Tag Archives: comfort

Pillows

pillowIn the middle of the growing contentious issue regarding refugees in America, I came across a moment of brightness in the conversation. I found it in the story of Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers, of Bethany Lutheran Church in Bainbridge Island, Washington, who had an idea:

“I recognized pillows as a symbol of hospitality. Who invites a guest without offering a pillow? And I found a great deal on pillows at a local retailer. What a fitting way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the ministry of Jesus, who associated with the outsiders, Samaritans and lepers, and who himself was a refugee as an infant” (Pritchett, Rachel, “Providing Comfort,” Living Lutheran magazine, November 2017, p. 39).

The church blessed 500 pillows in their sanctuary by tossing them into the air before delivering them to Lutheran Community Services (LCS) Northwest, which provides services to refugees.

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Blessed Are You NOW

blessedIn a recent article in Living Lutheran magazine, author Tiffany C. Chaney makes an interesting observation about the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. She writes,

“The text doesn’t say ‘Blessed are those who used to mourn or those who were poor in spirit or those who made peace before.’ The blessed are in the midst of serving God now; they are deep in the trenches. They are being persecuted and reviled and more, even now. And yet they are blessed” (“Living Saints,” Living Lutheran magazine, November 2017, p. 23).

The present-tense reality of being blessed in the midst of trials really struck home to me. I realize that in the midst of struggles, I often look toward to some future time when blessings will come my way. But the fact of the matter is that blessings come when I am feeling sad, when I can feeling a lack of spirit, when I feel far from peaceful.

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Dunbar’s Number

150 membersHave you ever heard of “Dunbar’s Number”? Discovered by British evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it is the human norm that the number of genuinely personal relationships a person can actively maintain is 150, give or take. Dunbar and his colleagues note that “150 people is both the approximate size of a typical small-scale human village and about the number of people who can live or work together without needing power structures to enforce cooperation. The group is small enough that social pressures can keep people in line” (“Does Your Pastor Need a Friend?” Christianity Today, October 2017, p. 62).

I find this interesting because at a recent conference I attended, the keynote speaker said that currently a majority of congregations in America have an average weekly attendance of guess what? 150 members.

It occurs to me that this is not simply a coincidence. 150 appears to be the sweet spot for most churches for the very reasons that research for Dumbar’s Number indicates:

It keeps the group manageable. People do not become just a number. People know them by name. Functions can happen without an overflow of people and not in an oversize room.

It keeps the group personal. Everybody knows each other and can keep relationships functioning. People care about one another because they know them well and see them often.

It keeps the group accountable. People notice when others are missing and can follow up with them. People can see when fellow members are straying and can bring them back into the fold. There is a sense that people are expected to be present at certain times and be there for one another in times of need.

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Elephants

elephantWe all know the saying “An elephant never forget.” Christ Lutheran Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, used this saying to their advantage to start a program of sending elephant stuffed animals to sick children in the hospital. Each elephant can be colored and written on by friends and family of the hospitalized child. Each elephant also comes with a book with the message that “an elephant never forgets, and God never forgets you.” In the cold and sterile and often chaotic environment of the hospital, the elephant stuffed animal provides  comfort and  encouragement and a feeling of home. Approximately 800 children have received Forget-Me-Not Elephants through the program (“Forget Me Not,” Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly, Summer 2017, p. 28).

This story touched my heart because one of my sister’s favorite stuffed animals was a hand-made elephant named Ellie that she received as a baby from my mom’s best friend from high school. As the years went by, Ellie’s ears frayed at the edges, her nose was torn and stuffing pooched out from the sides. She even went through the wash a few times (sometimes by accident), which cleaned her up a bit. But nothing would stop my sister from keeping Ellie by her side when she went to bed at night—even into high school. Now Ellie has a special place in my sister’s daughter’s room.

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Burden Bearing

burden bearingOne of the practices that the Bible says we should carry out is burden bearing. Here are some passages to consider:

Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

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Look at the Birds

I have long been fascinated with birds. In fact, in eighth grade I declared that I wanted to be an ornithologist and I did my entire science fair project on which birds ate what types of seeds and suet from various types of feeders. Our family’s backyard became a bird Shangri-La for a time.

Then I have recently realized that that I have many bird-themed items in my home that I look at every day.

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Comfort Dogs

dog

Do you see a pattern here?

I confess that I am not a dog person at all. But when I was sick recently, almost every get-well card I received had a dog on it, and my assistant kindly sent me a porcelain dog figurine. So I got to wondering if God was trying to tell me something.

I firmly believe that he was not telling me to get a dog, but I am fully convinced that he was sending me a message of comfort.

Oddly enough, as you may already be aware, there is a well-established program called K-9 Comfort Dogs which trains and sends dogs to bring comfort to those who are going through a crisis of some kind. You can check out their wonderful work at this website:

www.lutheranchurchcharities.org

But as good as comfort from a dog is, comfort from God our Father is even greater:

In Isaiah 40:1 we read, “Comfort, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”

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Favorite Verses

favorite versesIn the June 2016 Thrivent magazine, there was an article in which people related their favorite Bible verses and why they were so meaningful to them.

Here are some of them:

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven. —Matthew 5:16

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever. —Psalm 125:2

Then came this verse:

The Lord turned to him [Gideon] and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?“ —Judges 6:14

This verse struck a chord with me in that moment because I was feeling over-busy and bedraggled. And the words “go in the strength YOU HAVE” really registered with me and gave me hope and confidence that I could accomplish the multiple tasks that laid before me. I may not feel the strongest I have ever felt, but God has given me the strength I DO have to do great things, which is something I need to be grateful for and remind myself of daily.

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