Monday, December 30, 2013

He Led them Where?

When tragedy struck and my world was shaken I had to find a way to figure out what was going on. I have to admit my faith (or what I thought had been faith) was shaken as well. There were times I was angry with God and didn't understand how He could let awful things happen. I began to read His word with new eyes. It didn't take long to realize that the Bible is full of stories about hurting people and our heroes are our heroes because of the things they faced - not the things they avoided.

This morning I found this scripture as I was reading Isaiah. In chapter 48 verse 21 it says They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts. I'm thinking there are several key points here the first being that they didn't thirst even in the desert. He provided all along the way and this is something I can attest to. I've always seen God provide and never questioned it at all, but when my son was injured in an accident and my world turned upside down I sat in a hospital with him for 4 months, then in nursing homes with him for another year before getting to bring him home. During all that time of being "unemployed" I saw God provide and lead me into learning how to make a living in new, creative ways. I can honestly say I have had my needs met and God has provided so that I have not thirsted in the desert.

The second thing that stuck out to me in this verse this morning is He led them...He did what? They didn't stumble on the desert because of their own ignorance or bad choices? He led them through the deserts. He did not lead them around, over, under or take them on a pathway so that they could avoid it altogether - He led them right through it. My flesh cries out Why didn't He take them another way?  But my heart says  absolutely the perfect plan.  It's in those dry times that we actually get to know Him better. Sometimes His silence drives us to search for Him desperately. He took them right through the driest, most barren place - on purpose!

And the last thing that stands out to me today is that "deserts" is plural - more than one! It was not just one desert and then they were done - it was deserts! For the caregiver the crisis is not a one time event - but continues day after day. There are bad days - and there are better days; but every day has its own set of challenges - plural! And He is there to lead us right on through all of them.

Today as I face several real challenges I will meditate on a few things. Firstly, that He has led me to this place and He will lead me through it. Secondly, I'll meditate on the truth that He did not drop me in the middle of a desert - He walks through it with me - holding my hand. (And sometimes carrying me along the way!) And thirdly, I'll meditate on the fact that I do not lack - He is my provider and He has given me His living water to quench my thirst. No matter how "hot" life gets, or how difficult the situation becomes I know that He has protected my soul for eternity and I do not have to thirst for Him. That's the spiritual side - the natural side is that I will trust Him to continue providing natural needs as well as spiritual.

Will you join me?

Monday, December 16, 2013

With or Without Words

When Jesus came to Gethsemane, His first response was to pray. Then in Mark 14:33 these words stuck out to me this morning: and He began to be very distressed and troubled. How could that be? Jesus told the disciples repeatedly to not be troubled, yet we read here that He is in deep distress. Did He contradict Himself? Of course not!

He told the disciples that were with Him that He was deeply grieved to the point of death. And then He began to pray. There are a couple more things that stick out to me here. One thing is that He told those close to Him how He felt. As caregivers, we do not tend to do that very much. For the most part, we are the ones carrying the load and in many cases we are walking it alone. Sometimes there may not be anyone close enough to tell that you're having a difficult time, are depressed or overburdened. Other times, we just cannot admit our weakness as we don't want others to think we cannot carry the load - we have to be strong for those we are caring for, right?

How could Jesus make Himself that vulnerable? Because He was going to go past them. He simply told them how He felt crushed underneath the burden He was soon to bear to Calvary - and then went past his "friends" and straight to the Father with His prayers. And you know what? He prayed that the pain would pass...He asked the Father to remove it. How many times has that been the cry of the caregiver? But we are in good company. Jesus did not have His burden removed. He submitted to the master plan of the Father and endured the cross on our behalf.

When He came back to the disciples, He found them asleep. He asked them if they could not pray with Him for just one hour...wouldn't it be great to find someone willing to pray with the caregiver for an hour? I think of the few times when friends have taken the time for even a quick prayer with (or for) me and how much it meant. I have a couple of friends that are very good about that actually. They ask me some hard questions to find out how I am really doing. When I tell them my concern of the day - they say, "is it okay to pray about that right now?" Of course! It means so much for someone to take that time to call or to say that quick prayer...maybe we should start a "prayergivers" network for caregivers! lol

Jesus then tells the disciples that He really does understand for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And then you know what? He went right back to praying! I'm so thankful for this reminder today. It doesn't matter how sleepy everyone around us might be - we can continue to go to Him in prayer. And what about those days that we just don't have it? Caregivers understand that there are those days when your body, soul and spirit are just too tired to go on. But we do it anyway - there are certain things that just have to be done regardless of how we feel; or if we no longer feel. But in those moments of despair remember that first of all - we are in good company! And He can hear our heart's cry - with or without words.

Today I will meditate on the nearness of God. I'm thankful that Jesus does not snub me for my despair or distress - He understands and holds me closer. I'll meditate on this closeness today and pray from my heart for strength to make one more day of the journey.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joy and Obedience - It's not what you Think!

This week I am meditating and praying Psalm 51:12 and Romans 15:13 and asking God to restore joy. This morning I stayed in Psalm 51 and looked at what follows David's request for the Lord to restore his joy. He prays for joy then says, and make me willing to obey You. Isn't that an odd combination? Lord, restore my joy and make me willing to obey You? Are the two interconnected in some way? When did David not obey the Lord? In this case, the Psalm was written after his affair with Bathsheba and his disobedience did end up stealing his joy. Not only did he desire for the Lord to restore his pre-sin joy - he also needed the Holy Spirit's assistance in being willing to obey God rather than the lusts of the flesh.

