When It’s Too Hard to Pray

It’s pretty easy to thank God when ­everything’s going well. When you feel happy. When you have your health. When your loved ones are doing fine.

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay

It’s a lot harder when some things—maybe most things—are not going well.

In those first dark days after my cancer diagnosis in 1990, I literally ­could not pray. Sentences simply refused to form. The ­only thing I felt I could utter was a desperate cry for healing. What else was there to say?

Image by Avelino Calvar Martinez from Pixabay

And then I read a Bible verse—one ­I’m sure I’d read many times before, but this time it seemed to jump off the page:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress.
For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray.

But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying,
for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
Romans  8:26-27

Two wonderful verses about how to pray when you feel you ­can’t pray. They were right there in the Bible, sandwiched between the Apostle Paul’s discussion of suffering and his explanation of how we can be victorious even in difficult times! (Read the whole chapter and you’ll see what I mean.)

Wow. It was okay that I felt that it was too hard to pray. The Holy Spirit would pray for me. He would take my “groans” that were too deep for words right to the throne of God. And even better than that, the Spirit would know exactly what to pray for me; He would pray accord­ing to God’s will.

After I found that verse, I would often just sit with my hands on my lap, palms toward heaven, tears trickling down my cheeks . . . praying.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I never said a word. I ­couldn’t even form cohesive thoughts in my mind, but I prayed. I simply allowed God’s Spirit to take my innermost thoughts, my deepest fears to God and pray for me.

How about you, my friend? Is there a hurt/loss/worry/fear so deep that you don’t have the strength or “right” words to pray?

Hear how The Message paraphrase renders Romans 8:26: If we ­don’t know how or what to pray, it ­doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.

What an amazing God! He knows that at the times we need Him most, we may not be able to express ourselves to Him, so He has His own Spirit do it for us!

Take heart, dear friend, and believe that even when it feels too hard to pray…you still can.

Be sure to open in your browser to hear the inspiring music video “O My Soul” by Casting Crowns, written by  band member Mark Hall the night he found out he needed surgery to remove a cancerous kidney.



How God Whispers His Love

I’ve always been fascinated by the bald eagle, our country’s national symbol.  But about a decade ago these once-endangered creatures came to symbolize something even more special for me.

My women’s group was reading a book by husband-wife duo John and Stasi Eldredge in which they shared an amazing story.

While John was on a business trip in Oregon, he went to a deserted beach for alone time with God. Suddenly  a huge plume of water shot up and a massive humpback whale appeared right by the shore.

“Humpback Whale Diving” by ahisgett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

John said he knew immediately that this was a gift from God to his heart alone, a “gift from the Lover of his heart.”

Thrilled with John’s divine “gift,”  Stasi wished for one too. So while at a women’s retreat in California, she headed to the beach for time alone with God. Seated in the sand, she asked God to see a whale.

After a lengthy wait with no such sighting, she headed back to the retreat. Walking around a corner, she encountered a beautiful, solitary starfish in the sand and knew it was her special gift. Immediately, Stasi thanked God for His amazing love and rounded the next bend.

“Before me, behind me, surrounding me, were hundreds of starfish. Zillions of them,” she says. “God didn’t just love me. He LOOOOVED me!”

“Starfish” by Elena Kalis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As our study group discussed this story, some said they, too, hoped for a special reminder of God’s love. I didn’t mention it, but knew I wouldn’t be asking for any such “sign.” After all, I was a longtime Christ-follower who accepted the truth of God’s love for me described in His Word and didn’t need any “touchy-feely” stuff 🙂 (Can you guess where this story is headed?)

At the next meeting a couple women joyfully shared their answered prayers, including one who had a beautiful, double rainbow appear right in front of her car.

A few days later I just had started an early evening walk when my husband called out that he would go with me if I waited. Frankly, I really wanted to get going and hurry back to my to-do list. But I love my husband, so I waited.

As we headed down our big hill, I glanced up. Flying about 25 feet above was a bald eagle. I always had longed to see this majestic bird in the wild, but never mentioned my deep desire to anyone.

I began pointing and grinning while fighting back tears. I had walked/jogged that street day-after-day for many years and never seen this eagle who apparently fished at a nearby small lake. It was no coincidence that I saw it that day; instead it was a powerful reminder that the God who can read our minds delights in our joy.

As Stasi Eldredge writes: “He knows what takes your breath away, knows what makes your heart beat faster. We have missed many of his notes simply because we shut our hearts down in order to endure the pain of life.”

How about you, my friend? Has the pain of life pushed your heart closed to the joy of God’s love for you? I can’t promise you a whale, zillions of starfish, or even a bald eagle, but I agree with Stasi that “we must choose to open our heart again so that we might hear his whispers” of love.

Every time I see a bald eagle (including this one flying over my next-door neighbors recently), it thrills my heart and reminds me of my heavenly Father’s love.

Go ahead and ask Him to whisper His love to your heart today.

“And may you have the power to understand as all God’s people should,
how wide, how long, how high,  and how deep his love is.”
Ephesians 3:18

“I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul.”
Psalm 31:7

Be sure to open in your browser to hear the music video “How He Loves  Us” by the David Crowder Band.





Check-up Time: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 7)

Selfie with Elizabeth at the St. Lawrence River.

I haven’t posted anything since March about my oncologist/former boss/dear friend, Dr. Marc Hirsh, who was diagnosed 16 months ago with an extremely rare, large cancerous tumor behind his heart. Last month at his 6-month checkup with his Hershey Medical oncologist, Marc and his wife Elizabeth braced themselves for bad news, still clinging to hope that it wouldn’t come.

After all, when Marc was diagnosed in May of last year with a 12-cm neuroendocrine carcinoma of thymus origin, his future looked very bleak. Specialist after specialist shook their heads offering no chance of a cure or even a treatment with any real data to show it might help. They all thought he had very little time to live.

But God had other ideas.

Drum roll, please… CT scan showed NO TUMOR GROWTH! Here’s the actual text Marc sent me the next morning along with my immediate giph response of a dancing elderly woman (which I doubt he truly appreciated):

Obviously Marc was very happy with this news, although he’s not one to react quite as enthusiastically as some of us do.

“I just expected it (the tumor) would have modest growth the way some of these neuroendocrine tumors do,” Marc said in a recent phone conversation. “It still mystifies me with everything I know (about cancer). The way it presented and as sick as I was–everything pointed to an aggressive, rapidly growing tumor.”

Instead, since recovering from the “debulking” surgery (which reduced the mass to 8 cm), Marc has been feeling better. He devised his own treatment plan– radiation, oral chemo and hormone injections–which further shrank the tumor to 6 cm when he finished a year ago.

“I’m feeling good and I really feel stronger these last couple of months,” he said. “It makes me feel really grateful.”

My husband and I spent Labor Day weekend with Marc and Elizabeth at their beach house and we marveled watching him jog at a park and swim in the ocean, activities he couldn’t manage at the beginning of summer.

Image by Oleksandr Pyrohov from Pixabay

But even before he got the good report at Hershey, Marc said he “took a leap of faith” and made some plans for the future by buying a season skiing pass. He and his wife also purchased a small RV and have travel plans to sightsee.

Marc, 70, says he is even enjoying retirement, forced upon him when his diagnosis and poor health necessitated the immediate closure of his 31-year-old solo oncology practice.

“Up until a few months ago I really missed work and felt like a fish out of water, but I’ve kind of adjusted to it,” he said. “I find myself enjoying more leisure time reading, playing music, traveling and (being with) family.”

When I asked Marc how he explains his amazing recovery and the tumor’s stability, I could hear Elizabeth in the background yelling “God! God! God!”

“Yes, God,” Marc chuckled and added, “And I certainly don’t discount all the prayers, letters, support and love that was shown me in the healing process.

“I personally think it’s good to be open about what’s going on (during trials) so people can be supportive,” he added. “You have to be willing for people to help and care about you.”


And as always, the scripture that keeps Marc grounded and “focused on the here and now” is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:31-34):

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Amen to that.
Whenever I write about Marc, I close with a song by Rich Mullins, his favorite Christian artist: “Where You Are.”

How God is Like a Cross Country Mom or Dad

I don’t know if your family ever had a cross country athlete, but our middle daughter Bethany was one in high school. She didn’t excel at the long-distance event, but decided running would help keep her in shape for her favorite sports of basketball, and track and field.

What I initially didn’t realize was that her choice was going to require my husband and me to be in shape too.

Watching a cross country meet is far different than viewing other sports because the action is not confined to a  field or court. Instead, participants run 5K (3.1 miles) up and down hills on a twisty, dirt or grass trail.

As parents we had three chances to see our daughter running. First, we stood at the starting line and when the gun went off, we loudly hollered her name. Then we jogged to a spot midway along the race route where we caught a glimpse of her as we shouted encouragement that she, indeed, could complete the race. Finally, we dashed back to the finish line–which may or may not have been the same as the starting line–and wildly cheered when Bethany crossed it.

Bethany donning her varsity jacket for me yesterday 🙂

Then we all went home and took showers.

Why did we do it? For the 60 seconds or less we actually saw her run? No way. Because it was so enjoyable to watch her face turn beet red and her uniform get soaked with perspiration? Hardly.

We did it because we deeply love her and wanted to convey that she was worth the sacrifice it took to root for her. Whether Bethany’s time was fast or slow didn’t matter to us–she had persevered and we always celebrated her.

And that’s why I think God is like a cross country mom or dad– He celebrates us on life’s journey.

As author Max Lucado puts it:
“God is for you. Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering your run.
Look past the finish line; that’s God applauding your steps.
Listen for him in the bleachers, shouting your name.
Too tired to continue? He’ll carry you.
Too discouraged to fight? He’s picking you up.
God is for you.”

Whatever you are facing on the race set before you–ups and downs of a serious illness, twists and turns of a rocky marriage, rough terrain of financial struggles–God is right there with you; not just cheering you on like a cross country parent, but also equipping you by the power of His Spirit to have what you need to stay the course.

As Lucado concludes: “God is for you. Knowing that, who is against you? Can death harm you now? Can disease rob your life? Can your purpose be taken or your value diminished? No. Though hell may set itself against you, no one can defeat you. You are protected. God is for you.”

“If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son,
but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” 
Romans 8:31b-32

Be sure to open in your browser to hear the song “God is for Us” by CityAlight.

“You’re gonna be okay.”

I miss my dad.

It’s been a decade since he took his last breath on this earth and I still miss him. Especially during college football season as I’m frantically cheering on my Ohio State Buckeyes (with apologies to all my friends in that state up north!)

My dad was an incredible multi-sport athlete, as well as a successful football and basketball coach as I was growing up. My love of athletics and knowledge of the rules and intricacies of each sport came from him.

And that’s why I always had to call him during halftime of a Buckeye game if I was feeling nervous about the possible outcome.

“Dad, I’m worried we’re going to lose,” I would spit out as soon as he answered the phone.

He always responded with a little chuckle and then began pointing out all the things that were going well for my guys, as well as all the specific reasons they were the better team. Then he would reassure me that the coach would make the necessary halftime adjustments to clear up the deficiencies so the Scarlet and Gray would prevail.

“You’re gonna be okay,” he would add.

He was so smart, knew football so well and understood coaching so clearly that I always believed him.

A loving father’s voice can have that kind of calming effect, can’t it?

I just spent the month of August finding ways to better hear my heavenly Father’s voice. I needed His soothing words so my anxieties could be relieved, my burdens lightened and my heart palpitations literally calmed down.

And guess what?

I heard Him. Usually as I read my Bible. Often as I pored over my devotionals. Sometimes as I lifted my voice in song. And occasionally in my head as I folded my hands in prayer. Each time, it was clear that He was speaking to me.

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:4)
“The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor his ear too deaf to hear you call.” (Isaiah 59:1)
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)


And so many wise words from authors I love:
“Joy does not comes from getting what you ask God for. Joy comes in asking, believing, and thanking God, however he answers.” (Max Lucado)

“Can you think of any need you have that would require more strength than God exercised to raise the dead?” (Beth Moore)

“Father, may the reality of what you say become infinitely more real to me than what I think, feel or experience.” (Chris Tiegreen)

“Sin is the act of going to everyone but God for what only God can give.” (Max Lucado)

My earthly father had a special way of having just the right words to calm me (even though he might have led me astray at halftime of this past Saturday’s game against Oregon!), but my Heavenly Father never gets it wrong. He is all-wise, knows me completely and understands the loving plans He has for me. I always need to believe Him.

I encourage you to find ways to better listen for your Father’s voice–you won’t be disappointed.

Perhaps this prayer from Chris Tiegreen can be yours as well as mine: “Father, my mind cannot afford to be preoccupied with anything other than you.” Amen.

Be sure to open in your browser to hear the beautiful song “You’re Gonna Be Okay” by Brian and Jenn Johnson.

The God Who is Enough

When you believe in God, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that He has allowed adversity to come into your or your loved one’s life. Author David Biebel talks about this fact in his book If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? He says there are two truths suffering people have to reconcile: Sometimes life is agony, and our loving God is in control.

Think about it.

If God knows everything, this diagnosis did not surprise Him.

If God sees everything, He saw the bad news coming.

If God has power over everything, He could have stopped it.

But He didn’t.

Perhaps He didn’t stop you or your loved one from getting cancer or some other life-threatening disease. Or He didn’t keep  your spouse from leaving you. Or He didn’t end the lies your co-worker spreads about you. Or maybe He hasn’t answered your pleas to be blessed with a child or a life-partner. You know all too well that sometimes life is agony and you’re trying to wrap your head around the fact that a loving God is in control.

It’s times like these that we need to run straight into the arms of the God who is enough.

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

Throughout scripture we meet this God who is enough. In the Old Testament He drops food from the sky in the wilderness to teach the Israelites that He “could be trusted to provide exactly enough–maybe not what they wanted, but enough,” according to our church’s youth pastor Pete Waller, whose recent excellent message inspired this blog.

In the New Testament, Jesus takes a little lad’s lunch, blesses it and feeds thousands of hungry people with it–not to mention baskets of leftovers.

“Jesus knew that He would take what wasn’t enough and make it more than enough–not so they would know what He can do, but who He is,” Pete explained.

Jehovah Jireh: the God who provides. That Hebrew name is not just what our God does, it’s who He is: the God who will provide enough.

Will you believe that today? Will you choose to trust that God is enough for whatever you’re facing? The reality is that God’s Word never promises He will stop all the bad things from happening to us.  As The Message Bible explains in its paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 :

“We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized;
we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized.
But God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”

Go ahead and hand Him your “not enough” and watch the Creator of the Universe transform it into enough… and even more than enough for whatever unwanted journey you’re on. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Be sure to open in your browser to hear the song “Jireh’ by Elevation Worship & Maverick City song by Brian Nhira.

Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue!


Image by Jon Hoefer from Pixabay

Perhaps you feel a little like a pigeon-covered statue these days or maybe you simply would like to experience a measure of calm in your harried life.  Either way, here are some words to the weary taken from “leftover” quotes (including the blog title), which I ended up not using  when writing my last book. I hope at least one  lifts your spirits, deepens your faith or somehow encourages you on life’s journey.

“Corrie ten Boom, ‘The Hiding Place'” by Corrie ten Boom Museum is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Don’t pursue trials, but don’t flee from them in a panic either.”—Chris Tiegreen, One Year Walk with God Devotional

“Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”—St. Augustine, Confessions

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.”—Corrie ten Boom, Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor

“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Martin Luther King Jr. in his sermon “Antidotes to Fear”

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“Joe Castillo, C.S. Lewis 1” by timgrable is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”—Corrie ten Boom

“Don’t waste your cancer.”—John Piper, pastor, written on the eve of his prostate cancer surgery

“If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.”—Thomas Watson, Puritan noncomformist teacher and author

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”—Robert Murray McCheyne, pastor, Church of Scotland

“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.” ― C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle

“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” C.S. Lewis

“(God) doesn’t say, ‘Into each life a little rain must fall,’ then aim a hose in earth’s general direction and see who gets the wettest. He doesn’t reach for a key, wind up nature with its sunny days and hurricanes, then sit back and watch the show. He doesn’t let Satan prowl about totally unrestricted. He doesn’t believe in a hands-off policy of governing. He’s not our planet’s absent landlord. Rather, He screens the trials that come to each of us—allowing only those that accomplish His good plan, because He takes no joy in human agony.”—Steve Estes, When God Weeps

And finally, this gem from missionary Jim Elliot prior to his martyrdom at age 28 by the Waodani tribe, whom he had befriended and attempted to share the gospel with: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Be sure to open in your browser to hear the music video “Peace” by Bethel Music, featuring We the Kingdom


An Inspiring Story from an Unlikely Survivor

Today I’d like to introduce you to “Crash,” a red-tailed hawk, who had the misfortune of colliding with a car this spring in Mercer County, PA, and had to be extricated  from the front bumper. The good news is that Crash survived his ordeal, was rescued and then taken to a wildlife rehab center.

Photo courtesy Tamarack Wildlife Center

However, the accident gave the hawk a concussion and damaged his wing, rendering him unable to fly well enough for release (after completing his concussion protocol, I assume 🙂 ). Thankfully, the staff at Tamarack Wildlife Center, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and public education facility in the northwest corner of the state, knew just what to do.

Using the ancient art of feather-mending called “imping,” they replaced Crash’s damaged feathers with strong ones from a deceased hawk. The procedure involves inserting an imping needle, (a thin piece of wire, bamboo or some other material) into the shaft of both the damaged and the healthy feathers. The replacement feather is secured in place with adhesive, such as a fast-drying epoxy. Eventually the replaced feathers will be shed when the bird molts and regrows new feathers.

Interns (l. to r.) Madison Story and Natalie Seburia, photo courtesy Tamarack Wildlife Center

But in the meantime, Crash can inspire us all as he flies on “borrowed wings.”

Is there someone you know who has a “broken wing” and needs some of your “strong feathers” while they heal? I’m willing to bet that your gift/ability/expertise/time is the perfect match to help heal someone who is broken physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Why not ask the Lord today how He wants to use you to keep a loved one flying on borrowed wings?

Perhaps it’s something as simple as a phone call to let them know you care or a card of encouragement dropped in the mail. Maybe your “donated feathers” are a delivered meal, a gift card to make life easier, or the offer to run a specific errand. Perhaps what your friend or family member needs most for their brokenness is your prayers–shared in person, typed in a text or simply whispered to God’s ears.

Photo by Melanie Tepper, courtesy of Tamarack Wildlife Center

And if  you  are the one feeling the damage of not being able to do what you used to, will you swallow your pride and accept an offer of “borrowed feathers?” If you truly don’t have any such offers, please ask Jehovah Jireh, the LORD who provides, to send someone to answer that prayer until you can fly again (or learn to deal with just hopping around!)

Psalm 91:4 proclaims this truth about our God:
He will cover you with His feathers.
He will shelter you with His wings.
His faithful promises are your shield and protection.

Psalm 36:7 adds:
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.

I love the prayer and plan of David, the anointed king of Israel, when he was being pursued by a powerful enemy:

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!
I look to you for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.
Psalm 57:1

How will you see God’s work in your life today? As the person  who provides borrowed wings? Or as the one who gratefully accepts them until the danger passes? Either way, you are in for a blessing, my friend.
P.S. If you want to know the happy ending of Crash’s story, the hawk made a full recovery and last week was released into the wild flying high–as evidenced in the above photo of his maiden voyage on borrowed wings.  For more info about Tamarack Wildlife Rehab, see https://tamarackwildlife.org
Be sure to open in your browser to hear the beautiful music video “Psalm 91” by New Creation Church.

The Lesson I Learned from a C-5 Cargo Plane

Raise your hand if you have never been in the military, but you have flown in a C-5 cargo plane?

I’m guessing I may be the only one wildly waving my arm.

“C-5 Galaxy” by Chad Horwedel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Perhaps at an air show, some of you have had the pleasure of walking around inside the cargo section of the largest U.S. military transport. According to airforce-technology.com, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks; one tank and two Bradley fighting vehicles; 10 LAV light armored vehicles; or six Apache helicopters. (Popular Mechanics adds that almost 25 million ping-pong balls also could fit inside!)

In the summer of 1973, my father was a civilian personnel officer stationed at Bitburg AFB (Germany). As long as I was his dependent, I could have free stand-by flights between our homes.  I had flown commercial to Germany and was not at all concerned that the only return flight was on military transport.

Perfect example of ignorance is bliss.

The C-5 seating area had absolutely no windows and conversation with seat mates proved impossible over the engines’ roar.  Each passenger was handed three items: a motion sickness pill, ear plugs and a heavy blanket. Drinking water was available in a bucket, along with a metal dipper and paper cups. We were told bag lunches would be provided if the flight wasn’t too turbulent.

“C-5_4” by marksontok is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I was woefully unprepared for how austere this 13-hour flight was going to be, although my first clue should have come when I was in the boarding line and a young airmen behind me inquired, “Miss, would you like some help?”

I turned and gave him a sweet smile and a quick “no, thank you.” After all, I was an independent 19-year-old college senior who, of course, could take care of herself.

And then I got to the cargo entrance and saw the narrow, vertical ladder.

It went straight up through the belly of the cargo area and into a small opening.

I quickly searched for the kind airman, told him I’d reconsidered, handed over my belongings, and slowly began ascending the steep ladder. I doubt the airman recalled his good deed from that day, but I have never forgotten it…and the lesson it’s still teaching me 48 years later:

Photo by Linda DuBose from FreeImages

I’m inclined to hang on to baggage.

Sometimes I lug around negative emotions which steal my peace. (What, me worry?) Other times I hold on to unhealthy habits which stifle my spiritual growth. (Perfectionism, anyone?)

How about you? What’s weighing you down today? Fear of the unknown or even of what is known? Concern for  friend or family member? Maybe  a physical burden which gives way to an emotional or mental weight?

Psalm 68:19 has good news for all of us baggage carriers:
Praise be to the LORD, the God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

And Jesus offers a wonderful solution for our predicaments:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Put My yoke on your shoulders–it might appear heavy at first,
but it is perfectly fitted to your curves.
Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.
When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
–Matthew 11:28-30 The Voice Bible

What baggage are you holding on to as you face a steep climb of circumstances? I recommend you do what I continually have to do… swallow your pride and hand your burdens to Jesus. (He’s even better than a really kind airman.)
Don’t miss  the music video  by Austin French–it’s only about 3 minutes and will help you experience “Rest for Your Soul.” (Be sure to open in your browser.)


How to Love Yourself as Your Neighbor

For most of the past four decades I’ve been a caregiver for family members who were either physically or mentally unwell. I’ve had a relative with dementia living in our home for years, and I’ve made biweekly seven-hour car trips for months to be with another one undergoing chemo. I’ve been so physically fatigued I had to literally crawl up the stairs, and I’ve been so emotionally drained I’ve spent hundreds of dollars to pour out my woes to a counselor.

I’ve nursed my wonderful husband through replacements of three knees (yes, three!) and two shoulders. Thankfully, he is progressing well after his most recent bionic joint and now can drive, dress himself and even comb the back of his hair with his left hand!

Caregiving is incredibly hard. I get it.

But I also know we make helping others even harder when we fail to take good care of ourselves. Even if you’re not a caregiver, you probably have many people in your life counting on your aid. So don’t forget one of the two most important commandments:  “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-39).

Don’t miss those last two words: “as yourself.” The Bible doesn’t just say to “love your neighbor”–it says that loving them starts with loving ourselves.

It is not selfish to do something refreshing, rejuvenating, or relaxing for yourself.  Your “emotional tank” doesn’t come with a loud, flashing warning when it’s getting low. Instead, you have to pay attention to the telltale signs in your life.

Credit Unsplash

And when that figurative tank does need refilling, I recommend three sources of emotional replenishment: From yourself, from others, and supernaturally from God.

  • Make your own deposits by finding ways to “be good to yourself.” Watch a funny movie, enjoy a massage, go fishing, get a pedicure, take a walk, hit a bucket of balls, or catch a nap. What rejuvenates me may not do the same for you, but you can figure out what makes you feel better. (Don’t settle for the temporary fixes of alcohol or drugs because they will quickly drain your peace as soon as they wear off.) If you can’t leave your family member alone, this is the time to call in one of those offers of help others have made. Do something to lift your spirits so afterward you can once again lift someone else’s.
  • Ask your friends and family to do things for you and with you that will enrich your emotional well-being. People cannot read your mind, so clearly tell them a specific way to make a deposit in your tank. If you don’t think you have friends who can improve your life, then ask God to provide the needed person. The Apostle Paul described how God once sent someone to encourage him at just the right time.

When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us.
We faced conflict from every direction,
with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.
But God, who encourages those who are discouraged,
encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy.
2 Corinthians 7:5-7

  • And  finally, spend time with God, asking Him to pour into you His supernatural hope, love, strength, and, yes, even peace as you take care of someone else.

The LORD gives his people strength.
The LORD blesses them with peace
. Psalm 29:11

The most loving thing you may do for your loved one today is to be good to yourself. Love yourself so you can truly love your “neighbor.”

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer ©Lynn Eib 2017
Make sure to open in your browser to hear the music video “Rest for Your Soul” by Austin French.