A Shield Around Me

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To be a caregiver is a high and noble calling. But it also has more than its share of pain and conflict. And in those dark times, the psalms speak to the deepest places in us. They speak to us because, most of the time their words of comfort were born out of distressing situations. The psalms don’t dismiss conflict. They acknowledge it, and cry out for relief.

The great King David faced a family conflict. Absolom, the son he loved the most, turned traitor and gathered all the people against his father. (2 Samuel 17) You can almost feel the pain of David’s heart as he wrote: “O Lord, how many are my foes. Many are rising against me; many are saying to me, ‘There is no help for you in God’” (Psalm 3:1,2)

At your darkest moments and times of deepest conflict, let your heart hear David’s response: “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts us my head. I cry aloud to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy hill.” (verses 3,4)

Whatever this day may bring, let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and guide your decisions. Amen.

Listening

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There’s a kind of listening that hears the words being spoken. And there’s a kind of listening that hears what’s going on beneath the words. A listening that  seeks to hear the heart. It hears the fear beneath angry words. It hears the frustration beneath words of resistance. It hears the sense of loss beneath the insistence that “I don’t need help. I can do it”.

In the busyness and hurry of this day, how can you hear beneath the words  spoken? It’s normal for angry words to produce an angry, frustrated response. In spite of resistance, there are difficult tasks that have to be done. Sometimes there are no options.

Scripture speaks often of Jesus “having compassion” on the sick and troubled. The word we translate “compassion” means literally to be moved in the depths of one’s being. It is to be moved with a tender affection, not of our own making. Often throughout your day of caregiving, let your heart be flooded by our Lord’s “tender affection” for you. Think of it as unearned – a pure gift. Then, as our Lord’s caregiver, pass his tender affection to the one you’ve been chosen to serve.

May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you. Amen.

A Day of Rejoicing

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Today is the day for _________. As a caregiver you could fill in that blank a dozen times or more. Doctor’s appointments, a new procedure you’re just learning, urgent calls for help, today’s laundry…you know the list well. One thing you know for sure – this day is not your own. Much of this day will be built around the needs of your loved one.

You can cope with this day’s demands, checking off items on your all-too- familiar “to-do” list. You can let the requirements rule your day and shape your attitude, or…

You can commit this day – and whatever it may bring – the routine or the unexpected – to our ever-present, ever-watching, ever-guiding Lord. Let your  troubled heart rest in the firm assurance that “this is the day that the LORD has made”. Then, at the least hint of doubt or darkness, declare that “we will be glad in it”. (Psalm 118:24)

Go ahead. Let your heart sing. “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness, come into his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:1,2)

“Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice.” Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

A Thankful Heart

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Give thanks in all circumstances.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) This is the third  of the Apostle Paul’s admonitions toward what he calls “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. It may be that, principle upon principle, stone upon stone, he is building a description of life well-lived, a life “in the will of God”.

Early in life, parents teach a child to be thankful. With even the smallest of gifts received, I can still hear my mother voice, “Say thank you.” And I learned to say the words even when I wasn’t truly thankful.

Even now, after all these years, I’m still learning to have an attitude of  gratitude – a truly thankful spirit. A thankful spirit gives gladly, small gifts or great. It responds to need with generosity, asking nothing in return. It gives quietly, shunning public praise. And that holy attitude of gratitude gives us the strength to “give thanks in all circumstances”.

One of the greatest challenges of caregiving is developing a deeply thankful heart that has learned to say, “thanks be to God, for his indescribable gift”. (2 Corinthians 9:15), then learning to let it filter through our actions and our attitudes “in all circumstances”.

Teach me, O Lord, to develop a thankful heart. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Look Higher

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Just a few days ago we ‘stood” with King David as he looked at the hills around him and asked, “from where will my help come”. (Psalm 121:1) Today, as I faced what seemed to be my own impossible situation, all I could see was hills. No. They were more like mountains. And the longer and deeper I looked, the bigger they became. I wept in a sense of defeat.

I was living David’s question – “from where will my help come” But, instead of an answer, I felt a darkness that seemed to say, “There is no answer. Face reality! You can’t move mountains. You’ve tried.”

But then there came a whisper of grace, a soft wind of heaven, a quiet hope that seemed to say, “Look higher…above your hills of impossibility”. My mountains didn’t suddenly crumble or disappear. But with a new assurance I could face them with a confidence that comes from placing impossible situations in the hands of the God “who made heaven and earth, [and] who neither slumbers or sleeps”. (vs. 2,4)

From my newly quieted heart, whatever your “mountains” of impossibility, I urge you to look higher – to the God of the impossible.

