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Dear social media user — you don’t need the details to pray…

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I’ve hinted at this before. You don’t need all the details to pray for a Christian friend.

I’ve swallowed the words. I’ve “beat around the bush”. But today was the first time I’ve come right out and said it kindly, but boldly to a fellow Christian. “You don’t need the details to pray.”

We were discussing the pros and cons of social media. Then it was suggested that I keep up a Facebook page for my husband’s health issues. I laughed a little laugh, and said, “Well, it would read about the same most weeks. Doing lousy! You don’t need the details to pray.”

I think the reason the conversation spun in this direction was because of those who do feel free to post all their ups and downs, highs and lows, and needs great and small on social media.

I’m in some of those groups. Praying for a little girl stricken with brain cancer right now. But, I don’t get online and ask nosy questions! I don’t PM them for more details, either. Why? It’s. NOT. My. Business.

This may work well for some folks. If that’s you, please don’t feel judged! My dear one has done some of this vulnerable sharing in the past. Rarely ever, now. Why? It’s very hard to build true friendships on social media alone. Oversharing has resulted in some serious fallout.

And how do you judge when someone is not truly committed to your best interest, loyal in Christian love ? Trust is built over time.

A true friend will walk with you faithfully through the hard times as well as the good.  Sharing details with untried friends is like baring your chest and walking through a thicket of blackberries. You’re bound to get shredded by the thorns of everyone’s educated opinion. Or get betrayed by the sharing of information they accidentally let loose.

Church prayer chains can be as challenging as social media.

I’m sorry to say I’ve been the unwilling recipient of some church prayer chain conversations. Not my church family, but truly lovely ladies in many ways. Still, the details they felt entitled to discuss about a third party! Really?

Is that necessary to your prayers? Don’t you realize that what you are sharing about another is actually gossip?

Do you need to dig for the details of where, what kind of cancer, what treatments someone is undergoing, etc…? Why do you NEED to know this information to pray?

Some ladies, I fear, have mastered the art of the compassionate voice so that they can extract information and details that they eagerly share with their inner circle. Men aren’t exempt from the “dig for information”. After all, journalists — male or female — are just another version of Sherlock Holmes.

My own sis-in-love mentioned the challenge of how to answer people’s many questions about her stage 4 breast cancer. What an added stress! I often didn’t know her latest test results, even though I was on her care team and cared deeply. I didn’t pry into her private and painful details. She was also concerned about who would see her house suffering from survival mode.

What your suffering friend most needs is words of caring and prayers. Acts of kindness, helping them share the load while they are in survival mode, will never be forgotten.

“Keep me from the strife of tongues” is a phrase used in Psalm 31:20. While it is written in the context of King David’s enemies, we also see a legitimate prayer model for protection from this specific form of damage.

 

All throughout the Scriptures, we find prayers and warnings regarding our words. It’s too big of a study to attempt here. Read the book of James and the book of Proverbs for starters.

We’ve all been guilty of sharing details we shouldn’t have at some point in our lives. It’s something we should feel godly sorrow and repentance for — with prayer and determination to please God in this area.

Why? Why would details be damaging? How often is it that we relate a story only to find ourselves being corrected on some detail or another? We’re so human! This is how gossip and misinformation start. You miss one or more crucial details from your friend’s story. It happens to the best of us!

I cannot tell you the times when folks have asked me to give them details about the health issues we face. Then, I accidentally left some important detail out! Weeks roll around before I have time for a personal conversation with that person again.

Or consider the spin or “flavor” that gets added to the details? Our personal opinion about the situation?

In truth, we may be close to or actually spreading lies about our neighbors if we dig for more information than we need.  Only the wisest among us handle sensitive information with the kindest and most discreet of hearts.

Even when we’re dying to know more… JUST STOP!

“Child, said the Lion, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

C. S. Lewis                           The Horse and His Boy

 

Pray for each other! Love not just in word, but in deed and in truth.

