I walked into the kitchen. The dirty dishes area of the counter was empty. What a lovely sight.

My husband had washed the dishes last night while I dried them.

I knew the dishwasher was nearing full. It would need running before too long, but for now those dirty dishes waited neatly arranged in the dishwasher. They would be taken care of soon.

I glanced at the clock. Time to make supper.

Having checked that my toddler was happily engaged making her own supper with her toy food, I fetched my rice cooker, filled it, and turned it on.

Next, I pulled out a frying pan and an onion.

Locating my favourite knife, I set to work.

Before long I had ground beef and onion sizzling away. I chopped up a couple of bell peppers to add.

That done, I carried the knife and cutting board to the dirty dishes counter. So much for that counter being empty.

My toddler was getting restless by now, so I asked her to help.

“Can you find a can of pineapple for me?”

She hurried to the can cupboard and scoured it.

I turned to my recipe and pulled out a measuring cup and measuring spoons.

Turning around, I found my daughter reaching into a drawer.

“You must be looking for the can opener.”

I handed it to her.

She hurried back to where she’d left the can of pineapple.

I followed, knowing I’d only have a moment before she gave up trying on her own and pleaded for help.

Sure enough… “Mama, help.”

“Okay, I’ll help you. Bring the can to the table first.”

We twisted the can opener together until the can opened. Then I set the can and can opener on the counter out of reach.

“Now I need soy sauce. Can you get it for me?”

Being in a favorable mood, my toddler soon set the soy sauce on the table.

“Thank you! Now I need the vinegar.”

As she trotted off in search of vinegar, I measured soy sauce into my measuring cup. It finished up what was left in the soy sauce container. Setting the empty container in the dirty dishes area to rinse later, I wrote soy sauce on the shopping list.

Calls of “Mama help,” came from the pantry.

I turned to find my little one stretching for the heavy vinegar jug, but unable to reach it.

“You found the vinegar. Here, I’ll get it.”

That done, I returned to the pantry for the brown sugar and cornstarch.

Upon spotting the sugar, my toddler climbed on a chair and grabbed a measuring spoon.

“Lick!”

I reached for the spoon, but too late. It was already in her mouth.

“Next time you need to wait until after I use the spoon to lick it. Now I need to get a new measuring spoon.”

I set the licked spoon in the growing dirties pile and pulled out a new one.

I added the rest of the ingredients to the measuring cup, saving the sugar for last. I then passed her the spoon.

As my toddler perched happily licking the sugar spoon, I poured the sauce into the frying pan.

I paused in the unusual moment of quiet to survey the kitchen. So much for it being tidy.

I set to work putting dirty measuring spoons by the sink and returning the ingredients to their proper homes. I grabbed the dishcloth to give the table a good wipe.

Having finished licking the spoon, my toddler pulled at my leg. “Mama come. Play.”

I glanced at the dirty dishes pile that had sprung up. The pots and pans from supper would likely join the stack before I got to washing any of them. Oh well…

I turned to my toddler. “Okay, I can come play for a little while, but then supper will be ready and it will be time to eat.”

Why do I share this story with you? Because I want to share one of my go-to recipes with you? No.

Rather, because I found myself thinking about dirty dishes recently.

Dirty dishes. Don’t we love them?

Some days it seems there is a never ending stream of dirty dishes to be washed.

Dirty dishes are a by-product of life when you cook and eat at home.

Where’s the allegory?

The allegory is this: in my regular everyday life, there comes a buildup of dirt or wear and tear. Jesus wants to wash it away for me. Am I taking the time to bring those things to Jesus so that He can wash me clean?

Let me expand further.

In my regular, reasonable daily life, just as the dirty dishes seem to be a continual stream, so there is dirt that shows up in my spiritual life.

Regularly, I must stop and take the time to wash the dishes. Then, for a short time, the dirty dishes counter will be clean and empty.

Likewise, I must regularly stop and take the time to meet with Jesus asking that He wash me afresh.

Some of this dirt is from the times I let my sinful nature take over. Some of it is simply from life’s wear and tear – the discouragement and hurts that a day can bring.

What do I do with this dirt?

I like the way Paul puts it in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (CSB)

When I am weighed down with anxiety, Jesus wants me to bring that to Him.

When I’ve had a hard day, Jesus wants me to bring that to Him.

When my heart is aching, Jesus wants me to bring that to Him.

