AGE IS AN ILLUSION

If you have followed my ravings for the last couple of years, you will know that, in spite of approaching my 84th birthday, I refuse to think of myself as being old.  I declare, with vigor, that my mind is young. My heart, with a pacemaker, is still working, and my attitude is positive.

However, the very kind caregivers, in the rehab center where I was held captive for three weeks, did their best to convince me that I am old.  The first night I was there, a young gal came romping into my room announcing that she had come to change my diaper.

“My diaper,” I yelped!

“You don’t need your diaper changed,” she asked?

“No! I don’t have a diaper, and I’m not planning to have one,” I told her.

“Oh,” she said as she quietly left the room.

This scenario was replayed over and over again much to my chagrin.

Please understand.  I want to be honest with myself, and with you, about this whole thing.  I need to be realistic, so I reluctantly admit that more and more I am recognizing little signs of aging.  Oh, not physical signs. That’s been going on for a long time. Anyone can look at me and know I am old. I am thinking of mental processes.

Much to my frustration, my memory sometimes fails me, and I am a little more cantankerous and determined, if that’s possible, than I used to be.

Before my scheduled surgery at the end of July, I had some work done on my house.  Because of unexpected delays, the work was not finished by the time I had to leave. Consequently, I allowed the workmen to install a lockbox, so they could finish the project while I was gone.

I couldn’t take my purse, money or other valuables to the hospital, so at the last minute, I decided to keep them safe by locking them in my file cabinet.  Good idea! Right?

Upon my return, I was anxious to retrieve my stuff, so I went to the drawer where the file key should be, but it wasn’t.  Truth is, I had no memory of having put it there or anywhere else. I looked the house over from stem to stern. No key! What to do!  I tried my best to jimmy the drawer open. I used every other key in the house. I called friends. I went to the office supply store where I bought the file.  They couldn’t help me.  

Somewhere during that time I thought about my rings.  They weren’t in the drawer where I keep them. Surely a worker didn’t take them.  Did I put them in my purse before I locked it up? I didn’t remember. That morning was a blur.

Finally, I called a locksmith.  Oh, I knew to do that all along, but I was so determined to save some money and take care of things by myself.

I was relieved to find my rings nestled safely in my purse.

So memory is sometimes a problem, and there are other things to be considered.

What do I do when I can no longer take care of me and my house?  Already I am forbidden to climb a ladder, so how do I change a light bulb or an air filter.  How do I retrieve that bowl on the top shelf?

I can’t afford not to think about these things, neither can I afford to be obsessed by them.  So, I am taking it one day at a time constantly reminded that, if my mind is centered on Jesus, my heart will be at peace.

In Psalm 37:25 David said, “I have been young now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”  God is faithful!

Isaiah 46:4 declares, “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!  I have made and I will bear; even I will carry you and deliver you.” He is talking about Israel here, but I believe this also applies to the individual.

This just simply means that even when the hair is white, eyes grow dim, and the teeth are falling out, God will take care of His own. 

Psalm 92:14 tells us, “They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.”  That’s God’s promise.  That’s what I want to be.  Even at an advanced age we don’t have to throw up our hands and quit.  We can still make a difference.

Age is an illusion!  That’s what they say.  To me that means even though my body betrays me, I will guard my sense of humor, live with a positive attitude, and try to make a difference in this world as long as I am here.

My best advice—“Don’t give up on something because you think you are too old or too young.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

“Have you ever been lonely?

Have you ever been blue?                                               

                                                               Have you ever…”

This old country song recorded by Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline asks a poignant question, which we could all answer in the affirmative.  Who hasn’t been lonely or blue from time to time?

That melody set me to thinking about the word “blue.”  It can mean so many things. We talk of blue skies and limpid blue eyes, baby blue and butterflies—all lovely things.  Yet the word blue also has a darker meaning. It can refer to one who is sad, in low spirits or, taken to the extreme, one who is even suffering from a psychotic disorder called depression.  Life has come to a halt. It seems all hope is gone. It is difficult to think, concentrate, or even function normally, and feelings of dejection overwhelm.