May the might and power of our God lift your heart above any mountains of impossibility you are facing. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

A Praying Heart

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Prayer is words. Words directed to our Heavenly Father. Words that are sometimes tender. And at other times urgent, insistent…or even angry. And there are times when prayer is “with sighs too deep for words”. (Romans 8:26)

When the Apostle Paul urged that we are to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), he must have meant that prayer was both “words directed to our Heavenly Father” and prayers “too deep for words”.

There are times when our deepest prayers are listening prayers. A quiet time of simply being with our Lord…as if we were sitting with him, experiencing the deep comfort of his presence, waiting expectantly for what he would say to us being open to his ever-wise correction.

Then there is another way to keep a praying heart. All over the world for hundreds of years, Christians have prayed “The Jesus Prayer” – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The words are a paraphrase of the humble prayer of the repentant tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. Repeating this prayer often during the day or night, we recognize Jesus’ lordship in our lives, and confession keeps our hearts open..

Lord, help me to have an open heart, so that I might “pray without ceasing. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Rejoice Always!

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“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-18)

For most of us “the will of God” has to do with our actions. Right actions. And it does. It’s how we live. But it’s also an attitude.

There are times when we experience great rejoicing. Gratitude springs almost spontaneously from the deepest places of our heart – with or without words. But how do we handle the dark times, when the heart has no song? When, like the Israelites of old we want to “hang up our harps on the willows”? (Psa. 137:2) “Rejoice always” just doesn’t seem possible.

When we cannot rejoice in our present circumstances, we can rejoice in the unwavering, unchanging love of our Lord, that he is Lord in even the darkest of situations, and that his attitude toward us is always one of tender compassion.

Few of us do anything always. But we can begin by taking a quiet moment several times a day to remind ourselves of these three reasons for rejoicing…and adding our own personal reasons.

Teach me, Lord, to make a daily habit of rejoicing always. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Resources Beyond Your Own

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So much of caregiving can become routine. Today you’ll do what you’ve done for a host of yesterdays. And that feeling of dullness can take the “care” out of caregiving.

But you were not meant to live – or serve – in an emotional desert of dry routine. Even deserts have oases with palm trees and refreshing wells of water. Places for strengthening and renewal for the demands of the journey ahead.

Every day of caregiving can be an emotional rollercoaster, a mixture of a sense of dutiful responsibility and a loving response of the heart. But, regardless of the circumstances in which you serve, you have been called to bless a broken life. Not with your own resources. Deep fountains of sensitivity and an abundant source of tender kindness – far beyond the limits of our human resources – are yours to draw on. Be reassured. In the darkest of circumstances, remind your oft uncertain heart that, in the day’s routine and in its most pressing crises, you bring the sustaining presence of our most compassionate Lord.

Lord, thank you for calling me to be your tender, loving hands today. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jack Wiens, copyright 2016

Confidence

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There are prayers of submission. And “I’m at the end of my rope” prayers. A reaching out for answers that, search as we may, have seemed to elude us. A time when the heart cries “How long, O Lord, must I be on this dry desert journey?”

These are the kind of prayers that are meant to cleanse the soul. Prayers that at times are beyond words. They are the deepest, most honest prayers of the heart. But these are also the kinds of prayers that open the heart for new faith journeys, a searching of the heart meant to prepare us for new challenges and unimagined possibilities.

Let uncertainty and frustration give way to anticipation. Hold on to the fact that our Lord is a faithful guide. He is with you on a sure and certain path. “He has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So [we] can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:5,6) In your mind, in the deepest places of your heart, spell “CONFIDENCE” with capital letters. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Lord, help me to trust you more deeply, especially when the way is unclear. Amen.

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

A Person of Great Worth

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In God’s eyes the person you care for, no matter how seriously ill or disabled, is a person of great worth, and deserves to be treated with dignity. Jesus reminds us that “two sparrows are sold for a penny, but not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing”. (Matthew 10:22) Then, having said those now-famous words, I imagine he lowered his voice and looking straight at his listener, to be very sure he – or she -understood, he said, “you are of more value than many sparrows. Even the hairs of your head are counted”. (verses 30, 31)

Since the one you care for is so highly valued, guard against overprotecting. Unless the situation is life-threatening, true caring gives persons the right to make decisions as to what or how things are to be done. When you are able to guard against insisting that “this is the right way”, you release the pressure of the situation for your loved one…and for yourself. Let the “Jesus attitude” make a difference. He cared so deeply that, even in eternal matters, he always gave people the freedom of choice.

Lord, help me to care in loving, freeing ways that give new dignity and worth to the one I care for. Amen.

Photos courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016