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Surprise Transformations

An experiment in Easter home-art becomes an object lesson for my life.

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Because of my captivation with the art and craft of home-making and creating beauty in life, I have loved spending time in southern Germany, where life just seems different than it does in America. On my first visit to the area, I fell in love with women carrying baskets to pick up fresh bread at the bakery, vegetables from the veggie-stand and fruits from the fruit vendor. Another time I stayed with creative friends the week before Easter, and was especially impressed by some home-made magic in the kitchen. Using nylons to attach the leaves to eggs and onion skins for a natural dye, the lady I was staying with made the most beautiful Easter eggs I had seen. My immediate thought was, one day I would like to be like that woman. In all the particulars, at this point my life really looks nothing like hers, but this year home-dying my own Easter eggs with natural dyes was within my reach, and I decided to go for it.

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The process started with creating my own food-based dyes. I chose turmeric for a bright yellow, onion skins for a deep rust (like the ones in Germany), and red cabbage for – get this – turquoise. After boiling water with some vinegar and my chosen ingredients for about 30 minutes, we set the pans outside to cool. Meanwhile we decorated boiled eggs with sprigs of cilantro, ivy, and grains of rice, held fast with clean nylon wrappings.

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Once in the dye, the waiting began. You need to leave them in the dye for at least 20-30 minutes, depending on the color you want. Never having done this, I had no idea how long to wait. After 45 minutes, still not being satisfied with my hues, I put my pots back over heat – not a great idea, as boiled eggs don’t appreciate being reboiled/heated. Word to the wise – impatience and perfectionism doesn’t pay in the kitchen.

My biggest concern was with the “turqoise” cabbage eggs. They didn’t seem to be changing color at all. No matter how long I waited, they appeared a very pale pink. After attempting the reboil to no effect, I gave up and took them out of the dye. And an amazing transformation took place within seconds of leaving that cabbage-y environment. One moment they were a pasty pink, and the next changing before my eyes to the promised blue.

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To say I was excited would be an understatement. There’s something about a surprise transformation that defies descriptive adjectives.

Looking at those barely pink eggs, my thoughts went something like this: “I think that website made a mistake. They didn’t know what they were talking about. Maybe I didn’t use enough cabbage. Maybe I didn’t use enough vinegar. Oh well, it is what it is.”

I think I might be a pale pink egg.

Here I am, sitting in hot water, waiting for something to happen that isn’t happening. And I’m impatient. I’ve heard all kinds of promises of who God is, of who I am in Christ, of who I’m meant to be and what I’m capable of. And I don’t really see it. Have I been lied to? Was I given wrong information? I don’t want to believe that, so I blame myself and turn up the heat. I think I need to try harder, or do more.

Is it possible that everything is exactly as God said? Is it possible that transformation could take me by surprise? That to myself I look like a pale pink egg, but everything is already in place for me to be exactly who I’m meant to be? Is it time to step out by faith and give it a go?

What transformation is God working in you? Do you believe that His promises are true? Or are you holding back until you see it with your own eyes?DSC05742

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed….But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:18-19,25

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A final transformation: Not only did I have my promised blue eggs, but the cabbage became a tasty bean and veggie soup. The rejected cabbage dye becomes something life-giving? I think there’s another life lesson in there too…

My information source for natural dyed eggs: Click here.

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Reflecting on my Farm-Call Dad

As a little girl one of my joys was going on farm calls with my veterinarian father. I would ride around in the passenger seat of the vet truck, rumbling along country roads and asking Dad questions. Once at the farm, Dad would put on his rubber farm boots, and I’d don a matching mini black rubber pair. We’d greet the farmer, get supplies out of the truck and then I’d traipse two steps behind him into the barn. I was proud of my ability to watch him perform surgeries without flinching, proud to be able to be his assistant. A farmer once asked me if I would be a vet when I grew up. Although my instant response was, “No, and I’m not gonna marry one either,” the truth was that I was proud of my dad, and proud to be part of what he was doing. It was important, and I felt important being by his side.

Twenty or so years later, on what would have been my dad’s 59th birthday, I caught myself reflecting on the pride and security I received from my dad as a child. The memories are the only thing I still have. But this day I realized I had also been given a powerful picture of what relationship with my heavenly dad can do.

I often feel like a child, no special skills or plans. But my dad continues to invite me to climb up into his vehicle and go for an adventure. Every day I have the opportunity to put on my work boots and mirror what I see my father doing. I am the assistant in something that is way beyond my education, ability and comprehension. None of that is important. What matters is that I am with my dad, and he wants me with him.

It’s an amazing thing – the power of identity and security a child receives from a good dad. Sometimes I forget who I am, and I forget who my Dad is. I forget that He wants me with Him. I feel very unimportant and forget where my value comes from. I’m thankful for days of remembering. I’m thankful for dads who share their important tasks with unskilled kids. I’m thankful for my farm-call dad, and thankful that I will never need to spend a day without that value and security.


Weak-Sauce Coffee and What God Said

God guides us in mysterious ways; the Bible even records God getting a message across through a talking donkey. God speaks to me a lot, strangely enough, through coffee.

I love coffee. I’m not sure why. But yeah, I really like it, and I like it strong. Black, cream, sugar, latte, mocha, it’s all good, as long as the coffee has a good kick to it. Moving to Australia in the last month, figuring out where to get coffee has been an important point in my cultural assimilation. Lucky for me, I hit the jack-pot with a good coffee brand straight away, and morning coffee made in a french press has been something to look forward to.

