Friday, September 4, 2015

A Heart for Compassion

There were eight of us at the table that day, but we were all holding separate conversations.

Even though Ruth couldn’t speak, her body language kept us redirecting the dialog back to her. 

We had gathered that day to meet up with a friend who had visited my husband the day after his heart surgery. He had traveled from Florida to visit his sisters Elizabeth and Ruth, but planned a visit to us when he heard what had happened to my husband. 

This time it would be under better circumstances as we met at a restaurant to share memories of the past before Andy left for Mississippi. 

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Read the Q & A or other sections. 

Spilling the Beans 

When we arrived at the restaurant Ruth and her husband were waiting in their vehicle.  A few minutes later Larry and Elizabeth pulled up and parked beside our car. Andy and Loni (Liz’s best friend) still hadn’t arrived. 

My husband and I prayed over our visit before we left home so that it would be a good one and that we would be a blessing to our friends.  Remembering our last visit to that particular restaurant it turned out to be a rather wet one, with Liz spilling a glass of ice water on me.  I was soaked from my chest to my shoes. 

When our friends pulled up they saw me standing in the parking lot with a plastic bag draped over my shoulders.  They started laughing then I reminded Liz I was ready just in case she felt like dumping another glass of water on me. 

My husband and I were making our way to the front door of the restaurant when I stopped after getting a little dizzy. Stepping onto the sidewalk Liz walked up to me and asked, "What’s the matter?”  I was leaning against the red brick wall of the restaurant feeling a little nauseous from the fumes of the vehicle that was traveling in front of us.  

Taking a few deep breaths to compose myself, I redirected the question after noticing she stopped being her joyful self. My friend informed me that besides dealing with health issues, she was experiencing feelings of anger over a situation she didn’t understand. 

My husband had already gone in ahead of us to procure the seating (doesn't that sound lame?) for the gang.  I hung back and continued the conversation with my friend.   

There was a lot going on in her life, between heath, family and church Liz had about all she could handle.  She was exhausted trying to keep up with it all and still maintain her faith. 

After she explained what was going on I assured her that I understood where she was coming from in her thinking.  Then I asked if she saw it through the eyes of the other individual.  Walking her through what the person may be experiencing, Liz admitted she never looked at it that way.  Trying to get her to be compassionate was difficult at first. 

Guilt or Conviction 

We were enjoying our conversation; I brought along photos of my sister’s wedding to share, and things seemed to be light hearted.  It was rather a dumb idea come to think of it, because I had to pass the photos around the table or hold them up in front of someone’s plate.  

After all the photographs were returned to me, Liz said she was tempted to “lift” one of them, but her convictions made her put it back in the stack of pics. 

It was quite comical to me, because I had already thought to set that particular photo aside for her the previous night.    

Handing Liz the photo she was about to snag for herself, I told her she could keep that one. Liz snickered, “It’s because you knew I was going to keep it right?”  Starting to laugh I remarked, “No … the Lord already told me to give it to you.  It was your guilt that made you put it back.”  With joy she pressed the gift against her chest like a little kid who just won a prize. 

A Time for Building 

While we were having a fine time teasing one another my eyes drifted over to Ruth who was seated directly across from me.  You remember her don’t you?  She was the one hospice said only had eight days to live … that was back in May. (I shared it in the post Trading My Sorrows.) 

It was if all humor was drained out of my surroundings and "real time" life plastered itself in front of me like a heavy weight.  The passage from Ecclesiastes three comes to my thoughts.
“(everything has it’s time) To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up … 
Yes, it became clear that this was a time for building up.
Ruth’s husband was seated on her left and her younger brother Andy on the right.  For most of the meal Ruth had her eyes closed, except for when her husband was feeding her.  Every once in a while she opened her eyes and looked at me.
Garry was leaning over with his arm around his wife Ruth as if he was protecting her from the world. Her head was tilted ever so slightly resting on his bold shoulder.  I watched how his fingers softly massaged the side of her head as he gently touched his face to hers. What was going through his mind at that moment?  Tears started to well up as I watched without him realizing it. 

At the same table couples were engaging in stories being shared and meals being enjoyed … but Garry’s world was taking place right there in his arms. 

Revealing Light in Darkness 

What must it be like for a person to care so tenderly for a spouse that isn’t responsive and isn’t aware of their surroundings?  My heart grew weary watching how my friend dealt with everything so compassionately. 

We had spent several hours together and it was time for us to go our separate ways.  Hugging Liz she whispered in my ear how grateful she was that I shared something with her that didn’t cross her mind.   

Liz still wasn’t sure how to muster up the feelings of compassion she needed, but I reminded her that she didn’t have to do it alone.  If she called on the Lord, the Holy Spirit would be the one who helped her see things in a different light. 

“Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious,
and full of compassion, and righteous.” (Psalm 112:4 NKJV)

Everyone had left the table, except for me (I wonder if that’s a sign of something? Hmmm.)  Still in my seat, I watched Andy embrace his sister Ruth.

I saw the look on his face; it was if he didn’t know whether or not this would be the last time he held his sister and he didn’t want to let her go.   

When Andy began to straighten up releasing himself from Ruth, she pulled him back in and wrapped her arms around him.  I don’t care what people say, she knew that was her little brother, at least for that moment.  

Every day Garry cares for his wife from the moment she wakes to the time he puts her to bed.  Even though it is difficult, he takes Ruth with him almost every time he leaves the house.   

I have to share with you that Garry isn’t well and is under doctor’s care also. I may add that he is 75 years old and transports Ruth all by himself with no assistance.  

A Heart of Compassion 

On our way home my husband shared something with me that Garry told him while we were eating. He was sitting right next to me and I didn’t hear a word of his conversation the entire time.  That should give you an idea of how much was going on at the table. 

Garry explained how they (he and Ruth) were at a diner the day before and while they were eating a stranger come up to him.  He said that he paid for his dinner and handed him a $20 gift card to the restaurant.  “I feel led to do this and know it must be difficult caring for your wife the way you do.” 

It was God showing favor on a husband that still took his responsibilities seriously, even though his wife couldn’t show her gratitude.  His compassion was an open testimony of the love of God.  

The Lord rewarded Garry for being faithful through difficult times by having that stranger recognize his actions publically.  Paying for dinner and giving a gift card was great, but what Garry needed more was compassion to help him keep going knowing his days with his wife may be coming to an end. 

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Heavenly Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:3-4 NKJV) 

Sometimes we’re too close to a situation to see all the details.  Liz was going through some spiritual problems, Ruth physical problems and Garry emotional ones.  They are all in the same family, yet each are experiencing things that the other cannot help them with at this time.    

We may not understand why people do things the way they do, and may even get upset thinking we would go about doing things differently.  When we start to question the actions of others, that’s when we need to step back and ask the Lord to show us what He sees. 
"For the LORD will judge His people, and He will have compassion on His servants." (Psalm 135:14 NKJV)

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. (Lamentations 3:22) 

Missing Compassion 

This article was posted later than usual due situations out of my control.  Not being able to have circumstances managed often challenges our faith to believe God will work things out for His and our good.
First the electric was out until late in the evening when it was too late for me to work.  There was a terrible accident of a tractor trailer that took out a slew of electric/telephone poles and lines.  I was getting rather upset that I couldn’t work online … that is until my husband came home. 

Like a whirlwind he came in with the details of his afternoon to the event of the accident.  Roads were blocked off and the collision site was in upheaval. He shared how the workers must be so exhausted working late these past few days trying to get electric and lines restored as quickly as possible.   

I felt somewhat compassionate for the situation, but still was focused on myself and how things would look to my readers.  Then l realized I had brushed off my husband and the situation as if my work was more important than “people.”   

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother (or sister). (Zechariah 7:9) 

Jesus said, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:33)
I’m trained to see both sides of a situation in my career, but that doesn’t always play out in my own life.  Maybe you are one of those individuals who have insight when it comes to seeing other people’s problems, but is it difficult for you to notice the lack of compassion when it comes to your own behavior? 

I spent the rest of the evening working on my own failure to serve the Lord with the gift of compassion He so generously bestows on me every single day.  How could I be an encouragement to others if I wasn’t walking out what I believed? 
It was time to find what I was missing in the way of showing compassion on those around me and it began in prayer.

“Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me.  

Teach me Your way (of compassion), O LORD; I will walk in Your truth;  unite my heart to fear Your name.  I will praise You, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore. 

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” (from Psalm 86:6-14 NKJV emphasis mine) 

This Week’s Challenge:
A Heart for Compassion 

Maybe you’re going through some really difficult times dealing with family, work, friends and even church problems.  I’d like to leave with you an instruction from the book of Peter, which is also this week’s believing what we believe challenge. 

We are called to be a blessing – “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers (sisters), be tenderhearted, be courteous.” (1 Peter 3:8 NKJV) 

Take the time to be more compassionate with others, even when you can’t see a reason for showing this kindness.  Ask God to help you see the situation through the eyes of the other individual(s), so you can bring compassion into the issue instead of adding to the problem.
Believe that the Lord will soften your heart of stone and give you a new heart that is full of compassion.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
 I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a
 heart of flesh (to see how I see).” (Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV)
Please take a few minutes to listen to the song.
Lord, may it give us a heart for compassion. 


Until next time, God shows favor on the compassionate! 

“Show mercy and compassion as I have shown you.”
Jesus Christ

Note: The words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives.
Disclaimer: Article information is not meant to be used as treatment for mental or physical issues, but geared toward spiritual awareness. 

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Image:  Restaurant  Photographs  1 Thessalonians 5:11  Compassion
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