Saturday, August 12, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: When a Community Cares

I'm still studying Ruth, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, and am fascinated by Naomi. When she and Ruth entered Bethlehem together for the first time, all the people crowded around to greet her. She was nothing but a sour bag of grumbling, and announced, "I'm a bitter woman." 

If I'd been in that community, I might have thought, "Welcome back, Miss Bitter Bag. I'm steering clear of you." We'll talk about how Bethlehem responded later, but the thing that's caught my attention today is how everything turned for Naomi in a single moment. 

They were in desperate straits, so Ruth went into the fields to glean the charity grain. Her first day out, she gleaned in Boaz' field. When she returned home with leftover lunch and an apron full of grain, something huge stirred in Naomi. Suddenly, she wasn't Mara, Miss Bitter Bags anymore.

"...May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead..." (Ruth 2:20)

Hope flooded in, and her praise returned.

Sam and I had that kind of day yesterday. 

The Sisters of Strength were scheduled to arrive at 8:30. They were coming to help me with a couple of pressing needs. 

When I went downstairs, Sam was still asleep. I prepped the food for breakfast with the Sisters while I waited for him to wake up. He kept sleeping. For a few moments, I worried that he'd gone into a coma, but it was just my overactive imagination. He was tired out from the day before. 

At 8:00 I woke him and we started the sometimes-long process of getting him ready for the day. Sam said, "Maybe you should put a sign up not to come in until I get my clothes on." 

I agreed, but a sign meant I had to find a piece of paper, a pen, and some tape. All that seemed like too big a task at the moment. Instead, I prayed, "Lord, please delay the Sisters until the right time, because I have my hands full here."

He did.

The very moment I finished getting Sam situated (except for shaving him, a job at which I'm absolutely terrible), someone knocked on the door. It was Jerry Iverson. He'd brought strawberry shortcake and whipped cream and come prepared to sing to Sam, pray over him, and shave him. 

Harold Patterson arrived a few minutes later with tomatoes and a watermelon and a heart full of song and Scripture. 

While I finished getting ready for the Sisters to come, the two men blessed Sam. The sound of their singing floated through my house and filled it with praise. 

The Sisters arrived in the midst of their visit. We had breakfast while Sam had a shave-with-serenade. It was wonderful.

Kandy Walker, one of the Sisters, arrived after the men left in her "Unicorn Princess" outfit, ready to clean my house. I was surprised. "You're cleaning my house?" 

She said, "You're doing what's important. I'm doing your floors." And she did. 

One of the things all the Sisters try to do is get Sam to smile. He's not a Bitter Bag, but he doesn't feel good much of the time, and smiles are few and far between. 

Kandy, in her "Unicorn Princess" outfit started a smiling fest. She flitted about the house with her tutu and tiara, wielding her Shark mop like a weapon. It was amazing. I don't think Sam ever stopped smiling. 

Sam's new nurse arrived in the middle of all the action. We were doing paperwork when Sam needed to potty, and I jumped up to help. "Oh, no. Let me. That's what I'm here for. To help you both," the new nurse said. I was shocked. She rushed over to Sam. As she helped him stand, she said, to the man who towered over her by a foot, "You're sure a long, tall drink of sweet tea, Mr. Sam." He grinned again.

She looked at the potty chair after she had him fixed and said, "I believe he's a lot taller than this chair. Let me adjust it right quick." And she did. 

She came with a servant heart filled with love and it was exactly what we needed.

Before our Unicorn Princess left, someone said, "What's the plan for Sam when you do the Prayer Retreat? Because I'm depending on that retreat. I need it bad." 

I said what I always say these days, "I have no idea. I'm asking God to send someone."

We decided that, since God hadn't sent anyone yet, we should ask together. Since we were asking for sitters, I suggested we ask for a sitter for Tuesday the 15th, too, as I had several appointments I didn't need to miss. We prayed and thanked God for what He would do.