When I’ve fallen into sin, Jesus wants me to bring that to Him.

Once a week at church is not enough. I need Jesus to wash and refresh me daily.

Once a day is not enough. I need to join the hymnist in singing, “I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord.”

 

 

If you haven’t heard the song before, I highly recommend you take a moment to listen to it.

 

I scanned through the list of names and Christmas gift ideas.

I highlighted the gifts we’d already purchased and circled the ones we still needed to buy.

A few ideas I crossed off. They simply weren’t a good fit for the person.

I let my eyes trail down the list.

Candies and toys for the nieces and nephews. They would have fun with those.

Plenty of chocolate and many practical items for our siblings and their spouses. Everything from kitchen items to socks. Hopefully they would be helpful.

I smiled. All the items on our list now seemed fitting. They would be useful and/or enjoyable for those who received them.

Next I considered the gifts we’d chosen for our little one. As a preschool teacher, I greatly enjoy children’s toys, much like a computer programmer gets excited about a new mouse or a carpenter might be thrilled with a new tool belt.

I had put a lot of thought into what to get for her, and done plenty of research – perhaps too much.

Some toys would thrill her for a week or two, but quickly become boring. Other toys were too advanced. Some toys were of flimsy materials that wouldn’t last.

It was hard to narrow down the options, but I finally did.

I chose a play food set since she is just beginning to get into pretend play. This should last her until she is 6 or older.

At a second hand store, I found an exciting puzzle – one with latches and doors. It’ll be a little challenging for her, but I’m certain she’ll like it.

We’re also adding blocks to our block set since she plays with them often.

Satisfied, I set aside my Christmas shopping list.

My mind wandered back to a joke I’d seen on Facebook.

It was a Christmasy comic. It showed Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a barn-type environment.

The caption read: “If there’d been three wise women instead.”

At the entrance, three well-dressed women stood holding boxes. The boxes were labeled, “Diapers”, “Formula”, and “Casseroles”.

Mary looked delighted as she exclaimed, “Perfect!”

At first, my eyes twinkled at the comic, but since then a much deeper thought has stayed with me.

The “wise women” brought the sorts of things I would give someone who’d just had a baby. It seems a very normal helpful response to the situation.

Then why did God, in His infinite wisdom, send wisemen with very different gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

Because God had something far greater on His mind.

The wise women were very helpful, yes, but casseroles only last a week, formula is done by 12 months, and diapers are typically a thing of the past by 3 or 4 years old. These women were only thinking about the next few weeks and months, or perhaps a handful of years.

While the wisemen’s gifts may have had immediate practical use, for example, the gold could have supported the family on their escape to Egypt, they foreshadowed something of greater significance.

God was looking ahead to the event, that would take place about 33 years later. A moment that would change history forever. On top of that, God had all of time on His mind when He chose which gifts to send. 

Gold was a gift fit for a king – a symbol of Jesus’ kingship.

Frankincense was used in incense – a reference to Jesus’ priestly role, and to His divinity.

Myrrh was used for embalming the dead – foreshadowing Jesus’ death on the cross.

(Reference: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/smith_chuck/StudyGuides_Matthew/Matthew.cfm?a=931011 )

Why do I share all these thoughts? Because they have a powerful reminder for me.

Far too often, I find myself thinking like the wise women. I focus on the practical needs and think only of the next few days or weeks or perhaps a few years.

I forget that there is so much more to life than just the immediate practical needs.

I forget to think about eternity.

My conversations, my prayers for people, the greeting cards I write, the gifts I give… So often they are about current events or the very near future.

Yet eternity is a lot longer than now. Eternity is forever, but so much of now is temporary.

A part of me wants to argue. I can’t live with my head in the clouds. I have a household to care for, husband to love, and a toddler to raise. That takes a lot of paying attention to the now and the practical.

God understands these things. In fact, He is the one who has put me in this role. Yet still He says:

“Set your hearts on things above, … Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1b-2 NIV

Another translation puts it: “seek the things above”. Colossians 3:1b CSB

What does this mean? I’m still working to figure that out in my current stage of life.

I do know, however, that I need to remember to think of the things pertaining to eternity more often.

How do I do that? Reading the Bible, going to church, and being part of a Bible study certainly help.

Another practical thing that I often forget to do, is singing songs of praise to God – especially songs that bring me back to the Gospel and thoughts of heaven.

