Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Heart Matters

When I was a church-goer, I was a "worship leader." Psalm 95:6 was one of our favorite choruses to sing "back in the day." Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker. For He is our God, we are the people of His pasture; and the sheep of His hand." I have used this particular verse to teach on worship for many years. When adversity strikes we can tend to think that the rules of engagement concerning our worship have changed. But they have not.

 God still needs us to come and bow before Him in sincere and unadulterated worship. Worship is not just a song we sing on Sunday morning at church. It's a lifestyle of humility before God...that sometimes can be expressed in the words to a song.

 It is so important for us to guard our hearts when we are going through. It is very easy to become hardened by life's circumstances. On down in this particular psalm, the psalmist discusses how the Children of Israel's hearts had become hardened when they had left Egypt and found that they had no water. They began to accuse God and ask where He was. I must say, I have done my share of accusing and asking too. But it is all about where the heart is when we ask.

 Today, consider His provision. Let us position ourselves before Him in a purposeful posture of humility. Let adversity bring us closer to Him rather than allowing our hearts to harden toward Him. He knows...it's now we need Him most!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Could that Happen?

Jesus was having a discussion with his disciples as it is recorded in John 14. In verse 19, He is explaining that the disciples would be able to see Him, but the world would not be able to see Him anymore. Judas (not Iscariot) asked the question that would be on anyone's mind. How is it that we can see you and the world cannot? That was Jesus' opportunity to begin retelling them the things He'd been saying all along.

He spoke of loving the Father and keeping His word, how the Father would live in those who do that and the Holy Spirit's work. The he gives us verse 27. My peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (NASB) And to that we must say, "Wow!" It does not matter what type of situation we are in as caregivers, we can have His peace in our hearts. It is possible to be in this daily turmoil and walk in peace. Our world is a painful world; there are many decisions that must be made and tasks that have to be done to care for our loved one who needs our assistance. Honestly, it can get to you after awhile! But His peace is there waiting to catch us!

 It does not matter that we do not understand His peace; and it matters even less that the world doesn't get it either! We can actually sit back and rest in Him when the rest of our world is falling apart. This verse has a promise and a command. (Jesus is can sneak those in rather easy..) He promises that He gives us a real peace that is nothing like the world has to offer...doesn't even come close. And then He tells us don't let. It is up to us to keep ourselves calm. And that is not always (or ever) an easy task. It takes a lot of faith and strength to look at the situation we live in and choose peace. But it is well worth the effort.

 Today, let us reach out and grab this provided peace. Decide to walk in His peace no matter what your eyes show you today. There's an old hymn that we used to sing. My kids grew up hearing me sing it. I sang it when they were sick, or scared. I remember sitting on the back porch of our house in the middle of the night one time holding my son who was having a horrible asthma attack. I sat out in the cold hoping it would help him breathe...and slowly rocked back and forth singing this tune. As a matter of fact - I sang it the other day when he was very upset...it still works!

Peace, peace wonderful peace
coming down from the Father above
Sweep over my spirit forever I pray
in fathomless billows of love..

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's About Time...

One of my all time favorite passages is Psalm 46. There are several things that you can pull out of there to use! Of course, those who know me very well know I can camp out on Be still and know I am God. And the phrase the God of Jakob is with us is mentioned twice. But verse 1 I am pretty sure I memorized at a very young age and have carried it with me all these years. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.

This verse is usually one of the first ones my mind pulls up when trouble shows up. It has brought comfort and strength to me over the years. Earlier this week I was sharing a devotion on a conference call and this scripture came out during the teaching. And right then and there it hit me that He is a present help. I had always thought about it in the sense that He is present like He's here. He is present and ready to help.

But as the words spilled out of my mouth I thought of it a little differently. The fact that He is present, He's here means that He is occupying this little space of time we call now. While I can gain strength and encouragement from the things He's done in my past I need Him with me now!

 We have hope that we will see all of His promises fulfilled in the future...but He is with us now! He is not just the God of my past or the hope of my future - He is walking through the fire with me right now! Rest today in the fact that He is with you and facing your day with you...right this very moment.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where Would He Go?

The caregiver's life is full....of caregiving! Our days are filled with assisting another perform their own SDLs. (skills for daily living) This can range from minimum assistance and supervision to complete 24/7 care. No matter what level of assistance we give, it's not easy taking care of someone else. We are very quick to put our own needs on hold to serve our loved one. In essence, we already lost our lives - at least the one we knew before - to care for them. And it's not always easy working through the emotions that go along with any given caregiving situation. So how do we deal with it?

