Feeling Overwhelmed

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” the devastation is overwhelming!”

How do we process catastrophic events when we feel helpless to understand the suffering, much less do something about it?

I felt that way after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 – 16 years ago today.  I felt that way last month when the severe storms hit Texas. Now Florida is being flooded and facing high wind damage. This storm is not over, as it travels north and west, so the wide-ranging effects are still pending.

What should my response be as Christian, as a person who feels deeply for those who have suffered and those who are suffering right now?

Have you ever thought – What can I DO ?- feeling for those who are suffering is not enough!

Jesus had been teaching and healing people who were following him. There was a huge crowd and it was getting time to address a real need – the physical hunger of the people.

John recalls it this way – John 6:5 –

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

I think this story has a powerful message for me when I am faced with an overwhelming need.

First, Jesus recognized that the people were hungry, and He didn’t send them away. In Matthew’s account of this same story – one of the disciples suggests sending the multitude away to get food for themselves.

  • I must recognize what the need is  – not “send them away”.

Secondly, Jesus looked around for what was available right there at that time. A boy had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Bless his mother for packing his lunch! Bless that boy for not eating it ahead of time! Jesus took what was available.

  • I must use what I have available to meet a need. I should not respond like Philip did and bemoan the fact that “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”   I must not think that my contribution is too small to make a difference.

Thirdly, Jesus prayed and gave thanks for those two small fish and those 5 loaves of bread.  God multiplied. God was in charge of the results!

  • I must be faithful to offer what I can. I should be thankful with what I have to share no matter how small it is.  God is faithful to accomplish His will, even multiplying a small offering if He wills.

I am praying for all those suffering around us. I am asking God to show me what I have available to share. I am thanking God for all He is doing and will do in this time of devastating loss.

 

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We have two grandchildren starting kindergarten this year. Our oldest grandchild is starting 7th grade. How time has flown by!

For several years in a row, Phil and I were invited to give a talk to parents of kindergarten students at Scotts Creek School where Phil taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts.

We would introduce ourselves as parents of four grown children, and say that between us, we had many years (40+) of teaching experience. This was meant in no way to give the impression that we were experts. Yet we did want those listening to know where we were coming from. The purpose of the session was to encourage parents to start at the beginning to take an active role in their children’s education – then maintain that involvement throughout their child’s career in school.

It is evident at any school open house, the higher the grade, the less parents come to meet their child’s teacher. Why do parents start out involved and present at school activities when their children are young, then fade into the background as their child grows?

Unless it is an athletic event, it is difficult to get parents of teens to show up at school.

Children NEED their parents to stay involved in their education!

Phil would share this comment as we began – “I want to share some strategies with you as your child begins kindergarten so that by the time they reach my classes in 7th and 8th grade, they know how to be a responsible student. It will make my job a whole lot more effective and enjoyable for your child and for me.” (This usually got several polite laughs. 🙂

If we think that the moment we turn our children over to a teacher, our responsibility for their education in over, we are sadly mistaken.

As parents, we have a vital role in supporting, monitoring, advocating, and (only when absolutely necessary) intervening in our children’s education. There is no excuse to abdicate that role to a teacher. As a dedicated teacher myself, I admit that I did not see and hear everything that went on in my classroom. I also know that I was not aware of some of the special needs or circumstances my students faced – unless the child or parent told me.

We gave the parents of kindergarten students a handout with four suggestions as follows:

Follow Through –

  • If you say, “No video games until you pick up your toys” stick to it.
  • Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t take excuses. This leads the child to believe that your instructions are negotiable.
  • It takes effort but it will pay off!

Read to (and with) your Child –

  • This is the MOST important activity you can do to encourage your child’s academic growth
  • It will help them be the best student they can be.

Talk WITH Your Child – Listen

  • It is important to ask them about school, then ask the “next question”,
  • i.e. “Did you learn anything new today? “What was it? “Did you enjoy it?” Why or why not?”
  • “Did anything funny happen at school today?” “What happened?”
  • “Did you do your homework?  “Let me see it.”

Limit Screen Time –

  • Using devices, watching TV, videos, playing video games, even educational content, may rob children of doing many things that are important to their physical, emotional, and social development, like playing outside or reading a book.

God speaks to the children of Israel and says the following:

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Verse 19 encourages a continuous connection with our children. Stay connected.

May God bless our children and grandchildren with a great school year that helps them grow in God’s grace. May we be faithful to encourage them.

