Multiplied Grace

The last time we were together we talked about addition. Not the 1+1 kind. But adding to our faith. It seems as if caring isn’t just something we do. It’s who we are. And its challenges are meant as gifts to take us beyond our inner limits to a  new and deeper dependency on the wisdom, the power, and the storm-stilling presence of our LORD.

He calls on us to add to our lives – new levels of trust, discipline, patience…and much more…so that his Spirit may flow more completely through us.

Then, while we are adding strengths, our ever-generous LORD is at work,  multiplying his support. “Grace unto you and peace be multiplied.” (I and 2  Peter:1:2) Both the call to add new levels of spiritual growth and our assurance of God’s multiplied ever-enabling grace come to us from Peter – best-intentioned, like us, failed and forgiven, like us, commissioned to serve and care, like us.

Instead of calling great crowds to follow Jesus, we stand or sit by the side of one of God’s beloved. And in the quiet and the busy times, we seek to be the deeply caring presence of our LORD. Giving beyond our human measure. Giving out of our LORD’s multiplied grace and peace.

Prayer – Teach me, LORD, to draw on your multiplied grace and mercy in both the quiet and the crisis of this day. Amen.

“Don’t Lose a Minute”

Talk to me about adding some new responsibility to my busy caretaking schedule…and more than likely I’ll object. “I’m already….” And each of you can complete that sentence. Then our heart responds…and we add that one more responsibility to our day’s (or night’s) busy schedule…because life and health are at stake.

The fact that you read these devotionals says that caregiving – for all of its demands – is an act of love. Love for our LORD that makes caregiving love and concern possible. It’s care-giving, beyond anything you could have imagined when you first began. You sense that the tasks you do are calling you to deepen your spiritual roots. And the demands you face can only be met by a strengthened spirit.

“So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve already been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. (2 Peter 1:5-8 THE MESSAGE)

Prayer – Draw my heart to you, LORD. Teach me to “complement my faith” with the qualities that deepen my living and my caring. Amen

Step Out of the Traffic

A couple of days ago I looked online for a product I needed. Mostly I was comparison shopping. Checking features and, of course, prices. I didn’t buy anything. But one of the vendors simply won’t give up. Every time I turn on my computer…off to the side of the screen is an ad for the product I looked at days ago.

That’s only one small example of the fact that we live in a world of demands. Scores of voices compete for our attention. Many a voice seems to cry out “Urgent! Attend to me!” And caring for another often brings deeply moving demands. Demands of both hands…and heart.

In the midst of these demands, one small but insistent voice calls out “Be still!” And the busier we are, the more demands on our time and energy, the more urgent our heart pleads, “Be still!” Not for the stillness alone. But because the “stillness”…the stepping away from the busy, tangled traffic of life, comes with our Father’s promise: “…and know that I am God”. (Psalm 46:10)

This “stillness” produces a “knowing” …a certainty that God is in control in troubled situations…or uncertain conditions. Take time today to shut out the “noise” of life, and draw deep, renewing strength from our LORD’s renewing voice.

Prayer – Teach me, O LORD, the power of quiet listening for your voice. Amen

Attentiveness

There’s an emotional mile or two – maybe more – between “attend” and  “attentive”. You can attend a concert, but be totally inattentive to the performance. You hear the sounds of the music, but miss the subtle touches that an attentive soul is listening for.

Caregivers can attend to the tasks of the day…and the needs of the one they care for. All of us have days like that. And… we have days and times of attentiveness. We catch subtle attitude changes and respond with extra care. We sense an unasked question and offer a tentative “answer”. You get the picture.

One of the facts that make day-in and day-out caregiving possible is that we have a partner in caring – the Holy Spirit. An always attentive partner who “helps us in our weakness.” (Romans 8:26) And that partnership is more strengthening when we are attentive to his presence.

During the day…and especially at day’s end, ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you through its joys and its stresses. Reflect on your feelings, and what God may be saying to you through them. Be attentive to what you may learn from the day’s small details. God is in the details.

Then let your insights turn to prayer…and draw strength from the Holy Spirit, your partner in attentiveness.

Prayer – LORD, please turn my attendance into a holy attentiveness. Help me draw more deeply on the partnership of your Holy Spirit. Amen

When our “Batteries” are Low

Some days are high energy. You feel as if you could take on the world…and WIN. The day ahead is challenging, but challenges only work to deepen your faith. You’ve a confidence…but not of your own making. It’s one of our LORD’s good gifts, one that makes the day feel like a loving partnership…an energized partnership.

Then there are those other days. Days when even routine caring is a challenge. Days…or maybe just times in your day when “energized” turns to “enervated”. That word may be new, but the feeling isn’t. It means “to be drained of energy or vitality”. Or consider these synonyms: “exhausted”, “tired”, “fatigued”, or “spent emotionally”,

But definitions don’t heal. We need help in coping with that drained feeling. Is it simply sheer exhaustion? Disappointment? Improvement that has hit a snag? Criticism? Help promised…but not fulfilled? These…and scores of other attitudes and actions “drain” our energy and “strain” our spirit.

When our “batteries” are low…it’s time to recharge. Seek our LORD’s help in recognizing and dealing with the situations that drain our spirit. And allow him to re-energize us with a sense of being called to partner with him in caring.

