Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Friday’s Fave Five

 It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends. Here are five favorite parts of the last week:

It has been quite the week here! My #1 favorite below will likely be the favorite part of this year!

1. The birth of my first grandson. Though he is very premature, and we would’ve liked for him to have waited a little while til his body was more ready to meet the world, it has been nice to be able to see him and touch him. Everything is going well so far, though he will probably be in the NICU for a couple of months yet. My latest update is here.

photo(2)

2. An in-house dinner date. My youngest was out last Friday night, so I called my husband and he brought home take-out from Red Lobster. Good stuff.

3. Working on a project together. My husband and I went together last Saturday to pick out plants to replace some bushes he took out as well as some for hanging pots and for a row in front of the rose bushes. Then we came home and worked on the hanging pots together, then he planted the rest. Often we have to “divide and conquer” to get things done, so it was fun to do this together.

4. Replacement bush. Some of you may remember a “fave five” from several weeks ago where I mentioned finally getting rid of a bush by the front door that I never liked. We replaced it with a hibiscus and added another planter. I like it much better! I was going to take a before and after picture, but we had some unexpected frost this week that is making the hibiscus look a little shriveled. I hope it can bounce back.

5. Pizza from a place that I love but my husband doesn’t care for. I was craving it on the way back from the hospital earlier today and sprang for one. :)

Hope you have a great weekend and a wonderful time reflecting on the meaning of this Easter season, that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4.)

Thanks so much for your kind words and especially prayers for our new little grandson. As I mentioned earlier, he was originally due in late June. He will probably be in the NICU for a couple of months, or until he meets certain milestones (maintaining body temperature, breathing well on his own, being able to eat on his own, etc.).

His breathing is doing pretty well. He was born crying, which all the doctors were surprised at with a preemie. That was a really good sign. They did put a tube down his throat the first day to put some medicine down in his lungs to keep them expanded, and he was on a CPAP for a few days which, if I understand it correctly, pushes air in something like gentle breaths. But as of Tuesday he was on just oxygen in a tube under his nose. He forgets to breathe every now and then until they stimulate him in some way, but overall he is doing well in that regard.

He’s a little jaundiced now, not unusual for even a full term baby. I don’t know if that is a little more critical for him since his liver isn’t fully developed yet, but they have him under a special light to help with that.

They put in a feeding tube yesterday to start giving him some formula, just a miniscule amount at first, to see if his digestive system handles it okay. Then they’ll gradually increase the formula or breast milk while decreasing his iv fluids. They say it will be a few weeks yet before he’s developed the skills to suck and then swallow and breathe all together without choking.

The first neonatal doctor who talked to my son and daughter-in-law said this will probably be more of an up and down journey, with highs and lows, good days and bad, rather than one of continual steady improvement. So far everything is going well, but it will be a long journey.

I’d appreciate your continued prayers for all of them: for the little guy, that he’d continue to improve and get to go home as soon as possible. for Mom as she recovers herself, for Dad as he tries to keep up with everything, for both of them as they pray and watch over him. I was thinking of my daughter-in-law last night in the sense that usually, when you have a newborn, you get to stay home in your pjs and cuddle and get to know him. Instead she is going out to the hospital a couple of times a day for several hours while still recovering and trying to get going with the breast pump, and she’s not able to hold him (other than just for a few minutes one day). Would appreciate your prayers for them for strength and stamina as well as grace for everything involved. They are doing well, but as the doctor said, this will be a long haul.

I did get to go to the NICU one night and then again this morning, and was able to touch him and talk with him. The rule in the NICU is that no one else can visit the baby unless a parent is there, so I have to coordinate going with when they are there (which is fine, because I want to see them, too. :)  ) and when someone is here to care for my mother-in-law. We had just cut her caregiver’s hours back a couple of weeks ago, mainly for financial considerations, so that limits what times I can go out. I may be able to get permission to see him by myself, but I’d still like to go when my son and d-i-l are there, too, as much as possible.

