Monday, September 28, 2009

A Different Take On 'I Read the Book'

Have you ever been talking to friends about the blockbuster hitting the screens the coming weekend or discussing a recent Netflix pick and have someone say, “Well, I read the book” or “The book was so much better.” Fair or not, I often detect a snobbish air to the phrase, as if the person really said, “You may think you know the story, but I immersed myself in the tale page after page, and you really haven’t experienced it.
Well, I don’t care if you consider me an intellectual snob, but there is a movie based on a book coming out. By the time you read this, it’s been released, but as I’m writing, it hasn’t been yet. And yes, I’ve read the book.
It’s called “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett). I used to read it to my kids all the time. You may have read it yourself. It’s the story of the town called Chewandswallow where the weather was quite unusual. When the sky opened in a storm, water didn’t come down in different forms, food came down in different forms.
The people of the town were never without their knives and forks because their food would come out of the skies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The morning might start with a drizzle of orange juice and bagels followed by sandwiches with apple slices, and the evening might bring, yes, the meatballs of the title along with spaghetti noodles.
Children love the book, as do the adults who read it to them. It’s a wonderful fantasy to think of food being so accessible and plentiful. Who but the most weight- conscious among as wouldn’t like a marshmallow snowstorm?
Why doesn’t God work the world this way?
An amazing thing is, He has done things very much like this at times.
If you read Exodus 16 about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, you’ll see that God provided food in an amazing way. When the dew dried in the morning, the people found manna, a kind of bread, on the ground. And in the evening, quail would gather for easy capture and cooking.
So why doesn’t God do this all the time? The story of the Israelites gives a clue: they soon begin to complain about their free lunch (or breakfast & dinner more properly). We often don’t appreciate what is given to us.
Before work was placed under a curse in Genesis 3, Adam was to work in the garden and care for the plants and gather his fruit.
In First Thessalonians we are told to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life and work with our hands (4:11) and respect those who work hard (5:12). Yes, the Lord’s prayer encourages us to pray for our daily bread, but that doesn’t mean we sit on our hands and wait for God to bake it.
As it turns out, even in the city of Chewandswallow, the storms of food get to be too much, and the people must build boats of stale bread to sail to a new land where people work for their food.
Yes, we begin life without working too much for our food, just sucking the milk in. And you may well have someone cooking for you now. But God always intended for the labor to be part of the joy in eating.
We partner with God to make His blessing come to earth. Working with Him shouldn’t make us less thankful, but more so.
(The movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is rated PG for language that was not in the book, and it didn’t have the nutty scientist or monkey I saw in the trailer. But I’m never one to complain about adding monkeys.)

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