Care, definition of

I struggle to remember definitions. So when a friend asked me how I would define “care” for a podcast, I had to do some reflecting.

Care is considering the needs of another person, discerning my role in meeting them, and doing as much of my role as I can. 

CareI’ll unpack that in a minute, but I got the starting point from a Greek word: epimeleomai. It means to take care of, involving forethought and provision. Jesus uses this word to talk about the Good Samaritan.

[The Samaritan man] went to [the beaten man] and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Care starts with the other person, not us. It starts with looking at their situation, whether physical, psychological, relational, spiritual, structural. It starts with assessing what they need.

Care moves to discerning our role in meeting some of those needs. You can’t meet all of them. We’re not built to meet all of them. But there are some needs that you are created, trained, experienced, to notice and possibly to meet. (One way to decide what our role is may be to consider what we notice that others don’t. And this discerning process includes conversation with God.)

Care then moves from caring about to caring for. Having seen what you can do, you have to do it. As much as you can, in consort with others who are caring in other ways, without looking for attention, and without downplaying the value of what you are doing.

If what you are built to notice is unheld hands, hold hands. If you see noisiness, offer silence. If you see hunger, offer an apple (sliced). If you see a structure destroying lives and you have the means to bring change, bring change.

How does this resonate with you?


3 x 5

A week from today, in the US, is Thanksgiving. That’s scary for most of the people I talk to. We are stunned that the year has gone so fast.

But whether it feels fast or slow, in actual days it has been 320 days since January 1. Whether we’re feel guilty about wasting time or grateful for investing time, it has been 320 days since January 1.

One way to invest time is to spend a little of it planning what to do. Here are a few suggestions for the days between now and next Thursday, to give us some things for which to be thankful.

  1. Read Psalm 1 in the morning. Write “meditate day and night” on a 3×5 card. Stick in your pocket. When you take the card out of your pocket, think about that phrase.
  2. Ask God and yourself who you need to apologize to. Write that name on a 3×5 card and put it in your pocket. Apologize. Shred the card.
  3. Write a note on a 3×5 card to someone you haven’t seen for a month. Put it in an envelope. Address the envelope. Mail it.
  4. Write “The Lord is my Shepherd” on a 3×5 card. Each time you realize that you are looking for another shepherd today, pull out the card and put an x. And remind yourself that the Lord is willing to offer direction and comfort. Each time you realized that someone else is trying to shepherd you, pull out the card and put an n. And remind yourself that there are many voices calling to you that are not his. At the end of the day say, “But, after all that, the Lord is my shepherd.”
  5. Write “Nicely done” on a 3×5 card. Sign your name. Leave it under a paperclip on a report from a kid, or on a keyboard, or under the plate at the restaurant. Or just look at it before you go to bed.

3 x 5

A bit on waiting in a prepared way.

Jesus tells stories and offers explanations and provides examples so that his followers have his way to interpret things and don’t have to use their own ways or other people’s ways.

Jesus often talks about the Kingdom because it’s his kingdom and he doesn’t want us to get it confused with our kingdoms.

In a story in Matthew 25, Jesus says imagine that there are 10 young women, signed up to help with a wedding celebration. When the groom came to meet the bride at her father’s house and take her to his house for a celebration, they were simply to be present and to celebrate. All of these young women fell asleep because it got so late. In fact, it was midnight when the call came.

Half the young women had anticipated that it could take a long time. They brought oil to refill the lamps. The other half thought things would happen quickly. They didn’t bring any extra oil.

We can try to fill in all kinds of details that Jesus doesn’t.  But Jesus is telling the story to help people understand that the kingdom IS coming and that the coming IS unpredictable, and that our opportunity and responsibility are to be ready. The waiting is PART of being in the Kingdom. And it is a hard part.

Most people at some point care about something.
We are committed. We care. We belong.
But things that matter take time.
Or they have their own timing.
The caring is hard to make last.
Because the adrenaline runs out.
The waiting is interminable.
The distractions inside and outside our heads are constant.
Our caring and commitment disappear.
We fall asleep.
And when the important moment actually comes, many of us are caught by surprise.
And we miss, irretrievably, an opportunity, an event, a possibility.

