Showing posts with label church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label church. Show all posts

Family Resemblence

In 1 Peter 4:11, the apostle tells the reader that when we serve we are to do so with the strength  which God supplies. He also says that the final outcome of serving others is to see God glorified.When I first became a caregiver I could not see how God could possibly be glorified. After all, I was headed to the mission field to work for Him. I dealt with a lot of frustration when my "life" as I knew it was disrupted by caregiving. Our illusion has been that the only way to serve God is to work in "the church." If you don't teach Sunday School, lead worship or preach surely you are not serving Him.

Caring for our loved ones is a demonstration of the love of Christ to the rest of the world. John 15:13 quotes Jesus as saying, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." We as caregivers offer a true picture of faith, love and compassion. In many instances, the caregiver has sacrificed their own lives in order to provide care for another. Isn't that what Jesus did for us? He paid the ultimate sacrifice.

One day I was caring for my son and I was mourning my old life; but I knew that I loved him too much to think about it too long - or to ever go back. In that moment I realized that it was that type of deep love that held Jesus to the cross. It's the exact same love that keeps us serving our loved ones. We bear a family resemblance, we look like Him when we serve.

Today I will meditate on His great love for me. I will think about the truth that He did not abandon me when life got ugly. Today I will continue to think about His ever abiding presence and peace in my life. I will enjoy Him today as He provides the strength to serve. Will you join me?

Measure for Measure

Before I was officially a "caregiver" I lived in an ICU waiting room for three weeks and then in a hospital room with my son for another 3 1/2 months. I had flown in from another state and there was no "home" to return to. One thing I noticed was the instant connection all of the people hanging out in the waiting rooms had. We shared stories, food, laughter and tears; yet we had never met before whatever trauma had brought us in.

We understood each other. One event had turned our lives upside down and even though we had never met we became instantly bonded with one another. I felt like this unique experience offered a picture of how the church should act. We shared our lives for the short time we were together and all of the normal boundaries like social status, economic status and our belief systems really didn't matter. We helped each other out in any way we could. When one was down- another would comfort knowing they may need the same thing within the next hour. We held each other and poured out our hearts. Each person in the waiting area had had a significant event that brought them there and we could be mutually supportive and comforting.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul states that God is the God of all comfort. In the next verse he explains why God comforts us - so we can comfort others. I noticed that verse 4 says He comforts us in  our affliction - not before or after - but during our affliction He provides the comfort we need. It seems that He is able to provide the perfect level of comfort needed to match the level of suffering or affliction. And since He is the God of all comfort He has enough to carry us all the way through the trial. He doesn't walk half way with us and say, "that's all I got." He is in it with us for the long haul; in it for the duration of the trial.

No matter how intense our days as caregivers may become, how deep or difficult the trial becomes, He provides us the comfort we need to endure.

Why? Why does He comfort us in the midst of our trials? So we can comfort others. We are comforted by the Great I Am and then we are to turn to others and be His hands and feet. No one understands the path like someone who has walked it before. Just like my "waiting room church" who comforted each other in our shared afflictions we as caregivers can receive His comfort and then minister it to others. 

Today I will meditate on receiving His comfort and allowing it to bring peace to my  whole being. I will turn my thoughts toward His word and think about how He alone is the God of all comfort. And I will look for opportunities to share His comfort with others. Will you join me?

Feeling Left Out

Because our lives are so different from the main stream, it is easy for us to feel left out. Watching others go on vacation, make a coffee run or just meet up with friends can make us feel like we're sitting on the couch while the rest of the world is enjoying itself. Social isolation is real for the caregiver as people in general just don't know quite what to do with us. "Church" presents its own set of problems in this arena.

Many of us can't attend church services or have so many obstacles to get there it's not feasible. The good thing is that we are part of the universal body of Christ. Just because we are separated from a physical church building on the corner, does not separate us from the body. We are no less a part of the true body of Christ than others. We may just need to broaden our ideas about what and who the body really is.

The body of Christ reaches beyond the church downtown, it's time inclusive. That means that we are part of the body with Paul as well as the 12 disciples. We could even say that spiritually speaking the body covers much more than just the New Testament believers. Think for a minute of the "Hall of Faith" from Hebrews 11. We have some pretty impressive family members including Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David and Isaiah. We are not excluded from the true body of believers - we are a part.

Perhaps you say that you are just the little toe - but that little toe is important to the whole. If your little toe was removed you'd have to learn to walk again as it balances the whole body. There are small parts but no one plays a small role in the body.

Sometimes I think that caregivers and their loved ones are a test for today's church. There have been times that I felt totally ignored and like I could no longer relate to the church world today. We do not fit in the church's box so they really aren't sure what to do with us. Some churches thankfully, think outside the box and reach out with love and compassion.

