Fellow Passengers: Today’s Promise Passage* (I Kings 17:8-16) transports me back to Oakley School Road where I spent many nights as a child with my grandparents, Edith and Jesse Dotson. The early morning hours were filled with sounds of pots and pans banging together, sausage and bacon sizzling. This signaled that breakfast was soon to be served and was a much better sounding alarm clock than any alarm I’ve woken to since. In fact, I wonder if there is an app for that.? The best part of that breakfast was the biscuits. No one has duplicated them since. Grandma had just the right blend of White Lilly Flour, buttermilk and Crisco. She must have had just the right hands to knead the dough with as well. Those biscuits came out gold brown, smooth and fluffy. She would make a whole pan of them and they would sit on the stove to be nibbled on all day. On snowy days the leftovers were crumbled to feed the birds.
The widow in today’s story though has no thoughts of leftovers to feed the birds. She worries that she is about to prepare the last meal she and her son will ever eat. There is a famine in the land. Elijah appears on the scene coming out of a ravine where Ravens have been feeding him and he has been receiving water out of a brook. The water dried up and God revealed his next assignment. “Go to a city in Sidon, there I have instructed a widow to feed you.” Obediently he went and found himself at the town gate watching a woman gathering sticks. He asks her for a drink of water and she goes to get it. God had already instructed her to feed Elijah. Elijah asks for Bread and she explains to him she only has a handful of flour and a little bit of oil. She was gathering sticks to go home and prepare bread for she and her son to eat a final meal before they die. She had a handful of flour. A handful might be a cup, if it’s a big hand. A cup of flour and a little bit of oil might yield 2-3 2 inch size biscuits. That was the last of what she had. Yet, Elijah asks her to share with him and promises her that the flour jar will not empty nor the jug of oil until there is rain. The woman did as she was asked. Sure enough, there was plenty of flour and oil to feed Elijah, the widow and her son everyday until the famine in the land ended.
I feel somewhat akin to this widow right now as I sit unemployed for the first time in 17 years. I only pray that I can be as faithful as she or the woman who gave her last coins. What faith and trust she displayed. How do we intersect with this story today. These are tough economic times. The unemployment rate is higher than it has ever been. Gas prices are soaring, food prices make us wonder if our cabinets will one day be bare. Yet we are called to be faithful with what we have no matter how big or how little. Interestingly enough as bad as our economy is, the poorest of us in America are richer than most of the population in the world. Don’t believe me? Go to www.globalrichlist.com and enter your yearly income and see. Prior to losing my job I was in the top one percent of the richest people of the world’s population. After losing my job I remain in the top 12 percent of the world’s wealthiest people. God calls us to be faithful to him in all times. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world. We are to meet people’s needs even when we don’t believe we have the means to do so. We must have faith that the God who provided the widow with an endless supply of flour and oil is the same God that provides for our daily needs. Like Elijah we need to be careful to listen for those whispers. Some tell us to go hide, take time out and wait. Some tell us when it’s time to move forward and go to our next assignment. Sometimes, like Elijah we don’t know much about the assignment. It is revealed to us over time. Yet, we must remain faithful to those whispers. As my brother reminded me this week through the words of a Jack Johnson song: If you would just listen you might just know what you are missing. Come to the well, Drink deeply of all that God provides. Keep your eyes and ears open for you never know from whom God’s love and grace will come. It might just be a poor desolate widow.
Kelly Dotson is the Founder of My Father’s Eyes Ministries, providing outreach to those who have felt orphaned or abandoned by the church. She is also a member of Longs Chapel United Methodist Church.