Helping Hands

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” ~ Jesus Christ

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.” ~ Charles Dickens

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” ~ Paul, the Apostle

“You have not lived today unless you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ~ John Bunyan

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” ~ King Solomon

“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W. H. Auden

People struggle. You do, I do. Everyone experiences hard times. People are grieving. Others are weary. People face health issues to the point of death. Some struggle with a crisis concerning their child. That child may be one with “special needs.” Adults are caregivers to an elderly parent or guardian to an individual who can’t help themselves.

Since we’ll all struggle at some time, remember how difficult it can be. Some people, for whatever reason, find it hard to ask for help. Don’t go through it alone and don’t let someone else. Pray for that person, but put feet to your prayers. Platitudes will not help. A helping hand will.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Advertisements

I Can Only Imagine

This past Sunday, the Church behaved as a church should. Well, my church did anyway.

Lately, I’ve been experiencing the downward spiral that naturally and always follows mania. My diagnosis is complicated and it took years for me to understand it. True depression can be inexplicable. If someone asked me, “What’s wrong?” I could say, “Nothing” or I could say, “Everything” and both answers would be correct.

Having manic-depressive illness is something I’ve accepted, but being mentally ill sometimes always stinks.

Now about the Church being what they’re supposed to be…

I went to church under the influence of a medication I took for anxiety the night before. Sleep was eluding me, so I took the med the doctor prescribes “as needed.” It was surely needed. The anxiety was crippling and I only got about three hours of sleep because I was so agitated. I drove to church seeing double. It helped if I closed one eye, but driving one-eyed has its limitations. All through the sermon, Pastor kept splitting in two as he moved about the stage.

Between services I told our spiritual growth pastor I probably wouldn’t be able to write the sermon study because I hadn’t been able to concentrate and I had scanty notes. I gave her the lowdown. She must have moved into action right then. Brothers and Sisters began to approach me to let me know they would make sure I got home safely.

Imagine a church body that in a crisis acts like Jesus. I felt no judgements on me for being sick. The people involved treated me as if I had a “respectable” illness. They touched me just like Jesus was willing to touch the man with leprosy. They spoke to me without condescension. I was given time to just be comfortable until church was over and they could help me get home. I could almost hear them saying, “(Let’s) Go in peace.”

I wish every church body could understand––or at least try to accept––mental illness as a real sickness. Too many times we hear people tell us we could be healed if we had more faith. People suggest we pray more. I’ve been told I’m possessed.

Listen. I have faith in the healing power of Jesus. I pray. I trust God will get me through the tough times because he already has on numerous occasions. But Jesus didn’t heal every sick person he came into contact with while he lived here, walking around preaching the Good News. Maybe I’m one of the people God has decided to not heal. He hasn’t healed my good friend who’s been insulin dependent for over 30 years either and I know she prays and has faith in God.

It’s okay I’m still manic-depressive, even though, as I said, it stinks. Because I’ve experienced peace when I should have been crawling the walls. I’ve been able to read my Bible and know the words are meant for me right then, in the scattered state I’m in. Or in a funk so deep I’m reminded of King David’s “pit.” Those are the times when nothing can make me leave the house except maybe firefighters insisting upon it.

Helen Keller was an amazing woman. Read her autobiography some day. For the most part, she had a good attitude about life and didn’t let being disabled hold her back from what she wanted to accomplish. My disability isn’t the same as hers. But I find these words of hers something I relate to and am grateful for.

“I thank God for my handicaps for through them I have found myself, my work and my God.”

What will it take for God’s people to be more accepting of the poor, the uneducated, the ‘sinners,’ the foreigners, the criminals, and anyone who’s just plain different from them? I’m not sure, but I experienced on Sunday what I believe Jesus had in mind.

Love.

8 No-Cost Gifts That Are Priceless

The gift of listening
But you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening.

The gift of affection
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.

The gift of laughter
Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”note-writing

The gift of a written note
It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full letter. A handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime. It may even change a life.

The gift of a compliment
A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,” “You did a good job” or “That was a tasty meal” can make someone’s day.

The gift of a favor
Every day, go out of your way to do something kind. And keep it to yourself.

The gift of solitude
There are times when we want nothing better than to spend a little time alone. Be aware of how you can give some ‘alone time’ to someone else.

The gift of a cheerful disposition
One of the easiest ways to feel good is to extend cheerfulfulness. It’s not hard to say “Hello” or “Thank you.” And we all look better when we smile.

