The Value of Life

Earlier this week I read about an interview with controversial physician, Ezekiel Emanuel, regarding an essay he’d written in 2014, “Why I Hope to Die at 75“. Doctor Emanuel stated that older Americans live too long in a diminished state, raising the question of, as he put it, “whether our consumption is worth our contribution.”

I was shocked that a physician, a healer, would have such a stereotypical attitude to anyone over the arbitrary age of 75. My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all lived vigorously into their late nineties, contributing to their families right up to the end. Despite naysayers like Dr. Emanuel, the elderly have much to offer in the way of experience, wisdom, courage, and compassion.

There is great pressure in our society to remain eternally young. When we don’t achieve this impossible goal, we are made to feel somehow ashamed of the evidence of our age. It is almost impossible not to buy into this foolishness, but as the elderly character Mrs. Thistlethwaite says in my Christian fiction books, “Old age is a privilege and an adventure.” Looking at aging from this perspective may help us enter old age with the gratitude and flair necessary to enjoy this rare privilege and adventure all the days God grants us.

Most of us adjust to aging with resignation. Society makes it difficult for us to embrace advancing age with any enthusiasm.

However, no matter what the media tell us, old age is not a sign of failure. It is proof of victory. The senior citizens among us are proven survivors. I like to say that anyone can be young … think about it, everyone who has ever been born has been young, but only the lucky few get to be really old. Shouldn’t they revel in that accomplishment? And be treated with respect, as well?

Old age certainly isn’t as pretty as dewy youth and it doesn’t have as much energy, excitement, or physical strength, but it does have experience, hard-earned wisdom, and, for many, a new-found release from the fears and insecurity that go hand-in-hand with youth.

Most importantly, the passage from youth to old age is part of God’s plan. It is totally natural. We can nip and tuck, inject and cover-up, gulp vitamins and exercise to the point of exhaustion, but age will out. These bodies weren’t meant to last forever. They are recyclable, biodegradable containers to carry our maturing character and spirit into the next great adventure.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4 

Life, every life, is worthy of respect, from the womb to the last breath.

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It can’t hurt to ask

When my sons were small they believed there was nothing that I couldn’t do. When they asked for anything they were certain that I could provide it; not that I necessarily would, but that I could, if I were willing to. Their precious trust warmed my heart.

I thought about that one morning when I dared to ask God for something completely selfish. I began to wonder just how God looks at such a childishly self-centered prayer.

The Bible instructs us to pray at all times, and in John 14:13-14 Jesus reminds us that we are to ask for anything in his name.

When I remember how I felt about my sons’ complete trust in me, I imagine that God might be gratified by such faith, as well. When Christ says in Luke 18 that the Kingdom of God belongs to people who are like little children, he may well be referring to just such trust.

Is it possible that an honest prayer of self-interest is more pleasing to God than a hundred attempts to impress him with the “right sentiments”?

Praying my audacious prayer filled me with hope that God might decide to grant it. Unlike a mortal parent, God really can do anything. If he chooses not to, I know God loves me and wants what’s best for me. I don’t need to filter my requests.

God will decide what is best for his children. So, anytime, anywhere, and for anything, go ahead and pray.

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We all need hospice care

I heard an ad for a Hospice Care Provider the other day. The description of the care given to dying patients by this company sounded wonderful. The ad made dying sound like almost a pleasure with such care. As a flippant, “Gee, too bad I’m not dying…” flashed through my mind, it hit me that, of course, I am dying, We all are.

The dictionary gives two meanings to the word hospice. The first is a house of shelter or rest for pilgrims, strangers, etc., especially one kept by a religious order.

The second definition is a healthcare facility for the terminally ill that emphasizes pain control and emotional support for the patient and family, or a program of care and support for the terminally ill at home or in a nursing home.

Perhaps if we took the same care of one another’s comfort and dignity on a day-to-day basis as the hospice care people do for their clients this would be a much nicer world.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

In one respect the family of God is in the hospice care business, helping people live the most beautiful, fulfilling lives they can as they journey toward inevitable death…only we have an extra benefit to offer: eternal life with Jesus.

