Thursday, June 29, 2006

Empty Vessels

When did the miracle take place? Have you ever wondered that? The wedding was in progress, and something horribly embarrassing happened. Right at the peak of the celebration, they ran out of wine. The host was about to be humiliated, but God intervened and instead, the wedding guests were about to witnesses Christ’s first miracle. Our Lord began with instructions. That was often the case. Not always, but often. Take the six stone water jugs, and fill them with water. Why? Because they were empty. Profound isn’t it? Not really. But what He was about to do was. The text doesn’t answer my question, but I’m still curious. When did it happen? At what point exactly did the water change its properties from water to wine? Was it at the instant they were filled? Did the servants carry wine back unknowingly to the feast? Did some transformation occur within the well before it was dipped? Or was it not until the first sip met the lips of the master of the feast that the water became wine. I wonder, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is, at the start of the first miracle, the barrels were empty, just as with creation, the Master began with nothing.

Consider the widow of Zarephath who gave sacrificially to Elijah. This story is a little different. This time the jars of flour and oil were not empty. Almost, but not quite. She was just about to spend the last of it, to make one final cake for her son, and then they would die. Along comes a stranger, and her plans were interrupted. She poured out the last of her flour and oil for God’s anointed, but the barrel didn’t go dry. For days, it didn’t go dry. And it wouldn’t, not until it had rained. She didn’t know. She thought she was giving all. She didn’t know she would be spared.

One more picture and it’s my favorite. I love this story because it’s such a perfect example of a sinner in the hands of a merciful Father. It’s the story of a woman who was an outcast, unworthy, undeserving, with noting to give, but her tears. This vessel, tarnished by her shame, dared to touch the incarnation of holiness. And I assure you, she gave it all. While onlookers scorned her boldness, she annointed His feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair.

I’ll share my application because it’s somewhat vague and I want it to be clear. My heart’s desire—and it’s the desire I’m sure that reflects the heart need of many Christians—is to be used. I want to have something to give, something to offer. As God confronts me with the areas in my life that need to change, something holds back. Something fears that if this vessel is emptied, it will have nothing left to offer. And I fail to recognize that I never had anything to offer. There was nothing I did at the point of salvation that assured my forgiveness. There is nothing I can do now to ensure His love or to confirm my worthiness to be His child.

Until I recognize that it is Him and not I, I remain the water jar half full, confident, unaware of my need to be filled. I remain the widow’s pitcher, knowing I’m about to be spent, but hesitant to give up the last little bit. I remain a vessel with nothing to offer but tears, but somehow wanting to hold back until I can spill out treasure at the feet of my Savior. But it is not treasure He demands. It is all—even though my all is nothing.

And while I foolishly wait, the Master patiently waits.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My Canoeing Adventure

Once a favorite activity, I haven’t been in a canoe in at least 11 years. So when my parents asked, “What do you want to do?”

Let’s go canoeing!

I have wonderful memories of taking a boat out with my sister. And before that, I remember when all five of us fit in one canoe. There we sat in the boat like five orange bumps on a log. Peering over the edge looking at the fish. Chasing a blue heron around the lake. Paddling down a river between majestic mountains, singing “How Great Thou Art” at the top of our lungs. It’s been a few years, but canoeing is like riding a bike right? You never forget.

Tim and I shared one canoe. Mom, Dad, and Janice Williams (an old family friend) took the other.

The adventure began when Tim and I found a little tributary curling out from the lake. We were no longer vacationers in a rental canoe. We were explorers. Who says imagination dies when you get old. Never mind that the water was only about 18 inches deep and we were using the paddles to push ourselves up and over sandbars, rocks and logs. Never mind the stream was so narrow and the bushes so dense that I kept getting whacked in the face. Never mind that our beautiful lake had become a rancid smelling bog, and we were stirring up swarms of insects that were making it very clear that they preferred not to be disturbed.

What do you do when you find a bridge in the middle of nowhere? That’s easy. You go under it. Uh…we got stuck. So the water was increasingly becoming shallower. My head was scraping the bottom of the bridge. Yeah, there were spiders under there. And I was in the front trying to navigate around protruding logs. Didn’t work.

Plan B: We’ll carry the canoe over the bridge and lower it down on the other side. Never mind that the two of us were carrying the canoe uphill. Never mind that the path was not wide enough to support two people and a canoe. Never mind that on the other side of the bridge and around the corner, that water dried up and there was nowhere to go. Never mind that jumping in to a canoe from a bridge is a pretty likely way to topple it.

This is Tim gracefully lowering himself into the boat. Hmmm, for some reason the boat did not remain stationary for him. And as the boat carried his legs under the bridge, he held on for dear life.

I don’t have a picture of me falling in the lake. Good thing too. If he had sat in the boat snapping pictures while I struggled to get in a wobbly boat, I don’t think he would have lived to tell about our adventure.

I don't know. Something about me and water....I always seem to fall in. So yeah, I was wet for the rest of the day, but that's okay. We had fun.

And no, we didn't tell the rental people what we had done with their boat.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Things Change

Every so often I meet someone who has lived in the same area most of their life. Even after they go to college, they come home on holidays and see old sunday school teachers who have known them since they were two. They return to homes where they have spent a dozen Christmases. I find it intriguing because I don't understand it. I organize my life, my friends by continent.

I'm in Sayre, PA. A block away is the hospital where I was born. I'm sitting in a room in my grandma's house where I used to play hide and seek as a child. It's strange, a lot changes in 8-10 years. This room used to be a lot bigger. The wallpaper wasn't faded and pealing then.

The last time I went to a family reunion, I was one of the kids. We played tag in the backyard. I carried the little ones on my back when we hiked in the woods. Suddenly I've been promoted to the adult table and I feel like on missing out on all the laughter coming from the card tables set up in the living room. There's a new crop of kids running around only none of them have a clue who I am. But it's more than that because we're old enough now to have developed our own belief structures. We have different worldviews, different doctrinal convictions.

I spent last weekend with my cousins. Jay felt it too. He said "Seems like we should go play monopoly or something." Of corse we should. Last time we were together we did. He was in fifth grade I think. It was a great game. Now he's making plans to do his grad work at Oxford. Maybe it will be another 8 years before I see them again. And the strange thing is, it won't be today that I think back on. It will be those days when we stood outside on barefoot summer nights with jars lit up with lightning bugs.

I keep running into people I used to know. I went back to see my old schools. Funny, they used to be a lot bigger. The lockers were still painted the same sky blue that I remembered. I remember where I used to line up with my second grade class. It was strange seeing it after so many years. It was strange that Mr. Pitcher was still there. I went back to my public high school too. Mr. Twigg gave me a hug when he saw me. He had only had me for one semester, but he remembered my art project. He asked me about it in detail. It was important to him that I was still doing art.

I saw Chris Vough. She was my first violin teacher, taught me the first six months. She was pleased to hear I was still playing. I kind of want to go back to the hopital and see if some of my old doctors are still there. I wonder if Dr. Hudock remembers me. He used to give me suckers and play games to try to make me smile. I want to see the doctor who took care of me when I had meningitis and told my parents I wasn't going to make it.

Every day seems to bring up more memories, things I haven't thought about in years, but I have so many other memories that aren't part of this town at all. I think I'm glad I haven't spent my whole life in one area. It's nice to be able to spread out the memories a bit.