IT HAPPENED OVERNIGHT

One day I was 34, then 63, then 75 still running around this world with little to slow me down giving almost no thought to the idea of growing older.

Truth is, the only thing I ever did to prepare for old age was to try to save a little money.  Yet I did not spend time worrying about where I would live, who would take care of me when I became infirm, or would I even have enough money?  If I thought of it at all, I just assumed that, when the time came, everything would fall into place.  That’s me—the Optimistic Octogenarian, or the unrealistic octogenarian.

Then my world sort of caved in.  My Cecil died, my sister fell apart, and I suffered a long continuing wrangle with the court, but the worst thing I did was to look in the mirror.  

I have always contended that age is just a number, and I didn’t mind that the number increased each year.  For, I insisted, “It’s what goes on in the mind and the heart that matters.”  That’s what determines whether or not one is old.  

I still believe that, but when you take a good long look in the mirror, and the gal, who was young and active yesterday, has been replaced by the image of an aging woman, it is impossible to deny the truth.

That aging face looked back at me, and I had to admit that the wrinkles are more pronounced, the step has slowed, the balance is not what it used to be, the joints are disintegrating, and I tire more easily these days.  

I swear to you—this all happened overnight!  I never saw it coming.

King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, one of his poetic volumes, speaks about this aging process.  Of course, being a poet, he refers to teeth as “grinders,” eyes as “windows,” and arms as “keepers of the house.”  

Actually, in chapter 12, he is just saying, “Remember your Creator.  Enjoy life while you can before your arms grow weak, your eyes grow dim, your teeth fall out, and your legs no longer work.”

I find myself laughing as I read Solomon’s words.  I suppose it’s because I am beginning to see my own image in his description of this aging process.

Of course, this happens to everyone eventually.

We try to dress up “old age” to make it less formidable—to soften the blow.  We refer to seniors as Seasoned and Time Honored.  We talk about the autumn or winter or twilight of life, and we speak of them as being superannuated and venerable, but the best and the worst, I think, is the term “Golden Years.”  While these waning years may be golden for some, they are certainly far from golden for the majority.

My amazing brother, who will celebrate his 90th birthday in November, still cleans his own large house and takes care of his own large yard.  My brother who has been in ministry for seventy years, whom no one will believe is almost 90, has made a life-changing decision.  He has decided to sell his house and move to an apartment—not a retirement facility.  He is much too independent for that.  He’s buying all new furniture.  I guess that means he is not planning to check out any time soon.  I love that because I am planning to keep him around forever.

In explaining his decision, he said something very wise.  “I am doing this while I am still healthy—while I can still make all my own decisions.”

When I heard this, I thought of the Apostle Peter to whom Jesus said, in John 21:18—The Message, “When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old, you will have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you do not want to go.”  

This is the case for far too many seniors

I am convinced that the way we live our “Golden Years” depends totally upon our relationship with God and the attitude with which we face life.

Solomon says, in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come…”

“Before the difficult days come.” That is the secret!  I know that I am writing to many younger people.  Solomon’s advice is, “Think about God when you are young.”  Make Him your life now.

When those senior years loom—when the difficult days come—no matter how difficult, God will be there for you.  He will walk with you through the hard times.  Actually, He will carry you.

Isaiah 46:3-4, The Message, “…I’ve been carrying you on my back from the day you were born, and I’ll keep on carrying you when you are old.  I’ll be there, bearing you when you are old and gray.  I’ve done it and will keep on doing it…” and that’s not all.

Psalm 92:12-14, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree…they shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing…”

That’s what God wants for your life.

That’s the way I plan to live my “Golden Years.”

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

SPEAKING THE TRUTH

Now, I know that Easter is a month past, so I am back tracking.  However, since the truth of Easter is always relevant, I must tell you this little story.

Three little words made my day!

Though I am used to being alone, holidays are somehow a little difficult, and I find myself kind of wishing for someone.  The day before Easter I called a couple of people trying to find a lunch partner for that special day. No one was available, so I just determined to make the best of it.  

Leaving Easter services feeling blessed and grateful for God’s goodness, I decided to stop for lunch on the way home.  I felt a little conspicuous walking into that restaurant filled with happy, noisy families. However, I found a table in a quiet corner, and enjoyed my lunch as I reflected on the beauty of the day.

After making a quick stop at my house to pick up a chocolate bunny for my sister, I made a visit to the facility where she lives.

“Guess what!” I said, as I entered June’s room.  “We can have our own Easter service right here, right now.”

She made no objection, so I picked up her Bible, which she can no longer read, and turning to John, chapters 19 and 20, I read the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  Then we sang two old Easter hymns. My sweet sister, who cannot finish a sentence, can still sing these beloved songs nailing every word and note.

We enjoyed the chocolate bunny and sang “In Your Easter Bonnet…,” then it was time for me to leave.  She always says, “Be careful out there. You know, you’re the only one I have.”