Comfort Foodie

An Education

No one educated me as I was growing up about the proper terms used for the various gatherings which occur when someone dies. The only word I was familiar with was “funeral.”

Later, I learned there was also quite often a “visitation.” People went to the facility that was handling the funeral and viewed the body. They spoke in low tones and offered condolences to the bereaved family members. I didn’t know for a long time that this is also called a “wake.”

I became confused the first time I arrived at a funeral and the man at the entrance asked if I was going to the cemetery for graveside services. But I was still learning.

Finally, with graveside services over, we’d gather for the “funeral dinner.”

A Bit of Reality

A little over a month ago, someone who was special to me passed away. And though I’ve been to many funerals during my life, I’m still learning. This wonderful man’s life celebration gave me pause as I sat and watched the people around me.

In the chapel of my church, a buffet luncheon and tables were set up. We filled our plates and sat with friends to share memories or to just have normal conversations. I realized that having a funeral dinner gives a different meaning to “comfort food.” When we lose someone we love, we need to feel, even if for a short time, something resembling normal. We meet over a meal and we’re somehow comforted.

If a funeral dinner happens at a church, the food was most likely prepared by church members in their homes. The food is often simple. Friends and family members help by offering a kind of stability in shaky circumstances. The simpler we keep things, the better. Even silences can be healing.

Last week a long-time friend notified me her husband had died. I didn’t look forward to attending another funeral. But I surely was ready to be there to comfort her. That meant being there in any way she needed.

It turned out that I sat with her and her children, whom I’d watch grow up, at the funeral dinner. We ate some “comfort food” and talked about normal stuff. If I was the betting type, I’d bet that it won’t be long before she and I are sharing more memories over a meal and talking about what’s making life normal again now that she’s grieving.

A Recipe For Caring

We don’t like to admit it, but we know that food seems to make things better.

We get up in the morning and our bodies are ready for sustenance. Food makes that bodily craving go away. “Ah, that’s better.”

Someone’s having a baby and we throw a shower. Food–especially chocolate–makes the occasion better. Weddings include a feast following the ceremony. Because food makes it even better. The Saturday football game at our alma mater begs a tailgater. Except for our team winning, what could possibly make it better?

We celebrate the milestones in life with food, join in conversations at the dinner table with our family, grab some of that famous Mackinac Island fudge while we’re on vacation, and roast marshmallows over a campfire. Because food makes getting together so much better.

An Example to Follow

Scour the Bible and you find many instances in which Jesus was eating with people. Indeed, a couple of his most famous miracles included feeding thousands of people. What we in the Church call communion is based on the Lord’s command during his last meal with the disciples to “remember him.”

I doubt very much they realized the bread and wine were “comfort food.”

But I’m still learning and I know. It’s why we say we celebrate communion. In community we celebrate, we remember, and we look to the future.

Loving Father, I pray we always know the way to celebrate life, even when we face life without someone we love. Help us to make each moment precious and to create communion–community–whenever we meet with people. Thank you for the gift of food and the many ways it sustains us. Thank you for the simplicity it can offer in a grave situation. Help us to find our ultimate joy and purpose in you and to realize Christ is the bread of life. Thank you, Jesus, for being the comfort food that will never leave us hungry.

Storefront Churches

Recently, while driving on a remote street in my fair city, I had the opportunity to see a sign outside a church declaring what I’d hoped to see on a church sign for a long time.

“Jesus Is Lord”

Convinced (by people better than me) that a church sign’s purpose is for outreach, I still believe a statement as simple and true as that one indicates where that church’s heart stands. In fact, an auto shop where I have work done on my van boasts this same statement on its sign out front.

Years ago, I saw the movie “Because of Winn-Dixie” at the theater. The film is adapted from the children’s story of the same name. A 10-year-old girl moves yet again to a new town with her father, a preacher. The story is funny, touching and full of wisdom.

The preacher and his small congregation meet in what used to be a convenience store, the Pick-it-Quick. Early on in the movie, Preacher is trying to make a joke about their location to keep things light (tough crowd) and says, “I don’t see anything wrong with making church convenient.”

winn-dixie-at-churchI’m familiar with churches meeting in places other than a traditional church building. And while it’s great to have a nice building in which to meet, I don’t think God cares as much what the building looks like as what our hearts look like.

Imagine some church signs or slogans for churches that meet in former businesses. No irreverence meant here. We can take God seriously and still have fun. But fair warning: I used to be in advertising and I enjoy good puns.

