Tender Mercies

Some days…caregiving is simply routine. You do this in the morning, and something else just after lunch.  You follow the doctor’s instructions. You make sure the right medicines are taken at the right time. You have a “to-do” list written down. Or, more-likely, it’s in your head. Routines help to make your days manageable.

But what about the unexpected? The mood changes in the one you care for? Frustration? Rage? Emotional withdrawal? Or insistent demands? Lashing-out bursts of anger? How do you deal with this dark side of caregiving?

When a blind beggar heard that Jesus was just down the road he called out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He“called out”? I imagine he hollered. Pent-up anger, years of frustration, hope and more, combined in that plea. And when the crowd told him to be quiet, “he shouted all the more”.

The one you serve lives day after day with a deepening sense of loss…and that loss may show itself in a whole range of disturbing emotions. May our ever-compassionate LORD give you the special grace needed to respond as Jesus did – with tender mercies.

Prayer – Merciful LORD, make me a tender, caring instrument of your peace and understanding. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

“Learning to Follow”

When you think about it, caregivers are followers. The safety, the health, the comfort…and even the attitude of the one we care for depends on our willingness to follow instructions. Caregiving is a world of “read this”, “do it this way”, “watch me”.  And before long following becomes second nature.

But caregiving is more than a set of correct processes and procedures. It calls for our “heart” even more than our head and hands. For right attitudes as well as right actions. For following the instructor, rather than a set of instructions.

“Follow me” was Jesus simple invitation/instruction. “Follow me…and I will make you fishers of men”. In 21st century terms, he was saying “I’ll re-make you and give you a new sense of purpose. You’ll learn to touch lives deeply…and see them change.”

Following doesn’t mean having a new rule book. It does mean spending quality time with Jesus. Maybe even time without words. Time to ponder the depth of his love and compassion. Time to explore the wonder of obedient following .

Prayer – Save me from busyness, LORD. Teach me the simplicity of following Jesus. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

The Wisdom of Waiting

It seems as if the modern soul was not made for waiting. We live in an era that demands rapid response. We eat at fast food places. We often pay extra for same day delivery…or at least next day. Waiting isn’t in our vocabulary anymore. In quieter days, waiting used to mean anticipation. Now…waiting seems to have come to mean wasting time.

The Psalms – our time-tested guidebook on prayer – approach the pressures of life from a totally different perspective. They offer no instant solutions. Instead…over and over again the psalms call us to “wait on the LORD”. (Psa. 27:14) In anxious times, the psalmist goes even further, calling us to “wait patiently”. (Psa. 37:7)

Waiting allows the LORD to reshape our prayers, showing us needs we hadn’t recognized. Or attitudes that hinder his work in and through us. And sometimes “waiting on the LORD” (Isaiah 40:31) is not so much about getting answers to our prayers as it is opening our eyes and our hearts to the wonder of GOD’s love…and power…and purpose – beholding “ the beauty of the LORD”. (Psalm 27:4)

Prayer – I’m not good at waiting. Quiet my heart, LORD, so that I may see your beauty and love you more deeply. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Deliverance and Delight

Have you ever waded through emotional “deep waters” and encountered “foes who were too strong for [you]”? Or felt like you were facing “the day of [your] disaster”? King David did. Those are his words from Psalm 18. Hard, raw words, meant to give the most timid soul the freedom to come to our LORD with our most honest fears and feelings.

But there’s more to David’s story…and yours and mine. Let the weariest places of your heart hear it. “…but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

Repeat after me: “because the LORD delights in me”. Underline it. Write it down somewhere. Start your days with the reminder that he delights in you. He calls you “friend”. His “beloved”. And he has invited you to share with him in his holy work of caregiving.

There’s a little note just under the words “Psalm 18” in the Bible – “[David] sang to the LORD the words of this song…”  Your song, like David’s, will delight the heart of our LORD.

Prayer – Fill me today, O LORD, with a deep sense of your delight. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Living ‘Stranded-Together’

On the roadside just outside a small Mexican town I found a master woodcarver. He made grand pieces…life-size. The work of a skilled and careful hand. His deer seemed alive. His winged creatures looked to have been captured in full flight.

Then, as so often happens in a craftsman’s shop, I found a small wonder. Nothing grand. Yet, for me, finding it was a truly holy moment. It was a cross unlike any I had ever seen. From a single block of wood, the master had carved  a cross that appeared to be two strands woven together, as if the Savior’s life and mine had gone together to Calvary’s hill. In truth…they had. The Sinless One died for me.

That was years ago, but that “stranded cross” is just a few feet away as I write. It serves as a visible reminder that we were “stranded together” in his death…and in his resurrection. And that “stranded-together-life” continues. Held together by a holy fellowship – my ongoing confession and his willingness to forgive.  And like that craftsman made a single piece of wood into a two-stranded cross, our LORD weaves our lives together with his in order that we may touch needy lives with his  love and mercy through the wonder of this stranded-together life.

Prayer – Keep me, O LORD, from serving in my own strength. Teach me the wonder of being stranded-together with you. Amen

Living Easter’s Brightness

Easter isn’t simply a day on the Christian calendar. It’s an experience. A seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year experience. It’s an empty tomb…that offers us a full life. It’s tragedy…turned to triumphant living. Alive-from-the-dead living. An Easter Sunday that rushes with resurrection life into…Easter Monday.

