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Posts Tagged ‘care-giving’

I serve on the Care Team at Church.  We meet people with God’s love and give them hope.  I feel called to this.  But it’s not always easy. 

From the conversations I have I see that Hope is a commodity often in short supply.  Usually the visit for care is the result of multiple crises in a person’s life.  Often it is the result of personal decisions combined with events outside their control.  Almost always there is some degree of loss that precedes the loss of hope… decline in health, the passing of a loved one, a job loss, a broken relationship…  The end result is that the initial loss precipitates a void wherein hope is drained from the individual.

Our goal in Care is very simple.  We seek to allow the Lord to work through us to help the Care Receiver know that Jesus loves and cares for them.  It is amazing how He does this.  Empathy is our connection point.  Often the Father matches life experiences that the Caregivers have walked through with the challenges the Care Receiver is facing.  This empathy is more than just important, it is essential in being a conduit of God’s love and hope.  We do not theorize, postulate, or pontificate, but rather we seek to be like Jesus and know the person as a valued child of God.  With this relationship established we are able to take the next step.

With sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and an attitude of love, we seek to help the individual identify the root of the loss.  In most cases there are decisions that have been made that need to be understood.  While we seek to deal gently with the broken, we do not treat sin lightly.  It is vitally important that sin be clearly identified and labeled as what it is.  While not all poor decisions are necessarily sin, those that are must be confessed and repented of.  The Word of God is the key here.  With Love we share what the Bible says and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  (Sidenote – It appears to me that where we Christians gain a black eye in the public realm is when we take on the role of prosecuting attorney for God.  Don’t get me wrong, we are to flee from sin, to resist the devil, and do all in our power to promote what is good, decent, and godly.  But if we simply speak the truth from the Word of God, we can leave the emphasizing of what that means to the Holy Spirit.) 

Where it is possible, attempts to undo the damage of the sin are appropriate.  Restitution is a bold, and often beneficial step in the process of repentance.  When I became a believer there was a person I had wronged in my college days.  The Lord impressed upon me that I had a concrete step to take with that person so I drove 600 miles for a face-to-face confession of my sin and to ask for forgiveness.  At the time I was just trying to be obedient to what I understood the Lord was showing me I needed to do.  Today I recognize that it was a major step in my growth as a believer which freed me to be ready for what lay ahead.

Many times forgiveness is a key act in the repentance and healing process.  One of the diabolical aspects of sin is that the victim is often the one who ends up bound in cords of unforgiveness.  There is great liberty in forgiving someone who has done you wrong.  I have had a few “done unto” events and I can honestly say that the Lord has blessed me, not in spite of those things, but through those events after I forgave and then gave the situation to Him.  This is something I have personally experienced and it is essential in the healing process.  (Truth in writing, the forgiving part requires persistence.  The enemy will initially bring the event back up to try and revive the pain and emotional turmoil.  This is a good time to rebuke the thought and repeat your decision to forgive and verbalize that it is in the Lord’s hands.) 

This post is about hope, but it is necessary to understand that hope is a tender flower that requires the proper soil.  What I have described above is required to prepare the soil of the heart to receive the seed of hope.  Make no mistake, hope will not flourish in the wrong environment.  There is a plethora of hope-killers waiting to stamp out the flower of hope, but Jesus’ words should encourage us – “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.”  He is the MASTER Gardener and the Giver of Hope.

Which brings us to the next step – sharing the Word of Life.  The bible is full of God’s promises.  In caregiving this is an apt time to share words that speak into the Care Receiver’s life situation.  Frequently after a conversation I stand amazed at how the Lord brought the right scripture to mind at the perfect time in a conversation.  It is important to regularly read the Word so that it performs its transformative work in you (Romans 12:1-2) and becomes the source of your wisdom to share with others.  The final piece of this is the active work of the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the right word for us to speak and then apply that word in the Care Receiver’s life.    

This leads to the climatic step in Care Giving – Prayer.  I’ve mentioned speaking and verbalizing a couple of times already.  I’m prompted today to mention that it is often necessary to speak things into existence.  The bible begins with God speaking all of creation into existence.  Through the Old Testament we see God putting His words into the mouths of His prophets.  When Jesus walked the earth He spoke and people were changed, healed, delivered, saved.  He even spoke to the wind and waves and they obeyed Him.  He is the Lord God Almighty.  To Him every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Phil 2:9-11).  Now for a time He has chosen in His great mercy to give mankind a little more time to turn to Him.  In this window we do not yet see everything under the heavens fully submitted to Him.  But make no mistake, it is all under His dominion. 

As believers God has placed His Holy Spirit into us.  We are His ambassadors.  An ambassador is a representative of a sovereign nation living and residing in a foreign land.  Even though they live in a different country, the full weight of their home country rests upon them.  When they speak, they are speaking for their home country.  As Christ’s ambassadors, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to speak God’s Word and His words into lives.  Prayer is how we do this.  God gives us the responsibility and privilege of praying what He wants to do in the lives of those He sends our way.  The enormity and mystery of this overwhelms me, but I have experienced it too many times to ignore or discount.

