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Welcome to Barb's Corner: A Blog About Caring

Tuesday
Jul122011

KEEPING YOUR PROMISE

You have a marriage story to tell.  Some of it is good, some of it not so much.  Some of it is Christ-honoring; some of it other-honoring, perhaps self serving, perhaps you both are caught up in the busyness of life or your own wants, preferences or needs.  You and I both know that Christian marriages are in trouble just as those in the world.  Don’t you imagine that Christian couples who are divorcing thought at one time, “It may be happening to them, but it will never happen to us?”  But it did – and is – and will.  How does this happen?  Why does this happen?  In the beginning, you may have been deluded into thinking that since you loved each other, and wanted to be Christ-centered, your marriage would more easily survive the fierce storms that have devastated other marriages.  Or … you may think since you are the exception; your situation is different; you have a ‘right’ to be happy; your issues are more difficult to deal with than others’ and God is ‘okay’ with your separating because of your unique circumstances. 

A marriage crisis can either tear a marriage apart or bring a couple closer together. The Chinese symbol for crisis means danger or opportunity.  When a crisis hits, big or small, you have the option of going down one path or another – choosing that path that leads further apart (the path that leads to danger); or taking that opportunity road that brings you closer together, regardless how bumpy and painful the working through part may be.

A marriage crisis forces two people to face themselves honestly and consider their own character flaws and selfishness – their own sin! There is nothing like living with someone year in and year out to show one's ‘true colors,’ to have one’s own sin exposed.

A preoccupation with looking for what is wrong in a spouse can obscure what is right.  Scripture gives us the antidote for that kind of critical thinking:  Philippians 4:8 … “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…think about these things.”  I don’t know about you, but I tend more quickly to spot the impure or unlovely things!  There may be 5 things that are good, helpful, kind in my husband and 1 that ‘makes me crazy.’  Guess what?  Left to my own devices, I concentrate on the crazy-making one!  God wants me to ‘take those thoughts captive,’ to look first at the log in my own eye before I look for the little splinter in his.

Marriage is the closest bond that is possible between two human beings.  There is nothing like the experience of being humbled by another person, and by the same person day in and day out.  It can be exhausting unnerving, and infuriating.  There is no suffering like the suffering involved in being close to another person and being wounded by that person.  Sometimes in our woundedness we are deceived into thinking that we are the exception to God’s plan. 

A successful marriage is so much more than ‘toughing it out’ – enduring – keeping from the divorce court!  One couple changed their vows from “as long as you both shall live” to “as long as you both shall love.”  Their friends, present at the wedding, not only did NOT object – but praised them for getting away from the old fashioned wording.  That’s like saying I will love her as long as I want to, and if I ever don’t want to, I’ll move on.

For the Christian – what is WRONG with this picture?  God views marriage as a covenant relationship – a covenant with the One who thought of marriage in the first place.  The covenant relationship trumps personal preferences, feelings, and needs.  We have a choice – to be a covenant breaker or a covenant keeper!

Wednesday
Jun082011

Caring for the Elderly

                                Barb’s Corner Blog, Caring for the Elderly, 6.8.11

Giving care to the elderly is a means of demonstrating Christlike love and concern.  It is a spiritual gift that can have special meaning for the caregiver and the person being cared for.  Yet it can be taxing, both physically and mentally (and even spiritually).  At times you will feel at the end of your rope.  You may be dealing with guilt – why is this so hard; why am I resenting the time spent with my relative or friend?  It is important to recognize, admit and acknowledge these feelings before you can really be an effective caregiver.  God will give you strength to care as He intends.  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul declared that Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

For many, giving care to another person they feel close to fills their ‘bucket’ with joy.  This was the case for my neighbor.  For well over two years, he spent from morning until well into the evening at the assisted-living facility where he had moved his wife.  Prior to that, for as long as possible, he cared for her in their home.  He bathed her, fed her, helped her take whatever steps she could take, did the laundry, cooked, cleaned, and shopped.  During this time, though we would talk at times about how hard it was to watch her struggle and suffer, he never complained about having to care for her.  He did whatever it took to serve her.  His care for her was a beautiful picture of the love of Jesus, when He took on the garment of a servant and washed His disciples’ feet.

