Friday, November 21, 2014

A Drop In The Bucket

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I have not written in quite a while. I can't say if I will manage to regain any semblance of a regular momentum in writing and posting. Every couple of weeks I get together with a friend and we write and pray. I am always surprised by what is stirred up by that time together. This is what I wrote today. I thought I would share it, perhaps it will encourage you. If so I'd be  encouraged by your comments. Today we read John 6:1-14 and this is the portion that grabbed my attention.

 "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted" Jesus tells the disciples after feeding the 5000 with some barley loves and fish from a young boys lunch.  It always strikes me as odd to think of God's interest in leftovers. It is the remnant that God often takes up. The leftovers of the people. The people and things that would seem to amount to nothing.

Isaiah 10:21 says " A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel only a remnant will return."  In the story from John 6, we don't know what is done with the leftovers. We just know that Jesus wanted them collected in baskets so nothing would be wasted.

We start with a sack lunch, feed a multitude and collect 12 baskets of leftovers.  - Quite a day!
I suppose the Lord always starts with something... a mustard seed of faith, a sack lunch, the willingness to believe and to follow. When compared to the great God of the Universe even our very best is just a drop in a bucket. Yet some how, God will take our, oh so inadequate drops that we surrender to Him and transform them beyond our wildest imaginations.

Even King David, who in the estimations of history was exceedingly great, saw himself as yet another drop in the bucket. He is the least favored of his brothers. When Samuel comes to anoint the next king the other brothers are paraded before him. At last in exasperation he says. "Are there no more?" Only then does the family acknowledge that there is another son, David.
"Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" says David later in his life. Maybe that's what made David great. He knew what God could do with a couple of stones and a shepherd boy.

I think we often suffer from low self esteem. I seem to struggle endlessly with the feelings of "I'm not ______ enough" Though out my life I have had to face that giant of self doubt head on and remind it that I may be just a insignificant drop, but I am a drop in God's bucket. I've seen what God can do with drops of nothing much. I push thorough my self doubt believing that God will do something with my meager contribution. Over and over I have seen God provide opportunities, solutions, and creativity that are far beyond my abilities to mastermind, or beyond my ability to even pull all the loose ends together.

That day, in our story, there were twelve baskets of leftovers. Were they served up as a late night snack to the folks that sat listening into the wee hours of the night, or sent home with the poor. We are not told. All we know is that those leftovers were important to Jesus. I think that it is important to God that we not waste what He has provided in excess to our needs.

Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over. In our small sightedness we easily focus on our lack when there are the resources of heaven available to us if we would simply ask.  I suppose in asking, we must face our inadequacy. We have to realize that its never been about us alone. It is when we surrender our drop to Him who holds the oceans and the universe in His hands that amazing things begin to happen before our very eyes.

We quickly want to create a success formula with repeatable steps as if to manufacture the presence of God. I think God is already looking for the next seemingly impossible situation and the most hopeless drop in the bucket folks to astound and stretch with His never ending and wonderful possibilities of prevision. Ultimately it becomes yet another display of His great love.

Prayer: Lord, I come to you in my insignificance. All that I am and all that I ever might aspire to be is nothing compared to your glory.  Yet you can do so much with a mustard seed of faith, a pinch of belief and a dash of trust. Thank you that I am a drop in your bucket. I watch with expectation to see what you will do with those things that I choose to surrender to you.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Other Ways to Relax and Unwind

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7 NIV   

The Message says it this way "God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible."

So in the last six months I have moved my mother's house, my aunts house and our own small home into one larger home. At the same time I started Massage Therapy school. So some things like writing this blog, working on mosaics and painting got put on indefinite hold. It was like my whole life was turned upside down. Not that it was a bad thing, it was all good stuff. My pastor kept asking how my new blessed life was going and all I could respond with is I'm so tired it just feels like a lot of work.
Thankfully our living room no longer looks like this.
We just got out of boxes and the holidays arrived. I think someone sent me a gift card to hobby lobby and I remember wandering around the store trying to decide what to get and in the end I decided I would save it till later because there was no space left in me for creativity. It was all used up.
Much Better
I was doing so well staying healthy until the week between Christmas and New Years when I got sick with the same 
respiratory stuff I tend to fight each winter. It generally hits me in October so I was glad it waited this year. I would have preferred it not to come at all. It may just be my body still trying to get my attention to slow down and allow it to recover from the busyness of the previous four months.  

