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.)

 

I set my baby on her feet. “There, you’ve got your pyjamas on. Now it’s time for your sleep sack.”

I fetch her sleep sack – a wearable blanket to keep her warm at night.

She begins to fuss.

Scooping her up I slide her arms into the sleep sack then do up the zipper.

“I know you don’t like going to bed, but you’re tired and it’s nighttime.”

Her fussing increases and switches to a repeated word. “Bear Bear. Bear Bear. Bear Bear.”

I glance around the room. “I don’t know where Bear Bear is, but we can go find him.”

My baby in my arms, we hunt for her favourite teddy bear.

At length we find him in the kitchen.

“There’s Bear Bear.”

I lower her so she can pick up the teddy bear.

She does, clutching him to herself and relaxing. “Bear Bear.”

I cuddle her close. “You like Bear Bear a lot.”

A few minutes later, I place her in her crib. She clings to her teddy bear and cries.

“Goodnight.” I say, “Have a good sleep.”

I close the door and fetch the baby monitor.

Watching the video feed on the little screen, I observe her hugging the bear close. When she stops crying and lies down, she still has the bear securely in her grip.

She croons, “Bear Bear,” before falling asleep.

The following morning, when I go to lift my baby out of her crib, her first words are not a greeting for me. No, something else is on her mind.

“Bear Bear. Bear Bear.”

I lower her back into the crib so she can grab the teddy bear whom she had let go of at some point during the night.

She hugs him close. “Ahh… Bear Bear.”

Now she’s ready to begin her day.

When I set her down in the living room to play, she drops her bear on the floor and reaches for a ball.

That’s where Bear Bear is likely to spend most of his morning until naptime when she seeks him out again.

Recently, observing my baby’s interaction with her teddy bear left me pondering the question “Is Jesus my teddy bear?”

Let me explain.

Bear Bear is one of my daughter’s favorite toys. His name is one of the few words she can say. He is her lovey – the toy she seeks out for comfort at bedtime.

Do I seek God when I need comfort?

When trouble comes (such as bedtime for my baby) do I run to Jesus for help?

If so, good.

Seeking God in times of trouble is good and right. He is the One who is almighty and in control. Certainly I should seek Him when I need comfort.

As the Psalmist writes, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid” (Psalm 56:3-4a NIV).

The next question is: How do I treat God when things are good?

Do I follow my baby’s example of leaving her teddy bear abandoned on the floor?

Her teddy bear could get stepped on or lost, but she is heedless of these risks. She forgets about Bear Bear until the next crisis comes.

Do I forget about God when life is going well? Does He disappear from my thoughts and my life as soon as trouble fades?

Stating that my baby never plays with her bear except at bedtime is an overstatement.

Occasionally she spots him laying haphazardly on the floor and is reminded of her great affection for him. She will toddle over to him and pick him up to play for a few minutes until the next toy catches her fancy.

Also, if someone happens to mention “teddy bear” she will be reminded of her precious “Bear Bear” and will desire to have him. She will look for him and cry if she cannot find him.

What about me? When life is good, do I only think about God if someone mentions Him or if I stumble across some other reminder of Him?

I hope I treat God better than that.

God doesn’t want to just be my rescue when trouble comes.

Don’t get me wrong. It is good to run to Him when need arises. Yet God wants to be so much more than that to me. God wants to be at the centre of my life whether my days are happy or troubled.

God wants me to acknowledge Him in all my ways (Proverbs 3:6). God wants everything I do to be done for Him (Colossians 3:23). He wants me to always be giving thanks to Him (Ephesians 5:20).

That sounds like a lot more than only seeking Jesus when the going gets hard.

This week, may Jesus be more than just my teddy bear. May I not forget Him when the going is easy, but rather, may I walk closely with Him now and always.

May my prayer be the words of the song, Be The Centre:

[Jesus], be the fire in my heart.
Be the wind in these sails.
Be the reason that I live.

Woman standing in front of two doors behind title: Choices: There are only two

 

Pulling out my laptop, I turn it on. I settle onto a comfortable seat and open a web browser.

The time to introduce solid food to my baby is closing in fast now that she is four months old.

She certainly thinks it is time for more than just milk.

Every chance she gets she reaches for our food. Anytime she spots us eating, she drops her toy and studies our every movement as we take a bite, chew, and swallow. (I’m certain she’s taking notes for when her turn comes.)

With these things in mind, I open an online shopping website. Shopping online is much easier than in person with a four month old in tow.

I review my mental list of the items I need: a bib, baby spoons, and some sort of bowl or plate for giving her food as she learns to feed herself.

