Tag Archives: Scarcity

The God of Leftovers

The God of Leftovers (CaD 2 Ki 4) Wayfarer

“For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.'”
2 Kings 4:43b (NIV)

“What’s for dinner?”

It’s one of the eternal, daily questions of life. There’s not a single season of my entire life that did not include a daily version of wondering what was going to be on the table for the evening meal. As a child, it was a matter of what mom had planned. As a college student, it was a matter of what was on the cafeteria menu. As a parent, it became a question of providing and sometimes cooking what was going to be on the table for the family. As empty nesters, Wendy and I now ask the question of what we want for just the two of us. Wendy is a planner, so she often prompts a semi-monthly conversation to scope out a two-week dinner plan. Nevertheless, the question comes up daily: “What’s on the plan for dinner?”

Leftovers are often the plan. In fact, we often make recipes designed for a group or large family. We simply divide and freeze the leftovers which are easy to warm up and serve.

Leftovers.

What a blessing, what abundance, to have so much, that there’s plenty left over.

Today’s chapter continues the adventures of the prophet Elisha, and it’s a sort of miraculous mystery tour. There are four episodes in which Elisha is an instrument of the miraculous. In each episode, the miracle is that of provision.

A widow can’t pay her debts and her creditor is coming to take her two sons as slaves in repayment of the debt. Elisha’s instructions miraculously provide enough olive oil to pay off the debt and enough left over to sustain her and her sons.

A childless young, foreign wife of an old man is facing the threat of poverty and destitution in that ancient culture. Children, particularly sons, were the only form of social security for widows. Elisha prophesies that she will have a son, and then when the boy dies God uses Elisha to raise the boy from the dead.

There is a famine in the land and Elisha hosts the company of prophets. When a servant mistakenly poisons the stew, Elisha miraculously makes the stew edible so that everyone could eat and none would go to waste.

A visitor brings Elisha twenty loaves of bread. In a foreshadowing of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish, Elisha tells him to pass them out among the hundred men gathered with him. As with Jesus’ miracle, there was enough bread for everyone to eat and there were still leftovers.

In each episode, there was something lacking that threatened an individual or individuals. A widow, a foreign woman who was barren, and the company of prophets threatened by starvation amidst a famine. In each case, there was not just provision, but abundance.

There were leftovers.

I must confess to you that I have always struggled with a scarcity mentality. I fear there will not be enough. I doubt that things will work out. I assume that I will suffer loss rather than abundance.

In the quiet this morning, I was reminded of a quote from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way:

“Thinking like this is grounded in the idea that God is a stern parent with very rigid ideas about what’s appropriate for us. And you’d better believe we won’t like them. This stunted god concept needs alteration.

Jesus agrees:

“Which of you, if your child asks for bread, will give them a rock? Or, if they ask for a fish, will give them a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”

The alteration that needs to happen is not with God, but with me. As Cameron continues to observe, “Remember, you are the cheapskate, not God.”

I need that reminder.

In the quiet this morning, I wrote in my morning pages my heart’s cry to Jesus’ heavenly Father who knows how to give good gifts.

I proclaimed my trust in my heavenly Father who not only provides for His children, He’s the God of leftovers.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder AI.

Scarcity Thinking Before the God of Infinite Resources

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13 (NIV)

One of the things I’ve learned in this chapter-a-day journey is that God’s Message never ceases to meet me right where I am.

One of the things that I’ve learned about myself along my spiritual journey is that I have a spiritual Achilles heel called scarcity. It’s a particular form of unbelief rooted in my own toxic shame. The following passage describes me well:

Remembering that God is my source, we are in the spiritual position of having an unlimited bank account. Most of us never consider how powerful the Creator really is. Instead, we draw very limited amounts of the power available to us. We decide how powerful God is for us. We unconsciously set a limit on how much God can give us or help us. We are stingy with ourselves. And if we receive a gift beyond our imagining, we often send it back.

One reason we are miserly with ourselves is scarcity thinking. We don’t want our luck to run out. We don’t want to overspend our spiritual abundance. Again, we are limiting our flow by anthropmorphizing God into a capricious parent figure. Remembering that God is our source, an energy flow that likes to extend itself, we become more able to tap our creative power more effectively.

from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

In today’s chapter, Jesus teaches His followers about prayer. He first gives them the words commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Then Jesus speaks to His followers about the attitude of prayer. He gets right to the heart of the scarcity thinking that Cameron describes.

Ask, seek and knock on God’s door with audacity, Jesus tells me. God is not a miserly Father to His children. God has an infinite and unlimited supply. The only limitation is my own lack of faith, my lack of trust that my Heavenly Father wants to bless me, and the cyclical loops of scarcity thinking that I allow my brain to keep playing on an infinite “repeat” mode in my head. That stinking pattern of poisonous thinking rears it’s ugly head over and over again in my head and heart.

Lord, have mercy on me.

In the quiet this morning I find myself, once again, reading exactly what I need to hear at this waypoint in my journey. Heavenly Father reminding me how limitless His love and resources are, and how limited I perceive them to be through the lenses of my shame.

Some days are a revelation just how far I still have to grow in my journey.

Willingness

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said.
Matthew 8:3a (NIV)

When my daughter Madison was about four years old I called out to her from my home office in the basement of our home. She came scampering in my office from the next room where she had been playing. I needed something (I can’t remember what it was) retrieved from upstairs. “Will you go upstairs and get it?” I asked.

“Sure Dad!” she said with a big smile and child-like excitement. “I’ll be happy to!” And with that she ran off, immediately did as I asked, and cheerfully returned with the item.

