Thursday, June 30, 2022

He Cares for Us

 


In the wake of physical suffering or emotional pain, we are vulnerable to doubt.  Almost worse are the ways we try to put a good face on  suffering as we use human understanding to explain divine purposes:  "Maybe God just needed me to be humbled..."  

I think it honors the Lord more to say, "I can't understand why this happened, but I trust You and I know You are loving and good."  The Almighty God does not need us to make excuses for Him. He asks us to trust in and rely upon His love. 

We won't know until Heaven why painful things happen, but we honor the Lord when we reaffirm our trust in Him even in the midst of circumstances that hurt. We can bank on the fact of His provision and blessing even in the midst of sorrow and pain.  

Lord help us to keep loving and trusting You even when we are hurting. Thank You for holding us firm in your love.



Wednesday, June 29, 2022

It's Always HIm and Not Me!

 


The only thing clever I’ve ever done in my life is to cry out to Jesus. It is always His power and not my own that bails me out; time after time I recognize that my only claim to wisdom comes through appropriating His.    

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Monday, June 27, 2022

Feet Fitted With Readiness


 I once read a devotion by a woman who had recognized the need of liberation from her commitment to completing the items on her daily list when she turned down an invitation to spend time with a friend because her list stated she must vacuum under her beds that afternoon.  

I have never been near that level of devotion to keeping a spotless house, but I am just now, at age 68, in the process of liberation from my devotion to my right to spend my days as I deem best. Sometimes, a fear that other people will take over our time is actually a reluctance to abandon all for Christ. What if He plans to use me up and wear me out for His purposes?  What if I can't rest when I'm tired and what if my body and mind, not to speak of my nerves, give way under the strain?  What if what if what if???

Then there is the secret whisper that I deserve some leisure at this point in my life after being my mother's primary caregiver for 16 years, 12 of those in my own home.  

That sounds somewhat logical until we look at things from the Lord's point of view. During those years of caregiving I was blessed abundantly by the Lord's provision. As the Israelites were blessed in the desert, I was blessed in ways I could never have provided myself: "The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything" (Deuteronomy 2:7 NIV).  

Our challenge is not to push forward in our own strength, but rather to fall back into the Lord's arms.  

Lord let us be ready to do Your will, flexible in Your hands, more committed to loving and being loved by You than to our own goals, let us delight to do Your will, in Jesus' Name we pray.  

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Forgiving


 Releasing our perspectives of the past is difficult. It is possible to rehearse wrongs done to us so often that we lose accurate perception of the changes that have taken place in the wrongdoers. Thus someone who was once a victim of a great wrong becomes, through an inflexible opinion of the one who hurt her, perceived by others to be the one in the wrong!  

Well, that paragraph above is a bit cryptic, and I can't think how to be more specific other than to say we must give the Lord our frame of reference of the past. His power is such that He is able to work in past, present, and future to bring about His perfect will. When it is His will to forgive those who have done us harm, He removes their sins as far as the east is from the west. At that point we need to be able to let go the harm done us, as the "letting go" frees space for us to receive healing for the injuries we sustained.  

There is a difference between accepting the unacceptable and bearing with one another in love. But when our loved ones have repented of the wrongs they've committed against us, it is important to love as we've been loved and forgive as we've been forgiven. And even when no apology or repentance has occurred, may the Lord enable us to trust Him for our injuries and walk in wisdom according to His guidance. Otherwise we risk hardness of heart that precludes healing. 

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Dear Lord, when we have been wronged, grant us wisdom to either speak or remain silent just as You will. Please be in the ways others perceive us and be our shelter from judgment or blame. We place our trust in You for past, present, and future. We ask to be healers and to be healed,  in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.  

 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Take Hold of Him Who Holds You

 


"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Philippians 3:12).  


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Consider the Needs of Others...