The final step is living out the hope which God has called us to dispense.  In some instances, it will mean we walk with the Care Receiver for a time, for a season, or as life-long friends.  In other instances, it will mean praying for and encouraging them for just that intersection of time, trusting the Lord to continue the good work He has begun.  In every situation though, God has called us to look to Him in child-like trust and nurture the hope that He promises us in His word and He places in our heart. 

A final application.  Please forgive me ahead of time for this final inclusion, but it is a burden I’ve been bearing for several weeks now.  It is also the primary reason I haven’t blogged in a while.  You see, I, like a lot of Americans, am disappointed in what I see in our political process.  It wearies me to see the division and acrimony blasted forth for all to see and endure.  I do not see hope there.  I have chosen a candidate to vote for, but it is more because I see a terrible choice and a little less bad choice.  My friend this has tended to get my eyes off the Lord and onto lesser things.  This weekend I was able to minister care to others dealing with real world, right now issues and I was able to fellowship with others who love God and are striving to live lives of abundant hope.  In so doing I saw my malady for what it was.  I was being drawn to put at least a portion of my faith in things that are not worthy of my faith, nor able to give real hope. 

And then I lifted my eyes…  Jesus is the only one worthy of my total faith and the only one who gives real hope.  And that hope does not disappoint!  (Romans 5:1-5)

Two final thoughts.  I finished this blog last night, but for some reason I didn’t post it.  This morning I woke and called my wife to do our devotion.  (I travel a lot in my work so we do our devotion together over the phone each morning.) The following scripture just jumped out at me.  It is the exclamation point from the Word on what I have said.

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.

Today is the one year anniversary of the passing of four of our youngest son’s friends in a tragic car accident.  James, Josh, Mills, and Sarah are not here with us any longer.  The pain and loss is still very real for their family and friends.  But with eyes of faith we look forward to the day when we will see them again.  They trusted the Lord and were His children.  And one day we too will pass from this life to larger life.  And the reunion will be real and it will be good.  This is hope that we can hold onto.

Take care my friend.  May the Lord richly bless you today as you live a life of tangible hope.

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Wild flowers from "seeds you planted"

Wild flowers from “seeds you planted”

20160518_193744I enjoy yardening.  That’s 3 parts lawn work, 2 parts gardening, mixed with equal but liberal amounts of dirt, sweat, rain, and sunshine.  The other day my wife was making me proud mowing the grass while I shoveled mulch onto the flower beds.  When she finished she walked over and commented on a group of wispy yellow flowers growing in one of the beds.  I looked and it suddenly struck me, these were flowers that had come back from last year’s wild flower patch.  During the late winter when I made my first weeding round, I had almost pulled them up, but hesitated when I saw how they were bunched in the same place I had planted wildflowers last spring.  This afternoon was the first time I had thoughtfully returned to those plants (9 straight weeks on the road will do that to you).  Obviously I was delighted.

As I pondered the flowers the thought stuck me, “these are from seeds you planted.”    In the wonder of that moment I realized that this was a nudge from the Lord.  I serve on the Care Team at our Church.  Dozens of volunteers meet with and minister to dozens of people every Sunday listening, loving, and caring for persons who need to know someone cares and especially that God cares.  Having been in a number of those conversations, I am intensely aware of how dependent I am on the Lord to provide the wisdom and Godly counsel that people need.  I can comfortably do the ‘listen, empathize, and love on people’ part.  It is how the Father has wired me and trained me.  But I don’t want to speak words that simply parrot clichés or worldly wisdom.  The practice of being quick to listen, quick to love, and slow to speak has proven to be an apt approach in care-giving for me.  For when I listen and love, the Holy Spirit either brings nuggets of wisdom from His Word OR He brings another person into the conversation who has that word.  In some cases the words of guidance I give are few, but the prayer that I am able to confidently offer is 0ften my primary contribution.

As I watched the flowers wave in the afternoon breeze I had a mental picture of the lives that the Lord touches through faithful care-giving.  While our care team has a specific time and place where we join in God’s work each Sunday, the reality is we have these opportunities throughout our week.  On some occasions we get to see the great work God does in a person, marriage, or family.  In other instances our follow up is limited to just a few contacts.  However, when we are faithful we can rest assured God is continuing the work.

The final scene of that mental picture is a truly glorious one.  As we stand there in heaven surrounded by the host of the redeemed, the Lord leans over and says to us, “these are from seeds you planted.”

And our joy knows no bounds.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be a blessing.

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God is calling us ever upward.  Every moment of every day is an opportunity to grow closer in intimacy with the Lover of our souls.  God is Omni-present and He will condescend to meet us wherever we are when we cry out to Him, but His intention is not to leave us in the muck and mire that life can become.  Rather His desire is to restore us into right relationship with Himself and within His creation.  He wants to bring us closer to His heart and our eventual home.  That is His desire for each one of us.

