Friday, July 31, 2009

The Most Important Meal of the Day

By Erin Bunting

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what's the first thing you say to yourself?” “What's for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It's the same thing,” he said.
-- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

I admit I’m more like Piglet than Pooh -- not much of a breakfast eater, but eager to see “what’s going to happen exciting today.” For me, breakfast is a cup of coffee and maybe a handful of dry cereal before I get on with more pressing matters of the day. Sometimes I even skip the cereal.

And I know, I know, how important breakfast is. I’ve heard the mantra: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I’ve read about the studies proving that kids and adults who eat breakfast perform better in school and on the job. I know that a good breakfast staves off hunger, helps me focus, accomplish more and resist unhealthy temptations to overeat later in the day. I know!

But come on- preparing a real breakfast -- cooking actual hot food in the morning? That takes time. It takes effort. You have to get up early to do it. Think about that Proverbs 31 woman: “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family.” (Proverbs 31:15). Maybe a hearty breakfast was why her husband and kids were such happy over-achievers, but in today’s ready-to-eat, cereal-in-a-box, Pop Tart, protein-bar-on-the-way-out-the-door culture, that’s just crazy talk.

Maybe that’s also why it’s so extra special when someone cooks you breakfast -- because it’s such a tender, tangible act of care and kindness. Cooking breakfast means something. It’s love on a plate.

Jesus understood the importance of a good breakfast. He even cooked breakfast for His disciples, to fuel them for their upcoming work spreading the gospel. The story is found in John 21:12. The disciples had been fishing unsuccessfully all night and it was early morning. It was shortly after Jesus’ resurrection when He appeared on the shore and suggested they fish on the other side of the boat. They did, and pulled in a net bursting with fish. “Now,” Jesus shouted, “Come and have some breakfast!” By the time they hit the beach, Jesus had everything prepared. In fact, as verse 13 says He even “served them.” Jesus nourished his friends with a hearty breakfast of bread and fish.

You’ll notice He did not serve them the fish they caught themselves, but the fish He brought and cooked. Yes, they needed physical food, but they also required spiritual sustenance that only the Savior could provide. “When they had finished eating,” Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?” In the course of the questioning, Jesus told Peter “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” “Feed my sheep,” and “Follow me!” (v. 15-19) Notice the sequence. First Jesus fed Peter -- nourished him physically and spiritually, and only when Peter “had finished eating” could he fulfill Jesus command to follow Him and share the Gospel of Christ with others.

Ministry, marriage, mothering, mentoring – all require tremendous physical and spiritual energy. Jesus, the Proverbs 31 woman, wives, mothers and all those nutritionists understand that nutritionally, a good breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Spiritually-speaking, it does the same thing. Jesus said “I am the bread of life, and he who believes in me will never go hungry.” (John 6:35) So even though I’m not big on bacon and eggs first thing in the morning, I try to always start my day feasting on the soul-satisfying “bread of life” which is God’s Word. Breakfast with Jesus sets the tone for the rest of my day and gives me the spiritual sustenance to complete whatever He gives me to do.

So whether you wake up like Pooh asking “What's for breakfast?” or like Piglet, asking “What's going to happen exciting today?” remember, it’s pretty much the same thing. Let the Bread of Life fill you and receive it as a tender, tangible act of care and kindness. Then follow Jesus, nourished and strengthened by His presence and His Holy Word -- love on a plate with no dishes to wash. Now that’s a miracle only Jesus could cook up!

Made Alive in Christ

By Andrea Warren*

Ephesians 5:18- "Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit."

There is no feeling of euphoria quite like experiencing full surrender to the Lord. Almost two years ago, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior after years of questioning, rebelling, and drinking. I had spent over ten years drowning my fears and anxieties with glass after glass of wine day after day.

I held grudges and sulked in my own pity. I thought the worst of everyone and every situation. To help me deal with all these emotions, I had the wine section of every grocery store in four counties staked out and kept a stock of it in the kitchen cabinets and hidden in closets.

I remember the last time I drank. It was a Thursday evening. I had come home from work around 4:30 in the afternoon and poured myself a glass of wine. As I kept refilling my wine glass, I’d say, “Lord, please help me. I don’t know why I am doing this.” My words were saying, “Help me,” but my heart was saying, “Lord, this wine will suffice. It will numb the pain.”

By the time my husband went to bed, I had passed out in the recliner, my right hand clutching the empty wine glass. Somehow in the fuzzy haze of the evening, I had managed to help my son with homework, cook supper, wash several loads of clothes and pack for a weekend Christian women’s retreat in the mountains.

That weekend, God changed my life. I had planned to go in search of relief from my pain. What happened was even better than I could ever have hoped. The guest speaker for the retreat was Leslie Nease, who shared her quest for contentment and peace. She had looked to food, also alcohol like me, then physical fitness and a beauty crown before finding true joy in Jesus. The chapel held over 200 women that weekend, but I felt like God was speaking straight to me through Leslie’s story. I willingly opened my heart and let the Holy Spirit into my deeply troubled soul.

After Leslie had shared her testimony at the women’s retreat, she instructed the audience to take a pebble from a basket at the front of the chapel and return to our seats. Then she told us that if we had a heavy burden that was weighing on our hearts to come forward and put the pebble in the basket, giving it to God. With tears in my eyes, I ran to the front of that chapel and threw my pebble in.

The day I surrendered my life to the Lord, none of the circumstances in my life changed. The anxiety and emotional turmoil were still present. I just began dealing with them differently. Instead of drowning myself in alcohol, I turned to scripture verses that comforted me, talked out my feelings to God in a prayer journal, and trusted Him to take control of my life and show me daily how to cope with the stresses.

God had spent months preparing my heart for that moment of surrender. I had become disgusted with my drinking. My health had begun to suffer with high blood pressure and elevated liver levels, even labored breathing at night. The alcohol was shutting down my central nervous system.

Alcohol was not going to fix what was broken inside of me. Only through my faith, belief, and surrender were my physical body and my emotional state going to experience healing.

I knew about Jesus, had joined the church when I was 12, even read and studied the Bible occasionally. But I always held a part of me back from the Lord. I always kept a piece of my heart for myself, and that was my trouble. I had not completely said, “Lord, I want to live my life for you. I will obey your commands and accept Jesus as my savior.” I said those words that day, and the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. A peace and comfort filled me that I’d never felt before.

During her two day session, Leslie had shared many scripture verses with us. Armed with my notes, I returned home, ready to pour over scripture and learn just what it meant to use God’s word as a guide to my life. I keep a prayer journal in which I record my thoughts and prayers.

For the first time in my life, I physically got down on my knees and poured out my heart. The relief was overwhelming. I no longer had to fix the problems of my life by myself. I started a morning devotional time and still keep to it today. I read Leslie Nease’s book, Body Builders, in which she carries the reader through her surrender.

I always thought that if I gave my life to the Lord, then I would be cheating myself out of things I want out of life. I realize now that all I want and need the Lord has to offer me.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul writes to the church at Corinth, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

After only two years, I am still just scraping the surface of what God has had planned for me all along. God’s grace, wisdom, and strength truly are enough for me. They help me cope on a daily basis.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast, for we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

My story is nothing special; I am an average high school teacher, wife, and mother, living an average life. But, maybe there are others of you plodding along as I was, struggling to find meaning in the normalcy of your average lives.

I am hoping that my story can touch even just one life the way Leslie’s story touched mine. I feel that I owe God the time and effort it takes to share my story here so that others can come to know His love and mercy as I have.

*Not the author’s real name.