Channels for God’s River

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Psalm 46:4) That’s the kind of verse that makes me feel like the author really knew me…and my needs for this very day. An ordinary day just won’t do. I need gladness! Soul-stirring, spirit- lifting, flowing-like-a-wide, wide-river gladness.

I need to know that God has come to me in all his washing, strengthening, renewing power. And LORD, please make your river flow through the driest, weariest, hardest-to-reach places in me. AMEN.

But the psalmist wasn’t finished. “Streams” – the word is really “irrigation ditches” – carry the river’s water throughout the city. And while we pray for rivers of God’s intervention, he calls us to dig out “irrigation ditches” –daily times and, when possible, regular places for prayer. And even familiar prayers: when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray he gave them – and us – a prayer. We call it “The LORD’s Prayer” (Luke 11:2-4), but it’s really our prayer.

There is a river of God’s grace. It is wide and deep. And it is the source of life’s truest joy, delight and satisfaction. But we make the “ditches” through which God waters our dry places.

Prayer – LORD, just as I’ve learned the importance of routines in care, teach me the life-sustaining value of routines in spiritual care. Amen

In Crisis…and in Quiet

Most of the time we can handle the dailyness of caregiving. Many a once-new procedure is now familiar routine. Our schedule is demanding…but doable. And day after busy day our faith is lived out in a quiet, reassuring trust in him who is able to control all that we have surrendered to his care.

But what happens when our daily care routine is broken by unexpected change? When calm turns to crisis?

To those of us who are learning to draw upon them, the quieting, reassuring resources of God become a deep, transforming presence – like a strong, flowing river – equal to whatever the urgent demands of the moment. But what of the scores of smaller needs, the daily troubling dry places in us that need refreshing?

Scripture promises the life-giving power of “a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God”. (Psalm 46:4) The word the writer used for “streams” refers to man-made channels dug for irrigation. Dig regular “time channels” for our Father to provide the soul food that brings a sense of gladness to our caregiving.

Prayer – Stir me, O LORD, to make times and ways to draw daily on your instructions and directions. Amen

A Listening Heart

Caregivers have to repeat things all the time. Sometimes s-l-o-w-e-r. Or louder! Or closer…and you’re never really sure how much has been heard.

And there’s another reason for repeating. It’s done for emphasis. Years ago there was a radio broadcast that began with the singing of this declaration: “In Thee, O LORD, do I put my trust.” Then it was repeated …and repeated again. Three times…so that the casual listener might stop and catch the message.

And there’s still another hearing problem: one where the loud voices of our heart’s inner struggles drown out the directions and corrections of our Shepherd LORD. We pray. Sometimes with a sense of urgency. But our always-busy hands and hearts leave little time for quiet. And waiting. And learning to listen to the directions of our LORD, the Ultimate Caregiver..

We pay close attention to the guidance of those who know and care for the body and the mind. It part of our caring. A challenging, comforting, life-staining part. But who speaks to our deepest places? Who quiets our inner storms? Who tends the garden of our soul and brings beauty that brightens and blesses the trying days of our caring?

Caring calls for skills and dedication. For love and a full measure of patience. For giving…again… and again, from a heart that is learning to draw deeply from the generous hand of our caregiving LORD.

Prayer – Teach me, LORD, to care from a heart that is filled with your peace and your plenty. Amen

“Grab Bars” for Caregivers

We seem to be hard-wired for independence. Nations…and individuals fight to preserve it. And we are s..s…slow to surrender it.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “I can do it myself!”? To ask for help isn’t a simple request. It’s more like a confession, an indication that we are no longer able to…….. Fill in the blank, at least in your mind.

For the person you care for, grab bars provide stability and support now, or sometime in the future. They’re a solid, substantial life support. A preserver of a measure of independence.

But what about spiritual and emotional grab bars for caregivers? Something … someone strong and stable to hold on to when we’re unsure. When we have to face new challenges and demands…from outside or those born of our own most troubling fears and uncertainties.

“God is a safe place”, the psalmist assures us. (Psalm 46:1 THE MESSAGE) A place of sure support when our spirits are weak. A spiritual “grab-bar” to quiet our weaknesses and insecurities. We repent of our stubborn independence andseek the comfort and reassurance of your guidance and support.

Prayer – “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

When the Way is Rough

When the LORD brought King David a victory…he made up a song of praise. Maybe that’s a habit we should develop. One of those songs is in 2 Samuel 22. Then it reappears in the Hebrew hymnbook (Psalm 18) for all the people to sing.

It’s all about God’s deliverance…and well-worth being repeated again. Repeating helps to lock the awareness of the good hand of God in our memories. Then at one point it begins to read like a testimonial on preventing falls: “You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” (2 Samuel 22:37) “A broad path” – a way to avoid the rough, dangerous places…and prevent falls.

Every six minutes an older person is admitted to an emergency room because of a fall. And clutter and inadequate light are the two primary causes of falls. And you’ve made a habit of checking both.

But there’s also a kind of inner clutter: those “little things”, the habits and attitudes that so easily trip us up, robbing us of joy, turning the warmth of caring into little more than cold, day-after-day duty.

But light makes a difference. And to each of us our LORD offers each of us his fall-preventing warm light of forgiveness and renewal “so that your ankles – and all the rest of you – does not give way”.

Prayer – LORD, help me to see the things that cause me to stumble. Help me to bring them to your light and forgiveness. Amen

Caring for Mom – A Bedside Conversation

Every mom has hopes and dreams for her children. They began to take shape long, long before the birthing. And she holds them heart-close, hoping they would ease the pains of birth.

