Nestle In God’s Embrace

Every morning, I set the tone for the day by reading from a daily devotional. My favorite features dozens of writers. Each contributes six or seven of the reflections which appear throughout the book. Regardless of the author of the day, I’m consistently touched by the morsels of wisdom nestled among his or her words. Whether or not the story which unfolds appeals to me, the author’s intent always manages to touch my heart. Some mornings, I add favorite passages from Henri Nouwen and Max Lucado. I’m most grateful for their generosity in sharing their deeply personal relationships with God with the rest of us. As I struggle to do the same through my own book, my admiration for these writers continues to grow exponentially.

After I opened my devotional this morning, I returned to this writing. Because I completed my research yesterday, I planned to write all of this fairly quickly. That was until the pile of notes resting next to me spilled over onto my keyboard. I had to re-stack them before I could type another word. In the process, I found a small sticky note which read, “Nestle, Don’t Wrestle”. I laughed as I recalled this old phrase. Long ago, I’d read about someone who’d hoped to write a book about our struggles throughout this life and our propensity to ignore the precise solution to all of our problems. This woman intended to title the book, Nestle, Don’t Wrestle. She’d hoped that her text would convince all of the world that we must stop wrestling with God and insisting that God solve our problems our way. I laughed again as I admitted to myself that I’m guilty of just that.

Of course, I couldn’t let go of this concept of nestling in God’s care rather than wrestling alone with life’s challenges. I wondered if the person I’d read about had actually written her book. After searching online for some time, I realized that this potential author had likely not realized her dream. I found no books of that title anywhere. What I did find was Corrie ten Boom’s DON’T WRESTLE, JUST NESTLE* which was published long before the person I’d read about had voiced her dream. Still, the titles were so similar that I had to learn more. I discovered that Corrie ten Boom’s book is still available and that it can also be downloaded for free. I also found several short reviews which indicated that this book had indeed offered the same advice which that potential author had hoped to share years later. That advice? To take God at God’s word and to place our troubles into God’s capable hands. This frees us to embrace the moments at hand with hope. Corrie ten Boom and her family lived in The Netherlands. When the German Army invaded her country, she turned her home into a hideout where she protected many Jewish people. As a result, she and her family were arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp where her sister died. In spite of this heart-wrenching experience, Corrie’s absolute hope in God’s care remained. As I read on, I discovered that Corrie’s relationship with God was steadfast throughout this suffering and her lifelong efforts to speak out about God’s love and forgiveness and our need to forgive.

So many scripture passages echo God’s invitation to us all to nestle and not to wrestle our way through this life alone! Isaiah (Isaiah 66:10-14c) tells us. “…you shall be carried in her arms, …as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…” God promises to carry each one of us through everything. We mustn’t waste our energy wrestling with our problems alone. We mustn’t wrestle with God to convince God to do things our way. Rather, we must ease into God’s arms with all of our problems in tow. When we hand the things which trouble us over to God, we free ourselves to enjoy the peace that only God’s embrace can offer. In his letter to the Galatians (6:14-18), Paul expounds upon the peace he found when he opened himself up to Jesus. Paul had persecuted and killed hundreds of Jesus’ followers because they’d moved beyond The Law. The Law was part and parcel of their Jewish identity, yet many of the people had embraced the teachings of Jesus as well. After meeting Jesus himself in an astonishing post-resurrection encounter, Paul realized that our acknowledgement of God’s love for us and our need to love one another were what truly mattered. With that, Paul took in all that Jesus had taught and he made Jesus’ mission his own. Luke’s gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20) tells us that Jesus had spread his teaching by sending out seventy-two disciples two-by-two. He asked them to set aside their own concerns and their own lives in order to share God’s hope and enduring love with those who hadn’t yet heard of these things. Jesus sent them on their way to offer God’s message with the hope that it would take root within others who would go on to share his word and to live accordingly.

