Sample Devotions from my published book, Soul Food for the Sandwich Generation

                                                   LETTUCE BEGIN

 

                                      Green Jellybeans are Good for You

 

 It is two in the morning, and the only living creature asleep in your house is the dog. Trudging to the baby’s room, you wonder how you can possibly be on duty for eighteen more years.

The years go by and that bouncing baby is now a loud teenager who still keeps you up at night!  You spend your days running errands, eating dinner late, attending parent meetings and rushing through life. One day, you turn around and this all-consuming human being is gone.  Time, once your enemy, is now your best friend. Eating out is a pleasure since you no longer have to run a child to the restroom or watch your teenager stare at you with a look that says, “Why am I eating out with my parents?”  Personal meetings and activities are a sweet indulgence. You feel energized and happy.

Then, the phone rings. Your parent is lying on a stretcher on their way to the hospital. Your body goes into overdrive.  In the days, weeks, months and years to come, there will be trips to visit the family member, decisions about proper treatment, supplies to buy, and prescriptions to fill.  You will make life and death decisions, maybe for the first time.

When you are a child, someone else gives up part of his life to nurture and sustain you.  As an adult, you wrestle with issues that range from diapering and first steps to graduations, weddings, and learning to let go.  And now, when it is time for you to care for your parents, you feel like a child again.

 

Going it alone on this journey is impossible.

You cannot do it.

But each day, with God as your guide, miracles can happen.

 

 

 

 

 

   
Smith/Soul Food

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household

and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I

will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.’”  Genesis 12: 1-2

 

Abraham was seventy-five years old when he was called to enter Canaan.  He was a young ninety-nine when God told him that he would be the father of many nations, and the promised land of Canaan would be an everlasting possession for him and his descendants.

I am fifty-six years old and I can barely take care of my home, a puppy and one long-suffering husband.  How a man in his seventies can travel 1500 miles on foot to a foreign land and start over is amazing to me.  But there is more to Abraham’s journey. His wife, Sarah, a pretty young thing in her nineties, bore Abraham a son named Isaac, and that child became a human sacrifice to God.  Talk about total commitment!  God sent a ram to be killed in Isaac’s place, but I can’t imagine the rubber legs that Abraham must have had when he took a knife to his child.

When God whispered, “Go,” Abraham went.  When God told Abraham to take his precious son, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice, Abraham did as he was told.  Was it a mystery that this man was chosen by God to be the father of the nations?

 

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, says the hymn writer.

Begin your journey as a caregiver, like Abraham.

Say yes to God.

May I have the feet and spirit of Abraham, Lord.  Guide and lead me. Amen.

 

 

Smith/Soul Food

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you

   have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.’”  Exodus 4:10

 

  Poor Moses.  He would never have been voted ‘Most Likely To Succeed’ or elected to the student council.  How could someone who had a speech impediment go to the top of his class?

Ask God that question. He’ll tell you about Moses.  He’ll tell you that Moses is a natural- born leader.  He’ll brag about his courage and leadership abilities, not to mention his strong back and calloused hands.  Yes, sir, if the Good Lord could pick only a handful of men and women who were his best and brightest, Moses would make the cut.

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses saw the glass half empty, but God knew it was half full. Sure enough, this guy who suffered with a speech impediment, led a nation out of bondage and into the Promised Land. A man with a lisp delivered the Ten Commandments and walked through the Red Sea like it was a day in the park.

Our name isn’t Moses, but we have been called, with or without the burning bush.  Listen for the call of God, and when it comes, let that fire burn within you until you are able to say…

 

I will go, Lord.

I will do what I can for someone else, Lord.

Send me.

I’m hiding in my insecurity, Father.  Light a fire within me.  Amen.

 

 

 


Smith/Soul Food

 

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”  Romans 15: 1-2

 

   In my life there have been times of weakness and times of strength. I find it interesting that when I am feeling weak there is always someone there to help me, and when I am strong, I feel a compulsion to reach out and help others.  Truly, this is the work of God, for on my own, I would be selfish and not selfless.

We had two cats, Otis and Nosey, who were perfect examples of this principle.  When Nosey wandered off and didn’t come up to eat, Otis would go in and out of the door searching for his friend.  When Otis had a bad bladder infection and ran fever, Nosey slept by him and groomed him like a mama cat.  If animals know how to love and care for each other, shouldn’t we?

Christ never tired of caring for others. Thinking nothing of his own needs, he spent his days and nights healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, and helping the helpless.

Helping others does not consist of making a few stops on our scenic route through life. It is a lifelong process, filled with rocky detours and unwanted surprises.

To love and care for those who are sick is a risk.

Choosing not to means losing our way.

Get off the main road and never look back.

 

You are the help of the helpless, Lord.  Come and abide in me.  Amen.

 

 

Article I Wrote About Caregiving for Circuit Rider Magazine

ARTICLE FOR CIRCUIT RIDER MAGAZINE:

 

MINISTERING TO THE SANDWICH GENERATION

By Myra F. Smith

 

     “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”  (Exodus 20:12, NIV Study Bible) 

 

     This is the fifth commandment, given by God to Moses, as one portion of His instructions to the Israelite nation.  This announcement was presented as an inscription on stone tablets.  The Bible tells us, “The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.”  (Exodus 32: 16, NIV Study Bible)

 

     I believe that the question for pastors of the Methodist Conference should be:

   

     How do God’s Words to the Israelites Impact Your Ministry Today?