Christian churches are meant to be houses of shelter and rest for pilgrims, both friends and strangers, as we seek God on our way to the Eternal City. That’s why we call them sanctuaries.

Praise the Lord

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.

Psalm 150:1
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Don’t worry. Be happy.

So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

The New Year brings with it hopes and dreams, plus worries and concerns about the unknown future. When we see the turmoil all around us, how can we avoid sleepless nights and days of worry?

During the pandemic lock-down, churches were forced to either close or learn how to stream their services online. Since we have been allowed to once again meet together in our sanctuaries, many church members have continued to observe the worship services from the comfort of their own homes.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25

Nona Jones gave a daily devotional on this verse from Hebrews on the You Version Bible App this week and I heard her say, “the antidote for worry is worship.” She is absolutely right. Worry is allowing our focus to remain on unknown and unwanted possibilities, but when our hearts and minds are full of God’s glory and majesty in worship, those stressful thoughts fade away.

While we can worship and praise God alone and in any location, how much deeper is our connection and devotion when in the company of other worshipers.

Are worries overwhelming you today? Try worshiping, right where you are, right now, and, if you are able to, worship this weekend in the company of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Psalm 150:1-2
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Wishing you a Happier New Year

Although many fear an unknown future, just about everyone hopes that 2023 will be better than what we’ve experienced this past year.

If we have hope, we can face uncertainties. Without hope we fall into despair. As we step into another new year, we must cling to the promises of God.

 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy.

Hebrews 10:23 (NET)

As many of us have so painfully learned, putting our faith, our trust, in people or institutions, or even in our own abilities, is a recipe for disappointment.

For every Christian, this year’s resolution should be to strengthen our trust in God, through prayer, fellowship with other believers, and by studying His Word.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 12:12 (ESV)

Best wishes for a happier, more Hopeful New Year!

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Christmas is a time to love

One of my favorite Sunday school Christmas songs has such a powerful message, one especially apt for today’s current climate of hostility and easy offense. Perhaps if we all kept this little ditty in the forefront of our minds, we might have a truly peaceful and joyous Christmas.

If you begin to worry or stress this month, call this song to mind and fill your heart with gratitude and love.

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear

1 John 4:18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Christmas Is a Time to Love

(Maranatha)


Christmas is a time to love (chorus)
We often start to worry
And people get upset
If things don’t go alright on Christmas day.
What we should remember
In all the push and shove
Is Christmas is a time to love.
(chorus)
Maybe things don’t sound right
Or look the way they should
And maybe they’re not perfectly in tune.
It really doesn’t matter
Lets keep our eyes above
Cos’ Christmas is a time to love.
(chorus)
Christmas is a time to love.

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Happy Holy Days, to you!

One morning when walking beside a railway, between the tracks and the highway, I began to think about the concept of “easements” such as the one where I was walking.

An easement is a buffer area between the locomotives and the nearby automobile traffic. It allows them both to go their way without worrying that they might get too close and collide.

In years past, during this “happiest time of the year” between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day I have frequently been irritated by the substitution of the generic, “Happy Holidays!” for the traditional, and more meaningful, “Merry Christmas!”  I know there are many others who share my annoyance at those who attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. He is so completely the reason for the season, to me and my fellow believers, that we sometimes feel we must defend his right to be the center of the celebration. However, letting ourselves become angry about it is not an especially Christian thing to do.

For Christians, Jesus is always the center of this holy day. Should being wished a happy holy day offend us?

For better or worse, to many people Christmas is a cultural winter celebration, based loosely upon the stories of Jesus Christ and Santa Claus.

Perhaps we Christians need to establish an easement in our attitudes that will allow us to return the greeting, “Happy Holidays,” with a cheerful, “Thank you. And a joyous holy day season to you!” Getting our feathers ruffled benefits neither the season nor its reason.

