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Carrying Burdens

Galatians 6:2“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”Galatians 6:2

Most of us, when we see someone carrying a heavy burden, will offer to help if we can. And we appreciate help when the burden is ours! We open doors for mothers pushing baby carriages or people entering the post office with bulky packages. We accept help from our families to carry the groceries into the house. Our librarian keeps plastic bags on hand for patrons who check out a lot of books. It’s common courtesy—when we see a need, we help. This fulfills the law of Christ: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31 and 33, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14 and James 2:8).

Physical loads are usually pretty easy to see. But what about mental, spiritual, or social ones? We may need some help being made aware of these. If we ask, God’s Spirit will reveal people who need to talk, who need to know about Christ, who need friendship or an encouraging word. Sometimes, just being noticed can lift someone’s heavy load.

We can’t meet every need—only God can do that. But we can ask for eyes to see what God wants us to see, to recognize burdens and our ability to offer aid:

Spirit, You know whose loads are too heavy today. Please show me what I can’t see—whom, what, where, when and how to lift burdens today. And thanks for sending help when the need is mine, so others also can fulfill the law of Christ. Amen.

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Book Review: Life Support

Life Support by Candace Calvert is the third book in her Grace Medical series. I’ve enjoyed all three and am happy to recommend them to readers who enjoy Christian fiction, medical drama, a touch of mystery, and, of course, a little romance.

In Life Support, we follow Nurse Lauren Barclay, whom we met in Rescue Team, from Austin, Texas to Houston, where she has returned home to help her parents keep track of her troubled younger sister, Jess. Lauren has her own apartment but has moved in with her parents and sister in order to keep up with their increasing demands.

One of those demands is that she keep her sister away from the infamous physician assistant they hold responsible for Jess’s latest crisis, Eli Landry. Unfortunately, Eli works in the same hospital as both Lauren and Jess. His brother’s need for constant medical care, often in the emergency room, makes avoiding each other impossible.

The story itself is both suspenseful and fun, but I really appreciate the underlying theme: people learning to care for people both as needed and appropriately. Throughout the book, we encounter one person after another caring for someone who can’t or won’t care for himself or herself. Parents caring for children. Siblings caring for siblings. Spouses. Friends. Professionals such as medical personnel, police, chaplains, and care givers. Some must realize they’re doing too much. Some are forced to do more than they want to. Some are abused for their efforts. Most just want what’s best for the person they love but struggle to know what that is. All must learn to trust God, the One Who’s able to meet all needs in the best way possible.

Candace Calvert, the author, is a former ER nurse, so her novels give readers an insider view. I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of Life Support for my review.

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Lamentations 3:22-23 on My Mind

NewOMM“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

I got to go on my first flower hunt of the season yesterday afternoon. My husband and I went walking on our community’s workout trail. This trail stretches ten miles across the city, allowing people to walk, run, ride bikes, skateboard, and roller blade. Every city needs a trail like this! It’s one of our favorite places here so far.

Mike and I did not walk ten miles yesterday, but we enjoyed making use of part of the trail not far from our house. We hadn’t gone far when I saw the first group of flowers I wanted to photograph. Crossing the trail carefully to be certain I wouldn’t get hit by a bike, I slipped under the guard rail, knelt down, and started taking pictures. I thought Mike was simply waiting nearby. When I got up, however, he was laughing. In fact, it took him a few moments to compose himself enough to tell me why.

DSC01173eIt seems while I totally engrossed in taking the perfect picture, a lady on roller blades being pulled by a rather large dog on a leash started to pass by. But the dog found me interesting and turned to investigate, pulling the lady behind him straight toward the fence. Mike had to get between me and the dog and wave the animal back onto the trail in order to save the very grateful lady from a collision with the fence and me from being pushed down the hill.

Of course, I just have to take my husband’s word for it that all this craziness actually took place. All I saw were my flowers, then a dog in the distance, pulling a lady on roller blades on up the trail. But Mike was laughing, so I’m sure the story is true. My husband was faithful. He compassionately kept the helpless lady from injury and me from being consumed.

I am so thankful!

I’m also thankful that our faithful God loves each of us even more than Mike loves me. He may, for reasons we may not yet be able to understand, allow life to gnaw on us a bit or maybe even bite straight into our hearts. This may really confuse us, but, even so, we can know that God will never let us be consumed. He always sees what’s happening and handles it with compassion and mercy–even, in fact, especially when we do not understand. He’s waiting each morning to greet us with the wisdom and strength we’ll need for the upcoming day. He loves us and He’s faithful. No matter what comes, we can count on Him each day.

As always, I invite you to meditate on these verses with me today. Try to memorize them this week. As I’ve been considering them today, I find the hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, playing in my head, and I realize it uses phrases from this passage. If you’re familiar with the song, use it for further reflection on Lamentations 3:22-23. If it’s new to you, click here to read the verses and hear the melody.

Father, thank You for Your love, Your protection, Your compassion, and Your faithful presence always. We need You every morning and all through each day. As we cling to Your faithfulness, please make us more like You. In Jesus’ name, we pray.

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1 Corinthians 12:26 on My Mind

NewOMM“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” -1 Corinthians 12:26, NIV

Today’s On My Mind meditation is also a Parachute Prayer. I found today’s verse in one of the devotionals I read this morning. The author of the devotional reminded me that part of the body of Christ is suffering. Right now. These courageous members are suffering for their faith.

