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    Jun 18, 2017

    The Foundation

    Passage: Matthew 7:24-27

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Series: Important Conversations

    Category: Pastoral Care

    Planning and preparation for life's tough challenges is important for both caregivers and care receivers.

    There were two things I said last week that I would like to repeat – two things that were the nugget of last week’s message:

    • Though we can’t control nor anticipate everything that will come our way, it is vitally important that we have conversations that prepare us. Knowing what our loved one thinks and values and wants may not solve all the problems, but it sure helps when the time comes that you have to figure out what to do when dementia begins to steal a mind or illness eats away at a body.
    • I believe that James’ message for us today is to be wise – and that it takes our dependence on God’s wisdom for us to be wise in situations that are chaotic and confusing and painful. And I am convinced that if we do not exercise wisdom by connecting with God and preparing ahead for the tough times, it is harder on us emotionally and does not lead to good decisions when good decisions really count. Preparation doesn’t take away the pain – it just gives us a platform – a foundation – that makes it possible to make good decisions at difficult moments.

    The complete message from last week is posted on our website, so if you are interested, you can read it there.

    Today’s focus builds on the need for being wise and preparing in a way that will help everyone through the times that you need strength. There is no foundation for life that comes anywhere close to the foundation of THE Rock – Jesus Christ. Notice the language of the wise man’s building process:
    • Dig deep and lay a foundation on rock –My mother loves the Poldark saga in books and in the public tv shows, so we’ve been watching it with her. Just the other day, we saw a great image of the difference of digging deep and being shallow. Ross Poldark is, by upper crust society standards, a ne’er do well who has emerged after the Revolutionary War to find his inheritance – his estate – in ruin and the whole of the Cornwall countryside in turmoil as those with a great deal are greedily grabbing for more while the peasants who have worked the mines for centuries are becoming increasingly poor. The mine owners are paying lower and lower wages and are clearly finding every way possible to take more and more from those who need it the most.

    Ross Poldark defies convention time and time again, standing up for the poor, marrying a peasant, and working with his men in the family mine that he struggles to reopen. He literally gets dirty and sweaty with them and faces all of the danger of crawling deep into the mine to find a vein of copper. In scene after scene, Ross treats his dependents as equals and advocates for their dignity by seeing that he pays adequate wages and going to court when one of his men is in deep trouble. Those who live on his estate are clearly grateful and would do almost anything to help this man of honor and integrity. They work together and celebrate together when the mining operation finally pays off.

    Contrast that with his cousin, Francis Poldark. Francis’ branch of the family tree has fared much better. Fancy clothes and money for high living have not been lost – that is, until Francis takes the reins of the business after his father’s death. His father taught Francis an arrogant disdain for the lower classes, and Francis was no innovative leader. Even after asking Ross for some help, he couldn’t even begin to relate to the people who worked for him. Saying “good morning” was tragically awkward for him. He loses his over-200-year-old family mine and the means of support for many dependents in a poker game.

    What does digging deep and laying a foundation mean to you?
    o Worship, Bible study and holy conversation – deepening and developing your faith
    o Planning ahead – so the decisions are not as susceptible to the panic of emotion.
    o Preparing:
     Make a will. Decide where you want your estate to go. Do you want to make a gift to a favorite niece or nephew? Do you wish to make a contribution to your church?
     Be sure you have Advance Directives for every member of your family. We have printed 50 copies of the Maryland packet, which is FAR better than it used to be and includes both Advance Directives and Living Will. It asks the important questions and defines what the terms mean. If we run out and you want a copy, please just let the office know. In terms of digging deep, it will help you to talk about things like what you want done with your body. Do you want to be cremated? Buried? Donate your body to science? Please read the cover letter as it contains several very important pieces of information.
     Gather all of your vital papers and keep them where your family can find them.
     Consider your funeral. What scriptures have sustained you in life? What music would you like used? But friends, as your pastor, I am going to ask that you not tie the hands of your family. While your funeral is a time when we will thank God for your life and your influence and your faith, it is a critical part of the healing process when someone dies. If you think you are doing your family a favor by telling them that you don’t want a funeral or viewing, you are not helping them. You could actually be prolonging and complicating their grief.

    Shifting our focus a bit, there are 2 additional things I would like to share today.

    First, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting help and taking breaks when you are the caregiver for someone you love. You may be providing care from afar – in other words, the loved one lives somewhere else, nearby or far away. It doesn’t matter where your care receiver lives, you need help and the Sabbath of being away on a regular basis and times for true vacation.

    Perspective and patience wear down. Aggravation increases. Little things get on your nerves. Do you know that old saying about southern women? We – I mean THEY – will be nice right up to the moment when they can’t take it anymore and then they are ready to kill you! I actually think that holds true for most of us. We hold things in and then explode.

    If there is no alternate family member available to give you a break, consider respite care. There are quite a few respite programs nearby, including the ARC of Baltimore which has some funding through Easter Seals.

    Finally, I had another conversation last week with our faith family member who said that, while what I was saying was helpful, it really didn’t help her. What to do when the care receiver is uncooperative? In fact, I know that there are times when it’s not just a matter of not cooperating. It can be much worse than that, especially if your loved one has been difficult or even abusive throughout their lifetime.

    Friends, there is no easy answer to this. Perhaps, though, you can think about it this way. When an aging parent needs care, there will be many times when you have to make the decisions. Insisting, for example, that you move into his or her home because they don’t want to move, may be fine with you – and it may not. You may need to say no – which is not easy when it’s your parent. Roles often reverse, and simply caving to unreasonable demands is not any more effective when dealing with an aging parent than it is with a small child.

    One of the things that Katherine and I have talked about in her short time with us is pastoral identity. I’ll never forget the first time someone came to me and called me her pastor. It was thrilling and terrifying all at the same moment – with the emphasis on the terror. You probably noticed that when the children come up for the Children’s Moment, I talk about Pastor Katherine. That’s as much for her benefit as it is for the children to see her in her role.

    Taking on the role of parent to your parent is just as daunting – maybe even more so. Most of us deeply love and respect our parents. Taking over seems more than presumptuous. But sometimes there is absolutely no other sensible choice – for their health and safety. It is made easier by the deep digging and preparation of a foundation at a time when your world is not already rocking.

    Friends, this is Holy Spirit work. I can attest to the fact that the God is working at your side, giving you every opportunity to draw on God’s strength and courage and mercy and grace – and healing power that is as much for you as it is for the person who is ill. Our cooperation with God in digging deep and laying a foundation just opens our hearts, minds, ears, and eyes for where God is and what God is doing on our behalf!