At this point I am not showing his face or sharing his name or any vital statistics on the blog, partly because I haven’t had a chance to ask his parents how they feel about it, but partly because things are just so vulnerable right now. My own kids were older when I started a blog, so as long as I wasn’t too specific about our location, I didn’t have a problem sharing pictures or their names. But it is different with a baby. :) However, I’ll give you just a glimpse:

photo(1)

photo(2)

Isn’t he sweet? :)

Thanks again, so much, for your love, care, and prayers.

My little grandson, due late June, decided to make an early surprise appearance today!

He was crying as he came out, a good sign. But they will probably have to keep him in the NICU for possibly a couple of months.

Would appreciate your prayers for the little guy and the new parents.

I will probably not be on the blog for a few days :-)

Friday’s Fave Five

 It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends. Here are five favorite parts of the last week:

1. Safe travels for my son and daughter-in-law as they went to OK to visit her mom and attend a couple of baby showers folks were throwing for them. They had a little accident when someone scraped their car passing in a parking lot, but thankfully it wasn’t major and didn’t jolt the car enough to hurt anyone.

2. Baby things. It has been fun perusing my daughter-in-law’s baby registries and seeing all the cute things. I am looking forward to seeing what they got for their showers! I enjoyed receiving a video from my son showing us their new stroller/car seat combo – it was fun to see how excited he was about it. :)

3. Nice temperatures. When I’ve been out and about this week, the weather has been sunny and the temperatures a little on the cool side but not so much as to need a sweater – my favorite.

4. New schedule working out well. We had to cut back my mother-in-law’s caregiver’s hours so as to manage my mother-in-law’s finances better, and also because there was not enough for the caregiver to do to justify paying for 9 hours a day. That means those hours the caregiver is no longer working fall to me. I’m having to watch the clock a bit to try to get my errands done while she’s here, and in some ways I feel a little more tied down, but I’ve been surprised at how nice it feels to have the house to myself more.

5. Losing 6 lbs. over the last few months. Woot! I’ve just been changing one thing at a time (beginning exercising regularly, cutting back on sweets), and there are many more measures I need to take, but it has been encouraging to see some results just from what I have done so far.

Happy Friday!

Eldercare

Before I wrapped up this series, I wanted to share some odds and ends thoughts about helping parents as they age. This list would probably vary from person to person because parents age differently: we know a man well into his 80s who stills travels internationally and just got remarried a couple of years ago, but both of my parents had serious health issues in their 60s and died before they turned 70. Some parents are pretty self-sufficient as a rule whereas others need a little more help. Some want help, some don’t. These suggestions arose primarily from our own experience of seeing my mother-in-law through the last dozen years or so of living alone, then not being able to live alone, then going from assisted living to a nursing home to home with us. Some arose from friends’ experiences. By all means tailor any of this to fit your situation. I’d welcome any suggestions or experiences you’d like to share in the comments.

1. Have “the talk” – about finances. It’s hard to say when this should be done, but it should be well before finances become an issue and before any kind of dementia has set it. I’ve heard of some with dementia who thought their kids were “after their money” when they tried to work out power of attorney and such when the parent could no longer handle their own affairs. Some parents will be on top of things and will initiate the conversation with you (which is preferable). One suggestion would be to ask your parents as they get close to retirement how they’re set for the coming years and what their preferences would be if anything should happen to make them unable to take care of things.

In our case, my mother-in-law was the one who handled the finances in her marriage, and after her husband died she was happy to give her oldest son power of attorney. When she moved here, power of attorney was given to Jim since he would be the one actually handling her finances, paying for assisted living, supplies, etc. He got a joint bank account with her name and his on it so either of them could write checks. For years she wrote checks for church and for Christmas presents, but he wrote checks for bills. She would sometimes ask about how things stood but seemed content with how things were being handled.

2. Have the other talk – about end of life issues. This can be a difficult or awkward situation, and some parents will not want to discuss it at all. If something should happen and your parents have not made any living will or advanced directives, all you can do is try to make the best decisions you can. I’d advise you to do some research before having to make a decision in a crisis. For instance, we thought feeding tubes should always be offered if needed, but then discovered there are situations where it would cause more problems than it solved. When my dad needed a ventilator, one sister-in-law was adamantly against them because she had seen people who were for all practical purposes gone, but were kept alive on a ventilator; however, my father only needed one for about ten days. I once felt that CPR should always be performed, but on an elderly person, chest compressions can break bones. If you can gather information beforehand, you’ll be better prepared to make these decisions in a crisis.