For the caregiver, our situation may or may not be connected directly to any sin. Personally, I had nothing to do with my son's injury or the irresponsibility which caused it. But as caregivers, we are still responsible for our daily actions and we need to be willing to obey the Lord. However, my view on obedience has definitely changed. Before the transition that caregiving brought in my life obedience looked more like going to church, leading "worship," teaching Sunday School or going on the mission field. What does obedience  look like from the cave of caregiving?

At first glance I thought maybe I could just discard the last portion of this scripture since it really didn't seem to pertain to my situation. (That would be convenient, wouldn't it?) But after some contemplation and meditating on it a little bit I realized that it may actually be more difficult to obey Him from here. I no longer have such a churchy picture of what that looks like - and I must rely on my own heart - and on His heart in mine.

The scripture in Hebrews 10:16 pertaining to the new covenant comes to mind: I will put my laws in their hearts so they will understand them, and I will write them on their minds so they will obey them. This is our new covenant which was promised to Jeremiah. (Chapter 31) It's in our hearts to be pleasing to Him and to obey His nature. It's not really difficult at all - and it really has nothing at all to do with the "church" as we see it today. It's more about what David was talking about in Psalm 51 - my version would read: Let me not succumb to my own thoughts or desires - but let me crucify my flesh even in this cave and be more like You.

Today my meditation will be on yielding my heart to Him - rather than the feelings and emotions that go along with caregiving. I will think about how He made it easy for me - by placing His law in my heart and granting me understanding. I'll rest in Him and consider how to make my emotions chase after Him instead of chasing after a quick fix, or a feel-good moment. Will you join me?


Monday, December 9, 2013

Permission to Enjoy

I was visiting on the phone with a friend yesterday and we were comparing notes from our stress filled lives. Don't think we were having a pity party, we were not. We were actually talking about various strategies we could use to help us cope with the stress that life has presented us. Our conversation was more along the line of finding the best way to deal and keep our attitudes in good shape without being overcome by things like depression. We finally decided that we needed our joy restored - even in the midst of the storms we are facing.

We all know how demanding and strenuous the life of a caregiver can be; and sometimes it can simply be overwhelming. No matter what type of event caused us to become caregivers, it was likely traumatic. For me it was a phone call announcing the automobile accident my adult son was involved in. Even though it's been over 5 years, it can seem disrespectful to enjoy life, or even to laugh. But lately I have given myself permission to laugh, permission to "go on" and enjoy life as much as is possible.

My friend and I prayed that our joy would be restored and that we would be able to enjoy life even in its discomforts. Two scriptures came to my mind almost immediately. I thought of Psalm 51:12 in which David prayed that the Lord would restore the joy of salvation. But my mind also went to Romans 15:13 in which Paul prays this for the Roman Christians: Now 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.(NASB)

The funny thing is that these are scriptures I prayed over my son for several years until I saw God restore him to Himself. And now my soul is crying out for my soul to see its joy restored - in Him. One conclusion my friend and I came to is that God keeps our soul. No matter what happens as life plays out before us - nothing can harm our soul. Because of  this - I can rejoice in the power of His salvation!

No matter what we may be facing today our soul is secure in Him. My meditation this week will be on being hidden in Him and allowing Him to restore my joy. I will give myself permission to laugh and live again. Today my prayer will be that He will fill me with all joy and peace in believing -- will you join me?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Seek and Ye Shall Find?

For the last few days I've been reading and meditating on Psalm 42. The first verse has been made into choruses and songs many times and is very familiar: As the deer pants for the water - so my soul longs after You. It seems to me that this beautiful verse has been romanticized and adapted to the corporate worship setting- like we are seeking an experience corporately. But that does not make a lot of sense when read along with the rest of the psalm. We have to look at some of the other phrases throughout the passage to get a sense of the desperation of the soul of the writer.

Our faith simply cannot allow us to overlook some of the heart-wrenching phrases such as:


  • Day and night I have only tears for food
  • My heart is breaking
  • Why am I discouraged?
  • Now I am deeply discouraged
  • Why have You forsaken me?
  • Why must I wonder in darkness oppressed by my enemies?

Most of these are followed with encouraging answers such as:

  • I will put my hope in God!
  • I will praise Him again!
Evidently the psalmist found himself in a very sticky situation and was grasping for hope from outside himself. He was facing an onset of discouragement and fighting off feelings of being forsaken and alone. He kept telling himself to put his hope in God and that he would praise Him once again. Seeking God like the panting deer looks for water is a matter of sheer desperation. And you know what? It's okay.

In many cases the day to day life of the caregiver can be lived out in desperation - constantly seeking trying to find God in our circumstance. It does not mean we have sinned, or that we've distanced ourselves from the One we love- it's just not a comfortable place - and He's still right here - even when life gets ugly. It's okay to be desperate for Him in an un-church way - and it's okay to be thirsty for Him outside of corporate worship. We do not have to go to church to find Him. And we can be as determined as the sons of Korah in saying I will put my hope in God - I will praise Him again.

Today I'm going to meditate on the truth that He is here with me whether I feel Him or not. It's okay for life to be discouraging - but I will continue to seek for him from the desperate soul. And I will find Him....here.