Monday, November 7, 2011

Sweet, Refreshing Waters from Clay Jars

One of my favorite childhood games was to play house. I miss the feeling of being cozy inside a miniature "house" with all the miniature home appliances, furniture, and the tiny toys we played with. Those miniature appliances and furniture were not the "real" stuff which kids can buy from toy stores these days. We made and built our own. They were made out of scrap wood, twigs, cardboard, newspaper, old plastic containers and tin cans, held together by rubber bands and strings.

I didn't play much with dolls when I was a kid but I do remember playing with my toy pots and pans, kitchen utensils and cooking wares. My favorites were the tiny cooking pots and pans made from terra cotta clay. They were just too cute and so adorable. I still remember how smooth they felt in my hand, how tiny they were yet the details and the similarities to the real thing were so amazing. I can actually cook with them using real fire we made with match sticks, paper and wood. I just had to dice up the "meat and vegetables" really tiny so it would fit into the tiny pots. And what are those "meat and veggies" you may ask? They were only make-believe. They were plants, leaves, flowers, stems, roots, grass, soil and pebbles we took from Mama's garden.

For some reason, clay pots for cooking are not very popular here in the States. When we say clay pots here, it usually means the ones used for gardening, like the flower pots. And if ever this cooking ware is available here, they are too expensive that most people can't afford them anyway. But cooking in clay pots is still one of the most popular choices in many parts of the world including the Philippines. These earthen wares are readily available everywhere in that country and they are not expensive at all. The fact that the good quality ones also last for a long, long time makes it even more a worthwhile purchase.

When I was younger, I used to visit my "Lola" (grandmother) in the province. Me and my brothers stayed with her during the summer months and what a grand vacation it always was! Those were some of the great days of my childhood. We were spoiled rotten by our grandma, grandaunts and cousins. Summertime spent in the countryside are the best. One of my cherished memories from those vacations with Lola is what I call now as the "lesson of the clay pot." Allow me to share with you that lesson:

On those summer vacations although we were spoiled by everyone, my brothers and I were still not exempt from doing a few household chores. One of my chores was to help my grandaunt fill-up the "daba" (palayok) or clay jar for drinking water. Thirty years ago, a faucet with clean, running water was unheard of in most parts of the Philippines. We had water wells and manual pumps from where we fetch our water for daily use. In some places, they have lakes and rivers where they do their laundry and all sorts of washing. In the big cities, there may be the chlorinated, running water from the faucet but I remember it was always a battle to fill-up even just a small pail. And I heard that it's still a battle up to now.

Anyway, I digressed. The clay jar I used to fill-up with water was in my grandaunt's kitchen. I remember asking her why we had to fill it up with water when we can just fill-up all the pitchers we had in the house? She explained that clay pots are the best water storage, ever. It makes water sparklingly cool in the summer when ice or refrigeration were hard to get by. And also it makes the water sweet-tasting, she said. As a child, that was pure magic to me. Cool, sweet, sparkling water without refrigeration? It's a miracle! As God is my witness, all she said is true. Water from clay pots are indeed refreshingly cool and sweet. It's one of the magical things I miss from my childhood.

Another fact I've learned about clay pots was that they leak. Clay is a porous material and so it's just natural for water to seep out in any way it can. That's why most of the clay pots available now in the market are most likely to be coated with some kind of a sealant to prevent the seepage. But I remember Lola telling me that this was "unnatural" and it may not be good for our health. We never know what type of sealant people apply on those pots. So we only used the natural ones regardless of the leak. We just place a basin under it and we continue to refill it everyday with fresh supply of water.

The lesson of the clay pot did not stop there. It continued on as I grew older.

"O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." -Isaiah 64:8 

"O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" -Romans 9:20-24

In some of my Bible readings and quiet time with the Lord, He showed me additional "lessons of the clay pot." The Bible says that God is the Potter and we are the clay. He can mold us and use us for His purpose and glory if we only let Him. And just like the clay jars my family used to store water, humans also can't hold much "water" for long periods of time. We leak so bad. That's why we need the Holy Spirit to fill us up with His teachings from the Word everyday. We need to read the Bible to replenish the seepage that happens from our hearts and our souls. Since we are the clay, we need the Potter to mold us into the likeness of His own Son's character little by little each day. And for Him to fill us up with new supply of His tender mercies every morning.