I won't go in to what Tonya Henley, Casandra Weeks, and I did before this next, but, when we were about sweated out from our work, we loaded Sam up and went to his house to look for T-shirts. Sam wanted to sit in his house for a while, so he was pretty excited about this.

We hadn't been there for ten minutes before Chris Crump and his son stopped by. (That raised the total vehicle count outside to four.) Pretty soon his wife joined us, and that made five. 

The Blue Springs Police were driving past, saw a crowd, and stopped. Chief Brandon Clayton and Officer Norris Robbins climbed out of the patrol car. "We saw all the cars and were worried something had happened to Sam. Is he okay?"

That started a flurry of calls and texts. People in our town had seen the cars and they were worried. "We're praying for you and Sam. Are y'all okay?" That's the kind of texts I received, because that's the kind of town Blue Springs is. People continued to check on him for hours.

When Sam had finished sitting in his house, Brandon and Norris offered to help get Sam back to my house, and I accepted. We made it just before the rain started.

After everyone left, I sat by Sam as we talked about the day. He was tired but still smiling. "It sure was nice that so many people checked on me." 

"Yep, Sam," I told him. "People love you." 

He didn't say much, but just nodded. After a few minutes, he said, "You know, Blue Springs has always been a nice town." And he was right.

It had been a huge day and Sam was worn out. He ate a very quick supper and turned in, then instructed me to do the same. 

"Are you trying to get rid of me, Sam?" 

He nodded and grinned. "Don't be making any noise and waking me up," he warned. I headed upstairs, leaving Sam to savor the love that had been lavished on him all day long.

It had been a turning point kind of day, but God wasn't through. I had just crawled into bed when I received a text from my friend, Diane Becraft. She was in town from Texas, visiting family for a week, and offered to sit with Sam one day. For exactly the amount of time I needed someone to sit. On Tuesday. 

Answered prayer.

I had just thanked her when June Winstead messaged me and offered to stay with Sam during the prayer retreat. 

Answered prayer again.

Sam and I both savored the community that cared. We thanked God for a day that was so filled with the love and provision of God that hope rushed in and praise poured out. 

It was a beautiful day and we're so grateful to all those who, in helping us, helped make it so wonderful. 

What about us? Are we a Bitter Bag or a Community that Cares? Which attitude do we have? In case you've wondered, being a Bitter Bag is nothing like Jesus. 

If we're in need of an attitude change, let's ask God to help us. Someone said yesterday that when they felt down and discouraged, they found someone to help and it always made the day better. Whether we're down and discouraged or not, why not find someone to help. We can make our day, and theirs, lots better by being part of a community that ares. 

In fact, we might just be the one on whom "the day when hope rushes in and praises pours out" depends. 

Be that one.

Serve Jesus by serving others. 

"The King will reply, 'Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me." Matthew 25:40 niv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: When Times are Hard and You Can't Recognize Your Blessings

If this is your first time to read about the Sam adventures and the Caregiver Chronicles, you might want to read this post to see how it started: When the Time to Move Finally Comes

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line
#sistersofstrength #bodyofChrist 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: When Times are Hard and You Can't Recognize Your Blessings

I'm studying Ruth in preparation for teaching a session at church in a few weeks. This morning, Naomi's words on returning to Bethlehem caught my attention. 

"I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty..." Ruth 1:21. 

Generally, I have a lot of compassion for Naomi. She and her husband and two boys moved to Moab because there was a God-sent famine in Israel. While in Moab, her husband died and her two sons married Moabite women. This wasn't considered a blessing. To top it all off, her two sons died. 

One loss after another after another. I'd have been reeling. Devastated. 

Naomi got word that the famine had ended in Israel, so she decided to go home.  I wouldn't have wanted to go back, because I wouldn't want everyone to see how badly my big adventure had worked out. 

Pride would've kept me in Moab.

Naomi, however, humbled herself enough to return home. Her two daughters-in-law announced they were going, too. They hadn't gotten out of town good before one of the young women turned back, and that must have been yet another blow that added to the hurt and bitterness.

