Monday, August 21, 2017

Sons of God

I've been doing a study in 1 John over this past weekend, I'm trying to write a study guide for this short and powerful book. There are several recurring themes that John keeps returning to, even though there's only 5 chapters. It wasn't divided up into chapters when he sent it as a letter to the church, that's the way we did it. So why did he keep saying some things over and over? Maybe he, or God, had a message they were trying to get across.

Of course, we think about love and see it throughout John's gospel as well as his letters. But another topic that keeps coming up is how we are sons of God. So I thought about what that meant to the church and culture back then, what it means to the church today, and what it might mean for caregivers.

I think sometimes these very significant terms become cliche and we lose the depths of their meanings. So I purposefully stopped and thought about what it means to be a son of God. Obviously a son or daughter is being implied here - a child of God. I thought about how I'm my daddy's child. He loves me. He cares for me. He provided for me when I was a child and even taught me to be a responsible adult. Sometimes he sat down with me and taught me specific skills other times I learned by just hanging out with him.

Then I thought about how I am a parent. I love my kids and grand-kids! I repeated the same process with my kids when they were growing up. I always went for relationship over what I preferred they do or not do as they got older. And we developed pretty deep friendships in the process. Then, the unthinkable happened. My son was in a wreck. He's not the same. He can't reciprocate my love, he can't hold a conversation, he can't do the things young men are supposed to do - like marry and give me grand-babies. But he's still my son and I love him no less.

It can be easy for us to draw this line of separation between us and God - He's up there in the sky and we're down here trying to do life. But just like I don't love my son less because of his difficulties, even though it pains me greatly, he didn't stop being my son. And no matter what life throws at us or how badly we mess up, or how dysfunctional we are, like my son - we are still the sons of God.

Timothy says, He knows those who are His.

We are His and He's okay with that! He doesn't feel stuck with us - we are His child. He is going to care for us no matter what life throws at us - just like I continue to care for my son even though he's not able to do anything normal 33 year old men can do. When he can't speak - I speak for him. When he can't walk - I push him in a chair. When he can't eat - I feed him. etc. God has this same watch-care over us as His children. While it doesn't amaze me that I take care of my son - it does amaze me how God takes care of me - because I'm His child. 

Today I'm going to think about how I am God's child, and nothing can change or disrupt that. He cares for me like I care for my children (only more). My thoughts will be about what it means to be His child, and I'll meditate on how He cares for me even when I'm broke. He provides what ever level of care is needed for me - because He cares for me. I'll be thankful that He is my Father - and He's not looking to ditch me along the way! And I'll just crawl up next to Him today and tell Him thank you. I'll let Him love me as His child today - will you join me?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Called to Fellowship

This morning I was reading in 1 John, it's a small, but powerful book. John starts this letter to the church out in the same place he starts the gospel he wrote. His focus is the Word. In his gospel, he starts with In the beginning was the Word and the Word was... His letter to the church starts with What was from the beginning. 

My BC (before caregiving) years were spent reading, studying, writing about, and teaching the word. I think becoming a caregiver drove me deeper into the word, which is what trials and struggles should do. Difficulties have a way of driving us closer to Him, redefining our faith and making us stronger. But struggles can also lead to many questions, especially if you are the question queen. 

One of my struggles concerned many of the dreams I felt God had given me, the call on my life. I wrestled with it a lot as it seemed everything had been stripped away. Caregiving can carry with it such a sense of loss. Actually, I got myself in a bind financially because of it. Once I figured it out, I was able to correct it, but for a long time I bought whatever I wanted. I couldn't deny myself anything I desired as I was trying to compensate for the great loss I felt in my life. Once the Lord showed that to me I was able to correct it, but it caused great troubles!

What on earth can a caregiver do to fulfill the call on their lives? It's actually quite simple. I used to be a youth pastor and I taught this verse to the youth. It's 1 Corinthians 1:9. It's simple and succinct. Paul says this, God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord. That's about as plain and simple as it gets - we are called to fellowship with Him.

If we can get that part - everything else will fall into place. It's true on the highest mountain or lowest valley. It doesn't matter - He's everywhere. He's in us. He's with us. Fellowship with Him can be uninterrupted. When we fulfill that "calling" - called to fellowship with Him - we'll find completeness in Him. We'll find satisfaction in Him. We'll find our fulfillment and joy in Him. And more importantly, we'll be found in Him. For me, as a caregiver, that is comforting.

