All posts by Justine Buss

About Justine Buss

Justine Buss and her family are currently based in Pittsburgh. She was born and raised in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania and studied theatre and English at Muhlenberg College. She spent her professional career working with young people in theatre and is now a full time stay at home mom and pastor’s wife. She stays in touch with her theatre roots by directing Christmas and New Church Day pageants, helping with school plays, and taking an improv class. She also enjoys singing, creative writing (including the occasional murder mystery party game), bargain hunting, and going on adventures with her family. She is grateful for the expressive outlet that New Christian Woman provides. It's so good to take the time to reflect on and write about the things that are on our minds and hearts.

Perspective Shifts and “The Pout-Pout Fish”

We read a lot of children’s books in our house. One of my longstanding favorites is “The Pout-Pout Fish” by Deborah Diesen. The Pout-Pout Fish follows the tale (or should I say “tail”) of an Eeyore-esque fish with big pouty lips. As he gloomily encounters his underwater friends, they each urge him to try being a little more pleasant. But the Pout-Pout Fish is stuffed to the gills with excuses for why he is incapable of change:

“I hear what you’re saying, but it’s just the way I am.”
“I’d like to be more friendly, but it isn’t up to me.”
“But I haven’t any choice. Take a look and you’ll see why.”
“With a mouth like mine, I am destined to be glum.”

He follows each of these excuses with the same refrain:

“I’m a pout-pout fish
With a pout-pout face,
So I spread the dreary-wearies
All over the place.

Poor Mr. Fish. He is stuck believing that just because he looks pouty, his personality has to match. I can’t help but think how often human beings wind up stuck in a similar merry-go-round of melancholy. 

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Seeing And Believing

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,

‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise’?”
Matthew 21: 14-16

This part of the Palm Sunday story has always filled me with joy. I love the idea that little children are the paragons of praise. Where the chief priests and scribes saw a threat, the children saw salvation. While Jesus healed the blind, the chief priests and scribes clung to their spiritual blindness and dismissed His power. But the children believed. They saw His wonders and didn’t doubt Him. In this way, children are also paragons of belief. Their willingness to be led—the very definition of innocence—is what makes children so profoundly special. 

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many favorite children’s games revolve around sight. “Peek-a-boo” is a classic example. Young children simply delight in covering their eyes, pretending that they can’t see or be seen, and then, magically, they appear again as soon as they take their hands away. “I Spy” is another game that comes to mind. What a simple, but effective way to reinforce a young child’s awareness of the colors and shapes of the world around them. These types of games encourage the players to watch and notice—to embrace what’s right in front of us and to rejoice in the fact that it’s there and that we’ve found it.

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Be Still

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
~Psalm 46

I don’t know about you, but I often have a very hard time slowing down. World news, an over-dependence on my distracting cell phone, and bouncing between to-dos can leave me feeling like I’m in constant motion. In Psalm 46, the Lord tells us to be still, but He doesn’t pretend that achieving stillness is easy. The psalm paints pictures of roaring waters, shaking mountains, and raging nations—images that call current events to mind a little too easily. And yet, amid all of these troubles, the Lord calls us to be still. And in that stillness, He says, we have the blessed opportunity to know Him.

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Managing Manna

In Sunday School recently, my kids learned about the manna that the Lord provided for the children of Israel while they wandered the wilderness (Exodus 16). They got to glue puffed rice “manna” to their coloring pages and got to gather this same manna into cups to enjoy as a snack. I noticed that my son had not one, but two cups full of manna, and I gently scolded him for taking more than he needed—which was exactly what the children of Israel were told NOT to do. He grinned at me and said, “But I’m pretending tomorrow is the Sabbath. That means I had to gather twice as much.” Clever kiddo. 

This sweet and somewhat silly interaction with my son reminded me of my personal struggles with excess. I have serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to a number of opportunities. Sales are one example. I can’t stand missing a good deal. I also struggle with eating more than I need. I don’t just have a sweet tooth—I have a mouthful of sweet teeth. I also tend to pile too much on my plate in a more figurative sense: sometimes I have a really hard time saying “no” to things I want (or believe I need) to do. 

I think this is a normal pitfall for a lot of us. After all, the Lord urges us to pursue a life of use. That often translates to a desire to jump on any service project that comes along. The school play needs costumes? I’ll make them! A working parent needs help with child care? Add your kid to my zoo—the more the merrier! My local congregation needs after-church refreshments? I can make cookies! Life offers so many chances to help our neighbors—but we simply can’t juggle all of them single or even double-handedly. 

Continue reading Managing Manna