“Tell me, mom, if you can, the stuff of which your dreams were made?”

“They were shaped in part by long lost dreams of what I might be. High dreams and hopes. Now long surrendered to the cold, raw winds of “reality”. And in your forming I dared to dream again. That you might walk well where I had only hoped. That you might know Christ’s quiet peace instead of stormy seas.”

“I’ve always known you were a dream-carrier, mom. You called it guiding. And I resisted. Preferring, instead, a path of my own choosing. My own triumphs. And… my own mistakes.”

“It was not a life of your own choosing. dear. My dreams for you were never bold enough. Long years ago I put you in the hands of God.”

“Now , mom, in this precious caring, waiting time, I pray for you the quiet and the comfort that comes from a heaven-blessed life fulfilled.

Prayer – Grant me, O LORD, the grace of tender gratitude for loving sacrifice. Amen10

Blessed by Joy

Joy…I’m told, lifts the human spirit. So, I’m looking for joys. Why don’t you join me? Maybe you’ll discover joys that I don’t see.

“I started this search looking for BIG things. Things that make you want to celebrate. Over-the-top kinds of things. There’s been some of those. Travel. Career milestones. But I’m coming to think that “joys” – are deeper, more long-lasting things. Like… finding true love. The person you’ve been blessed to share life with. All those things that – looking back- are richer now than when we first experienced them. And sharing them with you only deepens my joy. There’s more…but I’m doing all the talking. What you are remembering? We’re supposed to be sharing this search.”

“I’m trying. I heard you. I really did. But…maybe I’m just too weary to think of joys. I’m more focused on the everyday stuff. Wait! I can thank God for the small joys-the things I’ve been taking for granted. Like rare moments of quiet –when I was so frustrated that I prayed…and my mind cleared. I knew what I had to do.”

“’I’m with you…always” That’s not some idle promise of help. It’s authentic. Jesus said that a long time ago. But…it’s like he said it to me. Directly. Come to think of it…that’s a joy that sustains me day-in and day out. Thanks be to GOD.”

Prayer – Teach me, O LORD, to more clearly see your sustaining joys. Amen

Turning a Task into a Treasure

Study after study points out the challenges of caregiving. And, if we were asked, each of us could quickly put together our own very personal list. Not policy issues. They’re beyond us. But the closer-to-home, very personal issues that can so easily wear us down. Things like taking care of ourselves…in order to be able to continue taking care of others.

To some self-care sounds selfish. “We’re called to serve others”. But a lift to your spirit has a way of touching others…deeply. Here are some simple steps:

Instead of struggling with what we haven’t done, let’s recognize the grace that God  has given us. Celebrate every act or attitude of compassion and patience you see in yourself and in others. Give thanks.

Begin to approach the most routine procedure as if you were giving a gift of life. In the simplest of acts you are privileged to be the loving, supportive hands of our LORD.

Fill your cup with joy. FULL. And even FULLER. Then give it away, as freely as our LORD gives it to you. There’s no such thing as too much joy.

And one more thing: the person you serve is much more than a care-receiver. They can be a giver. They have history, experience, wisdom and insights as well as the attitudes and opinions we encounter. Honor them by listening. You may discover a treasure.

Prayer – LORD, in all the routines of this day may I be source of joy. Amen

Waiting

I just wasn’t made for waiting. That artificially efficient voice on the doctor’s automated voice system, even after I’ve pressed 1, 2 or 2: “your call is very important to us and it will be answered…” And you wait…and wait.

I read the Bible…and the psalmist says “Wait…on the LORD” Fifteen times. Even twice in the very same verse. “Wait for the LORD: be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psa.27:17) Unlike the doctor’s office, that waiting isn’t because God’s busy and I have to wait my turn. But it’s still waiting. And words like “be strong and take heart” make me think it could be a long wait.

I’ve prayed about several major things. Now I’m waiting. And I’ve used the time to suggest several potential answers to my prayer. Honestly, I’m anxiously frustrated. But I’m beginning…just beginning…to see that the LORD is looking for a totally different kind of waiting. The word the psalmist used for “wait” comes from a word that means to bind together. That’s the reason for the waiting. It’s for  surrender. Not the surrender of defeat. But one of re-shaping. And wonder. And FULLfillment. For re-shaping and binding my plans and designs to his.

Prayer – O LORD, forgive my impatience, and teach me to surrender to your re-shaping. Amen

Jesus and the Caregivers

Two women – two very different women – loved and cared for Jesus – in two very  different ways. You know them: Martha – busy, preparing food for Jesus, and Mary- unbusy, at least in Martha’s mind, choosing to sit at Jesus’ fit and listen when there was work to do in the kitchen. Everybody knows that story.

Martha’s the “take-charge” person. It’s her home, and she’s determined to make Jesus feel “quite at home” (Luke 10:38 THE MESSAGE) For her, caring and loving meant doing, and everyone ought to share in the work. Sitting was for later. There was work to be done…“NOW!” You know that feeling…and you can understand Martha’s frustration.

Mary’s caring took a different direction. She had questions for Jesus. Things she needed to learn. Events she wanted to re-live. Who knew how long he would be with them? For her, kitchen duties could wait. Listening and learning came first.

But what does that say to caregivers?

To the “Martha” in all of us – frustration and stress destroy. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Getting away – it’s now called respite – restores and deepens your ability to care for others.

And to the Marys – those with a patient, listening heart: Celebrate the memories of the one you serve. Share them with others. Treat them as a precious gift. Give dignity to declining years.

Prayer – Teach me, O LORD, the value of rest and renewal, and give me, I pray, an affirming, listening heart. Amen