Thursday, January 30, 2020

Circumstantial Evidence


1.30.20 Circumstantial Evidence
Isn’t it funny how no matter how many times you’ve read a story in the Bible, you always see something new? Maybe it’s because we’ve changed, learned new insights, or stumbled over new obstacles since the last time we read it. Perhaps, God just reveals more as we become more ready to receive, or that we are able to see and understand new depths. Who knows?

No matter why it happens, it does. This week I saw something I’d never seen in Exodus 6 and 7. God and Moses are still discussing the great Exodus. It’s the words He used to describe the Children of Israel that got my attention. In Exodus 6:26 He tells Moses to bring out His people according to their armies. Then in chapter 7, verse 4, He says bring My armies and My people. I don’t know if it had ever registered that He called them armies. Maybe I just had read the account in a different translation, but it stood out to me.

The Children of Israel had been bound up under the oppression of the Egyptian rule for 400 years. They looked like slaves, not armies. They acted like slaves, had a slave mentality, and lived like slaves. But God called them armies. Well, of course, my mind went immediately to Judges 6 and the story of Gideon. Remember him? He was hiding from the Midianites when the Angel of the Lord found him and called him a mighty man of valor. Again, he didn’t look like it. He looked scared.

Circumstantial evidence declared the Children of Israel to be slaves and Gideon to be a wimp. But God didn’t see them based on their circumstance, He saw who they really were.

Why does this matter to caregivers? To me? Maybe to you? Caregiving is no easy gig. It can sap us of our strength and in a way, we become a slave to it. Our schedules are subject to the demands of caregiving each day. I know I have had to change my plans LOTS due to a caregiving situation. People tend to stop inviting you to events because you really don’t know until the last minute if it’s a go or not. And sometimes, for some, it’s never a go. That’s not a complaint, it’s just the way it is.

While God definitely sees our situations and understands our complicated lives, He doesn’t judge us based on that. He saw warriors instead of slaves. He saw a leader in Gideon. And He sees Himself in us. The ones often isolated from the rest of society cut off from a normal life. It’s easy for us to feel as though we have been captured by caregiving – even when we do it willingly. But God doesn’t see a slave – He sees Himself. He sees that we continue to trust Him in the adverse circumstances life may have thrown our way.

He sees that warrior side of us! He sees that we continue to trust Him day after difficult day. He sees when we are determined to stay hidden in Him when life’s struggles rip away at our faith. He sees a warrior, not our circumstances.

Today, I will meditate on how He looks past my circumstances and sees me. I’ll think about how He does this on purpose too. He will not judge me on my circumstances but on my heart. When He comes to get me – to get you – He’s coming for a warrior, not a slave. I’ll try to picture that in my mind today as I go about my regular caregiving tasks. He knows we trust Him. My heart overflows with gratitude toward Him and how He sees past the stuff and into my heart. Today, I’ll be thankful – will you join me?


Friday, January 24, 2020

Acknowledged


This morning I was reading in Exodus and I stopped and thought about this one verse for a long time. It’s the last verse of chapter 2. The children of Israel have been enslaved and are being afflicted by Egypt. We of course, know the story and know they are being set up for a huge deliverance. But they don’t know that yet even though it was prophesied by Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph.

The verse says this: So, God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them. That’s a lot of action words. He heard, remembered, looked, and acknowledged them. And the very next chapter is where God seeks out Moses to be His deliverer.

In chapter 4, Moses and Aaron show up and explain to the elders what God is up to. They have an active response to the promises. In verse 31 it says, So the people believed, and when they heard the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

Their deliverance was still a long way off, and we are going to watch it unfold over the next chapters. Deliverance had not yet come, but the process had started. Nothing physically changed from verse 30 to 31. They were still in bondage. They were still going to get up in the morning and work under harsh taskmasters. But their response and outlook were different. They believed God had visited them and they worshipped.

God visited them in the midst of their pain, in the middle of their storm, and in their affliction. He didn’t wait for their situation to “get better.” He didn’t shun them because He didn’t know what to do with them or for them. He acknowledged them.

The caregiving road can be filled with pain, suffering, and regret. It can feel like we are carrying a load that gets heavier with every step. And God knows that. He sees us. He remembers us – even when life seems to forget us. Now it’s up to us to respond in worship. But if there’s anything we do know as caregivers – it’s laying our lives down. And that’s the heart of worship.

