Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking for Peace?

The caregiver's life is never dull. There are all sorts of activities and duties that demand our time and at times it can be very hectic. Some days come and go peacefully without any huge mishaps; and some days there can be one thing after another that occurs to disrupt our peace. Some think that just because we are basically home bound we sit around bored all day with nothing to do! The caregiver doesn't even have time to think about getting bored most of the time! We are more likely looking for 5 minutes to grab here and there where we can just sit and breathe! Peace can seem far away...

 I stumbled across this scripture in my reading this morning and it have given me much to think about concerning peace. Isaiah 32:17 says this: and the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness quietness and confidence forever. 

 How does one do the work of righteousness? We are righteous by the blood of Christ...this is not speaking of getting righteous; but the work of righteousness. When I yield to the work of righteousness in my heart, then the fruit will be peace. Even though the world around me is full of stress and many activities - in my heart I am full of peace. And as I am yielded to the full work of righteousness that Christ has done and is doing in my heart and life, righteousness will serve me up a full serving of quietness and confidence!

 This kind of quietness and confidence brought about by His work of righteousness in my life will reveal a strength to carry me peacefully through my day! Isaiah 30:15 reminds us that through quietness and trust  we find our strength in Him. so walk confidently through today - trusting in His work in you. He will never fail to carry you through your day! Want peace? Rest in His work...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Where Else Could We Go?

Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection in John 6 when He offended many of His followers. He was describing to them how He was the true bread who came from heaven and we must partake of Him. It seems the disciples were having difficulty with His statements; perhaps they just really didn't understand the spiritual implications. Confusion comes quickly when we try to drag eternal stuff into time's understanding.

Jesus saw that they were not real happy. He also saw many followers walk away at this time. He looked at the 12 and asked them, you want to go away too? Peter's answer indicates to me that he had thought about it already. Peter said Where else would we go? I think he had already contemplated an exit.

 I wonder sometimes how people who are going through very difficult times find faith, hope, encouragement and strength to go on. Don't you? And there have been times caregivers hear that question, how do you do it? I think I feel a little like Peter. The answer is that there is no other way acceptable. This is my course and even though I contemplated options - there really isn't another suitable one.I have found that there is no other place to go for strength than the Lord. No where else to look for hope or encouragement to make it one more day. He gives us the strength (His strength) to walk this journey. Without Him - there is no hope; there is no strength, or encouragement. There is no where else to put my faith....and trust me on this one - in the darkest night -- I looked for it.

 So today, like Peter I must say Where else could we go? I will run to Him with open arms today. I'll rejoice in the truth that He is my faith, hope, encouragement and strength! And I will not look for it in any human! I will let the peace of God guard my heart and mind in Christ today! Let's run to Him today!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

For Those Who Are Alone

Sometimes all we can do is trust. There are lots of questions and rather than providing a nice distraction,holidays seem to create more dilemmas and questions than answers. It can be funny if you want it to - if you can lighten up a little bit. If you think about it long enough and how difficult it can be to get through even just a normal day - and then add to that the hectic-ism of the holiday plus the fact that everyone else thinks we should be excited about it - it really is kinda funny!

This is for all of those who are overwhelmed by the holidays rather than enjoying them. Perhaps you have found yourself alone once again; or maybe it is insurmountable situations that are nagging at your heart. Yeah, sure everyone thinks you are supposed to be happy just because it's Christmas - but that is really only in the movies. Santa Claus doesn't really come! lol! And a cheerful heart doesn't magically appear! So how do you hold on in the season where everyone else is rejoicing and caught up a materialistic cyclone? And we know our days do not change?

 We continue to trust Him. Even on days when it doesn't all work out like in the movies. Psalm 34:22 says that those who trust in Him will not be ashamed. Honestly, we may not know what that looks like in the picture of our own lives - but one thing is sure - we will continue to trust. We will do it whether alone or with others; whether we see our own answers or not! Today - we are not alone no matter what we are facing. We must simply make up our minds that it is better to trust Him, period! So let us trust Him today right in the middle of our situations. He will carry us through.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Hiding Place

This time of year can get very crazy real quick! For those who are shut in (or mostly shut in) it can be very difficult. Everyone is even busier trying to get all their shopping done and all the arrangements made for their celebrations. But for the caregiver many times, things do not change just because it is Christmas; or any other holiday for that matter. Because of the busy-ness even fewer people come or call. On one hand, it is understood; on the other the loneliness can deepen.

 But during this very busy time of year we must remember that He remains our hiding place. The psalmist said in Psalm 9:7: You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. And He does! Whether our lives have become extremely hectic this time of year, or extremely lonely He continues to protect us and to hide us in His shelter.
 

 I think the part I like even more about this verse is that while we are hidden in Him - He surrounds us with songs. I like to picture myself wrapped up in Him like a cozy, comfy, warm blanket all snuggled up and safe. (maybe sipping a cup of hot cocoa too!) And I quietly listen to Him sing about deliverance. Don't you like that picture? While sometimes my days seem too hectic to allow the image to remain too long in my head - it is a pleasant one for a few minutes! Today I will try to bring my thoughts back to this place: the place where I am hidden in Him. I think I like it that it is not all my choice; but His as well. As happy as I am to be snuggled up with Him, listening to Him sing over me - He is just as happy to have me there! Isn't that good to know? Relax today - rest in Him. Forget about the holiday - think about Him today!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Judge is Our Stronghold

These handful of scriptures in Psalm 9 really say a lot. Verses7-8 describe the Lord, our God as a judge. He sits on His throne which He established for judgment. Our concept of judgment is a harsh, cruel rule. But it is simply making decisions regarding matters. Which of course, God always does in righteousness. Think about the decisions that you have to make each and every day. This can be a huge responsibility. Yet God makes decisions about all humanity - and all who have been and will be throughout time- all the time. What a huge responsibility! He has the weight of the world on His broad shoulders! Yet this judge - this righteous decision maker - is our stronghold. He will not forsake those who trust in Him.

It is easy to feel forsaken. And it's not one of those real to me kinds of things. Many times we have truly been forsaken. Friends, church and even family do not always know what to do with us as our lives are lived so differently. In many ways, our home imprisons us. We cannot just go for a jog, or run to the store for something we're missing. We cannot just decide to go to a movie. And many times it is not feasible or practical to try to go to the modern church. But let's refuse to look at it as a prison today. How about if we consider we are being hidden in His stronghold?

We must trust that He has not forsaken us. He will never forsake us.The One Who is issuing righteous judgments for whole world has hidden us away in Himself. He is our stronghold. We can hide in Him and be safe and secure no matter what type of situation we find ourselves handling in our day-to-day lives. Today I choose to rest in Him, to be content being tucked away in His strength. Will you join me?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting in Silence

Have you ever just waited in silence for God? A lot of times I find myself whining, screaming and crying at Him! But there are those times when words for whatever reason just do not seem appropriate, or they seem unnecessary. Like there is some sort of mutual understanding. I do not need words, I just know that He understands my painful heart. Perhaps that is what David was sensing when he penned Psalm 62:1. He speaks of waiting in silence for the Lord.

 David speaks twice here about waiting in silence before the Lord. He says one time it is because his hope is from Him and the other his salvation is from Him. But then two other times David says this: He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. That's in verse 5, but in verse 2 he says I will not be greatly shaken. I do not know about you but there is a great shaking of the faith when tragedy strikes. At least it is perceived as a shaking of faith - circumstances only shake what we have been taught about faith. But faith remains. We still trust Him; we still believe His promises... so it's not our faith that is shaken as much as what we believe about our faith.

 Today let us meditate on God, our hope and salvation. He is certainly our rock and our stronghold. Here we are still trusting Him, still pursuing Him, still loving Him...in the midst of adversity. Isn't that what faith is all about? Let us trust Him today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

But As For Me...

Psalm 59 was written during a very troubling time for David. I admire his writings because David was so open and honest with his emotions and his feelings. He didn't hesitate to say what he really felt. And in general, you never have to ask yourself, I wonder what he meant by that? Psalm 59 doesn't stray from this pattern as David talks about what he hopes God does to his enemy!

 Just about the time the reader thinks that surely David is way off and has lost it he redeems himself with this statement in verse 16: but as for me...