The Lord looks at us in the spirit. We are a huge part - he sees us inside-out and is far more concerned about the parts of us that cannot be easily seen. He watches over our soul and sees our true heart rather than our position in the world today. He sees us as we really are. When the "world" is stripped off - what do we look like?

Today I will meditate on the fact that I am a part of the body of Christ and without me it's not complete. I'll think of God's inclusive love, compassion and acceptance just like I am - undone - but whole. I choose to rest in His acceptance today. Will you join me?

God don't live at Church

Despite how we may feel at times, we are never alone. One thing that I realized this weekend was how the traditional "church" can make a caregiver feel when they cannot attend meetings. On our end, it can be discouraging because the fellowship is really valuable. But it's important for us (at least for me) to remember that God don't live at church.

Yesterday morning one of the groups that I had joined on facebook had a post for everyone to share what they learned at church. Well, I cannot go to church - and the church certainly does not come to me! That got me to thinking and I set up an account with blog talk radio and did the first broadcast yesterday called God don't live at church. Honestly, once I got started I really encouraged myself. You can hear it if you want:  Coffee with Caregivers

As I was sharing, it really hit me how this enormous, powerful and creative God lives right here inside of me. I was in awe. I read Isaiah 40 and how the prophet describes how God holds all the water in the world in the palm of His hand. That's an amazing chapter. But I also really like God's own account of creation that is in Job 38 and 39. They can simply leave you speechless. But so can the fact that we have all of God inside this human vessel. That we are His choice of habitation. And at the same time He is literally everywhere - and has nowhere to go! He's inside us period! And that's to be the theme of this week's devotions.

My first scripture selection is Ephesians 3:16 - that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Gain strength today by acknowledging that His Spirit is inside you. And you don't have a separate Holy Spirit since you can't "go to church," nor do you have less of Him due to the circumstances. The fact that we are caregivers have no influence whatsoever on the package deal we get with the Holy Spirit. We have all of Him inside our being.

Actually, if you are hurting you are mentioned specifically in scripture. The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18); He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Now that's some good stuff right there!

Today I will meditate on the fact that God is near me, with me, and His Spirit is inside me. I will carry on today in the strength I gain from Him making me His home. Will you join me?

Seek and Ye Shall Find?

For the last few days I've been reading and meditating on Psalm 42. The first verse has been made into choruses and songs many times and is very familiar: As the deer pants for the water - so my soul longs after You. It seems to me that this beautiful verse has been romanticized and adapted to the corporate worship setting- like we are seeking an experience corporately. But that does not make a lot of sense when read along with the rest of the psalm. We have to look at some of the other phrases throughout the passage to get a sense of the desperation of the soul of the writer.

Our faith simply cannot allow us to overlook some of the heart-wrenching phrases such as:


  • Day and night I have only tears for food
  • My heart is breaking
  • Why am I discouraged?
  • Now I am deeply discouraged
  • Why have You forsaken me?
  • Why must I wonder in darkness oppressed by my enemies?

Most of these are followed with encouraging answers such as:

  • I will put my hope in God!
  • I will praise Him again!
Evidently the psalmist found himself in a very sticky situation and was grasping for hope from outside himself. He was facing an onset of discouragement and fighting off feelings of being forsaken and alone. He kept telling himself to put his hope in God and that he would praise Him once again. Seeking God like the panting deer looks for water is a matter of sheer desperation. And you know what? It's okay.

In many cases the day to day life of the caregiver can be lived out in desperation - constantly seeking trying to find God in our circumstance. It does not mean we have sinned, or that we've distanced ourselves from the One we love- it's just not a comfortable place - and He's still right here - even when life gets ugly. It's okay to be desperate for Him in an un-church way - and it's okay to be thirsty for Him outside of corporate worship. We do not have to go to church to find Him. And we can be as determined as the sons of Korah in saying I will put my hope in God - I will praise Him again.

Today I'm going to meditate on the truth that He is here with me whether I feel Him or not. It's okay for life to be discouraging - but I will continue to seek for him from the desperate soul. And I will find Him....here. 

Who's Tired?

It can be the same day-in and day-out for caregivers. There are generally a lot of comments on Facebook on Friday's about being glad it's the "weekend," and on Monday's you see all the posts about how horrid Monday's are. But for the caregiver it really means nothing most of the time as most days are the same; over and over and over again! Do you ever just get tired? (Of course I ask this knowing that we do!) For me it is comforting to know that He never gets tired.

Right now in my very small circle of friends I know people who are in pain, a family who lost 2 family members in a day - one was their son, a bicyclist who was run over by a car this weekend, a person with a brain tumor, people with cancer, and that's just the beginning. The sad part is there are not many "church" people reaching out to these in pain. Why? As a general rule they are good at lending a hand in an emergency - but there is no endurance for the long hauls that many people find themselves in. I am so glad that God does not get tired!

