I've been thinking about plastic fruit after reading an article by business expert and author, Tim Sanders. He tells about the horn of plenty that sat in the middle of his grandma's table. When he inquired about it as a young boy, she informed him, "It's not just a decoration. It's a declaration of abundance."
She then explained to Tim, "When I was much younger, there was a terrible Depression in this country. Those were times when everybody talked like sad sacks and counted the days until they lost everything. Spend time with them, and soon you'd catch the fear too. Even though Dad's farms were producing crops and our gas station was busy, he caught a case of it. The talk at the dinner table was always about the economy and who was going broke."
"One day my mother, your granny Hattie, came home from the Five-and-Dime with this horn of plenty. It represented prosperity, something all of us needed to think about..."
"Your granny Hattie gave a speech that night that changed our family forever. She said that the talk around the table was holding us back and keeping our noses to the grindstone. She pointed out how much land we owned and how healthy we were. Then she stood up and announced that as of that moment, for our family, the Depression was over. She made the decision that we needed to move the conversation forward and get on with our lives."
Tim asked, "Was the Depression really over?"
"For us, yes, it was, because from that day forward, we never talked about misery or lack at the dinner table again," she said. "Instead, we started every meal with a discussion of the day's progress. For the rest of the 1930's we found opportunity right and left." (Taken from Chick-fil-* leadership conference, Leadercast journal)
I realize that it may be over-simplifying to say that if we change the way we talk it will completely change our economics. But truth rang with the clang of conviction as I read. In part, because as a country we are living in a season of economic hardship. But still- as the richest nation we whine like the poorest.
Even more piercing was truth I heard from the Holy Spirit concerning my own perspective and situation. As I mulled it over this week, the Lord has been opening my eyes to His creativity in providing for us. It has been tempting to worry about the inconsistency of our paychecks right now. It's easy to hold up my idea of what would make me feel secure and believe anything short of that is lacking. I was reminded that even with fluctuating income, we have been able to do a few Costco trips due to generous friends. Our lights are on, our house is warm, and we are still richer than at least 95% of the world.
I've always dreamed of having a suburban (or 12 passenger van...don't judge me!) to have room for nieces and nephews along with my own kids. We were blessed to find an older suburban in great shape and I smile whenever I fire it up- here I am driving the vehicle I hoped for, in a time that I thought I'd have to "make do". We don't have a predictable check on predictable days but it has made God's provision so much more obvious. Even as we short sale our house, we have a great roof over our heads and some potential roofs when the season here is over.
My convictions were challenged this week when we lost a donor who gave a substantial amount to our ministry, due to economic hardship. We cringe as we feel like we are treading water, but then simultaneously God shows us His abundance.
This week His abundance showed up in the form of a '94 truck. S. has been looking for months for a truck that he can make into a stage truck for concerts, speaking engagements, and for some things BIG OAK is doing at the fair this summer.. Originally a friend at a dealership was trying to find a trade in for it. Now in a time crunch, he instead generously offered to donate toward one we find. Initially it looked like an uphill battle to raise the difference and do the leg work.
But, wow. In the past week we have had a handful of people donate toward the truck S. found that exactly fit his vision. It didn't stop there. The people who happened to sell it to him also happen to attend our church and support what BIG OAK does. Then they happened to volunteer to do the stage conversion and happened to connect us with another business who generously donated a flatbed that they had just happened to obtain the previous day. S.'s co-worker and close friend just happened to learn pin striping this year and is going to be able to do the design work on the truck. Another generous man is volunteering his time to complete the interior.
Today we are marveling at God's creativity. We thought provision would entail a big check. Never did we imagine it would involve an entire team of people catching the same vision. Now many people get to participate using their own gifts and BIG OAK gets a sweet truck that will get much use as S. shares Christ with students.
Isn't it easy to always feel like we are lacking? Yes, we might own a home but until that mortgage is paid down, we can't rest. Yes, I might have a savings account but until it is 5 times my monthly income I won't feel "safe". Yes, I might start a retirement fund but I'm plagued by the fear that I might have to pay for a nursing home and it won't be enough. The what-ifs, the fears, the constant measuring against what other people have destroys me. It puts the responsibility for abundance on my own head instead of doing the work God puts in front of me and understanding that God is a God of abundance.
Often in this season S. and I have been reminded of the Israelites in the desert. When God gave them manna and quail, it was enough for the day. They complained that they couldn't save it (just in case God didn't come through) and complained about the lack of variety. What an insult to God who was each morning filling their need before they were even awake to collect it. How quickly we stop stepping out of our tent to say, "WHOA! The manna is here AGAIN!" "Can you believe this?! The quail is BACK... what are we going on- forty years of provision here? What a God we serve! Woo-hoo!"
How quickly we pout and whine, "Only enough for today? Why can't I ever get ahead? Manna and quail again?! When is my tent going to be a four bedroom house?"
So I step back. I stop worrying about what our current short sale is going to do to our credit. Instead of focusing on the fact that we started a non-profit ministry in the midst of a flailing economy, I recognize God is meeting our needs each morning before we wake. I will get excited every time I start the suburban. I will praise God that right when Hudson needed new clothes, a friend gave me a huge bag of her son's hand-me-downs that happened to be the perfect size. I will celebrate the doctor visits covered by insurance and the groceries in my cupboard. I will use whatever it takes (but please Lord, don't let it be tacky plastic fruit on my table...) to declare to myself and to my family that God provides....ABUNDANTLY.