Thursday, November 25, 2010


I came across this word the other day. I love words in other languages that are packed with meaning and have no exact translation in English. I know that the English language probably has these too, but it seems like they aren’t as frequent. Dayenu is a Hebrew word that means
“that alone would have been enough, but for that alone we are grateful.”

This is a powerful concept. It is learning to be truly grateful with what God has already given us and not ask Him for more. Many times it seems that our actions tend to contradict this concept. We desire a better job rather than be grateful for the job we have. We desire a bigger house rather than be grateful for the roof over our heads. We desire more money, better cars, a boat, the newest electronics, etc., etc., etc. We all can think of something right now that we desire. We have been trying to communicate to our kids that when they complain about things they are really telling God that what He has already given them is not good enough. Really, buying into our culture and the American Dream tells us that we shouldn’t be content, that we should always be looking to move up the ladder. Consumerism dictates how we live our lives and ultimately who we believe we are as people. The purpose of a commercial is to convince us that our life without the product they are pushing is incomplete, we shouldn’t be happy or content until we have what they are selling. The concept of Dayenu turns this thinking on its head.

In the ninth century, Jewish communities began to sing a song based off of this concept during Passover. Some Jews in Afghanistan and Iran hit each other over the head with onions during one of the stanzas to remind them to not complain like they did here.

Serenity and I have put together our own Song of Dayenu based off of the Jewish style:

If He had given us food on our tables. Dayenu.

If He had given us clothes on our backs. Dayenu.

If He had given us roofs over our heads. Dayenu.

If He had given us today. Dayenu.

If He had given us family. Dayenu.

If He had given us rest. Dayenu .

If He had given us fellowship with each other. Dayenu .

If He had given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Dayenu .

If He had done what He did through His son Jesus Christ. Dayenu .

For all these things – alone and together – we say Dayenu.

May we continually look to God with grateful hearts and learn to be content with everything He has already given us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Abba, Father

We spoke at a “Primetimers” gathering yesterday. Primertimers is exactly that, a group of retired (mostly 75-years-old +) folks from a local church that gather once a month and hear from a local ministry or pastor. We were asked to share about our journey and about our current journey of the Jubilee Food Pantry and Community Garden. At one point during our time sharing, Avery tapped me on the arm and said he had something to share, so I handed him the mic. In a clear and concise message Avery said: “In Chicago, our RV sunk in the mud. I was afraid, and very sad. But God taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid and that He was in control.” Then he handed the mic back to me. The room of elderly men and women burst into applause, and when I glanced briefly at Serenity we both almost started crying. I am so proud of Avery.

I don’t doubt that Avery was afraid, he panicked even more than I did, he was a basket case. As I was kneeling in a foot of mud futilely digging the wheels out of three feet of mud in the pouring rain, Serenity, in the back bedroom of the RV, began having the kids sing songs about the joy of the Lord. Avery couldn’t stop crying as he sung. To him, his whole world was being swallowed up by the Earth. And I didn’t blame him. That incident outside of Chicago was one of the most impactful for Avery during our journey. In the coming weeks and months we talked to Avery about what would have happened if Big Buster was swallowed up, if everything we possessed just disappeared. Would we be OK? Would God still love us? His eventual answer was “yes,” and since then the Lord has revealed some more significant truths to him:

“God is our refuge and strength,

always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come

and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.

Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!”

Psalms 46:1-3

“The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.

What can mere people (or the rains from Hurricane Ike) do to me?”

Psalms 118:6

I so want to be the hero for Avery, I want him to know I can protect him, provide for him and be there to fix his problems, but that is unhealthy and can lead to some serious disappointments, because I shouldn’t be his hero. I am his earthly father and as Psalms 118 goes on to say:

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord

than to trust in people.”

If I’m going to be the father that God calls me to be I have to continually point him to his heavenly father, his Abba Father. The word abba means “daddy” in Aramaic. Jesus called His father that in the Garden of Gathsemane, and the Apostle Paul reminds us that we must not have a spirit of fear, because we are children of the Most High God, “now we even call him ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15)

If I try to be Avery’s hero, if I try to be something that only God can be for him, I will create a deep father wound in Avery, because no matter how good of a dad I am, I will fail. No matter how much I teach him, even teach him about good things, about Jesus and who he is in Jesus, if I try to be something more, something I’m not designed to be, I will fail him. Like many of us, he won’t understand the concept of looking at God as Daddy, because the only daddy he knew failed to be what he needed him to be.

If I have one job as a daddy, it isn’t to solve his problems, be his hero or teach him how to be a man, it is to simply and consistently point him to Jesus, his true Abba, Father.

“See how much our father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”

1 John 3:1