Use exact measurements." That's what my recipe card says. Emphasis on the word "exact". I was given a list of instructions by a friend who not only shared her technique for baking the best bread I've ever tasted but also a jar of bread "starter" for me to keep in the refrigerator. Now I had the chance to see if I could match her abilities. To amaze my family with homemade bread. That kind of homemade bread. Like hers.
Once a week I go to the refrigerator and pull out the starter---a bubbling liquid concoction that serves as the foundation for this fabulous bread. Then I unfold the tattered piece of paper she gave me, and I carefully follow the written guidelines. These are extremely important, she told me. Boy, was she ever right.
This bread is moody. It has a bit of an attitude problem. You're never quite sure what sets it off, but one little bobble in the preparation process can keep the dough from rising properly or baking to a perfectly golden brown. You have to be careful.
As time has gone along, my kids have begun to help me with this, pulling their stools over to the counter, eager to dirty their hands in the kneading process. But before kneading, the flour must be added. Six cups, to be exact. And "exact" those scoops must be. I can now entrust this step into the hands of my six year old, who's seen with his own eyes the kind of mood swings a loaf can exhibit when fed with too much or too little flour. He's gotten this down to a science-----a Luke 6:38 science: "a good measure---pressed down, shaken together." He reaches the utensil down into the airtight flour bin and collects "a good measure."
Nothing skimpy about the serving he's gathered. Thankfully he's still holding the measuring cup over the container because flour is spilling from the sides of the scoop. But knowing the need for just the right amount to be added to the ingredients, which are already poured and waiting in a nearby bowl, his tiny fingers secure a good grasp on the handle, and he gently "shakes" the cup.
I've explained to him that this shaking action eliminates the air pockets that can form underneath, occupying space that can still be filled with flour. By shaking it enough, he can be sure that every square inch of measuring cup is being used for his purpose. Finally he puts his other hand on top of the mound and pats gently to make sure it is "pressed down". Inevitably he finds that the cup can now hold more than before. So he continues to add flour, leveling it off until he determines it's as full as possible. Then he pours the scoop into the mixing bowl. Six times he does this. Scoop, shake, press down. Scoop, shake, press down.
There's only one part of the biblical directions his illustration is lacking. And it's the part that compels us to choose contentment over discontentment every day: "a good measure----pressed down, shaken together, and running over". It appears there's nothing exact about God's recipe of return to us. His gifts are overflowing. He's not stingy with His goodness or ungenerous with His supply. When you choose to give, He promises you'll have enough---more than you think---filling you back up with even more than you had to begin with. Not just a good measure, not just one that's pressed down and shaken together---not even one that's fair, equal to what you deserve---but one that is brimming over, unable to be contained by its recipient.
Now, by no means am I suggesting that you should always and without question give of yourself at the expense of the relationships and purposes that should be prioritized in your life. Sometimes the best, most empowering word you can learn to utter is no. But on those occasions when you feel genuinely led by God to give, you needn't be worried about what appears to be a dwindling amount of personal resources to suit the task. If He has endorsed your involvement, you can proceed with complete contentment and willingness, knowing He will always give back far more than you ever expended. The contented woman, when required to give of her time, her love, her resources...herself....is secure in the knowledge that she possesses enough to do it. And she looks forward to experiencing the promise of an outlandish return on her investment.
I can imagine what you may be thinking because I've thought it too...
--My energy level is so low.
--My "love tank" is running so close to empty, I'm sure I'm about to stall.
--It's only Tuesday, but my patience quota has already been used up for the week.
--My wallet is even emptier than I remember, and my financial needs aren't going away.
Yet just when you feel as though you're completely void of anything worthwhile to offer, or when your situation makes you feel justified in not being the one to participate, you'll often hear Him whispering..."Give, and it will be given to you".
And when He scoops up the dividends that He'll be sending back your way He, won't be short and scanty about it. He won't skim off the excess or be bound by an exact measurement. He will supply you a portion that is abundantly good and beyond what is warranted. He'll shake and press, shake and press, to make sure no pockets of air are taking up space reserved for His blessing. And then He'll pile up His favor and grace into such a rounded heap that it will spill off the sides, more than you can hold. Your hands and heart will try to grasp every morsel that falls from your full container, but there will be too much coming, far too fast.
Good thing you've got a lap. For on it will fall the abundance you cannot gather any other way, the surplus for which there is no more space. And it just keeps coming and coming.This is the reward for the woman resolved to contentment.
So "give, and it will be given to you; a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over----will be poured into you lap".
So make the resolution---the resolution to be content. Then look toward heaven with holy anticipation, and sit with your long skirt gathered up in folds and draped loosely across your lap, prepared to catch the overflow in the welcome pockets of room you've created. Live this moment. Pour yourself out. Drain the experience of each precious day. And be prepared for God's overflowing blessing.