 

    The answer, I believe, is that God’s word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  His intention was then and now that children obey and honor their parents. When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, caregiving was more of an extended family affair.  Both sets of my grandparents lived within twelve miles of my parents.  People visited each other frequently, and neighbors and friends were more involved in each other’s lives. I’m not suggesting that it was easy, but it involved, I believe, less physical, emotional, and financial stress than we experience today.  In most cases, less time was spent away from church and church activities, due to families living in more tightly knit communities.

     When my husband and I spent six years helping to care for his parents, we drove two and a half hours each way, during the week and on weekends. We bought supplies, medications that weren’t covered by Medicare, and other items they needed.  My husband spent time away from work, and both of us altered our schedules to include time away from home. Our burdens were the same as those of caregivers today.  And just who are these caregivers today, and what are their needs?

     Statistics show that thirty-four million people provide care to adults over the age of fifty today, and the cost to U.S. business due to lost productivity from caregiving ranges from seventeen to thirty-three billion dollars a year. Caregivers use more anti-depressant drugs than the normal population; their social lives are split between time with their children and their aging parents, and  they will experience more arthritis, heart problems, insomnia, depression, headaches and other maladies due to their caregiving responsibilities.

    

     Now, let’s address this question:

 

     How do I, a Methodist Pastor, Respond To The Needs of Caregivers?

 

 What should your personal response be to this group?

 How can you more effectively include them in the life of the church? 

 Which church committees might assist them with their needs?

 Finally, What Does God Have To Do With It?

 

THE PASTOR’S ROLE:

 

      What should your personal response be to this group? 

 

     As the leader of your church congregation, it is important for you to both identify and empathize with the caregivers in your church family.  Caregivers need a lot of love, and if they don’t obtain it from the right source, they may choose a dangerous alternative.  Remember that this group will experience negative behavior patterns, altered eating and sleeping patterns, increased use of prescription and non-prescription drugs, high levels of anxiety, overreaction to criticism, and withdrawal from normal activities.  (Area Agency on Aging 2005 Family Caregiver Education)  A pastor’s sensitivity can make the difference in a caregiver’s overall health.

     Allow them to vent their fears, frustrations, and concerns for their loved ones and themselves. Don’t hesitate to refer them to scripture readings, psalms or other Bible verses for comfort, but present these suggestions in a non-accusatory tone.  Never let a caregiver feel guilty about his or her emotions.  Assure them that their feelings are legitimate, and that God’s love and the love of their church family will always be available to them.

 

      How can you more effectively include them in the life of the church?

 

      Caregivers have less time for church activities, so long-standing committees with weekly meetings, choir rehearsals, teacher positions, or other jobs, will be on hold for now. Perhaps they can assist with the delivery of Christmas gifts for the prison or angel tree ministry; help out with limited amounts of baking, creative arts’ assistance, backstage dressing, or non-homemade treats needed for special events such as the Easter Egg hunt, festivals, spring brunch, Halloween dress-up party in the fellowship hall, or nativity scene on the church grounds. 

     Another idea is to ask caregivers to submit recipes for a cookbook.  When the book is finished, it could be sold at your church festival or other event. The money collected from the sale of the cookbooks could go to a special fund decided upon by the caregivers.  They might want to contribute to an existing church project or create a new “funds for fun” for themselves and other caregivers.

     If they have parents living with them, critical illness issues, or are participating in long distance caregiving, you might gently suggest that their normal church activities will wait for them while they use this time to care for loved ones.

 

      What church committees might assist them with their needs?

 

      Remember that it takes a Methodist village to respond to the needs of caregivers. The Education Committee, the United Methodist Women, or other groups in your church may want to sponsor a “Care for the Caregiver” night.  Caregivers can be sent a special invitation to attend a dinner in their honor.  Church members will be asked to bring a simple dish. It might be a coffee and dessert hour or soup and salad dinner. Remember to hire a babysitter, so the caregiver won’t have to care for their children!

     Another idea is for the Worship Committee, Sunday school classes, or other groups to set up a table at the front of the sanctuary, fellowship hall, or other location.  On that table, put pictures of your caregivers in action.  Along with the pictures, you could have a donation jar with a catchy slogan such as, “Adopt a Caregiver!” Ask members to donate to the jar, and at the end of that time period, the money can be used for a gas card to help with traveling expenses, a gift basket of “goodies for the road” with snacks and coupons from fast food places for a “pick me up” cup of coffee or mocha; a gift certificate for a massage, or a weekend of babysitting sponsored by members of the youth group.  This list is limited only by the imagination and generosity of your church members. Don’t forget that November is National Caregivers Month!

 

     What Does God Have To Do With It?

 

     God’s role is, as I said previously, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His words to care for the sick and honor our father and mother have the same meaning today that they had over two thousand years ago.  As leaders of the church, it should be both your duty and desire to share the good news of our Lord and His message of love, mercy, and grace, to the caregivers in your congregations.

     Encourage the members of your church to assist you in this endeavor, and, as God told Moses and the Israelites so many years ago, you and your congregation will experience a long and fruitful life of service.

 

     And now, I would like to conclude with a simple prayer of blessing I learned as a child in the Methodist Church and have repeated many times through the years:

 

     May God bless you and keep you, make His face to shine upon you, be gracious unto you, and give you peace.  Amen.