Nothing Wasted

“Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” – Jesus, as quoted in John 6:12 (NIV)

We planted in hope and reaped in dismay.

As usual, we put in the garden around Memorial Day. Then the monsoons arrived. Now, those who live in these parts know the rain that deluged us for weeks and weeks was uncommon. Seeds and spuds rotted in the ground.

Then in mid-July and August the sun shone—and shone and shone. No rain. Not good for the garden.

We did get a healthy bean and pea harvest, and hubby enjoyed green onions and fresh cucumbers in his salad.

But the beets and green peppers were pitifully small. Even the zucchini and squash, of which I usually get way more than I can use, were sparse and a fraction of their usual size. Onions we let grow rotted in the ground and those we pulled rotted while drying out, even though I’d bought the “Keepers.” The skins on the two zucchini we picked were tough, as was the corn. Even the raccoons left the stalks alone.

photoWhen I picked the tomatoes, I tossed quite a number of them because they were rotting or spotted. Not even I, who will save every usable bit of tomato as possible, could use those.

As I prepared the tomatoes for canning, I thought about when Jesus fed the multitude. When they were finished—John writes, “when they all had enough to eat”—Jesus told the disciples to “gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12).

Let nothing be wasted.

I thought about that phrase as I cut out the bad parts of those tomatoes.

I, too, have “bad parts”—character flaws, habits, mistakes that hurt me and others. But Jesus doesn’t toss me away because of them. Instead He lovingly cuts them out so mine will not be a life that’s wasted.

I thought about that phrase as I prepared those tiny beets for canning. I wouldn’t get the yield I wanted, but even those little beets would be used.

I thought about that phrase as I contemplated the things out of my control that affected the garden harvest—the weather, the country critters. So, too, things happen in our lives that are beyond our control and leave us spotted.

But that doesn’t mean God can’t use us.

Think you’ve got too many bad parts? Or you’re too small or too tough to be of any value? Or the stuff of life has marked you up too much to be usable?

Turn yourself over to the One who said, “Let nothing be wasted.”

For, unlike us, He plants in hope and reaps in joy.

When I’m feeling small and marked and unusable, Lord, remind me that “He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6) until I am all He plans for me. That nothing in His hands is ever wasted. Amen.

 Extra tea: Read and meditate on John 6:1–13

Praying Out of the Box

Image by jscreationzs courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net
Image by jscreationzs courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. – Ephesians 3:20 NKJV

There’s a scene in the movie Apollo 13 in which a group of space engineers are presented with an impossible problem and challenged to come up with a solution. Three astronauts’ lives depended on it.

Random spacecraft parts, seemingly meaningless to their objective of bringing home a severely damaged spacecraft safely, were dumped on the table in front of them. “This is what you have to work with,” they were told.

And they did it. But they had to think out of the box. They had to think beyond the scope of the normal, of what they knew and had experienced.

The phrase, “out of the box,” originated with a British mathematician who developed a nine-dot puzzle. All nine dots, on a three-by-three grid, must be connected with four straight lines—without the pencil leaving the paper.

The only way to do this is to extend the lines beyond the perceived boundary of the dots on the grid. I say “perceived” because we tend to see, or perceive, the outer row of dots as a boundary and the dots all lined up neatly “in a box.”

Only when you think “out of the box” and draw the lines beyond the imaginary boundary can you solve the puzzle.

But we feel safe in our boxes, don’t we? They’re what we’re familiar with, what we understand and can deal with.

Our boxes, however, limit us in many ways.

Take prayer, for instance.

How often do we pray “safe” prayers—prayers we feel comfortable praying because we’re not asking the Almighty to do the impossible? We’re not risking our faith and our Christian reputation on miracles we doubt will happen.

Well, the impossible is the Almighty’s specialty—and miracles are His delight.

The problem, my friend, is on our part—the doubt. Even a little, sniggly, wiggly, invisible-to-the-eye doubt that convinces us “this can’t be done.”

Of course it can’t be done—in human terms and in human (translate: possible) ways. That’s why we ask God to do it.

But too often we ask with doubt. Read the Gospels. See what Jesus had to say about doubt.

And I’m not saying that if you don’t have enough faith, your prayers won’t be answered.

What I am saying is that we need to pray out of the box—for the impossible, for the miracle. In other words, ask God to do His thing.

When a man in my church was experiencing serious health issues, we prayed over him as a congregation and anointed him with oil (See James 5:14).

I was surprised a few weeks later when he reported that doctors couldn’t find what they’d thought was a growth in his colon. What had been seen during medical tests was no longer there. They had no explanation for it, except divine intervention.

Why was I surprised? Doesn’t God like to answer “exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think”?

YES!

“According to the power”—His power—the power of growing faith—“that works within us.”

Have an impossible situation? Go ahead—pray out of the box. And watch El Shaddai do the impossible.

Praying out of the box stretches my faith, O Lord. Like a little used muscle, my faith needs to be stretched and exercised. Remind me that nothing is impossible for You and that You delight in answering in ways that are out of the box. Amen.

 Extra tea: Read and meditate on Ephesians 3:14–21