 


As a "sandwich generation" fifty-something woman,  I often felt claustrophobic near-panic when my grandchildren's or my aging mom's needs trumped my own. This sensation that my own needs might go unmet often expressed itself as paralyzing fear. Over the years I've found that if I will push through this kind of fear in prayer, I am often provided strength to serve the needs of others even when I feel weak. It usually takes the loving intercession of a praying friend  to get me over the fear barrier.  

It is instinctive, but not Scriptural, to take our own oxygen first, as the world's wisdom advises, but grabbing what we need to make space for ourselves robs the Lord of the opportunity to show us His miraculous generosity.  This is not to say that God won't sometimes instruct us to say "No," and He often gives the command to come apart and rest awhile. But we need not to make decisions out of our own sense of weakness before we inquire of the Lord.  Oftentimes strength for the journey is given along the way.  

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Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:37-39 NIV

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV




Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Die to Self

 


When I retired at age 57 in order to provide full time care to my mom, who had Alzheimer's, I really thought there would be something in it for me.  

Oh don't get me wrong, I had compassion for my mother, who was not yet ready for nursing home care. I had zeal to obey the Lord. And, while I grieved the loss of the teaching ministry that had allowed me to help a good number of struggling readers, I knew my physical strength was no longer up to full-time teaching.  So I did have a measure of understanding of how God was helping Mom but also was helping me through provision of a fruitful ministry of service away from the rigors of teaching school.  

However, I thought--and it is embarrassing to admit this--that there would be more.  I thought "my" writing would be prospered. I pictured book signings and yes, increased income from my labors to make up for what I had given up in terms of a stable job with benefits.  

Instead, the motif of helping people by ones and twos has continued. I tutored one child, and then one more, and then taught my grandsons to read; five children in all over the past eleven years.  I took care of one elderly lady, my mother, until her death. My books sell at the rate of about 15 copies a year...so that approximately a dozen Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers are helped by my ministry over a given 12 months of time.  Meanwhile, on the home front, I became babysitter to my grandchildren and cook for family meals in between bouts of increasingly distressing physical ailments.   

Things have not worked out like I thought they would.

Shortly after my retirement, I purchased a sparkly dress (that no longer fits) with the thought that if we took a cruise, I would need evening wear.  I pursued author opportunities that have steadily decreased over the years with the death of small publishing companies beneath the shadow of internet commerce.  I suffered disappointment after disappointment in tandem with grief over loss of my mother and new diagnoses of auto-immune conditions that have further compromised my physical strength.  

But, "...when plans of our own making wither and die, we can be encouraged to remember that death is not the end for those who have believed in Jesus...We can't keep anything for ourselves, not even our own physical bodies, which are destined to die. But when we release all to Him, His power is unleashed so that the mystery of resurrection--life from what has been crucified--brings new life and new hope."*

Things haven't worked out as I thought they would, but I can rest assured my circumstances have unfolded as God knew they would. When I am able to experience the peace of saying "Thy will be done," my eyes are opened to the blessings of following a Savior who would have died for just one lost sinner, even me.  Each saved life is precious, each person helped in His name is worth my labor.   I had delusions of grandeur, but the Lord had plans to bless me through labor and rest of His own timing and choosing.  

And I have been blessed indeed.  

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*From 100 Days to Freedom: Release From the Self-condemnation of Overweight, Day 85.  


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Apathy in Alzheimer's Patients


I wrote the following article some years ago and have just admonished my daughter to reread it if I ever begin to exhibit signs of dementia!  No matter how well-versed we are in the do's and don'ts of caregiving, we nevertheless tend to respond to aging parents according to the dictates of past relationship roles...

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On Easter morning, 2004, I slid into my customary pew at church with several minutes to spare before services were scheduled to begin.  I noticed that my mother’s space at the end of the row was empty, and felt a glimmer of worry. She was a stickler for punctuality and never missed church.  She taught me always to arrive early, especially for holiday services.


I excused myself and called Mom.  “Oh, I just decided to stay home today,” she said. When I reacted with shock, she complied with my wishes and came to church, arriving twenty minutes late.  This incident was one of many that let me know something was wrong with my mom.  


