Tuesday, February 28, 2012

After the Rainbow

In my reading this morning I came across this passage in Psalm 105. It's speaking of Joseph and how God sent him before to prepare the way for his family. I'm not sure that being sold into slavery by his own brothers is the way Joseph would have chosen to see God fulfill His word in his life - but that's the way it occurred. Verse 19 says that the word of the Lord tested Joseph. He knew God's promises but found himself sitting it out in a jail cell for a crime he did not even commit. How difficult it can be to be sitting on the promises!

As caregivers living in the furnace sometimes it can seem like all the promises of God have faded away. When  Noah came through the most horrific experience of his life (the flood), God made him a promise and sealed it with a rainbow. How easy it must have been in that moment standing at the altar of sacrifice and seeing the first rainbow - to believe God's promise. But one day - it rained again. It's easy to believe His promise while staring at the rainbow - but did he wonder the next time a drop of rain fell from the skies?

Can we believe His promises while walking in the furnace; long after the rainbow of promise has faded? Holding on to the things we feel He promised us can be very difficult when in the furnace. And so we wait....once again. There was no way Joseph could make God's promise happen in his life; no way for Noah to erase the memories of the flood. Did these two men ever wonder ( which is not a lack of faith) about God's promises? Did Noah watch the rain and consider moving back into the boat? Did Joseph sit for those long hours in a jail cell contemplating his dreams?

How do you spend your wait? Honestly, I have spent too much time in a rush of emotions with my fist raised at God (not like it is profitable in any way...), I've been angry, upset, confused...but it all comes back to believing Him when the rainbow has faded.

God is faithful. His word is sure even when the picture doesn't look like we thought it would. We do not know how Joseph sat out his wait; we are unaware if he ever asked any questions, or if he ever wavered at all. It certainly was not the way he would have planned for God to fulfill His word in his life. God's words are never inert - He will do all He said (and usually more) - can we trust Him here in the fire? Can we trust His promise after the rainbow has faded?

Waiting on His promise is not an easy task - questions gnaw away at our faith. Pictures of how we thought things were supposed to be whittle away at our hearts. But we must wait. We must trust His promise when the rainbow is gone - even if it starts raining again! Renew your trust in Him today - Tell Him how you feel - He can handle it. Then remind yourself of His promises and just rest in Him and let Him worry about how He is going to fulfill it in your life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Keeping Faith

Think about all the things you have done before you found the time to read this short devotion. Personally, I have been up every two hours through the night to turn, change and check on my loved one. Then when I scraped myself off the sheets to get up a little bit ago I had to check his temperature, O2 levels and do a tube feeding. And now I am at the computer writing a devotion! And the day has barely started...do you relate?

Our daily lives are full of taking care of our loved ones, making plans and appointments for them, fighting with doctor's offices and waiting to see if aides will show up today or not! It can be crazy and it can all chip away at our emotions and our faith. Sometimes we can sort of numb up and suck it all up to make it through a day. And you know what - it's okay! Each of us has our own unique situation to deal with and we have to do it the best way we can...putting one foot in front of the other and moving ourselves forward through the next 24 hours.

Sometimes we tend to try to ignore our situation and keep walking. That's really not the way to deal with it...Look at this scripture about Abraham. Hebrews 4:19 says that Abraham without becoming weak in faith contemplated his own body. When I saw that this morning it really hit me - in a good way. Faith-ers teach that we ignore the situations we are in, our bodies, our pain, our circumstances - and that then we can walk it out in faith. But Abraham - our faith hero - looked the situation right in the face and continued in faith.

He knew his body and Sarah's body were too old to be able to fulfill God's promise - he even thought about it. But he remained in faith. As we walk through the caregiver's chores today just deal with today...keep putting one foot in front of the other. And continue in faith knowing that God is walking through this furnace with us. He did not send us into the trial alone - keep the faith - it will keep you!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Praise in Adversity

Most of the time when we live in such a stressful state we do not think about praising God. We ask Him to help us get out, but praise is not always on our lips. The prophet Jonah found himself in a very deep, dark place - the belly of a whale. The difference, of course is that Jonah had disobeyed God and this was his punishment.

Personally, I wrestled with whether I was going through this deep trial as punishment for some sin I had committed; or something I had omitted. We have all probably had those moments where we questioned why adversity had to happen in the first place, most of us at least thought we had our religious t's crossed and i's dotted. Unlike Jonah, our circumstances are not punishment for something we did wrong. We are not off course - and we must learn to rest in His peace and embrace His love for us once again.