The holy explosion of Easter can’t be contained in a single day. So there’s Easter Monday…and Easter Tuesday. In fact, a whole week of celebrating Easter resurrection. And still more: an Easter quality of life. Where resurrection transforms frightened deniers – like Peter. And prove-it-to-me doubters-like Thomas. And all the rest of  us who quietly seek to live resurrected, liberated lives.

For centuries some in the church have called this week Bright Week. Today is Bright Monday. Tomorrow is…well, you get the picture. Traditionally, prayers that would normally be said…are sung. And Psalm 67, with its plea –“May GOD be gracious to us and make his face shine on us so that [his] ways may be known on earth” is sung throughout Bright Easter Week and beyond.

May our dark places give way to GOD’s bright light. May our brokenness be remolded into vessels for his life-giving service. Have a bright week

Prayer – Fill my life with your brightness, O LORD, and may it shine in warm and caring ways. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

What’s “Good” about Good Friday?

History’s darkest day has come to be remembered as GOOD FRIDAY. But what can possibly be good about a crucifixion? Wouldn’t Dark Friday be a more fitting name? For the little company that dared to follow Jesus to the cross, hope seemed defeated. The Jesus story was coming to a bitter, sad end. But wait…

What seemed like the end was, in fact, a bright new beginning. The repentant thief found an open door to paradise. Instead of vengeance, with his last breath Jesus pled for forgiveness for his crucifiers. In a loving, tender touch, he appointed a trusted caregiver to support his broken-hearted mother. Then for the multiplied millions throughout history who would come to that cross in repentance he purchased new life…life at its fullest and richest and deepest…with his death.

It is in humility… repentance…and faith that the darkness of that Friday turns to hope and fulfillment for us. Broken spirits find healing and new purpose for living. And as caregivers, our lives and our labor can take on the grace and compassion that flows from our Savior’s sacrificial heart.

This is what makes this holy day of sacrifice a…GOOD FRIDAY, the best of all Fridays.

Prayer – Humbly, LORD, I come to your cross for forgiveness and renewal, for new purpose and power. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Blooming in Desert Places

Caring has its high points. Times when patience and sensitivity seem as natural as breathing. And sacrifice feels right and good. Then there are the dry times, the emotional deserts…when it feels like you’ve nothing left to give…yet the need still calls.

In those desert times our hearts may grasp for solutions: if only _____ would help. If only I had____.  There are, perhaps, a half dozen or more “if onlys” that would offer needed practical help.

But emotional deserts are often a spiritual matter, a dryness of the heart that calls for a spiritual solution. Confession. “I need you, LORD”. “My strength is not enough.” Surrender your dryness and distress – let it go – and begin to draw new strength from GOD’s promise to you that “the desert and the parched land will be glad. The wilderness will rejoice and blossom…it will burst into bloom…and there will streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 35:1,2,6)

Prayer – Compassionate, understanding LORD, come to my barren desert places and make them to bloom. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Listening for Whispers

I have a hearing problem. One that has nothing to do with my ears. They’re fine.  It’s my heart’s ability to hear our LORD’s gentle pleadings.  Thunder awakens the soul. Trumpet blasts call even a sleeping army to prepare for battle. But the language of love – the language that speaks deeply to my heart – is one of quiet intimacy. GOD’s love whispers. It woos…like the scent of a precious perfume.

Throughout Scripture prophets proclaim their message with voices loud and clear. Like trumpets, they call us to spiritual battle. But the clarity of their message was born in a quiet, listening heart.

“Go out and stand on the mountain,” GOD instructed Elijah, “for the LORD is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind there was an earthquake…and then…a fire. But the LORD was not in the earthquake or the fire. Then came a gentle whisper, and Elijah pulled his cloak over his face and listened to GOD’s very personal message.” ( I Kings 19:11-13)

Caregiving is GOD’s love lived out daily in the quiet and the storm. And its message is deeper and richer when we have learned to quiet our hearts to hear his gentle whispers.

Prayer – Teach me, O LORD, to quiet my heart so that, in the midst of winds and fires I can learn to wait for your whispers of direction. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Resources Beyond Our Own

Have you ever thrown your hands in the air and said something like “I give up”? Or perhaps you’re not that dramatic, but you’ve still felt that the demands of caregiving were just too much!

What if our desperate raised hands or hearts were to become a sign of openness, a wordless prayer of surrender to a strength beyond our own?

Let me tell you an old story. Joshua led Israel in a critical battle. Skilled soldiers fought with great fervor. But the true victory was won on a mountaintop above the battle. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the enemy won.” (Exodus 17:11) Raised hands – dependence on God’s resources– made the difference.

But there’s still more to that story. “When Moses’ hands grew weary…Aaron and Hur put a stone under him and he sat on it. Then they held his hands up so that his hands remained steady until sunset”…and the final victory. (vss. 12, 13)

God has an “Aaron” and a “Hur” for you: trusted friends who will help you find  rest when you’re weary and “ hold up your hands” until the battle is won..

Prayer – Show me, Lord, the “Aaron” and “Hur” you have for me, and give me the courage to call on their prayer and support. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017