A Sacred Sorrow

In the fall 2019, I found myself once again a wreck with grief and stress. My younger brother had died of an overdose and then my 18 year-old nephew had committed suicide. These two deaths, along with stress related to my grown daughter, I was an emotional wreck. So, I dragged my husband and I into our pastor’s office for some spiritual care.

As he counseled me on self-care, which included time to rest and prayer, he recommended A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card. The book uses David and other “lamenters” in the Bible to guide reader on various ways to cry out to God.

Being open, honest and real with God can be a challenge, especially when our emotions of anger, frustration and pain seem contrary to what we think God wants to hear. In fact, the opposite is true–God wants to hear and be part of our human experience.

I encourage you to “lament” with God. He wants to hear and “be with you” and your pain. Lamenting can be through journal (my choice), audio, and/or via video.

I am weary with my sighing;
Every night I make my bed swim,
I dissolve my couch with my tears.

My eye has wasted away with grief; . . .
For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.

The Lord has heard my supplication,
The Lord receives my prayer.

Psalm 6:6-9 David’s cry/prayer to GOD.

Be sure to comment if you have used this book to assist you in lamenting to God about your grief.

Why Grief Soup?

Many years ago while working on a medical surgical unit I was caring for a terminal patient who was being transferred to home hospice care. The liaison for hospice came by to chat with the patient, exploring if she was ready for hospice care. I have always been drawn to caring for the dying. Some nurses are anxious or prefer not to care for the terminal or even those patients who will die while in the hospital. In health care we call them “comfort care” for the focus of their medical and nursing care is keeping them comfortable.

Later on, the nurse liaison got to chatting and she mentioned a book hospice provides for family members entitled “Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss” .

The book through a wonderful story is about “Grandy” who has experienced a loss is reminded of a family recipe for making her own “Tear Soup.” The book recognizes that everyone responds to the loss of a loved one differently, like a unique recipe for soup. Included is a basic recipe for grief AND then has poignant notes that are helpful for different “cooks”, like men and children.

Besides recommending the book for any one experiencing grief, Tear Soup spurred me to make my own grief soup after the death of my sister in 2013.

Hope you will find some help as we cook together our own version of Tear soup.

CARES: Reflections for Nurses — Bilingual English/Chinese

An announcement that got lost in the COVID 19 pandemic is the publication of the translation of CARES: Reflections for Nurses in English/Chinese. In March 2020, while I was sheltering-in-place with my mom in Wyoming, my husband received a box from Taiwan with 20 CARES books.

The plan was to have the books available for the Nurses Christian Fellowship International Congress in July, 2020. Like many conferences the plan was to delay the conference until July 2021!

Since this is a resource for NCFI, you can download your free pdf copy on the NCFI Website under resources. CARES — Reflections for Nurses.

Group picture of editor, translator and author

A big THANK YOU to Min-Rung Lee (Chinese Editor) and Li-Fen Wu (Chinese Translator). It is through their self-less passion and dedication that brings this work to you!

The bilingual devotion page with English/Chinese for each devotion.

NCFI Cares: Our Guide for the New Year

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,… (Romans 8:28-29)

Recently a nursing colleague of mine shared her New Year’s spiritual practice with a group of nurses. Each January, she spreads out cards with attributes listed on each one like hope, peace, kindness, courage, etc.  With the attributes hidden, she then randomly picks one. This becomes her focus for the year. She daily strives to live out this new behavior or character trait into her life. She is intentional with the change and hopes by the years end, she will be more kind, hopeful, or whatever her chosen attribute for the year was.

As I listened to her sharing with the group and encouraging others to “pick a card.”  I compared it to what I and other Christians do. Every January, I come to the Lord in prayer, seeking Him to illuminate my life with a bold freshness or a new grace. Anything that Jesus has for me to guide me in serving and loving Him more and more. I reflect on scripture and review recent workings the Lord has done in my life. My intent is to be open, welcoming, and humble to what Jesus has for me in the coming year.

So how is my process different from picking a card with positive attributes? Our first thought might be in humility and effort, which would be incorrect. My colleague truly desires to be a better person just as much as I do. The biggest difference is she is alone on her journey. I feel a sadness and an emptiness for her. Only Christ followers have the indwelling Spirit of Life, the personal Creator and our own personal Teacher to walk in trust into a New Year filled. Our relationship with the Trinity is the framework Christians approach the New Year with confidence, knowing a year later the Lord will have brought us a further down our faith journey in conforming to Him.

NCFI Cares: A Warm Glow

When we contemplate light, we see bright lights around our cities: streetlights, store fronts, and illuminated signs. The sun, the brightest star, in our galaxy radiates the earth with brilliant rays of warmth and comfort.  A night-time view reveals numerous stars and planets luminating the sky. They provide the celestial calendar while bearing witness to an infinite number of universes and galaxies billions of light years away. No matter how bright or how dim, light penetrates the darkness and emits a presence beyond its immediate shine.

Jesus inspired us, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14,16)

Many times, we think our spiritual light is inadequate, because it is not the strong, bold LED lamp. Instead, we should be a simple candle. A warm, steady glow that illuminates across a pitch-dark room. The flicker of a simple flame can shine brightly throughout a hospital, unit, or university. There is no need to worry about the strength or courage needed to power the candle. We trust the Holy Spirit to reflect Christ, the Bright and Morning Star and Light of the World through the smallest nub of wax.

Be a continuous, bright, well used candle radiating the love and grace of Christ to others.

Merry Christmas, Carrie & NCFI

The Empathy of God

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)

In John Chapter 11 we find Jesus traveling with the disciples, when he was notified that his friend Lazarus is extremely ill. Jesus, knowing God’s plan, purposefully delayed his plans to visit. He explicitly told the disciples his plan and even explained why he is waiting for Lazarus to die.

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”

As he gets closer to the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Jesus explained his purpose to Martha. 

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” . . . Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

As the reader, I am familiar with the incident and know the miracle that is about to take place. Jesus has explained it to his disciples, to Martha and to me. The narrative is interrupted, and I read how Jesus was overcome with emotion and crying, “he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed…Jesus wept.

I ask myself, “Why is Jesus crying? Why is he so upset? He knows the outcome. Jesus knows in a few short minutes, Lazarus will come walking out of the tomb, risen and alive again! How can Jesus, the son of God, omnipotent, omniscient be upset about a death he is going to rectify?”  I am confused by the incident until the Holy Spirit reveals the answer–empathy!

The Merriam-Webster definition of empathy includes… “vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” In other words, having the same “feelings, thoughts, and experience” of someone without having the same experience. 

Here in three short verses of John 11, I saw a facet of the heart of God. Our Lord and Savior reveals one of the most powerful emotions of humans—grief, sadness, and pain. Not because Jesus doesn’t know the outcome. And, not because He can’t fix it. Instead, He is overcome with the grief and pain of his friends’ who were inconsolable at the loss of their brother and friend. Jesus’ loving response is to share the experience with them. He cries as they cry.

As someone who has experienced loss and grief, I find comfort in knowing this is my God. He sat with me in my tears and pain. He cried when I was inconsolable. Not because He doesn’t know the outcome. And not because He couldn’t fix it. Instead, He cries, when I cry.

Jesus becomes spiritually distressed by the pain and suffering we experience. He laments with me, with you and with our patients and families.  This new insight into the love of God brings new meaning to Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;

NCFI Cares: Be the Blessing at Your Workplace

Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand… (Genesis 39:3)

After having lofty dreams of leadership and sold by his older brothers into slavery, Joseph becomes an overseer in Egypt. The Lord blesses Joseph and makes him successful.

 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field (Genesis 39:4-5)

Notice how the Lord’s blessing was not only to Joseph but to the entire household.  All did not go well for Joseph. He was falsely accused of sexual assault and attempted rape by the overseer’s wife and subsequently sent to prison. Once again, the hand of the Lord is upon Joseph and he is placed in a leadership position as overseer of the jail.

But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. (Genesis 39:21)

In prison Joseph used his spiritual gift of dream interpretation to assist the cupbearer and baker with their dreams. Two years later, with the help of God, Joseph is the only one who can interpret the dream by the Pharoah of Egypt. Joseph becomes 2nd in command of Egypt and follows God’s plan to save Egypt and surrounding countries from a severe famine.

Joseph understood, through God’s blessing and mighty hand, he had been an instrument in God’s plan.

God sent me ahead of you to preserve you on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it is not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me an adviser to Pharaoh, lord over all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:7-8)

Like Joseph, we can be a blessing to our own workplace, whether it is a clinical facility, academic institution, or organization. Joseph demonstrates for us key reminders in living out our blessing to others:

  • be humble with how God will use your specific knowledge and talents;
  • be the voice of hope and peace instead of adding to the negativity;
  • persevere amidst the trials to stay faithful no matter your circumstances; and
  • wait for God to transform our workplace as part of His eternal plan.

Conclusion: Our True Destiny

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. (Psalm 91:16)

We have spent the last few months discovering how The Most High is a shelter which forms a protective fortress from the numerous perils of life on this planet. The Almighty’s guiding hand secures us from pestilence, violence, terrors of Satan and other calamities. And if need be, the Mighty Warrior will command His angels to intercede on our behalf.  The Lord’s help is just a prayer away for the devoted child who calls out to Him.

It is tempting to focus on the temporal or earthly benefits of our security, when instead the Lord provides us with spiritual, eternal benefits of His promises. Hopefully, Psalm 91 has opened your eyes to the eternal lens of the magnificent vision of The Almighty. His lens focuses beyond this life and reveals our existence with Him—a long, fulfilled life in the completed work of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9; Revelation 21:3). This is the Lord’s refuge and dwelling place and our final resting place–Heaven (2 Timothy 2:10-13).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

When this world passes away and we arrive in our Heavenly Home, we experience the completed promises of securely dwelling with the Most High for eternity.

Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4).

Write out and memorize: Psalm 91:16

Reflect: Do you anticipate Heaven or does it seem like a far off fantasy?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to fix my eyes on the hope and promise of an eternal life with you. Amen.

As we conclude our time together in Psalm 91, I am sharing a musical serenade from an American musician. This talented vocalists sings all four parts of an acapella group. His song, “When I go home” will soothe your soul and invite you to seek with anticipation our eternal home.

Lyrics and music by G.M. Eldridge © 2019 by Acapeldridge

Week #12 “When you call, I will answer”

The Lord says, “When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. (Psalm 91:15)

I think we take for granted the most amazing miracle in the Bible. The Creator of the Universe listens to each individual prayer. And, if that is not mind boggling, that same Creator,  speaks directly to you, to me, and to everyone. He is not absent, nor does He require us to perform some great display of pleading.

One my favorite incidences in the Bible that reveals God’s awesome power and communication is found in the encounter between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Elijah confronts the Israelites with their disobedience and idolatry by saying, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21). The Israelites are quiet and do not respond. So Elijah invites all the people to witness a show-down between Yahweh and Baal.

“Then they [prophets of Baal] took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.’ So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:26-29)

I have to admit, I think the antics the prophets of Baal perform to get Baal’s attention is quite entertaining. Until one realizes that there are still religions that require sacrifices, asceticism, and various displays to communicate with their god(s). Yahweh hears and speaks to all people. It is His Spirit that calls the unsaved and wicked inviting them into his love and grace. As a Christian we have the promise that the Lord will hear us, answer us, and draw us closer to Himself (John 15:7). Combine our open access to communication with our devotion and we confidently abide in the shadow of the Almighty as a devoted servant of the Most High.

Write out and memorize: Psalm 91:15

Reflect: Rewrite the passage Psalm 91:15 inserting your name. For example, When Carrie calls to Me…. Then, write out specific ways the Lord is rescuing and honoring you.

Prayer/Praise: Write out a specific prayer of praise, thanking the Lord for how he has rescued and honored you.

Week #11 Devoted To God

The Lord says, “Because he is devoted to me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he is loyal to me.” (Psalm 91:14)

Here in this final conversation of the Psalm, we hear what the Lord wants from us. “Because he is devoted…” Some translations explain the word or phrase “devote” using “hold fast to me” or “love me.” The original Hebrew word used is “chashaq” a verb meaning “join together as one” or “cleave” (Lexicon #2836).

The Lord wants our dedication, our undivided attention. “You shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14). An earthly relationship most closely related to “devotion” is the union found in marriage (Mark 10:6-9). Where a husband and wife love, provide, and are faithful to one another through the blessings and the sufferings of life. Another relationship is found in parenting, where parents devote themselves to their children. Careers, vacations, and personal pleasures take second place to raising children to adulthood following Biblical guidelines.

Devotion can also describe our commitment to nursing and the care of patients. We finance our schooling, work long hours, and at times sacrifice our own health to serve the sick.

These are all examples of devotion in our life, yet the verb “chashaq” to God is unique. “What does the Lord our God require of us: worship him, obey all his commandments, love him and serve him with entire mind and being.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).  Our devotion to God is comprehensive and unlimited. There is no other relationship that takes priority—then our commitment to God. Nothing less is accepted than the hundredfold devotional love given to us, reciprocated to our Heavenly Father.

Write out and memorize: Psalm 91:14

Reflect: Is your relationship with God one of devotion and love; or is it more along the lines of obedience and service?

Prayer: Father God, open my heart to be more and more devoted to you. Keep me from growing lukewarm and abandoning my first love, you faithful Son. Amen. (Revelation 2:4; 3:16).