She arrived back in Bethlehem, one of her Moabite daughters-in-law in tow, a broken and bitter woman. On arriving, she announced that she should no longer be called Naomi (or "pleasant") but Mara (or "bitter"). 

In general, there was a lot of prejudice toward Moabite women because of the women who led the men astray, (Numbers 25), so Ruth might've had a hard reception in Bethlehem. Regardless, she chose to go with a bitter, broken hateful mother-in-law and embrace that mil's religion, which could not have looked good about that time. 

That's a plus for Ruth in my book, right from the start.

If I had been Ruth, listening to Naomi say, "I've come back with nothing," I'd have wondered what about me? To be perfectly honest, I'd have probably left Naomi on the spot and made my way back to Moab, but Ruth stuck it out.

What Naomi couldn't see, because of her depression, grief, anger and bitterness, was that the woman she counted as a burden was her greatest blessing in disguise.

That's an easy mistake to make, especially when you're in a hard situation like caregiving. I cherish Sam, but I can see how someone could be so overwhelmed that the one for whom they're giving care might not seem like the greatest blessing they have.

When you're confronted with loss and disappointment and grief, it's easy to be confused about what's a blessing and what's a burden.

Yesterday, Sam was worried about that very thing. We'd had a tough night and a hard morning. I'd had a lot of unexpected work to do. I was frazzled and frustrated. We had a difference of opinion with our hospice provider and I was very frank with my opinion of the situation. Too frank. 

I agonized about what had happened, and finally decided that we needed to change hospice providers. There wasn't anything wrong with our first hospice company. They gave Sam perfectly competent care. We just wanted something different.

A few hours later, I realized Sam had been unusually quiet and the reason came to me. My hasty words. I was stabbed to the core by regret, so I did what had to be done.

I pulled a chair up close to Sam's and took his hand in mind. "I love taking care of you, Sam."

He looked at me with red-rimmed eyes. "You do?"

"Yes. I love being home every day. I love taking care of you. I love trying to talk you into eating when you don't want to do it. I even love doing your medicines to help you feel better."

"I'm not too much trouble?" he asked with a tremulous voice.

I hugged him. "No, Sam. I was upset with the nurses. Not with you. I've given up a lot to do this, but that's not a bad thing. It's a good thing. I'm here because I said I'd do it, but I'm also here because I want to take care of you."

Sam smiled and I finally found the words he needed to hear. "Even when it's hard, taking care of you is a blessing to me." 

As the words came out of my mouth, I knew they were true. I've never considered Sam a burden, but I haven't always seen the great blessing this season is to me.

It's forced me to slow down. To choose speaking engagements wisely. To cherish each day. To put first things first. To let some things go. They're all things I've needed to do.

This season is as good for me, in its way, as it is for Sam, and I love it. I'm grateful for it.

Hard seasons can be so overwhelming that they begin to seem like a burden. A closer look, however, will likely show that burden to be a blessing in disguise.

Here's our challenge for today: Let's take a closer look at the most difficult places in our lives. Where is the blessing in the midst of the burden? 

Here's our action for today: Let's surrender our hurt and bitterness to the One who's allowed our situation, and embrace the blessing. Thank God. Speak words of healing. Show our love in both word and deed. 

A season is always temporary. It's not a lifetime. No matter how hard that season may be, there's a blessing waiting for us to embrace it. Look for it. Cherish it. 

Don't be a Mara. Be a Naomi. 

I learned this song as a child, and I still sing it when times are hard: 

"Count your many blessings. Name them one by one. And it may surprise you what the Lord has done." (Lyrics by Johnson Oatman) 

" the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing..." 1 Peter 4:13
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: When the Word of God Comes Alive Just When You Need it Most 

If this is your first time to read about the Sam adventures and the Caregiver Chronicles, you might want to read this post to see how it started: When the Time to Move Finally Comes

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: When the Word of God Comes Alive Just When You Need it Most

A beautiful thing happened early this morning. It was so remarkable that I can't stop thinking about it, so, of course, I have to share it with you.

Before I get to this morning's story, though, I have to tell what's been happening at our office. Scotty and Judy Shows have been coming to home office for months to disciple us and help us go even deeper with our faith. 

As part of his teaching, Scotty assigns us a Bible verse to memorize and we're supposed to quote it together the next week.

Frankly, I've been terrible at it.

Half the time I'm out of town or have a meeting and miss the Tuesday Shows Session, so I don't know what we were supposed to memorize. The other part of the time, I've forgotten to write it down or lost the paper I've written it on or just forgotten about memorizing it. Sometimes the verse Scotty wants us to memorize isn't the verse I'm most interested in. 

I've had lots of excuses, but that's all they've been. If I had really wanted to memorize the verses, I could have. (I'm officially apologizing about my failure.)

Yesterday, Scotty did a wonderful thing, and I was left wondering why none of us had thought of it before. He texted us the verse. "Our Scripture memory verse this week is 1 Cor 10:31. Thank you for your faithfulness." 

I immediately looked up the verse and reviewed it. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

There's a lot of punch in that short verse. I was very familiar with the verse so, as I reviewed it, I prayed that its truth would be evident in all I did that day, even though I wasn't doing the kind of "missionary" things I usually do. 

Keep that verse and prayer in mind as I tell this next part.

Sam's hospital bed is downstairs, but my bedroom is upstairs. He'd tried to call me in the night once or twice, but I couldn't hear him. The baby monitor we tried was a complete failure because it picked up every whoosh of the oxygen and kept me awake all night. 

We'd worried that he might really need something and not be able to get me. A week or so ago, a friend suggested I give Sam a bell to call me and, in one of those ricocheting-thought-dances, my brain landed on a doorbell. I found one with a range of 250 feet. I put the button in a bag around Sam's neck and have carried the ringer part with me ever since. 

I can hear the chiming of the bell even at the barn. The only times Sam's rung the bell were by accident until early this morning. I was sound asleep when the gonging bell nearly knocked me out of my bed. My first thought was, "What in the world was that???" Then, at max decibels, it gonged a tune again and I knew. 

It was Sam.

I threw back the covers, jumped out of bed, and started yelling, "I hear you, Sam. I'm coming." There's a whole sermon in that, and I might preach it later, but today I'm telling what happened next.

I bolted down the stairs and raced into the dining room, where Sam was sitting up. He'd had a problem in the night that required intervention on my part. The verse I'd pondered all day immediately came to mind and I was filled with such grace that it was utterly remarkable. (I love how God does that, don't you?)

Sam apologized for getting me out of bed in the middle of the night, and I just laughed. "Oh, Sam, I'm a doctor. We're trained to get up in the middle of the night to take care of sick people. It's no big deal. We know how to go right back to sleep." (Please don't use these words as an excuse to wake a doctor. We might know how to do it, but that doesn't mean we like it.)

What's remarkable about those words is that I meant them. I wasn't frustrated or upset or unhappy that I was up in the night. I took care of the problem, changed Sam's bed, and thought how nice it looked with fresh sheets. 

It might be hard to believe that all this happened at 2 in the morning, but it did.

I looked at that freshly made bed and silently prayed that verse. "Let changing the sheets in the middle of the night glorify You, God."

When I put Sam back in bed and snugged the covers up around him, he looked like a little boy. It warmed my heart, and I prayed that verse again. "Let getting Sam snuggled back in bed glorify you, God." 

Since I was up, I decided to empty the potty chair pot and, since God was doing something so sweet, I prayed one more time. "Let emptying this potty chair pot glorify you, God." 

There's where the glory of God really blew me away. All those actions in the middle of the night had the potential to glorify God because they're part of the "whatever you do..." and I saw it in a new way.

I got back in bed, but didn't go to sleep right away. I spent a bit of time thanking God for allowing me to be waked up in the night and to participate in the glory-of-God work. The sweetness of His Spirit and the way that one verse came alive for me was breathtaking. The timing of the hour didn't matter a bit. 

This wasn't the first time I've prayed a verse would come alive in my life, and it wasn't the first time I prayed that my actions would glorify God. It was, however, the first time I prayed that emptying the potty chair pot would glorify God. 

When I emptied that pot with the glory of God in mind, however, I'm pretty sure it did glorify Him.

It's not the "bigness" of the task that glorifies God. It's the heart with which that task is done that brings Him glory.

Today, let's join together in praying that every task to which we put our hand will glorify God. He might need to change our hearts a bit in advance, so let's allow that, too. 

May this be the day we see the glory of God in big and small ways because we're doing it all with love.

"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: The Difference Between Living and Dying

If this is your first time to read about the Sam adventures, you might want to read this post to see how it started: When the Time to Move Finally Comes

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: The Difference Between Living and Dying

"Well, it don't seem like this dying is working out too well for me. I've decided I might as well work on living for a while," Sam announced one morning.

"What do you mean, Sam?" I asked.

"You know. When I got with them hostage people, I thought I was dying, but I'm still here."

"We're all dying, Sam. It's just not your time yet."

"I want you to tell me when it gets close, okay?"

"Sam,you're 87 years old and in poor health. Dying is closer than it's ever been for you. I'd say it's pretty close."

He leaned back on his pillows. "Okay then. That's what I wanted to know."

"I don't think dying is on the agenda for today, though."

"Good. I might as well live, then." 

Unless the Lord comes back for us, we're all going to die. That's certain. The longer we live, the closer we are to that day. 

Sam understands that truth, but, when he was first placed on hospice care, he struggled with the idea that death was closer than he'd realized. He didn't feel well, and eating seemed more trouble than it was worth. No amount of cajoling could change his mind.

When he decided to try living again, he did it with a new attitude. He started eating more, sitting up in his chair, talking with visitors, listening to music, playing with the dogs.

His medical problems were the same as ever. The only thing that changed was his attitude. 

Sam has an attitude of life now, and it's transformed his days. He's enjoying the time he has left. Joking. Laughing. Smiling. 

If we're honest, it's easy to adopt an attitude of dying instead of an attitude of living. If we have an attitude of dying, we begin to ask ourselves, "What difference will it make?" about what we eat, about the things we say, about the actions we take. All we focus on is how we feel in the moment and what "feels good" right then. 

It's a very selfish existence. 

If we're focused on living, we pursue life. We cherish the people in our lives. We care for our bodies. We exercise, eat right, make healthy choices in lifestyle. We count our blessings as more than our problems. We try to make a difference. 

It's an outward-facing existence.

We don't have to be dying to live like we are. All we have to do is stop pursuing life. Stop investing ourselves in the world around us. 

Jesus gave us two commands that sum up how we're to live. Love God. Love others. Neither of those are inward-facing. Neither of those expire until the day we die. We're to keep loving God and others until our very last breath.

Today, let's take a close look at our own lives. Are we focused on living or dying?   No matter how close we are to the end of our days, we can still live life to the fullest, every day we have left. 

It's pretty simple, really. Just love, then let our love direct our actions. 

This day, let's love God with every fiber of our being. This day, let's love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Then, keep doing it. Every day until He calls us home.

"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." Psalm 139"16 NLT
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Working From Home and Missing the Office 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Working from Home and Missing the Office

Working from home isn't new to me. I've taken sabbaticals to write before, and spent long months in front of my computer, putting words together to make stories. This time, however, I'm not on a writing sabbatical. I'm home to care for a dying man. 

Unlike practicing medicine, best done in person, a ministry of prayer and outreach doesn't require a specific location. As a Global Outreach missionary, I'm still working. I'm calling this time a "short term mission trip," and it is, with the exception that I'm doing it from the comfort of my own home. 

Part of my mission is the digital outreach of blogging and social media. That's always been done from home, so it's no different. 

By the time I start my day at Home Office, I've been working for hours. My role there begins with morning prayer time. The staff gathers in the board room for a short devotional and to pray for our missionaries and supporters (we pull their name cards from a stack) and for any of our Global family who have specific needs. 

