Partners in Caregiving

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The most cautious and caring among us can forget. Pressures in and around us can easily pull our attention in a variety of directions. Life is complex. Caregiving adds even more levels of demands and complexity.

But we do not care alone. In times of demanding pressure, and in times of deep, tender quiet, we are only partners in caregiving. With our own eyes we cannot see deep enough to understand fully what’s happening to the one we care for at any moment. On our own, our hearts cannot feel deep enough to feel what they feel.

We need resources beyond our own. Today…and every day…we need the insights and wisdom of THE ULTIMATE CAREGIVER. We need his presence and his patience. We need his comfort and his calm. And we have our LORD’s strong assurance: “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)

And…as our LORD’s partner in caregiving, be assured that “God will never forget the needy, the hope of the afflicted will never perish”. Psalm 9:18

Prayer – Thank you, LORD, for the confidence that comes from knowing that we are partners in caregiving.

Hope in Troubled Times

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“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…” (Isaiah 43:1, 2)

In difficult times, our LORD promises, “I will be with you”. In the long routine of a caregiving day, “I will be with you”. And in the times when you begin to feel overwhelmed, “I will be with you”. As our LORD’s chosen, you are never alone. He does not promise that we will be spared the dangerous “waters” and the  flooding “rivers” of life because we belong to him. Those troubling times are an inevitable part of the depth of your caring and concern for the life and wellbeing of another. Instead, our LORD’s promise is that we will pass “through” the times of pressure, no matter how long, no matter how deep, and that we will be comforted and strengthened by his presence.

Troubled times are also times for reaching out to a trusted family member or friend who will listen patiently to your concerns. Their presence may be another of our LORD’s gifts to keep you from being overwhelmed as you go “through the rivers”.

Prayer – LORD, help me to be assured of your presence in difficult times. Amen

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

Sing Praise

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“I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love, for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my Strength, I will sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Psalm 59:16,17)

In the very heart of the Old Testament scriptures there is a songbook. Sixty- seven times in the Psalms the writer declares that he will sing to the LORD, Not performance singing. Heart singing. Singing…not because the situation demanded  it. In fact, in the darkest times, the admonition to sing is even stronger.

Today…let great hymns lift your spirit to God. “Great is thy faithfulness, O God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee.” Or, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…”. “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.” Or make your own simple tune to sing, “Thank you, Lord.”

Sing with the one you care for. An old hymn from childhood can lift their spirit and yours in the very cloudiest of times.

“Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6)

Prayer – O LORD, I ask for a heart of gratitude, one that wants to sing of your goodness and grace. Amen

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

Learning to Wait

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“I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3)

When we looked at this Scripture a few days ago, it was the “waiting expectantly” that first spoke to me. But I’ve been drawn back again to take a deeper look at how we are to seek the LORD’s guidance.

On any given day I can think of scores of needs. Big issues. Critical needs. And others that are real, but not so demanding. Something in me wants to prioritize my needs…and offer those that are deepest to the LORD. I want to get to the heart of my needs. But I was corrected by another translation of that verse: “Every morning I lay the pieces of my life on your altar>” All the pieces of my life… without prioritizing my need as I see them. Instead, letting the LORD do the prioritizing.

Then the next issue was the “waiting”. In the LORD’s school of waiting, I have a long list of failures. Particularly when it comes to “waiting expectantly”. Once I’ve prayed, I’m better at searching for answers than waiting for them.  Searching is my effort. Waiting is depending on God’s clear answer. Someone has  said that it’s “waiting for God’s fire to descend.” Discovering his unmistakably clear answer.

Prayer – Teach me, LORD, to wait deeply and expectantly. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

Dealing With Anger

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Anger grows in a field of fears. The fear that I’m losing control. That someone else is making big choices for me. That someone else thinks they know what’s best. That someone always runs to help me do what I know I can do for myself. I’m not helpless.

At times I’m angry at those who care for me. Do you have any idea how it feels to be dependant? Or to have to say “I’m sorry” when I realize I’ve hurt you? Or, even worse, counting up all the times I’ve had to say those words again and again.

Please…please…feel my fears. Not my anger. Feel what it’s like to know that life is slipping away. To feel the numbness that comes from day after day of the same routine.

Please bring me joy. Laugh with me. Share warm memories. Show me that I still have worth. And dignity. Never stop caring. Look for small ways to bring beauty into my shadowed life. Be the loving hands and heart of Christ to me.

Above all, remember that “a gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Prayer – Lord, teach me the anger-softening power of compassion and understanding. Amen

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

Our Stronghold

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Because so many of the psalms were written in times of armed conflict, the language is often the language of warfare. They sing of God’s protection in battle, and his provision of strong towers and fortification against very real enemies.

