Routine Maintenance

One of the people I met at the Seattle University Search for Meaning Book Festival was Jack Levison, a professor of New Testament at Seattle Pacific University. Jack and I traded copies of our books and I have started reading one of his, Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life.

Levison makes the important point that “if we want to be inspired, if we yearn to have God’s spirit upon us, then we need to hunker down for the long haul by maintaining the relationship we have with God and God with us.” And, he reminds us, that maintaining that relationship requires “routine maintenance.”

Levison finds a helpful prescription for routine maintenance in Isaiah 50:4-5, which he terms a model for receiving the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The “servant” in Isaiah says, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a learner, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning God wakens – wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God hs opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.”

From this passage, Levison extracts three simple steps in a program of routine maintenance:

First, meet God every morning. Commit yourself to routine awakening.

Second, listen – don’t talk. Practice routine listening.

Third, train for the goal of sustaining the weary with a word. Devote yourself to routine encouragement.

It doesn’t really seem all that complicated, does it? A simple presciption to incorporate into the routine of our days.


Inspiration for Caregivers

Increasing numbers of people find themselves in caregiving roles of various types. Somtimes the assumption of those roles is predictable (the need to care for an aging parent). Other times there is no advance preparation and the need to become a caregiver arises completely unexpectedly.

Being a caregiver can be physically and emotionally exhausting and it is easy for caregivers to feel overwhelmed by the demands on them.

With a desire to provide encoragement and inspiration to caregivers, Lori Hogan, founder of Home Instead Senior Care, wrote Strength for the Moment: Inspiration for Caregivers. I just finished reading the book, which was sent to me by Image/Random House for review.

The book is comprised of a series of 52 stories, each introduced by Hogan, told by caregivers about their caregiving situations, what they learned from it and the emotions they experienced. Although caregiving situations vary – some involving the care of an aging parent, others the care of a special needs child, others persons rendered infirm by accident or illness – there is a lot people entering caregiving situations can learn from the stories and a lot to energize those who have been exhausted by their efforts.

A couple of powerful images in the book stood out for me. One is the image of a two-sided ladder one woman used to view her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Each run on the ladder represented a year. Before her mother’s illness, “Mom advanced in age up one side of the ladder, but with Alzheimer’s she began to move downt he other.” That image helped her as her mother regressed through her illness as she saw the same stages in her one sees in a growiing child – only backwards – from six year old girl behavior, to the three year old needing constant entertainment to the “terrible twos.” Seeing it in these terms helped her to cope with the various stages.

Another image that struck me as particularly useful for careviging outside of the family was the shift from “project” to “person I love,” one woman used in talking about caregiving for someone in her community. When we think of “project” and “good deeds” we think in terms of “duty.” Everything changes, however, when we see the person served “no longer a ‘project’ but a person I love.”

In addition to the introduction and caregiving story, each chapter contains a verse of scripture for reflection and a short prayer.

If I have a criticism of the book, it is that the stories in each chapter are too truncated. With a couple I was left wondering what the point of the story was. I would have opted for fewer longer stories. Still I believe many will find them inspiring and will learn somrthing from them.