New Devotional for Caregivers

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spontaneous Praise

Treasured friend,
Not long after Daddy’s move to heaven, Mom and I got a request we tried everything to turn down. But God was having none of our obstinance. The invitation was for us to become the new worship leaders of a congregation. That was something we’ve done before—something we love doing. Mom on the organ and piano, me on the violin, vocals and leading a small choir. With our caregiving task faithfully completed, it was the exact right time for us to take on this new mission. Even we knew that.
But it wasn’t the “what” that had us feeling ambivalent. It was the “where.” The request came from the congregation that meets at a senior citizen village a few miles down the road.
Now, we love seniors. In fact Mom is one. (Don’t tell her I admitted that for her!) But having just spent so many months beside Daddy in places where people are ill and dying, we didn’t feel emotionally ready to take on this challenge.
We agreed only to this much: “We’ll help you out until you find someone else.”
Yet Chaplain George insisted. “I don’t want someone else; I want you two.” His persistence won us over. Somewhere in those first few visits as fill-in temps, we realized that the folks in this congregation were our fellow worshippers with names and concerns we began to pray for – as they came to know and pray for us.
Many of the residents are independent and active—vibrant and energetic. Drawing them out and helping them participate in ministry has become our joy. Then again many aren’t independent or able-bodied. They need help adjusting their lap blankets or turning on their hearing devices or remembering to turn a page when they’re reading. Others are ill unto death—like Daddy was. So we sing with them songs they can carry into eternity, and we choose music to sooth their grieving loved ones at their memorial services.
Another part of our joy is hearing the choir that’s grown to 30 singers make a joyful noise as they sing old hymns of the faith no one else seems to be playing anymore. Our saddest moments come when choir members or other residents move on up to heaven.
Some days a resident touches our hearts in a special way. Like today. We played a prelude that combined a beloved hymn in medley with worship choruses. It had a finale tagged onto the end, and we leaned into it. The organ swelled, the violin sang.
Then in the silence that was supposed to hang after the last note, a voice rang out, clear and powerful: HAL-LE-LU-JAH! No stronger word of spontaneous praise was ever heard in any holiness church anywhere in the Bible belt. Funny thing, though. The voice belonged not to a strapping youth but to a man strapped into one of those tall specialty wheelchairs. He can’t move much; he often sits in the service slumped, with his eyes closed; and his speech, what there is of it, is not usually intelligible. But I assure you, not one person in the room missed a vowel or a consonant of his affirmation.
In his own way, this brother in the faith reminded Mom and me of just how much these fellow believers are supporting us through our grief. Surrounded by their challenges and their willingness to push through into praise and worship, we find ourselves drawn out, willing to connect again, grateful to be useful to Christ in this new season.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB

Blessings and prayers, Julie © 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Selfish or Selfless?

Treasured friend,

By now, you know this about me. It will come as no surprise to you when I admit that I’m naturally selfish. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about putting others’ best interests ahead of my own. Not just in caregiving, but in every area of life. 

I suppose it’s the Lord’s prompting that this is an area where He plans to do some reconstruction work--yet again. 

In that frame of mind I read the first chapter of John's Gospel. That’s where four role models of pure selflessness jumped off the page and grabbed my attention:

John the Baptist—he prepares the way for the Christ to enter the scene. Then, when people question him on his feelings about Jesus outshining him, JtB makes the most unselfish statement I could imagine: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV)

Then there’s Andrew. He’s with JtB and hears the proclamation of Jesus as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” Right away he runs to tell his brother Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41 ESV). We hear Andrew speak for himself in one other scene. He’s the one who brings the loaves and fish to Jesus (John 6). Otherwise, Andrew decreases—while his brother Peter takes over as spokesperson for the disciples.

Then there’s Nathanael and Philip. Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:45). Nathanael scoffs. But the scoffer quickly turns to faith: “Rabbi,” he says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Those are the only words we ever hear from him.

I’m intrigued by the fact that these first confessors of the truth about Christ's deity fade into the background as some of those they bring to Him become a sort of inner circle.

God’s Spirit showed me a lesson in the unselfishness of these who decreased so others, and more importantly, Christ, would receive all the headlines. These early believers trusted Christ, and they each served Him in everyday ways. They told others about Him—through words and obedient actions. We don’t hear of any of these disciples asking for the place of prominence in the kingdom.

Yet, I rather think God takes special notice of these servants of His. Jesus promises those who do a thousand unnoticed tasks in His name a “kingdom prepared for you.” And He calls them, "you who are blessed by My Father."

I think I can be happy trading my selfishness for that.




Blessings and prayers,

Julie

Adapted from an earlier version originally posted at womencareforagingparents.blogspot.com in 2012. This version © 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back In Synch

My dad died. He was godly. He was loving and kind. He was passionate about reaching lost souls. He also was very sick. And he didn’t get well.

He’d been very sick before—many times. Once when his heart was out of synch, God intervened supernaturally and restored his pulse to regularity moments before a scheduled cardioversion (a procedure to shock a heart back into rhythm). Other times God healed him through skilled surgeons.

So, I expected God to do something supernatural for him one more time. The fact that He didn’t, when He could have, shook me.

Most sane people go to the Psalms to find uplift when they have questions of faith. But I’ve never made any claim of sanity. My offbeat self goes to a rather unexpected place in Scripture for rejuvenation: the prophets. Weird, I know. But Isaiah and Jeremiah might as well be my best friends. Their insights astound me with accuracy, relevance and clarity.

So, when my faith crisis hit, I turned to these old friends. As I navigated the treasure map of passages I’d marked before, my eyes rested on Isaiah 56. I’ve always thought this chapter reads like God’s one-on-one response to my private thoughts. I started reading, nodding and agreeing, and kept on until I hit 57:1, which all at once became my personal cardioversion.

“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. … No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die” (Isaiah 57:1-2 NLT).

God’s voice spoke as clearly to my soul’s ears as if He’d spoken to the ears hiding out under my blonde locks. The candor of the passage forced me to listen. This isn’t about you, Julie. It’s about your dad. He deserved peaceful rest. I didn’t fail him. I allowed him to achieve what he’d lived for all those years.

Hmm. Right. So then a lot of things aren’t about me. There’s a news flash I could have lived much longer without facing. The truth is, God has purposes only He knows—not only for me, but for my loved ones. Sometimes He chooses to move them onward and upward.

It’s no surprise to Him, though, that this offbeat, south-of-sane child of His sometimes needs a biblical cardioversion from the ancient prophets to shock me back into rhythm. And He doesn’t hesitate to use their electrically charged paddles on my spiritual heart.



Blessings and prayers,

Julie

Not one to fit neatly into one category, Julie-Allyson Ieron uses her odd assortment of talents in a way that’s all her own. She’s a violinist/author/teacher/caregiver/vocalist/friend who addresses her books and presentations to groups as varied as writers, church women, librarians, caregivers, Bible students and senior citizens. 

© 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Take a Break!

I’m pretty sure I received an email from God.
I’d been writing all day—seven hours straight and counting. Definitely beyond the wise max for one sitting. But I had so much more to get done on this rare day without family doctor visits or other interruptions. I had to capture those hours.
My head throbbed. Unconsciously, I brought my hands up to my temples. I’m so tired.
That’s when the email dinged. I’m usually disciplined about ignoring emails until I’m finished working. But when my right hand returned to the mouse, it clicked “Open Outlook” on its own. There I found the email—a devotion with a subhead that grabbed me:
Coffee Breaks Are Not Optional

It might as well have been flashing blue neon. I read further: “We must … learn how to stop working. That’s called rest.… It was on God’s Top Ten List.”
Hmm. Is Someone looking over my shoulder? Kind of eerie.
I may not have much trouble with some of the commands on God’s Top Ten list: Don’t steal—okay, what’s not mine doesn’t belong in my sticky fingers. Honor your parents—I work at that every day. Don’t take God’s name in vain—I love that Name. But Sabbath rest? Surely, God you didn’t mean for me to get worked up about that one. Yet, it is prominent on the list, which is why I realized the devotion written by Ed Gungor was pretty much an email from God, sent via Ed’s keyboard.
I did a little homework on rest and found a pertinent challenge in Hebrews: “Whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:10-11 ESV). Rest is a privilege God offers—and it’s increasingly obvious that He considers failure to accept this offer an affront—a sin every bit as appalling as failure to keep any of His other commands.
But God … I began my moan.

Just stop! You know what to do!


So, I pushed back from the keyboard and dragged myself to the family room to rest. Was it in the schedule? Nope. Was it necessary? You bet! Mostly because I never want to be on the wrong side of the Word—even when it arrives via an email from God.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

 © 2012, 2014, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com