Today, I will let my response be one of worship. As life presses my heart, I will be grateful that He acknowledges my situation and my pain. I will be thankful that He remains faithful to His promise to Abraham and that I am an heir to that promise. I’ll lay my life down on the altar of this life and I will continue to declare He is my God. And that is where freedom lives. Will you join me?

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Heart or Emotions?


I continue my quest to read the Bible through this year and in my reading, I’ve come across a common thread. It’s funny how we see different things in familiar passages, even though we’ve read them many times before. I’m supposing that is because as Hebrews 4:12 says, the Word of God is living and powerful, it’s sharper than a two-edged sword, dividing between the soul and the spirit. That’s intense. Even though I’ve had that verse memorized for years, taught it in many classes, and read it who knows how many times, it still reverberates through me. God’s word is alive. That blows my mind – yet I feel it when I read the word and sense it brings changes inside me as I yield my will to His.

The other part of that verse that sticks out to me today is the diving asunder of soul and spirit. Now, that’s the Old King James because that’s how I memorized it! But think about that a second. God (and His word) can tell the difference between our spirit-man and our soul. God knows the difference between our spirit and our emotions – and He sees when we are on emotional overload, which is often a state caregivers live in. I know I do! Lol

This morning, as I was reading the story of Jakob and Rachel, I found that phrase again – God saw. This time it was coming from Jakob, who is declaring that God saw the mistreatment he endured under Laban. Genesis 31:12 God tells Jakob I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. He then declares to Laban in verse 42 of the next chapter – God has seen my affliction.  By then, he and all his family and flocks are headed out.

This reminded me of the recent reading of the story of Hagar and how she realized that God saw the afflictions she was enduring. And even on up into Exodus 3, verse 7, God says I have seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt, and I’ve heard their cry. God’s word is able to miraculously discern between the deep faith-filled cry of our heart toward Him – and the emotional response to the difficulty of our situation. When He sees us – He sees both. He sees the hard stuff we face day after day. He sees when we cry and no one knows. He hears our heart crying out for His strength to carry us through each moment.

Now the interesting thing to me in all three of these accounts was that each of them had to move. Hagar moved out of Abraham’s house and God established her and Ishmael. Jakob moved on from the experience with Laban. And the Children of Israel were rescued from the oppressive grip of Pharaoh.

God saw – but it also took action on each of their parts to be free. For us as caregivers, we may not physically move (thank God!). But we can take action the first one being to trust Him for this day. Trust He sees us. Trust He hears us. Trust He is walking this journey with us. And the cool thing is He knows that His Spirit can discern between the outcry of our hearts and our complete trust of Him. They are not opposites; they go hand in hand.

Today, I will purposefully take time to acknowledge and meditate on the truth that He sees me right where I am. I’ll be thankful that He hears my heart cry whether it is audible or silent. My soul takes rest in that recognition – that He hears and sees me. I’ll try to stay in that restive mode today – will you join me?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

There is a Place


It’s funny how some days I wake up and words just roll out of my heart and onto paper yet other days I sit and stare at a blank screen and have no clue what to write. Part of me feels that way too like I’m too tired to have emotions right now. I could easily spend the day staring at the wall drinking coffee. But alas, that’s not going to happen! Too many things are needed in a day. Such is the caregiver’s world, right?

We talk about how busy we are as caregivers and I hesitate using the word “busy.” It has the connotation that what’s being done is not important. Remember when you were in school and you knew the teacher had given you an assignment as busy-work so you’d stay busy so she could do something else? Our work is certainly not that! But the whole world is busy like that.

For caregivers, and many non-caregivers too, there are so many tasks that have to be done in a day, it’s overwhelming. Plus, many of us work either at a traditional job or online and have additional requirements and tasks to complete in a day. Does it sometimes feel so pressing you can’t even breathe? I know it does for me. I get up in the morning and the list of things I have to accomplish start running through my head.

Today, for me, it looks something like this: finish the four articles for client 1, Chris has to have range of motion today – don’t forget, watching the grands for a couple hours while my daughter is out, another client just sent an urgent task needing to be done by noon, oh yeah, appointment with a possible cleaning lady at 1, yikes! I’ve got to get my room clean, so she doesn’t see it like this…. And that’s how it begins and often how it ends too most days.