Let’s take a cue for the books of I and II Peter, written for a suffering, scattered church family. It takes intention and planning. See the word effort?

“Make every effort to add virtue to your faith;

and to your virtue, knowledge;

and to your knowledge, self-control;

and to your self-control, patient endurance;

and to patient endurance, godliness;

and to your godliness, brotherly kindness;

and to your brotherly kindness, love.

For if these things reside in you and abound,

they ensure that you will neither be useless nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” II Peter 1:5-8

 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be sober and solemn so you can pray.

Above all things, have unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

I Peter 4:7-8  

I’m blessed to see brotherly kindness and unfailing love as the pinnacles of our Christian faith and walk.

We’ve been truly blessed, also, to experience the brotherly kindness and love poured upon us by church family — a small glimpse of God’s eternal mercies.  LOVE brings LIGHT and HOPE to dark trials.

Keep unfailing love as that highest goal, dear care-giving wife. God knows all the details of your sorrows and needs. He will be your refuge and help.

 

 

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Psalms — songs and prayers for every season of care-giving

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A prayer request hit my inbox again this past week with the nasty, six-letter “C” word in it. Cancer.  ” Please pray for us. This season is so hard for my family. It’s the first year without both of my parents.”

She was caregiver for her mom who passed away this summer due to cancer.

Simple words of kindness and comfort, well, these seem like such a small offering in comparison with her pain.

“I’m so sorry. You’re in my prayers.” When you’re in pain, you just want to know that people care.   Warm hugs and gentle words have been healing to my soul.

The year 2017 — a year of great suffering and loss for so many with floods, hurricanes, fires, and savage shootings — just the tip of the iceberg.

Really, isn’t every year a repeat of the story that began long ago of sin, suffering, pain, and death?  Thankfully, Christ’s coming — God with us — shines brightly through the pages of history. Light out of darkness.

The years that we personally grapple with loss and suffering are the ones that sear our hearts and change our lives forever. Then we learn to go on living day by day.

I say this with love and tears of longing for my sis-in-love in heaven. She brightened our lives in such a special way.

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God with us, our Immanuel, speaks words to us — the words we need to hear — of love, comfort, longing, joy, fear, sorrow, pain, repentance, forgiveness, trust, and praise for us to pray and sing back to Him in the Psalms.

Every book of His Word is important. Don’t get me wrong. But the Psalms are the heart-throb of communication between God and man.

There is never a season that we don’t need the Psalms. Never a day I breath, when a Psalm doesn’t meet my heart’s need.

This coming year I thought I would focus on prayers and comfort for caregivers from the Psalms, so near and dear to my heart. My hope and prayer is that this will be a well of encouragement to you also. Right now, I’ve got about 14 topics on the list. Just the beginning…

What topics for caregivers would you like to see addressed from the Psalms? Please let me know in the comment section below.

Many thanks for reading, praying, and sharing with me on this little tiny corner of a blog this year.

 

 

 

 

 

Not forsaken by God…

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Sometimes we feel like we are swimming alone in the ocean of our own troubles and sorrows. I’m here to share that sometimes we have to look for the mercies of God on purpose.

Mercies can be as small as this beautiful sunflower that volunteered to grow in my garden this year.

Surrounded by mercies great and small we still feel alone on this journey!

It’s true in a way. No one human can fully understand the unique challenges each of us face. “The heart knows its own bitterness.”

Families facing disabling health issues are each truly unique. Pain levels differ. Meds differ. Finances differ. The level of challenge differs! Solutions that work for one will not work for another.

What is not unique is that sorrow and trouble chase us all during our time on planet earth. “In this world you will have tribulation.”

Some folks seem to get off scott-free. If we’re fair, we will admit we have no idea what sorrows they actually have lived through or will yet face. Tragedy smacks us in the face every time we see even a small bit of news.

