It’s often in the everyday experiences that the Lord speaks his lessons for us most powerfully. In places like the grocery store, traffic, a conversation with a friend. I was waiting to check out of the grocery the other day and the Lord met me with a lesson on gratitude and listening for His voice. My grocery cart was full. It seemed that the line was taking forever and so I began to try to figure out what was going on. I noticed the young woman ahead of me give the cashier a check of some kind. It appeared to be some sort of government help. She looked so tired, her eyes were sunken in with dark circles, clothes worn.
Her basket was meager, just a few items, milk and several other things.Yet she waited so long for them to clear her check for purchase. I tried to smile and put her at ease, but she didn't want to make eye contact and seemed embarrassed.
Then as I waited a very thin older woman came up behind me with just two tomatoes. I offered for her to go ahead of me, but she said, “No I don’t mind waiting. I’m just glad to be here. I just got out of the hospital and took the bus here. I like to watch the people in the grocery and people are so nice at this particular store.” We chatted about different things as we continued to wait. Our conversation went from where to buy Epson salt for sore muscles and allergy medicine to what I used my olive mix for. She told me she lived in Tigerland. I wondered what circumstances of her life had brought a women who appeared to be in her 60‘s to live in an apartment in Tigerland surrounded by college students. Yet she seemed so cheerful and grateful to be alive. I thought how different my life seemed from the two women I stood between. As I left the store I heard her tell the cashier that her two tomatoes were different kinds and she wanted the one that was on sale. As I loaded the trunk of my car in the rain I pondered how blessed I was as I bought my groceries, no worries that I could buy a basket full. A car to drive home in...and I began to pray for these 2 women. Why was I so blessed and others seemed to struggle to make ends meet? I wondered if I should go back and try to find that woman. Maybe she was waiting for the bus out in the rain. Why didn't I offer her my olive mix? The questions whirled in my head.
It seemed God whispered, "Listen. Come to Me. That is not what I am asking you to do today."
When I got home my husband Ken spoke of his concern for a couple he had been ministering to in the hospital from our church over the weekend. She had tragically just delivered a still born child and he was trying to organize someone to bring them a meal that afternoon. They had only recently moved to Baton Rouge and the family was out of town. Then I knew. I was unpacking the groceries that God had provided and could easily cook something to bless them. Ken brought them the meal that afternoon just in time as they arrived home from the hospital. A few days later I attended the beautiful funeral service for that precious little one. As I greeted the grieving parents whom I had never met before there was an instant connection as we hugged and cried and shared the comfort of God’s provision in such a tragic time.
It has been a week of sorrow and loss in our body at the church and with friends. In recent days I have attended 5 funeral services. I have had the privilege of ministering in song to many of these families. I have watched my husband reach out in mercy and love to one family after another as a pastor and musician as yet another phone call would come with sad news throughout the week. Day after day he has faithfully gone to pray and minister to so many grieving families. I am struck at the strength of these families to bear up under such loss. The ages of those who have died range from the father of a dear friend in his 90‘s, to friends in their 50‘s and 60‘s to an infant girl. Some have gone home to be with the Lord after long illnesses and others are sudden and unexpected.
All the families grieve differently and all cling to the hope we have through Christ. In these services we come to Jesus and share the hope of eternity that comforts and sustains us. It is the comfort of friends and family and the body of Christ that helps to carry us. As the brother of the father who had lost his baby girl put it -
We find comfort in His promises, comfort in His peace, and comfort in Who He is.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV
This week was also VBS at our church. I was one of the storytellers. My story was Genesis 2 - when God creates life and warns Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil or they will die. So
in between the funerals I experienced the excitement and wonder of little children as they heard the story of God's heart and Creation. I have learned many lessons this week about life and death.
We never know what each day will bring. We simply must come before the Lord and ask Him to sustain us and lead us in the places He calls us each day, grateful for the opportunities He offers.
Often they are not the path we would have chosen.
Often they will require more strength than we think we have.
Often there is great sorrow and struggle in the midst of great joy.
Always He will call us to be His hands and feet,
His instrument of comfort, love and hope.
Always He is enough.
He says, "Come to Me." And so I cling to who He is - my Savior, Redeemer, Sustainer, Refuge, and Strength and trust Him to guide the moments of my days according to His perfect will and plan.
“We worship God, not because He insulates us from struggles but because He is a compassionate, consoling Father who meets us in the midst of our suffering.” NIV Worship Bible
As I walk through my days I’m always asking the Lord what faith lessons He has for me.
Am I listening and choosing to let the Spirit lead me each day?
Do I really trust that the Lord will be enough to sustain me in intense seasons of pain, suffering, or ministry demands?
Life is precious and sometimes He calls us home unexpectedly.
Am I living each day to the fullest and seeking His specific purpose for the days He gives me?
Am I maintaining a heart of gratitude and viewing each day of my life as a gift from Father to be given away?
“God does not care...whether I am happy or not. What God cares about, with all the power of God’s holy being, is the quality of my life...not just the continuation of my breath and the health of my cells–but the quality of life, the scope of my life, the hefty zest of my life...fear of death always turns into fear of life, into a stingy, cautious way of living that isn’t really living at all...to follow Jesus means going beyond the limits of our own comfort and safety. It means receiving our lives as gifts instead of guarding them as ...possessions.” Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor
Have I crowded my schedule so full of activity that I’m not available to meet an unexpected need that would bring comfort to the hurting should it arise? (This is really big for me!)
Sometimes it’s a simple smile or conversation. Sometimes it’s a meal. Sometimes it’s a hug that says I care, a story or a word of encouragement and hope. Sometimes it’s simply listening and crying with the grieving, sharing the burden. Sometimes it’s just being there and sometimes it’s a prayer to the One who knows the true and deepest need of the one for whom you intercede.
Yesterday morning as I prepared to sing for the 5th funeral in 10 days my spirit was weary. As I asked the Lord to give me the strength I needed to minister the Shepherd's heart to that dear family, I glanced down on the counter next to the piano. There was a copy of a beautiful poem by Roy Lessin that I had used for a teaching on the 23rd Psalm quite some time ago. I'm not really sure why it was still there, but I knew it was for me.
Perhaps these words of comfort and truth that I needed from the Father then will encourage you today.
When you are hurting,
COME TO ME and
I will bind your wounds
COME TO ME and
I will give you My embrace.
When you can no longer go on,
COME TO ME and
I will carry you.
When you need comfort,
COME TO ME and
I will wipe your tears.
when you are uncertain
Of My Love, COME TO ME
and I will speak
My heart to you.
Always remember that
In your need
You are coming to the One
Who came for you.
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