I need to come back to the basics – the John 3:16 basics.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV

Do all my gifts have to be Bibles and Gospel tracts? No, God understands the need for practical things and the place for enjoyment. Yet underlying my gifts and interactions should be a heart that longs for those around me to know the life-giving joy of a relationship with Jesus and the promise of eternity spent with Him.

To have such a desire, I must have eternity on my mind.

 

After Thoughts: 

I have found many hymns, such as Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, include the Gospel and mentions of eternity spent with God. These help me set my mind on things above.

 

Did you know many traditional Christmas carols also include whispers of the Gospel and eternity spent with God? Try listening to Hark the Herald Angels Sing and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Want to know more about the gifts the wisemen brought? I encourage you to listen to this sermon about Matthew 2: https://messages.calvarychapel.ca/?message=799&via=rmcccalgary

 

Some people have a wonderfully simple way of wording things. Today’s allegory is inspired by a quote attributed to Corrie ten Boom. To bring the quote to life, I have woven a story. At the end, I will share the quote which I’m sure will be as inspirational to you as it has been to me.

Standing on the station platform, I studied the incoming train. I glanced at the ticket in my hand. Yes, this was the train I needed to get to the Bible school.

Once the departing passengers cleared, I climbed aboard and located an empty seat in the half-full train car.

Parking my suitcase by my feet, I pulled my backpack onto my lap.

A few minutes later, the train gave a lurch and proceeded on its way.

I glanced around me. No English anywhere. All the ads and station names were illegible to me. Each snippet of conversation that reached me from fellow passengers was as good as jibberish. I understood none of it.

Rather than let that worry me, I leaned back, letting my gaze roam the city streets we hurried through. They too were entirely unfamiliar. I had no way of telling whether this train was heading the right direction. Yet, the number on the outside of the train matched that on my ticket. Surely it would take me there.

I knew it would be more than an hour until I arrived, so I allowed my mind to wander as I admired the rich greens of the countryside we’d entered.

I knew a little about my destination. Around 100 students would be there, none of whom I’d met before. Classes would be in English. Our rooms and food were provided. It was near a lake.

Still, a million unknowns crowded into my mind.

I pushed the worries away. I would trust God. He’d pointed me this direction. I would follow. He would give me what I needed.

The steady rhythm of the track made my head begin to nod. I hadn’t slept well during the hours spent on the plane.

I pulled my backpack closer as my eyelids drooped.

I sat bolt upright, aware that I’d been sleeping. Something was different.

It took me a moment to realise the train had been thrown into darkness.

Looking out the window, all I could see was black.

I felt the train turn, as it wound through the darkness. Were we going in the right direction?

I bit my lip. I really did not want to get lost in this foreign country. Was I on the wrong train? Should I pull the emergency brake and jump off here?

No, I was certain this was the train I was meant to be on.

I had no idea what direction my stop was, but the train driver knew.

As I watched the beginnings of light returning to the outside world, I leaned back in my seat. I would have to trust the driver. He knew what he was doing.

So, what was that quote I mentioned at the beginning of the post? You may have heard it before.

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the Driver.” – Corrie ten Boom

What does this allegory mean? Picture God as the train driver or engineer.

When I became a Christian, God invited me onto a train. He set a new life before me – different from the life I was living before.

Sometimes as I travel on the train that God is driving, everything seems wonderful and happy. At other times, the train goes through a tunnel and life gets hard… very hard.

When life gets hard do I turn my back on God and jump off the train He has put me on? Or do I trust that He is still in control and knows what He is doing?

For Corrie ten Boom, a very dark tunnel came in the form of the Nazi Ravensbrück concentration camp. She watched her sister, Betsy, die and faced brutal treatment day in and day out. Yet Corrie did not abandon her faith in God. She trusted the Driver, and He carried her through.

When a dark tunnel comes in my life, may I follow Corrie ten Boom’s example. May I trust that God is still in control. He will see me through.

 

If you want to read Corrie ten Boom’s story, I highly recommend her book The Hiding Place. You can buy it on Amazon here.

(This is an affiliate link meaning I earn a small commission when you make a purchase at no added expense to you.)

 

Wandering into the kitchen, my toddler spotted the cut-up cantaloupe in a container on the table.

Excitement flooded her face.

She pointed toward it. “Yeah, yeah.”

“You want to eat some cantaloupe?” I ask.

