Blog Posts

Does Compassion Move Us?

Determined to read my Bible, I sit on the couch and breath a prayer while my two-year-old son plays with his matchbox cars.

“Lord, help me focus on Your Word. Teach me to be more Christlike.”

Aware that my child can interrupt me at any second, I scan Matthew 15:29-31. Tons of people came to Jesus,  bringing the paraplegic, the blind, the maimed, the mutes…all kinds of needy people . . . and threw them at Jesus’ feet to see what He would do.

He healed them. 

Then, Jesus noticed the people were hungry. He took seven loaves of bread, a few fish, and fed four thousand . . . .

Plop!

My son grins as he parks his cars on top of Matthew. I point to the coffee table. “Drive your cars there so Mommy can read.”

He looks at the coffee table, noting his blue plastic cup. He lifts it to his lips. The cup is empty. He hands it to me. 

“Are you thirsty?”

He nods. 

I set my open Bible (now a parking lot) on the coffee table, and groan as I walk to the kitchen. 

“Sorry, Lord, duty calls.”

Irritation flows through me as I fill my son’s cup with cool water. 

I don’t need to read Scripture to realize I’m impatient and far from Christlike. My child has made it apparent without saying a word. 

I return to the couch and lift my son on my lap. He leans against my shoulder while he sips water. But my mind is fixed on those people who’d traveled to see Jesus.

I picture them as curious folks who wanted to meet this man who did the impossible with just a word, a touch. Cautious folks, hesitant to intrude on Jesus. Quietly waiting their turn. 

But what if—instead of being calm and orderly—the people were a noisy, dirty, smelly, diseased, ragtag sea of humanity clamoring for Jesus’ attention?

Matthew says the people were hungry which means they were probably hangry. Surely there were crying babies and fussy toddlers in that hangry crowd as their family pressed forward—elbowing, squeezing, shoving, stepping on people’s toes. Fearful Jesus would leave before they received help.

How could Jesus be so patient? How could He keep on giving?

And yet, were those desperate people any different than today’s refugees who flee their homes to escape violence and persecution. The images of parents carrying their children to safety are gut-wrenching. I’m filled with compassion but, unlike Christ, I’m seldom moved to act on their behalf.

(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Jesus embodied compassion. Instead of seeing a crowd, He saw individuals and His empathetic heart suffered to see their pain. 

His gut-wrenching compassion moved Him. 

To heal bodies. 

Fill empty stomachs.

Redeem souls.

 Change lives.

I run my fingers through my son’s blond curls, grateful that we’re healthy, safe, and fed. Even so, I still need Jesus. 

I’m moved to tears because I know that my compassion for others has limits. Only Christ’s love flowing through me can move me to step out of my comfort zone and act.

And yet, even when I’m impatient by the smallest interruptions, His compassion moves Him to act.

Even in this . . . harried mom’s heart. 

Share how compassion moved you to act on someone’s behalf.

Photo of Cars: Jennifer Wrede

Blog: Collaborative work: Jennifer Wrede, Karen Foster

What’s God Teaching You in Trials?

Early February, my cell phone dinged. My friend and mentor, Loretta, had sent a text.

On my way to the E.R. Seems like a stroke.” 

My breath caught. “Wait! What? Who?”

I re-read Loretta’s text and responded with a prayer. “Sweet Jesus, please heal my friend. Make your presence known while she’s at the hospital. Remove all fear.” 

Three hours later, Loretta texted back. “I’m okay. Weak left leg. No Fear! Not a Drop!

Loretta wasn’t okay.

She came home that evening, but the next morning Loretta returned to the hospital. Symptoms (weakness and slurred speech) were worse and pointed to a TIA (mini stroke) even though medical tests appeared normal. 

Six weeks later, Loretta’s life is far from normal.

Although her speech is good, she relies on a red-framed walker to get around. Simple household tasks aren’t so simple. Her steps are slow and measured when she moves about the kitchen so she doesn’t fall. 

I want to spare my fun-loving, independent friend from this misery. I want the Lord to heal her body and return life to normal. Now!

“It seems sometimes that there is no way to God’s Best but through pain, and yet how earnestly one longs to save a dear one from it.”

Missionary, Amy Carmichael

Loretta doesn’t pretend life is easy. Every day is a struggle. Even so, Loretta said:

“Could have been worse.” 

“I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness.”

“I’m at peace. Just have to walk it out.”

Walk it out means. . .

Live one day at a time

      Rely on the Lord (more than her new-fangled walker) to cope

            Learn to submit to God’s will and trust Him in the process.

Loretta’s God-centered attitude doesn’t surprise me. We’ve been here before. If you’ve read Lunch with Loretta: Discover the Power of a Mentoring Friendship, you know that my friend views life through an eternal lens.

“Every circumstance is an opportunity for God to teach and change me to become more like Jesus.”