After prayer time, I take the cards and write emails to all those for whom we've prayed and ask about their needs. Some missionaries reply with additional prayer requests. Of course, I pray for them and reply, but I also forward those to home staff.

Once that's accomplished (which takes more time than I ever expected), I move to the work of coordinating the other mission projects that are ongoing, preparing for upcoming speaking engagements, and work on ongoing writing projects. 

The days are long.

I wasn't sure how I could continue those efforts from home, but it's worked out better than I expected. Prayer and Outreach have continued. Most evenings, I write a short term mission trip update for home office so we can stay connected. (And so I can feel a sense of accomplishment in this work of caregiving.)

The thing I've missed, however, is sharing prayer time with the others at Home Office. I'm surprised it took us so long to think of it, but, yesterday, I joined the group via FaceTime. I saw the faces of everyone in the group. We talked together, shared a devotional together, and prayed together. 

I felt connected again. 

After we signed off, I realized how very much I'd missed the people I've grown to love over the last year. I've missed going from office to office to pray for the people and the work in those rooms. I've missed sharing burdens and praying big into the most unlikely of situations. 

I've missed being part of the team, and I savored that time together all day long. 

This morning, I'm pondering the implications of yesterday. If I, as a full-time, in-home caregiver for a mere two weeks, sometimes feel disconnected from the outside world, what about the people who've done it for months? For years?

I'm astounded by the numbers of people who are caring for family members at home, who spend long days and nights doing the hard work of beside care. Lifting, turning, bathing, dressing, washing, folding, cleaning. 

Helping. Loving. 

The body of Christ has been incredible in helping me care for Sam, but what about the people we don't read about online? 

What about the family down the street who's taking care of a grandparent? The mother with a chronically ill child? The wife whose husband has dementia or other illnesses that prevent him from leaving home? 

Who cares for them? Who helps them stay connected?

I don't have answers, at least not yet. Instead, I want to hear from you. Are you an in-home caregiver? How do you stay connected? How do you get relief when you need it? 

If you're not giving care right now, how willing are you to visit the home-bound (patient and caregiver)? Would you be willing to help someone with a respite for a few hours? (sit with the patient and allow the caregiver time to run errands or take a break for lunch with a friend) 

In what creative ways are you willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus?

As I mentioned, I want to hear from you, so comment below or message me. I'm eager to hear what you have to say.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40 niv
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: How Pro-life Are We?

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line

Monday, August 7, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: How Pro-Life Are We?

How pro-life am I? That's the question I've asked myself a lot lately.

Sam's been in my house for almost two weeks now. A hospital bed, oxygen compressor, and recliner now stand where my dining room was. 

Instead of supper club with food served on my grandmother's silver and china, I serve Boost Plus and soft or pureed food.

Instead of festive tablecloths and napkins, there's a roll of toilet paper tied on the arm of a potty chair with kitchen twine.

Live has changed at Greenbriar Farm. 

Twenty-two months ago, Sam's wife died and I became his caregiver. Almost overnight, I became his housekeeper, bookkeeper, cook, and errand girl. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

We've had amazing support from the body of Christ. People have done everything from mow my grass to feed Sam strawberry shortcake by hand. I couldn't have done it without them.

There've been a few people who've asked why I don't put Sam in a nursing home. "He's not family," they've reminded me. "This is just about too big a job for you." They're right, but...

I'm not opposed to long-term care.  I'm in awe of the way they care for their residents and their efforts to maintain quality of life. They do a very good job of caring for our elders.

The main reason I have Sam in my home is that, if Sam were elsewhere, it would be harder for me to discipline myself to go see him. If I continued my daily routine and added a daily visit at an out-of-the-way facility, it would be more than I could do. 

I know me. 

It wouldn't be my routine that would suffer. It would be Sam. I'd be full of good intentions and, before long, full of excuses, but I wouldn't see Sam every day.

Sam, however, needs daily visits from the people he loves. He's a people-person and he loves a crowd. 

His need matters.

I believe life begins at conception. I'm pro-life and I believe all life is precious.  I believe every life is of inestimable value.

