This week’s matchstick suggestion is a good reminder: “Enjoy simple sensory pleasures—a fresh clean towel or ice-cold lemonade.” In our busy routines we can overlook some of the pleasures God created for us to enjoy every day. Let’s be grateful for those five senses he has given us. We certainly notice the pain when those same senses warn us about some problem we’re having. Why not pay more attention to the many pleasures we often take for granted. My friends Jerry and Paula have been bringing me fresh tomatoes and okra from their garden. What can be better than biting into a fresh, vine-ripened tomato! And, I love frying up a pan of okra doused in flour and cornmeal batter. (It’s a Southern thing.) Along with the enjoyment of food, the smell of fresh baked bread, the sound of raindrops falling on a roof, the sight of a beautiful sunset, the touch of a child’s hand in yours, all God created for our pleasure. Thank you, Lord!
I was with my daughter watching one of her favorite TV shows, Songland, when my cellphone rang. It was Tim. “Hello, Miss Sheila, sorry to call so late, but are you all right? There’re no lights on at your house.” (Tim and wife Janelle have always called me Miss Sheila since I’ve known them. It’s a Southern thing.) I assured him I was fine, just out later than usual at my daughter’s. But he told me it was pitch black, no lights at all around my house. Unknown to me the light-sensitive lamp on the shed in the back had burnt out, and I hadn’t left the outer garage lights on either. I’m almost surrounded by woods, so when no lights are on at night, it’s dark indeed. It’s nice to know my neighbors cared enough to call. It reminded me when I noticed one of my neighbors not walking her dog, I called her. That’s how I learned she was mourning the loss of her longtime pet. It’s good to check up on your neighbors once in a while.
Outside our public library is a box. It’s not a book return; it’s a blessing box. People are encouraged to put items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, tissues or packaged snacks in the box. I kept forgetting it until I got to the library so I began making up a bag of items to keep in the car. The last time I dropped off something I noticed someone had left canned goods as well. They weren’t on the list, but not a bad idea. I have to admit, I don’t feel comfortable stopping and giving money to rough-looking men with signs, as much as I’m tempted. But, with so many other ways to give to the needy, there’s no excuse not to give. (Yes, though I also download books on my iPad or Kindle, I still like to go to the library and check out books. I love libraries. They’re amazing places. Come to think of it, I look at the library as my “blessing box.”)
It started with maple syrup. As I dipped a bite of pancake in the pure maple syrup on my plate, it came to me. I was enjoying pancakes covered in tree sap! How remarkable this world is! Along with nuts and fruit, trees produce syrup, and even rubber and aspirin come from trees. And, earth’s amazing little bugs—bees create honey, while fireflies have lights on their bottoms. I could go on and on, of course. God’s good creation has many marvels. The farther we look in the heavens, the more there is to see. Every so often we find strange-looking sea creatures still living thought extinct thousands of years ago. I wonder if God smiles at that and says, Surprise! God could have marked everything more clearly. Let’s see, all plants good for humans to eat will be green. If not healthy for humans, those inedible plants will be red. Or maybe, no color at all, just various shades of gray. We wouldn’t know the difference if we had never seen color. Though God created a well-ordered universe, he also included a surprising amount of variety. Thank you, Lord, for amazing us, entertaining us and surprising us every day!
The matchstick suggestion for this week, what have I accomplished? I did write a blog today. I guess that counts. The old truck is now state inspected and reregistered. I checked on one of my neighbors who had to put her beloved dog down. His name was Mo because he came from Missouri. She’s having a hard time because she’s a widow and he had become part of her family. As everyone knows, we accomplish hundreds of little things every day, from making our beds to paying our bills and mowing our yards. Though I don’t mow my acre-size yard anymore, I am busy with a lot of other chores. But when I think of accomplishments, I think of something more major than emptying the dishwasher. Theologian Henri Nouwen once wrote that everything we do is God’s work, from washing the dishes to emptying the trash. That’s the way he looked at all his responsibilities, big or small. He included Jesus in every aspect of his life. So maybe I have accomplished something today.
Once when I was at my friend Ginger’s house, I saw she was making a small quilt. I was surprised because I know Ginger as a wonderful artist who paints in oils and other mediums. She makes quilts too! She told me they were prayer quilts that she donates to rest homes and other organizations. I hadn’t heard of prayer quilts before, but I asked: “When are you going to make me one? I want one with horses on it.” She laughed and said she would. That was months ago and I had about forgotten about it when she texted me from her Wyoming ranch asking what I needed prayers for. (She’s a horse woman and a real cowgirl too and she and her husband spend their summers working at their ranch.) She had finished the quilt and she and others there were planning to pray over it last Sunday. I told her I was going to be speaking at a women’s conference in California in a few months, and I would really appreciate their prayers. I hope I get my quilt in time to take it with me as a reminder of my thoughtful friend.
This week it’s, “Engage in random acts of kindness for strangers.” We’ve heard that matchstick suggestion before and it’s a good one. I do that every so often but not enough and I appreciate the reminder. Maybe you’ve heard of Jesus tips too. That’s when after a meal out you give your server an extra-large tip (in cash, if using a credit card) on top of your usual tip. And, you tell them it’s from Jesus; it’s a Jesus tip. I’ve done that a few times, and that can start a conversation. Not always, usually it’s just a surprised look, a big smile and a grateful thank you. But sometimes your gift peaks people’s curiosity and they want to know why you’re doing this. Doing random acts of kindness or giving Jesus tips are ways to show my appreciation for all the ways God has blessed me. The name “Jesus tip” is appropriate because God is so generous. It’s part of his godly nature. His blessings fall on everyone, even on those who don’t appreciate them or even believe in him. He is love! I want to be like him.