 

This latest incident in Loretta’s life is no exception.

“I don’t want to go through this,” she said. “I pray for physical strength. But God is Sovereign and I know that He is able to use everything for my good and His glory.”

I asked my friend with the teachable heart, “What is God teaching you now?” 

She sighed. “It’s too soon to know. But I do want to learn.”

I wonder what God plans to teach her. How long will the lesson last? So far, it’s been an arduous one.

Or maybe, this recent incident is a test, examining the summation of everything Loretta has learned over a lifetime—and knows to be true—about her loving Sovereign God.  

Whatever God has planned for Loretta, tears come and I’m encouraged when I watch how she continues to praise and trust Him even in this . . . . 

*Do you ever ask God to teach and change you during personal trials?

*Consider sharing how God used one of your trials to teach you more about Himself. How did that knowledge change you?

Graphics: Jennifer Wrede

Is it a Lack of Time or Desire?

When I was a newly wed, my husband would drive to my work office at lunchtime and the two of us would drive together to a nearby restaurant. I remember one of my male co-workers once asked me, “The restaurant’s ten minutes away. Why don’t you meet your husband there instead of having him pick you up?”

I responded like any starry-eyed lover. “I want to be with my sweetheart. By driving together, I get to be with him for ten minutes each way!”

That’s how I view my relationship with God. I love the Lord with all my heart and I want to spend time with Him every day. During those harried days when I meet myself coming and going, I will grab whatever time I can find with God even if it’s only a few precious minutes.

I didn’t always make time with God a priority. In my twenties and thirties, I wanted to know God and spend time with Him by praying and reading my Bible. But I thought being still before God was a spiritual discipline . . . something I should do to be a good Christian . . . instead of recognizing that “I get to be with the One I love.”

I also allowed my circumstances (or the people in my life) to dictate when and how long I met with God. Too many years I was content to visit Him for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings at church. My loss. My regret.

In my forties, I met Loretta Chalfant, who offered to walk beside me as my Christian mentor. This woman not only loved the Lord, she made time for Him each day regardless of her circumstances. Loretta changed how I viewed God and my quiet time with Him. I saw through her example, and then personally experienced, what it means to spend time with God.

Meeting with God is a privilege. Not a duty.

Being still in God’s presence is a joy. Not boredom.

God wants to be loved and have His children desire His presence too.

Some might ask, “Can’t we love God without spending time with Him each day? After all, He knows when we’re busy and overwhelmed. He understands there are times when our circumstances (illness, being a caregiver, mom of a newborn) prevent us from making Him a priority. Why would the Lord expect me to squeeze Him into my day when He knows I have no time? No energy. No personal space to call my own.”

And those people would be right. The Lord isn’t blind. God sees and knows everything about us. He understands our human condition. But let me ask a question. Why would anyone want to do life on their own strength? When we’re overwhelmed and at the end of ourselves, isn’ t that all the more reason to seek God?

My daughter knows what it’s like to be worn out and unable to find fifteen minutes all to herself. Jenny’s the mom of a two-year-old boy. If she wants to spend quality time with God, she has to set the alarm clock and rise at dawn before her son wakes up. But I’m sure other young moms will attest with Jenny that sleep deprivation (during the first two years of your child’s life) is a sound excuse for not setting the alarm clock. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt that smells like soured breast milk.

Even so, my daughter agrees that meeting with God at some point in the day is necessary IF we want to experience more of His joy, peace, and wisdom in our lives.

So maybe, just maybe, all our excuses for not meeting with God isn’t about busyness or a lack of time. Maybe it boils down to a lack of desire.

Here’s what Jennifer noticed and wrote about making time for God:

Do you make time for God throughout the week?

If not, why not?

Where can you carve time for God even in this . . . fill in the blank . . . season of life?

Are You Light or Dark?

For years I prayed for opportunities to witness to nonbelievers. I berated myself if I failed to notice those opportunities or neglected to bring Christ into my conversations.  

But my spiritual mentor, Loretta, isn’t encumbered with the urgency to evangelize. She said her job is to meet with God each morning through prayer, worship, and Scripture. Then she makes herself available to God’s leading as she goes through her day. When God opens doors for Loretta to share her faith, she gladly steps into that sacred space.

“When you think about it,” Loretta said, “we choose every day whether to be light or darkness to others by our words and actions.” 

I nodded, recalling the passage where Jesus tells His followers, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

Loretta’s words about choosing light versus darkness made me realize . . .

Letting my light shine for others isn’t about concocting “good deeds” or cramming the gospel into someone’s heart. 

Letting my light shine means my words and behavior at any given moment and situation will reflect Christ—the Light of the world—who lives within me.

Choose Light—walk in a manner worthy of Christ.

Choose darkness—live for self and demand my own way at any cost.

Someone once told me, “People are watching.” 

That’s a scary thought if you want to be a good witness for Christ. And being a light can ‘turn off’ people who live in the dark.

