Simple Prayer

In his book, “Pocket Prayers” the gifted writer, Max Lucado, reminds us that Jesus’ disciples did not ask him to teach them “how to pray”. They simply asked him to “teach us to pray”.

Throughout your busy caregiving day there may not be time for extended, detailed prayers. But there is always time and space for urgent prayers of the heart. Prayers that are short on detail, but long and deep in their urgency.

There are books and books that talk about the posture of prayer. Or the correct language of prayer. And others that tell of great answers to prayer. But, in urgent situations we seldom need instruction on how sto pray. We just need to pray!

We don’t ask a drowning man to describe his condition and location. “Help!” That’s all that’s needed. And humans risk life and limb to reach him. In the rough seas of your today, “Help me, LORD!” is enough. That simple prayer is a plea for heaven’s rescue. It is a sign that your busy heart is open. Listening. Expecting.

LORD, teach me to pray. And teach me to expect your wise, loving answer. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2017

In Everything…Trust

The other day it struck me: Medicines are a big part of caregiving. Every day! This one in the morning. That one “only with food”. And another “take as needed”. You know this story well. It’s a life-sustaining routine. And…an act of trust.

Without even thinking about it, we trust the doctor to have prescribed the right medicine…in the right strength. And we’ve come to trust the pharmacist who filled the prescription…and the researchers who developed it. Then, without even thinking about it, we trust the government agency that tested and approved the drug.

In fact, all of our caregiving is based on trust. The one you care for must trust you, the caregiver. Your faithfulness in the crisis times and in the familiar daily routines strengthens the bonds of that trust. And only deep, abiding trust can sustain you day after caregiving day. An ever-deepening trust in our ever-caring Father.

Trust produces confidence. And confidence gives us a sustainable peace. The fact  that “His eye is on the sparrow” gives us the bedrock solid assurance that, in smooth times and rough, “ I can know our Father watches over me”. No detail of this…or any day…escapes his caring. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart”.

Teach me, O LORD, to trust you more fully in the routines and the uncertainties of this day. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2017

A Tender Touch

Sometimes I take of my shoes because my feet tell me that I’m tired. It’s been a very demanding day…and now it’s over. The pressures of the workday (or night)  are over…at last. Now…this time is mine.

We talked last time about God’s instruction to Moses to “take off your shoes”. That wasn’t a sign of the ending of anything for Moses. Instead, it was preparation for a demanding new challenge. Moses was on holy ground, and he needed to remove his shoes to feel the full impact of the experience.

At what I think of as the darkest, deepest, yet holiest “moments” in Jesus’ earthly ministry, shoes needed to be removed. Roles were reversed. Totally new patterns of ministry were established. The Master washed the dusty feet of the servants.

Years ago I was honored to wash the broken, blistered, bleeding feet of a young immigrant on his arrival in the US. That experience remains in my mind one of the holiest moments of my life. In the kneeling and the tender, careful washing…it was as if I was washing the feet of Jesus.

Lord, may my most difficult, most demanding caregiving task today become the holy act of serving you with tenderness. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2017

Holy Moments

The insistent, daily demands of caregiver tend to drain the soul and deplete our energy. Even the simplest of tasks can be too much. Jesus’ call to those “who labor and are heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28) feels like an invitation with our name on it.

We hear the caregiver’s inner voices: “ I need a break!” “Doesn’t anyone else care?” “Somebody could at least….”. And we could fill the blanks a dozen times, or more. And every fill-in would be justified. Our caregiving needs are real. And  they need to be met.

But underneath the deepest needs I feel, is a still deeper need. The need for holy  moments. When caregiving pressures becomes like Moses’ burning bush –  (Exodus 3), calling us for a spiritual “time-out”. An experience that calls us to see that the place we are, the work we are doing is “holy ground”. A place of holy transformation. A place where duties become a call and commission from GOD.

Holy moments change our understanding of the tasks ahead. They sharpen our ability to “hear” our LORD’s directions. And they strengthen us for tasks that we would otherwise think impossible.

LORD, like Moses, I am your servant. Help me to find my holy place where my caregiving becomes a call…and I learn to serve in your fulfilling strength.  Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2017

Healing Moments

Quiet moments can become holy moments. A touch can be healing. Tough tasks can be done with tenderness.

“Lay hands on the sick” is Jesus’ instruction to his disciples as he called them – and us – to a compassionate ministry of healing and hope. In a society that withdrew from the sick and even isolated them in the name of “safety”, Jesus touched the broken and diseased. Life-changing power was transmitted through a  touch.

As co-workers with our LORD, sharing with him in his ministry of healing, we need to learn that every touch touches the soul. Sometimes in expressions of tenderness. Sometimes in the relief of tensions. In fact…our hands can become the healing, relieving, blessing hands of Jesus. At times we may pray – silently or  aloud – as we touch. At other times the love and care in our touch becomes a wordless healing prayer.