One of the things I'm learning as I care for Sam is that, for me to be truly pro-life, I must be fully pro-life at every stage of life. If the life of the baby in the womb is precious, so is the life of the one who's at the end of days. 

Sam's life is precious...even when he has incontinent accidents, gooey false teeth, can't hear me speak, and it takes all I can do to haul the wheelchair down front in church (without losing it like a runaway train) because he wants to hear the speaker better. 

If I care about an unborn child, I must care equally about an elderly person whose bodily functions are declining, and who can do no more for himself or herself than a newborn babe.  (Sam's not there yet, but we will all be there one day.)

I must care about life from conception until the very end, the last heartbeat, the last breath. 

In this work of caregiving, I'm seeing, in a much deeper way, that we, the church, must move from pre-born pro-life to all-life pro-life, and I'm not sure we're there yet. 

If we were, we'd make a concerted effort to celebrate life at both extremes of age, not just in the womb. 

We'd be more intentional about visiting shut-ins, sending cards and letters to those in long-term care facilities, taking the time to visit, to sit and listen. We'd go out of our way to include our elderly brothers and sisters in Christ on outings, to make sure they can come to worship services as long as possible. 

We'd take the opportunity to learn from those who've experienced so much more of life than we have.

We'd remember our senior adults are family, and we'd treat them as such.

Are we pro-life or not? 

If we are pro-pre-born-life, we must also be pro-end-of-life. I don't mean to imply that we must attempt to prolong life with heroic measures that add nothing to the value or length of life. Instead, we must honor the end of life with time, concern, care, comfort, and presence. 

The question for us today is how pro-life are we? Do we value every season of life? Every age? 

The challenge for today is to line our values up with God's values and take action. 

Does He value gray-haired senior adults? Yes, He does. We, then, should also value them and show that value with our actions. Make a visit. Send a note. Include someone in an outing or a family or church event. 

None of us can do everything, but we can all do something. Let's do our part.

"Do not case me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails." Psalm 71:9 nasb
Please like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Guest Blogger Walter Aiken: The Myth-Understanding

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Guest Blogger Walter Aiken: The Myth-Understanding

Once upon a time, in a place far away, a story was told.  It wasn’t just any story, not folklore, certainly not imaginary, but a factual account based upon historical events.  Then that story was retold.  Then it was told again, and again, and again.  In Portuguese, there’s a saying that “one who tells one, adds one,” meaning that we all tend to slightly alter stories, rarely intentionally, in the retelling.  

Oops, it happens.

Aesop gave us fables, Puccini composed operas, Robert Frost wrote poetry and I write E-quippers.  With this one, I’m inviting you to think with me on some thoughts that I’ve been pondering for quite a while.

Jesus said, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matt.22:29)  Mistakes are made when we have “miss takes” on factual evidence.  Beginning with an erroneous premise leads to false conclusions.  Sadly, when flimsy “think-ology” replaces Biblical theology, people are “tossed to and fro, carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph.4:14)  

Our roots MUST keep going deep and deeper into God’s Word if we’re to have any expectation of growing deep and deeper in knowing Him.

HOWEVER, there are a few glaring “myth-understandings” of His Word that have crept in among us.  (Let me strongly affirm, avow, declare and emphasize with all confidence that I KNOW God’s Word stands forever!  Not a shadow of doubt, nary even a wisp, about the infallibility of The Bible as given to us by our Savior and Lord.  Questioning a translation, by no means, means i’m questioning Him.)

How many think that young David, the shepherd, killed Goliath, the Philistine giant, with a sling and a stone?  We’ve heard the story time and again, from Sunday school, to VBS, even from preachers in their pulpits and some actually believe it.  (Don’t think I doubt the true account.)  

David DID slay Goliath, just not as some imagine.  If we stop at I Samuel 17:50, then we haven’t read the whole story.  In 17:51, David took Goliath’s sword from its sheath, “slew him, and cut off his head therewith.”  Yes, he “got stoned” but then lost his life by the very weapon he’d planned to use against the Israelites!  JUSTICE.