Apathy is a common side effect of dementia, and is sometimes the first symptom noted.  Dementia patients may display indifference regarding schedules in combination with an apparent lack of emotion toward concerned loved ones who object to their behaviors.  Symptoms of apathy probably cause more conflict between caregivers and patients than any other early warning sign of dementia. A caregiver may have an intellectual understanding that the care recipient should not be held accountable for disease related responses, but it is difficult to transfer that “in the head” understanding to the heart.  The tendency is to react to the loved one based on the relationship that existed before dementia occurred rather than to respond from a caregiver’s perspective.


Apathy may be a result of the physical damage that occurs as the characteristic plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease wreak havoc in the brain, but there is a psychological and emotional basis as well.  Forgetfulness and confusion cause dementia patients to lose confidence in the ability to successfully perform everyday tasks.  Repeated failures can result in a reluctance to make the effort to try.  People who suffer dementia often ask others to carry out tasks they are still physically able to complete, a behavior that in the general population might be labeled lazy or self-centered.  However, for the dementia patient, requesting help is actually a viable coping mechanism that helps to compensate for failing memory.  


When I respond to my mother’s requests with irritation, I take from her the dignity of retaining a measure of control over her environment.   She has learned a new way to get what she needs—she asks!  


It is only in recent years that Alzheimer’s disease has been widely recognized and diagnosed.  There are doubtless a number of readers who remember a parent or grandparent becoming stubborn or demanding, and only in retrospect have understood that Grandpa’s “hardening of the arteries” and Grandma’s stubborn streak were dementia related.   It is my hope that our current, more accurate understanding of the physical basis for the behavioral changes of dementia will ease the sad memories some of us have of the puzzling or hurtful behaviors a loved one exhibited toward the end of life. When my own mother goes home to be with the Lord, I pray to remember her as the vital and loving person she was before dementia robbed her of the ability to think clearly and respond appropriately.   

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This article first appeared in the November, 2010 issue of The Lebo Light, which was a much-loved local newsletter that was the brainchild of Lennis McCreary, its editor.  Lennis has gone home to be with the Lord now, and I know that The Light is one of many stars in her crown.  


Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Inconvenience of Obedience



The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV

In accordance with God's instruction to Joshua, we are to go in to take possession of the blessings God has promised us (Joshua 1:1).  "When he received these instructions, Joshua must have been prepared for the resistance shown by the inhabitants of the land, because his reply revealed, in Matthew Henry's words, '...an earnest desire to know the will of Christ, and a cheerful readiness and resolution to do it'"  (100 Days to Freedom, Day 74).  

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Dear Lord, when You have given promises of blessing, help us not to be lazy, just waiting for treasure to drop into our laps. Instead, let us stride forward in faith, willing to suffer the inconvenience of obedience as we strive to take hold of that for which You have taken hold of us.  In Jesus' Name we pray, amen.  

Monday, June 6, 2022

June 7 He Sees Us Through

 


You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50:20 NIV

The Scripture above is from the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery but was then prospered by the Lord to rise to a position of leadership in Egypt so that God's people would have grain during famine.  

I was thinking about this verse today and, in prayer, said, "I've not had suffering in my life such as Joseph's..." but then I thought about having been an Alzheimer's caregiver for 16 years.  

There were unexpected seasons of peace during Mom's illness, but there was also suffering. Because of her disease, my mother turned against me during her final years and although to the very end she continued to express love, those expressions alternated with vitriolic anger.  Responsibility for her was a constant weight on my heart whether I was providing her daily care or not. 

That I did not at first think of caregiving as a signpost marking suffering in my life is due to God's provision for me during those years. When the enemy hurts us, we can depend on the Lord to help us.  He will make it right, more than that, He will bless us exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  He brought me blessings in spite of Mom's illness, and in some ways even because of it.