As I consider my “on paper” acquaintance with both my would-be author friend and Corrie ten Boom, I wonder if they realize just how far-reaching their sharing of their relationships with God has been. Though that would-be author may never have written a word beyond her title, she certainly added a spark to my relationship with God. Corrie ten Boom endured far more suffering than most of us ever will, yet she insisted that we nestle in God’s loving care. Corrie added to that spark between God and me as well! It seems to me that we’re all called to spread the good news of God’s love for us. Whether we travel two-by-two or go it alone, each of us is invited to believe for ourselves and to share with all who will hear us that there is a place in God’s arms for every one of us.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

*Corrie ten Boom. Don’t Wrestle, Just Nestle. Published January 1, 1979 by Fleming H Revell Co (first published 1978)

Salt or Light?

My dear husband enjoys cooking. He took over the shopping and cooking when he retired a few years before I did. When I joined him in his leisure, Mike continued to shop for groceries without benefit of my company. I have the distinct impression that he enjoys this arrangement because it allows him control over our daily menus. I refrain from complaining because Mike is a very good cook. I also admit that if it was up to me, we would rotate through the same seven rather bland meals on a weekly basis.

In an effort to appear to be helpful, I run to the store when Mike needs a few forgotten items. I wash the fruit and vegetables. I make our salads, set the table and stir a pot here and there. I occasionally pre-heat the oven and set the kitchen timer. I even place the salt and pepper shakers on the table though they would remain on their shelf if left up to me. You see, part of my husband’s cooking expertise includes seasoning our food at precise levels. While I prefer to enjoy the “natural” flavors of the things we eat, Mike prefers to enhance those natural flavors with salt. Whether he is preparing a casserole, boiling a pot of soup, scrambling an egg or broiling a steak, he sprinkles a measure of salt in the process. In an effort to cooperate, I endure the salt in those pots of soup and those other one dish meals. In an effort to compromise, Mike holds the salt on my portions of items cooked separately. In the end, we enjoy our meals together.

A few days ago, I came home to find Mike cooking in a dark kitchen. “Can I turn on the light for you?” I asked. “No. It bothers my eyes,” he answered. For some years now, a “bubble” in Mike’s retina has caused him to see wiggly lines streaming across his field of vision. Bright light enhances the lines, so he prefers dusk-like lighting. I, on the other hand, enjoy bright light. As soon as I get up in the morning, I open every shade in the house. When clouds block the sunlight or the sun begins to set, I turn on the lights. Even when visiting at various family members’ homes, I catch myself asking, “Do you mind if I turn on the lights?” In an effort to cooperate, I deal with the dim lighting until I join Mike in the kitchen to help. In an effort to compromise, Mike deals with the bright light to save my fingers from any culinary mishaps.

I share Mike’s and my salt and light preferences because Jesus used these amazing gifts to enhance his teaching. A passage from Matthew’s gospel (5:13-15) picks up just after Jesus preached the beatitudes. When Jesus spoke to the crowds, he offered these promises, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…” Jesus listed eight conditions -which the world would view as suffering- and promised the best of God’s blessings in response to each one.

After offering these guarantees for happiness to the crowds, Jesus turned to his disciples to say, “You are the salt of the earth,” and “You are the light of the world.” Because they knew best the blessings offered to all of God’s children, Jesus challenged his closest disciples. They were to be the salt which would enrich those around them and the light which would guide those who did not yet know the road back home to God. Jesus left no uncertainty regarding how this would be accomplished when he said, “…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Jesus knew that when they experienced the salt and light which the disciples offered, the people would take God’s message of peace and reconciliation, mercy and love to heart.

Had I been among the disciples that day, I might have wrung my hands and fretted over how I could possibly be that salt and light which the suffering masses needed so desperately. How might I, with my imperfections and frailties, reveal God’s loving ways when I was no better than the rest of humankind? In the end, I would have needed only to look into Jesus’ eyes. For there would be reflected the light of which I am so fond and the salt which my husband sprinkles so freely. In those eyes, I would have seen Jesus’ absolute faith in my ability to use my gifts.

Every day, Jesus sends out each of us with the same confidence. Whether we prefer to be salt or light, Jesus sends us out to transform this world one loving deed at a time.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved