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Coming Soon!

CARES II Front Cover

Yes! It is true. There is a second compilation of NCFI CARES Devotions being published!

NCFI celebrates the publication of the second compilation of NCFI Cares devotions entitled CARES II: Reflections of Nurses. The Lord’s timing cannot go unnoticed. For, as the world continues to grapple with the Coronavirus Pandemic, stress for nurses and midwives is at an all-time high. As the heart and hands of health care it is important that each individual nurse feels assured as vital member body of Christ and the global nursing profession. Christian nurses need encouragement, support, and prayers to persevere and stand firm in their faith.

The reflections are written by diverse authors from around the world that inspire peace, strength, and hope amidst the challenges of Christian nursing. They include practical advice on staying calm, responding to conflict, and rekindling our joy while opening our hearts to how Jesus can guide our nursing practice. Whether you work in the hospital, clinic, university, or ministry, all Christian nurses will be encouraged professionally and personally.

Each reflection begins with a central scripture and a brief teaching or insight. Unique to CARES II is the inclusion of an accompanying passage of scripture, reflective question, and a simple prayer.  They can be used for a personal prayer/devotional time or part of connecting a nursing fellowship group.

CARES II will be published in a bilingual English/Spanish book and an English only book. The pdf copies will be available on the NCFI resource website. Check back for the link for free downloads!

NCFI Cares: The Lord’s Presence: A Two-Fold Response to Despair

…the LORD was not in the wind…the LORD was not in the earthquake…the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12

After Elijah received divine nourishment from the pre-incarnate Christ, he traveled for 40 days and 40 nights to a cave in the mountain Horeb. There he slept. The Lord awakened Elijah with the question, “Why are you here, Elijah?” Elijah once again explains his zealous service. This time, the Lord provided a two-fold response.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Look, the Lord is ready to pass by (1 Kings 19:11).

 First, the LORD sent a powerful wind that caused landslides, earthquake, and fire. God was not in these powerful events. The presence of the LORD was in the soft whisper. Elijah covered his face recognizing the whisper as holy and divine. Bible scholars state the reason for the extreme weather events prior to the soft whisper, was to remind Elijah that God’s work is most often in the unseen things – like a changed heart.

            Then, the LORD provided Elijah with specific directions for his next steps in ministry.

“Go back the way you came…anoint Hazael king over Syria…anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to take your place as prophet.” (1 Kings 19:15-16)

The Lord was clear to Elijah. He was not done. In fact, my personal thought is the Lord had a sense of humor by saying “Go back the way you came….”. Repeatedly the Lord has asked Elijah, “Why are you here?” This time, the Lord just sent him back into the ministry. Elijah’s sacrifice and work has not been in vain. There is a future prophet to mentor and 7000 faithful followers needing a leader.

As we conclude our time with Elijah, the Lord has the same two-fold response for us who are weary and are saying “It’s enough.”

First, God is with us! We have the Holy Spirit within us. He speaks as a soft whisper that we will recognize. We don’t need to hide in a cave to hear His voice. We can just open the Scriptures and hear His voice. During the most challenging and difficult time of Elijah’s ministry, the Lord reached out with a personal, intimate voice. Himself. Thus, we are assured that out of our suffering comes a deeper intimacy with Christ. A connecting that fills us with joy, grace, and peace (Romans 15:13).

Furthermore, don’t become discouraged when we do not witness the fruit of our ministry.  God may not eradicate COVID, poverty, nor suffering; God is moving in the hearts of people to achieve a faithful following. Listen for the soft whisper of the Holy Spirit who is working within our clinics and communities. (John 6:37).

Finally, God is not done with us! No matter how discouraged, depressed, or exhausted you may be, you still have work to do! Your ministry is not over. Opening our heart to the work God has called us to will extinguish those arrows of doubt and despair. (Ephesians 6:16)

For further study: Two Articles by J. H. Keathly III

15. The Crisis of Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-14) https://bible.org/seriespage/15-crisis-elijah-1-kings-194-14

16. The Restoration of Elijah 1 Kings 19:4-18, Keathly III,  J. H. https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18

NCFI Cares: Divine Nourishment

“Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)

Last time we discussed how we need rest and rejuvenation to recover from spiritual and physical exhaustion.  Elijah not only slept under the broom tree, but he also received nourishment from Heaven. This was no ordinary angel that ministered to Elijah. Biblical scholars teach that the “angel of the Lord” in this passage is the pre-incarnate Christ. The Eternal Word personally provided Elijah with the following divine nourishment. (1)

  • God’s love and grace.
    • Elijah was assured of God’s love and grace even when he tried to run from his presence.
  • God’s abiding presence.
    • In our lowest point of feeling of depression, rejection, and failure, God does not abandon us.
  • God’s strength
    • The meal the Angel of the Lord prepared energized Elijah to travel 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)
  • God’s assurance of His plan and our work.
    • God was not done with Elijah and would provide for his next mission.

Yet those who wait for the Lord,

Will gain new strength;

You will mount up with wings like eagles,

You will run and not get tired,

You will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31 personalized with You)

Our divine nourishment is find in the Angel of the Lord/Jesus Christ (Phi 4:19).

(1) The Restoration of Elijah 1 Kings 19:4-18, Keathly III,  J. H. https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18

NCFI Cares: Strategies for Rest

So he ate and drank and lay down again (1 Kings 19:6)

As Elijah rested under the broom tree, he received rest and nourishment. Many times, when we think of “rest” we think of vacations or going on holiday. Travel may not be possible due to restrictions or personal schedules, and there may be difficulties with taking a holiday, an extended weekend, or even an extra day off from work.  In addition, many nurses have kids and spouses home for remote working or virtual learning. Now more than ever, we need to be creative with finding rest.

Here are some tips for Power doses of individual rest:

  • 2 minute break while working

            A friend of mine recently discussed how a quick “bathroom break” during a busy nursing shift can be a well-deserved moment to regroup. Sounds hilarious at first, but if you are overwhelmed with the needs of patients, family, and staff, a quick bathroom break is an opportunity to breath and repeat scripture. If you think this only applies to nurses, many moms of young children tell me a “bathroom break” gives them time to themselves amidst the crying and demanding needs of babies and toddlers.

  • A few hours

            Connect with your spouse or a friend to coordinate a few hours of rest and relaxation. For example, you may take the morning and go for a walk while your spouse or friend watches the kids, does the laundry, etc. Then, switch. I would encourage making this a weekly activity, even if it is only for 2 hours. Don’t fall into the trap of grocery shopping, or household stuff during your rest time—that is NOT rest.

  • Do something different for rest.

If you normally exercise, then take the time and read a book, or vice versa. Mixing up our activities can help our over-worked brains and bodies reframe events into relaxation. This can be a time to try a new hobby or activity.

What we do with our rest time is just as important as the rest. In our culture of constantly being connected via phone, it is challenging to “rest” from social media, messaging, and notifications. Stop or mute “notifications” from popping-up on the phone. This is an important reminder. Rest includes putting the phone aside.

One Bible commentator stated, “How interesting. God remembers that we are frail. He knows our frame, that we are but dust. He is mindful that we possess material bodies that must be cared for, often, before the spiritual part can function (Ps. 103:14).”

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).

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;