Thursday, July 21, 2016
Since it's summertime here in Oklahoma and many days have heat advisories issued, so I have to wait until late in the evening before we go. So I was very appreciative of a vehicle with air conditioning to run my errands.
As I was driving along, the afternoon sun was bearing down and the little air conditioner was doing all it could to keep the car cooled off. I noticed as I drove, when I would pass under shaded areas there was an immediate relief as the shade provided a shield from the weight of the overbearing heat. I remembered there was a scripture that talked about the Lord being our shade.
When I got home, I looked it up and found it in two different place. Psalm 121:5 says the Lord is your shade on your right hand. It's also found in Isaiah 25:4 which says For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.
We've all had days where it feels like life is bearing down on us and it's going to suffocate us. We can feel overcome by caregiving on some days, but quite honestly, sometimes it's the other parts of life that are the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back. Caregiving is a blessing, but other life events like marriages, births and even deaths can begin the suffocating squeeze.
I began to meditate on how the Lord provides that shade for us. Sometimes it's just enough of a break to let us breathe Him in. It can be an immediate relief emotionally and even physically. Not only does He provide us a refuge from the storm, but He is a relief from the heat.
Today I'm going to meditate on how He is my relief - from heat, storms, emotional upheaval, and anything else that winds up on my plate. I'm going to picture Him hovering over me to provide the break I need like a huge shade tree hovers over an area. I'm going to crawl up in His lap and think of it as a hammock providing a place of shelter from the storms and pressure of life; and I will once again rest in Him. Will you join me?
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
I smiled as I continued to listen to their constant, cheerful chirping; and I encouraged myself in the fact that they were not worried about at thing - nothing at all. As long as they are still singing, He must still be providing.
So this morning I looked for birds in the Bible using Biblegateway and somehow I ended up in Psalm 50. Asaph is credited as writing this psalm and in verse 7 he begins with more of a prophetic word to God's people. He starts out explaining that He accepts the sacrifices people are bringing to Him. He said, I have no complaint. But in verse 9, He says I want no more bulls from your barns; I want no more goats from your pens.
Then God explains that all the birds are His! And all the cattle are His! He said if He was hungry - He wouldn't tell us! And then the next couple of verses got me. After explaining what He didn't want - God states what He does want. Here is what He desires from us:
- true thanks
- fulfill our vows to Him
- trust Him in times of trouble
I read that two or three times; but I got stuck on verse 15 which says in the NLT Trust Me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory. To be quite honest, I'm not sure God and my definition of I will rescue you is the same, but I totally get the other part. I do know He doesn't always take us out of the trouble - but He most certainly rescues our soul. He pulls us close to Him and keeps our souls safe during trouble.
What did stick out to me was that when I trust Him in trouble and He walks with me through it, and keeps me in peace - He gets glory. Sometimes as a caregiver I've had thoughts about and wondered how in the world I could bring Him glory from here. He has gently unfolded the answer over the years. He gets glory when we stand in faith. He gets glory when the world crumbles around us and we still point to Him as our source for everything. He gets glory when we continue to stand in faith no matter what we see. When my soul (mind, will and emotions) are tucked away in Him and He rescues me from falling apart from dealing with this world's system - It glorifies Him.
Today I will be thinking about how He has sustained me through the caregiving years. My meditations will be on how He has provided for us each step of the way (It's an amazing story - really!), on how He comforts like no other, and on how His watchful eye never misses a thing on the journey. I'll think about how it glorifies Him when I continue to trust Him through the storm and furnace. And once again - I'll rest in Him...and smile. Will you join me?
