Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Losing My Mind

I fear losing my mind. Alzheimer’s is a very prevalent disease on my father’s side of the family. As the disease progressed and eventually took my father’s life, I experienced  frustration with my inability to do anything to prevent my father’s mental deterioration. All my mother, brothers, and I could do was to make him as comfortable as possible, to provide safe surroundings, and to demonstrate how much we loved him.

Alzheimer’s is such an insidious disease because the brain actually deteriorates. I’ve seen pictures of the brain of a person with this disease. The affected brain has holes which are left when surrounding brain tissue stuck together in an unnatural manner. It is impossible to restore the brain matter which has been destroyed. I fear this?

I try to keep up with the latest information about how to avoid Alzheimer’s as there is no known cure, and it tends to run in families. The current information is only about how to retard its development and to slow its destruction of brain tissue.

Current advice says to control cholesterol, control weight, control blood pressure, eat fruit (especially berries), and exercise. Sounds like living a controlled, healthy life. Self-control is one of the lessons God’s Word teaches.

 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12  ESV

Not only does advise for slowing or avoiding Alzheimer’s involve living a physically healthy life, but it also admonishes us to live a mentally healthy life. It has something to do with our ability to keep mental pathways healthy and to retain the ability to build new connections in the brain if old ones become unavailable.  The advice of brain experts is to think, problem solve, and learn to do new things.  Suggestions generally include doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, and learning to play a musical instrument for which you have no skill. In other words, keep learning. Actively involve your brain.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness.”  2 Peter 1:5-6  ESV

I see no guarantees, but if I remain active, have a healthy lifestyle, and avoid gluttony I may stand a chance of greatly delaying if not totally avoiding the Alzheimer’s curse.

So, I intend to follow God’s plan for living.

Lord, thank you for giving me workable and sensible guidelines for living this life well. Give me the willingness to do as you direct.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Foggy Brain

Can’t concentrate
All’s unclear
I hear
I see
I feel
Can’t think

Like a bridal veil obscuring the brides face
My brain cannot clearly discern

Why Not?

Lord, remove the fog
That I may clearly see

Saturday, December 3, 2011

One Out of Ten

Look at people around you. What expressions are on their faces? What must be in their minds? Are they pleasant thoughts or unpleasant feelings? Are they grateful? Think about it. When you thank someone, do you frown? Of course not. You put a pleasant expression on your face. You recognize that the other person has given something of themselves to provide meaning and pleasure to you.

“…he was met by ten lepers…they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks…” Luke 17:12b, 14-16a ESV

Recently Pastor John preached on Luke 17:11-19. He was challenging us to show our gratitude to others. In this passage only one of the healed lepers said thank you to Jesus. Can’t you imagine the huge grin Jesus saw come across his face as the leper realized the miracle of healing which had just taken place. Picture the smile that must have crossed the face of Jesus as he watched the reaction of this grateful man. And how Jesus must have grieved that only one—1/10 of those healed—displayed gratitude. Very sad.

We all recognize the selfishness of the ungrateful nine and the unpleasant people we encounter daily. When we do something nice for someone else, we are quick to point our fingers and shake our heads if they do not display appreciation in words and actions. But do we even recognize the nice things others do for us? How often do we smile at those who befriend us? Are we too busy watching out for “numero uno” to say thank you. So what if the cashier is only doing her job? When was the last time you smiled at a store employee? How selfish are your behaviors in both public and private encounters?

A couple of days after pastor’s sermon, my husband and I received a thoughtfully handwritten thank you note from a couple whose children we had worked with in our classrooms and in the gym over fifteen years ago. We were surprise, and our hearts were warmed. One thank you I will never forget happened in the front lobby of the local hospital. It was a chance encounter with a father whose four children I had taught and my husband had coached in school athletics. He had a very serious, reserved countenance, and his words went something like this, “I know people do not often tell you this, but I appreciate what you and Ray did for my kids.” Later I learned that his son had committed suicide, and he was probably at the hospital as a result of that tragic event. His son was a veteran who had valiantly served our country under very difficult circumstances. He was truly a casualty of war. How amazing that this grieving father took time to show gratitude.

“Give thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18a ESV

When others express gratitude to us, our faces relax and our expressions become pleasant.

So, say thank you often and with sincerity. Do your part to warm hearts and encourage others to smile.

Lord, create in me a thankful heart. Show me who I need to thank. Create in me an irresistible need to demonstrate appreciation to others and to you.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Just a Comment

Just a comment—an innocent comment. That is all it took to cause an old scar from a very nasty, jagged wound to ooze blood again. I told myself I was being silly to let those harmless words affect me. I have worked through the relational issues and realized I was also at fault. Now the relationship is on a somewhat civil status even though I have tried to repair damage with very limited success. I hold no grudges—only good will. However, Satan is a powerful foe. Both of us let him delude and control us as small tremors became full-fledged earthquakes in our friendship.

This time an innocent comment during a phone conversation came from a person who had no idea that the words would be problematic for me—that old hurts would surface and tears stream down my cheeks. The next day one sentence in an email from a different person, not written to hurt but only to inform, brought old wounds violently to the surface. This time my emotional scar didn't just ooze. It was ripped wide open--bleeding freely. The senselessness of it all is so hard to understand. At this time I am no longer angry--only retain mild hurt that has potential to spiral out of control if allowed free reign. Why do simple, coincidental words bring such pain—such a feeling of helplessness? I grieve at this nonsensical loss of friendship.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” Isaiah 53:3 ESV

It is at times like these that I understand why Jesus was referred to as a man of sorrows. Even hundreds of years before he was born to Mary, his sorrow was prophesied. He was betrayed by close friends, yet he forgave and gently brought believers back into a close relationship with him.

My struggles with what I consider to be a nonsensical rift in a valued friendship has lead me closer to Christ. I have had to admit that all the things I have tried have failed completely. Why can’t I quit trying the ways of this world? Why can’t I rest easy knowing God is in control and he will repair the emotional damage in his time in his way. It is because I am tired of innocent comments or situations ripping open my emotional scars. I yearn for heaven where there will be no tears—only smiles, music, and joy. Jesus made it very clear that Christians will suffer sorrows on earth but we will have unquenchable joy with him in heaven.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22 ESV

So even though this life is full of difficulties because of Satan’s interference, I know there is an eternity of joy in my future.

Lord, make me focus on you and not on the evil that Satan is working. Make me recognize his work. Clearly show me your will for my actions and words then give me the power through the Holy Spirit to unquestioningly do as you direct.