Lord, teach my hands and my heart to be instruments of your healing love. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2017

Not the Menu! It’s the Master

We’ve been talking together about “the table” (Psalm 23:5) that King David spoke of, a banquet set “in the presence of my enemies”. I started looking through Scripture, exploring the “food” our LORD had put on our banquet-in-the-midst-of- battle table. My list was getting longer…and longer. But then I stopped. I set the “menu” aside. For another day…perhaps.

I began to see that the deepest wonder of that banquet was not the food. It was the presence of heaven’s “Chef” who had prepared the meal for me. The Chef who also came to the table as Host to welcome me. Who sat with me, encouraging me to taste the bounty of his table.

Ah…it was a wonder. That he should sit with me. Broken, battle-scarred me. And stay. Unhurried. While un-ease in the garb of demand and duty sought to call me  back to the battle, my Host bid me stay ‘Twas his love that drew me. ‘Twas not the delights of the table. But the love-for-the-least, love-without-measure welcome of the Host that daily calls me to sit with him at the table where caregivers are fed and renewed.

Lord, I’m coming. Help me to experience the renewal only you can give. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Food for the Soul’s Conflicts

It’s hard to imagine a banquet table set in the midst of a battlefield – “in the presence of my enemies”. (Psalm 23:5) David was a seasoned warrior – he knew  the tension and risk-your-life conflicts of the battlefield. He knew great victory and stinging defeat. And as a king he also knew the bountiful table spread in celebration of a royal victory. But in the midst of his soul’s fiercest battles, at his neediest time, even a king needs the deep refreshing of our Father’s table.

In the struggles of a demanding day it’s easy to become caught up in an emotional battle. Who’s winning? Who’s losing? Who’s right? And who’s wrong? Any thought of a banquet’s wide-spread table seems miles away.

But David found that “table”- that quiet, renewing place – “in the presence of my enemies”. There was no time for extended quiet. No place of retreat and renewal. But…right in the midst of battle the warrior king found heaven’s food – a quiet, trusting heart, a sharpened sense of priorities, strength when his was fast-failing.

Come, O King of my heart, in the battles I face today, (it may help you to name  them), help me experience the inner quieting and focus of your presence.  Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

A Battlefield Banquet

Every caregiver has a story to tell about meal preparation and feeding. One story? Maybe a whole book! We’ve had to adapt…both recipes and attitudes. We’ve learned both patience and persistence. This might be a good time to reflect on the mealtime lessons you’ve learned.

The planning, preparation and serving of a meal is shaped by the setting. Usually, banquets call for master chefs and touches of elegance. Field rations for soldiers in battle are mass-prepared and served for convenience. The most-remembered family meals were cooked and served with the simplicity, the warmth and special touches of a mother’s love.

King David found that The Shepherd of our Souls is also a master chef who prepares a banquet table in the most difficult setting – “in the presence of my  enemies”, (Psa 23:5) A spiritual “banquet”, instead of meager battlefield rations.

Whatever your “enemies” – unexpected pressures of your own making, “unreasonable” demands, more-to-do-than-you-can-possibly-get-done-today, sit with our LORD at the “safe” place he has set for you in the heat of today’s battles.

LORD, help me to feed on the soul food of your battlefield banquet. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

In Times of Withdrawal

Sometime today…or maybe tomorrow…the person you care for may seem to withdraw. There’s no reason you can identify. You’ve checked for medical concerns…and there are none. Nothing disruptive was done. Nothing disturbing was said. They’ve simply “gone” to a very private interior place. A place of the heart. A place of memories and reflections. Or, perhaps, a place of unnamed, uncertain fears they can’t express.

Respect those times of withdrawal. Don’t probe. Resist the urge to ask, “What’s wrong?” Stop all but urgent actions. Let your own heart grow quiet. Breathe in the peace of Christ. Let him calm your own struggles. Let him make you a stiller of life’s storms. A restorer of inner quiet and clarity.

Today (tonight) you’ll minister with skilled hands and a wisdom born of experience. And you’ll care with a deep sense of peace that is not of your own doing. It is the result of a patient, trusting heart. A heart that draws on the peace of Christ. Experience his peace…and share it freely.

Lord, speak peace to my oft-anxious heart, then teach me to be a minister of your peace. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Soul Balm

“Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King no longer there?”, the people of Jeremiah ‘s day dared to ask. (Jeremiah 8:19) Dark times have a way of producing honest, probing questions… for prophets…and for us. “The wound [of the one I care for] wounds me too.” (vs. 21 paraphrased) Caregivers care…deeply. We live with painful doubts. Like Jeremiah, we question, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (vs. 22) No place of relief and deep healing?

A hundred years ago… No. More than that. Much more. African-Americans lived Jeremiah’s desperate question. But they came to experience an answer. Instead of that question : “is there no balm in Gilead”…in painful, dark situations they sang – “There is a balm in Gilead that makes the wounded whole.” Can you hear both their honesty and their faith as their work-weary hearts sang out, “Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”

You can find Mahalia Jackson’s deeply moving, faith-building version of “There Is a Balm in Gilead” on the internet. As you listen, let the Holy Spirit lift the deep, dark places into an experience of trust and confidence.

LORD, help me experience that “balm in Gilead” here in this place today. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016