Okay, I may as well start with the bib. I type “silicone bib” into the search bar because I want a bib that’s easy to wipe clean and has a food catcher that stays open.

I glance at the number of results. Over 1,000! Oh boy, that’s a lot of items to sort through as I decide which one to buy.

I begin scrolling through the items. Some come in sets of two or three bibs. Some come with bowls or plates. Some have super cute designs. Others are not silicone bibs at all.

I survey the prices and sample the reviews on a few items. The cheapest ones may not last as long.

I study one of the more expensive ones that has a fantastic rating. Wait. I’ve seen that bib design before.

I scroll back through the items. Yes, there it is. I count the number of size adjustments and study the picture. Yup. It’s the same bib, just in a different colour.

As I continue to browse I note that, while there are four or five different makes of silicone bibs with food catchers, the majority of the options are simply different colours or patterns of the same bib, even when the sellers label them as different brands.

Well, that simplifies my options a lot.

Next, I begin to focus on which items are contained in each set. I figure that, since I want a spoon and a bowl anyways, why not get them with the bib?

Even with that decision made, there are still so many options to choose from: wooden spoons, silicone spoons, fork and spoon sets, plates with dividers, bowls, and containers with lids.

Finally, I settle on a set that comes with one silicone bowl, one silicone baby spoon, and a bib.

Now to choose the colour. At least this set only has three options. I settle on light turquoise.

Phew. That was a lot of choices to make. Sometimes having so many choices can be overwhelming and, at the very least, time-consuming.

Thinking about choosing between so many options leads me to ponder life.

In life, I have many choices. I choose which clothes to wear, and I choose the type of people I spend time with. I choose what I do with my free time, and I choose which type of food to buy.

For example, when Moses knew his time of death was near, he instructed the Israelites about how to live by giving them laws. Having laid all these out he said to them,

“…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20a (NIV)

The biggest choice I make each day is whether or not to follow Jesus.

I’m not referring to the choice to receive Jesus as my Saviour when I understand what the Gospel is. Accepting that Jesus died on the cross to give me new life is a one-time decision.

Rather, I am referring to the ongoing decision to submit my will to Jesus and to walk closely with Him. This is a decision I must make anew every day.

Indeed, each new morning I have many choices. Most importantly, I get to choose who or what to live my life for.

I may choose to live my life for pleasure. I may choose to live my life for the wonderful feeling of helping others. I may choose to live my life for the pursuit of money, popularity, and fame.

All these may sound like different options, and they look very different in how they are lived out. Yet, when I examine them closer they really are not all that different.

Just as so many of the bibs looked different but in reality were the exact same make of bib, in a similar way most of the choices of how I live my life are in reality all the same. They lead away from the abundant life Jesus wants to give me (John 10:10).

When I look under the surface I really only have two options to choose from. Will I follow Jesus today? Or will I go my own way?

Perhaps the words of Joshua are a fitting note to end this post on.

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

 

There they are, sitting in the corner of the room. Yes, they are tucked away, but still I see them. The boxes from two gifts I received recently.

Entering the living room, I settle on the couch and my eyes wander back to where they sit.

“Is it time to throw them out?” I wonder.

Both the mixer and the humidifier that came in the boxes have been opened and used. They appear to work well.

They have found homes elsewhere in my house, yet still the boxes sit there. Should I throw them out?

From the couch I convince myself that, yes, it is time to throw them out. Next time I’m standing, I will throw them out.

Still, doubt rises. I have not yet had them for 30 days. What if they malfunction and stop working? I could take them back, but I would need the box and all the packaging.

I shake my head. The boxes are cluttering up the space. The items have worked just fine. Besides, the store may not be willing to receive them back now that I’ve used them.

But, what if…

I’ll ask my husband what he thinks when he gets off work. That will settle things.

With that I push the thoughts away and turn to the task I am supposed to be working on.

— — —

That evening, I forgot to ask my husband his opinion, so the boxes stayed put.

Several times this debate took place in my head as I eyed the boxes. I didn’t like the space they were consuming, but what if…?

With the empty boxes still sitting nearby as I type, I ask the question, are there any boxes I need to throw out in my life?

For me, some of those boxes still kicking around in my head and heart might be the “that’s not how it used to be” comments.

True, there may have been good in how things used to be done. Still, holding onto those thoughts creates clutter that steals from my ability to enjoy the new ways of doing things.

An example cropped up in my life recently related to my pregnancy.

I used to be a morning person. Before 9am used to be my best time for writing. During pregnancy, however, my mind was sluggish most mornings. That’s not how it used to be, yet if I hang onto that thought too tightly, I may slip into grumbling and bitterness.

Indeed, with a new baby around, there are many changes I must embrace, and I can do it much better if I throw out the boxes.