Here’s an illustration from Loretta’s life:

In my fifties, God amazed me with His perfect timing and provision when I received a phone call from a company offering me a job. I was over the moon to find employment. But, shortly after being hired, my immediate supervisor told me to “get real.”

This four-foot-ten woman perceived me as a Miss Goody Two Shoes. She clearly disliked me and wasn’t afraid to let me know regardless of those around us.  She called me a fake and then added, “I’m not falling for the game you’re playing. Nor, the God stuff.”

Her words shocked me because I didn’t try to evangelize or talk about God unless it was already part of the conversation. A month into my job, I sat at my desk with my stomach in a knot and asked God, “Why am I here?”  

And God said, “For her!”

I turned my head in time to see my feisty supervisor reach for something off a shelf. A cold prickle of fear ran up my spine. “God, help me!” 

That’s when I learned to give up what I wanted (a kindhearted supervisor) and submit to whatever God wanted to accomplish in that stressful environment.

Whenever I went to work and wanted to cry, “Father, I can’t,” I knew from experience that God can. I relied on Him to breathe and carry me through me each day. 

After four months of that woman’s senseless accusations, St. Jude bought our company. They were getting rid of all contractors which included me. Each day, employees were called into the office and given their notice to leave. 

One morning my supervisor came to me in tears. She told me to report to the office. When I returned to my desk, she was in my chair. Still tearful, she pleaded, “You can’t leave until you tell me the purpose of life.” 

Can you imagine? I’d seen some softening of her heart, and now I had the opportunity to share the gospel. I sowed the seeds of faith. She didn’t accept Christ as her Savior that day, but God was in the experience for both our good. And I knew God would continue the work He’d begun. 

Is there a difficult person in your life who needs to see Christ’s Light in you?

How would you live differently if you knew God purposely placed that person in your life? 

Photo: Jennifer Wrede

Who Knew? Glad I didn’t.

Last year our family celebrated Christmas in Germany. We spent time with our son-in-law’s family who lives there, holding hands around the dinner table as we prayed. We toured Hanover and the Christmas market, rubbing elbows with happy strangers. We gathered in packed cathedrals and sang worship hymns.

“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”― J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

No masks. No social distancing. No fear or thoughts of catching a deadly disease.

I’m glad I didn’t know a world-wide pandemic would hit us like a tsunami in 2020. I’m glad I could live in the moment. Clueless to the new normal that would change life as we knew it.

I’m glad I rang in the New Year and hugged my folks in Texas without worrying that I’d unknowingly expose them to a disease I may or may not have. I’m thankful I didn’t know I wouldn’t see them again until November.

In early February, my husband and I flew to Georgia to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday. If you’d told me that our traveling days were over, our church services would Have to stop meeting in person, we’d rarely (if ever) see our friends, and I’d have to stop cooking/serving the homeless–I wouldn’t have believed you.

When I attended our local theater to watch a play in early March, I didn’t know that live theater would disappear indefinitely. School, sports, and ALL outdoor events like our county fair would be canceled.

Thank goodness I didn’t know in January 2020 that …

My prayer list for sick, dying, depressed, and unemployed people would grow longer.

My 15-year-old kitty would have to be euthanized.

My son-in-law’s parents wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. to visit.

One of my family members would need to move in with us.

My mask would become a new accessory, hand sanitizer my new lotion, and toilet paper a thing to be hoarded. The list goes on and on. Right?

But today is December 1, and I’m decorating my house for Christmas with more fanfare than normal. For everything bad that happened, I have a gratitude journal and a blessings jar to remind me of everything good that happened this past year. For one thing, my 89-year-old dad survived a major heart attack. My mom couldn’t even go into the hospital to be with him.

I get to choose each day how I see my cup. Half-full or half-empty? But I prefer to see my cup as full and overflowing because my attitude is the ONLY thing I can control. And our attitude affects our emotions and how we respond to this pandemic.

I’m especially thankful that when I don’t know what’s around the corner….God knows. He’s not only waiting on the other side, He’s with me in this moment. He’s shown me the things that I thought were important ain’t so important after all. God’s also stretching my stiff-neck ways to make me more pliable, and toning my flabby faith muscles so I’ll trust Him more.

God has a bigger plan for my life and yours. He’s not concerned about our happiness and entertainment as much as our character and the salvation of our souls. God wants us to love others and show mercy. He wants us to seek Him rather than His gifts.

Who knows. Events in 2021 might make 2020 look good. But for everything I don’t know about tomorrow, I Do Know that God Doesn’t Change.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10)

One day we will see our Savior face to face. “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus).

Until then, the Lord is our anchor. Our hope. And all the more reason to celebrate this Christmas with renewed focus on what matters most! Faith in the risen Savior, Family. Friends.

How are you coping with this pandemic especially during the holiday season?

Photos: K. Foster