A Lesson from the Elephants

by Crystal Bowman

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

My husband and I were away on a weekend business trip and found ourselves with free time on a Friday evening. As we drove through town looking for something interesting to do, the local museum advertised a showing of Elephants in Africa in their state-of-the-art IMAX theater. We parked our car, bought tickets, and then entered the massive theater with a wrap-around screen and surround-sound audio.

The National Geographic-type film documented the day-by-day experiences of a clan of African elephants as they moved from one place to another in search of water and food. As we watched from the center of the theater, we felt like we were in the middle of the jungle with the camera crew!

Since elephants can walk within hours of birth, a newborn calf ambled on wobbly legs closely behind his mother. As weeks passed, the baby grew larger and stronger and began playful interaction with the other elephants. After a while, however, food and water became scarce, and the calf grew weaker and weaker until it toppled over and died. The mama used her powerful trunk to poke and prod her baby to help him stand up. When her efforts failed, she realized his fate and stood over him, refusing to move as she mourned. During her time of grieving, all the female elephants from the clan surrounded her and stayed by her side for three days until she was ready to travel.

I couldn’t help but see this as a beautiful picture of friendship and caring for those who are hurting. We often don’t know what to do when someone we know is grieving. In our best efforts we may offer a meal, some encouraging words, or a small gift. But perhaps the best thing we can do for someone is to just be there.

Galatians 6:2 (NIV) says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? The answer is found in Mark 12:30-31 (ESV), “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And in John 15:12 (ASV) we read more words of Jesus, “This is my commandment that you love one another, even as I have loved you.”

Loving your neighbor, friend, sibling, or anyone else in your social circle is not always easy, and sometimes it takes a sacrifice of time to be there for them. But being with someone in their time of need speaks volumes even if we say nothing.

Our current pandemic makes it more challenging than ever to be physically with someone who is hurting, but modern technology allows face-to-face connection with iPhone, Skype, and Zoom. When a long-distance friend of mine lost her husband recently, the Holy Spirit prompted me to call her to see how she was doing. We talked for more than an hour, and she said my call was exactly what she needed that day.

Comforting a friend who is going through a difficult time—whether it’s a divorce, the loss of a loved one, a rebellious child, or something else—is not an easy thing to do. But I have learned a lesson from the friends of that mama elephant. When a friend needs me, I’ll just be there!

Lord, help me to be intentional about reaching out to a friend who is hurting. Help me to weep with those who weep so I can love others the way you love me. Amen 

This article is brought to you by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: Practically speaking, what do you do to carry someone’s burden?


Outwit the Overwhelms

by Nancy Kay Grace @NancyKayGrace

Imagine with me the sweet moments motherhood, of tucking our little ones in at night with soft moon-glow as they drift off in peaceful sleep. Reality shatters the quietness when little feet pad down the hallway. “Mommy, I need a drink!” says the bright-eyed preschooler in the doorway.

The elementary student pops out of bed. “I forgot to tell you something. I need black pants for the school program tomorrow.”

Ugh! Exhaustion and exasperation set in, erasing the sweet moments.

Later, in the middle of the night, the baby screams from intestinal discomfort. A massive blowout needs attention. After tending to the baby, it’s hard to fall back to sleep, thinking about tomorrow’s to-do list.

How do we cope with that overwhelmed feeling?

Jesus spoke words that encourage and help us remember the priorities of life, of loving and caring our family and ourselves. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

This passage helps us conquer the “overwhelms” in several ways.

  • Remember to nurture your relationship with the Lord. Even if it’s a few moments while your coffee is brewing, whisper words of praise to God for being loving and kind.  Read a devotional on your phone to use brief minutes to connect to with God when you are on the go.
  • Take care of you. Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Simple words, but hard to learn. It is nurturing, not selfish, and can improve perspective. We can get so involved caring for everyone else that we neglect healthy self-care.
  • Give yourself grace, just as God gives you grace. Learn to accept the fact that “good enough” is acceptable. Perfectionism is the enemy of grace. Do what you can and learn to be satisfied with it.

By focusing on doing our best for the Lord—pleasing Him and not others—we avoid heaping on extra mommy-guilt.

Psalm 90:12 (NIV) also helps us outwit “the overwhelms”: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

  • Prioritize tasks instead of doing massive multi-tasking. When I have much to do and little time to accomplish it, I try to do too many things at once. I can get overwhelmed with many half-finished tasks that it becomes hard to complete any of them. Prioritize what needs to be done first, and complete it. Then move on to do the next thing.
  • When the “overwhelms” gang up on you, look to the Lord for wisdom. Life is unedited. Unanticipated situations will occur. When we are stressed out, inhale deep breaths, and remember that inner strength comes from the Lord.

At the end of the day, reflect on Psalm 61:2-3 before drifting off to sleep. From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety. Psalm 61:2 (NLT)

Outwit the Overwhelms – encouragement when life is tough from @NancyKayGrace on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace enjoys the outdoors and zip lining. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives. She has contributed to several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, The Upper Room devotional, as well as online and print magazine articles. Nancy loves sharing stories of God’s faithfulness and grace. Please visit http://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for the monthly GraceNotes devotional newsletter.

Join the conversation: What overwhelms you?

Off the Shelf and By the Book

by Rhonda Rhea

My favorite part of dusting the bookshelves in my office is the part where I never really do it. At all. And actually, it’s my personal belief that if there’s dust on a bookshelf, that means there aren’t enough books on it.

Incidentally, I’m always on the lookout for more books. And for more reasons to buy more books. Okay yes, I may have a bit of a book problem. Some may think me “shelf-ish” (I know, I can’t believe I said it either). I think I’d rather call it a dust problem, but whatever.

My favorite way to dust the bookshelves? Turn on the ceiling fan. After a few swirls of the fan I figure the dusting is done and I can sit down and read a book.

I won’t deny that I do have a lot of shelves—with a lot of books protecting all those shelves from dust. I was standing in the doorway staring into my office the other day and suddenly found myself thinking it’s a little embarrassing that though I have so many shelves and so many books, there’s not a book in there anywhere that I can pull to open up a secret passage. What an unfortunate oversight.

Neglected secret passages aside though, there are oversights along this life journey that are so much more unfortunate. I wish I could tell you that I’ve never overlooked a person. I would love to tell you I’ve never neglected giving needed attention to the people I’m called to love. But I have.

Does it ever happen to you? You see someone across the room and avoid eye contact so the person doesn’t mistakenly feel welcomed into a conversation. Or you’re at the grocery store and quickly jerk your cart onto an aisle you don’t need to visit, all to dodge getting trapped into a dialogue with that guy from down the street.

I so regularly need to dust off my compassion and grace and to become intentional in the way I love. Active love doesn’t avoid. As a matter of fact, it purposefully searches out opportunities to love—even to love the unlovely. To love the annoying. The foolish. The depressing. The smelly. The inconvenient people. An active love, dusted off and in use, is a love that goes yet beyond that. A God kind of love runs to meet those people.

It’s no secret that we can love like that as we allow the God of love to do it in us. “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” (1 John 4:7-8, HCSB).

To love unselfishly is to allow the God who is love to work in us. Anytime we’re not loving others, we’re testifying to the world that the Gospel hasn’t changed us on the inside as we claim. It’s like shelving our Gospel effectiveness.

Our love for others is our testimony. We’re the book others read, as it were. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35, HCSB).

O Lord, may we be quick to love the unloveliest. As you work your love in and through our lives, may we ever love like You.

Here’s hoping we’re on the same page. Me? I’m mostly an open book.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.    Mark 12:30-31 HCSB

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What has helped you to maintain a loving attitude?


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