I’m Seeing Things…Life with Dad

In my care of my dad some new things are beginning to develop in his life.  These things have to do with what he sees.  My dad was diagnosed with macular degeneration when he was in his early 60s.

“Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration.” (Quote from WebMD)

This condition has literally left him basically blind.  It has been a progression.  He lost his license to drive when he was in his 70s.  He wasn’t happy about that but it was best for him and everyone else on the road.  I’m not sure exactly how much he can see but I know that in his own home, he can navigate fairly well.  However, it’s unnerving when I’m sitting across from him and he speaks to the right as if I’m standing there.  He just doesn’t know where I am.  It has to be extremely hard to live with this.  I know it’s his major complaint most of the time.

There is so much that he misses.  He can’t see the flowers in bloom or the tomatoes on his vines.  He doesn’t get to appreciate the sunrise or sunset.  If someone has a new car, he can’t see it.  The expressions on faces are lost for him.  The smiles of others given to him are unaccepted.  My heart breaks for him in the losses he experiences because of his condition.  But now he seems to be experiencing sight of things that aren’t there.

He shared with me the other day that he was seeing people.  It’s not the first time he’s seen people that aren’t there.  He had an elaborate story about dancing people in the street with fireworks a couple of weeks ago.  My thought is that he sleeps most of the day and his dreams are becoming very vivid.  So much so that he believes them to be true.  When I correct him and tell him there’s no one else around, he hangs his head.  How hard for him!  He says, “I’m seeing things.”  His mind is playing tricks on him and I wish I could make it stop for him but I can’t.

I can be like dad and see things.  How many times do we see what we want to see?  We color our world with our own perceptions instead of truth.  Our desire is for what we want and we’ll seek to see it happening.  We can even put words in God’s mouth by saying things like, “this is what God told me” or “this is what God wants me to do”.  When we look at our world and see what we want to see, our world is revolving around us and not God.  This world was created by God and is his, not ours.  So how are we to look at the world or our circumstances?

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2 NIV

Do you see the terminology here?  We are to fix our eyes on Jesus.  What does that mean?  This is all about concentration on Jesus and what he’s accomplished for us.  As we move through this life we need to always remember that the gospel of Jesus is truth.  There’s our lens for life.  It’s not about what we want to see or think we see but about the truth of what Jesus has done for us.  This is so helpful because frankly, life can be very hard at times.  We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the circumstances of life.

Another great reason for concentrating on Jesus is so that we’ll be able to rejoice in all the things the Lord is doing around us.  We get to see the blessings when we concentrate on Jesus.  By doing this we’ll develop a heart of gratitude rather than a disappointed heart when life doesn’t go our way.  Even in the difficult things of life God is at work and we can trust the work he’s doing on our behalf.

We need to be aware that we can have spiritual macular degeneration.  Our eyes can become accustomed to seeing the dark side of everything rather than the light of Jesus in everything.  As I care for my dad my desire is to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.  I’m not always successful in my endeavors but God is always successful in his.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for god, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first born among many brothers.”               Romans 8:28-29

WOMEN IN STEP – PART THREE

“And he (Jesus) said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Matthew 22:37-39

We have established as followers of Christ we need to imitate God by loving.  The first one we are commanded to love is God.  We must love him with all that we are.  Then we’re to love our neighbor.  Who is our neighbor?  Jesus answers this question in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  (Luke 10:25-37)  The conclusion from this is that the one who was an enemy actually was the one who acted like a neighbor.  So what can we learn about how to love others from this?

We need to have the heart of a neighbor.

  1. We will meet another person’s needs.  It means getting out of our comfortable chair and stretching our spiritual muscles to someone else.  This may come at a cost.  The action we take is loving to our neighbor.  In doing this, we need to remember the action of love God had for us.  “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8  This love came at a great cost to Jesus; his life.  But, we needed his sacrifice and he knew it.  He fulfilled the payment for our sins.  What a loving neighbor!
  2. We will show mercy to others. This is hard for us.  We want to see someone “pay” for their sins.  We compare their weaknesses to our strengths.  Our judgment of them follows.  God has great mercy for us.  This mercy shows up in the compassion shown for those who are perishing.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, bit that all should reach repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9  We see God is patient and compassionate.  He treats us that way and expects that we, in turn, will treat our neighbor the same.  Love shows mercy and compassion not judgment.

We need to see strangers as neighbors.

