Taking the Risk / Finding Support

Most deeply supportive relationships develop slowly. More inch- by- inch than mile- by- mile. Sometimes just by a fraction of an inch. But they grow. And deepen. As compassion grows. And understanding. And a feeling of safety.

The most meaningful human relationship I have ever had – outside of my wife and family – began with me taking the lead, inviting someone to share a cup of coffee. Then…and I’m embarrassed now at my boldness…offering my help if he ever needed it. The truth was that I was the one that needed…not so much help… but a friend. Desperately. And the only way I knew how to reach out to meet my need… was to risk offering my friendship. That was over forty years ago. And to this day – though we are now hundreds of miles apart, it is still the safest, most tested , most trusted outside-my-family relationship I can draw on…and to which I can give support and care. And to know that his love and support are there for me.

But what’s the lesson in all that for caregivers? Beyond the need of physical, hands-on help – way beyond – is the need for an emotional “ safe” place. Heart help! Without it, the task you’ve taken on is beyond doing. Instead of our usual closing prayer today, I offer you my prayer that you will find the strength to seek your own “soul friend”. Amen

In Loving Memory

Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

On Seeking and Finding Support

Some deeply supportive relationships – I think of them as soul friends – seem to just happen. Two hearts link in ways we can’t explain. They are simply a gift from our LORD’s good and gracious hand. And both lives are enriched by trust and deep sharing. Each helps to carry the other’s burdens in mutual support.

Those relationships are a rare gift, one in which needy souls meet and find as sense that each was made for the other. If you have that kind of a relationship, treasure it. Draw ever more deeply on it. Give each other the precious gift of growing ever deeper and truer.

Few of us share deep needs easily. Where is the soil in which we could try to plant seeds of acceptance and trust? In a church or a small support group you may find quiet, prayerful people. Look for people who demonstrate qualities like peace, patience, kindness and gentleness. Or quiet people who struggle to share their own needs. Listen to your own heart as others share. The level of their openness may be a sign that you could safely share your need with them.

Prayer – LORD, please give me an “inner ear” to hear to find the beginnings of the soul friendship I need. Amen

In Loving Memory

Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Sharing the Journey

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A journey shared enriches both travelers. The long journey of life, and the day after day journey of caregiving. Emotional mountaintops are richer and deeper when they can be shared with a trusted, willing-to-listen friend. There’s something in the simple act of sharing that builds the spirit. Thankfulness multiplies. Sharing enriches.

But what of our journey’s dark places? The stresses and strains of caregiving that we tend to hold inside? Those thoughts and feelings we tell ourselves would sound like complaining if we were to share them?

There’s a kind of scratchy, irritating quality to complaining. It seems to act on the idea that a concern that is oft-repeating will make someone else take action to make my concerns better. We’ve all been on both ends of that struggle.

But what of simply seeking to find someone to be with us in this caregiver journey? A listener? One without instant answers? One to hold us in prayers…and sometimes with an understanding, reassuring hug?

Facing our need for caring support is the first step. Next time we’ll look at how you find such a caregiver’s supporter.

Prayer – LORD, keep me from the fear of reaching out and trusting a friend. Amen

In Loving Memory

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Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

Partners in Caring

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Jesus sat at supper with his closest friends. Not a supper – like a thousand other supper meals they had shared. This was to be his last supper with them. He knew the darkness he was soon to face. History’s darkest of all earth’s darknesses.

This was to be perhaps the most human of all the recorded moment in the life of GOD’s only Son. You can feel it in Jesus’ words Luke remembered from that dark night: “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you…” (22:15 THE MESSAGE) Like Jesus, caregivers feel the need for trusted supporters, family and friends to be with you. In the routines and the rough places. The “meal” you share with them may only be a cup of tea or coffee, or a quiet time of sensitive reassurance…but, by all means, make time to share.

Out of all the disciples that followed Jesus – both men and women – he chose to share both his most intimate and most stressful moments with only three – Peter, James, and John. They were to share the wonder of his transfiguration…and his dark trial of Gethsemane. In both places they stumbled. Not understanding what was happening. But they were there…with him. He needed them.

We pray that you may have – or find – at least one trusted confidant. A patient ear to hear of your good places. A prayerful heart to help bear the burden of the dark times. And having found that one – or more – that you will have the grace and freedom to draw on their support.

Prayer – Please gift me, LORD, with trusted supporters, true partners in caring. Amen

In Loving Memory

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Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

A Thankful Heart

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You see it all the time. Someone gives a young child a gift. Something really big. Or small. And the parent – most often mom – says, “Say thank you”. And the next time…and the next…she’ll say it again. And again. Trying to establish a habit. But that’s a hard lesson…because a young child is focused on the wonder and delight of the gift…not the giver. “Thank you’s” are an interruption in the world of the young.

Part of growing up is learning to say “thank you” without having to be reminded. The words become a common courtesy. But developing a truly thankful heart is a very grown-up lesson. We learn that life is a thousand gifts…or more. Made up of small wonders. Take-it-for-granted daily gifts. Quiet kindnesses to be savored. The warm wonder of an unexpected smile. The satisfaction of a difficult procedure accomplished.

The daily practice of looking for small wonders in the most mundane daily experiences lifts the spirit. A thankful heart looks for and discovers beauty in the small things of life: a quiet, cleansing rain or a shaft of sunlight. In hidden places we can begin to see the hand of God…and our bruised and burdened soul can find unexpected delights that quiet and deepen our caregiving.

Prayer – LORD, open my eyes to your everyday wonders. Teach me to have a deeply thankful heart. Amen

In Loving Memory

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Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

Finding Joy

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Sometimes joy washes over us like a wave. It’s spontaneous. We feel its unexpected cool refreshing. We welcome the lift it brings to the routines of caregiving. And then…as the wave recedes, our joy is gone.