I don't live life as a caregiver separated from Him. Actually, in many ways I live life closer to Him now than ever before. Remember David told us in Psalm 34:18 that God is near the brokenhearted. If anything, He moves in closer when life hurts more.He is there to bind up our wounds, heal our broken hearts and carry us when necessary. I find comfort in that. And I find that place of rest knowing He is walking this road with me. Sometimes the bumpier the road, the deeper the fellowship.

Today, my thoughts will be on another psalm. Psalm 73:28 says, the nearness of my God is my good. I have made the Lord my refuge that I may tell of all Your works. My meditations will be on uninterrupted fellowship with Him. I'll think about how He is ever present and nothing can separate me from His love. I'll be thankful that I can continue to fellowship with Him no matter what life throws at me. I'm going to tell Him I love Him one more time. I'll rest in Him and trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Perfect Example

This week, I've been reading the letters Paul wrote to Timothy. There's so much in these two short books, mostly dealing with pastoring the early church. But as I was reading them over again this morning, I found one phrase that stuck out to me.

Paul's talking about how God was faithful to forgive him as he says he was the "foremost sinner" of all. He had persecuted the church, yet God, rich in mercy had pulled him out and called him to ministry. Paul says, the grace of our Lord was more than abundant with the faith and love which is found in Christ Jesus.  Although he felt like he'd been the chief among sinners, he knew he'd received an enormous amount of grace. (Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.)

But then, Paul says in verse 16 that he found mercy so that God could demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe. What an example that was! Maybe some needed that hope - that if God could save Paul - He could save anyone. That got me thinking. If Paul was an example of God's rich grace - what are we examples of?

As caregivers, our lives can be topsy turvy. It can be beyond description. But we can be examples of His grace, examples of His love. We can be examples of faith-filled furnace walkers. We are not perfect - but we are still pursuing God. What an example of perseverance. Of patient pursuit of godliness. We all have daily struggles and others may not understand, but at the heart of the matter - we are still seeking Him. We are examples of passionate pursuit of God. We are examples of lives touched by His grace. We are examples of faith that won't quit. Our lives are imperfect - and we don't have everything together all the time. Our attitudes can stink, well mine can anyway....but we always come back to Him. We are perfect examples of persistently pursuing Him, even in the face of adversity.

Today, I'm going to think about the fact that I haven't given up. My meditations will be on all the ways I've seen God move during this trial. I'll turn my thoughts toward His goodness - and thank Him for His patience with me. And I'll be thankful for the journey - as much as I dislike it - it's brought me closer to Him - brought you closer to Him. I'll think about how we are still "in the game" and haven't lost at all. I think I'll crawl up into His lap - tell Him "thank you" and rest in Him. Will you join me?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

We've Still Got It!

This morning as I was reading in Philippians 3. The Apostle Paul was talking about counting everything as a loss - for the "infinite value" of knowing Christ. That got me to thinking and searching for scriptures about knowing Him. It made for an interesting journey through the New Testament this morning.

I journeyed through Ephesians, Peter, Philippians...there really are quite a few passages discussing knowing Him. I finally landed back in 2 Peter 1. I seem to end up there a lot lately. I love the phrase that says we have everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. And you know what? We've still got it!

Caregiving can come with a lot of losses in many ways. But life can't throw us a big enough, fast enough hard ball for us to lose out with Him. As a matter of fact, in many ways it can cause us to press in to know Him a little more passionately. (If we let it.)

You see - we may lose, or give up a lot of things to be caregivers for the ones we love - but we still have a choice. We are the captain of our souls. We can choose to keep ourselves near Him. And we can chose to distance ourselves from Him as we tend to do when we get uncomfortable. Peter said, His divine power has given us.....and we've still got it.

God doesn't take things back. Romans 11:29 says He doesn't take His "gifts and callings" back. So since He gave us something - we still have it! We may have lost a lot of things in life, but we haven't lost a thing in Him.

Today I'm going to turn my thoughts toward all I have been given in Him. (peace, love, joy, salvation - just to name a few) I'll meditate on the un-take-back-ableness of His gifts. My thoughts will be on how He has equipped us with what we need to live godly in Him. He has given us what we need to know Him. And today I'm going to purpose to know Him more fully. Will you join me?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Seemingly Insignificant

Ever hear the phrase, "life goes on"? I'm sure you've heard it plenty of times, as I have. Sometimes for the caregiver, it feels like life does go on - but just for everyone else while we are stuck in the day-to-day. It can feel like everyone got on the train but us - and we are left standing on the platform all alone.

