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When I was growing up, my mom’s answer to a good 50% of our questions was: “Look it up!”

Of course, this was long before we could ask our phones questions, like “Hey, Siri, what’s the best way to fix kale?” or “Hey, Siri, is Willie Nelson still alive?” or “Hey, Siri, what’s an electric pressure cooker?” We had to struggle and work for answers. We had to open actual books and thumb through actual pages to figure out the capitol of Luxembourg.

It seems like a lifetime since I cracked open an encyclopedia and only 5 minutes since I looked at Wikipedia. (How else was I going to find out what mincemeat was?)

Back in the day, next to our set of World Book Encyclopedias sat our 15+ volumes of Childcraft books, illustrated reference books published in the early 1970’s that taught my sisters and me everything—from planets to poems, from pumas to Purim. We poured over each one, fascinated by the pictures and the text.

One of the many facts I learned from the Childcraft books was how to clean coins. For some reason, this was a fascinating task for us.

We would gather the pennies from all over the house and pile them on the kitchen table. Then we would mix a solution of vinegar and salt together in a bowl and drop the pennies in, one by one.

We would watch expectantly as they were scrubbed clean. Impatiently, we would pull them out too soon to inspect their progress, and, seeing that they still held on to the dullness of age and abundant use, we would drop them back in. There were times when we forgot all about them and left them to soak for hours. When we finally remembered, we were rewarded with shiny copper coins, gleaming at the bottom of the bowl.

We would fish them out and lay them on paper towels to dry. Our fingers would hold the sharp smell of vinegar and metal for the rest of the day.

Like that acidic solution we used to clean pennies, there are times when my heart requires some pretty abrasive scrubbing. I think of King David as he wrote Psalm 51. He had committed adultery and murder and he had been found out. He was weighed down by his grave mistakes.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.

Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Why is it that we often have to be taken so low before we see the need for a good scrubbing? How many times do I have to die to myself before I can fully realize the blessings available to the unselfish? But that is what the Lord desires for us—to forgive us and to instruct us and to cleanse us. I’m so thankful for His never-ending supply of grace.



Cleaning Pennies


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