Posted by Jeanie Olinger at 4:42 AM
Monday, July 18, 2016
This morning as I was reading the questions God was asking Job, I turned them around to statements of action. These are some restatements of the way God handled creation in my own words:
- He calculated and measured earth's dimensions
- He set boundaries for the waters of the earth and told them they could "go no further"
- He commanded the morning to appear
- He knows where light comes from...and where darkness goes when light appears
- He knows where the seas "come from"
- He ensures the proper sequence of the seasons
- He placed the constellations - and they are still there
- He shouts to the clouds and makes it rain
- He knows when the wild animals give birth
It is just so powerful to hear the first-hand account of creation and its continuation from the One who instigated it all! I've read this passage numerous times and it reminds me of how huge and wise God really is, and how frail I really am. Yet He beckons me to come into fellowship with Him. He measured the waters of the earth out and put them right where He wanted them - and then told them to stay put. He spoke and light burst forth from somewhere - only He knows its origin. He set the earth on its axis at just the right angle, at just the right distance from the sun to sustain life.
While I was in awe of all His mighty work and letting my imagination run wild with pictures of how glorious creation must have been, He shifts and asks Job to look at the hippopotamus. My mind is like what? It's such a funny animal. No one really wants a hippopotamus for a pet - it's not all cute-n-cuddly; it's massive and bulky. But God speaks of His creation rather fondly.
God says the hippopotamus is mighty and then He adds I made the hippopotamus just as I made you. (Job 40:15) He describes a powerful, muscular animal - that eats grass like an ox, or a cow. This massive beast doesn't tear animals limb from limb for sustenance - it eats grass. Yet nothing messes with a hippopotamus - He says Only its creator can threaten it. It lies down where it wants - it eats when and where it wants - it's not afraid of water - you can't catch it off guard and no one has tamed a hippopotamus! (Job 40:24) Sounds like one of our most ignored animal friends is well loved by the Creator.
If God can care for a hippopotamus - and knows it in such intimate detail, how much more does He care for us and know what our days look like? Psalm 139 tells us He is acquainted with all our ways. He knows exactly what the caregiver's day looks like. He knows the struggles and triumphs, the emotions and lack of them, the tiredness and energy - all the minute by minute ebbs and flows that are associated with caregiving. He knows how much we trust, or don't trust Him. He is aware of our patience - or lack thereof!
And in all this - He stands with heart and hands outstretched longing for us to come to Him and rest. I'm thinking if the hippopotamus can trust God for sustenance and care - so can I! If He knows all the actions of a hippopotamus, how much more does He know the ins and outs of our days?
Today I will think about how intimately God knows me. I'll think about how He can see right into my heart and sense my deepest emotions - and I'm okay with that and so is He. I'll think about how He does not discard me when I get frustrated. He patiently waits for me. My meditations will be on how much effort He takes to communicate to me how much He loves me, how much He cares. I'll make today a deep breath day - and I will rest in him. Will you join me?
Friday, July 15, 2016
My list included His love, His mercy, His righteousness, His provision for us, the truth, salvation, His power, the power of Christ's sacrifice, His Word and His callings. This is just a very topical list of things that simply don't ever change.
Throughout the day I meditated on these and a few others on the list I had compiled. Then I decided to look up the word forever just to see what I found. I used Bible Gateway and searched just the NASB and came up with these little nuggets:
The Lord will reign forever -Ex. 15:18
The Lord abides forever - Ps. 9:18; Ps 102:12
The Lord is King forever - Ps. 10:16; Ps. 29:10
In His right hand are pleasures forever - Ps. 16:11
The Counsel of the Lord stands forever - Ps. 33:11
The blameless have a forever inheritance - Ps 37:27
His godly ones are preserved forever - Ps. 37:28
He sets us in His presence forever - Ps. 41:12
His throne and scepter are forever - Ps. 45:6
He is God forever - Ps. 48:14
He rules by His might forever - Ps. 66:7
He established the earth so it will not totter forever - Ps. 104:5
He has ordained His covenant forever - Ps. 111;19
His righteousness endures forever - Ps. 112:9
He surrounds His people forever - Ps. 125:2
The word of God stands forever - Isaiah 40:8
His righteousness will be forever - Isaiah 51:6-8
He lives forever and has an everlasting dominion - Daniel 4:34; Daniel 6:26
His kingdom and reign is forever - Luke 1:33
The Holy Spirit is with us forever - John 14:16
He saves forever and intercedes forever - Heb. 7:25
He is the same forever! - Heb. 13:8
These are just a few I decided to highlight and used only one translation. Honestly, it gets a bit redundant as if God is trying to drive home the point that He does not change. His compassion, mercy and watchful care over us never changes. He is diligent about being present in our lives. His provision, salvation, word, promises, and righteousness will stand the test of time. Not one thing about Him changes due to any circumstances we face or any status of our lives that changes. There are no stipulations on His forevers. Not one of them was followed with an if or an as long as....They simply stand.