This phrase is then followed by David's declaration over his own heart. He says that he will sing of the Lord's goodness. He says he will not only sing, but do so joyfully. I cannot honestly say that I have been singing joyfully through adverse circumstances. David concentrates on what God is doing and who He is rather than the adversity surrounding him.

He says he will sing of the Lord's strength - not his own.
He'll sing of His lovingkindness...
He'll sing of how the Lord has been his stronghold..and refuge even in distress...

He didn't concentrate on what he felt God wasn't doing for him...but on what God was  doing. I must admit there are times I get frustrated because of the things I feel God is not doing on my behalf. But today, I will meditate on what He is doing around me, through me and in my situation. Will you join me?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Because of the Enemy

For the believer there is no doubt that Holy Spirit lives in us and strengthens us. Ephesians 3:16b says it this way: ....be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man...Take a second to think about that. We are strengthened from the inside out - because Holy Spirit lives inside of our very being.

 Holy Spirit resides in us to give us the strength to remain in Christ no matter what the circumstances. And actually, our circumstances many times drive us straight back to Him. You may be rocking along thinking life is good and some tragedy or trauma wakes you right out of your stupor. We tend to start trying to figure out where we left God! Or where He went that this terrible thing has occurred. But He never moved. He is everywhere - all the time and will be for all time...even throughout eternity.
 

In an odd way, adversity has its way of driving us to Him. In Psalm 59:9 the psalmist says this: because of his strength I will watch for You, for God is my stronghold. At first I found this verse very confusing...is it  because of His strength? Because of the Lord's strength I will watch for the Lord? While that's not a bad concept, I do not think that's what David meant. He was in a very adverse situation. Saul had sent men to his house to kill him. They were outside his house watching for him to make one wrong move, just step out the door and they would end his life immediately. Saul probably sent more than two or three strong men. Think about looking out your living room window and seeing a few armed men lying in wait...for you. Then around outside the kitchen window are even more men...just waiting.  A quick look out each window reveals the same thing. It was because of the enemy's strength... that David was waiting and watching for God.

 David goes on to say in verse10: My God in His lovingkindness will meet me....It's because of the strength of our enemy, our circumstances, or whatever life throws at us - that we learn to seek Him. Not for relief - but simply to feel His presence. The relief doesn't matter as much anymore....we just need to know that He will meet us...right where we are. We need to rest in Him knowing that we did not sin to find ourselves in this position. The church tends to want to condemn us as having no faith. But only through faith do any of us realize that the Helper lives inside us to give us strength to face our enemy day by day. Only through faith can we really sit quietly waiting to hear His heart beat...we are still in this battle. We did not give up when adversity struck. We certainly found out that we were not serving God as prevention. We serve Him because He is God.

 So, today in the midst of the battle, with the enemy stalking waiting for us to give up or give in, let us wait for His strength. My God in His lovingkindness will meet us here...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Hidden King

Psalm 57 has been a passage that I have held on to for many years now. I was sick in 1987 with a mystery illness that none of the many doctors ever figured out. All we know is everyone thought I was going to die and then one day I started slowly getting better, obviously touched by His hand. During that time I discovered Psalm 57:1 - Be merciful unto me O Lord, be merciful unto me for my soul trusts in You, and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until these calamities are past. Well, eventually the calamity passed but in the process I did learn much about trusting Him and hiding in His shelter.

 The other verse in this Psalm that sticks out to me is verse 7. David (hiding in the cave from King Saul) starts out by talking about hiding in the Lord's shelter and in this verse it seems to me that he is making a declaration about his own heart. The hiding king states: my heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast...I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! To me he is declaring that no matter how bleak his outward circumstances are looking he will remain steadfast, trusting in the Lord and he's even gonna sing!

I think it might read more like this if I was penning the psalm I will sing? yes...I will sing. Singing does not seem to match the situation does it? Here is the future king - and he knows it! - hiding from a mad man yet determined to stay hidden in God and to keep his heart steadfast before Him...and even thinking about singing in the cave!

He then encourages himself and tells his soul to wake up! and give thanks. He did not thank God for the cave. He did not thank God for riches, peace or health. He thanked God for the things in his life that remain even while hiding in a cave. Think about it - he certainly did not feel rich, there was no peace in the natural, and he was not too concerned about getting out to the gym that morning or eating a well balanced diet. It was far less than perfect circumstances by our American standards.

 So he began to thank God for some of His constants....His lovingkindness and His truth. Two things that never change or fail in the face of life's circumstances. So maybe we feel hidden in a cave brought about by life's harsh circumstances; let us rejoice today in His truth and His mercy that never fail!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just Like Everyone Else

The life of a caregiver is certainly not an easy one! Yet I am sure that there are far worse circumstances to have to deal with. But this can be a lonely and painful walk. Each day can present various situations that must be overcome; obstacles that seem insurmountable.But we are still breathing; and we are still caregiving - so we must still be learning to trust in Him to take us one more day! Challenging pretty much sums up our lives, doesn't it? lol!

 I have found that just because my life is lived in a cave of adversity, it does not exempt me from the requirements laid out in the Word. So far I have not found one time when there was a command given and special stipulations were given for caregivers; or any other sufferers for that matter. (but I am still looking! lol!) Jesus did not say give to those who ask and do not turn away from those who want to borrow - unless you are a caregiver in which case you don't have to worry about it! It does not read like that anywhere! We still have the same solid word, the same constant commands to follow as everyone else. But this is good - because it also means that we have His peace, comfort and joy accessible to us - just like everyone else!

 So when I read this scripture in Philipians this morning I knew that we do not get a "break" just because we are caregivers: In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. (Philippians 2:14) We do not get an exception on this command even though we live in adversity!

 If we are not careful (maybe I should just say if I am not careful) it is easy to complain about many things. We have lost many things in life that brought us to the journey of caregiving. It is so very important to train our minds to find the things to be thankful for each day. So today instead of letting the situation get us down - let us turn our focus onto the way He has provided for us in the situation. Let us concentrate and meditate on His peace, His love and His care for us even in the midst of life's ongoing storm.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who Do You Compare To?

The life of a caregiver really cannot be compared to any other situation. And among caregivers each situation is so unique that it is really difficult to compare each one. All of us have some areas that our situation is better in some respect than others; and we also each have some worse areas than others. But really this is true in general.

 We all have such different circumstances and backgrounds that no two lives are exactly the same. There have never been two people anywhere that have had identical experiences. This is so even for children who grow up in a home together. My point is that we really cannot compare ourselves among ourselves and come up with any wisdom! (2 Corinthians 10:12)

 However, in Psalm 119:6 we do find a measuring rod with which we can determine where we stand in life. David says in v. 5-6: Oh that my actions would consistently reflect Your principles! Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with Your commands! I think many times we can get tripped up because we try to compare ourselves with lives that we consider normal.

And the scary part is that sometimes I catch myself comparing myself with my former religious self. You know - the one who could go to church, teach Sunday School and lead worship. But if we compare ourselves within the religious world we will never be good enough. Religion will set unrealistic goals; legalistic guidelines.

So today, let's think about comparing ourselves to the word. To compare means to look at what things are similar. A caregiver is not perfect - lol! But they do have some qualities that are comparable to the Word. You have laid down your life to care for another...You patiently work with your loved one displaying the grace and mercy of Christ...You must live selflessly...hidden in Him.

 As a caregiver we are not allowed what most people might call a normal life. But in the midst of the struggle and turmoil that can surround we have found His grace is still amazing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

His Signature

I have read the scripture Haggai 2:23 many times. In it, God is telling Zerubbabel that he was like the king's signet ring, the ring that the king uses to seal his signature. This ring is very valued and protected. Sometimes as caregivers we get so caught up in caring for someone else and concerning ourselves with protecting them, that we forget that the Lord protects us and considers us as valuable as a king's signet ring. Actually, the King values us as His signature here on earth.

If you take a quick look at the verses preceding this scripture you'll find that there was soon to be all sorts of turmoil going on. This is something we like to conveniently overlook when we are pulling out scriptures for ourselves. But God was assuring Zerubbabel that even in the midst of total chaos (which can be like many of our days!!) God still values him as much as His signature.