As we grow in Him, we have the amazing privilege of being His partner in bringing about this growth in others.  That same love which he lavished upon us to bring us to repentance and faith, becomes resident in us as we grow closer to our Father in faith and obedience.  That love is the motivating force behind our faith response toward others.  God wants us to be His hands, His feet, and His mouthpiece to a lost, hurting, and dying world.  As caregivers of God’s love, there are a few “next steps” which align us with His working and will enable us to be His hands, His feet, and be faithful in speaking His Word.

Intimacy with the Father only comes as we dedicate time to be alone with Him.  I went to church regularly all my life prior to a conversion at age 23.  While this established a basic worldview that included God in it, it did not establish the intimate relationship with Him that came later when I made it my #1 purpose to know Him and to follow Him.  I encourage you to set aside specific time every day to seek God in prayer.  And when you pray, with a bible open, listen to what He says to you, where He takes you in His Word, and what He whispers into your soul.

A solid knowledge of the Word of God is paramount to accurately discerning God’s voice and His instructions.  The Holy Spirit will never guide us contrary to His Word.  It would be nice if once we came to faith we always sought out God’s will and did it immediately.  However, while our debt is paid in full and we are justified through God’s amazing grace, the sanctification process of our lives becomes a life-long endeavor.  We are still in a battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Sanctification is our co-labor with God to bring every aspect of our being into consistent obedience to Him.  As we grow and we read the Word of God it becomes a living reservoir of truth within us.  That truth, when acted upon in faith, becomes a rock-solid wall of defense against the enemy and a stairway in taking our next steps closer to God.

The final next step is a broad one.  It is putting into practice all that God shows us in our intimacy with Him and through reading the Word.  Obviously plugging into a vibrant church is essential.  We are a part of Christ’s body, the Church.  God gave His Son to die for the Church.  The Church is the bride of Christ and as such it is most precious to God.  Giving of our time, talents, and resources to the Church is an act of faith and good stewardship.

In the book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Lion, Aslan, is representative of Christ.  He is good, kind, wise, and in the climactic moment He purchases the redemption of all through His willing self-sacrifice.  However before this happens there is a conversation that is telling between Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and Lucy.  The children are new to Narnia, drawn into this magical land of perpetual winter and talking animals through a mysterious wardrobe.  The children have heard of this great Lion-King Aslan, but they have not yet met him.

Mrs. Beaver said, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

As we grow in Him, the Lord will call us out of our comfort zone, out of where we feel safe, and into deeper faith.  He is alive and His desire is for His life to be made manifest more fully in His people.

The following are some practical steps to being effective care-givers.

  1. Pray in the days leading up to the care-giving opportunity.
  2. During the service, pray for the response.  For me the worship at the beginning of the service is a wonderful time and place to offer up prayers for the message, the messenger, and those the Lord desires to reach with the message.
  3. If you are in the atrium as the service ends and no one directly approaches you, ask the Lord to show you if there is someone who needs care and prayer, but is hesitant to ask for it.
  4. Approach anyone you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you toward and simply ask if you can help.  There are several different ways to phrase it,  “Hi, my name is ____.  Can I help you?”  “Would you like to speak with someone?”  “Would you like to talk to someone about today’s message?” “That message really spoke to me.  What did you get out of the message?”
  5. Listen in anticipation of God providing specific direction as you move into a care-giving situation.
  6. When you are with a person who is sharing their need listen to them intently, while also being open to the Holy Spirit to give you insight.
  7. If you are the second in a conversation, be in prayer for both the guest and the primary.  Be specific in your prayer asking the Lord to give clarity of the need and wisdom in the care response to the need.
  8. The care and how it is given will vary dependent upon every situation.  It should always be delivered in love and usually with abundant gentleness.
  9. One of the requests we make in prayer is for clarity on recommended next steps.  While confession, repentance, and encouragement are all important activities that take place in the Care Room, pointing the person(s) toward their next step is crucial.
  10. Weigh what you believe you are to share with someone against the Word of God.
  11. Share what you have been given to share.  Be concise.  Do not belabor the recommendations, but speak as clearly as possible.
  12. Request help if you are in a conversation that gets too deep for you.  Stay in the conversation, but if it is a subject that you do not feel equipped to address then give another caregiver the lead and you become the second, praying as described above.
  13. Pray with the guest as the Lord leads.
  14. Fill out the card and re-emphasize the next step captured on the card.
  15. Follow up.  This includes contacting them and praying for them.  For many you will only have a week or two of follow-up contact, but be open to the Lord leading you into a bit longer of a season of care.  I had two extended seasons of Care last year and they were absolutely amazing.
  16. If you are in the Care room and you do not get a conversation, understand that your role this day may be to give prayer support to those who are in conversations.  Look around the room and listen / look for the Holy Spirit to prompt you to pray for a particular person or a particular care conversation.

As we step out in faith, whether it is to stand during an invitation time, or to reach out to someone we sense is hurting, God is present with us to accomplish His work.  While it isn’t always safe and we may misinterpret God’s leading in a few instances, being willing to be obedient is how we take our next steps.  And God knows and honors that obedience with spiritual growth.

May God bless you richly today and as you seek to grow in His love and grace.

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