However, if you are acting out of guilt, frustration, anger or feelings of servitude (rather than servanthood), you will continue to struggle with resentment and anger toward the person for whom you are caring.

If you have a less-than-desirable relationship with a parent for whom you are caring, ask God for wisdom and His grace in resolving past conflicts as well as caring for your parent’s physical needs.  This is the time to decide to respond as an adult, rather than as a child who wants to be cared for.  Your parent, sensing the difference, may begin to respond to you more as one adult to another adult.  As a result, the two of you may help each other grow, and this new relationship may open opportunities for caregiving not previously possible.

Having a close friend or counselor to talk with may be helpful in dealing with caregiving struggles as the elderly person’s needs increase.

God who calls us to care, will also equip us not to ‘grow weary in doing good!’  We honor God by responding with love, grace, and care to the elderly living in our midst.  We do well to take instruction from the writer of Proverbs 3:1-3:   “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Caring for the elderly is one of the many ‘tips for giving care’ found in “Helping Those Who Hurt: A Handbook for Caring and Crisis,” by Barbara M. Roberts, published by NavPress.

Wednesday
May112011

“Compassion Beyond Measure”

I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the subject of compassion.  I have been involved in Caring Ministry for many years and have come to grips with the fact we all have a need for compassion.  And yet as I sing these words from the song, “Mighty to Save:” – Everyone needs compassion; the kindness of a Savior, love that never fails; let mercy fall on me; Everyone needs forgiveness; the kindness of a Savior…,” I recognize that my compassion has limits; that while I desire to have the kind of compassion that includes kindness, mercy, and forgiveness, I often fall short of extending that compassion to ALL who are around me.  There are many in my life/in my ministry for whom showing compassion is a ‘piece of cake.’  Others whom I encounter – not so much!  They are those ‘irregular people’ in my life - difficult to care for; difficult to show compassion to!  As I ponder the words, I come to grips with the very real need and my inadequacy to even begin meeting such need.  However, there is Someone who can meet that need for compassion, kindness, mercy and forgiveness.  Listen to this verse from Scripture:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail…”  His compassion does not have limits – it is compassion beyond measure.

If we accept that we ALL have a need for compassion, how might that need be met?  As you look in the mirror, would you describe the person looking back at you as a compassionate person?  Even if the answer is ‘yes,’ what might the limits of your compassion be?  There are certain people in our lives or in the news, for that matter, who elicit compassion from us:  the special needs child who runs his hardest in the race and crosses the finish line with a broad smile on his face; the brand new mommy whose husband has just been deployed; the baby who is the victim of parental abuse; the friend who recently lost his job; the couple who had to file for bankruptcy; the woman who was the victim of a car jacking; the young woman who was not invited to prom when all her friends were going.

But – what about these examples:  the husband who decides to leave his wife; the classroom bully; the ‘talker’ in a meeting who has ‘all the answers’ and won’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise; the passive-aggressive person.  Where is our compassion level in some of these instances?

AND … understanding that not only do we all NEED compassion, but that God’s compassion never fails, perhaps our assignment from God is more about sharing His compassion with others; letting them know of His love for them.

OK, so…I’m left with knowing that you and I need compassion; and that God never runs out of that compassion; and knowing that God uses you and me to relate that compassion to others …what is the application for us?  Perhaps it involves being in someone’s pain with them and ‘being all there.’  God uses theory and practice, but God uses ME and God uses YOU!  God wants me to listen to Him on the spot – to be available, to be used, and to be ministered TO all at the same time.  I can do nothing on my own without His using me; however, “I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Perhaps we need to respect the dignity of those who come through our doors or over our phone line for help, even those who may be difficult or may ‘push our buttons’.  We need to have a spirit of discernment – “wise as a serpent; gentle as a dove,” and to be non-judgmental.  We may not agree, but they are still in pain and in need of a ‘listener.’

Perhaps we must understand the importance of having a view from another’s eyes.  While a Mother’s Day may for some be a joyous occasion, there are others for whom it is extremely painful…those struggling with their singleness or their infertility…those who have lost a child …those who would love to be, but never will be, parents or grandparents.

And we must always remember that while our compassion has limits - God’s compassion never fails – He WILL help us be His instruments of compassion if we but ask Him.