 The king's signet ring was his seal on a matter. It finalized it and no one could argue with it or change what had been sealed. We are His signature on the earth and He will protect our souls even in the midst of trials, temptation and turmoil! Remember today how valuable you are to Him!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

He Will Lift You Up

James is one of the shorter books in the New Testament, but it is certainly full of many key scriptures. From James we learn about how to control our lives with our tongues! This is really one of the most interesting letters written by these early apostles. But in James it seems that to me personally, chapter 4 has always stood out.

 Verse 8 has been a mainstay - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. I have read it, taught it and practiced it for years. But this morning a different verse grabbed my attention. It's on down in verse 10. It simply states: When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on Him, he will lift you up and give you honor. Many would like to stress the latter portion of this verse - but I want to major on the first part.

 When we can come to the point that we remove ourselves from the picture and realize that our strength does not and cannot come from ourselves - He will give us strength. And His strength can carry us much further than we can in our own. This is one of those verses that sounds simple. It's easy to say, O, I get it - sure! I need you to carry me Lord for I depend on You. And then get up and go about our day in our own strength once again. It's much more difficult to carry out than it is to read or say! lol!

 Today I will concentrate on my heart's position before Him. I will keep my heart in a place of humility; a place that humbly needs Him to carry me. As caregivers even though we are very much aware of our weakness - we tend to think we are superman/superwoman! But today let us lay aside our own strengths and rely solely on Him. We will not be nearly so tired at the end of the day!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Truth About Faith

There is a freedom that comes in being totally honest with yourself about your emotions and your situation. And quite frankly you simply cannot be honest with God until you are open and honest with yourself. How can you cast you cares on Him if you do not acknowledge that you have them?

 There is a barrier that is erected when we do not look at our situations and ourselves in truth. We cannot ask for His strength until we realize we have none; we will not look for faith until we see ours has been shaken; and we cannot ask Him to carry a load for us that we will not admit we have.

 Faith is not ignoring the obvious and trying to walk blindly through life as if hardship does not exist. True faith rises up in our hearts in the midst of the longest storm, the darkest night and our loneliest moments and grabs hold of Him. But we must admit our circumstances to be able to reach for Him. Remember Jesus said those who seek Him must seek Him in spirit and in truth.

 Faith is not a mask we wear that shields us from seeing what is going on around us. And confession isn't a tool to make it all go away. True faith sees and knows exactly what is happening around us and our confession isn't a denial of circumstance as much as a statement that no matter what the circumstance I will still trust Him.

 Today free yourself from the bondage of ignoring your life. It is there and it is real. The pain is real and so are the tears. And only in the moment that we can say this hurts can He bring healing to our soul. Only in pure and open honesty can we begin to cast our cares on Him...and let Him care for us.

Monday, December 5, 2011

When Others Don't Understand

Many people really do not understand the life of a caregiver. Of course, they should not be expected to if they have not lived it themselves. It puts a strain on every part of your being: body, soul and spirit. Some days are emotionally draining and many times there are many physical challenges for us as well. But as each day unfolds before us, we simply press on. In my personal blog I spoke of the three things that will always remain: faith, hope and love. They will not fail us. (I Corinthians 13:13) (www.macdingolinger.wordpress.com)

 As we have learned to embrace these three elements and let them carry us through we do some things that others just cannot understand. Like the nameless woman in Mark 14. She entered where Jesus and His disciples were dining and poured some very expensive perfume on his head. Everyone got mad, because they didn't understand...why would she waste the expensive perfume anointing Jesus? It could have been sold....

 But Jesus told the disciples in verse 8 - she has done what she could...isn't that all we do every day? We do all we can. And when others cannot understand why we can hold our heads up high and care for our loved ones - we just do what we can.

 Do you think it was difficult for her to let go of her expensive perfume? I have heard it said that this was her dowry. When she poured this out on the head of our Lord she was giving up the dream of every marrying. She wasn't just pouring out her possession - she was pouring out her future on Christ and as He said anointing Him for burial.

As we care for our loved ones, we gladly pour out our lives before Him. It's not about us, our future or any dreams. It's all about what is right in His eyes. As we perform our duties today let us pursue the heart of Christ and desire to have the humility and grace that this unnamed woman had. We pour our lives, dreams and hopes out before Him as we care for our loved ones. And while others cannot understand why we do what we do, we can understand that in our own way - we are ministering to Him!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Dark is Light to Him

My alarm is set to go off to a local radio station. This morning while I was fumbling with the snooze button I heard them share a scripture. It's found in Psalm 139:12 and it says even the darkness is not dark to You and the night is a s bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. My first thought was that He cannot see the darkness of my struggle. But as I meditated on it a little bit my perspective changed.

 As I get older, my dislike for driving at night grows. It seems like it is more difficult to see at night and the headlights on our vehicles are only made to help us see a few feet in front of us at a time. I do not like my vision being obscured by the darkness. Sometimes I feel like that as a caregiver. I can barely see a tiny bit in front of me (if any at all) and I simply can't see or even dream past that. Losing the ability to dream can be one of the biggest handicaps for the caregiver.

 So I pondered for a minute on why He could not see my darkness - since light and dark are the same to Him. Then I realized that it's not that He cannot see my darkness or my struggle, it's just that the darkness does not obscure His vision. He can see into the darkness of a womb (v.13) to see our every progress; but He can also see into the darkness of the tomb beyond death (literal or not) and see life. The darkness does not hamper His vision - nor does it change His plans. It really doesn't matter to Him if it's dark where we are or not - He does not change, His plans do not change and He can see in spite of the surrounding darkness whether we can or not!

 I'm not even sure why but it sure helped me face today to know that He can see into and through my dark circumstances...I believe I'll rest in that today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And So We Wait.

It seems that the topic in my heart returns frequently to waiting on the Lord. I am not real sure what I am waiting for; if I am waiting for Him to do something, say something or move something...but I wait. That is really where I am today just waiting. I do not really know how to pray sometimes, so I wait. My emotions run dry, nothing I can do to change today; so I wait.

 Psalm 25:5 says this:
 Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation
for You I wait all the day.

 There is nothing wrong with just being silent before Him. There are just those times when words do not seem appropriate. Our religious background can make us feel like we must pray, speak, talk, do...all the time. But sometimes the greatest faith is expressed in silently waiting for Him. It is in these times we grow. 
Today, let us wait on Him to see what He will do next. His peace is priceless, His grace is endless. I choose today to walk in His grace and peace no matter what is going on in the world around me. His grace is sufficient to carry us through today...let us wait.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Still A Waiting Game

This morning my insides are singing. It's a scripture song and I had some friends that had great harmony and boy could they sing it! It was beautiful - and I can remember just like they used to sing it! It's found in Psalm 27:14 and it says:

 wait on the lord and be of good courage
and He will strengthen your heart
Sometimes the waiting seems like the hard part. I'm a mom and I want to fix things; get them back up and going. But in caregiving situations it does not always work like that which can cause great anxiety for us fixers! I have to take myself back to this scripture and remind myself that the only way I can find the strength for today is to wait on Him.

 Waiting sounds so easy - but in actuality it is so difficult. I want life to return to some sort of what I used to call normal and it just isn't going to happen. Even if there was a miracle and God touched my son today and made him whole... there's still no way life could be like it was. I have changed, relationships have changed and how I handle many things have changed so it would not be the same.
Today as we learn how to wait on Him for the strength to carry on, remember that we are constantly changing. We are learning what life is really about from a whole new perspective in Him. Take some time to wait on His strength to carry you today...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Consider the Source

Psalm 84 has been a long time favorite of mine. My favorites change of course, depending on the need of the day! But there is a verse in this particular psalm that had me puzzled for awhile. The second portion of verse 11 says no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Now like you, I have heard this one twisted by the religious world; and I think we do not have a proper definition of good things.

 Religious thinking quoted this scripture and used it for monetary gain. I guess they decided that a Mercedes or a Cadillac was a good thing so they deserved for God to give them one. And for many years I tended to agree with this interpretation. But you know how your perspective changes as you go through life's stuff? Mine has done a complete turn around.

 Don't get me wrong - I totally believe in God's provision. I have watched Him provide every single need  and much more through this journey. And I do know people personally that He has blessed financially. (Abraham's a good scriptural example if you want one) But finances, healing and stuff...are not all of His good things.