In the inner conflicts and emotional struggles we face today, the psalmist’s answer may seem too simplistic. Here’s one example: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to  silence the foe and the avenger.” (Psalm 8:2) In armed conflict, it’s hard to imagine “children and infants” silencing “the foe and the avenger”. We need all the resources of a strong, battle-tested army. But wait – it is “the praise of children and infants” that establishes a stronghold against the enemy. The simple, unfettered, overflowing, grinning-ear-to-ear thankful child-like gratitude to God that establishes a protective stronghold against our enemies. And it’s the infant-like, too-deep-for-words thankfulness of our hearts that will “silence the foe and the avenger” today.

Realism tells us to look at our conflict and gather together all our resources. Faith says: “Be child-like. Whatever the conflict – praise God. Let him establish the stronghold you need to withstand your seen and unseen foes.

Prayer – Teach me, LORD, to have a praise-filled heart today. Amen

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

Stormy Seas

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There’s an old hymn that speaks deeply to the turbulent places in all of us.

“Blessed quietness, holy quietness. Blest assurance in my soul.

On the stormy sea he speaks peace to me, and the billows cease to roll.”

We’re no strangers to “stormy seas” and “rolling billows”. Like the waters of Galilee, our smooth-as-glass lives can suddenly turn threatening. And the sudden, unexpected storms of Galilee have lessons to teach us.

We may never have felt the power of gale winds at sea, but we’ve all faced enough of the storms of life to understand the disciples’ fears when the gospel writer tells us that “the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” (Mark 4:37)

And we can understand the disciples’ frustration and anger as Jesus slept. “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” In perilous times I’ve asked that same question. And I’m still learning that our LORD’s delays are meant to bring us to the end of our own resources. He waits, in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in quieter times. He waits so that the deepest, weakest places in us can learn that “even the wind and the sea obey him”. (vs. 41)

Prayer – In the rough seas of my life, forgive my fears and mistrust. Teach me to wait in confidence for your “Peace, be still.” Amen

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

Wisdom Beyond Our Own

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“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”. (Prov. 3:5,6)

I memorized that verse as a young Christian, especially the part about “trust in the LORD with all your heart”. But the older I’ve grown, the more of life I’ve lived, the instruction to “not rely on your own insight” has become more difficult. Age and experience are supposed to teach us many of the lessons of life. We do well to value the wise and seek their counsel. But the Scriptures speak of a wisdom beyond that which age and experience have taught us. In fact, another translation says simply, “put no faith in your own perception”. Then adds “acknowledge him in every course you take”.

“In every course”. In routine tasks we’ve done a thousand times…or more. In situations in which we feel tentative and unsure. In the myriad caretaking tasks of this day, and in all of life, “listen for GOD”s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

Prayer – In every experience of this day, and in all of my days, teach me to acknowledge your presence and listen for your voice. Amen

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

New Beginnings

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There are times when the demands of caregiving feel overwhelming. Your coping skills are almost at their end. One more thing, and ______. (You may not even have the emotional strength to fill in the blank.)

What sounds and feels like the end of things is really a place of new beginnings. The discovery of resources beyond your own. Far, far beyond.

The Apostle Paul was at a place of deep despair. He faced great emotional pressures. But it was physical enough that he called it “a thorn in the flesh”. If you think about those words for a moment, you can almost feel the sharpness of his soul- piercing pain.

But then comes his – and our – life-changing discovery. “When I am weak, then I am strong”. (2 Cor. 12:10) At first glance, those words seem to fly in the face of logic. Strength is strength, and weakness is weakness. And like the old saying, “never the twain shall meet”, except in the ways of our LORD. Only when we reach the end of our own strength, when we have no resources of our own, can  we begin to see clearly and to draw on the strength of our life-sustaining God.

Prayer – Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, so that I can see and draw on your limitless strength today. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016

Waiting

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Some days we are able to pray with the psalmist: “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice. In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly”. (Psalm 5:3) We are able to pray with a calm and quiet assurance, a confident sense that our prayer is heard and we must simply “wait expectantly”. This is that “sweet hour of prayer that calls us from a world of care.”

Then there are the deeply troubled days when it seems that our heart can wait no longer. If we have words at all, there are more like “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? (Psalm 6:3)

The first seems to be like heaven’s gentle reassuring breeze. The other, like a soul-shaking turbulence. But both are prayers. Honest prayers. Prayers from the heart. Prayers sure to be heard by our loving, understanding Father. But the heart of prayer is surrender. Sometimes it is the quiet surrender that is content to “wait  expectantly”. And, in the turbulent seasons of life, it is the more urgent surrender of an anguished waiting, still knowing that only the LORD is our sure help.

Prayer – In quiet confidence or a more urgent waiting, my trust is in you, O LORD. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Alek Zaslawski (www.awzorchids.com), copyright 2016