Isaiah 40:27-28 says this in the New Living Translation: O Israel, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard or understood? don't you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. As I read this today while bearing all my friends and acquaintances before Him, I saw this in a totally different way.

I had always thought of the term "everlasting" to mean the Forever God; and of course it is. But for me today it meant something special...that He has the grits and the guts to keep going with us through our trials. He can out last it - He has what it takes. And the other part was about the depths of His understanding. I know it means in essence that we can't measure how deep His understanding is in light of creation...but I believe it is correct in context to state the He understands us far more than we give Him credit for. He is not some distant God standing afar off wondering what we are going to do with life. He is near. He is not tired and He really does understand us.

Today let these thoughts comfort you. Allow Him to understand your situation. He probably understands it better than you do! Allow Him to be your strength today. He is alive! He is near! He is energetic and full of understanding...and He won't give out on the journey!

Content with Weakness

This phrase is taken from 2 Corinthians 12:10. The writer, Apostle Paul, made the statement that he was content with weakness. A few years ago in my life I would not have been able to agree. I have always been a very independent person (which sometimes causes relationship problems) and a I-cab-do-it-myself type. I do not take time to ask for help - I'll figure out how to get it done. The last 3 years of caregiving has changed some (but not all) of that. There are times now where I really do just have to ask for a little bit of help. Think about it - how often does someone call you and say, "Hey, I'd love to come sit for a couple hours so you could get out and see a movie..." (or buy groceries, get a haircut, walk in the park,.. etc...) It just does not happen. So we are in a position to have to request help occasionally.

 Paul goes on to say in this passage that he is also content with insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties.  Notice they are all plurals! And they all come from being a believer. Most of our troubles these days are not for being a believer in Christ. They may sometimes come from the religious world when we do not measure down to their standard - but we are not persecuted for believing in Christ as Paul was. Basically, some of our pain (I think I can say "our") is from the church ignoring us. The same church that is supposed to be like Christ; and walk in His compassion. Yeah, those - most of them ignore us as they really do not know what to do with us. And I have to also admit that I fell way short during my serving the church days.

 Paul goes on to say why he is content with weakness. In verse 10 he says for when I am weak, then I am strong. On the surface that doesn't really sound possible does it? How can I be strong because I am weak? We can look back up to verse 9 for an answer. Paul says in this verse that God's power is perfected in weakness. Wow! May I always be weak so that His power can be matured in me!

 Today I choose to consider His power rather than my weakness. I choose to embrace His grace rather than my fears. And I choose to cling to Him rather than my situation...even realizing nothing will change in a day...but me.

Puffed up Know-it-alls

Don't you just love the conversations that you have with people who act like they know it all? Usually the conversation doesn't get very far because the who know it all can't see past their limited knowledge to hold a true challenging conversation!

 Well, as I was studying this morning this short passage jumped out at me for a couple of reasons. It's actually in the context of Paul's instructions about eating meat that is sacrificed to idols. And then it seems he takes a little rabbit trail when he says the words in these three verses:

 Now let's talk about food that has been sacrificed to idols
You think that everyone should agree with your perfect knowledge.
While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church
 Anyone who claims to know all the answers really doesn't know very much.
 But the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for
 (1 Corinthians 8:1-3 NLT)

I found the first part about the know-it-all to be pretty amusing. I have met people like that. And I am sure I've come off as being that way myself at times. Thank God for life's tempering - it is indeed what helps us come to grips with the fact that we really don't know it all! lol!

But there are two other things that stand out to me in this passage. The first thing is that it is not knowledge which builds up the church. Listening to endless sermons may give us a lot of  information about God but that's not how the church is encouraged. Later in this same book, Paul will say that knowledge puffs up. But it is love that builds up the church. But then again we have to see the church not as a building - how can we love a building? But we must see it as us. We are the church and when we love one another and help carry one another's burdens it will build and encourage the church. (Ah! the missing link to modern Christianity!)

 And then the next part that grabbed me was verse 3 - the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for. Wow! I so want to love Him...and not let my knowledge of Him surpass basking in His intimate love. Just some thoughts for today..

Side Note - I did start some video devotionals for caregivers. There is one up and I will be doing one later today. You can view them at www.livestream.com/reallysimpleafterall.

Oh! Those Emotions!!

You know how easily the caregiver's emotions can jump around! (or is it just me?) It's like we live on the edge and any tiny little thing can tip us right on off. Frustrations can build and there can seem to be no quick way to reel it all back in. And for me - I get just plain mad...at the situation, at the church, at other people, and yes...at God. (not that this is very profitable - but at least it's honest!)

