When Desperation Leads to a Gift

I’m coming to see that our LORD gives special graces to caregivers who earnestly seek after him. One of those “graces” is a gift called “stick-to-it-ivness”. It’s a gift that seems to come when loving concern sees a new breath of hope for the one you care for. That’s not one more effort at keeping hope alive. It happened. To a troubled mother caregiver. A desperate, troubled mother caregiver.

This is the way Mark tells the story: “a woman who had a disturbed daughter heard where Jesus was. She came and knelt at his feet, begging for help.” You’ll recognize the desperate caregiver.  “The woman was Greek, Syro-Phoenician by birth. She asked him to cure her daughter. He said, “The children get fed first. If there’s any left over, the dogs get it.” At that time Jesus’  message was only for Jewish people. “She said, “Of course, Master. But don’t dogs under the  table get scraps dropped by the children?” Jesus was impressed. “You’re right! On your way!  Your daughter is no longer disturbed. The demonic affliction is gone.” She went home and found her daughter relaxed on the bed, the torment gone for good. (Mark 24-30 THE MESSAGE) Our comments are in italics.

Faith like that mother caregiver sees a spark of hope…and won’t be turned back.

Prayer – Today, LORD,t each me the importance of “holding-on, never- letting-go” faith. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

“Things Thought Impossible!”

The Panama Canal is a 48 mile waterway that joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Its critics called the idea “impossible”. In fact, the project’s construction company had a motto that asked:

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?” –
then they proudly boasted:
‘We specialize in things thought impossible,
and we can do what no other company can do.”

It’s said that the Canal’s rough and tumble workers – they called themselves the Panama Canal Gang – turned those words into a song as a way to keep up their spirits as they worked on the “impossible task”.

In 1929, Oscar Eliason, a young minister in Minneapolis lay in a hospital dying of cancer. He saw that construction company motto and was moved to change the focus of the last two lines: “GOD specializes in things thought impossible, and HE can do what no other power can do.”

Eliason was healed through prayer. His doctors said “something out of the ordinary has happened.” Trusting folk still sing of God doing “impossible things…no other power can do.” Sing with me. Make up your own tune. Declare what God promises and what your heart believes.

Prayer – In our “impossible” situations, LORD, we trust you. Amen

Copyright 2017

In Life’s “Rivers” and It’s “Seas”

Years ago someone wrote that “peace” seemed to be symbolized best as a river. Quiet. Fresh. Flowing. Cooling and renewing. The sea, by contrast, he felt was dark, turbulent, it’s billows capable of tossing anything…or anyone…that dared attempt to ride it. For him, seas billowed…and rolled.

“LORD, may today be a quiet river. It’s limits clear like grassy banks. May its journey be one of peace and progress. For care receiver and for this, your servant.

But if, O LORD, in your all-wise plan, there be soul-tossing seas, may care receiver and caregiver – both – experience your quieting “peace be still”. As surely as you quiet us with your gentle, river-like days, teach us the lessons that can only be learned in life’s storms.

Out of his own experience, Horatio Spafford wrote this description of life’s rivers and seas. And then he added this assurance: “When peace, like a river, attendest my ways, when sorrows like sea-billows roll, whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Prayer – Whatever my lot – O LORD, care receiver and caregiver, may it be “well with our souls”. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

 

“At the End of My Rope!”

How many times have you heard someone say that ? Or said it yourself? Originally the phase described an animal that had been tied up to keep it in its grazing area. Since none of us today are prone to grazing, it’s come to mean, “to be so tired, worried or annoyed that you feel unable to deal with _______ anymore.” As caregivers we fill that blank with almost anything… from the trivial to the traumatic. Either one can bring us to “the end of our rope”.

We feel unappreciated. Unheard. Even…at times…incompetent. “What do you expect? No one taught me how to do that. “The directions, they don’t even _____!

When those feelings build up, we have “run out of rope”, or, more correctly, the “grazing area”…of our LORD’s supporting presence. When whatever or whoever takes us to the end of our “rope” – and, in our frustration we can find no clear resolution – say to your soul, “Be STILL!” Let your burdened heart and mind “be still” with the quieting presence of our LORD.

As best you can – lay aside your “end of the rope” frustrations – and allow our LORD to lead you to new pastures of power and possibilities.

Prayer – when all I feel is frustration, come, O LORD with your quiet and confidence. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Beyond Feelings

Maybe it’s just some people. Without seeing anyone, they’re able to sense when another person has come into the room. Maybe their hearing is especially sensitive. Perhaps they recognize a familiar perfume. Or a muffled cough.

And folk talk about ‘sensing the presence of the LORD”. At urgent times our hearts reach out, grasping for some assurance, something that says to the hurting places in us that help is on the way. Times when the soul gets strangely quiet. A felt stillness. Surely of heaven’s making.