She points into her mouth and pretends to eat. “Yum!”

“Okay, you can have some cantaloupe. Climb up on your chair and then I can give some to you.”

Her face fell and she began to whimper.

“You don’t need to cry. I will give you some, but you need to be in your chair.”

Tears appeared as her crying intensified.

I continued placing the rest of the breakfast items on the table.

Once complete, I turned my full attention to my little girl. She was still crying, clinging to her toy puppy.

I met her gaze. “Why are you crying?”

She pointed at the cantaloupe.

“You want to eat cantaloupe?”

She nodded.

I took her hand. “I want to give you cantaloupe, but you need to be in your chair for me to give it to you.”

Sniffling, she let me guide her to her chair and set her in it – though she often climbs into it all by herself.

She buckled herself in while I reached for her bib and tray.

I set her puppy aside.

She pointed at the cantaloupe again. “Yeah, yeah.”

“Can you ask nicely?”

She rubbed her chest to sign “please.”

I picked the container up. “Nice asking. You are in your seat now, so I can give you some cantaloupe.”

I put a piece on her tray.

She eagerly reached for it and took a big bite.

I grinned. “Cantaloupe is yummy.”

Later, as I went about my day, I found myself wondering if there has ever been a time when I asked God for something and His response was not “Yes” or “No”, but “You’re not ready for it.”

The Old Testament has plenty of examples of this, perhaps one of the clearest being the Israelites as they headed toward the Promised Land.

God had dramatically rescued the nation from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. Before too long, they arrived at the border of the land God had promised to Abraham and now desired to give to Israel.

It was an abundant and prosperous land. It would have been such a blessing, but when the time came to go in and receive what God desired to bless them with, they chickened out.

God told them to go forward by faith, but they didn’t.

Their hearts were not in the right place. They were not ready to receive what God wanted to give them.

As a result, God made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation had died off.

Before I go any further, I must pause to remember that this allegory does not relate to God’s love. God’s love for me is unchanging. It does not depend on my goodness. God loves me and He will always love me no matter what I do.

It also doesn’t relate to the salvation God gives. Salvation is not based on what I can do. Salvation is based on what Jesus did on the cross. I do not deserve that salvation, but God freely gives it. My job is simply to receive it with thankfulness.

Back to my story with my daughter.

I wanted to give her cantaloupe. That was the whole reason I’d placed it on the table in the first place.

The problem was, I wanted her to be ready to receive the cantaloupe. I wanted her to be in her seat with her bib on.

My daughter wanted the cantaloupe but did not want to sit in her seat.

This had no bearing whatsoever on whether I love her or not. Rather, the thing at stake was whether she would get to eat the cantaloupe.

Being a mother who cares about my daughter’s health and happiness, I wanted her to eat the cantaloupe. I knew it would be enjoyable and good for her.

I was glad when she finally complied to sit in her seat so I could give it to her.

Does God feel this way about me sometimes? I suspect so.

Psalm 81:10-11 seems fitting to consider here.

“I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
But My people did not listen to My voice;
Israel did not obey Me.” (CSB)

God wanted to bless the Israelites. He really did, but He wanted them to be ready to receive it.

Am I ready to receive what God wants to give me?

In the Old Testament, very often God’s promises had to do with physical blessings (the Promised Land, good health, national security, etc.). In the New Testament, more often God’s promises are concerning spiritual blessings. (Indeed, in the New Testament, Jesus goes so far as to warn that I will face trouble in this physical world. (John 16:33))

One spiritual blessing God offers to give me is peace – a deep heart-level peace.

Shortly before going to the cross, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” (John 14:27 CSB)

Two things catch my eye in this verse. First, there is something Jesus desires to give me: peace. Second, there is something I must do to be ready to receive it: not let my heart be troubled or fearful.

This is only one example of something God wants to give me, yet I must be ready to receive it.

I love the way the hymn “Trust and Obey” puts it:

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

It goes on to say:

“But we never can prove
the delights of His love
until all on the altar we lay;
for the favor He shows,
for the joy He bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey.”

Have I been walking in the peace and joy of the Lord recently (not a superficial happiness, but that deep heart-level joy)? If not, maybe I need to check to make sure I have been trusting and obeying the Lord.

 

I step into the kitchen feeling peckish. Surely there is something I can eat as a quick snack.

I head for the pantry. A salty snack would be perfect.