3. Sibling involvement. It helps if everyone can be involved in the discussions and decisions that have to be made. Some of these, particularly end-of-life issues, can be especially delicate and emotional. If all the siblings are nearby, it’s best if they can all be involved in a parent’s care, but realistically it does not always work out that way. If the lion’s share of care falls to one sibling (often due to distance), continue to stay involved, show interest, ask how things are going, etc.  Abide by their decisions unless there is neglect or abuse. If there is an elderly family member with no children, others need to step in. We knew of a situation where an older lady in our church lived with a daughter who had some kind of mental issues, was a hoarder, had stuff stacked all over the house with only a narrow pathway for the older lady to get around in her walker, had something like 16 cats, some of whom she kept tied on strings in one room, which smelled horrible. When we knew of all this, we tried to help, but found out that unless there was active abuse, there was not much we could do as “outsiders.” Someone called animal control. and they came and took a few of the cats, but that is all. Another lady tried to help the older lady find a different place to live, but ultimately she did not want to leave her daughter. At her funeral when I saw rows and rows of her relatives, all I could think was, “Where have you people been the last several years?”

4. Help where needed, but unobtrusively. Long before parents get to a place where they can’t live alone any more, they might need help here and there with a variety of issues. They begin to lose steam or get to the place where they can’t see well and may not even know of some problems.

We lived 2,000 miles away from my husband’s parents, but the last several times we visited, my husband would seek for something to be done around the house (like rebuilding the roof on the carport, etc.)  and suggest doing it while we were there. It gave him and his dad some time to do something together, helped with something that really needed to be done, and kept his dad from climbing a ladder to do it himself. :)

We noticed the last several years that my mother-in-law was in her own home that things like dishes weren’t being done as well, not because she was letting them go, but because her eyesight and sense of touch was getting to the place that she didn’t realize she wasn’t doing as good of a job. I’m a bit germophobic, so when I’d drink a glass of ice water with “floaties” in it, I’d get pretty grossed out. This was before the days of readily available bottled water. She didn’t have a dishwasher, didn’t have room for one, and would not have wanted one anyway. We started getting paper plates and plastic cups when we visited, to “make things easier on her” – -which was technically true.  There were always piles of dishes after every meal, and sometimes she accepted help, but more often than not she liked to do them – it was her “thinking time.” Having some disposable products did help lighten that load, but it also helped us be assured that we were eating and drinking off clean utensils.

I mentioned earlier that sometimes household help can be hired, especially if the family doesn’t live nearby.

You may need to transfer things like Thanksgiving and Christmas to your house rather than the parents’ home, or at least spend time helping them get ready for it. You have to tread carefully with long-standing traditions like this: some might feel relieved not to have the pressure and work, but some might get their feelings hurt.

I mentioned helping unobtrusively: you don’t want to barge in and take over, or make them feel inadequate. Try to offer whatever help you think might be needed in a way that encourages them rather than demeans them.

And sometimes you just have to accept that things like the housekeeping might be at a lower standard than it once was. The last few years my mother-in-law lived alone, she pretty much let her dog have the run of the place, and every surface was covered with dog hair. It was a nuisance, but it wasn’t a safety or health issue, and his companionship meant a lot to her.

Sometimes helping means insisting on something they may not like. My mother-in-law was very much a status quo person who didn’t like to make any changes. Even when her hearing aid was not doing any good, she insisted it was fine, and we had to gently insist on going to the audiologist to be evaluated for a new one.

Sometimes helping may mean running interference. My mother-in-law had trouble with one physical therapist at the assisted living place (he had a Croatian accent and she couldn’t hear him well, couldn’t understand what he wanted her to do or why). He thought she was just being uncooperative. My husband had to take time to be with them for their first few sessions to help them interpret each other, but after they they got along great.