 The first thing to consider is that Jesus put His "life" on hold to take care of us too! He left eternity to walk through time only to be mistreated, persecuted and killed. In His darkest moment at Gethsemane, He did not consider His own emotions, feelings, wants or desires more important than completing the task the Father had sent Him to do...and that wasn't for His own good - it was for us!

But then He still did not leave us alone; He made sure we'd be taken care of throughout our entire walk through time. In John 15:16  He tells His disciples that even though He was going to depart this earth shortly He was sending them a helper. Did you get that? God sent us a Helper! And that's not all - that He may be with you forever! God sent Holy Spirit to help us, comfort us, guide us and teach us - so that we are not separated from God. He lives in us - and will not leave us!

I find great comfort in the fact that He won't leave us. Holy Spirit never takes a look around and says, "This is too difficult for me, I'm outta here!" He never gives up in His pursuit to help us see the Father no matter what type of situation we are in. Take comfort today in the truth that He will not leave you...think about it - if  He did  leave -- where would He go? He is everywhere - He literally cannot leave you...He chose to call us, "home."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Biggest Attack

There can be lots of things that nag at your mind and emotions throughout the day. It would be difficult to try to discuss them because our situations are so vastly different. Each set of circumstances that got us into the caregiver's role is unique...but there is one battle we fight that is most likely very much the same for all of us. That is the fight of faith.

It may be very unique to me so forgive me please! But it seems this is one area that the enemy really likes to stir up a lot of the time. He would so like for us to think that we do not have faith or else we would not be in these circumstances. If we had faith then our loved one would not be sick or maimed. But this is simply not true.

1 Peter 5:8-10 talks about resisting the devil in his attacks. It says for us to be sober and also to be alert. We cannot let our circumstances lull us to sleep. We must pick up that Bible and read, talk to God, and stay very diligent in our walk of faith, especially from where we are. Remember that Western religion has warped our thoughts about faith and how it works. But in its most simple form faith is continuing to stand.

 Verse 10 in this passage means a lot to me today as I struggle in my own faith. We must remember that He will perfect us, confirm us, strengthen us and establish us! We just have to fight for our faith to stay intact! Today - give yourself some credit for continuing to stand - for continuing to seek...you are much stronger than you think! You are full of faith!! Quiet your mind when it fights against you and just allow Him to strengthen you and establish you as you grow in faith.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How Good Can You Throw?

Do you remember the various games we used to play as a child that required we throw a ball? I can remember throwing a ball over the house with someone else. It was fun because you never knew exactly when it was coming back over or where it would come from or where it would land! I always prided myself on how easily I could throw the ball over the house. And I had a pretty accurate eye and arm when it came to throwing baseballs or footballs too! But when it comes to throwing my cares on Him it seems like I lost my touch!

 1 Peter 5:7 says that we should be casting all  your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. This casting is not a passively handing or gently tossing action. It is forcefully throwing all the anxiety of my day, week, or life on Him. Why? Because He is going to do all  the caring for me! I can roll it all over onto Him and let Him do my worrying. Now of course it is only worrying when we are carrying our own load and trying to find our own way in the midst of the struggle. For God, it's not worry at all. He is literally caring  for us.

 I hope you can see this picture. It's not just that He cares for us in the sense that He has great concern over the matters that are concerning us. Of course He loves us, tends to us and carries us...but in this sense, when we can roll all of the things that concern us, all of the things that cause us anxiety over onto Him - then He will do the caring... so we won't have to!

 Make today a day when you hand it all over to Him and you do not worry about stuff at all! It's like having a day off emotionally. Let Him do the caring for you today! I think I will try it again tomorrow too!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Humility is a Choice

We all have questions about a lot of different things. And really, there is nothing wrong with asking those questions; whether or not we get an answer from Him! And on a personal note - I think it's best to be totally honest with God. Think about it, does it help your situation if you are angry with Him if you do not express your feelings? Suppressing what you really feel is not healthy, and it is not walking humbly before Him. I had a friend one time who asked how I could be so frank with God even when I was angry at a situation. My explanation was that He knew anyway...I just as well be honest!

 This open honesty with Him about what you are feeling or even just how your day is going is part of being humble before Him. It will help nothing for us to come at Him shaking our fist! However, it is beneficial to humbly tell Him how you feel. And it is not a lack of humility to ask why?