 I really think He understands though. He created us to have emotions and His love (which is an emotion and an action) is what drove Him to make sure that man had a way to get back to Him. He knows that we are just flesh...He created us! He realizes that we are only dust...but made in His image. And according to Psalm 139 He is very intimately acquainted with all of our ways to the point that He knows our words before they were thoughts.That's just amazing to me...that God is so vast - and yet took such care with the intricate details of our makeup.

 It's funny to me how when I can turn my thoughts to the greatness of God all the cares are washed away...and in my pursuit of Him I find all the other things that used to be so important to me have fallen away. Paul said that He wanted to be found in Him.(Philippians 3:9) Let us make that our pursuit on those days that are most overwhelming...days the emotions want to run away with us - let us be found in Him...and there is peace.

Passion or Fear?

In Matthew 13 there is a very interesting story about a storm. Jesus sent the disciples across the sea and while they were headed across a storm came up. On the water in a storm has to be a very scary place! Here in Oklahoma we can have some pretty rough storms and I would not want to be out on the water when one blew in!


Jesus saw the storm and headed out walking on the water to meet his frightened disciples. That's one thought in itself isn't it? Jesus' attention was not averted away from those He loved just because of a little storm! He headed right out to them without a second thought. As He got close to His trembling disciples, Peter called out and said If that is You,Lord, bid me to come!  That was a crazy thing to say - for anyone!

Jesus told Peter to come on out on the water. Peter jumped out of the boat momentarily oblivious to the tumultuous water and waves and headed for Jesus. The question here would be did Peter jump out of the boat and head toward Jesus out of passion, or out of fear? Was he headed for Jesus for safety from the storm, or simply because he was so glad to see him in a scary situation? Personally, my guess is that he headed for Christ out of passion. It was fear that caused him to begin to sink when he looked away from Jesus and toward the storm.

As a caregiver, we kind of live in a storm don't we? At least by other people's standards. My prayer is two things here. One- that I will run to Jesus out of passion not out of just fear. It's certain that He is our comfort, strength, and sustainer of our souls! I want to run to Him in trouble of course! But I want the drive of my pursuit to be passionately seeking Him. I stated in my other blog, From the Furnace, that I have come to know HIm in such a way, even in the storm, that I wouldn't trade this relationship for church! I wouldn't want to go back to that sort of religious relationship with HIm. I want to passionately run to Him.

The other thing to remember in our passionate pursuit of who He is - is to not let the storm grab our attention. It is so important to keep our eyes on Him as we pass through the trials of life. One has to wonder how the story would have read if Peter had not been distracted. Ever wondered that? Would they have simply walked back to the boat? Personally, I'm glad he got distracted (sorry Peter because it is such an encouragement to know Jesus did not condemn him, He simply helped him get back in the boat. Jesus also told him he at least had a little faith even in his doubts!

Today, let us pursue Him in the midst of the storm...disregard what we feel is a lack of faith and head straight for His arms! He will carry us!

Chasing What Matters

Life BC (before caregiving) was probably full of all sorts of activities that just are not possible anymore. For some of us, church was a regular Sunday activity. But attending isn't always feasible for the caregiver. Possibly, it's because our loved one isn't mobile, or it's too early to get up and out. For many it just isn't a practical or even possible. And the church doesn't really know what to do with us since we don't fit the mold. That can leave the caregiver feeling abandoned and really out of place with the religious world.

The inability to "go" to church really stumps the religious folks. How many times have we been "pressured" to  go somewhere. These are well meaning people who really do not understand or comprehend the enormity or the impossibility of the task. But where does that leave the caregiver?

James 1:27 says this:Pure and undefiled religion in the in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. How are we supposed to do that? And what happened to the ranking of attending church? ...it's not mentioned as part of pure religion. (not saying it shouldn't be done.. just that it doesn't rank)

While it may not be possible to get out and visit others, we can contact other shut-ins by phone and we can send cards via postal to people we know are hurting. But the big one is really keeping ourselves unstained by the world. It's so easy to have so many yucky things displayed with cable and Internet being streamed into our homes. Add that to the loneliness that can accompany caregiving and it can be a bad combination! It will take some serious effort to keep ourselves pure. But we can do it!

Our spirit is the part of us that will live on forever...building and encouraging that part of us is the part that will last throughout eternity. The spiritual side of us (and our loved one) should get the most care of all. Nothing that we see - absolutely nothing - will be in eternity with us...we must decide to chase the things that matter and not worry so much about the rest.

Emotionally Stranded

  I was up late last night - and it wasn't to study my Bible. Lol. I was watching a dumb show. But each episode ended with things up in ...