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!

design

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.

What are Your Loaves and Fishes?

Part 1 of Are You Feeding the 5000? This is the first of a 3 part series written over Matthew 14: 13-21. Stay tuned for the second and third blogs the following 2 Mondays!

 

What are your loaves and fishes?

It's an interesting question- one that I was struck by this morning at church. The sermon was not specifically about this, nor did it ask this question, but I felt like this was the first of 3 that God impressed on my heart. So you, my dear readers, get to help me answer this on my own and perhaps work out your personal answers as well.

Strap up, and let's dig in...

In Matthew 14 we read the well-known story of Jesus feeding 5000 men (not including women and children, so in actuality the crowd was closer to 15,000-20,000!) with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Most people are familiar with the story, the miraculous multiplication of the food in order to feed everyone (if you don't know it or want a refresher, read it here.)

I think often, with miracles like this in the Bible, as voyeurs reading these passages some 2000ish years later we tend to generally mute the awesomeness of such a happening. Since this miracle doesn't include supernatural healing or raising people from the dead, we too quickly put it in a different category. Maybe it's not as dramatic, immediate, or sudden as many of the others- so it's not looked at as such. I mean, seriously, it's simply about a large amount of smelly fish, some old bread, and a ton of tired and hungry people. Not exactly the most glamorous setting. Yet this was no less fantastic than any of the others... and in some ways, I feel like it has much more impact as an example to us today as the other's we subconsciously see as "more miraculous." It's the only miracle of Jesus that is mentioned in all 4 gospels, so it must have had quite the impact on the writer's (aside from the resurrection).

The immediate question that begs to be answered is why didn't Jesus just simply and suddenly cause food to appear out of nothing? I envision Him saying "Let there be FOOD!" in a booming voice and immediately plates of piping hot food appear in everyone laps. But that's not how it happened.

This particular miracle was not immediate, or sudden, or instantaneous... it evolved over time.

And Jesus, for unknown reasons, required a couple of things in order for it to unfold. He required some food to start with and laborers to distribute it. As mentioned, He absolutely could have spoke food into being without a "starter" (much like He did with the Israelites in the desert), but in this case, He wanted to show something more profound. He wanted to show what He could (can!) do with very little... with not enough... with meager... with insufficient.

He took from a young man, a freely given offering; one which was ridiculously small and insufficient in comparison to the need and the purpose of what they were trying to do. And yet after praying for it, as we all know those 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish fed upwards of 20,000 people.... to full.... with baskets of extra left over.

Jesus took the meager and made it massive, magnificent, major... choose your favorite "M" word.

He made it miraculous.

He does the same today. Potential for making the meager into the miraculous lies in every one of us. God desires to feed the 5000 that are looking us in the eyes and needing to be fed (stay tuned for more on that in the second part!) But too often we see the crowd, we know the need, we feel His calling to feed them... and we look down into our basket of food and get caught up in the loaves and fishes we have to offer. Or the lack thereof...

One-hundred percent of the time what we can bring to the table of miracles is very little.. is not enough... is meager... is insufficient. We don't have the time, enough money, the energy, the 'heart', the experience, the education, the contacts, the popularity, the intelligence... the list goes on and on. And we get hopelessly entrenched in the pitiful appearance of our little basket of bread and fish.

His basket of opportunity turns into our basket of excuses.

I would ask the main question again to you dear one- look down into your basket, what are your loaves and fishes? What are your excuses? Why are you not giving those to God to let Him multiply, magnify, and make into miracles?

What would have happened if that kid assumed his meager offering of food wasn't enough? A lot of people potentially would have gone hungry and he for sure would have missed out on being a part of the most chronicled miracle of the Bible. What a missed opportunity!! It was such a small sacrifice to give... which is the irony of it- God asks so very little of us to make into miracles.

The very reason we don't want to give is the very reason it should be so easy to give. The smallness of the offering.

Would you prefer He required a larger one? You can't have it both ways.

I pray that my basket of excuses doesn't cause me to miss out on the miracles God is wanting to do with my involvement! I want to look at what little I have and offer it all... regardless of how meager it may seem. I want to see the God-possibility in it instead of the insufficiency. We will never be enough, good enough, or have enough to give to Him- after all God doesn't need us- but He does ask us to give what we have. I love that He allows us to play a part in the cosmos, though He most certainly doesn't require our participation. It is most generous of Him!

Take an inventory of what your situation is today. Look out at the crowd and start identifying them (again stay tuned for that next Monday!) and for now, look within your basket and what's inside. Instead of the meager, look at it as miraculous. What is He asking you to donate to the crowds today... and will you do it?