Friday, December 26, 2008

Hope, Not Platitudes

Matthew 6:

25"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

In this article, Dr. Charles Stanley pointed out the difference between concern and anxiety.

I'm thinking maybe it would have been more timely to have posted about this before Christmas but, I don't think those who are inclined to be worried and anxious are any less anxious today than they were before Christmas.

So much of the time I feel like I spend my time telling people the right words and sometimes I question, within my own mind and my own heart, whether I live up to the words I know are right in my own life. I do try not to worry about financial matters, always trying to do everything I can and then placing it in God's hands, trusting him to work things out...and I have the trust built on past experiences when God HAS worked everything out for us, over and over again. I do trust God but, at times, I confess, I let worry take over and have to correct myself, reminding myself of the verses above over and over again.

I wonder, at times, if saying the words, or quoting those words out of the Bible aren't helpful to those who are worrying. I wonder if our actions, when we are having our own troubles, speak louder. I question, sometimes, whether to share difficulties with others because I feel if I tell others we're having difficulties they might think I am worrying or complaining. I think, if we are truly not worrying and are not anxious about our difficulties why would we even bring them up? Then, on the other hand, I think, if I don't share my difficulties with others, how can they see my faith in God in action? How can it be a testimony? Perhaps if we share it after the fact? After God has worked it out and we are no longer in need? I think that might be the answer.

I think it was on the 22nd or 23rd of December that I went to the grocery store to do my last minute round up of essential grocery items for the recipes I had planned for Christmas dinner.

I got the car parked and it was very cold as I headed across the parking lot with my hands shoved in the pockets of my coat. As I got about 10 feet from the door of the Price Cutter's I heard a woman sobbing loudly about two parked cars over. I didn't know what it was about but, as I entered the store, she and her very young daughter and another adult came in behind me. I heard her tearfully complain, "I've been saving and saving...." I gathered later that either she'd lost her wallet or someone had stolen it. She had saved $200 in that wallet, I assume to buy the groceries necessary to prepare a meal for her family for Christmas. Maybe some of it was for gifts, I just don't know. When I heard her broken voice, full of disappointment at the loss of that money she'd scrimped and saved for Christmas I wanted to give her something. I wanted to replace it but, with what? I had nothing to give. If I gave her what I had, then what would I feed my own guests for Christmas? So, I shopped and got what I needed to prepare my own family's Christmas dinner but as I shopped I fought tears. I couldn't get her out of my mind and she is still on my mind.

I wonder, if I had approached her that night and said:

" not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"

Would it have made her disappointment less? What if I had cried with her and told her, "I know how you must feel, I've been there before?" A complete stranger? In a grocery store aisle, with onlookers staring at us?

Dr. Stanley pointed out, in the article linked above, that we most certainly can choose our reaction to situations. Sometimes I choose well, sometimes I don't. I'm human like everyone else but, I'll say this...there are a lot of people struggling this year. I can do nothing to help them financially. Often, I am reminded I can't even help myself, how can I help others? Maybe by listening? Maybe by forgetting my own self and thinking of others, being crafty about how I can respond, if not financially, in some other equally beneficial way?

One thing I do know is that talking about it and knowing what the right thing to do is without actually putting it into practice in my life and the lives of others helps no one. So, how do I help myself when my own family is in need and help others without hampering my own efforts of helping my own family, time wise?

Sometimes it feels like life is a balancing act and the rope ain't any bigger around or any stronger than a strand of hair.

If it helps to remember that God is in control and God works things out in the lives of believers then we will do better to spend our free time, what free time we have, in reflection on that fact rather than on worry, always remembering to do what we can to help ourselves and never forgetting to help others, even if all we have is a hand to be held and ears to listen with. It does help me because, like I said before, I've got past victories to remember. I hope, for others, they have past victories to remember too.

I hope we really do what we (Christians) can to help others rather than offering platitudes. I hope we mean what we say to others and I hope we genuinely practice our faith rather than simply and hollowly repeating what we've been told.

I hope our prayer lives are as they should be and that we rely on God. While God uses believers, at times, to accomplish things in our lives and the lives of others we shouldn't rely on them to meet our needs. God directs and He guides and He's the provider, not our bosses, our family, our friends. God, Emmanuel.

I also don't know why God allows people to come to the brink...well, maybe I do know why, at that...Brokenness: The Way to Blessing (I'm not sure how long that link will be available, it was a daily devotional).



Busplunge said...

Readers' Letters
Thief's actions disappoint
December 25, 2008

I am not sure how much good this will do, but here goes. Monday night I left my wallet at my grocery store. This is my grocery store, all who work there see my children and me almost everyday. I had every confidence my wallet would be there when I got back. It was not. It is known that someone took it. I filed a report based on video evidence.

I just wanted to say something to the person who took it, and you know who you are. You almost thought about turning it in, didn't you? What changed your mind? Did you decide that you need it more? I am a waitress and I support a family of five. I made sure to pay all my bills a little early this month so I would have money for Christmas. It was extra hours even during finals, as I am also a college student. I hope that you spent the $200 on food or toys for your kids, because that is what that money was intended for -- Christmas.

Now my children will get far less presents and we will not have a Christmas feast. I am glad that's all though, what if my kids were sick and that was there medicine money? You should feel horrible. I know I do. ...

Thank you to all the people who showed kindness and donated to the cause, may God bless you. Thank you to my grocery store, you were efficient and kind even though I was total wreck.

And thank you to Crosslines, because otherwise I would have nothing under the tree right now.

And to you, thief, someone you know wonders where you got that money and someone you care about would be very disappointed. Hope it was worth it to you.

P.S. On Tuesday morning the manager of the Price Cutter on College Street, Tom Linder, got permission from the corporate headquarters to give me $200.

Patricia Ann Wilkins Springfield

Busplunge said...

The above is a transcript of a letter published in the Springfield News-Leader on 12.25.2008.

Jackie Melton said...

Thank you for calling that to my attention, Jim!

I thought I heard $400 but, I guess it was $200. I'm just so glad to hear the story had a good ending. The woman got help from Crosslines and got her $200 back to boot! That was the store I was at, so it had to be her.

God provided, didn't He!?

Thanks, thanks, thanks!

tom said...

During my tenure transporting the nations commodities from coast to coast I found a wallet in MI from a person who lived in MN. They must have been on vacation because it took me a week to get a hold of anyone. I used his ID to get his phone number and left several messages about find his wallet. Once I got a hold of the owner I informed him of my find and that I would be returning his wallet in the manner that I found it.
There was a $20 in the billfold when I found it and when I returned it. I shipped it back using FedEx which cost me about $11 and I never even received so much as a thank you from this individual. What I find extremely suspect is that the gentlemen in question had a business card in his wallet proclaiming himself to be a pastor at a church in MN.
Perhaps I should not have expected a thank you for providing a return trip for the lost item or at least the return of the money it cost me to return it ?
Is it any wonder why people don't feel any remorse from what they do with another's belongings ??
Although I probably would do the same thing over again, since that is the type of individual I am, I won't hold out any hope that the individual receiving the return of item has any thankfulness in their heart.

Tony C said...

Great post...puts things in perspective.

Happy New Years!

Jackie Melton said...

Thanks Tony.

Happy New Year to you too!