There’s been a lot of talk about numbers these days: inauguration day numbers, immigration numbers, cost of a 60-second Super Bowl commerical number, and even the Dow Jones surpassing 20,000 number. We like numbers.
All this talk about numbers reminded me of a report I read a while back about Moses and the ancient Israelites. Bible scholars suggest that when you include all the men, women, and children who walked out of Egypt, there were some 2.4 million people (see Exodus 12:37-38). Now that’s a big number. You also need to consider they also took along “a rabble of non-Israelites along with great flocks and herds of livestock” (Exodus 12:38).
An apparent report by a Quartermaster General in the Army claimed that to feed that many people, you would need at least 3 million pounds of food and 11 million gallons of water every day. The report also claimed they would need a campground two-thirds the size of Rhode Island to pitch their tents, pen their animals, and roast marshmallows by the campfire. (OK, I made the marshmallow part up.)
Then there’s this: remember when the people of Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army? God tells Moses to “pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:16).
The Quartermaster report said that if you tried to cross the Red Sea double file on a narrow path, it would take 35 days and nights to get everyone across. But Exodus 14:21-22 says,“…the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!”
For the people of Israel to walk across in one day, the Quartermaster report stated, God would have cut a path through the Red Sea at least three miles wide allowing the people to walk across 5,000 abreast.
Now there is no way my mathematically challenged brain can figure out if any of this Quartermaster report stuff is correct. But it certainly brought a greater understanding that food, and water, and armies, and Pharoahs, and logistics, and oceans, and whatever other troubles we may be facing, are not problems for our God. He may not answer or move in a way we want or even expect, in fact I would suggest He usually doesn’t. But He is always in control. He is never caught off guard. He is always up to some much bigger plan than we can see or understand, and He will always accomplish His purposes.
How do we respond to such wonder and amazement? The Psalmist David gives us an example, “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand” (Psalm 139:4-6).
I’m sitting at an outdoor coffee bar that serves a lot more than just coffee. It overlooks a sports arena, downtown buildings, and a commuter train railway. There is also an airport close by. A few minutes ago an airplane flew past while at the same time a train and a bus rolled along. Everyone is going someplace.
It’s interesting to observe the mix of people in this place. There are all shapes and sizes and I count at least six different nationalities. Most seem quite happy. I suspect the median age is late 30’s and I suddenly realize I’m pulling the curve up instead of down.
Most conversations I overhear seem pretty light. If I had to guess, I would say there is one budding romance across the way. They are all smiles and laugh even if what was said may not have been particularly funny. A trio of ladies have gathered for drinks and are swapping stories about their respective “crazy” day. An elderly man is by himself staring into his glass deep in thought.
I wonder what their stories are?
We all have them. We’re all on a journey. All of us are hopeful our story comes to a happy and peaceful conclusion. We’re all writing stories.
I can’t help but wonder how God’s eternal and perfect plan—His story for us—is possibly taking place at this exact moment in each one of our lives. There just seems to be too much going on, too many details, too many people, too many possible outcomes. How can it be that God is in control and that “…every day of my life was recorded in His book and every moment laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16)? How can this be true right now, right here in this coffee bar?
I know God lives in eternity and is outside all of nature’s laws regarding time and space. It is difficult to try and comprehend. My Dad loved to tell me that this meant “God has all the ‘time’ in the world to focus on me and me alone for my entire life—every moment of every day.” That both thrills and terrifies me. But I do believe that in some mysterious God-ordained-free–will way, we write our story with uncoerced choices which fit exactly into God’s eternal plan.
Maybe David was sitting in a coffee bar (circa 1000 BC) drinking a strong black coffee (no way King David drank lattés) thinking about some of these things. Why does the Almighty God–with that kind of power and ability–unconditionally love and care for someone like me? Why would he even care about my story and even desire that “through his mighty power at work within me, accomplish infinitely more than I might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)? It’s too outlandish to imagine.
But He does. And so David had to say what I’m feeling at this moment, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand” (Psalm 139:6).
Fun summer reading. “Monkeys In My Coconut Tree” by Ed Thompson, is a compilation of fun, easy-to-read stories of fun, family, and faith. It was a Reader’s Favorite 2016 Silver Medal Winner. So come on, check it out. Read some of the reviews and download your copy by clicking HERE. (Also available at Amazon.com, iTunes and others.)
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, summer officially ends on September 23rd at 4:21am. Yes, I agree that’s a peculiar date and time for summer to end but who are we to argue with old farmers?
Sadly, the end of summer also brings the season’s end to a beloved American pastime—lemonade stands—which inexplicably, are under attack by various government branches. No, I’m not making this up.
The government lemonade crackdown may have begun last year in Coralville, Iowa, when police shut down little 4-year-old Abigail’s stand after she had been open barely 30 minutes. The reason? She did not have the required $400 permit. In Midway, Georgia, police shut down a stand run by three little girls because they did not have a business license, a peddler’s permit, or a food permit. In Overton, Texas, public outcry was so loud after two children’s (7 and 8) stand was shut down for not having the proper permits, the Chief of Police released “dash-cam” VIDEO of the occurrence.
