When was the last time you gave up? Just found no energy or will to go on? Maybe you kept putting one foot in front of the other and moving on ‘automatic pilot,’ but your heart wasn’t in it.
Was it a time of grief? The one who kept you going is gone and all you can feel is the hole that is left? Was it a time when the disappointments piled up: no job promotion again, no romance in your life still, the same chronic aches & pains you’ve had forever, the same sins & addictions you’ve had forever?
These really take a toll on the soul, and can lead to clinical depression. I urge you, during these times, to get a friend or a coach to give understanding and advice on marshaling resources and seeing a different future.
I also urge prayer — even though depression might whisper to you that God is useless, like everything else — for it is only God who gives hope that strengthens us for the road ahead.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food ...” Matt. 25:35. April 2 is our next food collection.
During Holy Week we are reminded of just how much Jesus loves us, of how much He sacrificed for us. The Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services set the mood for the joyful celebration of Easter Sunday. We move from the solemness of goodbyes and the suffering that He did for us to the miraculous resurrection that changed the world. He spent His life showing and teaching us how to love and how to treat each other.
Each month we are given an opportunity to love and treat each other the way Jesus taught us in Matthew 25:35. It appears that we will always have people who, on occasion, need help feeding their families. Let’s continue to show the love of Christ by filling the Food for Thought bins each month to assist those who need a helping hand. Please help Holmes St. UMC’s food pantry replenish their shelves with (please, no glass containers):
“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” ~John 4:14 [NLT]
In my household, there is a lot of, well ... how can I put this nicely ... noise.
I think my children believe they will receive their much-needed attention by making the most pitiful, ear-piercing, blood-curdling shrieks, especially when one of the other ones is using this strategy as well.
I wish they would learn that this chronic, deafening idea not only frustrates me, but also adds gray hairs to my head by the dozens, and all I want to do, is run away.
But what makes me REALLY drop everything to listen to them, is when they come to me with some news or a story that has them bubbling over with enthusiasm. Whatever they are excited about, I want to be excited about as well.
The scripture for Sunday is John 4:5-26. The woman in the story has three strikes against her that would normally cause any respectable religious leader to shun her: she was Samaritan (rejected by Jews), she was a woman (male Jews didn’t speak with a woman in public, not even their wives), and she was living with a man after many failed marriages.
How many strikes do you have against you? How many strikes does your neighbor or co-worker think she/he has? No self-respecting religious leader would have any dealings with them! Maybe they think that’s especially true when dealing with Christians, whom they think are judgmental and uppity. They hear you’re a Christian and they brace for the criticism.
What would it take for a neighbor or co-worker to look forward to what you might say to them? Would you have to squelch all talk about Jesus and religious stuff just to prove you’re a regular guy and not one of those religious nuts? Is not talking about Jesus really the way to honor him?
One January in college, I left Birmingham with a bunch of other students and spent a month in Chennai, India. We were participating in a month-long course offering with Birmingham-Southern's Service Learning (now the Bunting Center for Engaged Study and Community Action) program. Once in Chennai, we would be working with a local non-profit group that takes care of children and the elderly without anywhere else to go. Our biggest task was to repaint the main dormitory for the older folks and add some cheerful murals to the walls.
Having painted what felt like a million houses in a previous summer job, I was excited! Here was work I knew how to do! We arrived, got settled, and showed up to paint this huge room ... with a bunch of paint brushes provided for us. When we asked, we were told they were the best tool for the job. So naturally on our first trip to buy more paint we bought a set of paint rollers and trays from the hardware stall down the road. Everyone knows that it's better and faster to paint with rollers if you can. Unless you live somewhere with walls made of older plaster that will pull off when a paint roller hits them.
Much plastering and more painting followed that very important lesson. As did a lot of reflection on my part. Why did we think we knew better? Why didn't we trust our hosts' instructions? If I'm being honest, it's a really complicated answer. Among a host of unflattering information about our collective pride, there was something to do with the misguided notion that we were there to save them time and money, rather than to learn from these people we were serving (hence the name Service Learning).