I have just come home from three weeks in a rehab facility recovering from a left knee replacement.  I needed to be there to take advantage of the great physical therapy, but I hated being there for various other reasons.  

At least three times, perhaps four, a nice lady stood by my bed with her clipboard and asked me the following questions.

“Have you ever been depressed?”

“Have you ever felt that life is hopeless?”

“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”

My answer to each question was an emphatic, “No!”

Those thoughts, those dark places, are so foreign to me.  Have I ever been sad? Have I ever felt blue? Of course, I have, but never to the point where I couldn’t function—never to the point where I wanted to give up.

When sweet Cecil died after only five months of marriage, I was devastated.  It was the worst time of my life, but even then I knew there was hope and help and one day the sun would shine again.  How did I know that? I knew that because I knew Jesus, and His middle name is HOPE and HELP and COMFORT and RESTORATION.

So, here in this rehab center, I was feeling kind of proud, maybe even a little superior.  I was laughing and joking with my therapists and caregivers. I was ahead of the curve in my physical progress.  Everyone was a little amazed at how well this 83-year-old woman was doing. I liked that!

Then the light came on, and I realized where I was.  This place was not only a temporary rehab center. It was also a long term skilled nursing facility, and most of the residents were there without choice, and they weren’t going home in three weeks. 

I watched some of these long-time residence wheeling around in their wheelchairs going nowhere, and I wondered about the ones who were confined to their beds.  Were they suffering depression? Had they given up? Were they longing for the end of life?

I can’t imagine the degree of desperation that would motivate me to take my own life.  Yet I know that it happens. Suicide in the elderly accounts for 18% of all suicide deaths.  Among those 65 and older there is a suicide every 90 minutes, nearly 16 every day.

Somehow my sense of pride and superiority disappeared as I realized how very blessed I am.  I had a place to go home to in a few days. I would be able to cook a meal and mop the floors again.  O, goodie! I could get in the car and drive to Taco Bell. I could go to church and lunch with my friends.  I left that rehab center feeling, not proud, but grateful for the healing that was taking place in my body, and grateful that I have a personal relationship with the author of HOPE.

You may feel “blue” today.  In fact, you may feel as though you have hit rock bottom and there is no way out of the pit.  Let me tell you, “He is our hope.”

The Psalmist David said, “…My hope is in You,” and the writer of Hebrews 6:18 (The Message) tells us that God can’t break His word, so “…we who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.”

In Romans 5:5 the Apostle Paul declares, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…”

In your time of need, flee to Christ, who is your hope.  He will not disappoint.

If you are on cloud nine today, thank God for His goodness, and share your joy with a suffering neighbor.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

THINGS THOUGHT IMPOSSIBLE

I was born with the wanderlust.  I inherited it from my father.  He never saw much of this world, but when he became restless, we just moved across town.  In fact, we lived in seven different rentals, in the same small town, between my second birthday and kindergarten.  We always paid the rent, so we weren’t running from the landlord.

I have seen a lot of the world and yet, at the age of eighty, I still long to fly away to some distant land to see new faces and experience new places.

When I was four years old, my father decided to move the family to Colorado.  Someone told me it snows there, and Colorado was colored pink on the map, so I put it all together and decided that the Colorado Mountains were covered with pink snow.  I was excited.

The day came when the seven of us, mama, daddy, and five kids, piled into our 1934 Buick and started across the Arizona desert towing a large four-wheeled trailer filled with our early poverty belongings.

For some inexplicable reason, my father chose the month of August for this family adventure.  In 1939, there was no such thing as air conditioning in an automobile, but not one of us died from heat exhaustion.  

Zipping along through the burning desert, at 40 miles per hour, we made good time until we turned north toward the mountains.  Yarnell Hill was our first challenge.  To my father’s dismay, the Buick balked unable to pull the weight and make the uphill grade.  Again and again, he tried to no avail.

