Dishes, Lesson #5

Ekikopo (eh-chee-koh-poe)

I don’t know how to write phonetically.  But I think you get the idea.

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I’m working on some language lessons these days.

The method I’m trying to convince my friend to use in teaching me, highly relies on visuals and me listening.

Ekikopo means cup.  You can almost hear the word cup hidden in there.  So it’s an easy one.  Actually, I’ve known it for a long time.  But sometimes I like to keep those familiar words in the pile to help me build up my confidence in learning new words.

Cups are constantly in my sink, needing attention.  I’m living in a culture that lives on tea.  I mean, not literally, but sometimes it feels like.  The little boys in my home drink a cup of tea every morning with their breakfast.  And if I wasn’t afraid of wet sheets, they’d probably have another one after school everyday.  I usually have at least one cup of tea (if not several) throughout the day.  And basically anyone who comes to my house does as well.  And these tea-drinking visitors are frequent.

So, I’m often swishing my dish cloth around these ebikoko.  (That’s cups.  As in plural.  Yeah, I’m learning some things.  Who’s got my gold star?)

Most of the time when I am washing cups, my mind inevitably goes to a Scripture.  One where Jesus was talking to the religious leaders about washing cups.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Matthew 23:25-26

At first glance, a cup might look clean.

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You might grab it, ready to fill it up.  But looking inside could stop you in your tracks.

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No one wants to use the cup that is dirty on the inside for their next cup of tea.

What a simple, yet powerful picture Jesus gave the Pharisees to see how they were living their lives.  They were putting up the image that they were perfect, holy, righteous, to be admired…Yet, they were disgusting, repulsive even, on the inside.

If you see a cup is a little dirty on the outside, but clean on the inside you might be tempted to use it, if you’re desperate (or really hate washing dishes).  But if it is dirty on the inside, I doubt you would even give it a thought at all to go ahead and pour in your beverage.  You’d look for another, or grab the cloth and clean it out.

I’m currently living in a culture that seems to prioritize keeping the outside of the cup clean.

Polishing your shoes before walking on a long, dusty road to school. Wearing your best dress when you are sick and need to go to the hospital.  Washing the car for church, despite the mud you will drive through to get there.

Sometimes I wonder if people are ever as concerned about the sick body going to the hospital. The confused mind walking to school. The broken heart that is being driven to church.

Jesus accused the Pharisees of being full of greed and self-indulgence inside, despite their image.

I don’t know if you have the same ugliness inside of you as the Jesus saw in the Pharisees, or if it is something else.  The truth is, we all have some ugliness inside of us.  And Jesus sees it all.  And it needs to be cleaned out.  And it can be cleaned out.

The one who sees the dirtiness the best is the best one to clean it out.

God formed us as His vessels to be used for His purposes.  But too often we mess it up.  The good news is, if we submit to Him, He will clean us up, and once again we will be ready to fulfill His purpose.  But it doesn’t happen just once.  It is a continual process of repentance and cleansing…and refreshing.

When we are clean on the inside, it is even reflected on the outside.

Many times when I’ve got a sudsy ekikopo in my hand I find my mind going to these words of Jesus….don’t just clean the outside of the cup, but the inside as well.  Then it turns to a prayer.

God, forgive me.  Cleanse me.  Keep me from falling into these same sins all the time.  Make me new.  Help me not to be hypocritical, putting forth an image that is not consistent with what is truly happening inside of me.  Lead me away from temptation.  Help me to stand firm in the truth when it comes my way.  Be with the boys who have used these cups.  Cleanse them.  Forgive them.  Help them to overcome the temptations they have.  Help them to hear the voice of your Holy Spirit, and obey it.  Develop within them repentant hearts.  May we be a reflection of you from the inside out….

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Dishes, Lesson #4

Last December, a miracle happened: My mother came to visit me in Uganda for a month.

For a full month she did my dishes.  I didn’t wash a single one.

It was heavenly.

I hate doing dishes.  I mean….I think it is because it is an endless task.  (Yet, somehow I do not mind washing other peoples’ dishes at their homes at all….mysterious of life.)

When I lived in the USA, I used to say if it can’t go in the dishwasher, then I don’t want it!  In fact, some things that most of you would not put in the dishwasher, I did.  I felt it was worth the risk.

I no longer have the luxury of a dishwasher…Unless you count the two little boys in my  home, but they really are not that great at it, as we explored in Dishes, Lesson #3.

But recently, in my hatred for doing dishes, I was reminded of something that happened a couple of years ago.

I used to work with a ministry that was dedicated to discipling young adults over a six month period.  In those six months, we had serious expectations for their growth in faith, character, and leadership.  Yet, at one point, as I was expecting so much from my students, I realized that I was not actually expecting any growth in myself.

Conviction.

At the time, I was specifically convicted in the area of patience.  I would find myself easily and often claiming to be impatient.  But as I reflected on it, I realized that such a claim is not really acceptable for a child of God.  You see, we have the Holy Spirit inside of us.  And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…..