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it.” ~1 Corinthians 12:26
When I was in college, I learned a powerful lesson about taking things for granted - specifically, about THUMBS.
I was playing a pick-up game of basketball at the Rec Center in the winter of my second year. It had been four years since I had played competitively, but I felt I could still hold my own. On a fast break, my teammate heaved a no-bounce pass towards me as I sped down the edge of the court. I reached back and extended my arms outward, with hands chest high and fingers spread wide to catch the pass, planning to sink the easy lay-up without breaking stride.
I made one, quick-but-drastic mistake: A millisecond before catching the ball, I turned my eyes towards the rim, shifting the angle of my right hand. Instead of making the lay-up and earning cool points with my new friends, I heard a “POP!” and let out a cowardly yawp as a I shook my hand violently, hoping to shed the pain of my newly-jammed digit.
No such luck.
As we continue our journey together in this Lenten season, let's think and examine our participation in the spiritual discipline of practicing hospitality to the stranger. Several years ago my family and I moved to this country with the purpose to fulfill a call the Lord has given to us. Coming here we had to think about what were about to face: another language, another culture, another life style, another environment, another people, and more ... I’m not exaggerating when I think back to that time, and the feelings of FEAR come back - yes, we were scared to death (well, maybe only me). But the Lord showed us his mercy and love and he put people in our lives to help and guide us in this strange land.
In verse 13 of Romans chapter 12 Paul writes quite simply, “Practice hospitality.” (NIV) Another translation (NRSV) says, “. . . extend hospitality to strangers.”
The Lenten sermon series entitled “Disciplines for the Journey to Jerusalem” invites us to examine our participation in some spiritual disciplines which help us grow as Christians and enable us to be better witnesses for Jesus.
No doubt each of us has at some time experienced inhospitality (a lack of hospitality).
One of my favorite books is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtrey. The main characters are two ex-Texas Rangers turned cattlemen, Woodrow and Gus. They go to a bar in San Antonio, a place they had frequented in their ranger days. The bartender, upon insulting Gus and Call, gets his nose broken when Gus slams his face into the oak bar. Gus explains: “Besides a whiskey, I think we will require a little respect. . . . If you care to turn around, you will see what we looked like when we was younger and the people around her wanted to make us senators (pointing to a picture on the wall). What we didn’t put up with back then was doddlin’ service, and as you can see, we still don’t put up with it.” As they rode away, Woodrow tells Gus he’s lucky he didn’t get thrown in jail and Gus says, “Ain’t much of a crime, whackin’ a surly bartender.”
Lent is a forty-day season of preparation for the recalling of the death and resurrection of Jesus, our journey to Jerusalem. The practice probably started along the centuries as a teaching and preparation for those who would be baptized on Easter. Soon others joined in on the study, prayer, and fasting during Lent — starting on the day that became Ash Wednesday.
(On the day before Ash Wednesday, people cleared out the food in the cabinet, thus we ended up with “fat Tuesday” (in French, Mardi Gras).
So, during the forty days — imitating the forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness — we give up something, maybe something that is a treat (chocolate, beer) in order to exercise your resistance muscle and maybe something you should have given up a long time ago (smoking, gossip).
Often Christians give up something in order to take on something: give up some sleep in order to begin a new devotional time, give up social media in order to have time to give care to a needful friend, giving up pride in order to truly listen to others, etc.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food …” Matthew 25: 35
As I write this article I’m reminded of the blessing that this mission project has been and continues to be to so many people. It is because of your participation that numerous lives have been touched and blessed not only with sustenance but with renewed faith.
Our Father, is using us to show a new revelation of His love and power. We are His hands in helping those going through rough times realize that there’s hope. When the food pantries disperse our donations they are passing along peace & mercy. This eases self-doubt, releases a renewed confidence in the recipient that God is taking care of them. At times, we can all be exhausted but the Lord never gives up on us. He gives us understanding, patience, & strength. He shows us a vision, and raises up leaders, and friends to support, and encourage us. It is not the fact of life that determines hope, but the faith of life. A Christian believer has a “living hope” because his faith and hope are in God.