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December 2, 2013

Sheerlund Forest tree farm (photo by Mike Martin)
Sheerlund Forest tree farm near Reading, PA
(Photo by our friend Mike Martin)

"Lessons From Manna"

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"The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan" (Joshua 5:12). "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).

Butternut squash prep 11/30/13
We had an interesting time in our home on Saturday morning. Our elderly friends, Jesse and Wilma Dourte, drove to our house and brought over some home-grown neck pumpkins. We also had a dozen or so butternut squash so we spent the entire morning preparing them for the freezer. Ninety year old Jesse always comes with his freshly sharpened hunting knife when he's about to do any serious cutting. Wilma, 89, works diligently from the moment she arrives all the way through clean-up. Jesse's been repeatedly asking Brooksyne throughout autumn, "When can we come over and help you put up pumpkin?" As our regular readers know, the last two months have been occupied with our care for Ester and her medical needs. But finally on Saturday we joyfully surrendered our time to preserving garden produce from the summer harvest. After all it's a lot more fun to work when it's done with friends.

The process includes slicing squash and pumpkins in half (Stephen's contribution), digging out the stringy pulp and seeds (Jesse's contribution), baking them until the pulp (meat) can easily be pierced, scooping the meat out (Wilma's contribution), pureeing meat in the food processor and then scooping into freezer bags (Brooksyne's). We made about 35 batches of 15 oz bags (same weight as canned pumpkin in stores)! It's a lot of work but inexpensive and handy all through the year. If you come for a visit to the Webers you're likely to get pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cake, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spaghetti (kidding) - you name it, it's coming up pumpkin! I wonder if that's how the children of Israel felt when all around them manna rained down from heaven!

God miraculously provided the manna during the wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. At first it was seen as an incredible miracle; a rather fascinating, labor free way to receive daily bread and it "tasted like wafers made with honey" (Exodus 16:31). But over time it became a source of discontent and grumbling (Numbers 11:6). Isn't that the way we so often
are concerning God's blessings?

Many in the younger generation merely took the manna for granted as they had grown up with this miraculous provision since birth. They had acquired no taste for other varieties of food so they didn't necessarily realize what they were missing. They probably just thought that's how food was always provided.

But when our daily text was written the people had crossed over to the Promised Land and were then instructed to eat from provisions of the land.  The next morning, for the first time in forty years, the daily provision of manna no longer rained down from heaven.

The provision of manna was miraculous, for a specific reason and particular season. The reason is they were unable to stay in one place and cultivate any land, the season was their 40 years of aimless wandering. But when they entered the Promised Land and settled down it was a time when God knew the people could return to the normal means of provision as "they ate of the produce of Canaan."

Butternut squash prep 11/30/13
God provides but not always as we expect. We have read testimonies of miraculous provision like that of the manna.

But the norm is that humans cooperate with God in working to prepare our food; from the hardworking farmer, the trucking industry, food processing plants, and our grocery stores. As I reflect upon my life I realize in one way or another I have worked in each of these fields. My first job was at a Kroger Supermarket in Independence, MO. While in college and early in our marriage I did
both farm work and drove a truck. In the course of our chaplaincy work I have served at food processing plants like Turkey Hill Dairy, Herr's Snack Foods and Martin's Bakery.

A common prayer is that God would bless the hands of those who prepare our food but also consider the preparation that begins way back on the farm and through each step of the process till it graces our table. Bless those hard working laborers as well in your prayers and thank them personally when you see them!

Consider His care in your life today. Jesus taught us in the Lord's Prayer to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."  God is our Provider and desires our dependence on Him as an expression of faith. But in His ordained order He has designed our cooperation in working and demonstrating responsibility.

In God's timing and in accordance with His specific plan for our lives He could send manna (miraculous provision). But unless provision is supplied in this manner He has ordained that we work to provide for ourselves and others in our charge. Surely the ceasing of what had become routine was just as mysterious to the people as the initial provision, but God was in control. He still is and He always will be!

Be encouraged,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we're reminded of Your absolute faithfulness as we reflect upon the Israelites journeying in the wilderness.  Even when they were unfaithful and rebellious, in Your compassionate faithfulness, You provided for their daily needs.  Your steadfast love never ceased and Your mercies never came to an end, for they were renewed everyday and are this day as well. All we have need of Your hand provides. Help us to do our part in receiving it with thanksgiving and being careful not to waste, but to share with those in genuine need. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

The account of God providing manna is found in Exodus 16. In reading over the passage this morning I also noticed something I suppose I have never considered. God provided precise portion control!

ESTER'S HEALTH UPDATE:  As mentioned in previous messages Ester is using oxygen at home since her release from the hospital on Nov. 25th. Her oxygen saturation is 80% as a general rule (even with one liter oxygen). We return to her cardiologist's clinic today for a follow-up, echocardiogram, and pacer testing. Also we'll discuss her future heart catheterization needed to improve her oxygen saturation. She's been in good spirits and has been a good example to us, as she has endured much pain through this entire process, and has rarely complained.

Jesse and Wilma Dourte 11/30/13
Jesse and Wilma along with some of the produce we processed. The butternut squash was grown by our Amish neighbors up the street.

Front of church Christmas season 2013
The front of our church beautifully decorated for the Christmas season.

David Phelps concert 12/1/13
Brooksyne and Ester attended a David Phelps concert last night in Lancaster. An early Christmas present for Ester - she was so excited. Throughout her entire health ordeal she has played his music over and over and received strength and encouragement from the words he sings in addition to his outstanding tenor voice, truly a gift from God.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"O Come, O Come Emmanuel"
  Video  David Phelps Ester and I heard this last night - it was beautiful and stirring at the same time.

"End Of The Beginning"  Video  David Phelps   This is the song that Ester plays continuously and never wearies of it. Unfortunately he didn't sing it last night though it too fits in well with the Christmas message.

"No More Night"  Video  David Phelps
  (Stephen's favorite David Phelps song)

Finally today:

Neck Pumpkin 11/30/13
This large neck pumpkin (rather distinct in the Lancaster County area) fits around my neck like a heavy yoke! Brooksyne prefers neck pumpkin to the round jack-o-lantern type because there is much more pulp, less juice and fewer pulp waste and seeds to contend with (though you may be one who likes to roast pumpkin seeds).
This pumpkin weighed about 18#.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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