I shouldn’t see it as acceptable to say I am an impatient person, and be content with that reality.  Instead, I needed to claim the work and presence of the Holy Spirit in me, and intentionally develop the fruit of patience.

So, I got serious about it.  I even downloaded (and read) a book on the topic.  I intentionally worked to overcome my complacency on the issue.

Don’t get me wrong….I don’t think that many people would offer up the word patient when asked to describe me.  However, I have made some serious progress in the area.  Or should I say that the Spirit has made some serious progress within me.

Not long ago, when looking at my growing stacks of dirty plates, silverware, saucepans, cutting boards, cups, and more, I was reminded of that journey with patience.

I decided that I needed to change my attitude of hatred towards dishes.

They weren’t going away.  I would face them every day.  Multiple times a day.

I could choose to remain hating them, and having a perpetual bad attitude for the rest of my life (ok, so sometimes I’m a little overdramatic).

Or I could decide to stop hating them and just accept them as a regular part of life.  And therefore, have less internal negativity.

So there I am, a recovering hater-of-doing-dishes.  It’s amazing the difference such a decision can make.  I’ve really seen a different attitude about it developing within me.  Admittedly, some days are harder than others…especially when I find myself doing a lot of baking.  But I regularly remind myself when I approach the sink, that I have decided not to hate it anymore.  I’ve decided to accept this simple, mundane, repetitive task.  Maybe some day I will even genuinely like it.  Maybe I will develop the habit of prayer while scrubbing each item.  I mean, sometimes I listen to a sermon while I wash them.

But as I type, it’s got me thinking a little deeper….

What other negative attitudes do I have that I need to actively work to eliminate?  Are there other things in my life, things that may be a bit more serious than dirty dishes, which need to be intentionally attacked?  Like my impatience?

Of course I know the answer is yes. Maybe I need to take some time to identify some of them and work towards a plan to get rid of them.  And in turn, develop more resilient fruit of the Spirit.

What about you….want to join me in this journey of eliminating some things?

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:22-24

 

Dishes, Lesson #3

In Dishes, Lesson #2, I mentioned that if a child washes the dishes poorly I can just rewash them.

Well, a child recently washed the dishes.

These are the ones I needed to rewash.

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I did put a few away that I determined could be considered clean.

Now, some of these dishes were not so bad.  In fact, if I hadn’t been scrutinizing each item, some may have slipped past me with their slight dirtiness.

But some were obvious.  Tomato sauce all over the bottom of a plate.  Butter still smeared on a knife.  Porridge stuck in the bottom of a cup.  Fingerprints on a measuring cup.

It’s as if he just got them wet, then set them in the drying rack.  Blindly.

After piling up the utensils that needed my attention, and as I began to wipe them with a soapy dishcloth, I was battling with frustration.  I mean, this is not his first time with this chore.  He knows how to do it properly.  He has washed dishes well in the past.

But as I rinsed now-clean plates, I had to let my frustration slip away.

How many times does God see me doing things that are not good, right, pure…clean?  How many times have I done something, even thinking it was ok, but on closer inspection would be deemed unworthy?  How many times have I left Him downright filthy messes?  (As if I am blind to the sin I’m entangled in…)

Yet, how many times has He taken me in His hands, yet again?  How many times has He pointed out the little things that He wants me to work on to be even better?  How many times has He forgiven me for my rebellion and patiently restored me?

And how many times will He continue to do it?

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.

Psalm 145:8-9

Dishes, Lesson #2

In case you missed it, I’ve started a little series on lessons from the everyday task of washing dishes.  Click here to take a look at Lesson #1.

So, as you read in the previous post, I have a particular method of washing dishes.

But sometimes the children wash dishes. (Or even friends who visit…bless their kind hearts.)

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When the children do it, they certainly do not follow my routine.

Especially when I have to divide the dirty things into two piles resembling equal work.

Part of me sees it and screams inside.  But the part that wins, is the part that let’s them do their work with little interference (sometimes none at all!).  I have to trust them with the job.  I’ve tried teaching my strategies, but they rarely stick.

And the truth is, it works out.  They aren’t stacked the proper way.  But it’s fine.

They don’t always come out totally clean, but I can just wash it again myself.  (Or if the child is still present, have him rewash it.)

Eventually they will dry…or I could actually use a dish towel to wipe them dry if it is totally necessary.

It’s really ok.  Even if it isn’t done my way.

And you know what….God doesn’t always do things my way.  I mean, really, when does He do things the way I have in my mind?

But it always works out fine.  More than fine really.  It’s always the best.  But it doesn’t always feel like the best in the process.  Sometimes I’m screaming inside (or even outside) about how I think life should go.  But I need to let the other side of me win.  I need to trust God with the job.

During the process, or maybe not until the end, I am able to see that God’s way really was the best way.

Maybe some day the boys will teach me a new method of washing dishes that is even better than my routine.

But really, I think I’ve got the metaphor a bit mixed up.

God is the one with the perfect plan for my life.

I’m the one going about it in what probably looks like a crazy, illogical method.  For some reason I do not always stick to His strategies, as outlined in His Word.

But in His sovereignty, it works out.  When I mess things up, He has the ability to rewash them, or use the towel to wipe them up.

It will all work out just fine.

Better than fine.

The best.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21

 

Dishes, Lesson #1

Doing dishes.

Sheesh.  It’s a daily task–well, multiple times a day–that I just don’t love.

But recently I’ve been learning lessons from doing dishes.  And I am not referring to discovering the best dish soap, or tips on keeping your hands from pruning up.

I’ve been learning lessons about myself.  Spiritual lessons.

I think I could write a series.  In fact, let’s plan on that.  I just went up to the title field and changed my simple title of Dishes to what you see above, Dishes, Lesson #1.

A few weeks ago I decided to attack the ever-growing pile of plates, cups, silverware, and saucepans littered with remnants of meals that had been eaten.

While wiping them clean, I followed the personal procedure I’ve developed. I wash the plates first.  Well, unless I have cutting boards or cookie sheets in the sink, in which case they will take priority.  I work through my flat items, from biggest to smallest.  I take the time to make sure they are standing up straight, allowing the water to drain off.

Then I go to tea cups (they are not coffee cups, because I do not drink coffee….though I did recently buy some coffee in case visitors ever want it.  But I never even think to offer it to visitors.  I’ve only opened the canister to use some grounds for a demonstration I did for some children, creating dirty water…Ok. Back on topic….).  I was those tea cups next because they are heavy and breakable, and I want them to be on the bottom of the drying rack.

The next priority is the light weight things such as plastic cups, disposable containers, etc.

My drying rack has two compartments for utensils.  So I use one for the daily silverware (forks, spoons, table knives) & the other for the things I use for cooking, serving, etc. (knives, cheese grater, garlic press, serving spoons).

It is all very neat and organized.

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But many times I have too many dishes for my system.  I have more dirty cups than the bottom of my rack allows.  Several saucepans need to find a resting place.  Random and awkwardly shaped items have been washed and do not fit into my system.

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My organization that was once nice and neat is now covered up with chaos.  My plates which were once standing tall and straight, have fallen back, touching each other under the weight of countless new items on top, causing their chances of drying well to decrease significantly.  The plastic containers on top are balancing precariously, making me hope that no one walks too heavily as they pass by the sink, which would make them all topple.

As I was washing these dishes and observing how I went through the process, I realized something.

How I was dishes is really a picture of how I live my life.

I plan.  I do things systematically.  I have a reason for doing what I do and the way I do it.  I like organization.  If things are not in the place that makes most sense in my mind, it disturbs me.  I mean, sometimes I do something crazy like put my sieve for tea leaves in with my forks and spoons, but after washing a few other items, I find myself putting that sieve on the other side of the utensil section, where it belongs.  I just can’t handle the misplacement.

But the reality of life is that it doesn’t always get to stand up straight in the proper order.  Not everything drip dries perfectly as I intend.  Sometimes, ok most of the time, chaos happens.  (Or at least it seems like chaos in the moment when it is attacking my plans, my intentions.)  Power goes out again, when nothing is charged.  Water runs out when I’ve stepped in the shower just long enough to dampen my hair and get my mascara to run down my cheeks.  The children don’t seem to be succeeding in school the way I would expect.  Friendships are hard to maintain.  More and more people are going through challenges, and somehow they are put in front of my face with the hope of solutions.  Family is going through struggles, but I’m too far away to do anything.  I often have questions and confusion about how to do both the daily tasks and solve the unique issues in this culture and place that is different from where I grew up, yet don’t seem to know where or who to turn to in order to find the answers.

And so much more.

Unexpected items are getting piled on.  Precariously piled on top.  Messing up the organization underneath.  Distorting my original intentions.  Making me nervous for anyone to walk by too heavily, for fear that things will topple.

When things get overwhelming, I often feel like quitting.  I just want to give up.  I want to spend the day in my bed watching movies, and maybe it will all sort itself out.  I get a form of paralysis that doesn’t effect me physically, but it does mentally, emotionally, spiritually…it keeps me from moving forward with things that require me to take action.

When things are not going as I would expect, or according to what I know, I am a mess.

Then I had a saucepan that needed some extra scrubbing.

I was really struggling to get the scars from its last job on the stove to come off.  After several minutes, I looked up.  And there it was, hanging in the window: my Norwex kitchen scrub.  (I’m not a Norwex salesperson…but seriously, get on that bandwagon if you haven’t already.)

I realized that I had been wasting my time with the wrong tools.  The whole time, I had something that would easily remove the problems in that pan.  So I got that blue cloth wet, put in a little effort, and it was quickly finished.  Shining and ready to go on top of the tower of dripping dishes.

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In the midst of my chaos I often forget that I already have the resources I need in order to make it through.  To overcome my internal paralysis.  I just need to look up.

God is the best resource I could ever ask for in the midst of all the craziness that life throws at me.  He is the source of my strength.  He is my Counselor.  He is not overwhelmed by any of it.  I can put my trust in Him.  He walks with me.  In fact, He holds my hand.

For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13