IMG_2590.JPGThe answer is not more adrenaline. The answer, Jesus suggests, is more oil. Live faithful, not frantic.

The answer, Jesus suggests, is living in a way that knows that things aren’t going to happen in our control, in our timing, in our understanding. To prepare, we can live. That’s what the oil is, I think, taken from the two stories after this.  One is about offering our lives back to God, and the other about looking for Jesus in hospital beds and homeless shelters, lonely faces and empty stomachs, hurting hearts and chaotic minds.

And if we fall asleep, as we fall asleep, we know that we’ve done what we could.

About Joshua.

Sunday morning we read about Joshua’s last public words. You can read them yourself in Joshua 24.

Joshua was the leader of Israel who followed Moses. He came after Moses, but he also followed Moses.

Joshua was born in Egypt, learning the stories of a God who had chosen people and promised them a land. And Joshua heard those stories while he lived as a boy in Egypt. As had his family, and his family’s family, as far back as they could tell. We don’t know what Joshua thought about the stories.

Suddenly Moses interrupted everything and Joshua and his family and all the rest of the families they knew left Egypt and end up in the wilderness.But out in wilderness, many people, including Joshua’s dad’s generation, don’t have much hope. They look around at the situation and believed that God still hadn’t done much.

Joshua held onto the stories.

Somehow, he became an assistant to Moses. Or maybe an apprentice. Whatever his precise role, Joshua was partway up the mountain when God gave the commands to Moses. Joshua sat in the presence of God. Later, when Moses would go the tent in the wilderness and meet with God and then go to the people, Joshua would hang back at the tent, sitting in the presence of God.

That devotion to God gave Joshua the courage to do God’s work and to speak God’s words all through his life, in the face of much argument and doubt. Joshua is the commander of the army. But I have the sense that he’s not a warrior who asks God to bless and protect him. Instead, he seems to be a worshipper who is sent with God’s protection.

So at the end of his life, Joshua talks to the people and says, “You have to make a choice to follow God or not.” And Joshua points to his life and says, “I chose following.” That little boy in Egypt became the old man in the promised land.

And then, when the people say, “we will follow” he says, “No, you won’t.” Four times they have this exchange. Joshua wants them to be sure.

Because Joshua knew that obedience wasn’t about the words, it was about the pattern of your actions across the decades. Obedience to God started even when you weren’t sensing evidence that God was being obedient to himself.

A lament for Monday morning.

Hope and several musician friends had a concert for Thanksgiving. (They are known as the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the Philharmonic Chorus, but dads  see and name their children first.) The second piece was by Beethoven, Elegiac Song. I had never heard it, though that’s not surprising. It’s not performed often. Beethoven wrote it to be performed by a very small group. He wrote it specifically for a friend and patron, in memory of his friend’s wife. She had died three years earlier.

The song starts quietly, first with strings, then with voices. About 1:49 into the song, the male voices cry out with intensity and volume, and then blend back in. There is a little emotional swell later in the piece, more gradual, more restrained.

It is a beautiful, emotionally thoughtful piece.

And the cry at 1:49 sounded almost exactly like the voice of a husband I stood with as he lost his wife.

Many people around us are walking through deep grief these days. Maybe including you. Too young, too soon, too sudden, too final.

Although no one has lost the person they/you have lost, they/you are not alone in loss. Beethoven’s musical echo of my new friend bears witness to that fact. That community of unique loss doesn’t say, “I know how you feel.” It does say, however, “I know what it is to feel loss”.

I wish, of course, that I had magic words to reverse the pain. I felt adrift as I stood with the husband, as I sat with the family. I knew that I couldn’t heal, couldn’t fast forward, couldn’t take away the finality. The prayer requesting healing in minutes before, as the physicians were working urgently, was not answered in the way we had asked. I know the hope of the resurrection, but at the moment, the loss hurts like hell.

But I know these things. We go on one breath at a time. We care by sitting without answers. We need to be strengthened when we are not in grief.

And music can let us cry.