On the way home I stopped at Walmart to buy ink for my computer.  Standing in the checkout line behind a tall, curly haired young man, I noticed he held a large bottle of water and another bottle filled with murky, muddy looking liquid.

Turning to me he asked, “Could I get a second opinion?”

“About what,” I replied.

Showing me the murky, muddy liquid, he asked, “Is this printing black or green or grey?”

“It’s black,” I said.

“Are you sure?  You’re not color blind are you?”

“No, of course not,” I said with a laugh.  Then I added, “You must really be concerned about your health to drink that awful looking stuff.”

He made some comment about muscles, and finished checking out.  Then turning to me with a broad smile, he said, “HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY!”

There in the middle of a noisy, mostly unaware mob, surrounded by Walmart’s Easter bunnies, marshmallow chickens and chocolate eggs, this sweet young man joyously and courageously declared the truth of Easter.

Those three little words, HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY, made my day.  I left the market with this great effervescent bubble of joy bouncing around inside me.  There was no longer any vestige of the loneliness and self-pity that had threatened.

I love Easter and all its trappings including chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs, but I recognize that most of these things are manmade additions, some from pagan roots, to the precious truth of Easter.

Simply and truthfully stated, Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s victory over death symbolizing the eternal life that is granted to all who believe in Him, and verifying all Jesus preached and taught during His three years of ministry.

Thank God for a dear young man, who, with three vital words, reminded me of all this on a warm Easter afternoon.

That experience set me to thinking about TRUTH, and I realized that, even those of us who know and believe the truth are often reluctant to declare it for fear of offending someone.

In Isaiah chapter 59, the prophet repents before God for the sins of Israel.  In verse 15 he says, “So truth fails.”

The Message says, “Honesty is nowhere to be found.” In other words, it is altogether gone.  It is missing.

Truth is the basis of our social fabric.  It is the foundation of all morality. All virtue is undermined when there is no longer any regard for the truth.

Sadly, I feel that our dearly beloved America has arrived at this point.  We have left truth behind on the doorstep. Today truth is whatever you want it to be, and nothing remains but wounds and bruises and putrid sores.

My heart says it is time to stand up for the truth.  It’s time to become vocal and conspicuous—to speak the truth loudly and clearly remembering always that the way we live must confirm our words.

Be cautioned.  Speaking the truth always carries a risk.  If you are a truth speaker, sooner or later you will wind up in the enemy’s crosshairs.  He hates the truth, the unimpeachable truth, which finds its foundation in the Word of God.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

A TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER

 

Mother’s, I believe are one of God’s most wonderful gifts to mankind.  In the beginning, according to the Bible, God put Adam to sleep and performed miracle surgery, when He formed a mother out of Adam’s rib.  The Bible says that Eve was the mother of all the living.

I thought about Eve.  Can you imagine her wonder, when first she held that tiny life in her arms and cradled him close?  What did she think when she looked into Cain’s tiny, red, wrinkled face and heard his indignant wails of protest?  Baby Cain was the first baby the world had ever seen, the first baby Eve had ever seen.  For Adam and Eve were created full grown.  They knew nothing of infancy or childhood.

How did Eve know what to with this minute being God had given into her care?  She had no Doctor Spock to depend upon, no pediatrician to call, or learned child psychologist, no Gerber’s, no canned formula, and horror of horrors, no Pampers.  She couldn’t even call Mama, for she had no Mama.  Yet, she knew how to take care of this child, for God had planted the knowing in the breast of this woman, the world’s first mother.

We could, all of us, call the names of other Biblical mothers or mothers well known down through the centuries, but finally, and always, we arrive at our own mother.

I’m thinking of my mother today.  I sometimes called her “Maggie Lou” just to tease her.  That was her name, but she hated it.  She often said she would rather be called “Doggie.”  When I felt especially tender toward her, I called her “Mommy Girl,” but when I was in trouble, I just called “Mama,” and she was there, because she recognized the need in my voice

Mama always seemed to know what I needed, and she did everything in her power to meet that need.

After two years in college working as much as possible, I had used up my meager savings.  That was in the days before government grants and loans, so there was no way I could return to school.  Mama had very little of this world’s goods, but she felt my disappointment.

One day less than a week before the opening of the new fall term, Mama disappeared for a few hours.  No one knew where she had gone, but when she returned, she put her arms around my neck, and looking at me through her tears, whispered, “Go pack your suitcases.  You’re going back to school.”

Mama had been to the bank.  She had no proper job description to put on a loan application.  The little money she had was earned by ironing, or sewing, or cleaning other people’s dirty houses.  She even chopped cotton.  She had no collateral to offer a bank, but on her good name alone, she had borrowed the few hundred dollars, that was obviously a few years ago, needed for my return to school.  Only God knows how difficult it was for her to repay that loan.  It is to her credit that my brother and I are both in ministry today.