Humility is a quality but it is also a choice. We can choose how we want to walk before God. We can choose the role we want Him to play in our lives. Micah 6:8 tells us to walk humbly with our God. It seems it is a major choice. 1 Peter 5:6 encourages us to humble ourselves  under God's mighty hand. This is a posture that we can take - it's a verb - an action. In this case it's a very purposeful action.

So what is the benefit of humbling ourselves before Him? He gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5) We all need His grace to help us walk through each day of our lives. As we humble our hearts and quiet our minds before Him we will find that His grace is indeed sufficient to carry us through life's circumstance!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Strength to Serve

This little walk through 1 Peter has helped me sort through many of my thoughts. But this one verse helps me bring my perspective back to where it should be. Caregiving is strenuous on body, soul and spirit. Many days you have to just suck it up and give it all you have - even though you feel there is nothing left! One way to look at caregiving is to consider yourself a servant.

We spend our days (and nights!) taking care of our loved ones. Depending on the nature of the situation we must perform various tasks of different levels of difficulty. Some just need assistance with skills associated with daily living, others maybe just need help with mobility, and still others need total care. Whatever our function is in the lives of our loved one - we can consider ourselves their servant for Christ's sake. He said there was no greater love displayed than when we lay down our lives for another. And we have done that.

1 Peter 4:11b says this: whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ....I do not know about you but depending on the challenges of the day - I do not always have the strength to carry myself through. Actually - most days I do not have the strength to carry myself through! It takes His strength to walk me through each day of caregiving. And this is true even on the "good" days.

 It is never easy to see someone else suffer in any capacity. It is also not easy to have to help someone who used to be very independent and now needs help with daily living. We must learn to walk in His strength and not our own. His strength will carry us, protect us, and help see us through one more day! Today as you serve your loved one, His child, think about relying on His strength more than on your own; you know you do not have it in yourself!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Strength in Quietness

On any given day the frustrations can mount! (maybe it's just me....) You actually schedule a quick trip to the store to grab a few items and the aid doesn't show! Or you plan an outing and your loved one is not up to par. Maybe you've called the doctor and they did not return your phone call. For me it can be the fact that my son didn't eat at all, or he will not cooperate with his exercises! Some things that seem like small things can add up to be huge on days when tensions run tight! (like spilling the bath water, tripping over a rug that's been there for months or forgetting where you put the box cutter the day supplies come in! lol!) If we are not careful there are so many things to do any given day that we can live life wound up like a taut rubber band. Trying to maintain a quiet spirit is something we might laugh at!

 But in 1 Peter 3:4 the apostle says that a gentle and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of God...This attitude is what we are to be adorned with - and God likes it! However, for me at least, a quiet spirit can be very far away! It takes effort to stop and refocus and get my spirit quiet, especially on those days when things are crazy out of control. (some people think that we are home all day and live a luxuriously peaceful life! lol!! ...what they don't know! lol!)

 The psalmist said in Psalm 46:10 that we should be still and know that He is God.He did not mention that it would have to be a purposeful action - the act  of being still...and that it is not always easily achieved inside the hectic circumstances. But I am finding that when I just stop.. for even a moment and refocus my thoughts on Him - it makes it easier to face the next daily crisis, the next decision I have to make, or the next situation that I must face.

 I encourage you today to concentrate on adorning yourself (guys too!) with a quiet spirit, and a gentle spirit before the Lord. We cannot present ourselves humbly before Him if we are ranting and raving and waving our arms about! Take a few moments today to quiet yourself before Him. (hint: you may need to do it more than once!) It will be well worth the effort - you'll find a strength in the quietness you forgot was there!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Do You Fit the Mold?

One thing that really surprised me when I began the walk of a caregiver was the rejection. We try not to take it personal by telling ourselves it's not on purpose, just that people do not quite know what to do with us. We do not fit the normal mode. We cannot always just get up and go out for a cup of coffee, grab a quick brunch with a friend or attend church like we used to. But we still have the same desires and need for friendships and relationships as those who are not caregivers. Rarely does someone cross that line and actually bring us  lunch or a cup of coffee. And there are few (and I thank God for them!) who will come and sit for a few minutes just to chat. But overall there is this rejection that must be dealt with.