“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”  Deuteronomy 10:19  The word used here for sojourner is a word that means foreigner, temporary resident, or a newcomer.  God is reminding the people of Israel that they were foreigners in Egypt so they can relate to the position.  This is true of all of us.  We have had times in our lives when we were the newbie or the odd one out.  We didn’t feel like we belonged.  How encouraging it is when someone reaches out to us with loving kindness. We need to be aware of people who fit this category.  We use so many excuses to get out of being involved in the life of a stranger.  These may include embarrassment, fear of rejection, or not knowing what to say.  These all come from being focused on self rather than others.  There are no excuses.  We must love within the church by reaching out to the strangers who walk through our door.  We should see strangers as neighbors who need to be loved well.

We need to love our enemies.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44

  1. The word used for enemy in this verse means one who is hateful, hostile or opposes us. This definitely sounds like someone we don’t want to be around much.  Jesus doesn’t stop with the love of this type of person, but goes on to say that we should pray for those who persecute us.  The word “persecute” means to harass, trouble or molest.  We are called to love and pray for this type of person! What good will this do for us?
  2. Loving an enemy puts Christ on display. He is the ultimate example of what it looks like to love the unlovely.  We were all the enemy of God, and yet He loved us enough to sacrifice his son for us.  When we love those who are enemies to us, we are displaying Christ’s love.
  3. Loving an enemy can be part of the means God uses to draw someone to himself. God uses us to accomplish his purposes.  He uses us to be witnesses of his great salvation.  How humbling that he uses us, who were once his enemies, to draw other enemies to the cross of Christ to save them!

If we are going to be women in step with the Spirit, we are going to have to love our neighbors.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says this about love.

“Love, in the Christians sense, does not mean an emotion.  It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.”

Let’s keep in step with the Spirit by enacting our will to love God and others!

TO BE NEEDED…LIFE WITH DAD

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”     Galatians 6:9

God calls us to do many different tasks in our lives.  These tasks have been designed for us in order to bring God glory.  One of the tasks that I have is to take care of my dad.  I know that many people are caring for elderly parents, grandparents, or other relatives.  It’s not always easy, but God works on us in the hard times of life.  Sometimes we just get tired.  Perhaps I shouldn’t speak for you, but I just get tired.  When we’re tired our thinking can go awry.

The thing that is so tempting to do when we’re tired is to give up.  When we give up, we stop.  We stop pursuing good.  We stop being involved in the lives of others.  We stop being who we know we are.  As followers of Christ, our identity is Christ!  Our lives SHOULD reflect this identity in order to point others to Christ.  Our minds need to recall how Christ didn’t give up on us.  He went all the way to the cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins.  In repenting of our sins and accepting his payment for us, we become one with Christ.  The memory of his sacrifice should spur us on to make our own sacrifices, but we get tired.  We need help in order to not give up.  Our help comes from the Lord in the form of the Holy Spirit within, the Word of God, and the people of God.

When I’m tired, I don’t always remember the help God has provided for me.  The fact that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be our “helper” doesn’t really come to my mind.  The verses I know are hard to remember when I’m tired.  My mind doesn’t want to focus on verses but instead focuses on the fact that I’m tired.  I don’t seek out people to help either.  The all-consuming thoughts of being tired are just that…all-consuming.  Let me tell you what God used to get my attention off myself and my tiredness and onto him.

Each day, I see my dad in the morning and in the afternoon after work.  I check on his food, put out his medication, and help him with his teeth.  In the afternoon, I cut him a piece of pie and sit with him while he eats it.  We have a conversation; at least as much as you can converse with someone who can’t hear you.  That’s the routine and it’s not an exhausting one.  It’s a habit I have and will continue until the Lord decides it’s my dad’s time to leave this earth.  The weekends are a bit different.  On Saturdays I visit once instead of twice but Sundays are twice again.  It was on a Saturday when the Lord got my attention.

My brother, Don, was at dad’s  house on a Saturday morning when I pulled up on my bike.  Don and dad were in the garage so I just went into the house and worked on my regular tasks.  They came in as I was just finishing up.  I asked if dad had eaten his lunch.  He hadn’t so I heated it up in the microwave for him.  At that point, I prepared to leave because I wanted to give the guys time to talk.  As I always do I asked, “Is there anything else you need before I go?”  This is when God got a hold of me because of my dad’s answer.  He said, “I just need you.”  Then he grabbed me and gave me a big hug.

