Stilling Storms

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Urgent needs demand action now! There’s no “let me finish this and then I’ll…”. It’s red flags and sirens time. You know the situation calls for a quiet, steady feet-firmly-on-the –ground response. Your head knows that, but your emotions respond differently. Where’s that “inner quiet” when you need it?

That’s why we’re together right now. We need the comfort of knowing that you promise inner quiet. We need to begin this day or night with a fresh realization that we are deeply loved by the God of the universe. The One who put stars and planets in motion…and keeps them there…is in complete control in any situation. He speaks peace to whatever storms you may face. The strength you need to respond to any and all crises is not yours. It’s his! Quiet confidence is his loving gift that is always ready for you to draw upon. His limitless resources are yours for the taking. No panic prayers needed. Just quiet trust. His presence is at its deepest in the midst of any situation that caregiving can produce.

If you are caring for a family member or other loved one, your caring is deepened by the depth of your relationship. Service goes deeper. Your relationship make it caring service. And the ability to serve in quietness, even in stressful times, comes from a relationship – our relationship with our ever constant, ever present, eternal Caregiver.

Lord, whatever this day brings, help me to draw on the strength that comes from knowing that you are ever present.

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Resources Beyond Our Own

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True caring is a matter of the heart. It requires mental alertness and, often, physical stamina. But at its core it is a tender, costly thing. It is a willingness to let ourselves experience a wide spectrum of emotions. We can go from darkness…to dreary routine…to brief moments of sheer joy. But in each of those experiences, in a strength far beyond our own, we are the quiet, reassuring presence of Jesus. Regardless of our emotions, or perhaps in spite of our emotions, we are the bearer of Christ’s peace, not our own. The carrier of his hope, not ours.

In each of today’s caregiving tasks you are much more than the sum of your emotions. Far more than your accumulated wisdom. Far, far more than the breadth of your experience. And thankfully, stronger than the weakest of your weaknesses. You bring to a bedside, to a walker or wheelchair, the strong, reassuring presence of our Lord. You care because He cares. You give because He gives.

You will still feel the full sweep of emotions. You will still experience the ebb and flow of energy. But as you keep an open, trusting heart, in a way that none of us can explain, your quiet, faithful presence becomes Christ’s presence. You are Christ’s chosen, deeply loved caregiver. Whatever this day may bring…let his infinite resources serve through you.

Lord, thank you that, regardless of feelings or circumstances, I can be a bearer of your limitless love and caring. Amen

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

No Unfinished Work

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What God begins…he finishes. His broken world will one day be restored and made new again. Broken bodies and broken spirits that turn to him…he heals either now or in eternity.

As a caregiver you serve someone with limitations. You welcome their improvements…either small or great. And you’re saddened by their slightest signs of decline. You care…deeply. Today…and for as many tomorrows as you are given the strength to serve.

But the truest, deepest, longest-lasting care you can provide is the care of  the soul. Pray for opportunities to speak of your own faith…and to nourish the faith of the one you serve. Speak gently of experiences of our Lord’s love, his forgiveness, his faithful support. Plant small seeds…lovingly…prayerfully.

Then, in the spirit of Christ, serve patiently, sacrificially, “confident of this, that the one who began a good work” in you, and in the one you serve “will bring it to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)

Lord, may my service and my words of witness be a welcome invitation to trust in you. Amen.

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Praying With Joy

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Have you ever prayed prayers of frustration? Or desperation? We all have. And we have all prayed prayers for which we have no words. In a dark moment, the deepest places in us reach out with perhaps nothing more than a sigh of resignation…or an inexpressible cry. Something in the deep us knows that those kinds of “rescue prayers” are heard in heaven.

But if there is such a thing as a spectrum of prayers, at the opposite end of that spectrum in “praying with joy”. It’s a “remembering” kind of prayer. The Apostle Paul spoke of “constantly praying with joy in every one of [his] prayers” for the Philippian Christians. (Philippians 1:4) Like him you can thankfully remember evidences of the goodness of God and his faithfulness to you…and to the one you care for. Little things…and great. Everyday things…and special graces…and unexpected gifts from God’s good hand.

Look for reasons for joy in your day…or nighttime caring. Welcome it. Pause, and let it take root…and grow. Give it away. Share it with the one you care for Even in desert times…recall the joys. Treat joys as “soul medicine”, to be taken several times daily and “refill your prescription” as often as needed.

Lord, teach me to experience the refreshing that comes from “praying with joy”. Amen

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

To Wait, To Trust

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Time. Sometimes it seems to rush by and leave you exhausted with the fast paced demands of caring. Then there are times when it moves at a snail’s pace. You wait…and wait still more. You wait for a doctor to return your phone call. You wait for a medicine to take its calming effect. And with the waiting…anxiety builds.

Both the frustration of having to wait, and the sometimes reluctant willingness to wait are both signs of the depth of your caring and  compassion. You want others to care as much as you do. But impatience is like a hot wind that dries the soul of everyone it touches.

