The shelf life of lima beans

I am not a fan of lima beans.  I was born that way.  And my dislike for them does nothing to make the following story any better.

Recently I was visiting in the home of an older guy who is in our hospice program.  He’s single, has never been married, and has outlived all of his friends.  You might think he would be depressed – but that hardly describes him.  No, he’s having a good time keeping himself busy.  He collects state quarters (did you know there is one for the Virgin Islands?).  He buys pop every time it goes on sale – though I doubt he has any hope of drinking it all in this lifetime (unless he lives to be 116).   And he cans vegetables.  Technically, he used to can vegetables.

On my last visit he showed me the gun case in his dining room that he had transformed into storage shelves for his canning projects.  And front and center were some lima beans.  Those lima beans are his pride and joy.  He took the jar off the shelf and showed me with great aplomb that he had canned those beans back in 1976.  Yes, you read that right – 1976.   Every jar in his cabinet was labeled and dated, including his lima beans.

Now, I’m not sure, but I don’t think lima beans get better with age.   And I wasn’t about to find out.   In my mind, the shelf life of those lima beans had expired long ago.

But what about the shelf life of our faith?  If we’re not careful we find ourselves still living on the experiences of the past, rather than on the promises of today.  The highlights can go back many years, and we can live off the memories of those moments.  But  in the meantime our day-to-day faith may be getting stale.

God’s mercies are new every morning.  I believe there’s a reason for that.  He doesn’t want us to live out a faith that is out-of-date and expired.  He wants it to be new and exciting and fresh every day.  That’s what He offers.

If I were to give some advice to my friend, I would tell him to let go of his lima beans, and to go shopping for something a little more recent – maybe with a “best used by” date on it.   ( I might also suggest that he try something a little more tasty – like Fritos or Oreos.)

And if I were to give advice to the rest of us, I’d say that it’s time to check the shelf life of our faith.  Are we living on the past?  Or are we experiencing the thrill of God at work in our lives each and every day.

Lima beans circa 1976 don’t cut it.  Neither does does faith circa 1976 or 1989 or 1998  or 2009.

So keep your faith fresh.  And leave the lima beans for my friend and me to marvel at.

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This date in history

January 20 has been a big day.

  • In 1892, the first basketball game was played in Springfield, Massachusetts
  • In 1954, the coldest temperature ever in the lower 48 states was recorded in Rogers Pass, Montana (-70)
  • In 1981, the 52 Americans who had been held captive for 444 days were released
  • In 1986, the first Martin Luther King day was celebrated
  • In 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the first minority US president
  • And in 1978, Brent Wood played 7 seconds in a JV basketball game

That’s right, I still remember the date – and there’s a good reason why, but I have to tell you the story first.  In 1978 I was in 9th grade.   And I was small – like extremely small.  When I started school that year I was all of 4’9″  – about the height of your average kitchen trash can.  But I liked to play basketball.  Unfortunately, what I lacked in size I made up for in lack of ability.  I wasn’t very good, and I didn’t get to play very much.

Until my big break came.  Report cards came out, and while I didn’t do much on the court, I did do pretty well in the classroom – unlike several of my teammates who were declared ineligible.  The coach gave me the news – I would be starting at point guard the next night.  I was elated – and went home and told my parents who promptly decided to drive about  two hours to attend the big event.

The game started, and there I was on the court in my much-too-large jersy and short shorts.  The other team won the tip and went down and scored.  The ball was inbounded to me, and I started up the court.  But awaiting me was a half-court trap.  I’d never faced one before.  Know that little fact, the coach called a timeout.  And took me out of the game.  And I never went back in.  I still remember at halftime limping off the court because I was hoping people would think that I got hurt and that’s why I couldn’t play.

That night I went home and read my Bible.  And I came across this verse in Proverbs 20:24.

“A man’s steps are directed by the Lord.  How then can anyone understand his way?”

I still remember thinking that verse probably applied to playing time, too.

You don’t need to feel sorry for me, because I had a lot of good takeaways from that night.

  1. I ended up becoming a basketball coach and I was always careful not to embarrass a player with a few seconds of playing time.
  2. I learned that God’s Word can speak into your heart at just the right moment, even if you are only 14 years old.
  3. I am reminded that teenagers are a pretty insecure and sensitive lot – and not very confident.
  4. I still can go back to that verse.  When things don’t work out like I think they should, I can take comfort in the fact that God is still is in control – even 32 years later.

So January 20 is a big date for me in history – because when I got home that night, God was waiting for me.

Knowing the difference

“God, help me to know the difference between success and blessing.”

A friend of mine gave me a copy of the book Leadership Prayers by Richard Kriegbaum for Christmas.  It’s a compact little book with roughly thirty prayers that the author prayed while in a leadership role as a college president.  And each prayer touches on a different topic of leadership.  His prayer for God’s blessing really stuck out.

Success and blessing are not the same thing. Sometimes God blesses, and His blessing may bring success, but success is not the big deal.  But we think it is.  That’s why we work so hard at it.  We read all the right books, attend all the right seminars, network with all the right people, follow all the right trends – because we want to be successful.  We want to be able to produce our list of accomplishments and achievements.

Reminds me of a guy in the Bible by the name of Jacob.  By most standards he was successful.  He secured his future while he was still young (though he had to swipe what rightfully belonged to his brother to do so).  He had a beautiful wife (and one that wasn’t so beautiful, but maybe she had a good personality?).  He was an astute business man.  He had a knack for building a flock of sheep.  He had twelve sons.  He had some prestige.  He had possessions.   He had success.

But then one night He met an angel – and a wrestling match ensued.  When the fight was over Jacob was no longer focused on success.  Instead, he was hanging on to the angel and begging for a blessing.

Why are we so content to build our lives around our potential, our efforts, our talents?  They might even be good.  But are they as good as God’s blessing?

I’m thinking I would rather be blessed than successful.  And I know I need to be.  I want to do all I can to lead a successful family life, but what I really want is God’s blessing on my wife and kids.  I want to do all I can to have an impact in ministry, but what I really want is God’s blessing on His church.  I want to cultivate meaningful relationships, but what I really want is God’s blessing on me and the people in life I call friends.  I want to work hard and do my best with the gifts God has given me, but what I really want is God to bless my life.

Successes – they lead to pride, false security, and empty praise – because they are all about what I can do.

Blessings – they lead to humility, gratitude, and satisfaction – because they are all about what God has done.

“God, help us to know the difference between success and blessing – and help us to crave the blessing.”

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