 

The Mighty Power of God

 

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Last night as we sang around the campfire, our daughter Abigail suggested this song –

“I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.”

Isaac Watts wrote this triumphant hymn of praise to Creator God in 1715. It expresses so powerfully the fact that our universe is one of order, sustained by the mighty power of God.

We are in the middle of the excitement over the eclipse and our community will experience totality around 12:34 today. We have family and friends staying with us and anticipate a once -in-a-lifetime experience.

I recalled reading the book Miracles by Eric Metaxes. In the chapter, The Miracle of the Universe, Metaxes cites scientific evidence that demonstrates the wonder of our existence on planet Earth. The following is one piece of that evidence –

” For life to be possible anywhere in our universe, there needed to be vast amounts of carbon. In 1953, Sir Fred Hoyle – the Cambridge astronomer who coined the term “Big Bang”  – discovered that nuclear ground-state energy levels of helium, carbon, oxygen, and beryllium had to be extraordinarily fine-tuned for enough carbon to be created. If any of the ground levels were just 1 percent different, there would not have been enough carbon in the universe to allow for the possibility of life. To Hoyle, an atheist, the notion that this fine-tuning had “just happened” was statistically quite impossible.” p. 51

As we view the eclipse together with friends and family, let’s make a conscientious decision to give glory to the One responsible – our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 40: 26

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

Eric Metaxes says this –

“The slimness of our being here is so slim that it’s enough to leave us goggle-eyed with terror – until in the next moment we realize we are indeed here and explode with gratitude for our very existence. This really can be the only proper and logical response to it all, to marvel and rejoice and rest in the genuinely unfathomable miracle of our being.” p. 54

As we watch this amazing display of God’s sustaining power at work in our universe, let us praise the mighty power of God.

 

 

90 Years of Thankfulness

We had the privilege of celebrating a birthday Saturday with a dear family friend, Nana Kehrli. She is 90 years old, still lives in the home where she raised 3 lovely daughters, just down the road from where she was born on Stoney Creek in eastern Tennessee.

Nana, almost everyone calls her that, has slowed down some physically, but her mind is as sharp as a tack. She is an amazing cook – her Southern pork chops just melt in your mouth. Eating “farm to table” is a trend that is growing in popularity throughout our culture – Nana and her family have always eaten that way.

It could certainly be a factor in her 90 healthy years.

She and her sisters ran a grill, a small community restaurant several years back. It was very popular with local folks who knew they would get the best in home-cooking. They probably never made a lot of money because these Southern ladies treated their customers as they would guests in their home.

“Honey, did you get enough? Do you want some more?.”

“Here, take this plate to your mother. I hear she is feeling poorly.”

If Nana knew someone was recently widowed, she would send an extra meal home for lunch the next day. If she knew someone was hurting financially, she gave a discount.

Nana has seldom gone to the doctor in her 90 years, besides the births of her three daughters. “I don’t go to the doctor, he’ll just find something wrong with me.” she has often been heard to say.

Nana has been a widow since 1968 when her Air Force husband was killed in the Vietnam War. She raised her daughters with the love and support of her close knit family on Stoney Creek.

I told Nana Saturday that she could be so thankful for her 90 years of health and mental acuity.

“Gayle, honey, I get up every morning and thank God for all He has blessed me with. I didn’t know of anyone who is as blessed as I am.”

What a testimony of God’s faithfulness!

Colossians 2:6-7 says

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

May Nana Kehrli be blessed with God’s grace and peace in her remaining days.

I want to follow her example – overflowing with thankfulness each day for God’s blessings.

 

Grace for Young Mothers

I haven’t written lately.

I haven’t painted.

I haven’t sewn a book or printed on the handmade paper I recently made.

Yet I have been doing the very things for which I retired. I am spending time with our grandchildren.

I walked into my studio yesterday to check the tiles I made with 8 of our grandchildren. The calm, creative atmosphere of the studio hit me, along with the fact that I have several projects in the works waiting to be attended to. “I LOVE working in this studio,” I thought.

But there will be time later, I thought. Grace.

These thoughts took me back 36 years to the time our children were little. It seemed like I faced a never ending cycle of meals, laundry, cleaning. Oh…. forget the cleaning. I did.

I didn’t write – except a random letter once in a great while.

I didn’t paint – except for a stick horse, a wall mural, or doll furniture.

I did not make anything “creative.”

But wait!