But even in the midst of the crazy-busy thoughts, there is a place I can go. If only for a few minutes I can quiet down my anxious thoughts, I can find peace. When I settle myself down and whisper, Lord, I love You. It’s like He sweeps me off my feet again and fills me with supernatural, non-comprehendible peace. And I love it! He never fails to meet me where I am, and He’s not afraid to come into my cra-cray world and scoop me up and provide grace for the moment.

Today, I will purpose to quiet my soul before Him and rest in Him. My meditations will be on how He carries me through these wild-and-crazy days, time after time. I’ll be thankful for His sustaining grace and for how He seemingly miraculously gives this busy heart and mind His peace. I’ll rest in that today and be grateful that He chose to walk this journey through time with me. Will you join me?

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Twice Found


So, yesterday we looked at Genesis 16 and how Hagar had been run out by Sarai and God found her by the brook. As the story goes, he sent her back to Abraham’s household. I personally think she had a few attitudes to deal with. Time passes. Ishmael is born. Isaac is born. Now we have round two. Ishmael scoffed at Isaac and mother hen Sarah gets upset and runs Hagar and her teenage son out once again.

This time, Hagar thinks she and her son are going to die. She cannot bear the sight of it and goes where he can’t see and cries. How many times have I done that? I try to encourage my son and then retreat to my room to bear it all out to God. Even as He heard the cries of Hagar rise before Him, I’m sure He hears our cries too.

As Hagar is distraught once again, and not sure what to do – God heard the voice of the lad. (Genesis 21:17) But the angel called to Hagar. He asked her what was wrong as He had heard the voice of her son. Here she is in another situation where she’s not sure what to do. Her life of luxury (in that day) is gone and she can’t go back this time. She is no doubt confused, forsaken, alone, and has no one to turn to. She can’t just go home. There’s no home to go to.

God opened her eyes, showed her where water was so they could both live and she began to thrive again. He met her where she was once again. In chapter 16, it says He found her, and here she is in a troubled spot once again and God shows up for her again. He didn’t say, you’ve been in this before, I got nothing. He had no condemnation, He didn’t ignore her for asking too often. He didn’t tell her she had used all her “tickets” up. Instead, He finds her again – and offers compassion and grace.

I’ve often wondered if God gets tired of my complaints and whining? Does He get tired of my situation like people do? Does He get frustrated at the ongoing battles caregiving can present? Because you know, there’s always something – even on the best of days! Lol. The answer is no. He does not become weary or tired. (Isaiah 40:28) Like Hagar – He just keeps finding us because He keeps searching for us. He doesn’t shun us when life doesn’t make sense anymore. He looks for us instead and lifts us up and out.

Today, I will be thankful that God doesn’t abandon us in the tight spots. I’ll be grateful that He keeps looking for us and finding us day after day. My meditation will be on the peace it brings to my heart knowing He’s always right here – looking, seeing, and hearing our hearts. I’ll rest in that thought as I trust Him just for today. Will you join me?

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Finding


I love reading the Word. Hebrews 4:14 says it’s alive, and active. I find that true as I can read passages I know I’ve read many times before and see something brand new in it. Such is the case this morning. This year I wanted to read the Bible straight through again as I haven’t done that in a while. I found myself in chapter 16 of Genesis reading and re-reading the story of Hagar. I’ve shared many pieces of this chapter in this devotional over the years. But I saw something else today that spoke to my heart.
In verse 7, after Sarah has sent her away, it says, the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water….I read that two or three times. Then, I wrote in my journal that if He found her – He must have been looking for her.

We know Sarah is her mistress and she’s lived in Abraham’s household for years. But now she’s been thrust out of her norm – and is pregnant to boot. What a predicament! There’s no doubt in my mind that she is uncomfortable, upset, worried, and in a place of distress both emotionally and physically. Yet God found her right there in that spot.

I found this personally encouraging. God doesn’t avoid us when we find ourselves in rough spots, and caregivers can have plenty of those, can’t we? People often remain silent or distant, sometimes because they do care but do not know what to do with us. Others just ignore us – they aren’t trying to be “mean” they often do not know what to say or do. We can find ourselves in some very lonely spots in life. We can find ourselves in some dirty spots, some hard spots. Each day presents challenges others don’t often understand and we can feel cheated out of life’s “pleasures” like simple freedoms of running to the store or grabbing coffee with a friend.

