Are you encouraged by NCFI Cares?

Have you been encouraged by the NCFI Cares devotions?

Please share your experience and how you are using the NCFI Cares personally and/or with other nurses.

With your permission, we may share your story on the NCFI website/publications or in the next publication of CARES 2! 

Tell us! 2 ways Complete the form: https://forms.gle/PYcEWbJpDPziZvtRA

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Send email to ncfi.cares@gmail.com. Be sure to include name and country with your comments.

Thanks!

NCFI Cares: Resting Under the Broom Tree

And he lay down and slept under a broom tree.

1 Kings 19:5

After Elijah’s depleting work as a prophet, prayer warrior, mentor, and marathon runner, we find him sleeping under a broom tree. Let’s sit with Elijah and reflect on how he became so exhausted.

Even though all Elijah’s activities were directed by God, they had left him spiritually depleted and vulnerable leaving him open to a spiritual attack from the Devil.  Thus, when Jezebel threatened his life, he doubted God’s protection and went running for his life.

We also can become vulnerable in ministry. As we continue to do God’s work in nursing, ministry, universities, and clinics, we risk becoming weary and tired. This is especially true during the Coronavirus pandemic when the stress and workload is extraordinary! In a previous devotion, we discussed the inordinate amount of home, work, and personal stress most of us are experiencing. Like Elijah, we are vulnerable to the Devil’s arrows in his quiver that bring fear, anxiety, depression, and others (Ephesians 6:16)

As we continue to sit with Elijah under the broom tree, we also notice he is alone. Remember, he left his servant back in Beersheba and then traveled all day to collapse in despair under the broom tree. Similar to Elijah, many of us are isolated from our support systems. The shelter-in-place orders to slow the spread of covid has caused many of us to be isolated from family, friends, colleagues, and church family.

Many of us are trying to stay connected through online church, What’sApp Bible studies, and virtual prayer meetings; yet they are not the same as in-person connections. We were not made to be alone. God created us to live in community. We need to not only stay in community through technologies; we also need have extra time for prayer, worship, and fellowship. This is a time when we need one another more than ever.

Exhaustion does not mean an end to the Lord’s work. Instead, it means a time to rest, regroup and find nourishment. Take some time to reflect on what has brought you to despair and exhaustion. Are you like Elijah, exhausted from the Lord’s work? Alone in ministry and/or in faith? In the next devotion, we will explore strategies for resting.

NCFI Cares: Zealous for the Lord

“I have been very zealous for the Lord,” (1 Kings 19:10)

In the previous devotion we followed Elijah’s example and cried out in distress to God saying, “It is enough!” (1 Kings 19:4). In this devotion we will review events in Elijah’s life and discover how a prophet of God can become exhausted and in despair.

During the severe drought in the land, Elijah received provisions through ravens and then from a widow and her son. (1 Kings 17)

  • Later, at the appointed time, the Lord directed Elijah to confront King Ahab for his wickedness and idoltry worship of Baals. (1 King 18)
  • Elijah then confronted the Isaraelites and their idolatry. He challenged the prophets to a showdown with the LORD. The Lord triumphed and Elijah slaughtered all the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18:22-41)
  • In response to the coming rain and empowed by God, Elijah runs from Mount Carmel to Jezreel about 50 km. (1 Kings 18:46)
DOMENICO FETTI (ROME C. 1588-VENICE 1623)The Sacrifice of Elijah Before the Priests of Baal c.1621-22
Oil on panel | 61.2 x 70.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405466

This brief synopsis reveals how Elijah confronted wickedness and fought a spiritual battle with the prophets of Baal. The events were all directed by God to bring King Ahab and the Israelites to repentance. After their repentance, the Lord blessed them with rain. However, all is not well for Elijah. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, in response to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, sends a death threat to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:1-2)

Then he (Elijah) was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. (1 Kings 19:3)

After his spiritual victory, we think Elijah would be courageous. Instead, he was afraid for his life and runs to Beersheba, a 172 km journey. He leaves his servant at Beersheba. Alone, Elijah continues for another day’s journey into the wilderness. Under a broom tree or shrub Elijah lies. Alone, afraid and exhausted he cries out to the Lord, “It is enough”. This brief look shows how Elijah became exhausted from ministry work.  

As overworked, stressed nurses we are at risk of exhaustion and burnout; or a common American idiom states, “running yourself into the ground.” As I mentioned last time, there is nothing wrong with admitting our human distress and exhaustion. Jesus recognized the importance of leading his disciples to a place to rest, even if he wasn’t successful at find the time and place.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.). They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. (Mark 6:30-32)

Take some time to review events and experiences that has led to your exhaustion. It may be helpful to journal or write them out as a prayer.

NCFI Cares: “It Is Enough!”

In addition to the onslaught of stress in our personal life, many of us have lost our support systems. Friends we had previously commiserated with and strategized about family issues are no longer readily accessible. Yes, we can still meet via video chats and phone calls, but gone are those precious chats over a meal or during a favorite activity. Our in-person meetings with colleagues to brainstorm solutions and navigate coping mechanisms are no longer available Instead, many of us are remote workers, isolated at home to navigate responsibilities without the support of peers.

2020 has been an exhausting year. Nurses and health care workers have and continue to experience extreme emotional and physical distress. What was originally predicted to be an upheaval for a few weeks or months. Has now turned into a grueling, endless year of lockdowns, remote schooling, and work-related stressors. Many of us have been blessed to not experience the illness and/or loss of loved ones from the coronavirus. Yet, we are overwhelmed with the numerous social and personal difficulties:

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com
  • Burden of home schooling children.
  • Worry over children and their response to homeschooling, social isolation and family stress.
  • Extreme stress and over worked related to work AND/OR inundated with economic worries due to job loss
  • Strained relationships with spouses and/children
  • Inability to visit and/or care for aging parents and sick relatives.
  • Isolation, fear, and depression as a prisoners in their own home,
  • And countless sufferings, too many to name.

The biggest, most acute loss has been our spiritual support. As Christians our lifeline is the rooted attachment found in our Christian fellowship. Weekly times of worship, regular consistent group prayers, and connectedness with our church family is the bedrock to life. Yes, many can attend online church, chat via group video, and send frequent texts and messages through WhatsApp. YET, it is not the same as coming into the House of the Lord and experiencing the Holy Spirit’s connection with our church family. In less than a year’s time our solid footing in life has been drastically changed by the pandemic.  We have been proverbially  cut-off at the knees and are no longer able to stand strong in our faith.

Many of you may be saying with me, “It is Enough!”  During a recent period of extreme fatigue the Lord reminded me of another person who had said, “It is enough.”—Elijah. In the next few devotions, we are going to explore events leading up to Elijah’s exhaustion. Then, like Elijah, we can gain strength to stay the course in how the Lord is using us during this unprecedented time. 

In the meantime, I want you to openly cry out to God about your exhaustion. It is okay to say, “It is enough”.  Psalm 118:5 David shared his distress, “In my distress I called on the Lord, and he answered me and set me free.”

From this place, God will care for you and provide what you need. If need be, reach out to someone else who can provide a helping hand. Remember, the Holy Spirit uses other people in our lives to help us out.  “Although an assailant may overpower one person, two can withstand him. Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken”. (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

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;