She’d say it like she was dying.
Nevermind that she’d been saying she was dying for the last 20 some years and yeah, we might have mocked and rolled our eyes.
Why didn’t anyone grab our fool shoulders, shake it into us that it’s only the wise who feel time’s sands running right out of them.
Grandma Ruth would stand there in the kitchen and say it gravelly, her hands on her hips, like that could keep her together and standing.
“Touch that and die.” Yeah, Grandma Ruth could wipe her hands on a stained apron and be a tad dramatic over a cookie jar.
“I didn’t age over this stove all afternoon for you to just up and ruin your appetite now.”
Barbara Ruth Morton, she knew pastry and pecan pies and turkey with stuffing and she knew that there is a consuming of sweet things that ruins your appetite for the main thing. I can still taste her glazed hams with scalloped potatoes.
The bent woman might have had a one room school house education, but she knew if she could keep us from some things, she could give us an appetite for the real thing.
Turn the dog-eared calendar by the phone and there it is: Lent begins next week. Who isn’t dying to feel hungry for God? Turns out — me.
Turns out that when I’m standing there witnessing a kid at the Guatemalan City Dump looking for something to eat from a garbage heap, I’m feeling this North American bloated. That I’m feeling a little sickened, a little nauseated by the meringue and sprinkles and icing we’re stuffing ourself with that leaves us faith-emaciated. There’s a kid looking through rotting garbage for food, for crying out loud. Somebody — cry out loud.
And the stuff they’re shilling in all the commercials is always only one thing: appetite suppressants.
Buy more, consume more, have more —- and it’ll suppress any appetite for God.
My head feels light, spinny: Is craving North American success just craving normal appetite suppressants?
When your comfort food is comfortable stuff — when do you hunger for the comfort of the bread of Life?
You can watch a Pastor kneel over a drunkard on the street, hand him a coffee and some bread, and that’s the thing: your comfortable home with your porch and garage and swing can seem to be just a bit in ruins —- ruining your appetite for God.
Ruin your appetite with stuff and you have no appetite for Christ.
There’s this guy that we’re putting through university through Compassion in Guatemala, Pedro, and two other girls, Carlily and Ana Betel, and they’re like echoes of Christopher Columbus’ three ships:
The Carlily, the Pedro, the Ana Betel.
And Pedro uses his hands a lot to tells us that his parents are weavers and he had an average of 91% this term in his business economics courses and his family of 10 sleeps in one room with no running water and no toilet.
I look Pedro right in the eyes and he looks right into mine and why in blazes do I get multiple toilets in our house to easily flush in the middle of the night —- and his mother raises 8 kids with nothing but a dirt latrine? It’s only by amazing grace you are born where you are — to be abundant, amazing grace for someone born somewhere else. That’s the point.
That’s the point: What God’s graciously given you is always enough to be abundant grace for someone else.
I weep in the shower this week: Why on earth do I get to turn on the shower with the flick of the wrist and the hot water runs and Carlily’s mother has to go out at least an hour before any shower and slam an axe into some wood and get a fire going and then haul buckets of water to heat up? When I just turn the arrogant faucet on.
Call me a fool, but I ache and I think this is something like having an appetite for God.
I found it in Grandma Ruth’s Bible and I underlined and I dare say she wouldn’t think that ruined anything:
“Whoever is generous to the poor
lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him in full.”
Whoever is generous to the poor — lends to the Lord. Lends to the Lord. And all I can hear Someone telling me is: You got something better to do with your money?
Instead of taking out loans, instead of taking more, I could give generously to the needy and look into the eyes of Jesus and know I’d lent to the Lord.
Pedro tells us that the gift we sent at Christmas? He got it last week and this teenage guy’s not buying himself a new smartphone or a pair of high tops or a better sound system. The 18-year-old son is going home to give his mama a flushing toilet. I bite my lip hard and nod.
Ana voice is this shy whisper, telling us her mama’s full of tumours and cysts and the bleeding won’t stop.
And when she gets to the part that the gift we sent at Christmas will be able to get her mama into a surgeon, could help save her mama, she crumbles into my arms in this mess of tears and what could I have saved that money for instead of saving a mama?
And all I can think is yes. Yes, I’m done with ruining my appetite with stuff.
Yes, you can’t get anything better than giving. Nothing you can buy, order, save for, can compare to giving yourself away.
Ana doesn’t even bother to brush off her wet cheeks, she just catches my eye and mouths it: “Gracias.” Thank you. You can look into the eyes of the hungry and there’s no better place in the world to invest than to lend to the Lord.
What else under the whole begging heaven could possibly make you feast-full?
It’s like you can hear the groaning from the garbage heaps, from the North American Church that is hungry for something more:
Give us a North American Lent that lends to the Lord.
That instead of saying: It’s not my child, my community, my problem, a Lent that says: It’s not happening on my watch.
Give us a Lent that goes with less so others can live … so we can feel wildly alive.
Give us a Lent that fasts from the flyers and the free shipping that ruins our appetite for anything less than God. Give us a a North American Lent that lends to the Lord and fasts from consumption because we want to consume God.
When we serve up the bowls of the children at the dump, I watch the children and find my spoon and hold my plastic bowl and go ahead, say it like you’re dying because we are, because if the sand is running out of all us, then why not pour ourselves right out?
I have seconds of the rice and beans and I have an appetite for this —-
how you can crave a life that tastes like Christ.
Ruin your appetite with stuff & you have no appetite for Christ.
Give us a Lent that lends to the Lord:
Live with less so a child can live —& you can feel wildly alive.