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Golden boy pays for his strawberries, and is happy

by davesandel on August 8th, 2021

Sunday, August 8, 2021                                 (today’s lectionary)

Golden boy pays for his strawberries, and is happy

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of this world.

As she finished bagging our groceries at HEB on Friday, Shirley asked me in a difficult accent if I wanted any Buddy Bucks. I had no idea what she said or meant, so I said no. A moment later Miles saw something far down the front of the store and said, “I want to do that! I want to go there! That’s so much fun!”

I was in the ignoring-him mood by that time and thought he meant a vending machine, so I said no and we started to go the other way, to the door where Margaret was waiting in her cool wheelchair cart. But Shirley knew what he was talking about! She handed me a fistful of Buddy Bucks and pointed down the aisle. Miles was so excited he could hardly stand it.

So Miles climbed out of the kid cart and I lifted Jasper out, and they started feeding in the Buddy Bucks. Feed in the money, push the big red button, and get lots of points on adhesive chips to stick in the book they have at home.

It was then I noticed the strawberries, hidden under Jasper’s seat, red and beautiful, on sale for $1.50, unpaid for. Uh-oh. The lines were long. I said to myself, “I’ll pay for them next time.” Sure I will. I don’t have a conscience sometimes.

Then Miles saw the strawberries. His eyes got wide. “The strawberries, Grandpa, we didn’t buy the strawberries! We have to pay for them.” Now what was I going to say? “OK, we’ll pay for them,” I said reluctantly. God was kind to me and guided my eyes to the self checkout area, right next to us, with the last kiosk open for use. It took me 30 seconds to buy the strawberries.

Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me (Jesus) to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—but you can see me.

Thanks, Miles, for reminding me of the joy of being honest. I have been stingy all my life, gratifying myself by holding onto pennies and punishing myself by not caring enough about the dollars. I finish everything on my plate (I don’t want to feel guilty, not about the hungry kids in India or the depression-era tables sparcely laid for my mom and dad). But I’ve probably become more selfish that way rather than less so, and I certainly have put on some weight.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us.

Besides my habits at the dinner table, I also wonder why I have sometimes been a shoplifter. At Valparaiso University, an eagle-eyed, compassionate book lady called me out one day. She was a gentle person, and I can imagine how scary it would have been for her to say something to me. But she did. “I saw you take some things the last time you were here. Don’t do it again.”

And I didn’t. That day I thought immediately of Mrs. Smock in 7th grade, who also called me out. I had been snapping Ann Sheridan’s bra because she sat in front of me and I was a hot adolescent guy. Our teacher Mrs. Smock told me to wait with her before our lunch break, and she told me how much she knew I was skipping and missing just to be a hot little guy, get some attention, snap some bras. That conversation changed my life.

Both conversations changed my life, right? And moments like the one with Miles (and Shirley the bagger, now that I think of it) change it too. My conscience acts like it is weak. I err on the side of assuming grace freely given rather than thinking I’m not worth God’s time (or his grace). I know God loves me, but I don’t return his love tit for tat. The fear of the Lord might be the beginning of wisdom, but I don’t feel much fear.

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert and prayed for death, but an angel touched him and ordered him to eat. There at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water.

Quick analysis: I’m the oldest son of a family with three kids. Margaret calls me the “golden boy,” because I usually don’t get lost, because customer service reps usually give me what I ask for, because I “don’t know a stranger …” So I get used to that, and assume everything will go my way. Like Elijah, right? At least for awhile.

After sleeping, eating and drinking a second time, strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, to Mount Horeb.

On the other hand, I hold onto pennies, like I said. I have trouble giving things away. Generosity goes hand in hand with gratitude, or it should. But for me, gratitude is easy but generosity pulls the skin off my teeth. It is so hard! Margaret helps me, because generosity seems like second nature to her.

O taste and see the Lord is good. I will bless the Lord at all times, let my soul glory in the Lord. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in the presence of Yahweh.

And Miles helps me too. Paying for the strawberries was the right thing to do. Then I didn’t have to hide from myself and grovel in the cornfield, hoping nobody would figure out how bad I am.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame.

These are the times that try men’s souls. These are the worst of times and the best of times. I am having the time of my life. It is very good to be loved. Teach me, Lord, what it means to fear you and learn from you, to give, and be honest, and learn more about the fears I can’t acknowledge until I really really really know you love me.

(1 Kings 19, Psalm 34, Ephesians 4, John 6)

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