Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Caring for the Caretaker

For ten years my mother suffered from dementia. Until the last three months of her life, my dad was her primary caretaker. At the age of 80, he learned to cook, since she couldn’t any more. As her mind slipped, he gradually took on more and more roles. He dressed her, fed her, cooked her meals and kept their house clean. My role became one of caring for the caretaker. Every Saturday I went to their house, cooked several main dishes, gave Dad some cooking lessons, helped dress and feed mom, helped with their grocery shopping, and provided dad some emotional support. During the week our phone calls became more and more frequent, as dad simply needed to talk with someone. He needed care so he could care for her.

We all understand how crucial it is for caretakers to take care of themselves. If they don’t, who will care for the one who is ill?

In our society, the church is the caretaker for the community. For people’s physical needs, the church gives money and time to assist those struggling, often providing food and clothing. But even more important than providing people’s physical needs is caring for the spiritual needs of the community. If the church doesn’t do that, who will? It is crucial that we take care of our spiritual needs so that we can be caretakers of others. If we don’t routinely examine our own lives, taking our sins to the throne of God for forgiveness, how can we care for others? If we don’t spend regular quiet time in Bible study and prayer, how can we share the good news with those who hunger for it? During difficult times, it’s even more important to care for our own spiritual lives. In Nahum 1:7a, we read, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” It’s only when we place our trust in God and let Him care for us that we can be effective caretakers of others.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stepping Out

This morning I attended my first ever tap dancing class. Part of me was excited to try something new, and part of me didn’t want to try for fear of looking foolish. Fortunately for me, I have a friend in the class who encouraged me to come and helped me focus on the positives: the great exercise, the brain challenge in trying something new, and the socialization. By focusing on the positives, I gathered my courage, attended the class, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, fears—of looking foolish and of the unknown—often keep people from trying something new. We get comfortable in our routines and doing what we’ve always done. Knowing what to expect feels good and we settle into our everyday lives. Going on auto-pilot is easier than stretching our brains to try something new or do something old in a new way.

Occasionally, life forces us to try new things: once a child is born, life changes; losing a job forces us to learn new skills; changing health makes us adapt the way we’ve always done things. Those forced changes can jar us out of our ruts and enable us to use talents we never knew we had. When our minister retires, the church is jarred out of its routines. What we have always known has changed, and we are forced to see life differently.

In Philippians 4:8, the Bible encourages us to focus on what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Instead, we tend to worry: what will happen to our church when our new minister comes? What will this person be like? What kind of new leadership will we have? Looking to scripture, we might think differently: What new skills might this minister encourage? How will I be challenged by a different person? How will God use a new minister to glorify Him through our church? Perhaps it’s time to abandon the worries and step out to embrace the admirable and excellent qualities in the new.

Philipians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."