Finally, daddy decided that he would offload part of the weight, take the rest to the summit and come back for another load.  Part of what he offloaded was My Mother, my sisters, and me.  The boys would be his helpers. 

We have a picture of my twelve-year-old sister standing in the skinny shade of a saguaro cactus. 

My Dad has been gone for many years, but I can still feel his frustration, disappointment and sense of failure as he tried time and again to find a way to get his family to Colorado.

At the end of the day, hot, tired, dirty and disheartened, we turned around and headed back to Wickenburg.  There we found a place to camp for the night.  Daddy went to a nearby grocery store coming back with supper – bread, bologna and a big bucket of ice water.

Setting the icy water down by the car running board, where I rested my four-year-old self, my father turned to other chores, and I lifted my poor tired, dirty, disappointed little toes and plunged them into that deliciously frigid bucket.  To this day, I cannot remember the consequences of my precipitous action, but there had to be some compensation for the loss of pink snow, right?

The next morning our tired and wiser family headed back to the valley where my parents were at home for more than fifty years.

The mountains defeated us.  Had we conquered the first rise, which was not much of a mountain at all, I wonder what we would have done when we reached the Rockies. 

Years ago we sang a little chorus:  

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable.

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through.

God specializes in things thought impossible.

And He can do what no other power can do.”

Mountains often defeat us.  Too frequently we are faced with insurmountable problems to which there is no discernible solution.  Like my father, we exhaust ourselves trying to get over, around or through the problem. 

2500 years ago, a man named Zerubabbel faced just such a mountain.  

After seventy years in captivity, he led 50,000 Israelites back to Jerusalem, where they anticipated rebuilding the temple and their treasured city.  He was no doubt discouraged when he saw the extent of the work, his feeble resources, and the formidable opposition. This was a mountain he could not cross.

In Zechariah 4:6 – 7 we read:  “…This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.  Who are you, O, great mountain?  Before Zerubabbel you shall become a plain!”   

I like the way the Message says it.  “So, big mountain, who do you think you are?  Next to Zerubabbel you are nothing but a molehill.”

You may be facing an unscalable mountain today.  Remember, it is not by your efforts, but by the power of the Spirit of God.  When you stand shoulder to shoulder with Him, that mountain is nothing but a molehill.  He can do what no other power can do.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

Bionic Woman

 

Many of you are too young to remember “The Bionic Woman,” a very popular television series from 1976 – 1978.

After a skydiving accident resulting in extensive injury, Jaime Sommers’ body was rebuilt with cybernetic or electromechanical implants known as bionics.  

The word bionics is a combination of the words biology and electronics.

Jaime was given an amplified bionic ear enabling her to hear at low volumes over uncommonly long distances.  She had extraordinary strength in her new right arm—strength enough to bend steel, and with her powerful legs, she could run over 60 miles per hour.  Need I tell you? This girl became an undercover spy for the Office of Scientific Information, (whatever that is) while posing as a middle school teacher.  Farfetched! Yes, but not for long.

Bionic implants are no longer farfetched.  There is the Bionic ear (cochlear implant), the artificial heart, an I LIMB hand, and retinal implants.  These mechanical versions replace or enhance organs or other body parts. They differ from mere prosthetics by mimicking the original function very closely or even surpassing it.

Now, I am telling you all this, so you will understand when I say, “I am quickly becoming a bionic woman.”

I now have an artificial aortic valve, a pacemaker, numerous stents, an artificial right knee twice over, a new right hip, and next Wednesday, I will receive a new left knee.  

Of course, none of these are bionic, well, maybe the pacemaker is.  I won’t be able to run any faster, hear any better or even open a water bottle, and I won’t be serving as a spy for the Office of Scientific Information.  I am hoping, however, to be able to walk again without a limp, and with a little more assurance. But—I think the cane will be with me ‘til Jesus comes. After that you can find me running down the Golden Streets.