But Jonah had run the opposite direction to avoid what God had told him to do. He found himself in the deepest, darkest parts of the earth...the belly of the whale. Now no matter how he got there - it was dark, smelly and scarey. Yet from this place - a place that had to appear hopeless; a place Jonah though would be his end - Jonah cried out to God.

Jonah 2:9 is the last part of Jonah's prayer of repentance. He makes a strong declaration as he says: but I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving... He was determined even in the hopeless darkness to have a heart of thanksgiving. As dark as our lives may be, whether we understand why these things happened or not; no matter how hopeless we think our situation is - we must determine to have a thankful heart...a heart of praise. Today take a moment to praise God for who He is, for our circumstances do not change God. Our thoughts and ideas about God may be thoroughly challenged in our adversity - but He is still God!  Let us lift our voice to Him today and honor Him because He is still our God. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Faith-filled Tears

Many times as caregivers, we walk around in a painful numbness. Are you familiar with it? It's like everything hurts until we go numb on the inside, but it still hurts. (You really won't be able to understand that unless you've walked it!) Of course, stopping for a day is not an option for many so we continue putting one foot in front of the other, continuing through the tasks that each day demands. That's not a complaint - just the way it is.

So what do you do when the situation is overbearing? When you are overwhelmed with the day? I think Psalm 61 can help out a little. I found myself singing it to my son last night. The psalmist says Hear my cry O God; give heed to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. There really is faith in crying out to Him.

Last night the part that really stood out in my mind was the cry for Him to lead me to the rock. When we are overwhelmed (that's the old KJV translation) it can make it hard to find that place of refuge. Although that part of the verse had never stood out to me before last night I felt like I really needed Holy Spirit to lead me to the rock, I needed Him to help me find that place of refuge one more time.

Today allow Holy Spirit to lead you to the rock. Rest in Him and let Him bring comfort. Maybe the pain won't go away today; perhaps the numbing will continue to help shield it some - but in the pain allow Him to comfort your heart and soul. Allow Him to wash over you with His peace - allow Him to carry you...that's the epitome of trust. Crying out to Him is not a lack of faith - it's an indication that you still trust Him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

7 Mountains

This morning as I was praying I had a familiar scripture come to mind. It is found in Psalm 125:2 and it says, as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever. I had some idea of what that meant, but I did a small bit of research and found that there are 7 mountains around Jerusalem. And 7, of course, is the number of completeness - wholeness.

It was interesting as I went through several maps and various information to see that these 7 mountains are indeed all the way around Jerusalem. And the same way that they cover all the edges of this great city, God surrounds us - all the way around.

The other interesting fact to me was that where you have mountains - you also have great valleys. And in general, valleys represent the low places of our lives. But in reality - these valleys added an extra layer of protection for the city - the city that is surrounded by mountains.

For me as a caregiver, I needed to know today that He is surrounding my life in a very complete way. There are days that I do not feel His presence - but it's no time to lose heart. He is silently protecting my heart. And even when I must face the valleys a day may bring - or face an enduring valley that seems to never end - I can look up to Him and know that He is facing it with me. He is carrying me and protecting me. Most importantly - He is walking through it with me. What a comfort to know that we are never alone.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Even in the Furnace

Life brings us many days filled with many things. Living in the furnace (of caregiving) can get hot and stay hot. Sometimes that is the most difficult part - the fact that there is no real relief. Getting out for a few hours can bring a little relief, and much needed breaks - but then we still have to come back to an unchanging furnace. What a trial of faith...yet we just keep going; putting one foot in front of the other. Isn't that what it's all about? Just keeping on moving no matter what comes our way - no matter what our days look like - no matter what we must face today...that's faith.

 We are to be examples of faith and believing even in the furnace. Actually, without the furnace to try our faith we would not be able to recognize it as such. Having faith means that we do keep going no matter what we see, no matter what we feel, no matter what is going on around us. We just continue to stand...because we have Holy Spirit in us to strengthen us and carry us on through. We can spend our time complaining about the terrible situation we are in.. or we can be thankful for the God who carries us through - and does not leave us alone in the fire. Today I am thankful even in the furnace.

Let us be an example of faith today for anyone that might come across our path...as we continue to stand. Let us be an example of hope even through the pain..as we continue this walk of faith. Even in the furnace.....

