Archives for posts with tag: community

Bread. The word itself alone can bring many images to mind. Bread is the most basic of foods used to sustain our physical bodies.

The Bible has many references to bread. In the Old Testament, bread was the source of the Israelites’ survival and when disobedient, God would threaten to break the Israelites’ “staff of bread” (Leviticus 26:26).  He would also send the “bread of adversity” (Isaiah 30:20) or the “bread of tears” (Psalm 80:5).

In Numbers 14:9, we read: “And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” On the other hand, when God promised “a land where you may eat bread without scarcity” (Deut. 8:9), He was offering them life. In Exodus, God feeds his people manna, saying, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” (Ex. 16:4)

Bread conjures up images of coziness and warmth. It’s impossible not to take a deep breath upon entering a warm kitchen with the smell of freshly baked bread. “Breaking bread together” is the community and fellowship of sharing meals. Acts 2 describes the early church – “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).

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We break bread together in observance of the Lord’s supper.  “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.  (I Corinthians 11:23-24). In Matthew 4:3, the devil challenged Jesus to turn the stones into bread during Jesus’ temptation (Matt. 4: 3) and finally in the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray for our “daily bread.”

The promise of Jesus is this “Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35). “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

Bread and the breaking of bread together is more than just a food and more than just a meal. Breaking bread around the table of fellow believers is a time for shared experiences, a time of intimacy, a time for celebrating our love for life.

by Linda Tigges

Spanish Coffeecake (a quick bread)

5 cups of flour

2 cups of brown sugar

1-1/2 cups of white sugar

Scant 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Mix the ingredients together. Set aside 1 cup for topping. To the remainder add:

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups of buttermilk

2 eggs

Mix together for 4 minutes and pour into 3 loaf pans.

Mix 1 cup of nuts (optional) into the reserved topping and sprinkle the mixture over the batter in the loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

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Ever since I was a little girl, I have worn glasses or contact lenses.  My nearsightedness was diagnosed when I started school, as is the case for many children.  Back then, very few kids wore glasses, so the ones who did were often ridiculed.  “Four-eyes” was a common nickname, though this never made sense to me.  Who even came up with that?  I remember that my teacher, probably trying to make me feel more normal, wrote on my report card that she liked my “pretty blue glasses.”  You would have to ask my parents if I resisted having to wear glasses because I don’t recall.  What I do remember is feeling different.  Nowadays I don’t think kids feel that way about glasses.  It seems that more children today are myopic, so glasses are very common.  In fact, glasses have become so stylish that some people who don’t even need them for vision correction wear them as a fashion accessory.

It’s not my imagination that there are more myopic children now than there were when I was a child.  A recent study published in Science News magazine* states that myopia has increased worldwide, primarily in urban areas, with nearly a third of adults in the US now nearsighted.  The statistics are even more stunning in Asia, where in Shanghai 95% of college students are myopic.  How can this be?  Visual acuity is a combination of the physical structure of the eye, signals from the eye to the brain, and exposure to the eye of various stimuli, basically learning.  The study finds a connection between physical eye development and the amount of time a child spends outdoors (after a certain age, the connection seems to disappear).  Scientists don’t know exactly how being outdoors affects eyesight:  possible factors are regular exposure to sunlight, which is 30 to 130 times stronger than indoor lighting; vitamin D (from sunlight); physical activity (although indoor sports don’t offer the same benefits to the eye); different stimuli in the peripheral field; and a broader field of vision.  When we live our lives primarily at arms’ length, our eyes don’t have a chance to relax.  Workers who spend eight hours or more per day on the computer or doing close work are encouraged to look into the distance at regular intervals to avoid eye strain.  You’ve probably experienced this when you’ve been on the computer too long or gotten involved in a really good book, and you’ve forgotten to look up.  Once you do, things at a distance might be blurry for a moment.

When I read the study, I thought about how our spiritual eyesight can become myopic, too.  When our focus is on ourselves, our loved ones, and our local church and community and we forget to look up and around, the more distant world can grow blurry.  The longer we live in the space within arms’ reach, the more difficult it becomes to notice the needs of the greater world.  Maybe we stop paying attention to international news because we are so frustrated or even disgusted with the local and national news, and we don’t even want to know what’s going on outside our circle of influence.  Feeling helpless is not comfortable and can even be painful.  What can I do about the various crises in Africa, India, the Middle East?  Why should I care?  Isn’t there enough for me to deal with in my own hometown?

Jesus lived all his earthly life in a very small geographical area, but his message was for the entire world.  He taught that we are to feed the hungry, minister to the poor and imprisoned, heal the sick, and share the good news of salvation wherever we go.  So it isn’t wrong of us to do good in our own geographical area.  But although we live in a community, that community is part of a larger world, and we know that everything is connected in ways that we might not be able to see.  God, though, as the author of this great Story of life, knows how all the plot lines and conflicts fit together, from the smallest personal problem to the greatest global catastrophe.  And because the whole world is important to God, shouldn’t it matter to us?  Even if we have little power and influence on people and places far away, don’t we need to be mindful of them?

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Last week my husband and I said farewell to our college student daughter as she departed Iowa for a semester in China.  Nothing broadens your perspective more than sending your offspring to the other side of the world (except maybe going there yourself).  She has traveled some over the past few years and enjoys it very much, developing quite the sense of adventure.  As we gave her a hug and then watched her go up the escalator to the airport security checkpoint, I thought about how much larger and smaller her world is becoming, larger because she is traveling to far-flung places and smaller because she has learned that people, despite differences in culture, language, and geography, are pretty much the same wherever you go.  We are all characters both in our own stories and in God’s grand Story, the Story that He long ago completed even as we continue to compose our own life’s work.  The Story about God and His pure, persistent, boundless, incomprehensible love for the whole world.

When I say my prayers, I pray for my daughter, for her safety and health and for a great experience.  I also pray for the people that she will meet, those who will offer her friendship or inconvenience or downright trouble.  Until she went to China, I prayed for people there only in times of tragedy, when the media graphically displayed their suffering.  Now I envision professors and shopkeepers, bus drivers and factory workers, going about their normal days, and I pray for them.  I pray that God will place people in my daughter’s path who will help her, not harm her, and who will show her that He is very busy in their homeland.  I pray that He will shine through her, making her a beacon of His love and light in a country that, despite the growth of the Christian church under persecution, is still very much in spiritual darkness.

And most of all, I pray that He will give me eyes to see clearly what He sees when He looks over the whole of this beautiful broken world:  the full height and depth and breadth of His love poured out on all of His children, wherever they might live or roam.

*http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/347738/description/Urban_Eyes

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