Dear Lord, Lord that is merciful, kind, and loving, we come to you today to ask for healing for our nation and for the world. In a time where divisiveness has taken root in every corner of our country, we ask for unity and peace between all persons. We come to you knowing that you know our thoughts before we do, we ask that you make our thoughts pure and intentional. We ask for your healing comfort to all those in distress of body, mind, or spirit. Extend your holy power and guidance to every person on the earth and protect those who have been affected by this disease. Remind us that you have given us your peace, not as the world gives, but your peace you give to us and allow us to share that peace with others. Let us care for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in whatever way we are needed. Let our hearts not be troubled and give us the strength to not be afraid. We know that you are with us always and will provide care and security to all. Bless us, bless those who lead, bless those who serve, bless those in distress, bless those who doubt, bless those who live in poverty, and bless all live closely linked to ours. Let us be ever mindful for the needs, feelings and concerns of others. In your holy name we pray, Amen. (Tim Callahan, Director of Youth Formation, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Birmingham, Alabama)
Matthew 14: 13-21; Mark 6: 30-44; Luke 9: 10-17; John 6: 1-15
Bible Verses for the Day (contributed by Mindy Rock):
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” 2 Kings 20:5.
Right after Christmas last year, one of my high school best friends planned to come visit from another state and I’d offered up our guest room. Another of our high school best friends was in town from another state as well, and we planned to have gather with more friends and have dinners and fun evenings catching up and remembering the good times we’d had as friends over the years (many of us since middle school actually). But before my friend could come for a visit, I had to clean out our guest room, which doubled as my sewing room, which tripled as the room where I just threw all the junk that I didn’t feel like organizing.
I began to thoroughly streamline my sewing supplies so that we could find the bed on which my friend would sleep. Are you a seamstress or do you know one? If you are or you do, then you also know that we are hoarders. I will go to the fabric store and buy more fabric than I could ever use. Most of it I acquire because it’s cute and on sale and I’m sure I’ll need it in the future. Oh, you have a forty percent off coupon? That’s a perfect discount for this cats-wearing-funny-hats fabric that I’m sure I’ll use one day.
By the time I was finished, I had packed up four large bins of fabric and called my father-in-law to take it to his church, where they have a sewing mission. I packed up garbage bag after garbage bag of fabric scraps and cleaned out two dressers of thread, zippers, elastic, buttons, and random other notions. I even donated two machines. I was left with a few cuts of about two yards each that could be folded into one dresser drawer. All of my sewing supplies fit neatly into one dresser. The best part is that the room now looked respectable enough to host a guest AND we could see the bed.
My friend came to visit and we had a great time. As you know, all was well until the Coronavirus. Fast forward to March and we were all glued to the television watching the wrath of this novel virus unfold. I began to see news about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically masks. I read countless posts from nurses and front line workers begging for masks. I fielded questions at work about where to find PPE. There was absolutely nothing on the market. At this time, no one was shipping, especially not from overseas, and all the local stores, whether they were chains or small businesses were closed.
One day I just pulled out my measly supply of fabric and found what little elastic I had left and I started sewing. I was fueled by memories of my Granny Kaye (who also lived in Rogersville, and fun fact, was one of my Grandmother Mildred’s best lifelong friends). Granny Kaye was a master seamstress. In her hometown of Tokyo, she was highly educated in the arts. When she moved to Alabama she began working in the sewing factories. She had a nice office where she made the samples the factory would send to big cities like New York and Los Angeles, so that companies could buy the product that was mass produced on the factory floor. Over the years, I had heard many stories from different women who told of a time when my Granny helped them. But the most intriguing stories were of the days on which these women had to come to work sick, left with no other choice to earn wages to support their family. My Granny would recognize when someone was hurting and she offered up her office as a place in which they could find refuge. She then worked their shift on their machine on the floor so they could rest. My entire life, I witnessed my Granny serve her community through sewing. From emergency wedding and prom dress alterations, to entire wardrobes for children whose family couldn’t afford new clothes for school. Most of the time, she worked for free, simply helping others because it was the kind thing to do.
Inspired by Granny Kaye, I got to work. I made it a family affair. Blake and the kids helped and we scrapped out a few dozen masks. I divided some up for our family and posted the rest on social media, free for anyone who needed them. They were gone in an instant and people asked for more. I was honest with them that I had no more supplies. Then I cut the lights in the sewing room and went to bed.
The next morning I went outside to water my plants and there was a box of fabric and elastic sitting on my porch. I still to this day have no idea who made that first contribution. I doused it in disinfectant, brought it inside, and turned my sewing machine back on. I kept sewing and kept saying yes. Fabric, elastic, and even cash kept showing up my porch. Most of the time, I knew who dropped it off, but may times it was an anonymous random act of kindness. When I would sew through the fabric I had received, I would tell Blake, “I’ve got enough for two more masks and that’s it.” Just when I thought I would stop sewing, more fabric and elastic and cash for supplies would show up. People even started donating shirts and clothing for me to cut up and sew. I can’t tell you how many times I would tell Blake, “I think I’ll be done tomorrow,” and the next day more supplies would be there. The supplies were almost as plentiful as the requests.
One of the most common questions I received when sewing masks was how much would a mask cost or could someone pay me? The answer to that question was always the same: No, the masks are free. To honor my Granny’s memory, I had made the decision in the beginning to sew for free, and that I would always say yes. Even when I was out of fabric and tired and ready to quit, if someone asked, I still said yes. Supplies would show up. What I thought was impossible, my community made possible. God made possible.