  • Laundromat: “You can be washed whiter than snow”
  • Library: “Lending a good word”
  • Insurance Sales Office: “The Gospel is our strongest claim”
  • Grocery Store: “Hungry for something more?”
  • Beauty Shop: “You can leave here a new creation”
  • Hardware Store: “New tools for living found here”
  • Music Shop: “We sing God’s praises”
  • Book Store: “Come curl up with the Good Book”
  • Video Rentals: “Rated F for Families”
  • Dollar Store: “More than you bargained for”
  • Cell Phone Service: “Get connected with God”
  • Used Car Lot: “Turning lemons into lemonade”
  • Secretary of State: “Get your license to thrive here”
  • Gym: “Helping you jump-start your spiritual fitness”
  • Medical Office: “Healing hearts is God’s specialty”
  • Dentist’s Office: “For a message with some teeth to it”
  • Optometrist’s Office: “Your eyes will see the glory”
  • Office Supply Store: “Loving people file in here every week”
  • Furniture Store: “We have a chair just for you”
  • Coffee Shop: “Enjoy our unique blend of truth and grace”
  • Computer Store: “The only software needed is an open heart”
  • Restaurant: “Taste and see that the Lord is good”

Outreach? Hmm.

We can meet with God anywhere. Our hearts are His favorite place to meet us. The sign we can put out front is a simple “Welcome.”

Nothing silly about that.

Family Foodies

When my daughter, Sarah, was growing up, she learned how to cook a few simple meals. Once she reached high school, our schedules didn’t always match, so she fended for herself sometimes.

It seemed to be something she enjoyed. She even experimented with cooking.

One time, when I invited a friend for dinner, she surprised us by making meatloaf. However, she thought if she split the meat mixture into two pans, it would make double the amount. Sarah couldn’t understand why she ended up with two pans of two-inch-high meatloaves. We explained to her why it didn’t work, and we all had a good chuckle. It was a fun learning experience for her.

Later, as a homemaker and mother to my grandson, she wanted to expand her Foodie experience and add more variety to her cooking. “I need some new recipes,” she said. “We’re rotating the same stuff.”

So I put my little pea brain to work and decided to gather a collection of family recipes. I contacted my siblings and my stepmother, requesting one or two of their favorite recipes. I asked them to send something she could prepare easily using fairly common ingredients.

No fancy stuff; just good home cooking in her own specialized cookbook.

pillsbury-doughboyI compiled the recipes in a binder I’d found in a mail-order catalog. Poppin’ Fresh (otherwise known as the Pillsbury Doughboy) graced the cover and insides of that 3-ring binder. Other Doughboy promotional items came with the binder and after slipping each typed recipe into a plastic sheet protector, I sent the package off to my little girl.

It was more of marriage gift than a wedding gift, but she was happy that she could provide new variety in the meals she cooked. More stuff to add to the rotation, you might say.

My beef stroganoff recipe was the first one I added to the collection. It was the recipe I used for the first meal I cooked for her father when we were dating. He loved it. Now, she makes it too.

My mom’s famous chocolate cake recipe went in as well. Mom called it “Mayonnaise Cake” and it was always chocolate. She made it when she wanted to bake a cake but was low on eggs. There was always Miracle Whip in the fridge so that was her way of substituting. I remember that cake being really moist. It was a winner.

Each family member who cooks has a specialty when it comes to cooking and baking. Mine are spaghetti sauce, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with a ‘secret’ ingredient, and wet burritos with all the elements made from scratch. Maybe someone in your family creates killer appetizers or a stew that keeps everyone warm and filled up on a cold winter day.

Sharing family recipes leaves a legacy to Foodies, and kitchen heritage is important. We form memories around eating with family and friends. For a long time, the potluck meal has been a way people find fellowship and form community. Eating together gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “comfort foods.”

Maybe you’d like to give the gift of food memories to a family member or friend. Do the research. Get creative with presentation. Then believe that your gift will bring fond memories with their every trip to the kitchen.

Conduits of God’s Love

Come Empty

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28, 29

Get Filled

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Go, Pour Out to the Worldfrenchpitcherw-bread

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35, 36

No One Spoke

A fellow blogger, Stuart Perkins, tells his stories on Storyshucker. Stuart is an expert storyteller.

Not long ago, he told this inspiring story which includes a sunrise. We seem to be amazed and awed by sunrises and sunsets. Everywhere on social media, people post photos exhibiting the majesty of our sun rising out of or falling into the horizon.

“No One Spoke” is a beautifully told story of a group experiencing a sunrise from a beach.

