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!