So much for the Bionic Woman!  

Regardless of the outcome of knee replacement, I have learned that my true strength does not come from surgery, artificial joints, canes or walkers.  I depend upon the God who made me. He is my strength!

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Psalm 27:1, “…The Lord is the strength of my life.”

Just so you know.  I will be in rehab, out of commission, for about three weeks, so you will have to put up with some “Oldies but Goodies.”

As MacArthur said, “I shall return!”  I’m a tough old gal, and I’m not finished yet.  My surgeon calls me “TIGER.”

Appreciate your prayers!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

GOD’S PLAN OR MINE

  Remember Jonah and the Whale?  It was the most unbelievable, spellbinding story leaving a multitude of unanswered questions in my childish mind.   Was it true? What was it like inside that big belly? Could Jonah breathe? Was he scared? Why didn’t he obey God? Did it really happen?

Yes!  I knew it really happened for it was recorded in God’s word.  That was enough for me, and yet there has been a running controversy since Jonah’s time, for upward of 2800 years.

In all the discussion, it has been determined that it is possible that a sperm whale, for instance, could swallow a man.  Sperm whales sometimes swallow squid whole, so it could definitely manage a human.

Perhaps it wasn’t a sperm whale.  It could have been some now extinct marine reptile or a dog headed sea dragon that swallowed Jonah.

  Admittedly, it’s possible he may have been swallowed by one of those sea creatures, but scientists are adamant in their declaration that he never could have survived any longer than if he were held underwater.

According to some, an alternative to this strange survival story may be that Jonah actually died—drowned in the sea—before he was swallowed.  Then God resurrected him three days later when the fish reached the shores of Nineveh. Still, others ask, “How could he have prayed in that belly, if he were already dead?  And—the argument continues.

Some now regard the Book of Jonah as a novel written with a theological purpose.

For me, miracles, rather than scientific theories, are the best explanation for Jonah.  God “prepared” a great fish.” I don’t know if He refashioned one of His existing creatures or if He made something brand new equipped with an oxygen tank able to sustain a man for three day or if He just kept Jonah alive supernaturally.  In any case, I still believe in miracles.  

However, this story is not about whether or not a fish can swallow a man.  It is about obedience to God’s will. God had said, “Go to Nineveh—that wicked city, and tell them, if they don’t repent, I’m going to destroy them.”

Jonah had other ideas.  He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about God’s plan or His will.  He hated the Ninevites and didn’t want God to be merciful to them.  He wanted God to destroy them. He was convinced he was 100% right, so he ran away, and his disobedience resulted in a wild, dark, three-day ride from the depths of the billows and waves of the sea to the quiet shoreline, and a direct route to Nineveh.  

Imagine what he must have looked like lying there on the beaches of Nineveh in a puddle of fish vomit.  After three days in the belly of this great fish, he was one scary dude! Digestive acids had bleached him white.  He was shriveled like a prune with seaweed tangled in his hair and wrapped around his neck, and barnacles growing on his head.

Jonah had no one to blame but himself.  This whole calamity originated with his attitude toward God’s will.  

I can safely assure you that Jonah’s attitude toward God’s plan took a 180 degree turn as he slide down the gullet of that terrifying being.  

Jonah 2:1 says, “Then Jonah prayed…”  He describes his helpless situation, and in 2:7, he cries, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.”

Do you sometimes feel that you are in the belly of a big fish?  I do! When I decide to do something on my own without asking God’s guidance or I knowingly disobey what I know to be His will, then the big fish shows up, and everything goes out of control.

I like the words to the song that says:

“Are you in the big fish?

Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad?

Have you turned your back on His wish, or His will for your life?

 Have you made Him sad?

Do you want to get out of the big fish?

Listen to God and follow His plan,

And you won’t be part of the main dish.

He’ll spit you out on dry land.”