There are many challenges we face every day, and the social aspect can be one of the most difficult. We cannot always get out easily, if at all; and it's rare for people to come into our world. My caregiving started with a crisis but as soon as the "crisis" was over, everyone disappeared leaving me alone holding the bag. Maybe the crisis was over for them - but for me it continued and still continues today. Caregiving is a daily struggle although rewarding in its own way. But we still have to give up some of the "normals" of life.

It can feel like we are totally insignificant to life. After all, it did go on, just without us! We may feel like we don't make a huge contribution to life around us. Or maybe we feel like we don't have anything to offer the "real" world out there. But we are not insignificant to Him. Ever.

This morning I was feeling kinda closed in when I thought of this verse out of Zephaniah. It's been a long time favorite, but today it meant so much to remember that no matter how insignificant I may feel, this is how He feels about me (about you). I like the Amplified version:

The Lord your God is in the midst of you, A Mighty One, a Savior [who saves]!
He will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest [in silent satisfaction]
and in His love He will be silent and make no mention 
[of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.

The NLT says "He will take delight in you with gladness" and in the original text"exult" means to spin around wildly in great delight. So even if we feel insignificant, we are not. The God of Creation, loves to spend time with us. When we feel like we don't fit in here - we fit in with Him. He is not afraid of our cave. He's not afraid of our pain. He takes notice of us - and gladly participates in life with us.

Today, I'm going to remind myself that He is near - and that He chose to be near. He walks through time with me - not out of a sense of obligation, but because He wants to.  He likes, and enjoys, being with me. My meditations will be on how He never leaves me stranded - not even emotionally. I'll turn my thoughts to how He is right here, right now... all the time. And I choose to rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?



Monday, August 7, 2017

Purposeful Planning

Whew! Last week was a rough one! It may be one of the most difficult weeks I've had since I started caregiving. Suffice it to say a bunch of stuff piled up and nearly wiped me out. It seemed as though I was struggling on every single level, financially, emotionally, physically, and yes, even spiritually.

It's no secret that I'm a little high strung, and can get worked up rather quickly. Actually, my hyper mind can have me stressed out over things that haven't even happened yet! lol My imagination in overdrive works through numerous scenarios - none of which may ever happen - and I can become stressed over absolutely nothing. I'm an over thinker. That can be bad. But it can be good.

I can usually think myself right again, eventually. This morning is one of those times. After being a wreck last week on all playing fields, I got myself pretty well straightened out  - then my fridge went out Saturday and I lost all of my son's meals for the next two weeks. It's a service available to seniors and the disabled, like Meals on Wheels, but just a different company. I get 2 weeks worth of meals (one meal a day) at a time. They are gone. I just have to shake my head. I won't even start with the list of craziness that this was added to!

So this morning, I'm feeling better all around - but still trying to get myself together a bit to face this week. There'll be more nurse visits, tubes to replace, etc. I'm thinking, I just can't make it. I'm tired. I need something - but can't quite figure out what it is. Then I gathered myself together enough to give my morning devotions with a FB group I'm part of. And once again found He is so faithful. His word truly is alive and quickens (which is an old term for makes alive) my soul.

I found this spark in a familiar passage, Psalm 139. It was a good day to be talking about guarding our hearts and changing our confession. In this Psalm we find out that we are not an "oops." Our lives were not an accident - our existence didn't sneak up on God. As a matter of fact - in verse 16, we read this:

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
the days that were ordained for me
When as yet there was not one of them.

What did He write about me? What did He write about you? In my mind (overactive and hyper as it may be) this morning I thought this. Maybe He wrote how I would trust Him in the darkest night of my soul.   Maybe He wrote something like she runs to me. She will cling to Me and never let Me go. I'll walk through time with her. Maybe He looked down through time and saw those times He would scoop me up in His arms and carry me because I couldn't take one more step. He planned on it.

He didn't set us in time and walk away to let us deal with it ourselves. He planned on walking through time with us. We are never all alone - no matter how alone we feel. 

Today, I will turn my thoughts to how He planned me and planted me in time right here. My meditations will be on the truth that He didn't randomly throw us out into time from His throne in eternity - and leave us to walk it alone. But he purposefully planned on walking it out with us. I'm going to let my hyper imagination carry the picture I saw in my mind's eye - the one of Him scooping me up in His arms and carrying me.... when I couldn't take another step. I'll let Him carry me through today as I just rest in Him. Will you join me as He carries you too?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

B2B

Ever have "one of those days"? Ever have several of them in a row? Seems like lately there's been a barrage of darts thrown my way. Discouragement is right there on the doorstep and it's taking every ounce of strength I can muster to fight it off and keep it at bay.