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Any Given Day

For the caregiver we never know what types of situations may be presented to us, on any given day. But then of course, our regular day is filled with all sorts of stuff too. There are so many things that must be done in the course of a day that each day is already full. But then there are those times when any little thing can set the day on a totally different trek!

 It might be a delayed delivery, a cancelled doctor's appointment, an aide who did not show up, or any number of seemingly small or large difficulties that arise. Quite honestly, our days are difficult enough to handle physically, emotionally and even spiritually without any kind of unpleasant surprises. One thing I am finally learning is to not stress over the things that I cannot change. It's a difficult thing for me too - trust me.

 But as I was reading along the other morning I happened across a scripture that I use to quote a lot - especially in my youth pastoring days. It's Philippians 2:14 and is simply states: Do all things without grumbling and disputing. I did a reassessment of my previous two or three days and realized I was not doing too well in this department...it can be so easy to find things to complain about, can't it? But Paul says to do all things without it...all. He didn't say anything like, everyone except caregivers do your work without complaining... did he? No exclusionary statements whatsoever. (Does that seem fair to you?) lol...

 The way I am working to change this in my own world is that when something comes up that is certain to set me off - instead of complaining about it - I do a little Pollyanna thing. I find something in the situation to be thankful for. I also find a way around it. For instance if the expected delivery did not show up (like the thickened beverages I ordered) I figure out my best way to handle it and then I remember how thankful that I am that my son actually needs them now - because there was a time they were not needed. As I focus on his progress and how God has been providing - the problem becomes much smaller indeed! Then if I can find another way to manage the situation, good! But if there is no other way - why stress about something you cannot change? And complaining will not make it happen - why bother?

 So today - if something presents itself and is truly worthy of complaining about - find a way to be thankful instead. It will actually help the load seem lighter.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Looking for Some Shade...

Last summer was the hottest summer ever on record in Oklahoma. The temperature was over 100 degrees for more than 60 days. Sorry I don't remember the exact number of days, but it was a very long time, trust me!  It was smothering hot and the times of day that should bring relief like early in the morning - just weren't working right. It was hot; and it was hot all the time.

When I saw this scripture from Isaiah 25:4 I understood it a little better. The prophet says For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat....

 When it is so hot outside you can barely breathe, it is great to be able to sit in the shade for a few minutes. You really cannot do much more than that since it's so hot. Many people get very sick when they get too hot; so it's best to just sit and be still when it gets hot outside.

 For the caregiver - it can seem hot all the time due to the intensity of our trial. We are furnace walkers, as one of my friends put it. We live in the hot! The trial can wear away at us if we are not very careful. I will be the first to admit I am needy! I am helpless! I need His protection just to breathe some days. We carry a lot....every day. We each have our own lists of all the areas we have to fight through every day - medical issues, feeding, money matters... don't we?

 But no matter what struggles are present in our own personal furnace - He is a refuge for all! Today is a good day to trust Him. It's okay to tell God you feel helpless, defenseless, or needy. (hint: He knows it anyway!) It is not a sign of weakness to need Him! Today let's concentrate on how we need Him to be our strength, our shelter, protection and shield. And then...let's let Him...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

His Unchanging Promise

If we are breathing we have experienced change. The caregiver has no doubt seen many changes in their lives that have brought them into the position of providing care for their loved one(s). As we age, things change. Our children grow older, they have children, our jobs change and in general our lives are lived on a platform of change.

 The only thing that doesn't change is God; and His attributes. He remains the same as do His promises concerning us, His children. Ephesians 3:14-19 reminds us of some of these precious, unchanging promises. Holy Spirit lives in us. That is something that will not change for the believer. Paul prays in verse 16 that his readers would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. That is my prayer for caregivers, and His children today. May we realize His strength in us to carry out our daily tasks today - simply because He lives in us.

 Verse 17 reminds us that Christ dwells in our heart. Do you see the common theme? He is with us. No matter what tasks today brings, what challenges or triumphs...He is walking through it with us - better than that - He is walking through it in us.

 Take some time today to acknowledge His presence; whether you feel Him or not. In those darkest times of our lives when we cannot feel Him - it's not because He is not there - but because we grow numb. Rest assured today that His promises concerning you have not changed due to your circumstances. They do not change if you are unable to attend "church," His promises are sure and steadfast. You are His; and He is with you today in whatever life brings your way.