When I started thinking about all He has done and how enduring His work in our lives is - I got a little bit excited. He is faithful - forever. Faithful to empower us, indwell us and even carry us through the next trial. Life never gets too hard for Him. I need that stability in my life, how about you?
Today I am going to continue to meditate on His faithfulness. My thoughts will be on how He is not changed by life's circumstances. I'll think about how He still wants to be with us - no matter what life has thrown our way; and about how long forever really is. Because He loves me -forever. I will think about His steadfastness and faithfulness - and I'll relax and smile as I choose to rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?
Thursday, July 14, 2016
A friend and I were talking about distractions over the weekend and so my thoughts have been on this topic this week. As an individual, everything is distracting. I can go in the kitchen for something specific but make coffee because that sounds good and then totally forget why I went in there to begin with. On my way to the bathroom I can stop to fold laundry, check the mail or do any number of other things that grab my attention along the way. And cleaning house is a nightmare because I start in one place and end up doing 12 other things.
Caregiving can be its own distraction from life. It commands and deserves the bulk of our time. There's nothing wrong with that at all, it's just a fact that it is time consuming. For many of us who are full-time caregivers we have to do double everything. For those who are part-time caregivers, it still takes large portions of time. We have to be creative in how we get other things done sometimes because a chunk of our day is spent tending to other's needs. That's not a problem - this is when we look the most like Him!
The challenge is in keeping our eyes focused on God and His kingdom in the midst of caregiving. For me, at first it was really hard to even think about the Kingdom of God and how it related to life after caregiving. So much appeared to be less applicable than it was BC (before caregiving). But this is not true. Everything in the Kingdom of God that was true and pertinent BC is just as applicable as a caregiver. Actually, that is what brings me peace many days. That's realizing that His kingdom did not change one iota when my life situation was rearranged. Everything He promised me BC was and is still mine after. His love did not weaken and His purpose for me did not change. I've had some adapting to do - but not one of His promises have changed - caregiving did not distract God and it should not distract me.
Proverbs 4: 25-27 says this: Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. (NLT) It can be so difficult to focus while taking care of another whole person. We can quickly be overcome by daily tasks that quite frankly have to be completed.
Over the last few weeks, I've purposefully been taking time to refocus on Him and the Word. No matter how cluttered and crazy my world has been, I've taken a few minutes each day to refocus on Him; and it's made a huge difference. I'd like to encourage you today to take just 5 minutes to slow down, put aside everything in your mind, let your task list wait and meditate on His love or anything else that didn't change when you became a caregiver.
Today I'm going to turn my thoughts to all the things that did not change with my situation. His love. His patience. His longing for me. The hope of salvation. The truth that He is my righteousness. I'll be meditating on these types of things today - as a matter of fact I might just start a list of the things that did not change. And then - I'll rest in His unchanging love. Will you turn off the distractions for a day and join me?
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Verse 14 in the New Living Translation says You must worship no other gods, but only the Lord, for He is a God who is passionate about His relationship to you. I remember when I first discovered this scripture, I meditated on it for weeks and then held it close to my heart. It was so refreshing to see God in that light - as someone who is passionately chasing after us and longing for a close relationship. He still is that God, no matter what life may have thrown our way.