So we have arrived at March and its not that I am wanting to add to my busyness but I think there are more ways to relax and unwind then to sit in front of the tv watching other people live fictions lives. So tonight I am choosing instead to spend my time blogging. "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."
 I think some time we feed our selves so much on the tv that we begin to compare our lives to those fictitious people who some how manage to solve their problems in 30 minutes. We feel frustrated that our own problems seem to never go away. How often do they show anyone doing laundry or the dishes or taking out the trash or wiping runny noses or stinky behind on our adorable children. People always seem to know the right things to say to each other. Duh they have a team of writers working to perfect the amazing things that come out of their mouths.  You have couples who make life together look romantic and mystical when in reality marriage takes work. Communication takes commitment and effort no matter what the relationship may be. They all have what appear to have interesting jobs and make decent money. One cannot help but scratch your head and wonder why your own life sucks in at least one area if not in every area. Wake up from your tv stupor THEY ARE NOT REAL - THEY ARE FICTION! Turn off the box and decide to work on your life to make it what you want it to become. We live in a world with a zillion gadgets that are full of distractions that keep us from really living. We can become isolated in cool technology and we can forget that we need real people we can touch and interact with to live whole and healthy lives.  

How many of you are getting your dose of "feel good" because someone "liked" that picture of a kitty that you posted on your face book page. What have we become as a people when how we feel about our day is based upon how many "likes" we got. How many of those facebook so called friends have you bothered to have a real conversation with lately. It is so easy just to lurk and feel we are involved in peoples lives. I'm not saying its all bad there are people I would not be in contact with were it not for facebook and e-mail. I just think it is easy to become out of balance and to get sucked into a giant technology, entertainment vortex, while opportunities for real life pass us by. We can spend more time playing silly games that accomplish nothing than we do doing little kindness for others. I can hear you saying it already 'but I worked hard all day I need to unwind and relax." Fine but there are other ways to relax. Relax into a creative project or a hobby. Relax by taking a walk or watching the sun set. Read a book, play with your kids, call a friend and visit with them. Play a musical instrument or learn to play one. Take some time to sit or rest with the Lord to hear His heart. Go to bed and get some rest so you are not so tired. 

I'm preaching to the choir and I'm in the choir too. It is easy to fall into a pattern of mind numbness and wonder why some people can accomplish so much and complain that we never have time to do things we wish we could do. Or live in the land of mental fantasy wishing our lives were different. There is always time for the things that are important to you. People tell me all the time I wish I had time to pray. Clearly praying is really not all that important to you or you would make time for it. Saying you wish you had time for God's purposes does not make you more spiritual. Doing his will and purpose does. Its not my place to tell you what God may be calling you to do with your life but I can try to wake you from your places of stupor and remind you to examine how you are spending the time He has given you.  

Prayer: Dear Lord, Help us to examine how we are using the time you have given us. Help us to see those areas that are breeding idleness, depression, worry, feelings of poor me or other such negativity. Help us to fill those spaces with more positive uses of our time and thought life.   

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ordinary Miracles


I have not posted in quite a while. Today I this song by Sarah McLachlan just keeps going through my head. I look around at all the miracles that we take for granted because we have seen them over and over. We so easily forget how blessed we are. I have not recorded and posted a song in quite a while. Today I had a quiet kind of day. I stopped by the Healing Rooms for worship and prayer this morning, took my aunt out for coffee, came home did a little cleaning, journaled and the whole time this song just kept running through my mind.

I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. His mercies are new every morning. I love the line in this song that says "Don’t need to teach a seed to grow ". I think sometimes we get so caught up in striving to be good enough believers that we forget that it is God who planted that seed of His love in our hearts. Like any seed planted in rich soil, if you water it and allow it sunshine it will grow. To often that little seed is struggling to grow among rocks or thorns of bitterness, regrets, shame, doubt, unbelief. Sometimes our hearts are so terribly broken that even if we do water our little seed of Gods love the water just leaks right out leaving the little seed to struggle for life.  A lot of times we may even realize our heart is a mess but scratch our heads clueless about how to fix it or we look at how big the mess has become and are so overwhelmed or filled with fear that anyone including the Lord might discover who we really are that we isolate our selves even further.

While the journey to spiritual heart health may take you a while. I can tell you that it starts with getting to know Jesus. Opening your heart to Him is where the journey begins and where the journey continues from day to day. He is the one who created you and your heart and He is the one who can help you see how to fix it. I know we would all like those amazing instantaneous miracles and to be counted among the blind who can suddenly see or the lame man who can walk and leap for joy or the crazy demon possessed guy who is freed from his bondage. I don't discount that God can do those things. How I see Him work most often is through ordinary miracles. Things so common or simple that one might easily say it is just coincidence.  The courage to make little changes or take tiny steps of faith are not less miraculous.

I hope you will look around in spite of the difficulties you may presently be facing and realize that you have a lot to be thankful for because all around you are many ordinary miracles. I pray your eyes might be opened to see them. That you would take the time to rejoice over those things that you are able to see.