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;

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).