Saturday, May 18, 2013

Water and Oil: What’s for Breakfast?

Nutritionists say that breakfast is the most important meal. If we eat a wholesome breakfast before we start our day, it kicks our metabolism into high gear, fueling our bodies and our minds for the challenges we will face. 

But if we run out the door on an empty stomach or grab a jelly donut as we go, we are sure to run out of gas before we accomplish anything worthwhile.

Our spiritual food is even more crucial to our wellbeing than what we eat. Yet too often we starve our soul by not starting each day with a healthy serving of our daily bread – God’s Word (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3).

As we have seen in recent posts, water and oil in Scripture symbolize The Living Waters (Jeremiah 2:13) and the Holy Spirit, our true source of spiritual as well as physical nourishment. Water and oil, along with other nutrients, combine in milk, bread and meat – basic food groups that sustain us.

The blend of water and oil (butterfat) in breast milk, along with protein and other nutrients, make it the perfect food for the newborn infant.  For those who are born again (John 3:5-8), the “sincere milk” of God’s Word is the best food to nurture their soul as they taste God’s grace (1 Peter 2:2-3). Babes in Christ first need to ingest basic Gospel truths – that Jesus, Son of God, died to pay our sin debt, was buried, and rose again, so that all who trust Him have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4;. John 3:16).

As the infant matures into a child and then an adult, milk continues to be a dietary staple. Each day in the mature believer’s life should begin with a refreshing, nourishing drink of Gospel milk. As His Word reminds us of His mercy, love, and grace, we can taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

God in His provision blessed us with other foods to be introduced into the diet of the growing child. Bread is also made with water and oil, which bind together the wheat or other grain providing protein. The amino acids, or building blocks of protein, in bread complement those in milk, so that a diet of bread and milk contains all the protein needed for good health.  Milk and shredded wheat, oatmeal or other whole grain cereal, unadulterated with added sugars, make a complete breakfast.

God fed His people with manna – heavenly bread – that He provided fresh each day as they wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land (Exodus 16:4-35). In the spiritual desert of this world, believers continue to need the daily bread of God’s Word. Like the manna, we cannot gorge ourselves with it on Sunday and hoard the leftovers for the rest of the week – we must assimilate it daily.

Not only does His daily bread feed our own soul, but we need to digest it fully so that we can share it with others, witnessing as we cast our bread upon the waters (Ecclesiastes 11:1). We should never underestimate the power of God’s Word to impact others, for He can take even the smallest amount of daily bread that we are willing to give back to Him and multiply it beyond measure, as He did with the miracle of the loaves and fishes! (John 6 :5-14)

Jesus Himself is the Bread of Life, and we should start each day by turning to Him in prayer and reflection on His Word (John 6 :33-51). As we break bread at our first meal of the day, may we remember the Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Our Savior allowed His body to be broken for us, to take the punishment required for all our sins, to appease the wrath of perfectly holy and just God and to reconcile repentant sinners to Him (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2 ; 4:10).

Seasoned believers in Christ should not be content with milk alone, but to hunger for the “strong meat” of the Word (Hebrews 5:12-14). In terms of edible food, “meat” in Bible days could include a variety of solid foods: not only beef or lamb, but also fish (e.g. Luke 24:42). These foods are derived from animal muscle, which is mostly water with a rich store of protein and essential fats, or oils, such as omega-3-fatty acids in ocean fish. These dietary oils are vital for heart, joint and brain health. As some of us may remember, cod liver oil tastes terrible but builds strong bodies!

“Strong meat” of the Word may contain “hard sayings” (John 6:60) that are hard to swallow. Specifically, the Living Bread (John 6:51). told His disciples that if they ate His flesh and drank His blood, they would live forever (John 6:50-58). Clearly He was not referring to cannibalism, but to the need of each believer to consume His truths, Word, and lifestyle so completely that they became part of their very being. Only then would He dwell in them and they in Him (John 6:56).

When we have sinned, eating God’s Word is as necessary as strong medicine when we are sick, but it is not always pleasant. John found that eating the “little book” prophesying God’s judgment to be sweet on the lips, but bitter in his belly (Revelation 10:9-10). If we are to grow in His grace and become more conformed to His image, we must examine ourselves even in light of the hard sayings, and incorporate their truths in our very being.

As we grow in our Christian walk, we should not be content with only spiritual milk of basic Bible truths in the Gospels, but we should sink our teeth into the meatier passages in the Epistles, or letters, from Paul and other apostles, and even the prophetic passages in Revelation.

We are what we eat, and our first meal of the day prepares us to function at full capacity. A healthy breakfast fuels our body, and a satisfying helping of God’s Word energizes our spirit, to run the race He has set before us (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1) and to fight the good fight as soldiers in His army (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). No athlete should set out to run a marathon without nourishing his body properly, and no child of God should leap into the daily spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-18) without renewing their mind (Romans 12:2) in prayer and in His Word. 