I continued reading and got stuck in verse 20. The last part says No one is allowed to appear before Me without a gift. I kind of stumbled on that scripture as I feel like I don't really have a gift to offer Him. I mean seriously, what could I possibly have to present to the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords?
My mind went through a list of what I could offer. Money? Time? Anything I give Him has to be abstract since I can't physically offer Him an offering. Micah must have had similar questions when he penned:
Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer Him thousands of rams and tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Would that please the Lord?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for the sins of our souls?
Would that make Him glad?
But then he answers his own questions with this:
No, O people, the Lord already told you what is good
and this is what He requires:
to do what is right
to love mercy
to walk humbly with our God.
I sit here empty handed feeling like I don't have anything to bring to God. I can't even do the normal religious stuff like teach a Sunday School class or lead a song service for Him. But is that really the types of things He wants? I think ultimately, He just wants our hearts. Whether we are a caregiver, a CEO, a daycare worker, teacher, or a fast food server He still wants the same thing from us. whether we are a millionaire, a pauper or somewhere in between He still wants the same thing from us. He wants our hearts. So when I think I don't have anything to offer Him - I actually have exactly what He wants: my whole heart dedicated to relationship with Him. I can do that from any position in life.
Today I will meditate on how He persistently and relentlessly pursues our hearts. I'll think about ways I can give Him more of my heart - maybe even pray He sheds some light on areas where I've held back from Him because I didn't feel I had anything to offer. I'll turn my thoughts to what it looks like to fully surrender everything to Him once again. Today I will give up myself to Him once again and I will rest in Him and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?
Monday, July 11, 2016
I read the whole chapter a time or two and went back to meditate on the phrase for a bit. I closed my eyes and thought about how perfect God is and how right and just every decision He makes is. When I opened my eyes, they fell on a scripture on the opposite page - I had marked it sometime ago. It is in chapter 30, verse 4.
Though you are at the ends of the earth, the Lord your God will go and find you and bring you back again.
I thought about that for awhile and read it in context. Moses is encouraging the Children of Israel to return to the Lord. He is calling them to come back to Him with their whole heart and seek Him fully. But this verse to me is God reaching for them. He continues to seek a relationship with His people no matter what their situation is. Just because we became caregivers doesn't mean He has abandoned His pursuit of relationship. Actually, He is still seeking.
Exodus 34:14 in the New Living Translation reminds us that God is a God who is passionate about His relationship with us. He is always seeking for our heart because He actually wants to be with us. He longs for us to have two-way conversation, not just us asking for things in what we call prayer. He longs to have an intimate connection with us.
I'll be the first to admit I've had trouble in this arena particularly since my son's accident. I felt like God had abandoned me. Even though I needed His touch even more, it became difficult for me to seek Him. But He was still seeking me. He is relentless in His pursuit of our hearts. He doesn't stop desiring to be with us when life gets difficult or ugly. He doesn't walk away wringing His hands like many of our friends have done. When they are not really sure what to do with us or our situation, He is still waiting on us to come to Him. To be accepted. To be cared for. To be loved. Being with us - is His very heartbeat. And so He waits.....and seeks....
These scriptures were recorded by Moses who was leading the Children of Israel through the wilderness. They were argumentative, faithless, complaining and just plain ugly sometimes. Yet God continues to communicate His love for them and His desire to be with them. He feels the same way about us - whether life is beautiful or not, whether we have it all together or not, whether we feel faithful or faithless, whether we are waiting on Him or not - He is waiting on us, longing for us to come to Him.
Today I am going to turn my thoughts to how much He wants to be with me - no matter what life looks like. I will stop all the crazy thoughts in my head today and focus on being with Him. I'll pour out my heart before Him and wait for Him to pour His heart into mine. My meditations will be on his love and pursuit of me. I'll think about how He waits for me to come to Him. And I will wait on Him today. Will you join me?