every single person who accepts Him, He's weeping over every single person who rejects Him, He's counting down the days until Jesus can return, He's multiplying blessings/money/giftings/words/food for people all over the world, He's exponentially increasing the work of His laborers, He's showing off with incalculable miraculous  happenings all over the place. You get it, He loves to mess with numbers. The Bible is scattered throughout with examples of God showing up with some crazy math- either by increasing numbers or decreasing numbers. He definitely does not follow the rules of mathematics! God is all about numbers because I think He loves demolishing them. I'd argue that He particularly loves to confound this particular human science.

This particular passage in Matthew is a perfect example of how numbers are only a 'suggestion' when it comes to God. To start, scripture tells us that this particular day that Jesus fed 5000 people. It is a well-known story, "Jesus feeding the 5000". But even here we learn that the passage is only giving part of the story. History shows that those 5000 people were only the men in attendance... not the women or children or servants. I'm not saying the scripture is wrong... I'm only saying it's actually not showing off what Jesus did that day enough. Most biblical historians agree that the crowd that was fed was most likely much more in the 10-15,000 person range. A 3-fold increase! Which is, of course, not counting the actual increase of the 5 loaves and 2 fish that occurred... 5000 people fed is something miraculously impressive. 15,000? Forget about it! God loves showing off! These numbers were not too big.

How about the little boy who offered the meal? Was he too young, not enough years under his belt to be of help? Nope. His years were not too small.

What about it being late in the day and no one had eaten anything at all for hours? Talk about some seriously HANGRY crowds! Had the hours grown too long? Was it too late to satisfy completely? Nope. This day was not too late.

But it would have taken forever to distribute all that food! Even starting with an adequate amount, can you imagine how long it would have taken to actually get the food to everyone? 15,000 people worth of distribution? Was night quickly approaching? Were the disciples racing the setting sun? Nope. The crowd logistics were not too large.

Never, ever, anywhere in the Bible do we ever see God being impaired by something being too big, too insurmountable, too small, too weak, too few. Never. In fact, His nature is to show up BIGTIME in those instances. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-11, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."

Numbers can be a huge weakness for us.

Numbers may seem important to us. In fact, I would argue we obsess about them. When God calls us forward, it is unfortunately more often than not, our natural inclination to start a numbers argument with Him. It's too expensive, I don't have enough time, I am not old enough, I am too old, I have too many kids to do that, I don't have the money to do it, I don't have enough followers to step out, I have too many other obligations, I have too many people counting on me, etc. etc. etc. Numbers, numbers, numbers! We use too many of them to argue and too few of them to argue!

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We get too easily bogged down in the human calculations of all this math. And in doing so, we miss God and shut down the work He's potentially getting ready to do. The God-math He's so good at.

What we forget too easily is that God is a numbers guy. And He is not impaired in any way with all these digits we throw out at Him. Not enough? He'll multiply. Too many? He will meet the need. It doesn't matter what the number is... He will change it.

Who Are Your 5000?

Part 2 of Are You Feeding the 5000?

It's crazy how God will put a certain (and sometimes well-known/read) passage right in front of you and it just sticks like glue to your brain for days. I've been amazed how the sermon from 2 Sunday's ago continues to roll around in my head.

Hopefully you read my first blog in this series which was about missing the tiny miracles while searching for the massive one. Today, I want to speak into your heart to help you find out who your ‘5000’ are. It'll be short and sweet because I feel that the lesson here is pretty straightforward.

It really all just comes down to who you are supposed to be ministering to.

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Throughout the gospels we see Jesus speaking and healing in all kinds of different settings and various circumstances. Sometimes His words were for the masses... those hillsides full of people milling about, hearts quickened and minds strickened by His words. Other times, we see Him having beautifully intimate conversations with his group of 12, or perhaps even sharing a meal with a small family.

Regardless of the size of the audience, He always had a word for them. He knew their hearts, what they needed to hear, the lessons they needed to learn. He was aware of them.

We all have an audience. Whether they be organic who are 'stuck' with us (like our children, our family, our spouse) or people who are more in our lives by choice (theirs or ours), we all have those precious souls who are watching us.

But WHO are they? Beyond our family, who is our audience? Who is God putting in our life. sitting at our feet, waiting to listen, begging to be taught? How do we know who we're supposed to be pouring into?

First off, according to the passage in Matthew 14, the crowds followed Him. They sought Him out, they got up, left their home or work, and went after Him. "...But when the crowds heard of it, they followed Him on foot from the towns" (Mt 14:13 ESV).  

Look around, who is following you right now? Who do you see popping up in your life regularly? Who is making an effort to be around you and hang out? Who is hanging out in the corners of the room listening intently to your words?

Secondly, who is naturally (read: God appointed!) on your mind nowadays? There is always someone that Christ wants us ministering to- it may be our child, a neighbor, a small group, our twitter feed, or a huge congregation. Regardless of size, we all have our audience assignments. "When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them..." (Mt. 14:14 ESV). In this passage (and in many stories that show Jesus with 'audiences') it tells us He saw them and had compassion on them.

Who has God put knee-deep into your heart to 'have compassion on'? Who do you find your thoughts straying towards clothed in mercy and grace? Who do you notice yourself thinking about helping or coming alongside? Who’s face is the Spirit harkening to your mind?