Opening the door, I eye the options: chocolate, breakfast cereals, crackers, chips.

Perhaps a few crackers or a handful of corn chips would do the trick.

I reach for the chip bag.

I pause. I had recently been reminded to try to include fruit and veggies in my snacks.

I ponder my options: apple, orange, carrot.

None of them quite strike my fancy, since salt is on my mind.

I know, a couple of lettuce leaves with a generous sprinkling of salt.

I retrieve the lettuce from the fridge. Rinse a few leaves and add salt.

Tasty.

I’ll have to remember to head for the veggie drawer next time I am on the hunt for a salty snack.

Why do I share this seemingly insignificant moment? Because it holds a reminder I need.

First off, are snacks like crackers, corn chips, or even chocolate bad? Will it harm me to eat them?

No, unless they are all I eat.

If I never include vegetables or fruit in my diet I would not be very healthy. I would be at risk of getting scurvy.

Okay, hopefully I’m doing reasonably well at keeping my physical food intake healthy and balanced, but what about my spiritual diet? Is my spiritual snacking healthy?

Am I including healthy spiritual snacks in my week, or am I starving my walk with Jesus?

Recently I found myself pondering why it can be so hard to have room in my thoughts for God.

Yes, I love God, but throughout the day, rather than thinking about Him, I would find my mind focused on other things – what will I make for supper, which toy should I buy my niece for her birthday, how can I improve my preschool blog posts?

These are all valid things to be considering. It does not harm me to think about them. In fact, it is wise to put some thought into them.

It wasn’t that I was thinking about bad things, but I wanted my thoughts to turn back to God more often. That would be better.

Over several days I considered this. What was the answer?

Then I started to understand. I began to notice what I was feeding my mind throughout the day: social media posts, podcasts about writing, and grocery store flyers to name a few.

Was I neglecting God?

Not necessarily. I still read my Bible daily, took time to pray for my family, and attended and volunteered at church regularly.

The problem was, I kept crowding my mind with other things.

I don’t want to be the seed crowded out by thorns as mentioned in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13).

I want God to be first in my life.

What does this mean practically?

Just as I switched out an okay snack for the healthier option of lettuce, I can switch out some things in my life to be more intentional to be feeding my mind on the things of God.

Rather than only listening to writing podcasts, I can listen to a Christian podcast or sermon.

Rather than gorging myself on social media posts, I can read a Christian theology book or a Christian biography.

Rather than listening to more news, I can listen to some worship songs.

It is not that I will never listen to a writing podcast, browse social media, or listen to the news. Those things have a place.

Instead, I want to change the balance of what I’m feeding my mind on so as to fuel more thoughts about Jesus.

As Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” NIV

As the old hymn says, I want to turn my eyes upon Jesus; to look full in His wonderful face. For then the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

The more I think about God, the more those petty, unimportant things that can cause so much stress will bother me less.

For today, what is one thing, no matter how small, I can do to feed my mind on the things of God?

Need suggestions for healthier options? Here are some I have enjoyed:

Laugh Again

Phil Callaway – Christian Comedian podcast

https://redcircle.com/shows/laugh-again-with-phil-callaway3308 

Women Worth Knowing

Cheryl Brodersen & Robin Jones Gunn – 30-minute podcast biographies about various Christian women

http://graciouswords.com/women-worth-knowing-podcast/ 

Through Gates of Splendor

Elisabeth Elliot – Easy to read Christian biography

Buy Through Gates of Splendor on Amazon

Seeking Allah Finding Jesus

Nabeel Qureshi – Easy to read Christian biography with apologetics

Buy Seeking Allah Finding Jesus on Amazon

Mere Christianity

C. S. Lewis – Theology for deep thinkers

Buy Mere Christianity on Amazon

Evidence that Demands a Verdict

Josh McDowell & Sean McDowell – Apologetics (Why we believe what we believe)

Buy Evidence that Demands a Verdict on Amazon

The Case For Christ

Lee Strobel – Investigation into evidence for Christianity

Buy the Case for Christ on Amazon

Stay in the Word

Glenn Nudd – Verse by verse Bible teaching

https://messages.calvarychapel.ca/stayintheword/ 

Enduring Word

David Guzik – Verse by verse Bible teaching

https://enduringword.com/media/audio/ 

(The Amazon links above are affiliate links meaning I earn a small commission when you make a purchase at no added expense to you.)