5. Help them to be as independent as possible as long as possible. At home or even in the lower-ranged assisted living care, there might be tools you can gets or little things you can do to help them be involved in their own care as long as possible: the seven-day pill holders to help keep their medications straight and help them remember what to take when; “reachers” to help them with hard-to-reach items (I use one of these myself!), an device to help open jars (I use one of those, too), etc. My husband tied bits of rope between his mother’s dresser drawer handles to make it easier for her to open them when she began to have trouble with them. He also put easier-to-read labels on the TV remote for the most-used buttons.

There will come a time when they will likely need help with just about everything, but for as long as possible let them do what they can do. We had elderly neighbors once, two sisters, who cut their own grass well into their 70s. One of them even painted her back steps at that age. My first impulse was, “Oh, we should go over and help them with that!” But one of them in particular liked being able to take care of herself. I just watched a Waltons episode when the grandmother came home after having a stroke, and every time she tried to do something, someone jumped up to do it and told her to relax. They meant well, but they made her feel helpless and useless. Even as their abilities diminish, let them do what they can safely do.

6. Don’t squelch talking about the past. As this post points out, they don’t have that much future left, and it may not look all that bright and cheery. This is a great time to ask them about their growing-up years – and a good time to write some of these things down for posterity. One of the things I regret with my mother-in-law is that I didn’t ask her more about these things and didn’t write down what she did say.

7. Help them find usefulness and purpose. This overlaps a bit with the above two points, but an older person can get pretty discouraged when they lose some of their abilities and even lose their home. Once when we had my mother-in-law here for dinner, a funny story from her past came up that we all enjoyed and laughed over: she did as well. Then she said, “Well, at least I’m good for a laugh.” It didn’t hit me until then that she might not have felt she was “good for” much of anything else. You can encourage a parent that as long as God has them alive, He has a purpose for them. Psalm 92:14 says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.” Perhaps you can help them organize their photos into albums (something else I wish I had done) and hear the stories behind them. Remind them often that you’re glad they are here.

8. Always honor and respect them as your parents. I cringe a little at the phrase “parenting your parents” or the idea of “switching roles” with them. In one assisted living place, when we came to pick up Jim’s mom for something, one of the aides said, “It’s almost like you’re the parent now, isn’t it?” and then turned to his mom and said, “Your daddy is here.” Umm…no. Even as she has lost more of her abilities and we’ve taken on more of her care, we don’t think of her like that. As she has experienced a bit of dementia, Jim has had to remind her about some things from time to time (like using her fork rather than her fingers at meals or insisting her hands be washed), and sometimes that might have involved a sharper tone if she persists, but we don’t treat her as a child. I know family dynamics can be tricky and some parents can get more child-like, but as much as possible we still need to show them honor and respect.

9. Forgetfulness and dementia. My mother-in-law does not have Alzheimer’s, so I can’t really speak to that (and again, I’d welcome any perspectives you’d like to share in the comments). She has had a degree of dementia. It’s usually worse when under stress or when anything different is happening, and it has increased over the years.

As a general rule it doesn’t help to say, “Don’t you remember?” (Lisa suggests here to give them the answers rather than questioning them). Sometimes it does help to gently remind them of things: for instance, when Jim brought his mother here from ID, the folks at her church had all given her cards and told her good-bye, and all her kids and several grandkids had come to a combination 80th birthday/farewell party. Yet on the plane, she told Jim, “I think I’ll just stay for a few days and then head back home.” He wisely didn’t try to “set her straight” then and there, but later on he said, “Remember when all the folks at church gave you cards? Do you remember what those were for?” At some point she said, “Oh, that’s right. I’m moving to South Carolina.”

A nurse in the nursing home once told a member of a group from our church who were visiting that it is best not to alter their reality. Sometimes when they get “stuck” on something, distraction is the best tool. When Jim traveled with her, she’d say things like “I sure hope you know where we’re going” and get a little rattled by it all. Even though he is a seasoned traveler, instead of just telling her, “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got it covered,” he told her what gate he was looking for at the airport and asked her to help him look for it. That gave her something to occupy her thoughts. Recently she was “stuck” on needing to go to her daughter’s house. Jim wasn’t home when this started, and at first I tried to remind her that she lived in TN now and that her daughter was back in ID. But that wasn’t sinking in. It was one of our worst weather days this winter, and when Jim got home, he told her, “It’s snowing out now and the roads are icy, so we’re just going to stay here for the night.” He had to go over that a few more times, but after a while her thoughts turned a different direction.