When I go through times like this, there isn't really a place to throw up my hands and quit. It's not like caregiving is a job and we can turn in our resignation because we got upset, hurt or mad. We just have these spots to navigate through from time to time. I remind myself that there will be better days. And there will be worse days. It'll all level out.

During these times, I try to force myself to go back to the basics. I've already spent the time bending God's ear about all I'm upset about. It's okay - He knows my frustration, why I'm upset, how deeply I hurt, how angry I am (even at Him) - I'm not telling Him anything He doesn't already know.

So many times, there aren't any solid answers. It's not like a jigsaw puzzle you can find the last piece for. It's not like a crossword where you're left to find the right words and fill in the blanks. It's more like a maze and the further you get in the more confusing and difficult it gets. I've learned that when this funk settles in a walk back through the basics is about all that helps.

I don't know much right now, but I do know these B2B (back to basic) truths:

  • circumstances do not dethrone God - He hasn't moved
  • nothing can break the force of His love - He still loves me
  • I can't do anything to scare Him away - He is still with me
  • Life doesn't throw enough stuff at us to break Him - He still fights on my behalf
The foundation of God stands firm, the Lord knows those who are His.(2 Timothy 2:19) I know I am His. He's not wringing His hands trying to figure out what He's going to do with me either. The Lord waits on high to have compassion on you. (Isaiah 30:18). What's He waiting on? Maybe He just needs me to be quiet for a moment and hear Him.

Can I do it? Can I get all this gush of emotions to settle down for a minute and get still in His presence? Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) Going B2B reminds me that He is still God - He will never not be God of the nations. God of creation. God of mankind. God of me. God of my emotions. Now it's up to me to make Him God of my thoughts.

Today, I will purposefully rejoice that He is God. I'll go back to the basics and find the place in my heart to be still and just know He is God. My meditations will be on the truth that He hasn't moved, He still loves me, He is still with me, and He will fight on my behalf. And with those truths held high in my heart and mind, I'll roll up my sleeves and face another day! Will you join me?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Greatest Battlefield


Yesterday, I was reading Psalm 104, I'm telling you it's a rich psalm. I may just go ahead and read it every morning this week! Verse 34 was another one that caught my attention. In it the psalmist simply prays that his thoughts about God will be pleasing to Him. Well, that got me thinking about another psalm.

Psalm 19 also shares some wisdom drawn from nature and God's creation. At the end, he makes a similar prayer. He ends this psalm with may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to You O Lord my rock and my redeemer.

In some ways, our thoughts can be the most difficult battleground. I don't know about you - but I know about me! Something simple can bring a barrage of thoughts that lead me right into all sorts of negative emotions like fear and anxiety. Let me give a couple of examples on a personal level.

One area that can get to me is memories. I'll see a friend of my son's post on Facebook and I'll think back to who Chris was and miss him. Or I'll see his friends getting married, having kids, and pursuing careers in music. I wonder what Chris would be doing today had the wreck not occurred. My thoughts can spiral downward until I'm in a heap of grief. Some of this is normal, I know, but the climb back up can be so difficult.

Another area my thoughts can get to me is planning for the future. Worry can set in quickly if I don't nip it in the bud. I fear what will happen as I age. Will I be able to continue to care for him? My thoughts can lead me down a dark, fearful road. Many nights I go to bed feeling like a failure. I focus on all I didn't get done without realizing how much I did get done. My thoughts can be my worst enemy and the most difficult battlefield.

I think that's why these two verses stuck out to me this morning. I want my thoughts to be pleasing to Him. My desire is for my words and thoughts to be pleasing to Him always. But some days - boy can they stray. I have to live with a 2 Corinthians 10:5 mindset: taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Some days it's easier. Some days it's a full-time job.

Today, I just want to remind myself - and you can ride along - to keep my thoughts under obedience to His word. My prayer is that each time a negative or unproductive thought comes up I can rope it in with scripture. My meditations will be on how He inhabits me and fear has no room. When thoughts pop up - I'll address them with Word. My thoughts will be on how He has filled me up with all of who He is...and that is enough. Enough to make it one more day. Enough for me to trust Him. will you join me?