 

 

Friday
Apr012011

Everybody Hurts Everybody - That is the Human Condition

The above title comes from a movie scene in which the man is trying to convince his girlfriend that she does not need to worry about the pain she has caused others to feel…because, after all, that’s just what people do – they hurt one another!

Hopefully, you reacted strongly when you saw the title to this blog post.  The Biblical model of being a Christ follower involves living in relationship with one another….not being the cause of another’s pain.   As you think about living in relationship, particularly with one who is hurting, what does that look like?  If you have a broken arm, that injury is obvious to all you meet, in the grocery store, in your office, at church.  But, if you have a broken heart, not so much!  And yet the pain from a broken heart may far surpass the pain of a broken bone.  The surgeon who sets your bone is an expert, and you need his expertise in order to make sure the healing process is uncomplicated and complete.  It is an amazing gift of God’s grace that the kind of expertise needed for the broken heart comes from those God has placed in our lives whose skill set includes love, availability, listening and just simply being a fellow journeyer willing to travel with us.

Part of God’s redemption of the pain in our own life is the privilege He gives us to journey alongside another in their pain and suffering.  That means as a fellow journeyer we are responsible to; not responsible for.  It does NOT mean that we jump into the quick sand with them and become responsible for their situation, for their life, for their crisis.  God allows us to kind of be the Shepherd’s assistant.  He is the One who makes the sheep lie down in green pastures; He leads beside still waters; He is the restorer of one’s soul.  However, He exhorts us to participate in Galatians 6:5 –

Gently restore the one who is caught in sin.  What does it look like to help in the restoration process?  Think with me about a very old book that needs to be restored – picture it in your mind’s eye.  The binding may be torn; the cover may have begun to separate from the pages.  The one who restores books uses the appropriate materials, the proper lighting and a gentle touch to restore the book to the place where it can be salvaged, used, read and kept for generations to come.  If we carry our analogy forward to the life of the one who needs to be restored, we need to recognize the damage that has been done to the life.  We are reminded and instructed to ‘carry each other’s burdens;’ to shine Jesus’ light on the wounded, recognizing that the wounded need help – the burden cannot be lifted alone and is at least a two-man job!  To understand their burden, we must be willing to take time to listen to their story.  Since grief takes as long as it takes, being available to listen is often inconvenient.  If we carry our analogy forward to the life of the one who needs to be restored, we first need to understand the damage that has been done to the life.  We need to gather appropriate materials: Does that person need a support network to be drawn around him/her?  Need prayer support?  Need a small group?  We need to recognize that sin is sin – not being judgmental or critical – but being helpful to that one in pain.  We need to be able to bring the ‘proper lighting’ into their life – to help them focus on Jesus, the Light of the World – the Author and Perfecter of our faith. 

You may not be the perfect one to care – in fact, you probably won’t be – but God will be at work within you, seeking to do His will.  Be available; be open; be teachable; just be – and let God do!

Wednesday
Mar022011

Your Own Personal Theology of Suffering ...

Did you know that ALL of us have developed our own theology of suffering?  Does that surprise you?  Your theology of suffering might be Biblically sound or not.  Perhaps you have never thought of it – and maybe you would disagree that you have your own theology of suffering, but let me ask you a question or two …

When you or someone you love suffers through some kind of loss, what is your reaction?  Do you struggle with these thoughts – Why, God?  Why me?  I trust you…I believe in you…I don’t understand how this could happen to me …or…Your theology of suffering may look something like this – If I pray hard enough, trust hard enough, God will answer and give me the results that I am asking for…

Let me give you some ideas of other’s theology of suffering from the Bible to get us started:

Job’s theology of suffering went something like this:  Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said…“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold….I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted….Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…..My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you…I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.”

Job’s wife; however, had a different theology of suffering – “Are you still holding on to your integrity?  Curse God and die!”

Abraham when he was tested to lay down his only son, Isaac – “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Joseph – when he revealed himself to his brothers, “I am your brother, Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Mordecai (Esther’s cousin) – “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?”

Suffering is inevitable – In this world we WILL suffer.  How might we not only endure those difficult things that come into our lives but grow and gain hope through them?

Romans 5 helps us gain a Biblical perspective on suffering – “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

 

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