 

Jonah got the message.  He still hated the Assyrians.  He still wanted God to destroy them, but in spite of that, he did what God asked him to do.  The Assyrians were saved, and Jonah learned some great lessons about compassion.

Whoever you are, God has a plan for your life, but you may not like His assignment.   Like Ford, you have a better plan, and you are convinced that you are 100% right. Your plan is superior, more reasonable, more just.  Besides, you are sure you cannot do what God asks. Let me tell you, “God intends to make you ideally suited to carry out His plan.

Will you follow His plan or will you turn your back?

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

MONSOON SEASON

MONSOON SEASON

Monsoon season is now underway in Arizona and the rest of the southwest. Arizona monsoons are typically experienced during summertime, July through September.  At this time of the year, there is a shift in wind direction bringing a different kind of weather. Temperatures rise, humidity increases and winds are high. Thunderstorms move through the region bringing dust storms, periods of heavy desert rain and flash flooding.

If I understand correctly, storms develop when warm, moisture-filled air rises.  As the air rises, it cools and the moisture condenses falling back to earth in the form of rain—hopefully lots of it—or other forms of precipitation.

Storms can come out of nowhere in a hurry.

Many years ago, on a hot summer day, I was driving from Phoenix to Las Angeles through the Mojave Desert.  The sun was shining brightly, the sky was cloudless, and the air conditioner was doing its job. The drive was a bit boring the barren landscape broken only by an occasional Joshua tree and countless wind turbines, but I was enjoying my brand new 1974 Oldsmobile sedan.

As I neared the Palm Springs area, I noticed that the sky ahead had darkened precipitously.  All of a sudden I found myself in the middle of a storm. There was no avoiding it. A rainstorm I might have handled, but this was one of those notorious desert sand storms.  Powerful winds had kicked up the desert sand forming a wall of dust, which blocked out the sun and lowered visibility almost to zero. I could barely see the road a few feet ahead.  

This storm had appeared out of nowhere in an instant of time.  What was I to do? The National Weather Service advice is to “seek shelter from dust storms indoors,” or “pull to the side of the road and turn off lights.”  In the middle of the desert, there was no shelter to be had, so I pulled to the side of the road, my only alternative, and waited out the storm, while the swirling, pounding, abrasive sandblasted all the paint off the front end of my new car. 

Dangerous storm conditions can appear suddenly and wreak havoc on everything in sight, and being observant isn’t always enough to avoid disaster.

However, I have discovered that storms do not only originate when the weather is hot when humidity is high and winds are strong.  Storms do not always have to do with the weather. Often, storms have to do with life itself.

We all suffer the storms of life.  They originate with a doctor’s devastating diagnosis, a failed marriage, a troubled child, the death of a loved one, or financial disaster.  

On a Saturday morning, I sent my healthy, laughing Cecil away to run errands, and in the emergency room, before nightfall, his impending death was pronounced—a sudden storm out of nowhere!

Darkness descended eclipsing the brightness, and the joy of our three and one-half months of marriage blasting away the beauty of years that were to follow.

Where do you go in that kind of storm?  Do you just pull over to the side of life until it passes by?  Where do you find shelter from such a disaster? How do you survive the unmitigated pain?

Unlike the Mojave Desert, where there was no shelter, I knew there was shelter in this storm.  So I called on God. My prayer was one of desperation. Howling like a banshee I prayed the only words I could find, “Lord, I need you.  Please help me, Lord, please help me.” Yet, in essence, I was praying King David’s prayer from Psalms 32:7 and 17:8. “You are my hiding place…Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings.”  God understood completely.  He wrapped me in His great arms becoming my shelter for the weeks, months and even years to come—until the boisterous wind abated.

Perhaps this is Monsoon Season in your life.  The storm was so unexpected, but now you are living in the middle of it.  What do you do? Where do you go?

