Lemonade or Lemons? - Depends on What You Actually Need...

It’s been almost 3 years since I started this whole author-blog-writer-thing and I’m astounded at the words God has put on my heart to share with you all. Looking through some of my first posts I can see the threads God began weaving in my life through this ministry in so many of the posts. I thought it might be a fun thing to update some of the more popular ones and give my new subscribers an opportunity to read the roots of how this blog started.

Today I’m starting with my very very very first blog ever written. It’s so cool to see how what I learned is still so true for me today (read the original post too if you like!)

2016- It was opening day for Term 2 at Camp Barnabas and I’d been the medical director for this camp for special needs for a hot-second. Intake at the WellHouse for the nurses was in full force and I had just been called over by one of my nurses asking if camp had lemon juice. A camper apparently needed some so therefore the medical center needed some available. We needed... no let me rephrase, a very <thorough> camper mom was telling us that we medically required lemon juice. It was literally a medical necessity. Ummm, okay, that's a new one I thought to myself (#helicoptermom much?).... lemon juice....

Let me give you a bit of background, Camp Barnabas is a Christian camp for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. As you can imagine the types and kind of campers we serve can run the gamut of medical needs. From MACE procedures, a bazillion medications, G-tubes, bowel programs, and ventilators- I see all sorts of medical equipment and we serve a huge array of medical 'stuff'. So at first, the request for lemon juice was not <totally> weird... sure... absolutely we have lemon juice. I'd check with our cook and see but it'd be no biggie to steal some from the kitchen; and worst case scenario, we'd grab the lemonade available and use that. But then this particular request got strange... mom was informing us that her child couldn't use just any kind of lemon juice, she needed freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Not lemonade, not fake lemon juice... As in, out of a real lemon, freshly squeezed lemon juice. Unsweetened, undiluted- straight up out of the lemon.

Pause.

Gross.

The little-squirters in the back of my mouth (total medical term there...) were working overdrive just thinking about the tart-factor of that swig. I'd definitely had some bizarre requests, especially dietary... but this one was rapidly accelerating (not unlike my saliva volume) up to the top of my "Most unusual medical needs" list. My medical incredulity alarm went off and internally I was thinking this lady is cray-cray.  Never in my medical career (which is not a particularly short or sheltered one I might add) could I think of a time or an instance that I could even fathom the absolute medical necessity of straight-up lemon juice for anything. Let alone making this poor camper suffer through drinking such a nasty thing! I mean, seriously... who does that? I was just about ready to very politely but firmly tell above mother that this was a summer camp, in the middle of nowhere, and the chances of us having fresh lemons was less than nill, when she told us that the reason for the fresh lemon juice had everything to do with the undiluted acid content in the juice, and nothing to do with the taste.

Okay, now I'm a bit more intrigued. Maybe she's not totally 'that mom'...

So long story, short, according to this kiddo's doctor, the fresh lemon juice was a necessity to help break down the medications properly, and for her stomach to digest more easily all her food. Which, as noted before, was fine... I now got it- but still didn't actually fix our immediate issue. I was on board with the why, now to address the how. Because, again, think summer camp in the middle of Nowheresville, Missouri; freshly squeezed lemon juice was not exactly readily accessible. Okay mom, okay... I'll just have to check.

We had lemonade but we really needed lemons. Not fake lemon juice, good old off the tree lemons to squeeze good old lemon juice out of. We need real deal, tart, unsweeted, undiluted, acidic, make-your-salivary-glands-go-crazy lemons.

Has life ever given you lemonade but you really just needed a lemon?

It occurred to me throughout that week, with every med pass that nurse made to her camper, that there must be times when God gives us lemons and He expects and needs us to just deal with the juice. The tart, unsweetened, undiluted lemon juice. He doesn't want us to make lemonade out of it. He doesn't want us to sweeten it up. He doesn't want us to dilute it. He wants us to swig it down and let it do it's work. His work. The acidic, often uncomfortable, make-your-spirit-squirm Spirit work that needs to be done within us.

The properties of acid, especially in this case, work to wear away and break down chemical structures in order to either completely do away with a substance or make it more malleable to change.

Anyone picking up where I'm going with this yet?

God uses His own lemon juice in our lives daily. Yet too often we shy away from the bitterness of the taste and miss the spiritual acid He's using to do His work in us. We avoid taking it, like little children squirming to avoid their brussel sprouts. We spit it out. We try to sweeten it up- "making lemonade out of lemons."

I think there is something to be said for the amazing lemonade that God allows by His grace in our lives. Those sweet times with family, the seasons of tremendous fruit spiritually, the happy days of our lives that we yearn for and reminisce about for years. These are good times. These are those deep, refreshing drinks of iced cold lemonade. They are wonderful and needed.

There are also needs for just plain old generic lemon juice. After all, juice out of a bottle is still juice. It still is acidic, and for many things it can serve the same purpose as the real deal. But it will always be diluted, it will always be pasteurized and ever-so-slightly chemically altered. Self-help books, spiritual books, blogs (uh huh, even this one... but keep reading!), counseling, meditation, etc. You get the idea. These are not bad things. they can be immensely beneficial to us... but dear ones, don't be deceived or lazy. The real work of our souls is GodStuff. It is His spiritual acid, His lemon juice in our lives that refine and make us more into His servants. Bottled stuff will never perfectly match the composition of the real stuff.

For the word of the Lord is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

Hebrew 4:12 ESV

Sound a bit acidic? Hard to squirm away from that... though we may try! God's Word is the real deal. It will always be undiluted, sometimes hard to swallow, and refining to our souls. Always. So don't avoid it.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4 (emphasis mine)

Trials, tribulations, testing.... all lemons. God allows and sometimes even causes such things- for the good and perfection of His people. We must see the bigger picture, so let those lemons do their thing. Let that juice work it's way around and in and throughout. It's uncomfortable, it tastes bad and can be seemingly so very hard to digest.  But it's cleansing, detoxing and refining to us. He will cleanse, detox, and refine. So let Him.

So the question remains- I imagine we all have a few lemons in our life right now. Take a moment to refect on what they are. Does God want you to let His Spirit do some much needed acid-work? Or perhaps He needs you to make some lemonade? What or where are the lemons in your life right now? Are you struggling to sweeten the situation? Post below and share your lemon juice experiences- I ‘d love to hear about them!

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!