Keep Looking Up…The Importance of the Altitude of our Attitude 

One of the reasons I love to hike to the top of the mountains is that it gives me such a different perspective on things. It is there, I see that my problems in the valley actually shrink before my eyes and I get a bigger view of the grand scheme of things. Changing my altitude helps change my attitude. Our attitude is so crucial in how we deal with issues and problems in life.
“Look around you and become distressed, Look inside you and become depressed, Look to Jesus…and all is at rest.”- Corrie Ten Boom
” Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill
” Attitude determines our actions for good or bad.” – D.L. Moody
” The one thing you can’t take from me, is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedom is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance. – Victor Frankl
    We can’t control all of our circumstances, but there is one thing we can control, and that is our attitude. It isn’t always easy to do, but it is something we can work on and through God’s grace and strength and make a positive impact on our lives and others around us. The Bible offers us some clear and helpful guidance with our attitude:

     1. An attitude of humility. Jesus is our ultimate example : “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: Let Him be yout example in humility” – Philippians 2:5 ( Amplified Bible). True humility is not a sign of weakness but of strength under control. It reflects the the truth that God is in control and I don’t have to have every thing “my way” all the time. Because He is my Lord, I simply want things “His way” regardless of the circumstances. I can trust Him even when I don’t understand what is going on around me, knowing that He loves me, regardless of the situation.

    2. An attitude of gratitude . When we look at things from the right perspective, it changes everything.

 If you focus on all the things ( Big and small) that you are thankful for; it will keep your thoughts flowing in the right direction. Make a mental list of things you are thankful for through out the day and you will see for yourself what a difference it will make in your attitude. 

” Be cheerful no matter what, pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you, who belong to Christ Jesus to live” – I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (The Message).

    3. An attitude of quiet confidence and trust in God. Your actions and attitudes often speak louder than your words. Your attitude is also a testimony of your faith in God. Proverbs gives good advice in developing that type of positive attitude: ” Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He is the One who will keep you on track.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 ( The Message).

     May God grant you and me the ability today…to keep looking up and have an attitude that reflects God’s grace and love…

He came to be our Savior and Bear our Burdens 

The word “bear” is mentioned almost three hundred times in the Bible. The word “bear” has several different meanings such as to “carry” something, or a tree “bearing” or producing fruit, and of course, the animal. My nickname is Jerry Bear, a name given to me by the kids when I was a church youth worker years ago. Some say I kinda look and act like a bear. I am often asked how do I handle “bearing” the burdens of so many hurting people in my work? The answer is I don’t…in my own strength. I exchange my weakness for His strength by simply trusting Him by faith. This is one the greatest truths that I have ever learned as a Christian…that God’s grace not only saves us but sustains us as He daily “bears” our burdens.

From time to time, we can experience stressful situations that overload our minds and hearts with fear and doubt. That is why I trust in the Lord more than just my feelings. He can handle my burdens, worries, anxieties much better than me just trying to “bear” them all by myself. I am so thankful that Jesus came that very first Christmas to be our Savior and Lord to also “bear” our problems every day. That is probably why my favorite Bible verse is “Praise to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” – Psalm 68:19 

Worrying about….Tomorrow 

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of it’s sorrow… It empties toady of it’s strength.” -Corrie Ten Boom

“Put your trust in the Lord and go ahead…worry doesn’t get you no place.’ – Roy Acuff

Here are some things I have found helpful when dealing with worrying about the future:

1. Do what you can today. Max Lucado, one of my favorite writers, puts it this way: “Since I know God’s provision is timely, I can enjoy the present. The Key is this: Meet today’s problems with today’s strength. Don’t start tackling tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow. You do not have tomorrow’s strength yet. You simply have enough for today.” Although there maybe concerns about tommorrow, do not let it keep you from what needs to be done today. Have you ever dreaded something in advance and then when you actually got to the actual day it wasn’t as bad as you thought or you were amazed that you had the strength to deal with it then? God will not give you grace today for something you will not need today. “His grace IS ( present tense) sufficient ” which means His Grace will be there for you when you need it the most. The Amplified Bible translates this verse this way: ” My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [ sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect ( fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness . -2 Corintians 12:9.
2. If you are having difficulty thinking obessively about something, make a list and write down your thoughts . This is like ” downloading the information” so you can concentrate on other things now and still remember your important information about the situation later when you need it. This also helps break the depressing cycle of rewinding it over and over again in your mind. Jesus gives you and me good advice when He said: ” Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6: 34 (The Message).
3. Remind yourself how God has been with you in the past, that He is with you now and will be with you in the future. Hebrews 13:8 states that: ” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is always there if you will just reach out and trust Him by faith inspite of your anxieties and fears. The issues, decisions, or situation you are facing may be bigger than what you can handle on your own but they are not larger than God ‘s strength and power through His Grace for you…one day at a time…

After the Fire and Smoke is gone…We Will Still Be Smoky Mountain Strong!

After the Fire and Smoke is Gone…We Will Still Be Smoky Mountain Strong. On Monday evening November 28 in a matter of minutes, a wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread into the city Gatlinburg and nearby communities of Sevier County. Extreme dry conditions (we have had very little rain the past several months) coupled with a cold front approaching with the promise of rain was preceded by extreme windy conditions of dry winds with gusts up to 80 mph and created a spontaneous fire storm. We could see the fire and smoke from our home. Twice that night, we had locked doors blown open with wind gusts. At the same time, I was on the phone with stranded church members trying to make sure they got out safely and arranging them for places to stay. Finally a little rain came into help a little. There were over 17,000 acres burned with over 10,000 of those acres in the National Park. Approximately 1,000 buildings and structures including several churches were damaged or destroyed. Amazingly, The main downtown business and tourist area of Gatlinburg remains mostly intact.  Within a few hours shelters were set up in Gatlinburg, and nearby Pigeon Forge, and in Sevierville where I live. At our church, we were a shelter for the first night and now we are continuing preparing meals for the relief workers and the national guard.

At our local hospital where I serve as a volunteer chaplain, we treated over 80 people from the fire, others were transported to other hospitals as well. Most of those have been released. Unfortunately, there were some fatalities. 

Other churches and organizations are mobilized and helping too in so may ways .Our local government officials , emergency personnel along with outside agencies and organizations have done an incredible job in help managing this crisis and helping our people. 

The magnitude of of all of this.. is overwhelming but something that myself and other local residents have observed is even more amazing. Beneath the numbers, headlines and heartbreak is the outpouring of love and support of our local people. Many of them, shocked and experiencing personal loss themselves showing love of concern for others. A single parent with two children who lost her home and job in the fire, the very next day helps her friend by bringing her to our hospital for a scheduled outpatient surgery. Another family, who also lost their home in the fire were at a local store buying boxes of bottled water to to take to the firefighters still fighting the fire. In our community, we are continuing to hear so many of these personal stories of acts of kindness that are too numerous to count. We are known for our beautiful mountains here; but our greatest resource to survive and eventually thrive in spite something like this…is our people. For generations, our mountain people have learned to deal with hardship while at the same time helping others and loving their neighbors as themselves. It is just as powerful today as it was in the past. I am so proud and humbled to live in a community of such wonderful people.

The long process of healing and recovery has begun. Dollywood, businesses in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are open. They project that downtown Gatlinburg will be open to the public in a few days.

In between hospital vists today, I called a friend to check on him. He and his wife are okay. At the time I called him, he and his wife were seeing the damage to their home for the first time since the fire. Their home is was destroyed as well as a lot of their business property. He told me that their faith was strong and talked about that they will get through this because that what mountain people do.

That is why with The Good Lord’s grace, mercy, and love and support of each other…even after the fire and smoke is gone…We will Still Be Smoky Mountain Strong!