Psalms 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  

In Psalms 31:3 and 61:2-3, David cries, “For you are my rock and my fortress…Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me…”

Face it.  You cannot weather this storm in your own strength.  Run to God! Take refuge in the rock that is higher and stronger than you, the rock that is higher and stronger than a category 5 Hurricane with winds up to 157 miles per hour, a rock that is higher and stronger than anything that will ever come against you.  Take shelter in Him. There is life after the storm!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

OLD FRIENDS

Last week, while preparing dinner, I reached into the cupboard and brought out a small pink and white casserole dish.  Suddenly I thought of Cary Smith, the woman who had given it to me fifty-nine years ago.  In 1960, I had just graduated from Arizona State University and signed a contract to teach school in Anaheim, California.

Except for college, I had never lived away from home.  Now I would be living on my own for the first time.  Knowing this, the ladies in my church showered me with linens, dishes, and other kitchen essentials.  I am amazed that I am still using some of those cherished things.

None of this is earth-shaking, to be sure.  However, on the following Sunday morning, as I was leaving the sanctuary, I heard someone call out to me.  Turning I saw a familiar face from the past.

“Are you Faye Clark, this woman asked?”

“Yes, I am Faye Clark Reese, I said.

“Well, I knew it had to be you,” she replied.  “I am Betty Smith.”

Of course, she was.  The girl I had not seen, nor been in touch with, for close to thirty-five years—the girl with whom I had grown up—my casserole lady’s daughter. 

As we embraced, the years just seemed to melt away, and we were teenagers again.  What a warm and sweet encounter! 

On the way home I began to think about Old Friends, and I remembered a song Bill and Gloria Gaither used to sing.  “Old friends…what a find, what a priceless treasure…like a rare piece of gold…we are all millionaires in old friends.”

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain.  It’s not something you learn in school, but if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t really learned much of anything.  

All those years ago, as a stranger and a new teacher in Anaheim, I was very much alone.  I hated the thought of walking into church by myself on Sunday morning, so I was late because I drug my feet.  A tall blond in the choir noticed my grand entrance.  When the choir exited the platform, she came to sit by me.  After service, her mother, the pastor’s wife, invited me home for lunch.  I was thrilled and just lonely enough to accept. 

There was an immediate connection with that family, as though we had always known each other, and Ophelia, the tall blond, and I have been friends for fifty-nine years because she took time for a “lonely gal.” We seldom see each other, but when we do, the love, the warmth, and the memories are still there as though we were never separated.  Old friends!

Winnie the Pooh said, “If ever there is a tomorrow when we are not together…there is something you must always remember…even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”  That I believe is the essence of friendship.

It takes a long time to cultivate that kind of friendship.  It takes wanting to.  It takes energy and caring about the other person.  Such a friendship requires giving not taking.  

“If you go looking for a friend,” Martin Luther King said, “You will find they are very scarce.  If you go to be a friend, you will find them everywhere.” 

To have a friend, you must first be a friend.

My best friend is my brother.  I have always loved him as one loves any family member.  I’ve admired and looked up to him, and as a child, I tried to follow him around, but that didn’t work.  He was six years older than I.  He has been my spiritual hero and example in ministry, and he is my friend.  That’s the best part.

When Paul’s wife and daughter died within a year of each other, my heart was wrung with sorrow for him.  The only thing I knew to do was just be there.  So I called frequently.  Now we talk across the miles several times a week.  We share our woes and our joys, funny stories and recipes.  I love the stories about his early years in ministry.  

The fact that he is my brother makes the friendship dearer. 

I always apologize when I call to whine about difficulties with our sister, but he says, “If you can do what you are doing, I can listen to your whining.” That’s one of the hallmarks of a true friend—someone who will listen.

Someone has said, “The best time to make friends is before you need them,” and you will make more friends by being interested in other people rather than trying to get other people interested in you.

Friends are indispensable.  We all need them, but I must remind you that as close as friends can be, there is one who has promised an even more intimate and closer relationship.