Do you take umbrage when the store clerk says, “Have a nice day” and doesn’t really seem to mean it? Most people give no more thought to their holiday greetings than they do to that ubiquitous pleasantry. They are simply trying to be polite. Being chastised, even with an emphatic, “Merry CHRISTMAS, to you!”, is undeserved.

This time of peace and goodwill would be much better served by setting a Christ-like example in all our relationships. No one has ever been coerced into salvation, but many have been brought to Christ through the genuine love and respect of a Christian.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holy Days to you in this precious Advent season.

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

Matthew 5:44-47 (MSG)
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Where’s your focus?

Playing Santa for friends and family every year can become quite a chore. We can begin to feel frazzled, pulled in many directions, and lose sight of the meaning of this blessed holy season.

The planning, shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, and attending special events can be overwhelming to even the most capable multi-tasker.

Given the unsettled and stressful times we live in, we need the peace and joy of Christmas more than ever.

In order to cope with the clamor of distractions it helps to sharpen our focus.

If you have ever taken a photo of a large group, then you know how difficult it can be to keep each person in focus. But if you are taking a photo of one special person in the group the task becomes easy; you put that one particular face in the center and adjust the lens until only that one is clear.

Life is like that. To see our way clearly we must sharpen our focus on the main job at hand. To experience the peace and joy of Christmas we must adjust our focus onto the Special Person at the center of the festivities, Our Savior Jesus Christ.

So if you are feeling stressed these days, take a few moments to breathe deeply, center your thoughts on the One whose birth we celebrate, and let him help you set your priorities so that you can get through this season with peace and joy.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6
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Making the most of Advent

In most Christian churches, the four-week period leading up to Christmas is observed as Advent, a time of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Believers use these weeks to review the historical events leading up to Christ’s incarnation and to center our thoughts on Him.

From the hysterical scavenger hunt of Black Friday on, the glut of second rate Santa-themed entertainment and sentimental traditions makes it increasingly difficult to put Christ in the center of our thoughts and activities.

The renowned theologian, Oswald Chambers, had a way of cutting through distractions and coming straight to the point with his messages to Christians.  In his daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, the reading for November 27 gives us the recipe for observing a meaningful Christmas in our times.

He tells us that if we want the spiritual power to avoid being caught up in the hype of the hectic Happy Holidays mentality, the answer is to become consecrated.

We must never allow anything to interfere with the consecration of our spiritual power. Consecration (being dedicated to God’s service) is our part; sanctification (being set apart from sin and being made holy) is God’s part. We must make a deliberate determination to be interested only in what God is interested. The way to make that determination, when faced with a perplexing problem, is to ask yourself, “Is this the kind of thing in which Jesus Christ is interested, or is it something in which the spirit that is diametrically opposed to Jesus is interested?”

My Utmost for His Highest

If we apply this test to our own Advent and Christmas activities it may become clear just where we need to expend our energies and which things are better avoided.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Wishing you a Consecrated Christmas of Peace and Joy.

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Harmony in the family

Thanksgiving is traditionally the day when far-flung family members unite to get re-acquainted, catch up, reminisce, eat, and give thanks. Since few extended family members share the same viewpoint on every subject, this can lead to some tension as conflicting opinions are aired over the turkey and pie.

I’ve seen a couple of political web postings recently suggesting ways to persuade family members to your own point of view, as if everyone must agree in order to be accepted into the circle. However, in our family, we prefer to skirt around known areas of contention at such times and concentrate on our common bonds of love and history in order to preserve family harmony.

family of god

The family of God has these same issues to deal with, and not just at Thanksgiving. Whether between denominations or within them, you will find any number of theological disagreements, often leading to an attitude of competition or animosity between churches or even members of the same congregation.

We can choose to try to persuade those Christians who interpret the Bible differently than we do, or we can keep our relationships harmonious by remembering we are in the same family. Our political or social attitudes fade into insignificance when we remember Who is the head of our family and what He has done for each one of us. We have more than enough family stories to share and reminisce about and more than enough points of agreement to provide loving conversations with one another.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

Our shared history and the love of Jesus must be at the center of all our dealings within the family. Everything else is just a distraction.

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