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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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.

 

Sure Footing

 

Mt. Precipice overlooking the Sea of Galilee

“Just put your foot on the next staple, then move your hands down and lower yourself to the staple below. Keep doing that until you are at the bottom.”

“just” –  does that word cause you to pause?

It should. One person’s “just” may be a significant challenge for someone else. As in “just tell him “no” – when you want your child to stop doing something that may be dangerous. Depending on the child, that may or may not be a simple solution.

Something that challenges me down to the very fiber of my being, may be “just climbing down a cliff” to someone else.

While in Israel, the main quality of the topography that Phil and I noticed were the rocks. (This is besides everything being very dry unless it is irrigated.) Rocks were everywhere. In the ancient sites and ruins we visited, the buildings were constructed of rocks and are therefore still visible. This makes perfect sense because rocks are in such abundance and people throughout history use what is available to construct dwellings.

After seeing rocks everywhere, it should have come as no surprise that our group would be asked to descend a rock formation.

Yet, Elaine and I WERE surprised!

We had hiked up a steep slope through brown grass that was sprinkled with flowers, startling in their beauty because everything around was so brown. The end of our climb was a spectacular panoramic view. This mountain was called Mt. Precipice.

I looked up the word precipice  – it means – a very steep rock face or cliff, typically a tall one. The name was so appropriate and should have been a clue of what was to come.

After our guide James pointed out the significance of the surrounding landscape and what Jesus would have seen during his time, we saw where we would be hiking next, even where we would be spending the night. (FAR in the distance!)

James then said, “We are just going to descend this cliff. It is a bit tricky, but we will help each other.”

The path James led us to was straight down!

You can see from the photo that I am not exaggerating. We were told that morning  before we left that there were some “rocky bits” and “one strenuous part.” We had been on rocky bits the whole trail. I should have know that when James said “strenuous” it really would be. There were large iron staples embedded in the rock face to hold on to and step on as one climbed down.

I watched as the others started descending first. I was so proud of Elaine! What a trooper! She went down from hand/foot hold to hand/foot hold, step by step.

As I watched Elaine descend, I knew I could as well. She went before me, making sure each of her steps was on sure footing.

Elaine’s example gave me courage and encouragement to make the descent myself. My biggest concern was making sure my foot was securely on a staple before I put my weight on it and went down to the next staple. I wasn’t sure I could see the next staple.

Phil went before me and when I needed it, he guided my foot to the next staple. Once I felt the staple under my foot – sure footing – I was fine.

Needless to say, we all made it down in one piece.

I have thought since then that this is a picture of our walk with God and how important the Body of Christ is. In life we come to those times where we are on a precipice, we are not sure where to go, or how to face what we see ahead. It may seem that there is NO WAY forward. Yet if we look around, God often provides someone who is going through something similar – right before us – and that person can support and guide us along the way.

Seeing Elaine descend successfully, then having Phil guide my feet, prevented me from being paralyzed by fear or being left behind on the mountain.

In Psalm 37:23-24 it says –

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

In Psalm 40, David encourages me –

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

We can encourage one another as we walk with God, encourage each other to keep out feet on the Rock, our sure footing.

Company is Coming!

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I am vacuuming. My children ask – “Who is coming over?”

so – I only vacuum when we have company?

Out of the mouths of babes….

I used to scurry around madly fussing at anyone in my way before we had company over. I always left things to the last-minute so I was stressed and made my family stressed as well.

This is the way I viewed hospitality when I was first married.  I had gotten all these wedding presents like –

  • dinner ware
  • silver ware
  • placemats
  • cloth napkins
  • matching glasses

So I thought hospitality was setting a lovely table with flowers and having people over for dinner. The first home Phil and I lived in was in Bryson City, next to the road – NEXT to the road. The rent was $65.00 a month. (can you picture a house that was torn down soon after we moved?)

We invited a couple over after church and I had made a meal of spaghetti (one of two dishes I could fix) and set a beautiful table with those wedding presents.

It was raining.

That would not have been a problem, but our roof leaked and there were four of five streams of water coming from the ceiling. The first thing we did when we entered with our guests was put bowls under each stream.

So much for the lovely table setting.

The dictionary defines hospitality this way –

  1. Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
  2. synonyms – friendliness, welcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity,

Just look at those synonyms!

  • friendliness
  • welcome
  • helpfulness
  • warmth
  • kindness
  • courtesy
  • generosity

Hospitality can be so much more than inviting people to your home.

Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Each time I read about hospitality in scripture, it was connected to showing love.

I believe hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

AN ATTITUDE WHOSE BASIS IS LOVE.

Hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

I know a young woman named Sadie who lives hospitality. She invites people over and makes them feel at home, makes them tea and listens. Sadie lives hospitality.

It is the attitude of her heart.

I had the privilege of shadowing Elaine White at United Christian Ministries. Remember those synonyms for hospitality? friendlinesswelcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity, Elaine demonstrated every one of those with each person she saw.

It is an attitude of her heart.

A friend shared with me about opening her home to “strangers” – someone her daughter had met who needed a place to stay.

It did not go well.

But the attitude of her heart was to be welcoming, kind, and generous. She honored God – even though some people are unwilling to receive such love.

Sometimes showing hospitality is difficult.

It is not always easy – but God is asking us to have a hospitable heart.That may mean opening our homes, inviting people over.

It may mean being kind, friendly, and loving at Wal-Mart.

II John 1:12

“I have many things to write to you, but I prefer not to do so with paper and ink. I hope to see you and talk to you FACE TO FACE – so that our joy may be complete.”

Face to face –

this is when we can practice hospitality – whether it is in our home, while we work, when we see someone at Wal-Mart.

Then our joy may be complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

The One Thing

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Ever hear of the sisters, Mary and Martha?

They were friends of Jesus and also among those who followed Jesus and listened to his teaching. Biblical scholars believe that Martha was probably an affluent widow. She also practiced hospitality.

When she invited Jesus to her home – she had to be ready for a crowd – his entourage came with him.

The Bible says she was encumbered or stressed by serving.

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.

So she does what most of us women do when stressed – she complains.

She goes right to Jesus!

She attempts to get Jesus to agree with her – “I’m doing all the work – shouldn’t Mary help?

God does not necessarily agree with the cause of our distress – we might think it is –

  • My mother-in-law
  • My child who refuses to potty train
  • My boss who doesn’t seem to understand that I have children
  • My adult child who doesn’t call me
  • My messy house

Jesus does care – just not about the same thing that is bothering Martha.

Mary chose the “good part” – that was The one thing worth being concerned about – which certainly meant what Mary made her choice to do—sitting at Christ’s feet, to hear his word.

So, does Jesus not want to eat, you may ask? Don’t we have to attend to the needs of our families, especially when there are little ones that depend on our care for their very survival?

Of course. The Bible is clear in teaching that we have responsibilities to fulfill and it is godly to do so.

Yet, are we so busy that we neglect the “One Thing” that feeds our souls?

“Martha’s care and work were good in their proper season and place; but now she had something else to do, which was unspeakably more needful, and therefore should be done first, and most minded.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

I had the privilege of participating this weekend in a women’s retreat sponsored by a local church, yet including ladies from various congregations. It was a precious time of fellowship, worship and teaching.

It was a time to focus on the One Thing – sitting at Jesus feet.

God was faithful to meet us and His presence was evident as we shared together.

I am so thankful that I was able to be like Mary this weekend  – sitting at Jesus feet.

 

 

Gathering Together

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“Make sure you invite Mrs. Woody, too.”

My friend Alice Marie called me to tell me about a gathering of woman which was going to take place the next evening. Her granddaughter, Lauren, had invited her and Lauren asked that she extend the invitation to me.

Well, when a former student made the effort to invite her old, retired teacher to something, I certainly wanted to go. Alice Marie and I made plans to meet and attend together.

What a blessing!

In a coffee shop next to the campus of Western Carolina University, close to 100 women of various ages gathered to fellowship, worship, hear testimonies, and just enjoy being together. There was nice food as well.

Several things blessed me about this gathering.

  • the variety of the ages of the women who came – too often we are segregated by age, which for certain activities is great. Yet, it was so refreshing to see women of various ages coming together to just enjoy each other AND the Lord’s presence.
  • the variety of the groups represented – there were many different campus groups, fellowships, churches, Bible studies, etc. represented. All came together to share the love of Jesus – something all have in common.
  • the atmosphere of love and grace present – there was no “hidden agenda”. There was no charge, no recruitment for membership, no pressure. The time of worship and sharing were just that – worship and sharing.
  • gifts were freely given – most everyone enjoys a present and the door prizes were lovely paintings reflecting the theme of the event – Jesus’ love.

I felt an overwhelming sense of love that evening. It was such a blessing seeing high school students who had invited their mothers and GRANDMOTHERS to share in this time together. College students invited their friends and neighbors and various community groups such as CrossFit invited ladies as well.

It was truly a gathering.

In John chapter 17 Jesus prays for us, His followers, all those who will ever believe in Jesus.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

The world around us is going to believe that Jesus is God’s son, sent to redeem the world WHEN WE, HIS CHILDREN BECOME ONE –  UNIFIED IN HIS LOVE.

This gathering of women was a beautiful expression of the unity we share as God’s children. I pray that we all have opportunities to gather together and celebrate God’s love while at the same time sharing it with others.

Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. That should be our prayer as well.

If you live near enough, please come join the Gathering tonight, Monday, November 16th 7:00 pm at the Point Coffee Shop in Cullowhee. Prepare to be blessed!

Got Milk?

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Our new granddaughter is now 3 months old. She is starting to respond to her surroundings, especially her family.

Those first smiles make it all worth it, don’t they?

SO PRECIOUS!

She doesn’t cry much, which is a HUGE blessing since her 4 older brothers need a lot on supervision right now. They are at the “let me see what happens if I do this….” stage.

You will remember this stage if your children are older now because you found yourself saying things like:

  • What were you thinking?  … they weren’t thinking
  • Why did you do that?         ….there often is no reason
  • I can’t believe you did that! ….they can’t either
  • What is the matter with you?…they are children

Does God ever throw up His divine hands in exasperation? Knowing that His eye is on me… I’m sure He does.

But He never gives up!  Praise God!

Neither should we.

Back to our new granddaughter – she does let it be known when she is hungry. She is also quickly satisfied when she receives her mother’s milk. Babies are designed to crave the very things they need for healthy growth and development.

Peter has some words of instruction for us as we grow as Christians –

1 Peter 2: 1-3 (NLT)

2 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

We are encouraged to “cry out” for the nourishment we need from the Lord.

Notice that it says – “we must crave pure spiritual milk” so that we can grow into a full experience of salvation. It is an ongoing process.

I am also struck by the phrase “now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”

It is the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. Kind speech is the best way for us to reflect God’s kindness as we interact with our children, grandchildren, and each other.

Our challenge is to drink in that pure spiritual milk ….and let kindness pour out.