I sat there for a moment thoroughly dumbstruck by her willing attitude. I can vividly remember sitting there and enjoying that little moment. She didn’t do what I asked grudgingly. She didn’t do what I asked dutifully. She didn’t do what I asked because I paid her allowance. She didn’t do what I asked out of obligation or familial obedience. She did what I asked out of a cheerful, willing attitude. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

One of the rarely demonstrated service skills I teach my clients is the simple act of expressing your willingness to do what a customer asks.

“Can you…?”
“I’ll be more than happy to do that for you.”

“Will you…?”
“You bet I will. I’m on it.”

“Is it possible…?”
“It sure is. And I’ll be glad to take care of it.”

In this morning’s chapter, Jesus begins by using this simple service skill when asked by leper if He’d be “willing” to heal him.

“I am willing,” Jesus said, and I imagine the warm smile on his face as he reaches out to touch the contagious, infected, deformed leper.

The rest of the chapter reveals so much about Jesus willingness:

  • Willingness to heal the son of a member of the despised Roman occupational force. (I’m guessing that Jesus’ disciple, Simon the Zealot, would have preferred Jesus kill both the Roman Centurion and his son).
  • Willingness to cast out evil spirits and heal anyone and everyone who came to him.
  • Willingness to heal the mother of his friend, Peter.
  • Willingness to use His power and authority to calm both the sea, and his followers fears.
  • Willingness to show mercy, even to His spiritual enemies, and grant the demons’ request.’

This morning I’m enjoying the memory of Madison’s cheerful attitude. I’m thinking about Jesus willing attitude, and I’m recalling what He said in yesterday’s chapter as He concluded His “Sermon on the Mount”:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

I must confess that I, too often, approach God and Life with the attitude of scarcity. I expect that God wants to punish more than bless, and even if He does bless me He will be miserly doling out those blessings. “After all,” I think to myself, “I’m such a wretch that I should be grateful for anything I receive.” I sometimes attach to God my own warped image of the begrudging parent. Ugh. I see God out of the lens of my own personal shortcomings.

“If you’re willing,” I hear Jesus whispering to my heart this morning in the quiet of my home office, “you can choose to see me differently. To see me as I am: Willing.”

Yes, Lord. I’d be happy to do so. By the way, thank you for your willingness to be patient, and to help open my eyes.

Spiritual Scarcity

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift….”
1 Corinthians 1:7a (NIV)

A few weeks ago I was wondering exactly where my property line lay in relation to a few adjacent lots. There are metal property pins driven into the corner of each lot, but most of them have been buried over time. So, I put out a plea on Facebook for a metal detector as I figured that was what I lacked to find the pins, and a friend brought one over to me. In the process, however, another friend messaged me a link to an iPhone app. I never knew it, but my iPhone can act as a metal detector. Who knew. All along I had what I needed right in the palm of my hand.

You don’t have enough….”
What you really need is….”
If only you had….”
You’ll never, until you have….”

Along the journey through life I have come to realize that our economy and our culture is predicated on an innate sense of scarcity. A market is driven by supply and demand. If a company is building a supply of widgets that they want to sell to the masses, then they must somehow create a demand for it. The marketing and branding gurus go to work convincing us that we want that widget. We need that widget. Our lives are less fulfilled without it and life would be more comfortable, satisfying, and complete if we only had this widget.

Scarcity is the underlying belief that I am not enough and I don’t have enough. We are subtly fed this message day in and day out without us ever being aware of it. Along the way, I’ve come to the realization that it seeps out of mass media into my very soul. It affects the way I view God and my spiritual thought and belief system.

If only I was a gifted [fill in the blank]….”
God won’t ever be happy with me because I’m not….”
I would feel closer to God if only I had….

In the opening of his letter to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth, Paul reminds them that they don’t lack any spiritual gift. Other teachers were trying to convince them that what they “really needed” was to be baptized by this particular teacher, or the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues, or this, or that, and et cetera. Paul made it clear. You’ve got what you need. You just don’t realize it.

On this Monday morning when my soul is weary and I’m staring out at long week ahead, it is easy to feel a sense of lack. It seems that what I really need is scarce and I’m starting the week in a deficit of [fill in the blank]. It is good to be reminded that as a follower of Jesus I am blessed with “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) God has spiritually provided all that I need. It’s time to realize it, and accept the realization.

 

 

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 14

'curb it'
Image by natashalcd via Flickr

“All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said. Matthew 14:17 (MSG)

It’s clean up week in my town. People can go through their homes and put large, bulky things they don’t want on the curb for the garbage truck to haul away. The result is an ant-like army scurrying around town picking up trash off other people’s yards. My wife and I like to put things on the curb and guesstimate how long it’s going to last before someone stops and takes it. There have been times when I’ve hauled something to the curb and someone has stopped to take it before I could walk back to my house. There’s generally not much of anything left for the garbage man.

Over the last few years, I’ve had a goal of simplifying my life. I’m a work in progress, but I have a genuine desire to get rid of stuff I don’t need or use. I really do want to do more with less. One of the most fascinating things about clean up week is that many of the people who I see running around picking up other people’s trash are those who really appear not to need it. They have plenty of money and plenty of junk. How fascinating, this allure to hoard more.

How fascinating the disciples thinking. “All we have…” That’s scarcity thinking: “It’s not enough.” That’s shame thinking: “What we have is worthless for the task.”

I’ve learned a few things in my journey towards simplicity.  I’ve learned that I can actually get by with far less than I already have. I’ve also learned that less clutter and less crap creates a greater sense of peace, and more room for the things of God. The more I have, the more for which I’m responsible. The more I have to store. The more I have to think about. The more to which I must tend.

Jesus’ lesson to me today is a reminder that I have more than enough to do what He wants me to do. No thinking “If only I had…” or “I don’t have…” or “As soon as I get…” or “But, all I have is…” I am blessed with more than what is sufficient for the task.

Fish sandwich, anyone?

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