© 2013 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Remembering “Baba” – A Proverbs 31 Grandmother

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we honor our own mother and are remembered by our children, but we should also give thanks for all the women in our lives who have inspired, encouraged, supported and loved us. For me, that includes all of you ladies, and especially Baba, my grandmother!

Marya, my mother's mother, was born in a small village near Kiev, Ukraine. As a young girl and teen she was said to be the best folk dancer in her village! Judging from the lavishly decorated, traditional tea towels, aprons and blouses she made and my mother still had decades later, she was also a talented and creative artist. As a special treat on rainy days in childhood, I was allowed to open the steamer trunk containing these linens, their once bright red and purple embroidery faded to maroon and tan, yet still rich in their intricate designs.

When she was 16, Marya fell in love and emigrated to Canada with her husband, a mining engineer, leaving her family and country and following him with the faithfulness of Ruth (1:16-17). They had a hard life in blustery Nova Scotia, and although she gave birth to 10 children, including three sets of twins, my mother was the only one who survived past infancy. The others died from pneumonia or other infections, as antibiotics were not yet available.

Her husband died suddenly when he was 35, probably from a brain aneurysm, two weeks after telling her that he would die soon because he had seen Jesus. Yet she was faithful to God through it all, praying to Jesus, drawing strength from her faith in Him, and serving Him even in the trials (1 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1; Galatians 6:9). 

Although she had never learned to read, write, or speak much English, Marya and my mother moved to New York City shortly thereafter. Marya worked very hard in a bakery in the lower East Side, and became an active and loyal member in the sisterhood of the local Russian Orthodox church. Although she made hardly any money, she scrimped and saved to fund the purchase of a beautiful, full wall mural of Ruth gleaning in Boaz' field (Ruth 2:8) for her church. Her humble home was always open for hospitality, and she was always ready to give generously to those in need (Luke 6:38; Philippians 4: 16; Mark 9: 41; Matthew 6).

When my mother married, she moved to a small town in Pennsylvania where my dad worked. Seven years later, when I was born, my parents invited my grandmother to come live with her in the new house they were building so she could help raise me. Imagine their surprise when they went to pick her up at the train station and she was carrying an unassuming satchel containing $10,000 in small bills -- nearly a fortune in those days -- to help with the down payment on the house!

While awaiting my arrival, she cooked, cleaned, and made a huge pair of down-filled pillows for my parents, complete with crocheted-trim linen pillowcases!

When I learned to speak, I called her “Baba,” the Ukrainian pet term for grandmother, or old woman (“babushka”). She did so much more than help to raise me -- she was a great role model of faith and prayer. One of my earliest memories is seeing and hearing her pray out loud in her bedroom, where she kept a framed picture of the Last Supper by a portrait of her husband, and singing the Russian version of “Come, Thou Almighty King.”.

One winter vacation in the then-small town of Hollywood, FL, when I was six, Baba spotted a couple of vacant lots in the middle of nowhere and insisted she wanted to buy them "to pay for Laurie's education." Despite the concerned, well-meant advice of my parents, she went ahead and purchased these lots for a song. Ultimately, when Hollywood became a busy and popular tourist destination, proceeds of those lots paid in full for my medical school education!

While leaving me this inheritance, she left me far more -- her shining example of faith and love that can't be measured by worldly standards of education, income and position. Not to mention my penchant for dance and for real estate! When, as a 14-year-old, I helped to care for her in the end stages of stroke and Alzheimer's, she inspired me to pursue a career in medicine, specifically in neurology and in dementia research.

Marya was a true Proverbs 31 woman who blessed her children, her husband, and all those in her household, community, and sphere of influence (v. 12). She was virtuous (v. 10), faithful (v. 11), hard-working (v. 13-16, v. 27), morally and physically strong (v. 17), generous and charitable (v. 20), She had a realistic opinion about herself (v. 18), provided for her family through her hard work and planning (v. 21, 24), and enhanced the reputation of her husband (v. 23). She was kind, speaking the truth in love (v. 26).

How can we become a Proverbs 31 woman, whose family and community recognize that the blessings she gives them are priceless? (v.10, 28, 29). Not by relying on our social skills or our physical charms, but by fearing the Lord – by putting His will for our life ahead of all else (v.30).

May we respect, honor (Exodus 20:12) and cherish our mothers, grandmothers and sisters, by blood or in Christ, while they are yet with us, and may we learn from their Godly legacy of faith, sacrificial love, and service (Proverbs 22: 6; 29: 15; 1 Timothy 5: 5). May they inspire us to give such an example and leave such a legacy for those following us! 

© 2013 Laurie Collett
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