“I just need you.”  God spoke to me in my tiredness that day and every day since.  His words were plain to me.  This is the place God wants me.  My dad needs me but God needs me to do what he’s called me to do without reservation.  I can’t do what I need to do without the help of God.  Instead of allowing myself to give into my tired thinking, I need to remember that my dad needs me and God has given me the Holy Spirit, His Word, and the people of God to help me.  Who needs you?  Is it a chore for you to serve someone?  Do you get tired?  Welcome to the world of humanity.  The truth is we need each other to accomplish the tasks God has prepared for us to do.

When was the last time you expressed to God, “I just need you”?

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10 

WOMEN IN STEP – PART TWO

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

Women who are keeping in step with the Spirit and are being led by the Spirit will walk in love.  We are called to imitate God, who loves perfectly and chose to love us while we were still sinners.  To walk in love, we must first realize that love is not an emotion but a choice we make.  Love is an act of our will.  We must love whom the Scriptures say we are to love.  As children of God, we should want to be like our Father who loves completely.  Let’s begin by reviewing who our first love should be…God.

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37

This is a command spelling out how we are to love God.  This love includes our thoughts, reasoning, understanding, will, judgment, affections, intellect, and emotions. In other words, our whole being is to love God.  The Scriptures give us some specifics about loving God, which we need to take seriously in our walk of love.

Love God’s Name

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” Hebrews 6:10

We’re to love God’s name.  This love is evidenced by our service to the body of Christ.  When we serve others, we are putting Christ on display and honoring his name to those we serve and those who observe us.  The love of God’s name is evidence of his grace to us.  When we display Christ in service, our salvation is evident.  It’s the saving grace of God which brings us into position to love his name.  Do we think about God’s name in a loving way?  Are we influenced by our culture, which takes God’s name and abuses it?  Is God’s name just taken for granted by us?  We need to treasure the name of God and display our love for it with our service to others.

Love God’s salvation

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the LORD!’” Psalm 40:16

God is the one who saves.  The salvation of the Lord to the Psalmist, David, refers to the help he receives from the Lord and the deliverance from his enemies and his own sin.  This applies to us, as followers of Christ, because we fail to recognize God as the one who has saved us.  We’re tempted to think it’s our own doing.  But it’s God’s doing which should cause us to be humble before him.  We should love our salvation which results in the recognition of the greatness of God which results in praise. Are you apathetic concerning the gospel?  Are you just concerned about going to heaven?  Do you equate salvation with your life? We should NEVER get over our salvation but, more than that, love the giver of salvation, God.

Love God’s Word

“Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

The Word of God is not just dead words on a page.  They are “living and active” according to Hebrews 4:12.  The words are “God-breathed” according to 2 Timothy 3:16.  All of these descriptions make it evident that the Scripture is from God, given to us in order for us to learn and grow as his children.  If we love God’s Word the result will be meditation during the day.  To meditate is to reflect on and be devoted to the Word.  It’s not sitting cross-legged and humming.  It’s thinking about what we’ve read during the day.  When we love the Word, we’ll take a theme or a few words of what we read to stimulate our thinking. Is your reading of the Word just a check list?  Do you consider the words you read or just plow through them?   When we love God’s Word, it will result in a life that pleases God.  The influence of the Word of God will drive us to do what it says.

Love is not our idea, it’s God’s.  John tells us in 1 John 4 that “God is love” and “We love because He first loved us.”  Our perfect Father is the one we are to imitate.  We must seek to keep in step with him by walking in love.  A child will hold an adult’s hand seeking safety and direction.  Women in step with the Spirit will hold onto their Father’s hand allowing him to lead and keep them safe.

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

WOMEN IN STEP – PART ONE

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

Fitbits, pedometers, and the iPhone Health App are used by so many of us to track our steps for the day.  We have a goal of the number of steps we want to accomplish for the day, and we work hard to achieve it.  It’s like we’re in competition with ourselves as we watch the numbers go up with every step.  The idea is that the exercise will bring about health to our bodies, which is a good thing.  We will accomplish this unless, of course, we are walking and eating ice cream after ice cream at the same time.  This will result in great leg muscles and clogged arteries.  Common sense tells us that the steps without the ice cream are more feasible for health.  So why do we insist on taking our spiritual steps with our minds focused on the things of the world?

As followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit came to indwell us at the moment God saved us.  This means that the Holy Spirit is available to us every step we take in this life.  Let’s look at six characteristics of the Holy Spirit.

