Overwhelmed by my overstuffed closet recently, I felt the need to purge and organize. It was time to rid my life of clothing, shoes and purses and anything else hiding in the deep recesses of my walk-in that didn’t add anything to my life. Did you notice the irony here?
I needed less to add more, not more stuff, but to embrace the orderliness of a life filled with God and not more possessions. As I finished removing outdated clothing or items I’d bought on sale and had rarely worn, I wondered why we allow ourselves to accumulate so much. Why do we treasure things and not the life we’ve been given?
The acquisition of stuff doesn’t add anything to our lives. If anything, it detracts us from the joy-filled life we should be living. What do I mean? Each piece of clothing, each knick-knack on our shelves, each gadget we purchase, each new electronic device we embrace requires time and maintenance. The things we own can end up owning us.
But it’s not just material things we cling to. We clutch grudges and anger to our chests as if we were a selfish child refusing to share a favorite toy.
photo by Carol Round
Summer flowers have died. Leaves are changing colors. Life goes on.
Seasons change in our lives. We experience cycles of trials and calm. Life goes on.
Many affected by the destruction of nature’s wrath this year are still struggling. But life goes on. Even then, we sometimes forget to recognize the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary—and life goes on.
Sometimes we’re reminded of God’s extraordinary in the midst of our ordinary. A friend’s relative lost his home last spring in a Missouri tornado. Six months later, through the efforts of his small church family, he is almost ready to move into a newly constructed house. While funds for the construction have dwindled at times, leaving the crew wondering if they’d ever be able to complete the project, God has shown up in the midst of their uncertainty to reveal how much He cares for His children.
In a moment of divine intervention at an Arkansas baseball game, the leader of the construction crew met a stranger. During their conversation, he told her of the church’s efforts to finish the house. This woman was not just any stranger, but was from a neighboring Missouri town and was part of a church seeking to help tornado victims.
Newspaper photos, social media posts and live TV coverage depicted the devastation. Those viewing the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey could only imagine what the Texas victims were experiencing. For those of us who have experienced the aftermath of a hurricane, the reality is familiar.
However, anyone who has either viewed or experienced a disaster like this is familiar with the sacrifices of those who respond to the call for help. As responders poured into the southeastern Texas areas hardest hit, I marveled once again, not only at the sight of trained rescue workers, but the volunteers who leave their jobs, homes and family to provide assistance to those affected by the flooding.
Stories continue to reveal those moments when all hope seemed lost. Then, someone who refused to give up, showed up and answered the call for help.
I listened to TV coverage as victims and rescuers were interviewed. One man, a volunteer rescuer, paraphrased 1 John 3:17, which states, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
When a dear friend phoned me recently, she asked for prayer, specifically for her son-in-law and daughter who were preparing to travel out of the country for a family emergency. The sister of her son-in-law had been murdered. My friend was not only grieving this senseless crime, but she was concerned for the safety of her loved ones who would be entering a foreign country where the laws and customs are vastly different from our own.
The couple and their families have been in my daily prayers. My friend has also kept me updated on their situation.
We live in a fallen world where life sometimes makes no sense. We often question, “Why, God, why?” My heart aches when I read or hear of those who are battling diseases or when loved ones are taken from us too soon or when a tragedy takes the lives of an entire family, a group of people or a segment of the population.
We wonder why people make the choices they do. We question how a loving God could allow these things to happen, especially to those who have done no harm. We even question our faith sometimes.
I have all the time in the world.” After reading this quote from a 25-year-old, who had just won a six-figure payout in a tournament competition, I wanted to tell him, “No, you don’t.”
His comment was in response to a reporter’s question about the young man’s plans for the prize money he had won. He planned to save it, for now, according to the newspaper article, but was considering a vacation with a college friend.
While some of us may live 100-plus years, others are taken away much too soon. As I write this, my heart is sick for the loss of an elderly neighbor and friend. In his late 80s, Dave was killed in a car accident on May 30. His wife, Josie, had to undergo surgery for a broken leg and is still in critical condition.
My last glimpse of them had been that morning when they drove by my house. They waved and Dave honked as I was standing in my front yard visiting with other neighbors. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would ever see him—at least on earth.
This couple has experienced their own share of loss. Before they met and married, each had lost spouses at an early age. Dave had also lost a daughter to cancer. He once said to me, “You’re not supposed to outlive your children.”
Gulley-washing rains have plagued parts of the country during the past months, leaving a path of destruction behind in many areas. Lives have been lost and property has been destroyed due to the flooding.
Living close to the lake, I’ve seen the aftermath. My house is on higher ground but some of my neighbors have had to contend with rising water because their homes are lakefront property. One neighbor has even been fishing off his front deck, and a road running in front of his property is no longer passable.
While on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I’ve watched as the rising waters have left the neighborhood lakeside picnic area unusable. The three concrete picnic tables and the large fire pit were swallowed by the rising lake levels.
When the rain abated for a week, the tops of the picnic tables came into view, as did part of the fire pit. The torrential rains returned and they disappeared once again. Now, as the water begins to recede, driftwood debris graces the shoreline. Some of the pieces are beautiful, even with the ugliness left behind.
While I contemplated the mess left behind by the storms, I thought about the trials we face in life. They come and go, just like the lake water levels rising and falling with our capricious weather.
I listened as a friend prayed with me over the phone about a family situation. Melita is a true prayer warrior, and I treasure our bond as sisters-in-Christ.
I had called, leaving a voice message when she didn’t answer. I didn’t expect to hear back until the next day. It was late. However, my friend returned the call before she retired for the night. I was humbled by this beautiful friend’s willingness to return my call so late, even though she has to rise early each morning for work.
Having friends who will stand with you during trials is important. Even more important are those who will drop what they are doing to pray with you when asked.
We must believe our all-powerful God loves the people in our prayers.
I’ve learned to pray immediately when someone texts, emails or calls asking for prayer. If I don’t pray at the time of the request, I forget. I also add the person’s name and request to my list so I can continue to pray for God’s intervention or direction for an individual.
God instructs us to pray for others in several places in the Bible. In James 5:16, the apostle writes: “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.”