We are just lowly clay pots in the hands of God and we can choose to remain empty and useless for the rest of our lives, just sitting in one corner being pretty like all the decorative ceramic jars available in home furnishings stores. Or, we can choose to be useful and be filled up for "cooking and storage." As we allow God to fill and re-fill us with His wisdom and power through the Holy Spirit, I'm sure we will produce sparkling, refreshing, sweet waters in His perfect time. It is my prayer that as God's "sweetened water" that I will be a blessing to others as He chooses.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Paper Towels

We don't have paper towels in the Philippines. I mean the big rolls, for "kitchen-use" type paper towels. But I'm not too sure about now since I've been away too long. And I say this not to be mean in any way nor to be offensive to my fellow Filipinos, it is just how I remember growing up in a house with 6 children and with extended family who occasionally visits us. We used washable, reusable rags for our everyday cleaning and wiping. I also remember cleaning our house the "old school" way --with soap and water, maybe a splash of chlorine bleach, using rags and brushes, down on our knees scrubbing all the grime and dirt away. It was hard, back-breaking work. And we did this regularly, like 3 to 4 times a week. And I thank my mother for all the training she provided her children while growing up because these kinds of skills do come in handy now that I have my own family to take care of and a home to clean and manage. I salute all the working moms who work full time and yet still maintain a spotlessly clean house. That's never a small feat. It's a miracle by itself.

It's funny how we live a long time without the need for some things yet after we discover that thing, we suddenly can't live without it! That's exactly what happened to me and with those paper towels. I can't live without them now. I have to have them at my house and in the office at all times. I can't do any cleaning without it. Rags are unheard of for me now. I'm so helpless without my paper towels.

Okay, okay I am exaggerating quite a bit. The world continues to turn even without paper towels. There are much more important things in life than having rolls of paper towels at home. But having them ready at hand, just in case of a spill or some sort of soiling, is the best way to go. Ahhh, the pleasures of modern living. We have machines to help us do our everyday chores, we have appliances to assist us with our everyday duties, and we have all types of luxury like having vehicles when our forefathers used to trudge several miles on foot. Now we have electricity and gas to keep us out of the dark and make us warm on cold wintry nights, and we do have those paper towels always ready to wipe off any mess and we just dispose of it after each use. Aren't you glad we are living at this day and age as against to living in the past? So why do we still complain a lot? Why aren't people any happier now as compared to our great-great grandparents? Why are the paper towels not enough to make life any grander than before?

Humans are so near and narrow-sighted that we easily forget the past and we always neglect to focus on the future. Paper towels are immediately available these days that they're almost considered as next to nothing. It's not one of the most valuable goods in the market. People are not lining up to buy them off the shelves. Paper towels are not even part of the stock market on which people can invest their money with the hope of multiplying their profits. It has no inherent value. The value of the paper towels is based only on the user's need, like mine. I can't live without it. It is valuable to me, but the world doesn't seem to think the same way. Gold is what's valuable. Diamonds are priceless. Money is the center of life. Money makes the world go round, they say. What I'm trying to drive at is this: people do what they want to do, people think what they'd like to think, and we value things that we want to value no matter what the reality is and what the truth really is.

God says that earthly wealth and riches are nothing in eternity but people still beat themselves up just to get "an ounce of gold" because for them that's what has real value. God says that storing up treasures here on earth is pointless but people still have vaults and coffers filled with goods that perish at the sound of His voice. We lose focus in a snap. We forget that life is too short to be focusing on things that have nothing to do with our eternal life. I do love my paper towels but I'm also glad that I can let go of them as easily as I want them because I know that I have the best "mess picker-upper" in the whole universe --my God. He forgives me for my big messes all the time and He purifies me from all unrighteousness. And He doesn't need any paper towels to do that.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." -Matthew 6:19-21
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