Now, that might be a useful life principle, but I believe there is a more important box to throw out when it comes to following Jesus.

Throwing away those boxes that are sitting in my living room feels a bit risky because it is a commitment – a commitment that I will not be taking those items back for a refund. Once the boxes are gone, if one of the items breaks, it’s on me to buy a replacement.

Similarly, choosing to give my life 100% to Jesus can feel risky. What if I don’t like what He asks me to do? What if I want my old life back?

In Matthew 8:19-22 ESV, we see that Jesus wants us to be all in – no holding onto boxes.

“A scribe came up and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'” 

Elsewhere Jesus said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 16:25 ESV)

So what about me? Am I following Jesus with my entire life, or do I cling to some boxes that are keeping me back?

Just like the boxes still cluttering my living room, it is time for me to get rid of those boxes that are hindering me in my walk with Jesus.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

P.S. I have since recycled those boxes. My living room looks much better without them!

Painting of tree by S. J. Little in background of title

Have you done much art? I enjoy art, but with everything on my schedule, I rarely make it a priority. Recently, however, when Covid-19 restrictions were lifted enough that I could visit some relatives, we enjoyed having a paint night together.

I decided to do a landscape, since painting people is far more difficult.

We used acrylic paint. When using acrylic, the typical strategy is to start with the furthest back part of the picture. From there, each new layer can be added on top.

In my case, the furthest back thing was the sky.

I knew I planned to put a tree in the foreground. I hoped my tree would resemble an Elm. I knew the sky would be visible through the leaves and between the branches of the tree. Therefore, I wanted more than just a flat blue sky.

I took my time, trying several times until I was satisfied with the gradient from deep blue at the top of the sky, to light blue at the horizon. Then it was time for clouds. I added wispy white clouds.

That done, I moved on to the next layer – mountains. At first I made them flat, but that was too boring, so I added shadows and highlights. Much better.

Time for the grass. I spread plain green across the space. I added a little more variety to the green, then left it at that for the time being. Later I would add more details.

Stepping back, I examined my painting. The bright colours and my hard work had paid off. I was pleased with my background.

The next question: where to put the tree? I frowned. Did I even want to add the tree? The background had turned out so beautifully. Would adding a tree in the foreground harm the beauty of it? What if I did a poor job of the tree?

Despite my fears, I knew the picture would look empty and incomplete without something in the foreground.

I squeezed some brown paint onto my palate. Taking a deep breath, I added a tree trunk. Then I added branches and leaves. Finally I added texture to the grass.

Eyeing my painting, I considered adding something else to the foreground on the other side. Perhaps a road or a creek? Yet those same fears crept up again. What if I did a poor job adding it. All my work on the background would be negated.

This time I decided that my painting was complete.

As I considered the process of creating this painting, I marveled at the importance of background. Much of my time and effort had gone into forming the background with great detail. Had I neglected the background, it would have been an entirely different painting.

Indeed when watching a pro artist, it can be astounding how much detail they put into the background.

Is there a life lesson I can learn from this?

Yes, I believe there is.

Sometimes it seems as though so much of life is background stuff. Washing dishes, doing laundry, writing emails, buying groceries… the list could go on.

At times, I feel anxious to get on with the “big stuff.” I want to do things that feel important and belong in the foreground.

At moments like that, I have to stop and remind myself of the importance of the background stuff.

In Luke 16:10 (ESV) we read, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

I find it helpful to switch the words “faithful” and “dishonest” with other words to help drive home the point. Am I being diligent in the very little things? Am I being intentional and wise in how I handle those little things? Am I a good steward of what I’ve been given, no matter how small or background it feels?

In the Bible, I see lots of the “big” moments – David defeating Goliath, Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, Jesus’s time of ministry. If I pay close attention, though, I can also see snippets of the background stuff that enabled these “big” moments to be handled well.

David faithfully tended his father’s sheep, including fighting off bears and lions (1 Samuel 17:34-37).  Moses was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22 ESV). “Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23 ESV).

Each of these had years of little stuff that served as a background to the big moments of their lives which the Bible tells about.

Sometimes, I find the stuff that might seem big, is indeed a compilation of many small things that add up to a big thing. To be a pastor or Christian camp director, for example, is largely made up of doing lots and lots of little things well.Tree painting by S. J. Little

What about my life? Is all the daily background stuff going to one day culminate in an unmistakably big moment? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that God has called me to be faithful with what He has given me to do here and now, no matter how menial.

As I am faithful with the little things, He will unfold His plans for my life. Perhaps there will be a “big” moment in my life, but perhaps not. Regardless, may I seek to be faithful that one day I may say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)