  1. He convicts – Our original conviction of our sins was brought about by the Holy Spirit.  After salvation, he still convicts us because we are sinners.  He brings shame and guilt to bear on us to drive us to repentance.  “And when he (Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:8
  1. He testifies – The Holy Spirit, in obedience to the Father, will give evidence of who Christ is.  As we read the Word, the Holy Spirit reveals to us more and more about Christ.  When you testify of Christ, you are acting in tandem with the Holy Spirit, who is working silently through your words and actions.  “But when the Helper (Holy Spirit) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  John 15:26 (said by Jesus)
  2. He leads – The Holy Spirit leads us through the Word of God in our everyday life. He impresses the truth on our hearts so that we have direction as we take our steps.  Our lives should no longer be identified with our sinful flesh, which operates under the law, but by the Spirit and the grace of God. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18
  3. He intercedes – The Holy Spirit will step in our place and pray for us. He knows our hearts and knows the will of God.  He prays perfectly for us when we don’t even know what or how to pray.  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26
  4. He guides – The Holy Spirit guides us and reveals truth to us as we read the Word of God. He also reveals truth to us daily as we pray and ask for truth.  His guidance gives us wisdom so we can make choices in our lives that are pleasing to God. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” John 16:13a

There are many other characteristics of the Holy Spirit which help us daily.  As followers of Christ we should depend on the Spirit for guidance and power.  The Spirit wants to be depended upon.  We have to yield our will to his in our everyday life in order to be dependent on him.  Our independence is so very important to us. In fact, we could say we are in competition with ourselves in our independence.  We desire to grow in our ability to handle life by ourselves.  This desire is contrary to walking by the Spirit.  Our calling is to be dependent on the Spirit and display his fruit in our lives.

If only there were a Fitbit to measure our display of the fruit of the Spirit!  There is a Fitbit, and it’s called vulnerability.  We have to be willing to ask our brothers and sisters how we’re doing in our walk.  Being accountable to others is necessary for our growth.  I don’t want to know about my weaknesses, but the truth is, I do need to know.  When I wear a Fitbit, I keep looking at my steps because I want to improve.  My walk in the Spirit is more important than that.  I need to know my weaknesses.  I need to know how I’m doing in my spiritual walk so that I can seek to become more dependent on the Spirit and less dependent on myself.

THE BENEFITS OF GOD’S WORD – PSALM 19:7-9

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”  Psalm 19:7-9

The Bible is a big book.  It can be overwhelming to think about reading every page.  This is the reason why so many don’t take the time to read and study God’s Word.  They allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the size of it.  When we approach the reading of the Word, we have to remember that it’s not about how much we read but what we learn when we read.  Our verses in Psalm 19 give us some benefits of studying the Word of God.  Let’s take a look at these benefits and consider them for our lives.

  1. God’s Word is complete. 

There is nothing lacking in the Word of God.  It is perfect referring not only to its completeness but also to the lack of error within it.  There is nothing left out that we need to know about following Jesus.  We will find all we need to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ within the pages.

  1. God’s Word revives us.

The words we read in the Scriptures can change us.  We learn how to change by study of the Word. As followers of Christ we don’t want to stay the same, at least I hope we don’t.  Our goal should be to look more like Jesus every day.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  We have to remember that we aren’t God, and we need to make changes in our life in order to look more like him.

  1. God’s Word can make us wise. 

The study of God’s Word can result in gaining wisdom.  Wisdom is something we should want to have so that we respond well to situations in our lives.  As we learn more about God and our identity in Christ, we gain wisdom– God’s wisdom.  Wisdom is knowledge of God in action, everyday life. Our knowledge and wisdom will grow as we study God’s Word.

  1. God’s Word is right.

The Bible is truth.  It’s not speculations or fantasy.  It’s the real deal, and we are to trust it.  We are to believe it.  The belief in God’s Word being right and true will help us to fight against doubt because it becomes the standard, not our own thinking.

  1. God’s Word will guide us.

As we study and read the word, our eyes will be opened to the truth of sin, the world, and God’s way.  We will learn that our sin requires us to repent, and that we can trust God to forgive us.  The world’s system is revealed to us as false, contrary to God’s way.  We will be guided into God’s way of doing life together as followers of Christ as we study the Word.