 When we look at the author of this psalm it might shift our perspective just a bit. This psalm was written by the sons of Korah. Korah was the dude in Numbers 16 who with Abiram and Dotham opposed Moses by taking a rebellious stand. The Lord caused the ground to open up and "swallow" all of them. So when the sons of Korah - his descendants that did not perish with him - said for a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness...they knew exactly what kind of stand they were taking! When you consider the source (the author) it takes on a little fuller meaning.

 They knew God's goodness as survival! Today I will consider it His goodness that I have the strength to face this part of the journey. Because I know it is His strength in me that is carrying me along. His goodness and mercy will follow me today! And sometimes...they will have to carry me through.

 The fact that He carries me through instead of abandoning me when times get tough...is His goodness displayed. So today - don't get discouraged if you need Him to carry you for awhile. His goodness will sustain you even in the midst of the storm.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Content with Weakness

This phrase is taken from 2 Corinthians 12:10. The writer, Apostle Paul, made the statement that he was content with weakness. A few years ago in my life I would not have been able to agree. I have always been a very independent person (which sometimes causes relationship problems) and a I-cab-do-it-myself type. I do not take time to ask for help - I'll figure out how to get it done. The last 3 years of caregiving has changed some (but not all) of that. There are times now where I really do just have to ask for a little bit of help. Think about it - how often does someone call you and say, "Hey, I'd love to come sit for a couple hours so you could get out and see a movie..." (or buy groceries, get a haircut, walk in the park,.. etc...) It just does not happen. So we are in a position to have to request help occasionally.

 Paul goes on to say in this passage that he is also content with insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties.  Notice they are all plurals! And they all come from being a believer. Most of our troubles these days are not for being a believer in Christ. They may sometimes come from the religious world when we do not measure down to their standard - but we are not persecuted for believing in Christ as Paul was. Basically, some of our pain (I think I can say "our") is from the church ignoring us. The same church that is supposed to be like Christ; and walk in His compassion. Yeah, those - most of them ignore us as they really do not know what to do with us. And I have to also admit that I fell way short during my serving the church days.

 Paul goes on to say why he is content with weakness. In verse 10 he says for when I am weak, then I am strong. On the surface that doesn't really sound possible does it? How can I be strong because I am weak? We can look back up to verse 9 for an answer. Paul says in this verse that God's power is perfected in weakness. Wow! May I always be weak so that His power can be matured in me!

 Today I choose to consider His power rather than my weakness. I choose to embrace His grace rather than my fears. And I choose to cling to Him rather than my situation...even realizing nothing will change in a day...but me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Choose Your Attitude

As caregivers we are all in situations that do not match our dreams. Where we are today most likely was not in the plan when we were setting our life goals. Yet, we are here. Now we must deal with each day as it is given to us; and choose to make the best of it.

 Today is Thanksgiving Day. And while I could go through the list of things I wish were different, I will choose to concentrate on the things I am thankful for. I have found this practice helps me through many days. It is amazing once I start purposefully finding things to be thankful for, how my whole perspective can change. In a matter of minutes I am no longer being swept down some deep, dark emotional river. Instead I find myself taking a deep breath of air. Sometimes it's simply to remind myself that I am indeed still alive!

 But as I choose to turn my heart to one of thankfulness I find that many of my deepest concerns are carried away, perhaps in the river of doubt that wanted to wash me away!

 So today I am thankful for many things and I will choose to concentrate on those. In Psalms 10:4 the psalmist said:Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. One translation states the first part as: bring a thank offering before Him. Let us as caregivers do this today. Bring your thank offering - yourself before Him today and purposefully choose to find things to be thankful for. As you search for thankfulness to bring to Him as an offering...your whole perspective and attitude will change!

 Let Us give thanks...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

If Anyone Loves Me

I found this to be very interesting this morning. I was reading in John 14 and came to verse 21. Jesus is speaking and says that those who love Him He and the Father will love. And then Jesus says that to those who love Him, He will disclose Himself to them. I have read this scripture many times before. But this morning the next verse really jumped out at me.

 Judas (not Iscariot - the good one) asked Jesus in response what has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world? Did that sound like a "church person's" question to you? We always like to think that we are the special ones, like we have a one-up on everyone else because of some position or something. And yet Jesus appears to just be talking openly about people who love Him and how they will embrace the word and be loved by the Father.

 This is evident in the way Jesus answered Judas' egotistical and religious question.He begins with if anyone loves me...no other stipulations were added just simply those who love Him period. For those who love Him three apparent things will occur:
  1. he will keep My word
  2. My Father will love him
  3. We will come and live in him
Boy, that makes it a lot simpler doesn't it? There's nothing that makes us better than anyone else and nothing that will spur God to reveal Christ to us or in us except loving Him and keeping His word. Does it get any clearer than that? Take some time today to meditate on how great His love is for us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We are All Fruity!

As a caregiver, we can feel fruitless. For many of us, our lives changed abruptly with many dreams left unrealized, leaving us with the feeling that we cannot bear fruit since the picture of our life doesn't look like we thought it would.

An old favorite scripture came to mind this morning as I was thinking about fruitfulness. It's one of those that we sing, shout and proclaim while we think we will never really need it. It is in Habakkuk 3:17-19. I'll let you read it yourself but I think you'll remember it as it starts like this: though the fig tree does not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines....and it ends with yet I will praise Him! It's a clear declaration that whether my field (life) if fruitful or not I will spend my breath praising Him. But as we all know, we don't really think we will ever be in a place to have to force the issue...but here we are. Many of us in circumstances that can make us feel or think that we are fruitless; however, the contrary is true.

Hosea 14:8 ends with a little statement with a huge impact: from Me comes your fruit. And according to John 15 as long as we stay connected to the vine (Christ) we will bear fruit. So this means that the fruit of the Spirit that is listed in Galatians 5 will grow in our lives as long as He is present. No need to despair! As we allow Holy Spirit to continue to have full reign in our lives even in our adverse circumstances, His fruit will remain! smile...that means we are a bunch of fruity people!

Monday, November 21, 2011

With Thanksgiving...Let Your Requests Be Made Known

It is certainly that time of year that most of us like to take some time for reflective thinking and thanksgiving. It's a very good thing, of course. I have found myself lately trying to turn my heart more to one of thanksgiving when I seem overwhelmed. It does not matter how "good" of a situation we are in as caregivers, depression and sadness can just slip up on you.

 For me, I see my son how he is and miss who he was. My emotions can slip away in a heartbeat. Just like the our lives can slip away and change forever with one phone call.Well, lately when I look at my son and see him so immobile I turn my heart to thanksgiving. I make myself be thankful for anything I can think of!

 Philippians 4:6-7 says this: Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your heats and your minds in Christ Jesus. I know we are talking about thanksgiving here but it is also speaking of bringing our requests to Him - just that we come in a humble attitude and make our requests known (as if He doesn't already know!) - and package it with thanksgiving.

 What's interesting is that the next verse does not say, "and you will receive everything you asked for just like you wanted." It doesn't even address the actual answer to our requests at all. It simply says that when we bring our requests to Him packaged in thanksgiving His peace will keep our hearts and minds in Christ!

 So no matter what your request is today - no matter how tumultuous the journey or how difficult the circumstance - find a place of thanksgiving in your heart. Don't waste the holiday filling up on turkey! lol! Give Thanks!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Lord of Peace

When Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, he was writing to a group of people who had been under attack. Actually, he began this particular letter with some kudos for the congregations there. He recognized their enlarging faith and how they were growing in love toward one another. Then he goes on to notice their continued perseverance and faith in the midst of persecutions and afflictions. Is this not our goal as caregivers? To continue to hold on to faith and continue to persevere even in the midst of the things we face each day? I am sure you can admit with me that there are days when this task is easier than others!

 Paul began this letter with such warm words about them and perhaps what he shared with them near the closing is key. In verse 17 of chapter 3 Paul prays this for the believers Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! He did not pray for the circumstances to change, or for the persecution and lies to stop. He prayed instead that even in the midst God would give them peace.

 That is my prayer today for every caregiver reading this devotional...May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace in the midst of your circumstance! We must say that He is with us! No matter what a day brings or how long a night endures - the Lord of peace is with us!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

His Protection

Staying with our 2 Thessalonians theme we're going to look at chapter 3 verse 3 in today's devotion. In the midst of tragedy, or living a life as a caregiver I think this scripture takes on a different feel. It says this: But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.If we can be brutally honest - sometimes in the midst of our trials, it really doesn't feel like it. It may even seem like God failed at His end of the "bargain."