Solomon, speaking of God, in Proverbs 18:24, tells us, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” and—

Friends sometimes fail us, but Hebrews 13:5 assures us, “…He Himself has said. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

“…WHAT A PRICELESS TREASURE!”

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

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!

 

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!

 

BEWARE THE FINE PRINT

 

My sister would never take medication until she read the fine print on the packaging.  Then she wouldn’t take it at all.  By law, pharmaceutical firms are required to list every possible side effect whether or not it has ever been suffered.  Last, on many of these lists of side effects, is the word “death.”

June was always sure she would be the one who would fall victim to these unusual exceptions.  Hence, no medication, even if it would save her life.

I took her to the dentist a few days ago.  While filling out her “new patient” files, I read through a long list of illnesses which might or might not trouble her.  I was supposed to check off the ones that applied to June.  I had to laugh, when I realized that she was not troubled by any of these frightening maladies.  There were no checkmarks.  Me?  I would have had to check off at least six items.  It seems that reading the fine print has served my sister well.

Reading the fine print is indispensible in our times, for institutions and businesses are forever seeking ways to protect themselves from their own tricky practices.

I recently, after less than a week, returned a piece of equipment, for which I had paid cash.  The equipment had never been used and still sported its original tags.  I was told that I must forfeit 25 % of the purchase price.  When I objected, the salesman pulled out the paper work showing me the fine print.  Suffice it to say, “He had not directed my attention to that clause, when I made the purchase.”

A few years back, I went to the local Honda dealer ready to buy a new car. Actually, I am leery of car salesmen, but I knew exactly what I wanted, and I went armed with needed information.  Sitting down with the salesman, I told him what I wanted, and then I said, “Give me the bottom line.  I want to know exactly what I will pay.  I don’t want any surprises later.”

Then we went to look at cars, and I found the perfect one.  Returning to the sales room, we sat again at the desk, and the salesman added up the cost.  Taking the original amount he had quoted me, he began to add this and that and the other. “No, No, No!” I said, “I asked you for the bottom line.” “Yes, but then there is this and there is that, and…” he replied.

“Please give me my keys,” I demanded.

“But why,” he asked.

“Because I going home.  I don’t deal with dishonest people,” and I turned and left.

The next morning I received a call from the manager of the Honda Dealership.  He wanted to apologize hoping he could still sell me a car, but I was finished with them.

It is only smart to be cautious these days for we can no longer accept a man’s handshake as insurance against fraud.  Businesses have found a way to circumvent the courts and ban people from joining together in class action law suits by adding to the “fine print” a clause that says, “They may elect to resolve claims by INDIVIDUAL arbitration,” and that clause is always and only in the “fine print.”

The upshot is that it is nearly impossible for an individual to take on a multi-billion dollar corporation.  There is no way to win.

Now-a-days, it is difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cell phone, get cable or internet service, or shop on line without agreeing to private arbitration.  The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.

I must admit that my problems in this area have been minimal.  However many people have suffered big losses, but what are we to do?  We can continue to do business, (as we must) ignore the possibilities, and believe that everything will be all right, and for the most part, I guess, it will be.  Yet, I hate feeling that I must always be on guard lest I be cheated, so I am learning to “READ THE FINE PRINT!!!”

Companies have essentially made it impossible for an individual to challenge them.  Business has a good chance of ignoring the legal system all together and doing as it pleases without dire consequences.

It is disappointing, frustrating and hurtful to acknowledge that there are so many untrustworthy people and agencies in our society today.

Thank God!  There is still one in whom we can trust, for there is no “fine print” in God’s word.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.”

In Proverbs 30:5, we are told, “Every word of God is pure…”

Again, John 17:17 tells us, “…Your Word is truth.”

Matthew 24:35 declares, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My (God’s) words will by no means pass away.”

“TRUST IN THE LORD, AND DON’T DISPAIR…,” and READ THE FINE PRINT!

 

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!