I have been able to help other people through what Mom and I endured during the years she suffered dementia. This blesses my heart. And in a way that only the Lord could orchestrate, the labor of writing about our struggles forced me to analyze and express the specific ways God supplied our need.  Repeating stories of God's goodness to us imprinted these incidents on my mind and heart. My own faith was edified as I worked to comfort others who were facing similar struggles to ours: blessing upon blessing.  

Once tragedy strikes--and Alzheimer's disease is a tragedy--there is no escaping its impact.  For me, the title of caregiver was bestowed by default and not through some noble or even obedient-to-the-Lord choice; there wasn't anyone else.  I always think of Pippin's words in one of the Lord of the Rings movies: "I don't want to be in a battle. But waiting on the edge of one I can't escape is worse." 

Alzheimer's disease is a battle indeed, but we serve a God who has gone ahead of us and has already won the victory.  In every event of our lives, the Lord has plotted a course through the challenges we will face. His love cushions every blow, and His enabling power sees us through.  

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Sunday, June 5, 2022

Not Me, but Him

 


The meme above features my favorite Matthew Henry quote, from his concise commentary on Psalm 121.  

 I am sorry to say my faith has often faltered beneath the threat of a frightening outcome. Most recently, I watched my mother die and then walked through the aftermath of loss, was told that my husband had cancer and endured 6 months of diagnostic tests culminating in surgery for him (he ended up with a benign report), and suffered an attack of ocular rosacea that has left me with diminished vision that I pray is temporary.  

Some times of life are just terribly uncomfortable.  These challenges and others have shown me that while I can't depend on myself or my own responses, or even on my faith, I can depend on the Lord.  

Most of the time, all I've done "right" is to cry out.  And even then, I've rarely prayed in a manner that would seem likely to gain a positive response from the Lord; I was often so bound with fear that I felt resentment over the bad thing that had happened even as I cried out for His help.  

Blessedly, my deliverance in each of these difficult circumstances did and does not depend upon me, but on Him.  

I praise His Name. 

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My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.  

Psalm 131 NIV


God's Mercy

 


I have a wonderful little Scripture book that is full of inspirational quotes along with three Bible verses for every day of the year.  This morning's selections included this quote:  

I know not what the future 

hath of marvel or surprise;

Assured of this, that life and 

earth His mercy underlies.  

John Greenleaf Whittier

It is such a comfort to be reminded that the Lord's great love will unfailingly see us through.

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I found my little book a few years ago at, of all places, Walmart, and have used it every day since. Here is an Amazon link to the book:  Bible Promises to Bless Your Heart. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Friday, June 3, 2022

Inheritance Issues

 


Inheritance issues nearly always add stress when one child has performed more caregiving duties to aging parents than another.  Emotions run deep, perspectives differ, and even people who strive to live their lives according to the guidance of God's Word can stumble.  

The solution is to trust the Lord for our own well-being and that of our children, to pray for one another, love each another, and let God's peace rule in our hearts.  We can cry out to the Lord with the hurt of what we perceive to be inequity, allow for different points of view, and pray not to do damage out of our sense of injustice or fear of lack.  

In matters of inheritance of wealth or possessions of those who've gone before, we often aren't really afraid that God's will won't be accomplished; we are afraid we won't like God's will.  When we strive to take control of a situation out of a desire to lessen our own stress level, we risk causing turmoil that does not yield the results we had hoped, and may actually work against our own well-being.  Peace floods our hearts when we say to the Lord, "Thy will be done."  

It is actually freeing to recognize one's helplessness to influence a situation, even a situation we believe is unjust.  As we let the music box of circumstances play its crooked melody, we can trust the Lord to elevate the imperfect into a tune of redemption that has power to undo any harm human sin or negligence has wrought. 

We can trust the Lord for the future both for ourselves, and for our loved ones.  

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But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God." My times are in your hands...

Psalm 31:14-15 NIV



Thursday, June 2, 2022

Wednesday, June 1, 2022