Love is Playing on the Floor – Philippians 2:5-9

Baby Charly, though safely nestled on her grandpa’s shoulder, warned me with her big round eyes that she wasn’t entirely comfortable with me patting her back.

One of my nieces was the same way. When my husband got too close her eyebrows would lower into a scowl. If he didn’t back off when she clouded up the storm clouds would erupt into a full-out deluge of tears.

We’ve both learned to take care as we work on building loving relationships. That means we humble ourselves to serve others where they are.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . .” (Philippians 2:5-9 NIV).

One of the difficulties with integrating a new foster child into our family was that usually their trust in adults had been broken. No matter how friendly and safe I appeared, someone like me had hurt them. A parent they loved wasn’t with them any more.

The best way I knew to help them feel welcome was to invite them to play. I’d get down on their level, making no demands. One time that meant offering the curly-haired six-year-old the tall stool while we made homemade play-doh. Another time it was crawling on the floor to push toy cars with a toddler.

One little boy, age five, felt more at home after I’d asked him to lay on an old sheet so I could outline his body on it. His sad expression changed as we added eyes, hair, and a super-hero logo his twin needed to look just like him.  We hung his sheet next to his foster sister’s, showing him he had a place with us. This communicated with him that I respected who he was and he could trust me to some degree, and in time I was able to help him process his grief at being separated from his mother.

We are told to have the same mindset as Jesus, to humble ourselves in our relationships and to serve others like he did. And like I often hear repeated in my brain, “the rewards are worth it.”

I know some day Charly and I will be friends. We just need to spend a little more time on the floor.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

What if I’m Too Old?- Isaiah 46:3-11

Nurse Doris lost her patience with me as I counted the pills and placed them in tiny plastic bags. We were working in a bush clinic made of straw bales and thatch, and though I wanted to be helpful I struggled to understand her unfamiliar pronunciations of the medications we dispensed.

I was especially intimidated when I asked her for the bathroom facilities.

Doris huffed, cinched the chitenge skirt tighter around her hips, and sent me to the thatched hut at the edge of the village.

What if . . .

I walked around the circular latrine to check it out and found it was merely a hole in the ground with an open doorway facing away from the village. While I figured out how to manage I worried that my days of serving in missions might be numbered.

“What will I do if I’m unable to squat in my old age?” My physical limitations could keep me home. I was in my forties at the time but wondered how I could be useful if I eventually lost the ability to count pills, or hold sick babies, or bounce along bumpy African roads without crying out in pain.

How can I serve if I’m disabled?

There can be benefits reaped from experiencing disability. One is that our weakness can give someone an opportunity to practice compassion and service. My elderly father was in the hospital recently, and he received encouragement from a young believer as she cared for him. He was able to give her a boost in return, saying “God bless you for being so kind to an old man.”

Another is that we can strengthen others in their faith. I followed the life and writings of Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of the Nazi death camps during WWII, and learned a lot about faithfulness in serving God no matter a person’s limitations. One of her stories was of a woman in Soviet Russia, bent and twisted from multiple sclerosis, who could barely lift her head. She could, however, move one finger well enough to type and translate the Bible and Christian books. The authorities left her alone because she didn’t seem to pose a threat, yet the pages she produced were passed far and wide.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”

“. . . remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'” (Isaiah 46:3-4 and 9-11 ESV).

What I fear most

My physical condition and personal needs don’t hinder God in accomplishing his will, so why should I worry? He has cared for me since I was conceived. My needs will never be too much for him. He has never disappointed me. He will never abandon me.

But will he help me pluck out the dark hairs on my chin when I can’t see them any more? It’s a huge thing to worry about, right ? The truth is that what I fear the most is not being able to read the scriptures. Will his life-giving words be there for me when I am old?

Maybe he will send someone like the young believer that served my dad in the hospital. Whatever comes I can humble myself, quiet my soul, and trust him.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25 NIV).

Thankfully, for now I have the ability to move more than one finger to serve others. I should go visit Nurse Doris and ask if she needs anything plucked.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

When I was the Stranger to Avoid

Why should she be suspicious of me? Can’t she tell by looking that I’m a good person and only want to help? And who pinned a BEWARE OF THE STRANGER sign on my shirt?

How quickly I forgot that earning trust is work.

As I searched for mushrooms in a crowded produce department last year, I maneuvered my cart around a young mother and her brood. A little girl hung on to the outside of the cart, asking for strawberries, and a wide-eyed infant squirmed in his sling. The woman had to be overwhelmed.

A minute later I heard their cart hit the cement floor, scattering their groceries. Mom calmed her terrified daughter and reached to get their belongings out of the way of other shoppers.

How well I remember shopping with multiple children in tow, taking care to keep them safe from sharp objects and questionable people.

Parking my cart out of the shopping lane, I picked up some bags of produce and cans and set them back in her cart. When I found a cell phone, I handed it to Mom thinking she’d be grateful I’d rescued it. Instead, she scrutinized me as though I might grab it and run.

I’m sure to her I looked like a meddling nuisance, a stranger who shouldn’t be trusted. I’d thought the same things of people who seemed overly friendly to my children.

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18 ESV).

Now I knew that she didn’t need me for a best friend at that moment. Instead, the best way to love my neighbor that day was to back off. Spotting a loose dime on the floor, I bent down to pick it up, knowing I was still being watched. I handed it to the little girl. “Here, why don’t you hold this for your mommy?”

And I slipped quietly away.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis