Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your paths straight.
— Proverbs 5:3
— Proverbs 5:3
Letters From the Land of Cancer
by Walter Wangerin, Jr
Grand Rapids, Mi.
On December 26, 2005 Professor and Pastor Wangerin of Valparaiso University, husband and father of four, was diagnosed with cancer. This book is a collection of letters he wrote to family and friends over about a two year period. Through these letters the reader journeys with him through hope, fear, suffering, love, faith and infirmity.
A caregiver for one with cancer might get insight into some un-expressed thoughts that their loved one might be thinking. He eloquently reflects on end of life issues and what it means to live and die well. The reader joins Walter Wangerin through the many procedures and many doctors that take a toll on his body and the resultant mood swings. His Biblical understanding of being called and named by Christ gives meaning to his life here and in the hereafter. This is a book about facing mortality. Letter #19 is more of a Bible study put in letter form to one of his students and a worthwhile read.
Professor Wangerin is my age. We are both adoptive parents. He wrote a book with Matthew, one of his adopted sons, called, “Father & Son, Finding Freedom.” This second book (of many he has written) was published the year following the letters written from the land of cancer. Cancer is difficult. But I picture healing and blessings coming in the midst of difficult times.
We have never met, but we share a common savior. I am happy to report that he is scheduled to preach at the Valpo chapel this Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013.
I highly recommend all his books, this one especially for one caring for a loved one with cancer.
Are you angry with God? Express your anger directly to God.
Psalm 22 puts God on trial, sort of. Jesus even quotes this Psalm from the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” How could God have let this happen to me, my family, my loved one? I am really angry at you God! “Why are you so far from me, so far from the words of my groaning? I cry out by day, but you do not answer me, by night and am not silent.” You are God, aren’t you? You made promises didn’t you? Why do I feel so alone? I thought I knew you, but now I wonder if you are there?
David was angry with God.
“In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. Hey God, what about me. Do you see, do you notice? You helped our spiritual ‘Fathers’. They thought you were real. They told me about how you delivered them. Maybe you don’t understand my situation. God, I am really on the ropes here. My life is going down the tubes. I can’t get the help I need and I am getting worn out. I have been dealt a hard blow in this life and have a bad hand dealt to me. Am I being punished for some great sin? Have I fallen out of your favor? Others see my situation, and even they wonder how my God could let this happen to me.
I believe you are the creator of the world. You gave me life, a heritage of faith and Christian parents. So where are you, God? It seems like my circumstances are pressing on me constantly. I get angry at the ones I love. And they tear right back at me. I feel helpless and afraid. My heart for life is melting away like melting wax. I am running out of energy and strength. I do not feel like the person I want to be. And I am angry. Why have you forsaken me? We all have great WHY questions to bring to God when we see Him face to face.
David continues. God, I need you. I need strength and help. I am at my end. Please come quickly and help me. I need a deliverance and rescue for myself and for those I love. What can I do, God. Why have you forsaken me?
David comes to the same God who he accuses of forsaking him and writes in verse 22 of Psalm 22. “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation, I will praise you.”
Tell God your anger. Go out in the woods and yell at God. God gave you your feelings. Let them out. God is a great God and can take all your anger and frustration. Don’t hold back. Ephesians 4:26 Paul acknowledges we get angry. He reminds us in our anger not to sin. Telling God how you feel is not a sin. Not talking to God at all is a sin. As you tell God what you are angry about let your feelings turn into an open, honest heart that needs healing. Let your spewing of words turn into a humble, exhausted prayer asking for God to come again closer to you. God has not forsaken you. He came to David when David was really down and David declares God's name. David closes the Psalm by saying, "for He has done it." God promises to listen to our cries for help and wait to see what God will do.
That same down and out David wrote Psalm 23. You might have heard it before. David had experienced the depths and pain of life. He discovered that God was there with him even in the valley when he felt that God had forsaken him. You might be in the valley of the shadow of death. But God has not forsaken you. Call out His name, even in anger and then trust him. God will help you see life differently.
So how does God respond when we are very angry with Him. God listens with a loving, understanding heart. Jesus cried on the cross "my God, why have you forsaken me," also said, "into your hands I comment my spirit."
120 Ways to Encourage Older Adults
2012 Upper Room Books
How do you put a smile on their face? How can you cheer up someone experiencing an unwanted move? How can you encourage an elderly man who must put his wife in memory care? How can you make the most of a visit with an elderly person?
These are the question Missy responds to in her helpful book. She has 120 thought provoking suggestions that children and grandchildren can adapt to their situation. She begins with discussion starters (especially helpful for grandchildren) to learn more about the past of their parent or grandparent. I know my mom loved to tell the story about how she met my dad and what her childhood was like. Missy has suggestions on what church members might do if the “adopt” someone to visit at home or in a facility. She has suggestions for making a move into a facility a blessing time. If your loved one is a distance away, Missy make suggestions in keeping a relationship active. Perhaps your loved one would appreciate a special photographic treat. Trips, music, hobbies or any “doing it together” time help you to honor your loved one. Laughter and holiday celebration build great memories to hold in your heart. Missy’s suggestion cover a broad range of possibilities to make time intentional. Perhaps there are ideas that can help you.
Missy Buchanan co-authored the book My Story, My Song with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. Author of several other books, Missy also writes a monthly column for the United Methodist Reporter, as well as Presbyterians Today, Mature Years, Mature Living and MinistryMatters.com.
Love in the Land of Dementia
Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey
by Deborah Shouse
2006 Creativity Connection Press
613 W. 61 St
Kansas City, MO 64113
This is Deborah’s story of caring for her mother who making the journey into the land of Dementia. I made this same journey with my mother. Reading her book I laughed and cried as I remembered my mother. She talks about the progressive changes both physically and relationally that needed to be grieved by her, her dad, brother and her mother. Deborah’s dad lived with her through many of these experiences. But she lost him before she lost her mother.
As the dementia progresses Deborah described the efforts she makes to try to connect. Some are silly. I recall doing the same thing with my mother. She describes helping her mother move past anxiety, anger and confusion and find a smile of happiness to share becomes priceless. Working to stay connected is important.
The family celebrated their Jewish faith and customs. I respect putting faith into practice as she tells her story.
I can highly recommend this book as a helpful story to anyone moving through the land of Dementia and Alzheimer disease with a loved one. The behavior changes, moods, dis-connect and humorous situations are not unique to this book, but those changes are very well described by Deborah Shouse.
May I Walk You Home
Sharing Christ’s Love With the Dying
by Melody Rossi
2007 Bethany House Publishers
What a helpful and inspirational book for families and caregivers supporting someone who is dying without a relationship with Jesus Christ. Melody’s mother, father and step-mother were either hostile to Christianity or not interested in faith. Over a short period of time all three died and Melody was their caregiver. Through her love and service, each of these people became open to talking about God and ultimately to faith. This journey is not just a story of faith sharing, but an example of good Christian caring. She says, “There is nothing that will melt away disbelief faster or more efficiently than plain, ordinary, utilitarian, rubber-meets-the-road serving.” She lists 22 question to find you path to service.
Melody includes very practical information in organizing and using emergency information. She suggests finding you support people to help you deal with stress and personal helps. You may discover a spiritual warfare as you seek to speak of spiritual truths and she guides the reader through helpful scriptures. Her description of the signs that death is close can help with our fear as death approaches. I experienced the same awe and wonder (holy time) at the moment of death with my mother. She concludes the book with what to do after the death and the importance of grieving.
If you are a Christian this is a must read, not only to serve to an unbelieving family member, but to find resources in facing the death experience with someone you love.
Hebrews. 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
We have a great heritage in the church, faithful followers of Jesus who have suffered and endured much. In their pain and suffering they have sought wisdom and understanding of the great love of God. They have left markers along the trail to guide our ways.
Joni Erickson Tada has suffered much and is now suffering with cancer. She has her bad days like everyone else. Ken, her husband of 30 years is her caregiver as well. They have help, but he carries a primary responsibility. Ken suffered from depression, and he loves Joni very much. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be in a caregiver support group with Ken. He knew up front in their marriage that Joni had special needs. He knowingly choose to link his life to hers.
They have a book coming out in April they have written together called, “Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story. When Joni was diagnosed with cancer Ken was going through a spiritual transformation of his own. Their new book is about sharing, with honesty, the highs and lows of their 30-year marriage and how, as each looked to God to find strength to carry on. They also found themselves drawing closer, in God’s perfect love triangle.
That triangle with God makes them strong. Like the three cords in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that are not easily broken we are strengthened by God in our life.
So fix your eyes on Jesus with the eyes of faith. You will learn so much about precious blessings in the wonders God can reveal. It will make you stronger. You will be a greater blessing to the one who needs your love and care. As you live in close contact with Jesus, the Light of Jesus’s presence will filter through you to bless others. Intersperse peaceful interludes with Jesus throughout your day.
God bless, Tom
It is time for an attitude check. What am I talking about? Well how is your attitude about being a caregiver.
Attitude definition: A complex mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values and dispositions to act in a certain way.
How does a Christian caregiver do an attitude check?
Let's look at Paul's words. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Rom. 8:28.
May I suggest we focus on the word “CALL” in these words.
You are CALLED!
This is such an important word for Christian caregivers to acknowledge. You are not a victim. You are not being punished. You are called.
It is so helpful to see your caregiving role as a Christian calling because it changes everything. It changes your attitude. It changes your approach. God has called you. Think about that. I know you didn’t ask for it. Neither did Jonah, Peter, Paul. Jesus words to “Follow Me” means Jesus has a direction he wants us to go in our lives. We are called to be servants and you are called to be a servant in a specific circumstance. Jesus’s promise to us in the end of Matthew’s gospel are the words, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus has called you to be a caregiver. He promises to be with you.
We are called according to His purposes and he will reveal those purposes more completely over time. We may not understand His purposes at this time, but scripture says God works for the good.
I have been reading a number of books about the stories of caregivers. Yes, it is hard and sometimes very hard. However, the stories are about the blessings and learnings these caregivers received. He will bless you and you will learn much.
Being called by God also means God has a stake in your caregiving and God will provide. I don’t know how He will do it or when He will do it, but I believe He will do it. He promises to do it. He can do it. You are connected to the right source.
There is a condition. The scripture says, “to those who love Him”. This love is not a feeling, this love is an action. We love God by talking to Him, by worshipping Him, by praising Him and by blessing Him. As the hymn writer learned to love God by writing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His Holy name.”
Even secular research has discovered that attitude is important in caregivers. See the attached link titled,
Utah researchers find caregivers' attitudes critical in Alzheimer's disease progression
So how is your attitude? Allow your faith to draw your attitude closer to the mind of Christ in your Christian caregiving.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been "called" according to His purpose."
Caregiving is a loving responsibility, but it can be stressful and hard work. How we think about having the responsibility of caregiving can change everything. Having the mind of Christ in us can make a huge difference. We can see our responsibility as a duty, obligation or as God placing a "Calling" on our lives. If God calls us to this purpose, we can look to God to provide what we need. Our first Christian Caregiver Support Group meets at Christ Lutheran Church in Overland Park, KS on Sunday afternoons at 4;00. Contact Tom Frommer (913) 732-0703 for more information.
Karen and I have our devotion time together most mornings. We lift up in prayer family and friends and we pray for you also. This morning we read from Sarah Young’s book a meditation appropriate for the caregiver. I want to share with you. Her book is called “Jesus Calling.” It is written like God is personally speaking to us each morning.
“My Face is shining upon you, beaming out Peace that transcends understanding. You are surrounded by a sea of problems, but you are face to Face with Me, your Peace. As long as you focus on Me, you are safe. If you gaze too long at the myriad problems around you, you will sink under the weight of you burdens. When you start to sink, simply call out “Help me, Jesus!” and I will life you up.
The closer you live to Me, the safer you are. Circumstances around you are undulating, and there are treacherous-looking waves in the distance. Fix you eyes on Me, the One who never changes. By the time those waves reach you, they will have shrunk to proportions of My design. I am always beside you, helping you face today’s waves. The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you. Laugh at the future! Stay close to Me”.
Phil 4:7; Matt 14:30; Heb. 12:2.
May this be true for you.
Our first meeting of the Christian Caregiver Support Ministry brought 18 precious people. With the courage to open themselves to others and respond to the Christian invitation to come (Matt. 11:28) they came, weary and heavy burdened, to seek the fellowship of others traveling on the path of being a caregiver in some special way. Some were caring for adults and some children. Together we seek the hope and healing that Jesus gives in the Body of Christ. Jesus knocks on our door in our worry, hurts, fears and inadequacies and says He will fellowship with us and be with us. We just need to stop and pray and share with HIM. I believe Jesus has been there for me and will be there for each person that comes to Him. We have only taken one step in helping one another. Listening is important. There is so much more to share and stories to be heard. My prayer this week is that the Word of scripture will be heard (listened to) as a personal, specific and comforting word addressing the hearts of each person. It is in our need that the Word speaks to us. Tom Frommer
Sue Brettmann RN has been devoted to Caregiving both in her career as an RN, Parish Nurse and caring for her aging parents through the last 40 plus years. She has experience in trauma, home care and hospice. Her strong faith walk and relationship with Christ has always been a part of her care and she is committed to helping others see the gift of Christ in their personal journey's.