Once during my years as a missionary in Europe, I was very ill and confined to bed.  One morning, as I lay there feeling discouraged, lonely, and alone, the phone rang, and across more than six thousand miles, I recognized my mother’s dear voice.  Ordinarily, during those years abroad, I did not tell my Mother when I was in need, for I didn’t want to worry her.  However, when I heard her voice that morning, I could not hold back the tears.

“Oh, Mama,” I cried.  “I am so sick.”

“I knew it,” she exclaimed.  “I knew there was something wrong.  That’s why I called.”  Mama always knew what I needed.  What healing came from her sweet words!

The day came when my Mama was old and frail and sick.  It was my turn to take care of her, but I never did it as well as she did.

Thirty Mother’s Days have come and gone since My Mother went home to be with the Lord.  This morning I picked up her picture, which sets on my dresser.

“Hi, Mommy Girl, I love you, and Mama, I’ll see you before long,” I said.

One of my greatest comforts is to know that Mama is in the presence of the Lord.  She is one of that great “Cloud of Witnesses,” who is watching my progress.  It gives me great joy to know that she approves of the way I am living and what I am doing.  She, too, awaits that glad reunion day.

Cherish your mother.  She’s one of a kind!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MAMA!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

           

REMEMBERING THE FUTURE

REMEMBERING THE FUTURE

            Flipping through channels yesterday afternoon, I was stopped by these words, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future…”

            This morning, unable to forget that statement, I went on line to discover that those words were written by the Danish Philosopher and Theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, who lived and wrote in the 19th century.  His complete statement was, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you will never have.”  Kierkegaard is describing a feeling of somber nostalgia for unrealized possibilities, a sense of regret or grief for the future that will never be.

            In the last six years, I have spent a good amount of time doing just that.  Many of you will remember that, after waiting a lifetime, at the age of seventy-seven, I finally married for the first time.

I actually don’t remember thinking about what the future would be like with sweet Cecil.  If I had thought about it, I would have acknowledged that, at our age, we would never celebrate a twenty-fifth anniversary, but ten years together was not out of the question.

However, I was so taken up with the fairy tale aspect of the present, the excitement of preparing for a wedding, and the fact that a wonderful man loved me that I gave little thought to the future.

When I walked down the aisle toward my beaming bridegroom, on that chilly February afternoon, there was not a cloud in the sky.  The future could be nothing less than glorious.

After a storybook honeymoon, we came home to learn how to live with each other.  I had always lived alone, but Cecil was not hard to get used to.  We lay side by side late into the night making plans for the future.  We snuggled on the sofa, prayed together, and held hands.  Cecil mowed the lawn, and I did the laundry, and five months later, he was gone dying from an inoperable aortic aneurysm.

I was devastated.  The tears wouldn’t stop.  I stood before his portrait and howled like a banshee.  We had never spent a Christmas together, never celebrated my birthday, and we would never observe one wedding anniversary.  So many “Nevers!”  A funeral and a burial will be a big part of my memories.

The French have a term, “déjà vu” meaning the strange feeling that in some way you have already experienced what is happening for the first time.  I don’t know if it fits here, but I have imagined the joy of Christmas with Cecil sitting by the tree opening gifts, enjoying the turkey and the pecan pie.  In thought, I have vicariously experienced river cruises we planned, and the missions work on our agenda.  I am remembering first time experiences that have never happened and never will happen.

When I open the drapes each morning, I am face to face with his smiling photo.  I can greet him now without tears, but I am always wondering where he is.  I admit that I do scold him once in awhile, when I must deal with mechanics, when a light bulb needs changing, when I don’t want to go alone.  Last year was a difficult, painful time for me.  I could imagine Cecil’s tenderness as he cared for me.  I was mad at him!  Why wasn’t he there?

“Where are you, when I need you, Cecil?

I can almost see his broad grin as he runs to help.

Cecil still fills much of my thoughts.  The knowledge that our future has been lost is ever present.  In a sense, I will never stop suffering the loss.  I still want to know the “what ifs,” the parts that cannot be answered.  I still want to know what my future life would look like, but—

One cannot grieve forever.  Life goes on.  Being a child of God and knowing Christ as I do, I know He has a plan for my life, and even at the age of eighty-three, there is still a purpose for my remaining years.  I will not spend my time crying “If only,” and longing for something that cannot be.

The sweet singer of Israel says, in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”

Again, in Psalm 30:5, David tells us, “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

That’s my story.  My Father has healed my broken heart and bandaged the hurts.  Night is passed and morning has dawned.  That supernatural joy that only God can give, the joy I thought was lost has returned, and there is a song in my heart.

Just a note:  God’s healing is complete, but grieving is a process.  It was close to two years before I was sort of my old self again able to return to the main stream, able to resume my responsibilities.  Though I will always love Cecil and think of him, I want you to know I have not been crying for six years.  God’s healing really is wondrous!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!