The last three days, however, something unfortunate has happened. My coffee has been about the color of weak tea, pretty much weak-sauce brown water. When it happens once, you say “Oh bother.” When it happens twice, you say, “Man, not again.” When it happens three times you know there’s something seriously wrong with the world. And I know what’s wrong, because my coffee told me.

I’ve been pushing the limits, trying to stretch out my coffee grinds, seeing if I can get by with using less. And pretty much I’ve discovered that it doesn’t work that way. If you want good coffee, you don’t skimp on grinds. Duh. I knew that, but, yeah, I guess I have to learn the hard way. And where does God fit in? Well, on day one I looked at that sad imitation coffee, knew the mistake I had made, and also knew instantly in my spirit that I’d been doing the same thing in my walk with God. I’ve been thinking I could scrimp, have a few moments here, a quick prayer there, sleep a little longer in the morning, etc. But God made it clear to me in my coffee cup that if I do that, my “taste” of Him will be pretty weak. He wants to be so much stronger in my life than He is at this moment. But I need to stop being stingy and increase the amount of time I put in. It’s hard because it means changing habits and shifting priorities. But I have a feeling that once I have a taste of that “strong coffee” in my life I will never be satisfied with weak-sauce quiet time again. I also have a hunch that I will be unable to brew myself a decent cup of coffee until I actually listen and respond to what God’s telling me. He definitely knows how to get my attention. I think I’ve had enough imitation coffee for one season. It’s time to go all in.


Unknowingly Snared

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you…You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen…are crying out against you. The cries…have reached the ears of the LORD Almighty. You have lived on the earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” James 5:1-5 (Read passage)

This morning in my quiet time I hit this passage and got hit between the eyes. I don’t remember ever reading it before. I know I have, several times, but I guess I never really saw it. I suppose I didn’t see it because I never connected it to myself. I never considered myself rich. I certainly never saw myself as an oppressor.

I see the world differently now.

I’ve seen the world.

I’ve held small children abandoned with aids.

I’ve met young women selling their bodies to feed their children.

I’ve learned that almost half the world is living at a level of poverty, and that one child dies of related causes every three seconds.

I’ve learned that there are more slaves today than there were in the whole 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

I’ve learned that many of those slaves are laboring to produce clothing and other merchandise that I unknowingly buy.

I’ve learned that I am rich, and that I play a part in a widespread slavery system.

And I’ve learned that God cares about that part of my life.

Why have I never seen this passage? Why have I never heard a sermon on it? Why in all our church talks on finances and giving do we live in ignorance of this? I think we fear that the problem’s too big. I think we’re afraid of admitting that we fall short of God’s standard. I think we don’t know what to do. Does God?

“My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15

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Want to go deeper on this topic? Follow My Justice Journey. Click Here.


My Garden

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I tend a little garden

That is full of planted dreams

Each one’s a fragile flower

But as yet only a seed

 

I water my small garden

Pull out weeds from the warm earth

I’m watching for the seedlings

Just to see which sprouts up first

 

I do not know which flowers

Will flourish in this soil

Their sunshine is my hope

Their nourishment my toil

 

There’s risk that not a single dream

Will grow beyond the sod

Still in faith I tend my garden

And leave the rest to God


Squeamish about Spiders

I was attacking a conglomeration of spider webs in the corners of my bathroom today. Seems like that’s one of those household jobs akin to doing the dishes: you’ve barely finished when it’s time to start all over. Those spiders remake their webs as quickly as I can destroy them. I suppose the smart thing would be to go after the spiders themselves. But being a generally warm-hearted person towards all things living (mosquitoes being one exception), I ignore the spiders and simply continue my undying war against their trappings.

How similar to cobwebs are those sticky character issues in our lives. It seems that one occasion of victory is simply followed by another battle along the same vein. How easy to simply focus on cleaning up the mess that crops up in the corners of our lives and miss the insidious spiders causing problems in the first place. Some of the cobwebs that crop up in my life include laziness, impatience and worry about the future. The spider behind the mess simply goes by the name selfishness.

God is not as squeamish about killing some things as I am. He goes right after the spider in His efforts to restore my condition. It is pretty uncomfortable; truth be told, I might prefer to let those spiders live. But the Bible makes it pretty clear: It’s either the spiders or the Spirit. Which one will I partner with today?

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25


He is Here?

“Self-absorption is the great enemy of attunement to God. This is why anything that breaks self-absorption can facilitate attentiveness to God. Music, walks in the woods or meditation on great works of art can all play important roles in this…God constantly reaches out, seeking our attention, seeking to be known. We walk through his world oblivious, failing to notice him. We are so wrapped up in ourselves–our plans, our worries, our activities–that we fail to see him. Anything that helps us develop a receptive posture of openness to the Divine prepares us to encounter the God who constantly reveals himself.”

-David G. Benner, Sacred Companions

Where do we see God? Where do we look for him? Do we remember to look for Him at all? This, I think, is one of the most insidious traps of the mundane. We fail to think of God as present to us in our common-place, all-too-ordinary lives. And yet, if God is truly with us always, then He must be especially here.

And so I look.

But first, I must stop looking at myself.