Click  on the link above. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Cookie Cutter Christians

An acquaintance of mine said when she first began her walk with God that she didn’t seem to fit the same mold as the women at church. She was grateful that they were patient with her as she grew more spiritually mature, but still believed she would never be quite like them.

That’s probably a good thing. I’m quite sure that God planned ahead of time for that.

Her remarks got me thinking about my own ability to relate to other Christians. My thoughts turned to trying to figure out why we’re all so different. While a sincere heart change and character growth are what we’re after, I don’t believe God wants cookie cutter Christians.gingerbread-man-cookie

He wants us to be exactly who we are; what he created us to be. Naturally, if we come to him with severe character defects, his Spirit will work in us to change us into people who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).

But God created us with unique talents and personalities. His purpose for us in his redemptive plan means he’ll use those talents and personalities for his own purposes. He refines our personalities, but he doesn’t change them.

For example, the apostle Peter was obviously an impulsive sort of guy. He seemed to act and speak sometimes without thinking first. Jesus even rebuked him for it at one point.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men'”(Matthew 16:23).

Yet Jesus knew the potential in Peter and chose him to be the “rock” on which the Church would be built. Peter’s impulsiveness was refined into a boldness which was used to preach the Gospel, winning many people to faith in Christ.

Being handpicked for a purpose is true of everyone who chooses to believe and follow Jesus.

Isn’t it great knowing that God can use even your personality to serve the kingdom?

My observations have seen God using people who are shy and people who are bubbly and enthusiastic conversationalists. I watch as both introverts and extroverts take on ministry and glorify God. Some of us are stoic; others more laid back.

I admit there are times when I meet someone whose personality seems to jive perfectly with mine. Still, there are plenty of differences in us to make our individual service unique and to keep the relationship we have refreshing.

God knows that we need the connections of those similarities. He also knows that our world would be boring if we were cut from cookie cutters or poured from the same mold.

That’s why God celebrates that there’s only one you. You can celebrate it as well.

What Do We Have To Sing About?

Praise and worship in the form of hymns and contemporary music are a long-honored tradition in Christian churches. Whatever style of singing a church offers, the purpose is always the same: to glorify God.

We worship him for who he is and praise him for what he does.all about him

Ever notice there are specific themes in the songs? Here are just a few.

Salvation The greatest gift of God is his Son, Jesus and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. God gave his Son to die for us and we praise him for giving with immeasurable love. Without salvation, we cannot approach God. Through our faith in Jesus, we have him as our go-between.

Dependence We wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything of value or eternal purpose without God. We are weak and tend to wander, but with God’s power and our willingness to surrender to him, all things are possible.

Evangelism Christ has given us a mission to make disciples. With so many who haven’t heard the gospel, it’s a big responsibility. It’s an individual responsibility. “I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love” is a great attitude to have. Even better to put it into a loving action.

Suffering We all go through trials, but God provides strength to get through them even if he doesn’t remove them. We don’t praise God for the trials. However, lifting up his name as our source of strength is good for us. It helps us to remember his faithfulness.

Holiness In John’s revelation, he describes a scene in which creatures sing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” God is holy; we recognize this and worship as they did. Our own holiness is another topic of many songs. God said because he is holy, we must be as well. Again, we can do it only with his power working in us.

The Holy Spirit When we sing “open the eyes of my heart,” we’re asking the Holy Spirit to help us see spiritual truth. We humbly ask for his aid because we can block God’s word through various means. Even standing in church with the body of believers all around us, it can be difficult not to let our attention go elsewhere. The Holy Spirit desires our hearts be open to receiving God’s truth and bearing fruit.

Peace and Joy Two things Jesus said he gives to us which are not of this world. His peace. His joy. When we’re worshiping God for who he is, we can’t help feeling the peace and joy he gives. Acknowledging all of his attributes–from his holiness, justice and sovereignty to his mercy, love and forgiveness–we know we have a God and Savior who can bring peace and joy no matter what’s happening in our lives.

cat singing worshipLove We sing about God’s love for us and we sing about our love for him. The former is praise, the latter is worship.

Gratitude Being always thankful to God is another excellent way to worship him. Gratitude doesn’t have to be sung, but when voices are lifted up to praise God with our mouth saying, “Hallelujah!” God hears and is exalted.

We have many things to sing about when it comes to our Father in heaven. Don’t have a great singing voice in your own opinion? Be assured that God doesn’t see it that way. He gave you that voice.

So lift it up in worship.