“And I will pray the Father, and He WILL give you another Counselor, that He may be WITH you forever: the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, for it does not see Him, neither does it know Him.” John 14:16-17

Jesus is speaking to His disciples and, truly, all who would yet become His disciples.

It is the last teaching He gave them before going to the cross to lay down His life to atone for sin.

He knew they would be sad and afraid! He knew they would feel alone — perhaps forsaken.

His heart of compassion shines through yet again.

He leaves them with the most amazing and wonderful of promises! Through the Spirit’s ministry and indwelling, they would never be alone in their struggles. Beautiful, merciful Savior!

His Spirit is one of our greatest mercies. Counselor, Guide, Comforter, Intercessor, Helper — these are some of the key roles this often-forgotten member of the Trinity works in your life and mine.

Do you ever wonder how to pray for a situation that seems so hopeless and impossible that you have no idea what or how to pray?

We often fall back on the grand promise of Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to those who love God…”

Wait! Back up a few verses: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Are things so hard and crazy confusing that you don’t even know how to pray? The Spirit has you covered in Divine prayers.

Are you out of options? Your groans and sorrows are not hidden from Him.

Whatever your struggle, dear sister in Christ, let’s stake our claim on His mercies this week.

“I believe

I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord.”

Sounds kinda like a Romans 8:28, doesn’t it? Only it’s actually Psalm 27:13-14.

When you hang out in the Psalms, you find lots of relevant prayers to fuel your conversations with God, even if you just sigh and groan and praise along with the Psalmist.

Like me, maybe this verse has been your prayer? ” Turn to me, and be gracious to me for I am isolated and afflicted.” Ps. 26:16

Chronic illness brings a lot of crazy to all of our lives, right?

I believe…I am not forsaken! His Spirit is with me on the days I just groan. 

How about you?

I know I’ve missed a few weeks blogging, but I’m committed to encouraging words wherever I can find them and fit them in. Hugs and groaning prayers for you, too, cause I really don’t know what you need. 

 

 

One faith-stretching step at a time…

One step at a time

I frequently get asked by folks, “How do you handle all of this?”

This, referring to serious chronic illness, child-rearing, and working full-time.

While I’m not always “handling” things the way I should, I do know THIS is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. We’re almost fourteen years into this chronic illness journey.

Today my husband candidly informed me that he was lying in bed contemplating whether cutting off his legs or smashing them with a sledgehammer would be less painful. Truth, ladies, just bein’ real.

Pain meds aren’t working. We’re in a snarled mess with our insurance. Someone keyed in his birthdate wrong in January.

Everything that has to be reauthorized, including his anti-inflammatory biologic drugs, has been on hold for the past few weeks. No cancer treatments for three weeks, either. I’m biting back sarcastic words as I write this.

It’s a full-time job just trying to get the insurance company to get its act together. Who has time for that? These are soul-trying days.

I’ve been praying. A Lord’s Day series on the Holy Spirit has been just the ticket. What I need right now is more ability to “handle things”.

Like yesterday when my daughter  angrily yelled, “Honk the horn, Mom!” She had just seen a driver dangerously cut me off. I muttered something about an idiot, and then apologized.

“How can you say that, Mom?” she asked. “They were being idiots.”

Well, yes, but I need to be kind. To do this, I need a power outside of myself. I’m NOT big enough, strong enough by myself.

So this morning in my brain fog and through my tears I prayed. I asked for the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher and Guide through the preached Word today. I’m definitely reaching out to all three persons of the Holy Trinity in a new way.

Hello, sermon! Can anyone quote Phillipians 3:1 for me without looking it up?

I really had to smile when I saw the text. It was like God was pointing His finger directly at me. In intense, amazing love, of course. REJOICE!

I will be even more candid, ladies.  I love this senior saint who fills the pulpit temporarily. But sometimes his sermons are as scattered and his voice as dry as breadcrumbs tossed to the birds. NOT TODAY!

He did forget to mention what I find so dear about this book of Phillipians. Paul was writing from prison. He was writing about rejoicing. He was cut off from family and friends, suffering cold and hunger, and he was talking about rejoicing!

So today. Today, I was able to come home heart full to the brim with truth to digest. Then I cooked a healthy meal for us to digest.

Thankfully, the hubby was able to limp downstairs and join us. Next, I tried to rest my body, but ended up crawling into bed next to him, taking his hand and talking to him. So much encouragement needed!

What would our compassionate Lord do? He would remind us of WHO He is.  We talked. Remember when?

In spite of the load of troubles we’ve experienced, God has watched over us and provided for us. He has shown us the Light of His love in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Both of us heard the truth of God’s Word in some form as we were growing up — myself with Christian parents, him with a Christian aunt. That’s a huge mercy!

With a hugely stressful childhood and a body with serious issues NO one would ever choose, my husband’s past is not pretty. Mine has some ugly streaks, too. That’s what sin and selfishness does. Like the curse on the fairy-tale Beast, original sin haunts us all.

Our present isn’t very pretty, either. I gave you a brief snippet and left out a lot of details for sure. However, there’s grace evident in our lives. Love that covers a multitude of sins. Forgiveness. Mercy. Provisions.

Facing what we do, it would be only human to completely “lose it”.

In fact, we’ve come close at times. Dangled over the precipice of sanity. Pain pushes the envelope.

Does my life really matter? Only Jesus’s love makes it matter! Chosen of God, accepted in the Beloved, redeemed!

The evidence is there: faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

While we’re wrestling with pain and serious physical anomalies, faith keeps hope alive. The struggle builds those faith muscles.

In fact, today our conversation turned to the past. My husband admitted if he had known twenty years ago he would have to face what he is facing today, his faith might have been shipwrecked.

My mini-miracle of the day is that we spent time together rejoicing in how God’s carried us.

On a pain-filled day when my husband couldn’t go to church, that’s real. That’s the work of the Spirit. Ask, and you shall receive.

We talked about our fears for the future, too. I’m reminded of a wonderful little quote from the late Elizabeth Elliot, missionary wife of the martyrd Jim Elliot and author of many encouraging books.  She had three husbands die, if I am remembering correctly.  On the topic of handling grief and hard things she was carried forward by this among many truths.

“Do the next thing.”

There it is. One faith step at a time, you reach for your next duty.

Ask for strength. The same Spirit that enabled Jesus to triumph in the forty day wilderness temptation dwells in every believer.

We can even rejoice, knowing that Jesus suffered the same temptations and trials. He was faithful. Only through His Spirit can we be faithful, too. I’m ashamed to say I’ve reached for the sword of the Spirit far too little. Lesson learned, I humbly hope and pray.

How about you? Do you remember to ask for the Spirit’s help in your unique problems? Do you find ways to rejoice? Let’s ask together this week, okay?

 

God’s girl…

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Trials and tribulations, worldly situations…yep, it’s a quote from a country southern song.

Sometimes you pick up the phone, and you can hear the hiss of the serpent on the other end of the line. Wouldn’t you think that chronic illness and pain is enough trouble for one lifetime? Cancer? Financial strain? Ever had one of those weeks?

Last Lord’s Day I reminded a senior saint that it is God who is the “lifter up of my head.”

Today she bumped into me at church. “Notice the Scripture reading for today?” Psalm 3.

A week-long struggle with various trials big and small, and I’ve just had to say, God, I’m your girl. You are the reason I can lift my head off of my pillow and get out of bed. You are my Song in the night. You are my peace.

I wept through the hymn today, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.”  Why? Because I know as hard as this time in my life is, His love is for real. I’m God’s girl. He’s got my back. I understand a tiny bit of David’s boast, I will not fear if ten thousand men should come against me.

I’m beginning to fathom the courage that countless martys have laid hold of in defending their faith. He gave me strength to hang up the phone on evil. He’s giving me strength to say yes to life.

Saying yes to life is Gianna Jessen, a survivor of a failed saline injection abortion. Go look up her story for a courage reboot! www.giannajessen.com

I keep hearing her voice, I’m God’s girl, His princess! She was rejected as an unborn infant, and now suffers from MS. Yet she has become a beacon of courage, hope, and joy? She knows she is loved!  So are you, dear sister in Christ.

When Daniel was praying, his prayers were being hindered by demonic forces. But when the angel arrived to speak to him, he was told his prayers were heard and that he was greatly beloved.

You are God’s girl, dear believer in Jesus.

Revel in that love. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. Jesus’ body was indeed crushed for us. “He that spared not His own Son, how shall he not with Him freely give us all things?”

Lift up your head in your lonely spot, and give Him the shame that you feel for not having the “perfect” Christian family. Your not-so-normal life is under His watchful, caring eye.

Pray like you are God’s girl. Shields up this week!

Don’t let Satan’s jabs or even the well-intentioned words of the clueless Christian crush your spirit. This week I took a free personality test. Took it twice in fact. It actually pegged me well.

I’ve always struggled with being over-sensitive to the words and actions of others. Sometimes I’ve been overly defensive. More often, I’ve cowered and let others just walk over me. Don’t want to pick a fight.

That has been changing. Seemingly incredible odds have served to drive me to my knees again and again.  I pray that God will destroy the plans of the wicked. That He will keep my husband’s doctors from doing harm.

That He will provide each day for our current battles with insurance, schedules, and wisdom to choose wisely. I pray for true sanity in the fog of pain-filled days. I pray for kindness.

Without the Lifter up of my head, I could not face my current challenges. Now I’m learning to speak His truth, praying I do so with compassion and boldness.

I’ve been seeing His loving care in my daily life and answers to my prayers. Just today I was told that God used me indirectly to answer another’s pray. Talk about a courage booster.

Now I’m asking Him to glorify Himself in ways that will show this generation His power and glory. HIS! Not mine. Red Sea parting power belongs to Him. Manna in the wilderness. Power to stop a raging storm!

God’s girl, faith, hope, and love are yours for the asking! Mine, too. He will walk with us in the fiery trials, and never ever leave us alone.

 

 

 

 

3 Prayers of Hope for January

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It’s January, a month commonly known for depression and suicide, according to an December 2015 article on wwwstatnews.com by Sharon Begley.

It’s also been my experience as a caregiver.  Depression hits hard this time of year. There are medical and physical reasons for this.

(I was reminding a young friend of this today as she goes to visit her sister with postpartum depression. Medical and physical reasons, dear. It’s not a sin issue, so deal gently.)

Once we get to mid March, the mood lightens. Spring is on its way. 

You and I need our weapons of warfare prepped for battle right now. It’s stinkin’ tough to not get sucked into the negative mire.

1) Pray what Jesus taught His disciples, known as the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,

Thy kingdom come,  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

I noticed a similar prayer in Isaiah 64.1   “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down….” Is. 64  

Job prayed this prayer, too, and God spoke to him directly!

Father, please come!

Please work do your kingdom work right now in my family.

Please deliver us from all the evil that illness inflicts.

Lead us not into any temptation to sin.

Provide for our physical and emotional needs.

Bring Yourself glory through our fragile lives.

2) Prayer of confession: talk to God about any known sins. Sin weighs one down.

6 But we all are as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousness is as filthy rags;
and we all fade as a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
who stirs up himself to take hold of You;
for You have hidden Your face from us
and have consumed us because of our iniquities.

Isaiah 64:4-7

Sound familiar? Remind you of Romans 3:23?

Remember the promises of Psalm 51, a prayer of confession of King David.

Then look at 1 John 1:9. Faithful, amazing forgiveness through our Faithful Jesus!

 

3) Pray the following prayer of surrender. Even the pain and suffering is part of His plan.

“8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father;
we are the clay, and You are our potter;
and we all are the work of Your hand.
9 Do not be wrathful beyond measure, O Lord,
nor remember iniquity forever;
look upon us, we pray,
we all are Your people.” Isaiah 64: 8-9

The chronically ill and disabled, the seeming lepers of society, are still part of His handiwork and kingdom.

Though original sin in the Garden of Eden created the DNA flaws, The Master Potter knows and cares about each vessel in all our unique flaws and sin issues. ( Not saying the DNA issues are sin. They are not. How we respond to them is a matter of good or evil.)

Ask for His presence to be known to you. “LOOK upon us, we pray, we are ALL Your people.”

Anyone who comes to the Father through Jesus Christ in faith and repentance can pray this prayer.

“The Lord takes pleasure in those that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.” Psalm 147:11

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in HOPE through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13

While I would rather skip right over winter, maybe I would not appreciate the faith, hope, and courage God grants to my spouse and I to fight through it. 

Hope these prayers help keep you and I on track and encouraged. Pray on, dear sisters! Maybe this will be our favorite winter yet. 

 

To lighten your darkness…

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How dark is your night? What wakes you up with tear-drenched eyes? What throbbing ache lies in your soul that you cannot heal?

I’ll share just a bit of mine. This weekend.

We packed up four walls of beautiful and heart-rending memories.

Too soon.

Just like the beautiful soul that lived there — beloved, beautiful wife, sweet mommy of littles, kindest sister, best friend to many.

Aged thirty-three.

Four walls of heart-rending pain. Cancer, you evil monster from the pit!

Four walls of sparkling, soul-tickling laughter.

Four walls of caring and generosity.

Four walls of faithful, priceless love.

When you lose love like that, it’s like losing the Hope Diamond.

This packing was a ritual I needed to be part of. Four-plus years of traveling back and forth to this place, this crucible of suffering and beauty. These people I love so dearly.

It’s a tiny place in the city.

My sis went home to her Father in heaven, the only Father she ever really knew, while her husband, my brother, was remodeling her dream home in the country.

She made him promise to finish it. Soon.

She wanted her husband and babies to have that happy place in the country.

Away from the harsh city lights and sounds. The scream of sirens and tormented souls.

Away from the careless neighbors whose throbbing music kept her awake when her body needed rest to heal.

On those sleepless nights she would organize. Make things better for her family. Plan surprises. A light in the darkness! Her light was a small, lovely reflection of the LIGHT of the world.

Jesus says, I am the Light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the Light of life.

This is why I get up in the morning.

Even though the darkness of grief. Even with the downward spiral of my husband’s health.

When I grope for hope in the darkness, Jesus lights my path.

I’m not hiding from His light.

But how do I manage to see it through the thick darkness? I open His Word, and His light always finds me.

My daughter and I have a nightly ritual. I read to her. God’s Word shines at the end of the day.

My goal is to shine the Light in her life as she learns the darkness of this world.

It’s out to suck her under. To teach her lies. To tangle her feet in its’ hopeless web.

I want her to recognize darkness for what it is — a plot of the Father of Lies to take her to his cruel, eternal, dark kingdom of unquenchable torments.

You don’t want any part of that darkness. I don’t.

If it’s too hard to even lift your head to the Light at this moment, keep reading. Please!

Let’s talk. This life of suffering was never meant to be a solo journey.

There are parts of your journey through darkness I may never understand.

But the One who made you knows you perfectly!

He wanted you to read these words about Him today. As God become flesh, He can fathom the depths of your pain like no other living creature can. Isaiah 53 says He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

I will pray for you if you post in the comments below.

My prayers will be like a tiny, flickering candle in a huge cavern.  Still, the Father knows your name and will hear the cries of this little candle.

Let the Light of the world shine in your soul.

John 8:12English Standard Version (ESV)

I Am the Light of the World
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

His mercies and compassions will amaze you and the darkness will begin to fade. Please let me pray. Post below to let me know you want prayer.