 Somewhere along the way Christians tend to get the idea that when we serve God He puts out this protective shield around us and nothing bad is ever supposed to happen to us. No one gets sick, has a stroke, is involved in a car wreck or gets diagnosed with the most feared diseases like cancer and such. Many of people have walked away from God when circumstances popped their little bubble. But the Lord is faithful.... even in the circumstances.

 He will strengthen you..and protect you from the evil one. He does not put up a force field that shields us from the mishaps of life, from tragedy. But He does strengthen us in it. And He protects us in a much better way than just making sure that our bodies never get sick, or making sure nothing bad ever happens in our lives...He protects our spirit. As we stay hidden in Him nothing can reach in there and take us out of Him. Nothing is allowed to damage the work of the cross in our lives. Absolutely nothing can harm or remove who we are in Him. His protection goes much deeper than simply protecting this body that will pass away...He literally protects the eternal part of our being. That is so much more than this physical body...

 So caregivers, as you minister to your loved ones today - don't think about the body that is broken or the mind that is not functioning properly. Think about a person who is hidden and protected in Him. Then think about yourself and how He offers this same eternal protection for your spirit man...and rejoice because the evil one cannot reach that part of your being.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Power of Adjectives

Second Thessalonians is a very short book, but it has some powerful phrases in it. I mark my Bibles up in these 3 little chapter as there are several scriptures that are great to use to pray for people. I call them "generic" because they will just fit no matter what the circumstance is that they are facing. One of these prayer/scriptures is Chapter 2, verses 16 and 17.

 It says this:Now may the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, Who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.  (NASB) This morning I read it over and over again. Some key words stood out to me. But before I go there, let's adapt it to the caregiver.

 It asks that the Lord will strengthen your hearts in every good work...that is not limited to inside the four walls of the church. Actually, very little good works goes on from inside the church building itself. You'll find that most of the time what God would call good works happens outside as we are showing His favor to others. As a caregiver, you are doing good works. You are taking care of His man, or His woman. It may be your spouse, your child, or deemed your responsibility. But the reality is that you are ministering to their every need... and in so doing you are ministering to Him. Now, that's good works!

Remember that He is moved by our pain, He Himself bore our sorrows, He carried our grief. Grief is not a sin, sorrow is not a sin. He feels the pain we have in this and every moment no matter what is inflicting it. He does not look at the source and say we are unworthy of His love, His care. Instead as this verse indicates He gives us eternal comfort and good hope. Those are two wonderful adjectives there; eternal and good.

 He is offering us a comfort that goes beyond what we feel here in time and stretches into eternity; it's not temporal! And more than just a pacifying hope...He is giving us a good hope. This is more than just a little "gee I hope this all gets better."  It's a hope that goes beyond that and says, but if not....we will not bow! No matter what happens in this life - what He has accomplished for us in the realm of eternity will stand. It remains unchanged. Now that's a good hope!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God is At Work

Just because we do not get exactly what we ask for does not mean that God is not working. I thought about Joseph this morning and the years he spent locked up in prison. I am sure he thought about his dreams quite a lot. In Psalms it says that the Word of the Lord tested him. No matter how you look at it this can sure chip away at our theology.

 I do not think that God is sitting up there waiting for ways to make us miserable just to see if we will continue to trust. However, life does bring with it a series of testings and opportunities to continue to believe. Life just happens, and so do bad things. It's not that God prevents everything bad from happening so that we have a nice cushy stay on earth...it's just that He works in the midst of them.

1 Thessalonians 2:13b says that His word performs its work in you who believe. The only stipulation here, if there is one, is that we believe. God's word does not stop carrying us because we hit tough times or things in life did not work out like we thought they were supposed to. His word continues to work as we believe. That's not an empty promise of healing, prosperity or cheap peace...the security here is that His Word is not bound by our circumstances. He is working in us in the midst of the circumstances. We must simply believe that He is...and come to Him. Even in our broken state, in our worrisome state, in our painful state...just come. He will not cast us away - He is still at work in us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's Just Part of Living

There is no escape from pain in this world. I hear of people every day who are in situations like ours - caregiving. But I also hear of all sorts of other painful situations that are being endured. It's all just part of living. There is no way to get away from the pain; the trick is finding out how to deal with it appropriately. No amount of crying, moaning, screaming or cussing brings any real relief does it?
 
Pain is not foreign to our Bible heroes either. Check out how the Psalmist described his painful situation in Psalm 102:4-8.

 My heart is sick, withered like grass...
and I have lost my appetite.
Because of my groaning I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like an owl in the desert,
like a lonely owl in a far-off wilderness.
I lie awake lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
My enemies taunt me day after day.
They mock and curse me. 

I think this is an accurate description of some days for me. I feel cut off, not "normal" and all alone. And in the midst of the pain sometimes there is this continual nagging: you don't have faith, you are not trusting God. Those thoughts are my enemies. Don't let the enemy use your situation to defeat you. You are not defeated! Our soul is preserved in Him no matter what the body does!

 After the psalmist pours out his woes to the Lord he turns in verse 12 and says, but You O Lord....
It's something that is just in us...as believers...to call out to Him no matter what level of pain we are living in or dealing with. Don't let anyone tell you that you lack faith because you are in a situation that you do not have the power to change! Walking through it - is faith. So today - hold your head up - every time our enemy comes at us today just whisper His name and say...but You O lord.... live forever, You O Lord reign forever, You O Lord are always the same....

Monday, November 7, 2011

But What About Me?

In a discussion yesterday I was talking about some of the emotions that are part of the caregiver's package. I was expressing the feelings that make it seem like God has abandoned us. While we know He didn't...it can certainly feel at times as though He did...and that He is far away.

 In Psalm 13 we can see that the psalmist David had some similar feelings. How long O Lord will you look the other way? somehow there is a small amount of comfort in knowing that we are not the only persons in the world who have ever felt like God is not looking on us with His favor - or looking our direction at all!  Even though David pours out all of his anguish before the Lord - he ends up in the last verse of this psalm with this phrase...but I will trust in Your unfailing love.

Isn't that where we are today? Some days we are unable to feel or sense God in any way...yet we will trust in His unfailing love. Psalm 19 ends with one of these types of thoughts as well. He prays let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord!

These are my prayers today. That I will continue to trust even in the questions and doubts. And that my meditations will be pleasing in His sight today! Will you join me?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Plain and Simple

In preparation for a teaching I will be doing later this week via Skype, I was reading Micah 6:8. This may sound kind of silly, but as a caregiver sometimes it seems like the way we have understood some scriptures through our traditional church teachings...from here they just don't fit the way we learned them. (that may just be me...)

 For example (and this is just one of many), forsake not the assembling of yourselves together...has been taught as though it is some grave sin to not go to church on Sunday morning. So what are you supposed to do when you are shut-in? (God forbid it be taught to go out and visit those who cannot come!!)

 But anyway - Micah 6:8 is one of those that is so simple it works anywhere for anyone. It's a scripture that there just is no way of reasoning around or making so religious that it no longer applies to real life! It's pure and simple and exempts no one.

 do what is right
love mercy
walk humbly with your God

These are required from us no matter what our circumstances are. God does not look down and say, oh, yeah, I forgot about that you don't have to worry about it then. It's plain and simple! And it is applicable no matter what the trial is. If you think about it there are those times you are in the furnace. It's hot as you know where but it's over in a short time. Then there are the times when the trials are like Joseph's, who sat in prison for years waiting on God to fulfill His promises. Either way...and any where in between... we must walk humbly with our God!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Furnace Walkers

My friend used this term when she replied to one of my blogs.It's the one where I try to dump all my emotions so I can have my heart and mind clear to be able to concentrate on the rest of my day which is mostly caregiving or writing. (www.macdingolinger.wordpress.com) It's actually called from the furnace and I try to share how I hold on to faith while going through this furnace. Sometimes I am barely keeping it in my grasp and sometimes it sure seems to slip away! But eventually, no matter how dark - faith always comes back.

 I was thinking of others this morning who had their furnace. Some like the apostle Paul. He turned his heart toward God while in the furnace and we ended up with 2/3 of our New Testament! I suppose this is our greatest task right now - while in our own personal furnaces - to turn our hearts to Him. For the real believers - it's impossible not to. It can actually be frustrating to try to walk away... like ... where would we go anyway?