Prayer – LORD, help me to see clearly the attitudes and actions – my own, or those of others – that leave me drained, and fill with your energy. Amen

Strength for the Task

During your day today – in fact, every day – good days and bad, there are things that invigorate you, moments meant to be cherished: a scripture comes to mind with the sense that it was just for you, like a breeze from above you sense the LORD’s quieting presence in the midst of a “storm”, a friend comes by, unexpected, to offer help, you share a special moment with the one you care for – an unexpected smile, a special “thank you”. Or some troubling duty goes “right” – finally. Savor these surprises.

The strengthening power of these surprise moments comes from savoring them. Allow yourself the satisfaction of a deep breath. Be grateful. Take time to contemplate the depth of the gift you’ve been given. Whether small or great…treat it as precious. Treat is as life-giving. It is.

Why not create a “Thank you, LORD” notebook? Write your thoughts about these special moments. Putting the experience into words makes it more meaningful. It helps you see things you didn’t see at first. And it will serve as a source of encouragement and a reminder to be open to our LORD’s intervention in uncertain days ahead.

Approach today, confessing your need for our LORD’s invigorating gifts –

reminders of his loving care – meant to sustain you in all the routines of caring.

Prayer – Open my senses today, LORD, that I may see and draw strength from your supportive gift-moments. Amen

Conquering Storms

Situations often shape our attitude. Disappointments drag us down. Good news can leave us feeling that all’s well with our personal world.

But sometimes there’s a sense of uncertainty in the “ caregiving” part of our world. No matter our experienced-tested skills or best in-tentions – and at-tentions, unexpected “storms” can stir our “Galilee“ and we loose control.

Who can quiet our uncertainties? Or still our voiced or unvoiced feelings of anger and frustration? Or resolve any of the host of feelings that rise, uninvited, to the surface in difficult times.

In times like these, everything in us cries out, “do something!” Or, “keep busy. This will all go away.” But the time-tested counsel of Scripture says , “STOP! Come away – physically and emotionally- from the current demands. Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) The writer seems to be saying that until our bodies, our minds and our hearts are “still” we cannot fully know that God is in control…and the direction he has for us – the way out of the tension.

That same verse in THE MESSAGE translation, offers this compelling, storm-quieting advice: “Step out of the traffic. Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.. (Psa. 46:10

Prayer – Teach me, O LORD, to trust you more fully, so that I can find a quiet place in stormy situations. Amen

Help Wanted!

When I was just a youngster, a “comforter” was a warm quilt filled with down feathers. In my memory I can almost feel the “comfort” it gave when I got to use it. We only had one.

It was some years before I learned that there was a capital “C” Comforter – the Holy Spirit. When Jesus first told the disciples of this Comforter, the word meant “someone called to one’s side to help”.

That’s good, good news to caregivers. Two times good news. First…an unseen, but very real helper. Sent by our Father, Then welcomed by us for every day’s comfort and strengthening. We are never limited to our own resources.

But there are times when caregiving can be a lonely vigil. Another family member, or a caring friend would be a warm, welcome, small “c” comforter. But some of us choose to go it alone. To ask for help would be an admission of weakness. Or… we say to ourselves “people ought to see the need without being asked”.

Remember the definition of “comforter”- “one called to one’s side”. When the “I’ll do it myself” has left you in stresssss, call on your heavenly Comforter. Then call for the comfort of human help to come to your side. You’ll both be richer for the experience.

Prayer – LORD, when, for whatever reasons , I insist on “doing it myself”, teach me the strength that comes from calling for help. Amen

Watchfulness

George and Ira Gershwin had a way of capturing the longings of the human heart in their music. In the ‘50’s Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald…and some of the older ones among us…sang of one of those longings: “O how I need someone to watch over me.”

For the one you care for, those are not simply lines from an old song. They’re a day-in-day out necessity. And you do the “watching over”. Hour after hour. Day after day. Call it “watchfulness”, “vigilance”, being “observant” – even add “loving” in front of each of those words – it’s still demanding and draining…maybe even more so because it’s love’s demand.

There is a watchfulness that supports you in your caring. A vigilant partner who knows and supports you in love’s daily demands. The psalmist called him “a help always present in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NIV). And that “helper” can turn our weariness into watchfulness.

Our LORD is your strength. No concern of yours is too small for his attention. Sparrows may be among the least of his creation, but he watches over them. “You” and the one you care for “are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:31)

Prayer – Ever watchful LORD, deepen my sensitivity to need. Help me to be your watchful eyes and heart. Amen.

Indescribable Generosity

There are times when our souls are dry. Beyond dry. Starved for refreshing. Weary of the responsibilities and routines of caregiving. We’ve reached our limits. Or…at least…it feels that way.

But just then, at that dark, empty place…is our LORD’s opportunity.

When we’ve absolutely nothing left to give, he offers his indescribable I-loved-you-enough-to-die-for-you generosity. With nothing to earn. Nothing to buy. It’s his best gift…held out for you in nail-scarred, welcoming hands.

Forgiveness – freely given, because the full penalty of my sin has already been paid. Strength – when yours has reached its limit…and beyond. Wisdom – when you can’t even find the words to ask the wearying question. Peace-when conflicts tear at your soul or threaten once-strong family ties.

It’s strange…that our darkest places…can become the places of our deepest, most fulfilling discoveries. “Thank God, then, for his indescribable generosity to you.” (I Cor.9:15 PHILLIPS TRANSLATION)

Prayer – Forgive, O LORD, the pride in me that keeps me from receiving the “incredible generosity” of your love. Amen