Indescribable Generosity

There are times when our souls are dry. Beyond dry. Starved for refreshing. Weary of the responsibilities and routines of caregiving. We’ve reached our limits. Or…at least…it feels that way.

But just then, at that dark, empty place…is our LORD’s opportunity.

When we’ve absolutely nothing left to give, he offers his indescribable I-loved-you-enough-to-die-for-you generosity. With nothing to earn. Nothing to buy. It’s his best gift…held out for you in nail-scarred, welcoming hands.

Forgiveness – freely given, because the full penalty of my sin has already been paid. Strength – when yours has reached its limit…and beyond. Wisdom – when you can’t even find the words to ask the wearying question. Peace-when conflicts tear at your soul or threaten once-strong family ties.

It’s strange…that our darkest places…can become the places of our deepest, most fulfilling discoveries. “Thank God, then, for his indescribable generosity to you.” (I Cor.9:15 PHILLIPS TRANSLATION)

Prayer – Forgive, O LORD, the pride in me that keeps me from receiving the “incredible generosity” of your love. Amen

Three-fold Strength

Many a caregiver serves alone. Sometimes it’s because there’s literally no one else to help. So…you just bear the load and pray for grace and strength…”enough, LORD, just for this day!”

Then there are those troubling situations where others could help…but don’t. You try to live with the “reasons” they give. But sometimes you can’t help feeling that those “reasons” are just excuses. Maybe, if you hadn’t taken the lead…

But the deeper the sense of aloneness, the harder it is to summon the qualities that deepen the care in caregiving: compassion, kindness, patience “Though one may be overpowered”, the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, “…a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (4:12).

When you feel over-powered, over-extended or over-anything, you are held by our LORD’s three- fold strength:

He loves you without any reservations, He empowers you without limits, and He supports you in your deepest times of darkness and doubt.

Prayer – LORD, fill my loneliest, weakest days and nights with your three-fold strength. Amen

Listening…and Learning

This is Memorial Day: a tradition that began in 1868, when General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic designated “the 30th of May…for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” (the Civil War). The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

History records the dates of battles and victories and defeats. But this day we do not celebrate the events of war…and its victories. Today…and beyond… we commemorate – we join together to cherish memories and honor lives lived and given.

Veteran or not, the one you serve has experienced life’s battles – some victories and, like all of us, some defeats. Honor them with loving, attentive listening. Learn from them. Cherish memories and reflections. “Tell me more about that…” is a precious gift we all can give. Look through old photos together. Let them trigger memories. Being dependant on another takes a toll of one’s feeling of self-worth. Really listening, even when you’ve heard the stories before, is a living memorial.

Prayer – LORD, help me to be a patient, attentive listener. Help me to be open to learning from the one I care for. Amen

For This…and Every Day

Our Father…not only my father. I pray as if I was holding hands and joining in the yearnings of all the family of God.

Hallowed be your name… Holy, indeed, but never distant. Just the opposite. We are invited to call him Abba – “daddy”. We come as a child rushing into daddy’s understanding, wide-welcoming arms.

Your kingdom…your will be done… I offer my heart and hands, LORD, to be an instrument of your patience and your peace.

Give us…our daily bread. There’s no getting a week’s supply of sustenance..  Teach me to come seeking…and trusting you for what is needed for this day.

Forgive us…Being needy has a way of opening our hearts to seeing both our sins…and our ever-faithful Savior. And, freely forgiven, give me the grace to forgive.

Lead us…Keep the eyes of my heart clear, so that I recognize evil and temptation.

And…when arrogance, or whatever softer name it wears, should seek some selfish way, remind me, LORD, that “yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory FOREVER. AMEN!

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