There is no other comfort, no other peace, no other help...than the Lord. And although our struggle is a constant one, one which there is very little if any relief, He is a constant comfort and help. I cannot even explain it really - except to say we must run to Him even while walking in our furnace. And although we live in a chronic pain in our souls- He is still our source - still our God - He is still...so let us be still before Him... and accept His peace today.

 Jesus said it best (of course)... My peace I leave with you - My peace I give to you not as the world gives...therefore let not your hearts be troubled neither let it be afraid.  (John 14:27)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sleep is Overrated!

I am certain that sleep is overrated! I have always wondered why God made our bodies to need a certain amount of sleep every night. It seems like such a waste of time. Didn't He know how much I could get done if I did not have to lay down for that minimum of 6 hours a night?

 I was thinking about this last night as my son was waking me up every hour on the hour until about 3 this morning. All the things I needed to accomplish today were running through my mind as I was griping about having to give in to the tiredness. I even thought, why did You make us have to sleep? You never sleep?

 ....but He did rest...from all His works!

 So here it is 3 am and caregiving is stealing my sleep that I didn't really want in the first place and now my mind is racing. He does not ever sleep. He does not grow tired....but I do!

As I lay there frustrated and trying to decide if I should just get up and stop fighting it; asking all these questions - I was pretty sure I was not disturbing God since He doesn't sleep! I realized that in our sleep our bodies reset. That few hours that some of us get is essential for our heart, brain and other organs to rejuvenate. And as I was finally dozing off thoughts of resting in Him were running through my head.

If we can ever get it - how when we shut ourselves down and rest in Him - our hearts and minds can be rejuvenated. So as I go about today in this fog of a sleepless night I will be meditating on reminding myself to rest in Him. Care to join me?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Daily Devotions for Caregivers: Fear Not - You Worm...?

Daily Devotions for Caregivers: Fear Not - You Worm...?: I was reading along this morning and found a great scripture that contains a wonderful piece of instruction to Jacob: fear not. I let my ey...

Fear Not - You Worm...?

I was reading along this morning and found a great scripture that contains a wonderful piece of instruction to Jacob: fear not. I let my eyes rest on those two little words for a few seconds as I thought about how many fears I face almost every day. (I'm afraid I'll do something wrong while caring for my son, afraid I am not stretching him enough, afraid I'll drop him, afraid I won't stay on top of my growing work load, afraid I'll gain more weight, afraid I won't get to run soon enough....got the idea? 'cause I can go on!!)

 Fear not. Simple, but complex, isn't it? It's easy to say - but difficult to do. Just help me find the button to turn my thoughts off for a minute and maybe I can shut down the fears that come with the situation. I really don't think it's the deepest sense of the word, fear. Sometimes it's healthy to be afraid. Like when you are going to cross the road on foot and there is traffic. It's actually a good thing to be afraid of stepping out in front of a truck! And these lower level nagging fears are not like being consumed with an abnormal fear of what some would call silly things. It's okay to have the sort of fear that brings you some concern. We pay better attention to life that way.

 But here in Isaiah 41:14 - God speaks directly to Jacob (who's been dead for years) through Isaiah the prophet when He says, "Fear not, you worm Jacob." Yeah, I know - I read it several times and in several different versions but they all say "you worm" too.I mean, how low can you go? lol!

 I really don't have some deep theological interpretation for this...honestly, I don't have a clue! But here's what I think about this phrase. It is a stark reminder that He is God...and we are not. And since He is God (and we are not) we do not have to fear from our low position. Just humbly give ourselves to Him again today....then fear not.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In the Seeking...

Caregiving is an endless job and it does not take long to feel safely isolated away from the rest of the world. There seems to be times that I want to withdraw on purpose and live safely in my cave. Some of those times can be a good thing, allowing me to gather my thoughts and emotions so that I do not explode on anyone negatively should I have contact with the "outside world."

 But there always comes the times to emerge...it's almost like a fresh new start on a very strange level. There are times the isolation of caregivers is good and there are times that the world is a real place for us once again. Either place can be the right place for the moment, neither to be totally embraced, or ignored. No matter which extreme we seem to be living in - or anywhere in between - there's a continual longing, or seeking for Him....waiting for Him to show up one more time...

 David said in Psalm 63:1   
O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek you; 
my soul thirsts for You; 
my flesh faints for You,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary
beholding Your power and glory.
Because Your steadfast love is better than life
my lips will praise You.
As caregivers, most of the time we do not get to go to what most consider the "sanctuary." This is when we must remember that we are His sanctuary. We do not have to go anywhere to meet with Him or see His glory displayed. He is alive in us and we take him wherever we go...He's in the cave with us in isolation; and He is also with us when we emerge for a time.

 This brings a comfort to me this morning...to know that even when I feel recluse - He is still here. So if you are thirsty for Him today - simply look to Him and be thankful that we do not have to "go" anywhere to experience the touch of His presence. He cannot leave us....Where would He go?...He's everywhere!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Small Comfort at Last

Please forgive me for being so lax on doing this devotional. I needed help myself for a few weeks. I know you are most likely very familiar with what I call the "caregiver's fog." It can sweep you up and suck you down and leave you in a state of nothingness for days on end. It can fry your emotions and leave you scratching your head barely making it through each grueling day beneath its pressure.But alas...I am finally emerging. I will try to do a better job at keeping my head above and completing this task. My purpose really is to encourage but quite honestly I just have not had it in me! But I'm back now!!

 I think what helped me start the difficult dig out of the hole was the other day someone made mention of a particular scripture and I began talking about it. I was so stirred up it got me to thinking about it and many others on the topic. One thing I have tried to do is to begin to read the scriptures without my old religious thinking...it's very difficult I must say. We've been taught what to think for far too long!

 As I thought about the Word I got all stirred up inside. Then I thought of Psalm 1119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction; that your Word quickens me. I realized no matter what I really am not looking for any help, or any answers outside of His word. No matter how far away He feels to me I still only want His answers for all the dreams I used to have, the wasted years, and the huge whys. The fact that I can still get so stirred up over a scripture lets me know that even though I feel very dead right now - He is alive in me somewhere in there....and that is comforting to me today. So be comforted - He is still Here!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It Says What?

In my morning devotions I was reading through Psalm 68. I have always enjoyed this psalm and I think it may be because we taught the first verse to the children's church crowd back in the day. To me this is a very rich psalm and speaks to many areas in our lives. But today I got to verse 19 and stopped.

 In the NASB verse 19 says this: Blessed be the Lord who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. But I had a note in my margin that reminded me of how this particular verse is translated in the old KJV: Blessed be the Lord who daily loads us with benefits; even the God of our salvation. These two phrases: loads us with benefits and bears our burden  do not really seem close. How could the same phrase be translated two different ways? That I may never know - but...

 In my thinking it sounds like it is to my benefit that He carries my burden! He not only took my sin to Calvary - but He walks with me through this journey we call life. He is the one who gives us the strength to walk through each day - to take it as it comes! And when we wait on Him (Isaiah 40:39) He renews that strength, His strength in us, over and over again!

 Today - I will think about how I can let Him carry my burden and renew my strength.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Daniel on Prayer

While I was studying this morning my Bible kind of fell open to Daniel. I didn't really read but a verse or two, but I just started thinking about this man. He is one of my favorite Bible characters and I know I mention him a lot. But I just cannot imagine enduring the things Daniel had to face in his lifetime.

 He was pretty young when they went into captivity at which time he was castrated and was basically made a slave. He was trained for service to the king, but he lost his life, dreams and hopes in the process. He would never do the normal things like get married, buy land and have children. It had all been stolen from him.

 Yet even when Daniel faced such great adversity, he continued to pray daily. It was not just a fluke, he was not trying to use prayer to make anything better or even to get out of captivity at this point. It seems his prayers and efforts did not turn that direction until he found where God has specifically told Jeremiah that it would be 70 years of captivity. When he found what God said on it that is when he moved toward it; by now he was an old man.

I guess there are two things that stand out to me in this book. One is that Daniel maintained his integrity before God and continued the things he had purposed in his heart. He prayed every day - three times a day. And the second thing that sticks out is that he waited for God's timing. He was not whiny (like me) and questioning God's judgment all the time - he went for relationship. Then he got his answer when it was God's time.