Compassionate, confident care is rooted in the solid truth that day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, God is in control. The psalmist saw himself as “a  broken vessel”, but he found comfort in the fact that “my times are in your hand”. (Psalm 31:15) THE MESSAGE translation of that Scripture puts that verse in true caregiver language, “Hour by hour I put my days in your hand.”

We may still have to wait for the doctor’s call or a score of other things, but knowing that your times, and the times of the one for whom you care are in the Lord’s hands can help us wait with a quieter, more trusting heart.

Lord, help me to trust that “my times are in your hand”. Amen

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Fruitfulness

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Old age, however you define “old”, is a time of slowing down. A time of reduced expectations. When things that once were strong begin to slip away. I’m old, and though I hate to admit it, I’m beginning to accept those ideas as fact.

Or at least, I was. Then in my reading I came across a surprising verse from the Psalms. “The righteous flourish like the palm tree…They are planted in the house of the Lord…In old age they still produce fruit.” (Psalm 92:12-14)

The old have already produced fruit. One of the ways of caring for the deepest inner places in them is to recognize what they have given throughout their life. Their accomplishment. Their love. The insights they’ve shared. The memories you hold dear. But don’t stop there. Look each day for some current “fruit”, some way in which they’ve blessed or encouraged you, some kindness for which to say “thanks”.

Your recognition that “in old age they still produce fruit” can deepen a sense of usefulness in the one you care for – regardless of age. And the process of looking for evidence of fruitfulness will sharpen and deepen your sensitivity to the inner life of the one you care for.

Help me, O Lord, to recognize fruitfulness and honor it. Amen.

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016.

Encouragement

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Some days, like the biblical David, we can slay the emotional “giants” that taunt us. And some days it feels as if the “giants” are winning. There’s just too much to cope with. Too many uncertain choices. David had those kinds of days, too.

Returning home from a hard-fought battle, David and his men found that Ziklag, their military headquarters had been burned to the ground. “All who were in it” had been taken captive. “David and the people with him raised their voices and wept, until they had no more strength to weep”. And David himself was in danger, “for the people spoke of stoning him”. (I Samuel 30:1-6)

It’s hard to imagine being in a darker, more hopeless situation. But David’s response was to “encourage himself in the Lord.” We’re not told what David did, but my heart tells me that he found the strength to focus on- all the times God had given him a strength beyond his own – the Lord’s supportive presence in other dark situations, and – the confidence that comes from faith that sees beyond the current darkness.

No matter what your day may bring, “encourage yourself in the Lord”.

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

When the Task Seems Too Great

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Discouragement hides its head. It can feel like a lack of energy. There’s a

score of things to be done, but everything in you says “just sit”. But “just sitting”

doesn’t fix the way you’re feeling. In fact, it can make things worse. It did for me

today.

By sheer force of will, I made myself take care of two little things that had

been nagging me. Then, like a gentle gift, I felt drawn to be quiet. It was prayer…

but without words. Just a sense of reaching out. Or up. Then, slowly, there came a

sense that what I was feeling was discouragement. A discouragement of my own

making. I had taken on a task too big. The task was good…and noble. But I wasn’t

meant to do it alone. I needed to share the weight of responsibility with others. I

needed more than help. Others had already offered help. The problem was that I

needed to trust those that had offered. To trust the love, the integrity, the

experience they will bring to our task.

If there is no one to share your caregiving tasks, I pray that you will find

someone. And then I pray that you will be given the gifts of trust and patience to

let them carry just a little of the weight you bear.

Lord, help me to see that there are levels of trust and patience which come

only as gifts from your loving hand. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Moving Mountains

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God promises to lead us by “still waters”. But tensions – the hot desert winds that dry the soul – are inevitable. The rob us of clear vision and keep us from moving forward. The simplest of disagreements can so easily seem like immovable mountains. And we’re left feeling attacked. Disrespected. Defensive.

The longer the tension exists, the more deeply it wounds everyone involved.

Resistance to change hardens the heart

…but true healing begins when one is willing to say…”Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me where the good way lies.” (a paraphrase of Psalm 139:23, 24)

Help me, O Lord, to be open to learn your ways. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Never Alone

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In the most difficult situations you will face today, you are never alone. Say to yourself often, “The Lord is with me, I shall not want.” Then go quietly about your work, trusting in his constant supportive presence.

Take time to remind yourself that his great power is beyond your wildest imagination. Yet, the maker of the sun and the stars is your gentle caregiver.

“As tenderly as a father treats his children, so the Lord treats those that fear him.” (Psalm 103:13)

In all that this day brings…know that you are loved tenderly. In your most trying times, pause just for a moment to draw upon our Lord’s tender care. It is the deep reservoir from which you can draw to meet your own need…and be able to offer that same loving care to others.

Please help me, O Lord, to experience a new sense of your tenderness today. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016