Preparation

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I lifted my nose appreciatively as the scent of apples wafted through the house, creating images of years gone by. It was the season for apples, one I always looked forward to. In the town where I grew up, we had one large old apple tree and several smaller ones in our backyard. They were the best red apples anywhere! I still remember their sweet crisp taste, although the trees are now long gone.

Gathering and preparing those apples was a family affair. We separated the older apples that the bees, birds, and other insects were enjoying and brought the others in to wash and pare, setting some aside for eating as they were. A lot of preparation went into canning the applesauce, sliced apples, apple butter, and apple jelly, not to mention apple pie, cake, or other goodies. Preparing ahead of time made the work go easier and the results were appreciated during the months ahead.

Preparation is a part of life. Sometimes we are called to prepare things in advance of events, like setting the table for a meal or arranging items for a program. I remember the story of John the Baptist, as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.” * John’s words got the people who heard them ready to receive the words of Jesus.

While I have learned to “go with the flow” when needed and have enjoyed occasional spontaneous activities, preparation is important for daily routines as well as long-term future needs, goals, or hopes. It reminds me of the movie trailers released as previews to upcoming shows. Haven’t we all at some time, upon seeing a preview or hearing of the anticipated release date, said, “Oh, I’d like to see that!” The movie previews put the word out that something good is coming that we just don’t want to miss!

How can we prepare ourselves to receive the words God has for us? It has been easy in times past to let my good intentions slide away or my quiet time with God to be relegated to a quick, sometimes desperate, “Oh God, please help me today” as I rush out the door. I don’t want to miss the good things coming or the encouragement offered in a mad rush to the next thing.

Like those apple gathering seasons, to receive the full benefit and goodness God has in store for me I have to prepare to receive Him. Times for quiet, for worship, for study, for listening, for fellowship, for obedience, or for action must be intentional. Discovering what these are for us and making them a priority is part of the preparation.

I hope that we can pause to ask ourselves regularly, “How am I preparing to receive God and the blessings, love, guidance, and support He has for me each day?”

*Mark 1:2

Reflections on Coffee Grounds

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• Coffee comes from carefully tended and ground seeds
• This tending brings forth the flavor of the coffee bean
• We all benefit when we care for each other
• Mutual caring develops the gifts we have been given
• As we ripen we are made ready for use
• Roasting prepares us for the future
• To bring out the best flavor we are ground exactly
• Ground beans have great potential
• The wash of water brings out good and needed qualities
• Enjoyment and satisfaction come from well brewed cups
• Old experienced grounds have much to offer
• We owe much to the Tender of the beans

PROVISION

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I admit to loving the warmth of summer with its planting, gathering, family cook-outs, and time outdoors (yes, even mowing the yard). As the days begin to turn cooler and a hint of fall is in the air, many people are busy bringing in final offerings from gardens, vines, and trees. Others gather groceries and supplies and check to see that all is ready for the colder months ahead. Each season’s change marks new tasks, expectations, and hopes.

It’s easy to become preoccupied with the daily tasks: bills to be paid, cars repaired or replaced, income secured, homes maintained, food and clothing provided… For me this past year, as soon as one need was addressed something else came up… and often two or three challenges pounced at once! Yet each time, even as worries threatened to invade my thoughts, my thanks and prayers turned to God’s provision. As I get older, I am more and more aware of my parents’ model of quiet assurance that God will meet our needs. “One-thing-at-a-time,” my mother would reassure me. They instilled in me an appreciation for the simple, and the calm, and the good in small things. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate what I have rather than always wanting more and I’m growing to trust that things will work out, not always as expected or desired but trusting that good will grow from challenges and needs.

One well-known passage in the Bible, Psalm 23, speaks of God’s provision for us. It doesn’t promise that there will be no dark valleys, but it does promise that God is with us always. What wonderful assurance that we will lack nothing and that we will be refreshed, guided, comforted, and provided for even in the presence of adversity and difficulties! The book of Psalms is full of these reminders.

In the New Testament, Matthew had some great things for us to consider about worry and God’s care for us. “Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Then he reminded us that God knows that we need them. My mom would say, “It’s okay to be concerned but we shouldn’t worry” and Matthew echoed this thought when he said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

In this season of gathering and preparation, I pray that we will be strengthened and assured of the provision of God, who cares for us all.