 As caregivers we live what can seem to others as a castrated life. Many think that we cannot be productive shut in with our loved ones. But I beg to differ with that train of thinking. Our situation - no matter how difficult it becomes - cannot hinder our relationship with our God. Actually, many times it seems to enhance it!

 Today, if I can encourage anyone at all, I would say - keep your integrity before our God. Don't let the situation rule you - no matter how difficult it seems (and boy do I know!) we must continue to pray and seek the Lord. What we do with Him will last for eternity...

Monday, August 15, 2011

And the Point Is.....?

Psalm 42 has been sung for years. It starts out speaking of how the psalmist was longing for the Lord as a deer thirsts for water. He goes on to talk about that intense longing to just be with Him...a very familiar feeling. And in verse 5 he says this: Why are you cast down O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God.  By the time he gets to the last part of his thoughts that helped to form this psalm he mentions it again. (v11)

 And here's what's interesting, in the next psalm verse 5 says the same thing again. On one hand it seems like it's not that big of a deal; like maybe he was trying to talk himself into trusting in God. And I know caregivers must work through that process many days! But, he was not trying to do that. Psalm 42 was written for the sons of Korah...we are talking Moses' day. But Psalm 43 was written by David. That means it was important enough to him for him to repeat it to himself.

 I think the point is this: that even when we are living in troublesome circumstance - we must trust Him to get us through the day. Even if we have to repeat it to our souls over and over I will trust in Him...I will trust in Him...I will trust in Him...That is really what will get us through the day, the hour, the minute or possibly even just this one brief second.

 Make it your goal today as you go about caring for your loved one - to purposefully trust in Him.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Caregiver's Fog

I know all the true caregivers out there no exactly what I mean by the caregiver's fog. It usually descends slowly and overcomes you until you cannot find a way out. But you're already suffocating before you realize how bad it is. Well, that's where I have been. I hate it when I do not get on here to do a devotion - but there are days I just can't find one and I am not going to throw some empty words out here --that helps no one~!

 Sometimes, crawling out is as easy as opening up the Bible and letting His word wash it all away. But then there are those times when opening the Word actually adds frustration. You see the miracles He performed and wonder why you didn't get one. Or read scriptures about His great deliverance from Egypt and just scratch your head... sometimes I really cannot see for the fog.

 But every time He comes through. I don't really know what His big fog-blow-awayer looks like... but it can come in the form of a phone call or card from a friend. Or maybe it's a song I hear online. Who can describe His ways... but He finally gets through to me every single time! Then I am washed away in His love and watchful care once again....

 I am so glad that He is big enough to handle my faltering, faithless heart. Hudson Taylor said when we feel faithless, rely on Him - for He is faith-full. There are those times He must have the faith for me! Let Him carry you through today...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How Big is Your Shovel?

I was reading Psalm 88 this morning. This particular psalm is how I sound some days - hopeless! It is strange how it is comforting to find out that someone else has the same questions, the same lost feelings, and the same hopelessness that I have experienced! They seem to be digging around in my hole! lol! He is speaking of things like being full of trouble, living in the pit, and how afflicting life can be. I have those days too! Those are the days where I don't feel like my shovel is big enough - or that I cannot find enough fill dirt to fill the hole in!

 Isn't it odd that this Psalm is even in the Bible? It's not uplifting at all except to know that someone else did experience the deep questions about pains and life without receiving any answers either! lol! Why was it included? It is not an encouraging Psalm at all. And as I was reading it this morning I kept looking for the but.. but I will sing, but I will praise or something like that. And it's just not there! I had a good eye roll planned for it too - I'm sure you never have any days you feel that one!

So I began to realize once again that I must dig myself out of the caregiver's fog...so I started looking for my "shovel." And ever so slowly I had to write the rest of this psalm myself...I will sing...don't feel like it...I will praise...cannot argue with His worthiness...I will rejoice...in what?

I cannot tell you how many times I have to go back to the basics to get out of the pit. I start here: God is. Some days that is enough, others it is not. But to stop and embrace the fact - the truth - that He just is - is a great place to start. God is love, God is faithful, God is supreme, God is smarter than me!!! And there I  can relax...peace in the knowing - even when absolutely nothing makes sense - He is. I can live on that today!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

What I Need to Hear

When I am preparing to do a devotion for caregivers a lot of times I ask myself what do I need to hear today? It helps me at least find a starting place most of the time. And to be honest right now, I just need to hear that God is somewhere...hopefully nearer than I feel! Did you ever feel that way, or is it just me?

 This of course is where faith steps in and won't let us believe anything except that He is near. It's so ingrained in us that we know that's the right answer whether we feel  it or not! And it may not look like it to anyone else - but isn't that what true faith is all about...believing is the substance of the things we cannot see...or feel...or sense! But it even goes beyond the shallow religious teachings...because He is not just here to see to it that we attend church! He is with us on the journey. If God doesn't live outside the walls of the church then the caregiver is without hope for our daily lives....and beyond!

 The hope He gives cannot just be just for the hereafter either...what good does that do us when we are trying to live today with His strength? The thing to grab hold to here is that He is God throughout time. He's been the same God to all who have chosen to serve Him from the beginning; and He will continue to be the same until the end of time...simply walking through time with us.

The faith part is knowing that He is there even if you cannot feel He's there....so today look around you. There's evidence somewhere! Let Him show you today how close He really is!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What About the Cave?

This morning I was reading through some of Psalm 18 and how David had triumphed over his enemies. To be quite honest, I wasn't feeling it. So I thought to myself No, I need to read the one he wrote in the cave. So I turned over to Psalm 57. It's the one David wrote while he was hiding in the cave while Saul was pursuing him.

 He starts the Psalm out with a prayer asking for God's mercy and then a declaration immediately following. The soon-to-be king cries out to God and says Have mercy on me O God, have mercy on me! He had to be in anguish. Here God had told him he was to be king, and he could battle Saul and rightfully take the position according to the culture of the day. But he (rightly) chose not to lift his hand against Saul...to run instead. And now, he's in the cave...waiting...

 But immediately following his anguished prayer for God's mercy he makes his personal declaration: I look to You for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of Your Wings until this violent storm is past.

 Here David is, hiding in a cave; waiting on the promise of God to come to fulfillment. He's waiting on a dream to manifest...but with one breath he's crying out for the mercy of God and with the next declaring He will wait on Him! Do you ever feel that way? I do. One minute I am standing at the door of the cave, praying and asking for His help; and the next I am cowered down in the back of the cave just hiding out. In just a matter of a few seconds I can go to fully trusting...to shaking...and back. I'm thinking it's just part of the journey.

David goes ahead and declares God's faithfulness, and His promises. So wherever you are in "the cave" today, whether you are cowering in the back just trying to make another day or standing in the door boldly, declare His words, declare His promises...and then declare the I wills of David:

I will waken the dawn with my song
I will thank you Lord
I will sing your praises
 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Healing Rest

Early in the mornings I go in and feed my son through his peg tube, change him and get him comfortable. Shortly after that he usually goes off into a deep sleep; a restful sleep. I checked on him just before starting to write this morning and he was out! I thought, he's getting good, restful sleep...healing rest. I figure that when he is sleeping real good and letting his mind and body rest that he is healing. We know rest and healing are connected.

 What does that mean to the caregiver? Because as a caregiver, we have pain every day. It never real goes away because we are dealing with a stressful, painful situation all the time; so it hurts all the time. We see our loved one not able to function fully on their own and to need help with simple, daily living skills. They are not who they were and in my case I grieve a lot over the loss of my son - even though he is still here. Yet he's not still here - not like he was. And as we walk out each day, each step along the way can be filled with pain.

 So as I watched my son sleeping (parents never tire of watching their kids sleep do they?) and was thinking about how rest brings healing, I though about the times I can press through the pain and truly find rest in Him. Those are the times He can heal our broken hearts...but only when we can quiet our souls and minds (sometimes it's more difficult to quiet the soul than the mind...) and truly rest in Him can we find the healing we need. And we must do it every day. Because we hurt every day - and we need His touch every single day.

So find a moment today somewhere, somehow...to rest your soul in His. Let Him wipe away the moment's pain...it will return...but He can handle it! Keep resting in Him....

