Acts 19 tells the events that happened in the city of Ephesus as the church there was being birthed. Some crazy stuff happens--stuff that I think would make most church goers uneasy. These events, spark some vivid images in my mind. The first one involves hankies.
I'm not a fan of the hanky, or handkerchief if you're all proper like that.
And here's why, I'm not the least bit interested in putting snot into my pocket. Disposable tissues exist for a reason. They are a quick easy delivery system transporting mucus from my nose to the garbage can, and ultimately the landfill where it belongs. Snot does not belong in my pocket. And neither does a hanky.
Now, when you have a baby you have to get used to snot.
Actually, snot is the easiest of baby "things" to get used to.
Yesterday my wife made mini ginger & carrot bran muffins. Our one year old loves them. She ate two this morning for breakfast.
This morning I had to deal with a very messy diaper.
And for some reason we avoid using disposable wipes.
I'm okay with the cloth diapers. Actually, I really like them. But the wipes issue is one I'm struggling with. I like to wipe and toss, not wipe, rinse, clean bathroom spattered with poopy splash water, toss in bin, wash bin contents, repeat.
I get the whole save money, save the planet approach.
But the planet is the least of my worries when my toes are soaked in water that ricocheted off of a poopy cloth.
There are some conveniences of our "disposable generation" that I like. Namely, disposing gross cloths whose sole purpose is to become soiled and then disposed of.
For that matter I don't reuse tissues either. Dirty them and dispose of them: that is their destiny.
This morning I was reading in Acts 19 and it seems some people found a good use for the apostle Paul's dirty handkerchief's.
consider these verses from Acts 19:
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:11-12 NIV)
There is so much going on here to comment on.
Consider this, you have a rare time when a dirty hanky is curing illness instead of spreading it. Usually you'd see a dirty cloth and avoid it for fear of catching something. Here, a dirty cloth is used to cure an ailment: either spiritual, or physical, or both. Now, I'm not about to go looking through trash to find healing aids. But in Paul's day, people who had sick loved ones were desperate to find healing for them, even if it meant collecting Paul's trash, or offering him your handkerchief so that you could use it to later heal your brother.
But it's not just handkerchiefs. It's aprons too. Never has there been a better use for that tired, old, "kiss the cook" apron than this.
Now, I really appreciate it that Luke begins this wee story with the words: "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that..."
Often the book of Acts is called "the Acts of the Apostles," but really, as Luke points out again and again, it's the Acts of God. God is the one doing the work here. God is the one doing the extraordinary miracles. God is the one healing.
And sometimes that healing comes through a touch, and sometimes it's through snot.
I think that if God were to begin doing extraordinary miracles through me I'd be too tempted to take credit. If my dirty tissues were healing people I'd begin gathering people around to sneeze on them. I'd probably even charge admission. But that's not what we see with Paul. God is given the credit.
And rightly so, God is doing the work.
I hope that I'm giving God enough credit.
Paul still had a job to do for God. God didn't need Paul to do it, but he blessed Paul's work.
By backing up a verse, to verse 10, we see that Paul spent two years living in a foreign city to spread the gospel message. Paul was working hard. As a result "all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province heard the word of the Lord."
But what is more, a few chapters earlier in the story Paul is prevented entirely from entering the province. He was eager to preach in Asia in chapter 16 but headed to Macedonia instead because he couldn't get in. Now he's in, has been in for a couple years, and is seeing much success.
God was up to something.
God was doing an incredible, "extraordinary" work.
I know I'm sometimes guilty of overlooking stuff. I can easily overlook what God can use. And I can easily overlook what God is doing.
I think God is up to a whole lot more than I give him credit for. And I hope that one day soon I'll have the eyes to see it. And most of all I hope that I don't discard that which he is most desiring to use for his glory--be it a person he desires to use who is in the process of transformation into something beautiful, or a dirty old rag.
And that reminds me: I have a bathroom to disinfect.