Leftovers

Did you blink and miss summer? I did. Every year I promise myself I am going to recapture those magical golden days of summer when time used to slow down. Why, in a single day I used to fit in a dozen games of horseshoes, an hour or so of cloud watching, a romp in the woods with my faithful dog, a good nap after an hour reading in the hottest part of the day, a game of kick-the-can with my sisters (played at dusk to maximize stealth), a bit of tire-swinging, and, of course, plenty of watermelon eating. And somehow, I managed to fit in the chores, too!

If you’re like me, you’re wondering where the summer went. You’re already back in the swing of full-blown stress-and-panic mode. How am I going to get the kids where they need to be, do my job, cook the meals, help with homework, clean, cut, fix, mend, shop, build [insert 400 other action verbs of your choice]… do you feel your chest tighten just reading this? Do you have 911 on your speed dial because three numbers requires too much time, time you just don’t have, and when the breakdown comes you have to call the ambulance, arrange a sitter and order take-out before you hit the floor?

Imagine if there were a way to multiply time. Would you believe me if I told you it’s possible? Maybe I should put it on cable in the early morning and offer it to you in three installments of $19.95, but only if you call in the next ten minutes, because those operators standing by? They have to get home to fix breakfast, start a load of laundry, drive the kids to school…

The Bible is full of lessons on different types of sacrifices to make to God: a “broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51), “a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps 116), “of praise” (Heb. 13), our “bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12), and money, among others. In speaking of the monetary sacrifices, Paul said, of the “churches of Macedonia,” that “They gave themselves first to the Lord,” and somehow, then, were able to give “beyond their means, of their own free will, begging earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor. 8:3-4). Wow!

Jesus has a knack of multiplying that which we first freely give to him for His service. Take the fish and loaves, for example. When I read that story in John 6, I have to stop and think “Only a child would have given his small lunch to Jesus to feed 5000 people.” Someone, probably more like Martha than Mary, had responsibly sent her son out with a small lunch. Which of us would have given it up? I’d have thought “Why should I go hungry so that everyone else can also go hungry, because if I give up this lunch you can be sure of one thing: None of us will be satisfied.”

Not that boy. He gave “first to the Lord,” and the Lord multiplied it, not just until everyone was satisfied, but until everyone was satisfied and there were leftovers to boot! In our frantic, panicked, stressed-out, overwhelmed lives do we dare to believe He can do it with time?

I think the answer is a resounding and emphatic “yes!” I firmly believe that God gives us more than enough time to do the work He’s given us to do, including time to worship, pray, study and fellowship. Sadly, we beg for enough time when He longs to give us leftovers.

Often times in our lives, when it all gets to be too much, the first thing we neglect is our relationship with God. Our personal devotions, our church attendance, and our participation in Sunday school and Bible study (that is, our personal and corporate worship and our Christian education) suffer. Our service is often maintained, because so much of our image is dependent upon it, but it’s often done with feelings of stress and frustration rather than joy and gladness. We forget where our fuel comes from and serve on empty.

Lord knows (and I say that literally without an ounce of irreverence) we need to rest. He knew it when he designed us; He knew it when He instituted the Sabbath; He knew it when He called us and when He commissioned us. We’re the ones who don’t seem to understand.

Christian discipleship has at its heart four action verbs: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” (Matt. 11:29) “Abide in me.” (John 15:4) Come, friends, take, learn and abide “and you will find rest for your souls.”

If we plan on giving God our leftover time, we won’t have any, and we’ll be frazzled, hurried and stressed, but if we give “first to the Lord,” I bet we’ll suddenly find that we even have time leftover!

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