  1. God’s Word will last forever.

God’s Word, like himself, will never end and never change.  We can trust the Word that God has given us to be without fault, to be powerful, to never change, and to last forever.  There’s comfort in this firm foundation.

These truths about God’s Word come from only three verses.  There’s so much more about God’s Word and its benefits to be found in the Scriptures.  These benefits encourage us to not be overwhelmed but to take the time to read. As we study the Word, we will grow in spiritual maturity.  Hopefully as followers of Christ, we don’t want to remain as babies on milk but should want to progress to solid food, to maturity.  How do we do this without being overwhelmed with the size of the book?  Does my reading of the Bible become a checklist I need to follow?  Can I really learn and apply rather than just read words?  Here are two suggestions to help you receive the benefits God’s Word offers.

  1. Start by reading a paragraph in a book of the Bible rather than a whole chapter.  This will give you a context without feeling like you are reading more than you can grasp.
  2. Journal about what you read in the paragraph by answering these three questions. What did I learn about God?  What did I learn about man? How can I apply this knowledge to my life?

By keeping the process of reading simple, you will learn rather than be overwhelmed.  There are many benefits of God’s Word.  Don’t miss them because you are fearful to begin.  Let’s get in touch with our Father so that he can teach us, guide us, and love us through his Word.

“NEW” IS HARD…LIFE WITH DAD

Many of us are at the point in our lives when we are helping our aging parents.  It seems like many more people are living into their 90s now, but maybe that’s not true.  I may notice it more now because I’m dealing with my dad who’s 93 years old.  What I’m discovering is that anything “new” is hard for my dad to grasp.  This is not said in a derogatory fashion but as a simple fact.  We all change as we get older and our ability to handle “new” things becomes harder.  For me this discovery came in the form of an upper partial denture plate made just for my dad.

A few weeks ago dad lost his front tooth–totally lost it.  There was a cap on it which fell out and took the whole tooth with it.  The dentist pulled the root and then said that a partial plate would do the trick.  The partial plate would include the front tooth as well as a molar on the side.  This would make it fit better and be easier to put in and take out each day.  All of that sounds great in theory but in real life, not so great!  I took him back to the dentist to be fitted.  The appliance went right in his mouth and fit very well.  We were told to leave it in overnight the first night.  So far, so good…but then came the next afternoon.

I prepared the container for the appliance and then told him where to grab it in order to take it out.  He grabbed everywhere else but where he was supposed to grab.  So I put on gloves and took it out.  The next morning I came in to help him put it in.  He couldn’t see where to put it and I explained how to feel where to put it but my gloves had to come on again.  He couldn’t understand how to do it.  The whole process is “new” to him.  The result is that I have a “new” process.  I go by every morning and put it in, then every night to take it out.

“New” is hard for people in their 90s, but “new” is also hard for me in my 60s.  This is not what I wanted to be doing.  I have a hard time working in other people’s mouths.  It brings a nauseous feeling to me.  Even as I write this my stomach gets a little queasy.  What am I to do with this “new” in my life?  I’ve struggled with it, but I do understand it.  I’ve struggled with it, but I can do it.  I’ve struggled with it, but God is doing a work in me.

  1. God is changing my natural reaction to other people’s mouths.  I’m surprised at how God has given me grace to do something that causes me to be sick.  The feelings are not as prevalent now.  This is can only be God who is doing this for me.  It’s certainly not my own will, because it screams against doing this for my dad.  “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”  Psalm 145:9  God knows my frailty.  He gives me mercy and grace in my frailty.
  2. God is giving me strength in my weakness. The truth is I get tired.  Sometimes I just want to stop doing what I’m doing but God has other plans for me.  He wants me to depend on him and not on myself.  I don’t have the strength to persevere in this tooth insertion process.  “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;…” Psalm 28:7a  God always helps me, on that I can rely.
  3. God is giving me an opportunity to serve my dad. It’s great to serve others when it’s something we enjoy doing.  I love to cook.  So if I get the chance to cook for someone, I’m there!  Is my cooking serving?  Yes but it is a serving opportunity that I enjoy as much as the recipients.  “…but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13b  All service is to be done in love for others.  I may not like this service, but it is a time in which I can love dad well.

“New” can be hard for us at any age but as we persevere in the “new” we will begin to see that it becomes “old”.  God created us so wonderfully in that we can adjust to the “new” situations we face in life.  The goal for followers of Christ is that the adjustments we make will result in us looking more like Jesus.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18