 We are in good company. 1 Peter 2:4 has this to say of Christ: and coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God...Jesus had crowds of people following Him until He hit what was perceived as great adversity. Once there was any conflict they fled quicker than they had come! His adversity was greater than they could bear or more than they wished to deal with. And sometimes it feels the same for us - others do not know what to do with us...so they leave. Their intent is not harmful but it causes great pain nonetheless.

 I think one of the most touching scriptures is found in Job 2. It says that when his friends heard of his adversity they all made an appointment (with no cell phones, Internet or facebook) to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. And when they saw him and how badly he was doing physically, they wept. And even though later on we see that they have great problems with their theology - they sat for 7 days and nights with no one speaking a word, for they saw his pain was very great. (Job 2:11-13) This scene is so precious to me because they did not know what to do; they could do nothing to lessen the pain - so they just sat with their friend...no one knows how much that means.

We are still a part of the body of Christ even though we are walking on a different turf. And even though we cannot always go to the physical building to fellowship, and people do not always come to us - we are still one of His living stones mentioned in 1 Peter 2. The body does not consist of one building; but it is made up of all believers from throughout time. We all make up the body - we are all a part. Christ deems us worth dying for - We are just as precious in His eyes as any of His children. So do not let the circumstances make you feel like you are less a part of the body of Christ just because you do not fit the mold. We are still living stones whether we are ignored or not!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Where is Your Hope?

Along the journey of caregiving there are many disappointments. I have heard it said that when tragedy strikes you find out who your real friends are. For me this has proven true, sadly enough. Many people are willing to walk through it with you for a time, but they cannot handle a life-long commitment. But then God seems to always send true friends who can be there even when you don't know you need anything! It is certain that along life's journey (caregiving or not) we cannot put our hope or our faith in people as they will disappoint us.

 For that matter, we cannot put our hope in the medical profession either. There are some wonderful professionals that will go the extra mile and do all they can and a little more. But ultimately as wonderful as they can be they are not our hope. 1Peter 1:21 reminds us to keep our hope in God. No matter what kind of circumstances press in us daily - and for caregivers they can be many in a day - our hope must remain in the Lord.  Romans 15:13 adds this to these thoughts: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot lose our hope in God. And I am not talking about a hope that is built around the physical. This hope is putting our lives in His hands...it rejuvenates us and strengthens us to face another day. He does not fill us with empty hopes like great wealth or perfect health...this hope goes far beyond the physical realm. It's a hope that is more than a flimsy wish. It is that knowing that no matter what comes at us in a day - He's got us. The circumstance will not change this kind of hope...it's in Him. And we are in Him...keep your hope (your life) in Him.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

But I am Sober!

It is very easy as caregivers to get caught up in all the daily responsibilities and activities and get lulled to sleep by them. On one hand we are so busy there's barely time to breathe - but that can lead us right into a very sluggish spiritual state. Especially for those of us who cannot get out very much - it's easy to just sit back and become spiritually unaware. For us - 1 Peter 1:13 is a great reminder!

 This verse is the apostle's reminder to the church to prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And from there he goes on to discuss the topic of holiness and our walk before the Lord. When you are only at home most of the time it is easy to think you may be exempt from this verse. But we must remember that it is imperative for us to stay sober in our walk as it is always before the Lord,  not before man. Man will not ever be our judge - God is. For this reason it is just as important for us to walk holy before Him as for those who live a "normal" life!

 We cannot let our circumstances wear us down to where we are lulled to spiritual sleep. Today, make an effort to stay sober in your spirit. Be ready to fight...live holy before Him!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Preserved in Him

When I read across this scripture in my morning readings today, I just had to share it. Now all caregivers may not be like me - but my whole world changed with one phone call. My life was jerked away from me in an instant. And although that has been very traumatic in every way possible one good thing is that all my religious thinking has been just as shaken. That's why I so enjoyed my meditations on this verse this morning.

 1 Peter 1:5 says this - ...who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. This whole chapter is worth a good slow read- let it be absorbed into your heart and spirit. But this phrase sort of grabbed me because even though my world was shaken that part of me that is saved - my soul - is very protected by the power of God! Think about that for a minute or two - your body did not get "saved." It's your soul that accepted Him and the changes living in Him brings.

 And while we are still scratching our heads trying to figure out if He actually protects our bodies or not we can rest assured that our souls cannot be touched or damaged in any way - because He protects that part of us. That is the part of us that is hidden in Him and it cannot be disturbed as long as we do not move away!

 Today - take time to meditate on how he protects our hearts  and souls by His power in Christ.