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Expectations

Things do not always work out as we expect them to. Seriously, who ever planned on being a full time caregiver to a loved one? We obviously had  much different expectations for our lives. Perhaps we expected to travel the world (my own personal one...), or get married again (NOT on my list), lose ourselves in an enjoyable career, or serve in a local community or church. No matter where we thought we were going with life, I think it is a safe assumption that it has not turned out like we expected.

This morning I was reading in Hebrews again (I haven't strayed too far away from it yet), and read this verse in chapter 8.(NLT) When I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. In context, God is speaking of the Children of Israel and how He rescued them out of Egypt's cruel slavery. But as He took them out of Egypt the first thing they ran into was a road block that looked like the Red Sea. I really do not think that this is what they expected to happen as He was rescuing them from Egypt...do you?

 Here they are sandwiched nicely between the Red Sea in front of them, and Pharaoh's army pressing in from behind. Do you think this was what they were expecting? Did it look like a great rescue from there I wonder? And we haven't even mentioned that He led them from Egypt to the wilderness! They had to scratch their heads much of the time and wonder what God was up to and where had His promises gone...

I know as a caregiver I have has similar  thoughts as where I am does not look like the expectations I had for this phase of my life. This can be very disappointing - just like the Children of Israel may have been disappointed to see the many miles of wilderness stretch out before them when they were expecting a promised land.

But I am thinking that when God was getting ready to do something big He always provided a wilderness first. He spoke to Moses in the wilderness when He sent Him to get His people. Ezekiel it seems was always dragged off to the wilderness to hear God's voice; and Jesus went to the wilderness to fast and be tempted before He came out with His public ministry...So I am thinking...maybe we are not in as bad of a place as we thought...today I will purpose to hear from Him in my wilderness...how will you spend your wilderness today caregivers?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not Far Away

I have stumbled over this scripture now for the last two days. I was reading in Hebrews yesterday and it caught my attention. Then this morning when I got my coffee and opened my Bible it just fell open to the same scripture in Jeremiah. Which one am I talking about? The one that says this:


For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel...
I will put My laws into their minds
and I will write them on their hearts
And I will be their God 
and they shall be My people...
 Hebrews 8:10 is a direct quote from Jeremiah 31:33. I figured since I kept stumbling across it I should camp there a little bit and meditate. So I did. And in my meditations I realized that if He wrote His word in us - planted it there if you will, we only have to yield to it. How do I do that? Stop. Seriously, all we have to do is stop our heads from running around in circles, get a grip and listen to Him. Be still and know that I am God comes to mind as does The word of God is nigh thee even in your mouth and heart...

 My conclusion then? He is never far away. No matter how I am feeling on any given day. And it only takes a few minutes to open the word and refresh what He's put inside of us. And really another comforting thing to me is that my loved one though not really who he was - has the word written on his heart as well, he is a believer...and still is. It was not the spirit of the one we care for that was damaged - it's their body. God's word is still written on their heart...and will always be. Not sure how - but I find this a comforting thought.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In Everything Give Thanks

This scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians5:18, someone through it out as a cliche this week so I looked it up. And can I be totally honest and say I really do not want to? And I really just can't. I cannot thank Him for the wreck my son was in that has left him impaired. I honestly, just can't do it. And the worse part is I don't care that I can't do it!

 But the other side of that is I don't think He requires me to give thanks for the injury, the damage or my son's condition that thrust me into caregiving. However, I do believe that there is a silent power that arises when we purposefully find things to be thankful for rather than gripe about. It's an attitude of thanksgiving that He's looking for...because to literally thank Him for the horrible things in life would (for me) be a lie. And I think He looks more toward an honest heart than for one who is lying just trying to make HIm happy. I really think our honesty with Him is a way to display our trust.

 Did you ever see the old classic movie Pollyanna? I am actually old enough that I read the book first! lol! Although it was just a story, this child made a conscious decision to play the glad game. And no matter what was terrible around her she found something to be glad about. I think we can make that kind of attitudinal adjustment even in our adverse situations.

 We are stressed, we're tired, we're strained...but we can make that conscious decision to thank Him for something. I am finding that to be thankful helps my whole outlook. The day is not as dreary when I go through it thanking Him for things rather than fussing about all that went wrong! So today - Thank Him!! (for something!!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Separation Anxiety

Sometimes there is this huge mental struggle because religion is so works oriented. Maybe it's just me, but there are times I struggle with if He loves me enough...It sounds wrong I know. But we can read through the gospels and see all the miracles Jesus did for others..maybe I'm the only one who wonders why He doesn't come riding in on His white horse for me.

 Even the Old Testament is full of various displays of His miraculous powers. Yet my loved one still suffers. And I cannot help but wonder if He loved others more...But then (my busy mind) immediately jumps to what I would do if He miraculously healed my son. How would I explain to someone else that He loves them as much?

All this crazy thinking lead me straight to Romans 8. It's a long time favorite isn't it? We quickly quote that nothing can separate us from His love. But sometimes during tribulation it's easy to wonder...But a quick look at Paul's discussion is quite revealing. We can grab the concept in verses 38 and 39. It's easy to figure out that no substance, no creation, no power and no position can separate us from His love. Got it!

 But did we skip verse 35 in our analysis? Verses 38-39 are in answer to the question Paul asked back up in verse 35...Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Then his list of things that may seem to be able to cause a chasm between us and God's love looks like this: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword...The caregiver certainly has a good understanding of tribulation and distress as it was some form of distress that launched us into the position of caring for a loved one.

 Now verse 37 makes more sense - in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Notice it's in  the unpleasant circumstance - not over, around, under or any type of avoidance here...but right there in the circumstance His love is there with us to carry us and to keep our souls. Our souls cannot be harmed in any circumstance because that's the part of us that He protects...and loves. Let us take time today to rest in His love for us...for it is unwavering in the face of great trials and tribulations.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Streams in the Desert

Overall the life of a caregiver can be stressful; and that's summing it up mildly. We can have so many variables in just one day that it would be wrong to say it's anywhere close to normal. And really for each caregiver the situational demands are so varied there's no way to compare those either. And just like normal people we have good days and bad days...I am pretty sure that's just a given with life! lol!

 And for those of you who are not caregivers, just remember that on top of the transfers, feeding tubes, incontinence issues, bathing, physical therapy and a wide variety of other tasks that must be done in a day - we still have those normal things too - dishes, laundry, cleaning the house and keeping up the yard!

 But there are those times during the stress and stain of a common day - that He steps in. I am not sure there's a way to explain it; but the peace that comes in those moments where we are so aware of Him carrying us through..well, it's simply indescribable. One scripture that gets close is in Isaiah 43. In verses 19 and 20 He says this: I will make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

These two things are so refreshing. I really like the road in the wilderness because it indicates a couple of things one there is movement - and we are going somewhere! Our lives can so feel at a standstill sometimes, but if there's a roadway in this wilderness there has to be somewhere to go! This is not the end-all! And who ever heard of a river in a desert? That speaks of sustenance as well as refreshing. It's God sending the extraordinary into a dry situation to bring change.

 Even though it can feel like we are living in a standstill - God is on the move. He will bring us the refreshing - as we wait on Him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bad News Bears

Did you ever read a scripture and find it upsetting instead of comforting? I do sometimes but given enough time I can work back through to peace! lol!

 I was reading through Psalm 112 this morning and came across a frustrating verse; actually, two of them in the same psalm! Verse 4 and 6 stuck out to me and my first response was to whine. (I know I am the only one who ever does that!) Actually verse7 caught my eye first: They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. My first thought was I got bad news...that's how I became a caregiver.

 But after I read through the entire psalm a time or two my thinking finally balanced out somewhat. First of all, it does not say they won't ever get  bad news...but that there is no fear in the bad news. And that is followed up by the act of confidently trusting the Lord...even after bad news. It's a matter of trusting Him through whatever life may bring...not avoiding anything we perceive as bad.

Then verse 4 says:When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in. My first thought here was is that possible? For darkness to over take the godly? Not the sinner, nor the unbeliever but the godly. I found that an interesting statement. Being godly and walking righteously before God does not exempt us from life's situations, trials, or troubles. But the promise is that even when we are overtaken by circumstance and cannot see - His light will come bursting in! I think I like that AND I will watch for His light to break up the darkness that pursues.

 It's all about trust isn't it?