How many times have we heard of Jonah and the whale?  Innumerable!  The whale encounter happened to Captain Ahab (not in The Bible) resulting in a less than desirable ending.  Jonah was swallowed by a FISH.  

I studied over 50 English versions of Matthew 12:40, finding “fish” (29 times); “whale” (14); “sea monster” (10); “animal” or “creature” (once per).  BUT in Job 1:17, all these 50-plus versions used “fish” to translate the Hebrew word “dag”.  How easily misinterpretations lead to a myth-understanding.

Jonah is factual, actual, historical and the events occurred exactly as God has declared.  Jonah was called to be a missionary.  He attempted to outrun God’s presence.  No soul can escape an OMNIPRESENT Creator.  

The heart of the story of Jonah is not about a fish.  The heart of the story is about God’s heart for lost people who need to hear His message of forgiveness and redemption.  

Another “myth-understanding” – How many believe that we’re saved by faith?  (Please don’t stop reading just yet.) Yes, we are saved in Christ!  And, indeed, “without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.” (Hebr.11:6)  Good works don’t bring us to faith, yet faith must result in good works. (James 2)  

The Bible’s clear. We’re saved by GRACE (Eph. 2:8).  Saved by Jesus’ gracious sacrifice on the Cross.  When we emphasize we’re saved by faith, then that faith waivers, some imagine that we can lose our salvation.  But we have an incorruptible inheritance, undefiled, never fading, reserved in Heaven, KEPT by the power of God. (I Peter 1:4,5)  Let us not “myth” the truth that our salvation is thru God’s love!

Sometimes we meet folks who “myth-understand” the Great Commission, thinking that Jesus’ words, “Go ye, therefore” are akin to a drill sergeant barking, “A-ten-hut! Forward! March!”  The verbs “going, baptizing, teaching” are present, active, indicative.  To “make disciples” is the imperative.  

“Therefore” refers to the “before” (in 28:18) “ALL authority” is Mine, both in Heaven and on earth.  We understand better when we hear Jesus saying, “Therefore, going . . .”  We’re called to evangelize along the way, wherever we might be.  

Our CO-mission is the mission of making disciples.  Crossing foreign borders doesn’t turn a Christian into a missionary, yet missionaries feel driven to cross borders.  

The commission is NOT just for some, not even for most, it’s for ALL of the redeemed.

How many believe that Saul, going to Damascus, intent on murdering disciples of Jesus, “fell off his horse” when confronted by the Lord?  Okay, read Acts 9:3-9 and find me the animal.  The Bible affirms that Saul fell to the ground, got up from the ground and was led by the hand into the city.  BUT there aren’t any horses!  Even one of my seminary students wrote, “We, like Saul, must fall off our horse for God to get our attention.”  Some folks ride high horses, but I don’t think that’s what is meant here?!

When “tradition” is met by “Truth” we find ourselves in a dilemma of (1) rethink our traditions or (2) rewrite the truth.  The latter option leads only to more “myth-understandings”.  Thus my encouragement is re-read, re-think, re-consider these things.

Thanks especially for reading these thoughts up to this point.  Please understand that my aim was for us to look at familiar stories from their BIBLICAL basis.  It was never my intention to offend, never to cause any doubts about my steadfast confidence in the faithfulness of our Lord.  As Job said, so I affirm that “i KNOW that my Redeemer lives!”  The Lamb of God who offered His life for our salvation is The Lion of Judah who lives and reigns forevermore.  Let us know Him and make Him known, ALWAYS!

“The world passes away, and its lusts, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (I Jn.2:17)

Soli Deo Gloria,


(The above was excerpted from Walter Akin's newsletter, THE E-QUIPPER 58 – Such a Myth-Understanding! – July 2017. Walter is a Global Outreach in Brazil. You can read more about his ministry with this link: Walter Aiken)
lease like and share if this blog post has touched your heart. It extends our digital reach in significant ways. Thank you.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Ministry to the Minister

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line