While it’s true that North Americans may experience some measure of persecution on a small scale, few will ever really know what it means to suffer for Jesus. I can’t even begin to fathom how this is possible, but in some countries, what you believe or don’t believe can actually be a crime punishable by death or imprisonment. In some countries, Christian parents are declared unfit and have their children taken from them. In some countries, teenagers who choose to follow Christ are disowned and thrown out of their homes onto the streets or turned in to the authorities for arrest. Such things are beyond my comprehension–how people could be so cruel! And yet, Christians really do die for their faith. every. day.

So as we memorize 1 Corinthians 12:26, let’s also get in the habit of praying for this suffering part of the Body daily. Here’s how we can do that:

Most of us, I think, have some kind of physical quirk that perhaps causes us pain from time to time. (If you don’t, be thankful! Then call on your own creative nature to come up with a reminder of your own for today’s prayer. In fact, feel free to leave a reply to share your ideas with others who are blessed like you are!) For me, the quirk is a shoulder twinge from time to time brought on by stress. It’s no big deal, just something that prompts me to exercise regularly. Now it will also remind me to pray! You can let your physical quirk be your reminder, too. When we feel a little pain in our physical bodies, let’s pray for those members of the Body of Christ who are truly suffering in Jesus’ name.

Father, our hearts break when we read about our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted for serving You. Please give them strength to stand firm in their faith. Please build them up physically and spiritually. Please let them know that You are with them; comfort them as only You can. And please Let them know, somehow, that there are people in this world who also care. Bless them, Lord, as You have promised to. Thank You for seeing and honoring their pain. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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Book Review: Stranger Things

Books!Stranger Things by Erin Healy is a suspense-thriller with just a touch of the supernatural. And though there aren’t any wild car chases, it reads like a great action-adventure movie with new plot twists around every curve, everyone seeking the truth and justice, and no one trusting anyone. Healy says the story was born of her pastor’s question, “If a stranger gave his life for you, how would that change your life?” In this book as stranger does give his life for Serena, the main character, who quickly discovers this stranger has been giving of his life for years to rescue one young woman after another from a vast human trafficking ring. Now Serena has the opportunity, even the obligation, to help at risk to her own life—or maybe to save it.

Aside from the suspense side of the story, I loved the themes Healy worked in. Christopher, the stranger, originally sets out to rescue his sister, yet comes to realize that every victim is his sister and slowly draws the people around him into his mission to rescue them all—one at a time, if necessary. His philosophy becomes: if everyone would just look out for one other person, everyone would be okay.

There is also a theme of calling represented by the Safe House and the Station Fire house, thin places where people get a supernatural sense of purpose for their lives. They just have to learn to pay attention to discover what their experiences mean. Healy doesn’t mention God, but His direction is clear.

Finally, there’s the theme of beauty growing out of destruction represented by the Fire Followers a variety of California Poppy which only grows after a fire has come through. This theme gives us hope for all the victims in the book and for life’s real victims, too.

I was totally drawn into this book and am happy to recommend it. Thank you Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review.

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In Search of Little Birds This Christmas

Note: This is a repost from my original blog, Wildflower Thinking. The event that follows took place in 2008, but the lesson seems especially appropriate for this busy Christmas season. Let’s all be careful to watch for little birds this year.

Our family was leaving the mall. Mike opened the door, and I noticed something flopping around underneath it. As I followed Mike out, I looked more closely and realized I wasn’t imagining things—it really was a little bird. “Oh, no!” I yelped as Mike closed the door, running over the confused bird again.

I knelt down quickly, oblivious to the fact that I was now in the path of the door and about to be run over myself. Mike ran interference while figuring out why his wife had suddenly lost all common sense. He started nudging the bird with his foot.

“What are you doing?” I asked, quite alarmed.

Mike rolled his eyes. “I’m moving the bird away from the door, so he won’t get run over again.” (He’s pretty smart, that man.) Then he looked around to see where to safely direct the bird. (He did this all for me, you know! Either that, or he knew he’d never get home until we’d taken good care of the bird.)

Realizing the nearest bush was several feet away and that kicking the bird that far would probably do more harm than good, we did the next best thing. We told Seth to pick up the bird. (Yes—it was a classic LIFE cereal moment. “I’m not picking up that bird.” “Well, I’m not picking up that bird.” “Let’s get Seth to pick up the bird! Hey, Seth!”) Seth picked up the bird, I took pictures, we introduced the bird to its new refuge spot—all was well with the world, we could go home. Mike was still rolling his eyes.

So now I’m wondering how many other little birds we carelessly run over as we go about our daily routine. I’m not talking about real birds anymore—though we almost missed the one at the mall! How many hurting people do we cross paths with every day who feel constantly run over by life? They’re standing there stunned and confused as people walk on by, pushing them aside without even realizing they’re there. How many people do we talk to regularly, maybe even at church, who need, not just small talk, but a true listening ear or a nudge toward safety? God can use us to help people if we’ll notice who’s flopping around.

Lord, You know that I can’t save every little bird, but open my eyes that I will see to help where I can. Make me aware. Remind me to stop and take time to express genuine care. There’s nothing more important that I have to do today. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Essential Fridays and Spiritual Sundays.

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