In the end, we sewed over 1,500 free masks for our community. We sewed up until the weekend that COVID first touched our family. When I think back about the masks, it reminds me of the loaves and fishes story in the Bible. I want be very clear, here: In no way am I comparing fabric and elastic to loaves and fishes, and I’m especially not trying to imply that I had any part in something miraculous. What I AM telling you, however, is that this parable reminds me of the way that my community showed up and showed out with their generous acts of kindness and love that enabled thousands of people to have the PPE they needed to keep them safe on the front lines or to ease their worries at the grocery store or doctor’s office.
You probably already know the story of the loaves and fishes. Jesus is teaching to a crowd of five thousand. It’s getting late and close to dinner time. The disciples tell him to send the people home because the people are hungry for food, but Jesus recognizes they are hungry for knowledge and love. He tells them to find food and they find five loaves and two fishes. They tell him it’s not enough, but he insists they feed the crowd anyway. Guess what happened? It was enough. It was so much more than enough that the apostles collected twelve baskets of crumbs when all the people had finished eating. All the people. Not just a few people, but ALL the people. All bellies full. And there were still crumbs left over.
This parable is very simple and straightforward, yet there is so much to digest (no pun intended). One of the easiest lessons we can learn is that God will provide. When Jesus was presented with the five loaves and two fishes, it was obviously insufficient to feed the crowd. But through him, he made it sufficient. He filled everyone’s bellies that day. What the disciples thought was impossible, he made possible. We can’t limit ourselves or our situation by our human assumptions. We have to trust that God will provide. Another lesson can be found in why Jesus bothered feeding the five thousand at all. The simple answer is because he does not ignore needs. The crowd was tired and weary. He saw their physical need and he met it. He also met their spiritual needs that day. Jesus is sufficient.
If you are suffering right now, I want you to remember the parable of the loaves and fishes. You may feel like you don’t have enough. I can tell you that when I was sick and in bed with this mess, I felt depleted in ways I’ve never felt before. My needs were great. You may need a nurse or a doctor to meet your physical needs, but don’t count out God’s ability to meet your spiritual needs. He IS the Great Physician, after all.
Even in recovery, my needs are great. My head hurts when I see discord and divide in the news; my fear grows with every article I read on the long term effects of the virus; my heart breaks when I see a friend on our bike ride and she looks away instead of returning our wave. Isolation has been beyond difficult and often times my tank feels empty. But Jesus is enough. He is sufficient. I know that if I meet him in prayer, he is going to meet my spiritual needs.
Tips from a weary mama:
The needs are great when you are dealing with COVID, whether you are the patient or the caregiver. The grocery list (soup, Gatorade, crackers), the big box store list (paper plates, disposable toothbrushes, laundry detergent, paper towels), and the to-do list (clean, sanitize, repeat) are all overwhelming. There doesn’t seem to be enough of you to go around. And if you’re out of work due to COVID, there may not be enough money to go around to help you care for yourself. You need help. If you’re like me, it’s difficult to accept help. I can very easily offer help and I’m quick to do just that. But when it comes to accepting help, I don’t often say yes. When my son was diagnosed, our church asked if they could bring meals. My first instinct was to decline. We had everything we needed. But I said yes anyway. Those meals turned out to be an incredible blessing when I later became sick and my husband was struggling to care for all of us. Take the help when you are down. Sometimes being part of an amazing community means accepting the help of those who care and who want to help.
Recount a time when you didn’t have enough and were worried. What happened? Were your needs eventually met? How did you pray while you were going through that hard time? How did you pray when you overcame that hard time? What are your needs during isolation? Are there any needs that are being unmet? How can God ease your fears and anxiety over your situation?
Dear Heavenly Father, To the One who give us light and dark, to the One who loves us unconditionally, to the One who wants me to come to Him in all things, to the One who wants to see me succeed, and to the One who is there for me when I fail and fall short of His glory. What did I do to deserve such grace and love? I did nothing. Nothing! I am here on this earth because you chose to show favor upon me. To have my paths cross with those You want me to show love to and to be loved by others. You want me to worship with my loved ones and sing your thanksgivings in all aspects of my life. To come to Your cross and lay my burdens and fears down at Your feet because You can handle the weight I carry around much better than me. You are my Father, my Physician, my lifeline to eternity. In this life it is like riding a bike. I can remember riding with my training wheels and feeling no fear because I knew I was safe and steady. Like when I walk in Your path and in Your word I have that comfort with me. I can not fail because You are with me. Then the wheels came off and I was unsure. Unsteady. That is me out of the word. Trying to do it on my own. But as usual You gently remind me that You are there. You will guide the wheel of life if I will just trust You. So I pedal with each foot pushing myself further into this world to be the best I can for You. To show the love You would show, to be the light in a dark room, to be the only Jesus some people see in a day. Like riding a bike I will fall and fail. I remember sliding in gravel on my bike as a kid and coming home bloody and beat up. We come through life like that a little. But My God is always there to clean me up and heal me back to health. Thank you God for loving me. For the unconditional love You give me daily, even when I do not deserve it. I pray that I can be more like you today than I was yesterday. I pray for my brothers and sisters who need to be lifted up in prayer. May we make you proud everyday as we ride our bikes of life. (Myranda Barrett, Florence, Alabama)
My older sister wrote the incredible closing prayer. She said even before I started 17 Bike Rides, she had been comparing the journey through COVID to a bike ride. I’m really lucky she’s my sister. The Bible readings were contributed by my friend for whom I cleaned out my guest room/sewing room for her visit. She contributed to our free mask project from several states away. There’s no coincidence that her last name is Rock because she’s been a rock of a friend to me for decades and I’m beyond grateful.