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.

Harmony

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We have been blessed with a new granddaughter this week. She is adjusting well to life outside the quiet confines of the womb. Although, since babies hear inside the womb, having four brothers meant that maybe it wasn’t so quiet after all!

The blessing in this is that baby Rachel sleeps right through the busy play of her brothers – she is conditioned to the noise of active play.

The addition of this precious little one has given the impression that all the parts of this family form a coherent whole. Does that mean that if Rachel had been a boy, or another child had not been added to this family that it would not be complete?

Not at all.

It does mean that once a child is added to a family through birth or adoption it is hard to imagine the family without that child. Each member of the family has a part in the family that is unduplicated and special.

I remember when we found out I was pregnant with our 3rd child and her older sister was just 6 months old. I was overwhelmed and exhausted, yet here was another child growing inside me!

I cannot imagine our family without the presence of this child, now a mother herself.

In art, the definition of “harmony” is as follows –

“The arrangement of elements to give the viewer the feeling that all the parts of the piece form a coherent whole.”

Ephesians 4:3 Amplified Bible

3 Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of the Spirit in the binding power of peace.

 I love how the Amplified translation uses the phrase – “binding power of peace”.

What a beautiful image  – when we make the effort to keep harmony in our relationships, it will BIND us together in peace!

As an artist, I must be intentional about creating harmony in my art work. I cannot randomly add color or objects without a plan, otherwise the completed artwork will not be harmonious. I always sketch out my idea first on paper, even if I am planning to work in clay or make a handmade book. This way, I can see if the parts come together in harmony before I use valuable time and supplies. I can make needed adjustments in the sketch.

Romans 12:16 Amplified Bible

16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.

Giving ourselves to humble tasks creates harmony.

My students often wanted to “just start painting – I know what I want to paint”. I required them to engage in the “humble” task of drawing first. It ALWAYS paid off.

Giving ourselves to humble tasks creates harmony in our relationships.

Changing diapers, cleaning the bathroom, planning meals ahead of time  – all these humble tasks create harmony. Instead of opening the refrigerator at 5:00 pm and seeing if there is anything for supper (my common practice when our children were small) planning meals ahead helps avoid stress when the family is hungry.

My friend Carol and I were sharing recently what a blessing it had been to have our mothers come and stay with us when our children were born. Both were wonderful examples of doing the humble tasks that helped create harmony in those days of adjustment after a new baby comes home.

Carol and I have both recently had the chance to do what our mothers did for us – now for our adult children. (Carol has had three new grandchildren this year!)

May we create harmony in our realtionships by binding ourselves together in peace and serving one another with humble tasks. What a blessing this will be to our families!

It’s All Who You Know

Who do I know/

Who do I know?

There was a LONG line outside the White House. It was so long that it snaked around the block farther than I could see. My father walked up to the gate and showed the official our passes.

“Go right in, Mr. Barker. Your guide is waiting for you.”

We went through the gate and met our guide for our special tour of the White House in Washington, DC. It was 1962, I was 11 years old and I still remember the impression it made on me to pass right in front of that long line, right on into the White House.

It‘s all who you know.

Our congressman, Elmer J. Hoffman, lived right across the street from us in Wheaton, Illinois where I grew up. He told my parents that if we ever visited Washington, DC to let him know. He could get us “Congressional passes” into the historic buildings with tours that allowed us to see more than the standard tour. These tours were all free, but there were long lines if you did not have a pass. My father figured we should take advantage of this generous offer – you never knew what might happen after an election!

It’s all who you know.

We sometimes try to apply this to our spiritual lives. We want to tell God that we deserve His favor because –

  • my grandmother was such a wonderful Christian
  • my father was a deacon in our church
  • my Sunday School teacher was Billy Graham’s wife
  • I’ve attended 5 Beth Moore Bible studies
  • I knew Third Day before they made it big
  • I’ve read all John Piper’s (Frances Chan’s , John McArthur’s, Francine River’s, C.S. Lewis’) books

We think it’s all about who we know.

It is.

But not the way our culture means it.
There is ONLY one we need to know – the One and Only. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.
Jesus.
Acts 4: 10-12
10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is ”the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.” 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is the One we need to know.

Are we concerned about knowing the “right” people? Do we want our children and grandchildren to know the “right people”?
Paul was an accomplished man who had every reason to pride himself in who he knew. He was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin and had many impressive credentials.

Yet Paul makes it very plain – it was all MEANINGLESS compared to knowing Jesus.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

It is all who you know.

It’s all about Jesus.