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!