Occasionally, something will happen that triggers the partial lyrics or tune of an old song to come to my mind. I turned 60 in March, and it seems the older I get, the more 'partial' the memories become.
My two sons and I started an April family tradition several years ago as a way to best celebrate all three of our birthdays. The tradition started back about 27 years ago when we had to make annual trips to take my oldest son Blake, to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS for asthma treatments. We always tried to make sure that at least one of these trips was in March or April so that we would be sure to be there during crawfish season. There is no food that the three of us enjoy more than crawfish that are cooked right and crawfish that we can enjoy together!
In the beginning, we would only buy about 10 pounds or whatever we could afford.
Even when they were 7-9 years old, the boys could eat 10 pounds each. Since we could not afford to buy that many, we just stopped and ate a few at every rest area or picnic table we passed, trying to make them last all the way home. We usually ordered them extra spicy to help limit our consumption. When our lips felt like they were on fire, we would get back in the truck and drive to the next stop where we dived into them again.
Over the years, this tradition has grown to picking up 4-6 sacks of live crawfish and bringing them home to cook ourselves the way we like them. We try to invite as many of our friends and family over as we can who enjoy them like we do. We do not get to do this every year, but we sure try.
This year, I was not passing through Louisiana as I usually am the week before Easter, but I was able to find some fresh Louisiana crawfish at a local seafood store in Dothan. I was in the parking lot, iceboxes ready, when the delivery truck arrived. I could only buy two bags at retail prices so we could not invite the usual crowd, but some of our family came and we ate until we thought we would surely get iodine poisoning!
The day before the crawfish boil, I went to the commissary to pick up the sweet corn, mushrooms, lemons, new potatoes, link sausage and all the ingredients we needed for our special meal. As I was sorting through the stack of new potatoes trying to get all good ones about the same size, I noticed that my flimsy produce bag just never filled up. I wanted about five pounds, so I just kept selecting and tossing the ones I liked into the bag. Finally, I felt one land on my boot and I realized that there was a small hole in the bottom of my bag. After I had put about a dozen potatoes in the bag, one was falling out every time I put another in. I looked down and new potatoes were all over the floor!
Embarrassed and looking around to see who all could have been watching me, I got a new bag and started picking up all the potatoes that had fallen all around me on the floor. It was then that the chorus of an old Hank Williams song hit me: "Well my bucket's got a hole in it. Well my buckets got a hole in it. Well, my bucket's got a hole in it, I can't buy no beer." I had not heard that song in years, and I do not drink beer, but I reckon this was just the right experience to trigger my memory of that old tune.
No matter how far I drove to get to the commissary, how carefully I chose the individual potatoes, or how many I put into that bag with a hole in it, I was never going to take enough home for our crawfish boil unless I either fixed the hole or changed bags!
This truth brought another memory, but this one of a truth found in Scripture. A truth I have often found myself in need of, and that I see all of our nation and our Church in need of today. This lesson is found in the book of Haggai and deals with the remnant of Israelites that returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity for the purpose of rebuilding the original temple that had been totally destroyed when the nation was taken captive. This temple would be the hub of spiritual life for the Jewish people and would enable them to live in covenant community with God and with one another.
Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest, the small remnant of Jews had returned to Jerusalem and in just two years had cleared the entire temple mount and had completed the foundation for the new temple. As their neighbors--Samaritans and others who had moved into Jerusalem during their exile, saw their progress, they began to terrorize and harass the workers to discourage and prevent them from completing their task and their mission of rebuilding God's house. Tired, discouraged and harassed, the people decided that perhaps "The time has not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built." (Haggai 1:2). If the timing was right, surely it would be easier! So for 16 years the work stopped.
Instead of building a house for the Lord, the God of their fathers, in God's timing, the Israelites began building elaborate houses for themselves. Instead of living to please God who had brought them out of captivity with the intent of restoring them as a nation that would bless the world, the people sought to please themselves, but none of their efforts succeeded. As hard as they worked to please themselves and to find happiness and contentment outside of God's will, all of their efforts proved to be futile.
The prophet Haggai appears on the scene not to condemn the Israelites, but to encourage them to look around and see the consequences of their disobedience. He encouraged them to return to their God given mission of rebuilding the temple. He seemed to be saying: "Do you not see what is happening to you? You have wandered off track from God's will for your lives. Think back about what you have been doing and how it has worked out for you."
"Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little. You eat, but do not have enough. You drink, but you are not filled with drink. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes!" (Haggai 1:5-6).
"You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. 'Why'? says the Lord of hosts. 'Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.'" (Haggai 1:9).
God continued to speak through Haggai telling the Israelites that it was He that had withheld the dew needed for their crops to grow. It was also He that sent too much dew that caused their crops to rot. It was He that caused the work of their hands and the produce of their crops and livestock to fail. Disobedience to God's will and misplaced priorities always has consequences!
Despite their sin of disobedience, discouragement, and selfishness, God promised that if they repented and returned to their God given mission of rebuilding the temple, He would be with them. He told them to be strong and to work. Just as He was with them when He delivered them out of their captivity in Egypt and again in their captivity in Babylon, He would be with them now. Whatever they needed to do His work, He would provide. He did not promise that it would be easy or without opposition, but He promised that they could complete the work God had called them to do if they did not quit and if they put Him first. That has always been His promise to the people of Israel and it is His promise to us today.
The reason the people had only completed the foundation and had not finished the work of rebuilding God's temple was not due to a lack of materials, money or manpower. It was due to a lack of obedience and misplaced priorities. There are always obstacles to doing God's will. Obstacles are not a sign that God's will has changed; rather, they signal that we need new determination, strength and obedience to complete what He has called us to do.
If we give ourselves completely to God and keep Him at the center of our lives, we will be blessed, we will be strengthened, we will be successful, we will bless the lives of others. If we continue to choose our personal welfare over God's, we will never do what He has created and commanded us to do, nor will we ever experience real peace and contentment in this life that can only be found through right relationship with Him.
Just as God would not miraculously rebuild the temple without the long and hard and united work of His people, the world will never be reached with the Gospel message unless we are unified, obedient and reorder our priorities. Everything we need to take the love and Good News of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world, God has given to His Church! The questions is: What will we do with it?
I am convinced that the only things we can never lose, are the very things we give away in Jesus name, and for His glory--including our very lives. Seeking eternal peace, security, success, contentment, and lasting joy that our hearts long for, through anything or anyone else outside of Jesus and His will for our lives, is like putting all of our hope in a bucket with a hole in it! It will never be enough.