I have no difficulty in believing the Gospel accounts of healings, but the feeding of the 5000 leaves me dazzled. Now how exactly did that happen?
However, it’s easier to believe it than to believe that Matthew, Mark, and John, eyewitnesses, were deliberately lying.
So, though my rational mind boggles, yes, I believe it happened– without understanding exactly how it happened.
* * *
There is a similar miracle in the Old Testament, where Elisha feeds 100 with 20 loaves, and there were leftovers–and there are contemporary accounts of similar multiplications.
Heidi Baker (subject of this sensitive and adulatory Christianity Today cover story )says this in an interview.
Q–You’ve seen a type of miracle that is not mentioned in Jesus’ earthly ministry, but He did do something similar – the multiplication of food to feed a crowd. In your case, you witnessed the multiplication of Christmas presents. What happened?
Heidi Baker—That only happened once.
However, we’ve had the food multiplied many times. And it’s just super-exciting every time. We always cry. And we don’t test God. We buy as much food as we can. I knew God would multiply food. I’d seen him do it. But I thought it would be a little over the top for Him to multiply presents. That was my theological background kicking in.
I love to give gifts. I was giving out Christmas presents one year in southern Mozambique on a 120-degree day. I sat on a grass mat, looking each child in the eye, loving and blessing them. My staff had worked for months on getting all the presents together. I don’t even know how many we had, maybe a thousand or so gifts. The homeless were there and the street kids were there and all of our own children were there.
We were getting to the end of the line and our teenage girls were now in the queue. A helper, who happened to be a psychiatrist, was next to me. Her name was Brenda. I was thinking of John 15 and I just looked at one of my own girls and said, “What do you want?” The psychiatrist really got ticked off and said, “I told you, there are stuffed dogs in the bag.” I knew the girls didn’t want old second-hand stuffed dogs. I said to the girl again, “What do you want?” A couple of the girls yelled out, “Beads. Beads.”
I just prayed, and I looked up to the Lord and said, “Brenda. They want beads.” She reached in and started screaming, “There are beads in the bag.” She started sobbing. Some people from Argentina, who saw it happen, started jumping and screaming. My Mozambican helpers did the same thing. We were all sobbing and pulling out beads. That was a powerful experience. We had also counted something like 24 wrapped checkerboards and gave out twice that number.
* * *
It’s the old Lewisian trilemma again— A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. (Mere Christianity, Chapter 7).
So perhaps Heidi is a lunatic, but lunatics do not care for 5000 children; or a liar, but someone so radiant with the love of God as Heidi is unlikely to lie about him. Or the power of God is vaster than I can imagine.
I’m going with that.
* * *
Actually we see the multiplication of loaves and fishes every day.
We see it from the immense riches which come from a good idea, from Adobe’s InDesign which sells for $700 or Microsoft Word or Matlab which sell for $100. Books, often still in the author’s head, sell for six figures. We see multiplication of the loaves and fishes in eBay, which has no stock, but is basically an idea: that people are basically good, and so strangers can safely enter into transactions. Facebook, where our relentless activity relentlessly contributes to its valuation, is also just website based on an idea–and is now valued at $250 billion!
The immense wealth, immense abundance in the universe, often comes to people in the form of good ideas.
* * *
How can we experience creative abundance?
Most bloggers write just a fraction of the blog posts in their heads. Most writers write just a minuscule fraction of all the good books they are capable of writing. In Keats’ phrase, they die, “before their pen has gleaned their teeming brain.”
The air in the room in which I write is full of signals. Signals to my TV, my radio, my iPhone, my laptop. Thousands of ideas in the air of my room, available to me as I switch on a gadget.
And God’s thoughts too are in the air of this room.
How precious to me are your thoughts,God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand (Ps 139)
God’s thoughts pouring down, shimmering, more of them than every grain of sand on the seashore.
How do I access this infinity of ideas, and more importantly, find time and energy to write them down?
The short answer, I suspect, is absolute surrender. Giving God the key to every room of the house of our lives.
* * *
As with the Feeding of the Five Thousand, accessing God’s power a mixture of our effort and God’s goodness. The disciples offered their five loaves of bread and two fish. And God did the rest.
It’s a mixture of left-brain strategy and resourcefulness, and a right-brain openness to what God is up to.
I usually have dozens of ideas for blog posts which I have dictated to my phone or noted on my laptop. Finding time and energy to write them down will partly be a matter of revising my life.
* * *
Our lives are a web of hundreds of habits, some helpful, many unhelpful. Becoming more creative and productive will be a matter of revising habits at the micro-level, plugging the micro-leaks of time, the micro-actions in which we have not given Jesus the key to our time and lives, and are therefore acting outside the will of God.
For instance, I am trying to get into the habit of not writing or praying while I have access to Facebook, twitter, email or newspapers on my laptop. I switch them off using the apps SelfControl and StayFocusd. This greatly helps my focus.
I am trying to wake early and sleep early, because odds are I will use early morning time a bit better than late night time.
I write more and sleep better if I exercise, so I am trying to ensure that I weave exercise into my day, and get 10,000 steps on my Fitbit.
The peace and focus that domestic order brings, working in tidy and decluttered surroundings, immensely helps creativity.
Emotional tension drains our focus and energy, so I am doing the work of forgiving the people I need to forgive. And trying to seek Christ’s eyes and mind about the people I find annoying. And doing the mental and emotional work: forgiveness, perhaps, or realising that God has placed them in my life for a refining reason, for me to learn patience and kindness and empathy and tolerance. To see the good in them, and to practice firmness and saying No if necessary. To realize that even if someone’s intent towards me is wholly malignant, God can protect me.
There are spiritual practices which help creativity—remembering I am one with Christ, and so have access to the Father’s ideas, and wisdom on how to do a shapely blog, for instance. Mentally positioning and visualizing myself in the force field and waterfall of God’s goodness and power when I start writing.
Living in love not only feeds the emotional needs which make it easier for us to be productive, but is a fast-track into abiding in God, and having Jesus abide in our souls. Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12.
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3). Hidden. And as we increasingly align ourselves and our lives with him, and keep seeking him, we begin to hear his answers to all the knotty questions of our lives. How do I lose weight? How do I become more productive?
* * *
I have not found the answers to increasing my productivity and getting all the ideas in my head onto the page yet—but I am more productive than I was a year ago.
As with many things in life, the answer may come as a process rather than a miracle, but I am on my way, still learning, still seeking, still knocking.