We cherish moments of joy. They lighten and deepen the quality of our caregiving. But must we wait for them to come? Or can we encourage them? Can we invite joy? If, as Scripture says, “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10), our answer should be a resounding “YES!”

Does joy begin with quieting my anxious heart? Learning to trust that nothing happens without our Father’s all-wise knowing? And letting that knowledge deepen until it begins to shape in us a heart that is learning to be thankful in all things?

Thankful people face the realities of life – its wondrous “mountains” and its darkest “valleys”. Then, day after demanding day, they’re learning to trust our All-wise , Ever- caring Shepherd. And they’re discovering that thankfulness is the birthplace of a truly joyful heart.

Prayer – LORD, help me to develop a trusting, joyful heart. Amen

In Loving Memory

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Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

Joy…In Spite of Darkness

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For a caregiver, even the smallest sign that the one we serve is improving is a special source of joy. A kind of get-on-the-phone-and-tell-someone-about-it joy. A burst of new energy. A fresh perspective on your day.

Then…there’s the joy of mastering a new procedure. Something that used to feel awkward is on the way to becoming almost routine. And there are other small joys that need to be treasured because they lift and strengthen your spirit. Find some way to celebrate even the smallest joy.

But how do you make it through the dark days, the days when you don’t see  improvement. Or…the days of decline. Is there a deeper, inner, sustaining joy beyond, or even in-spite-of present circumstances?

There is a quality – a gift – the Scripture calls “the joy of the LORD”. A sure and certain inner resource when the present reality is dark and demanding. (Nehemiah 8:10) It can’t be earned or bought. It is found by an open, waiting, trusting heart.

Prayer – LORD, teach me how to quiet my heart and receive your joy. Amen

In Loving Memory

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Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

A Bright Shaft of Hope

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This devotion is part of a series that began on January 2nd. If you are just joining us, you may want to read the earlier devotions.

Out of a life of deep physical and emotional struggle, Annie Johnson Flint wrote these words that every caregiver can feel and understand: “GOD hath not promised skies always blue, flower strewn pathways, all our life through; GOD hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. GOD hath not promised smooth roads and wide, swift, easy travel, needing no guide; never a mountain, rocky and steep, never a river turbid and deep. “

But then a shaft of bright hope broke through her dark experience and she wrote;  “But GOD hath promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way,  grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing kindness, undying love.”

The taste of Israel’s manna “was like wafers made with honey”, (Exodus 16:31). Every day as a caregiver you experience the wafer-like “crunch” of life. The rough “fiber” of struggles that strengthen you for ever-deeper caring. Then, graciously, our tender LORD adds the sweet taste of “honey” to each day’s labors. You find it in old, shared memories. In new discoveries. In warm moments of joy. In giving and receiving unexpected kindnesses. In finding strength. Rest. Light. Grace. Unfailing kindness. Undying love.

Prayer – LORD, today, in all the “crunch” of caregiving, help me experience the “honey” of your empowering presence. Amen

In Loving Memory

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Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

Soul Food

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This devotion is part of a series that began on January 2nd. If you are just joining us, you may want to read the earlier devotions.

There’s something so daily about caregiving. Daily responsibilities. Daily  demands. And with those demands comes the need for daily support. It helps to  have someone who can share in the caregiving. But our deepest challenges can only be met by a full supply of inner resources. Like our bodies need daily food, our souls need daily nourishment.

When the Israelites travelled through the desert, GOD gave them a one-day-at-a- time supply of food. Every morning they awoke to a fresh supply of manna – food from heaven. But each day’s supply of manna had to be gathered, ground, shaped and baked before it could provide needed nourishment for the day.

I’m finding that the same is true for my journey. Daily strength for daily demands comes from something like the Israelites’ process. I need to “gather” a daily assurance of GOD’s faithfulness. I need to “grind and shape” the promises of Scripture, making them my own. And the “baking”? That’s the time I spend in quietness, allowing the presence and power of our LORD to become the” bread” that will sustain me for the day’s journey

Our LORD faithfully provides the” manna” we need for today…and all of our caregiving tomorrows. Gather it! Shape it! Bake it! And be nourished!

Prayer – LORD, teach me to prepare my heart for your soul food. Amen

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In Loving Memory

Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who  passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.

Learning to Trust

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This devotion is part of a series that began on January 2nd. If you are just joining us, you may want to read the earlier devotions.

Why isn’t trusting a gift? You just get it…and you use it. Like breathing. Why does something so important have to be a learned behavior? And why does trusting and dependence have to be this one-day- at- a- time thing?

I’m beginning to see two answers to those questions. One: trust is born in a relationship. It’s not like trusting a scientific principle or a body of historical facts. It’s an intimate, very personal thing. The seeds of trust begin to take root in a relationship with Jesus and his sure promise of forgiveness and renewal.

Then comes the learning. Or the day-by-day discovery that the One we follow is faithful. We stumble…often. We fall…but find that he is still there. Picking us up. Binding our wounds. Comforting. Healing. Restoring. And, through all of the process, teaching us that he can be trusted. Helping us learn deeply in this life-long school of trust.

As a caregiver, today will have its unexpected events. I’m learning – or, really just beginning to learn to start each day with an open heart and open hands as a way of  placing all of each day’s unknowns in the strong, sure hands of the LORD. There’s room for you to join me in the waiting, trusting place.

Prayer – LORD, help me to practice trusting this day to your good care. Amen

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In Loving Memory

Throughout this month, the Caregiver Prayer Team honors Fritz Benning who passed into the presence of his LORD on December 10, 2016. He was a beloved brother in this ministry and one of our founding partners. We commend his wife and family to GOD’s loving care.