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Nobody prepares you

March 31st, 2010
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By Greg Williams

I work for a parachurch organization called Youth for Christ. Recently, several co-workers and I had an enlightening conversation during a work break. One lady shared a series of stories about her 88-year-old father-in-law who is now living in her guest room and his odd behavior of showering at 2:00 a.m. Another man talked about his in-laws, who struggled to sell their home in Michigan to move closer to their daughter whom they expected to be their caregiver. This same man suggested that instead of being “Youth” for Christ that we were becoming “Senior Care” for Christ.

In 2006, the Baby-boomer generation turned 60 and began a wave of retirement such as the U.S. has never experienced. Some 78 million boomers will retire over the next decade, representing 25 percent of the population of the country. My co-worker was probably on to something when he suggested changing the focus group to seniors.

As I write this article, my father just completed a nine-week stay in the hospital. He went to the operating room four times and spent six weeks in intensive care. He had fallen when a ladder collapsed under him and fractured the C7 and T9 vertebrae in his neck and back. Now he is in an intensive rehabilitation center learning to move as much as he can. Whether he will be fully mobile is yet to be determined, and he still faces weeks or months in rehab. Nothing prepares you for this kind of emotional roller-coaster ride.

My mom currently faces the 40-minute one-way drive back and forth every day to visit my dad. She has been the one to consult with the doctors and make tough decisions on my dad’s behalf. She is the one who will have to sort out bills from multiple doctors and institutions, and pray that the insurance satisfies the massive costs. She is the one who will have to make arrangements for the house to be remodeled to become handicap-friendly. It helps that she is a nurse, but that is of little consequence, because she cannot lift or move my father with her aging body.

I say that nothing prepares you for the difficulties of aging and all of the medical maladies that follow, but some 3,000 years ago King Solomon wrote these words of wisdom:

Remember your Creator

while you are young,

before the days of trouble come

and the years when you say,

“I find no pleasure in them.”

When you get old,

the light from the sun, moon, and stars will grow dark;

the rain clouds will never seem to go away.

At that time your arms will shake

and your legs will become weak.

Your teeth will fall out so you cannot chew,

and your eyes will not see clearly.

Your ears will be deaf to the noise in the streets,

and you will barely hear the millstone grinding grain.

You’ll wake up when a bird starts singing,

but you will barely hear singing.

You will fear high places

and will be afraid to go for a walk.

Your hair will become white like the flowers on an

almond tree.

You will limp along like a grasshopper when you walk.

Your appetite will be gone.

Then you will go to your everlasting home,

and people will go to your funeral.

Soon your life will snap like a silver chain

or break like a golden bowl.

You will be like a broken pitcher at a spring,

or a broken wheel at a well.

You will turn back into the dust of the earth again,

but your spirit will return to God who gave it.

Everything is useless!

The Teacher says that everything is useless

(Ecclesiastes 12:1-8). Read more…

Over 60's

Hope inthe Desolation (10)

March 31st, 2010
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Scripture of the Day: Jeremiah 28:1-17

In the fifth month of that same year, the fourth year, early in the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, said to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and all the people: “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the LORD’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ “

Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD. He said, “Amen! May the LORD do so! May the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the LORD’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true.”

Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and he said before all the people, “This is what the LORD says: ‘In the same way will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.’ ” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way.

Shortly after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Go and tell Hananiah, ‘This is what the LORD says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.’ “

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.’ “

In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.(NIV)

The book of Jeremiah contradicts denial of the realities of our circumstances but it also overcomes despair. Imagine how it would have been in the days of the abyss if there had been no book of Jeremiah: no text to utter Israel into the truth of its loss so that Hananiah’s phony hope might have prevailed; no text to utter Jews into possibilities beyond the deportation.

Thus the good news is that God himself in Jesus entered in to the foresakedness of the abyss, the desolation of sin and death, the loss of all earthly support, and yet he was faithful in obedience.

To pluck up and to pull down,

to destroy and overthrow,

for three days and nights.

And yet was renewed and victorious over all that opposes human kind and “to build and to plant” a new generation in himself. The true humanity God always intended.

And this becomes the fulfillment of the hope of the book.

Message for the Day

Hope in the Desolation (9)

March 30th, 2010
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Scripture of the Day: Luke 24:13-27

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (NIV)

This now leads us to reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That is, in the story of Jesus the crucifixion is the “plucking up and pulling down” of conventional Messianic possibility; assurances and certainties were destroyed on that cross and the following days of desolation –a sense we have followed a false messiah –nothing has happened as we expected, in fact the very opposite. This is followed by the resurrection which is the “planting and building” of Messianic claim in splendor and power –the beginning of a new creation.

And we begin to understand that Jesus entered completely in to the full abyss of all human experience. He took upon himself the full anguish of what Jeremiah records and in his faithfulness to his Father, he restores the link to the source of living waters so that we do not have to rely upon our returning to God with our fickled responses. Fancy our assurance depending on our faithfulness, our repentance, our commitment to do what is right. Even after the return from the exile Judah showed how unstable that was.

Pastorally this gives us an opportunity to look at the abyss of our human lives and how to come through to newness.

Message for the Day