The list of government shut downs of children’s lemonade stands has grown substantially over the years. So much so that websites like lemonadefreedom.com have opened up with news and videos to promote “Lemonade Freedom” throughout the land. So in the hope some government official will read this and have second thoughts on sending the police to shut down a child’s lemonade stand, I share this story.
I love lemonade stands.
In fact, my wife and children know it’s almost impossible for me to drive past a neighborhood lemonade stand. I’ll circle blocks, make illegal U-turns, and even try to sneak past a police crime tape surrounding the permit-less operation of a 4-year-old, just to get to a child’s lemonade stand. Then I’ll call my wife and kids and insist they drive over and buy some, too.
It goes back, of course, to my grade school days when I proudly opened my very own lemonade stand in my front yard. I was a proud and hopeful small business owner determined to make millions from the ten-cents-per-cup lemonade my mother made. It was back in the day when a young entrepreneur could set up shop in their own front yard without ever worrying about being busted by the Chief of Police.
I remember setting up the table alongside the street, making the signs, and wondering how much to charge for a wonderful ice-cold glass of lemonade; a nickel, a dime, a quarter? Could a cold glass of lemonade be worth a quarter?
Of course, mom helped make the lemonade and even supplied a small box of change. She helped me make the sign and set up the table in a spot where she could keep an eye on me from inside the house. Then, finally, it was time to sit in the chair behind the table and wait for the line of cars to show up, driven by thirsty people with an extra dime or two in their pockets.
That’s where a major flaw in my business plan was revealed. At age 11, I was unfamiliar with the “location, location, location” principle and Freakonomics hadn’t even been written yet. So I was on my own, on a quiet street, learning tough business principles the hard way. But dreams are beautiful and I never once considered our quiet street would not be teaming with thirsty drivers coming from all over Miami to drink my lemonade.
Long, lonely minutes crept by as I sat there anxiously waiting for a car—any car—to pull down my street. Then, when a car did come into view, nothing crushed my spirit more than watching it rumble past as I stood there with a cup of cold lemonade in hand and a hopeful smile on my face. (There’s just something un-American about driving past a lonely lemonade stand.)
But dreams die hard and I knew my first customer could be coming down the street at any moment. I would be ready. The minutes slowly ticked by and turned into a discouraging hour. Then that hour slowly passed into another hour, and another. The hot sun burned down, the ice in the lemonade pitcher quickly melted, and no one, not one car or person ventured toward my lemonade stand.
Mom had given me a nice apple to offer to my first customer as a special bonus. It had been nice and fresh when I had set up the stand, but now it too, was starting to look beat down from the sun and heat. Still, no one stopped. I was fairly miserable.
The afternoon wore on and I was dragging my head in discouragement. I was just about to close up shop when off in the distance, I noticed a car coming my direction. It was a familiar car. It was my dad’s car and Dad was in it. He pulled up to my stand and rolled down the window. “How’s business, young man?” he asked with a big smile. All I remember was bursting into tears.
The next thing I know, my dad was asking for a glass of lemonade. “Are you selling that apple, too?” he asked still smiling. I managed a “yes” through my tears but said it wasn’t looking so good anymore. “Looks like a great apple to me,” I heard back, as I handed it over.
I can still picture handing my dad the warm glass of lemonade and the sad looking apple through the window of his car. He leaned back and drank the lemonade in one long swallow, smacked his lips and then bit into the apple. “Wow, that’s delicious,” he said to my surprise. “I think I’ll take another lemonade.”
When he was done, he reached into his wallet, pulled out a bill, and handed it to the little boy trying to overcome his sobs. He said a big “thanks,” complimented me on the excellent lemonade and fine tasting apple and drove away.
He was around the corner and out of sight before I looked and saw the twenty-dollar bill he had pushed in my hand. In many ways, it remains the biggest sale I have ever made.
I have a sneaky suspicion my mom called my dad to let him know I was out there struggling to make a sale. I can see him dropping whatever he was doing at work and driving over as quickly as possible to buy some warm lemonade from his son. With tenderness and compassion, it was “Dad to the rescue” because that’s what loving dads do.
The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him (Psalm 103:13).
As my dad drove up our lonely street, I’m sure he knew the sad sight he was about to see: a little boy with a sad face and slumped over shoulders fully engulfed in his own private pity party. But as a loving father, he knew what to do.
For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14).
I’m so incredibly thankful the Lord knows how weak and frail I am. I so often feel like I’m still that little boy at the lemonade stand down the lonely street with nothing going right. But my Heavenly Father is tender and compassionate. He knows I’m made of dust and always takes my frailty into account.
For His unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth (Psalm 103:11).
So the next time you see a lemonade stand—STOP—and remember the Lord’s amazing love, tenderness, and compassion for you. Then, pull over and invest in the hopes and dreams of a small child who is waiting just for you to make his or her day. It may just be the best decision you make all day.