But God can find us where we are. Hagar was sent out because she had a bad attitude. I will first admit that especially early on in my caregiving years, I have been guilty of that! But if God can seek her out even when she’s wrong – doesn’t that provide me with some hope that He will seek me out too? That He will seek you out too?

I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again – He doesn’t abandon us when life gets difficult or ugly. When we don’t live in that “picture perfect” world, He doesn’t avoid it – He comes to find us. He walks the path of the caregiver with us. And sometimes He has to carry us too. But He is present. Psalm 46:1 comes to mind here, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.

Today, I’m going to be thankful that God is willing to find me right in my situation no matter how challenging it seems. My meditations will be on His willing presence in the midst of my trouble. I’ll rely on Him for the wisdom and strength to make it through this day. Will you join me?

Friday, January 3, 2020

Three Altars



This year one thing I’ve purposed to do is read the entire Bible through again. I have done this many times in years gone by. But life happens and things change and I although I’ve read, I haven’t read it through in a year in a long time. As always, different things stand out. I’m three days in, three altars have been built each day I’ve read. I noted the first two, but when there was one in today’s passage, it caused me to pause and think.

The first altar mentioned in the Bible is right after the flood. When Noah and his family exited the ark, he built an altar. God’s response to this act of worship was to make a covenant with Noah and promise to never destroy the earth again with floods.

The second altar mentioned was built by Abraham in Geneses 12:7. The Lord had spoken to him to leave his family and he headed for Canaan. Once Abraham reached the Oak of Moreh, God appeared to him and promised him that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Abraham built an altar in response. He then continued to travel on to camp between Bethel and Ai. This time he built an altar with no purpose attached except to call on the name of the Lord.

It seems to me that every time these heroes of faith moved or went through, they built an altar in worship. What can we as common caregivers take away from that? First off, I’m not suggesting going out in your backyard and building an altar! Lol. But I believe an altar represents to us on this side of the New Covenant a dedicated place of worship. As caregivers, every day we “go through.” Each day we face often seemingly insurmountable odds. But we are still in the game. We are still pushing forward, still pursuing Him. That’s monumental enough to merit an altar – in our hearts.

Today, I purpose to build an altar in my heart, a dedicated place of worship to thank God for His continuing promises to me, those ones that didn’t expire when I became a caregiver. I’ll turn my thoughts and my heart toward worship today in a new way as I let my heart become the altar and my life become the sacrifice, even in the midst of the mess. I’ll be thankful I can still worship in spirit, in purity, and in truth and rejoice that life’s circumstances cannot take that away. My heart will bow before Him today as I thank Him for one more day to serve and trust Him. Will you join me?


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Perspectives

I'm sure we should be happy for a new year as it symbolizes new beginnings, right? But for the caregiver, it can mean just more of the same. There's not really a new way to do a lot of the tasks we have to complete - it's day in and day out - the same ole same ole. But of course, there are always hiccups in the way so there's no way to totally settle in to a routine. As sure as you do - something will bounce around like a call to urgent care, deliveries not on time, aides not showing up... I'm sure you've got a few of your own hiccups to list!

King Solomon said it right when he said, there's nothing new under the sun. We'll just keep on doing what we do. But if we are not careful, we'll get sucked in and under. I know I have a few times over the years. If that's our perspective it doesn't take too much for the enemy to knock us out.

Let's toss another verse in the mix. Lamentations says, His mercies are new every morning. It's kind of up to us which of these we will grab for the day. While caregiving can be mundane, lonely, and overwhelming - if we change our perspective, we might make each day a bit better than the one before.

Today, let's purposefully recognize His mercies are new even in our old. He sends rains of refreshing even in our drought. He pours in mercy, peace, and joy even in the harshest circumstances. It's all about perspective.

Today, I'll set my mind on the things above and try not to focus on the mundane. My thoughts will be on how His mercies are new for me today. I'll let Him carry me through the difficult times, let Him undergird me with His strength when I have none. I'll purpose to look at things differently today - will you join me?