Then there are times…just as urgent. Maybe more so. When no stillness quiets our inner storm. God seems absent. And it is in those times that the strong, sure voice of scripture sounds loud and clear: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) With…or without feelings. Sure as our God  who promised it. He whose eye is on the sparrow…watches…and sees our anxious hearts.

Thank him for the times of his felt presence. And be strengthened by the solid, assuring fact of his promised presence.

Prayer – Tune the ears of my heart, O LORD, to the deep comfort of your promised presence. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Old Plaques and Present Promises

“Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” That’s what I think the oversized plaque on the wall said. Or was it, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart…” Mostly I just remember that we were dirt poor and we did everything we could to remind ourselves that life would be better if we trusted the LORD enough. I just didn’t know how much was enough.

Now I’m grown and long, long gone from that small “flat” – they called it; the “upstairs” in somebody else’s house.

We don’t have Bible verses on our wall anymore. They’re written on my heart.  Tested…surely. Again and again. In far flung places…and desperate situations. They’re not the “magic” I thought they were as a child. But in the darkest of places…in the bleakest of times…sin-scarred, but deeply forgiven…my Savior’s bles’d promises are truer than true. Proven…again and again.

Caregivers don’t need flowered plaques on bedroom walls. We do need our LORD’s assurances of presence and protection written large in the deepest, darkest, weakest places of our lives.

Prayer – Teach my heart to trust you, LORD. If today be one of life’s dark places, show me the light of your faithful love. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Making the Wounded Whole

Making the Wounded Whole

“There is a balm in Gilead”, folks in the South used to sing on many a Sunday morning. And they found courage in the assurance that, like the promise made for “Gilead’s balm”, our LORD would “make the wounded whole”.

Balm from Gilead, an Old Testament city east of the Jordan River, was renowned for its soothing comfort. It was the relaxing, pain-reducing lotion preferred by the caregivers of that day.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of a time when God’s people would turn from trusting him. He envisioned it as a desperate, dry time – where people’s souls would call for healing …but there would be “no balm in Gilead”. (Jeremiah 8:22)

As caregivers, our favorite “balm” may no longer be available…or effective for the one we care for. Dosages may need to be increased…or new medications prescribed. Our prayers reach out for the comfort of a true “Balm in our Gilead”. Like the old hymn says, one “that makes the wounded whole”. Truly, Deeply, Finally whole.

Prayer – Let every medication I offer today be a prayer for your comfort and healing – a true “balm in Gilead”. Amen

Photo courtesy of Jill Naumann, copyright 2017

Fireworks

The fireworks are just a memory, except for the boy down the street who hasn’t looked at the calendar. Or…doesn’t care about the calendar. He just loves the noise. Making it…I mean.

Then there are human fireworks. The ones that have nothing to do with the 4th of July…or celebration.  Caregiving families can be explosive. Instead of excited “oohs!” and “aahs!”  there are arguments. Everyone has an opinion as to how something should be done. “Mom would want it this way.”  Or, “dad always said I should be the one to…”

If you look at caregiving conflicts in the kindest light, they’re rooted in the fact that people care…strongly enough to voice an opinion. It’s the idea that someone has to “win” that produces conflict and the one being cared for suffers.

Are you willing to be a “storm-quieter”?  A moment’s silent prayer – just you, or the whole family–could give you the strength to withdraw your proposal in the hope of taking some of the “fireworks” out of the conflict. That’s the place to begin…allowing our wise, storm-quieting LORD to still caregivers hearts and minds. “Peace!”

Prayer – LORD, show me how to be peace in the conflicts I will encounter today. Amen 

In-dependence

Two hundred and forty-one years ago tomorrow America’s founding fathers approved the document we know as the Declaration of Independence.  “Decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation”, they wrote, and listed 27 acts of “absolute tyranny over these States”.

Their bold argument for “independence” was rooted in a deep sense of dependence. The rights they sought were not simply the work of patriots. They were “endowed by their Creator”. And they signed this Declaration “in a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence”.

There’s something of that same desire for independence in all of us. As caregivers, the causes and constraints we deal with are not the demands of some “tyranny”. But they are constant in their demands. Health and life are at stake. And we can feel that we’ve long-since surrendered our freedom – our lives are no longer our own.

Our Founding Fathers fought to win precious freedoms. Gratefully…we celebrate their sacrifices, and those who still wage freedom’s wars. As caregivers we are partners with our loving, caring LORD, dependant on his strength, his patience, hiscompassion. Signing this “Declaration of Dependence” will never move someone to paint a picture, but heaven…and the one you care for…will see the difference.

Prayer – Teach me today, LORD, some new lesson in dependence on you. Amen.

We send our Canadian friends belated best wishes on this day after their celebration of Canada Day, July 1st.