I was doing exactly what I planned to do when I left teaching full time. I was spending time with our children. “There would be time later to “create”, I thought.

AND THERE IS! Grace.

When God births a desire in our hearts, He is faithful to fulfill it in His time. We must wait and trust. I realized this week that I could choose to lament the time I am not in my studio, or enjoy the fact that our grandchildren are here and that I can treasure this time with them.

I am so thankful I chose the latter. We are having a lovely time. (I am worn out!)

A friend, Lena Woods, told me this week that her favorite memories from childhood were spending time with her cousins at her grandmother’s house. I hope we are creating some very special memories for our grandchildren as well.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

This Scripture passage goes on to list many of life’s activities. Each thing has a time and a place. God’s time and God’s place.

So, I am going to go now and make lunches and we are going to ride bikes.

The studio will be there next month.

The grandchildren will not. Grace.

Cool, Refreshing Water

It has been SO hot! I know we have not had the extremely high temperatures that many places have, but 90 is very hot for us mountain folk. So, Phil and I took some of our grandchildren to the river.

Getting in the cool water that flows from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was so refreshing! We brought tubes and some of us floated in the cool wetness, while others stacked rocks, threw rocks, or just played in the water.

It felt so good.

As I floated, leaning back on the headrest of my tube, I found myself reflecting on just how lovely it felt to relax in the coolness of the river.

It was refreshing, something I needed after the heat of the day.

I also need spiritual refreshing from time to time because of the stress (heat) of life.  It builds up, just as heat does, and we can be overcome by that pressure without realizing it.

Jesus addresses this very issue in John 7: 37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Rivers of living water flowing from within!

This refreshing, flowing, continuous LIFE comes from the Holy Spirit. When I feel overwhelmed, discouraged, even defeated spiritually, I must allow the Holy Spirit to flow in and through me. This living water, the Holy Spirit, is received when we become Christians, and dwells within us.

Just as the cool water of the river refreshes me physically, God’s Holy Spirit refreshes me spiritually.

May we be faithful to let the living water flow.

God’s Expectations

Phil and our first-born

” I could never live up to his expectations.”

How often have you heard this tragic statement in regard to someone talking about a parent? Sometimes a father, sometimes a mother, but equally heart-rending. Living with the feeling that you did not measure up is sometimes debilitating, but always hurtful.

The offending parent may have never verbalized their attitude towards the child, but in this case actions do speak louder than words. Looks of disdain, ignoring a child’s presence or needs,  just being too busy to listen all communicate lack of regard for a child.

Making fun of a child who makes a mistake, whether physical or verbal, is so hurtful. This can not only make a child feel inadequate, but can make a child feel like not trying something new for fear of failure.

We parents and grandparents must guard our speech to prevent hurtful words from wounding our children. Words spoken in frustration and impatience are especially scaring. One of the most harmful responses to a child is comparing that child to someone else in a negative way. “Why can’t you be like so and so…..?”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

I have an older brother who was a high achiever in everything he did. He made excellent grades, was a good athlete, played the trombone, and NEVER got in trouble. Thankfully, my parents made it a point to not compare myself or my younger brother to our older sibling.

My younger brother can fix anything. He was this way as a young child. Whenever he visits, he fixes something. (Oh, about our coo-coo clock…when are you coming to visit?)

My parents expressed pleasure when I won the bubble-blowing contest, praised me for the grades I earned, and more importantly, supported my unique pursuits in artistic expression and theater, things my brothers did not do.

I do not remember a sense of competition in our home – but a realistic expectation that each of us would do our personal best. We are all different, and encouraging those differences seemed important in our family. My brothers may see it differently than I do, being the only girl, I always felt valued for who I was.

What a gift!

Phil and I tried to do the same with our four children, celebrating their differences and unique qualities. I can’t say that there was never competition between them, but it was self-inflicted, not from their father or me. The following Scripture is very meaningful to me –

Psalm 62:5   “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.

It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children.

We must make certain that our children know we love and accept them unconditionally. They must know that our love is not based on whether or not they meet our expectations.  The second part of that verse holds the key – “my expectation is from Him”. We must allow God to form our children according to HIS good pleasure, not ours.

I find this verse, Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified version, so encouraging –

“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–“

Now I can think of some pretty wonderful things to have happen for my children and grandchildren!

Yet this verse states the fact that what God, our Father, has planned for them is better than anything I can even think or dream!

So – the challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to let our expectations come from God.