If you are a Christdesign (4)ian, there is no such thing as not having an audience. We may not be called to speak to them all the time... but I guarantee that people are watching. I encourage you today to be aware of who is watching, who is listening to you (even just passively) - but just as importantly, who you actually are supposed to be teaching. Jesus performed miracles for the people to witness- they saw His actions- but more importantly He spoke the Good News to their souls. Likewise, our actions are important, but never hesitate to speak to those gathered around to listen to you. The Gospel must be proclaimed, encouragement must be given, a kind word spoken, a gentle correction doled out… words are important! So speak them to those listening. We all have our own audience- seek the Lord, open your eyes, and start looking for who your 5000 is.

Are You Missing the Miracle?

I'm in the middle of a series writing over Matthew 14 where Jesus feeds the crowd of 5000 with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. I have a second and third discussion planned, but the last 2 days I've been reminded, sometimes hourly, of a really phenomenal idea that happened as that miraculous afternoon unfolded. Primarily that... indeed, the miracle unfolded. It wasn't instantaneous, it was not immediate. It took time and I imagine no small amount of trepidation on the part of the disciples. I touched briefly on this idea in my Monday blog, but I keep coming back to this idea of when miracles take time.

Through the majority of the New Testament, when Jesus performed His miracles, they almost all were instantaneous- a blind man saw, a deaf man heard, a bleeding woman was made well, the soldier's ear was replaced, Lazurus rose from the dead. In all these cases, the words were spoken and the deed was done. Wham, bam, done! Totally, 100% completed.

But this particular afternoon, despite the fact that Christ could have most certainly caused every single man, woman, and child to suddenly have a plate of food with their cups overflowing with drink... He didn't. Though we may never know exactly why He chose to do this particular miracle this particular way (at least not on this side of Heaven)- still I would love to venture an educated guess.

Imagine the crowds, easily 15,000 with women and children, it's afternoon, it's late and people are getting restless, they're hungry. Imagine the sun beating down, the general unease that is most likely setting in across the fields of people. Now imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus took the food, prayed over it, and then told them to go feed everyone. I'm guessing that there were not a few that did a double take and had some serious thoughts of fading inconspicuously into the crowd .

After all, Jesus had just promised to feed everyone... in front of everyone. The stakes were high and the word had been spoken... Can you envision how rapidly that information spread through the thousands? "They're going to feed us." "Jesus took a small basket of food and promised everyone food." Incredulity may have been the word of the day... both for the disciples and the people.

Perhaps those a bit more gifted in the faith department assumed that food would appear out of the sky... perhaps they were looking to the clouds for the God of the Old Testament to rain down quail and manna for the people.

But He didn't. And I wonder if anyone continued to look up for their deliverance instead of noticing the miracle unfolding right at eye level. It's a fascinating idea.

This miracle was doled out, miraculously and supernaturally- person. by. person.

Step. by. step.

Piece. by. piece.

You gotta think as the disciple were handing out the food from that small basket that each and every person they came to they wondered, "Do we still have enough? How many more people are there? How much food is left?" Those men witnessed the hand of God providing enough for every single person on the hillside that day. The miracle was actually made up of thousands upon thousands of tiny (but no less amazing) miracles.

What an amazing thing! Because so much of this journey is about the journey right? Not the destination. It's about seeing the hand of God in every single miracle (small or large) and knowing that He provides enough through it all. So often, myself included, we desperately want the 'miraculous'- the huge, game-changing event, the writing on the wall, the sign in the heavens addressed directly to us. We want to be healed, fixed, arrived... and we want God to move hugely and immediately.

But He doesn't.

How often do we spend all our time looking up into the sky waiting on the manna from heaven when the piece of bread and slice of fish is being hand-delivered to us?

The miracle we want is unfolding before our eyes, unfurling in our hands.

And the miracle goes unnoticed... because we're looking for the massive and missing the minute.

This day the disciples must have learned such a lesson in relying on God for every. single. miracle. their hands were performing. They had tens of thousands of people, eagerly awaiting their food, all eyes were on them- talk about stress. What happened if they ran out too soon? I imagine mass chaos and potentially even rioting could have occurred. After all, I can;t imagine a crowd of that many people being pleased if only 63% got fed.

They were out there, asked to do the impossible, totally exposed to the expectations of the crowd (anyone feel like you're in a similar position??) You better believe they were sweating bullets and praying mightily for provision- person by person. I think it's not too crazy to think that some of them were still praying for manna from heaven as they were handing out the food! All afternoon! How long must it have taken to hand out that much food to that many people! It's not like they were all neatly arranged in rows in a stadium...

The miracle must have lasted hours!!

It definitely would have been easier and certainly more convenient for the disciples for the 'massive miracle' . In fact, they probably wouldn't have had to even get up! But Christ needed them to learn this lesson of fully-relying on Him. That everything they were getting ready to do- the preaching, the teaching, the miracles, the church-planting, the persecution- everything was dependent on the power of God.

Is He preparing you for the same thing using the same lesson? 

Today dear one, I challenge you to search you heart and ask yourself what situations in your life you are looking for the massive miracle and missing the minute miracle. It's a miracle both ways- one just takes a bit longer to complete.

Do not miss what may be already in your hands!