Even in visiting in the “memory care” unit of assisted living, residents would stop us and ask us if we could help them get somewhere. At some level they knew they weren’t home, and some of them were constantly trying to figure out ways to get there. One lady stopped Jim once to say that something was wrong with her car and she needed to get to it. It was close to dinner time, and he said, “I tell you what, why don’t you stay and eat dinner, and we’ll see about your car later.” She felt so honored to be asked. :) (On a side note, when visiting a nursing home or a memory care or Alzheimer’s unit in an assisted living facility, sometimes it is best to avoid engaging the residents in much conversation. When we visited my m-i-l in regular assisted living, we talked with the other residents quite frequently. But we quickly found that in the “memory care” unit, they often wanted you to help them with something, and when you couldn’t, they would get agitated, sometimes angry, and even start yelling and cussing, which not only disturbed themselves and others but made it hard on the aides to get everyone settled back down. We learned to just cheerfully say hello in passing without stopping to talk, and if we did get stopped and asked for something, we’d point out one of the aides and say, “Maybe she can help you.” )

10. Helping them deal with government agencies. Even if you have power of attorney, there are many situations where an agency will want your parent there. Once when my husband was trying to deal with one particular issue (I forget what it was), the man he was talking to wanted to talk to my mother-in-law on the phone. My husband tried to tell him she was very hard of hearing and especially  had trouble hearing on the phone, but the man insisted. So my husband went to her room at the assisted living facility, called the man, put the phone on speaker, and they tried to have a conversation. When she couldn’t hear and Jim was trying to convey to her what the man had said, the man shouted, “Don’t you dare tell her what to say!” Understand that they are trying to protect the elderly from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous relatives (unfortunately that does happen), but sometimes they do make it unnecessarily hard on those of us who are trying to help get necessary things done.

11. Smooth awkward moments. You don’t need to call attention to every mistake or fumble: if they’re aware of it, they probably feed bad enough already. Just help take care of spills or messes or whatever without making an issue of it. When they start needing help with personal issues, just handle it as matter-of-factly as possible – I took that cue from when I’ve had surgeries and illnesses and needed help with things I’d much rather have done on my own. Usually the nurses just came in and we got it done, and some of them were even cheerful about it. When my mother-in-law started needing help going to the bathroom, she’d say apologetically, “I bet you never thought when you got married that one day you’d have to help your mother-in-law go to the bathroom.” Well, no, I hadn’t. :) And helping someone that way or changing dirty Depends later on is not really anyone’s favorite thing to do, but it helps to just look at it as meeting her needs and to handle it with as much grace as possible. My husband is great at easing awkward issues with humor.

12. Don’t neglect spiritual needs. Linda had a great post on this. When they can’t read the Bible for themselves any more, take time to read it to them. Some can handle CDs to hear the Bible read. Jim’s mom liked to attend church Sunday mornings until perhaps the last year or so when she just got too feeble and had little energy. When she was in the nursing home, a group from a church we were familiar with had a church service there Sunday afternoons, and Jim went over and accompanied her to it.

13. Have patience. There can be a multitude of frustrations as a parent gets older, even when we understand that they can’t help what they are doing and saying. This is probably the area that I most often prayed for while my mother-in-law was in assisted living, and often while driving there I often prayed and quoted to myself Colossians 1:11: “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”

The ultimate principle is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). Put yourself in their place and treat them with as much love and grace as you would want others to show to you in the same situation.

Grandmother’s Beatitudes

Blessed are those who understand
My faltering step and palsied hand.

Blessed are those who know that my ears today
Must strain to catch the things they say.

Blessed are those who seem to know
That my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.

Blessed are those who looked away
When coffee spilled at table today.

Blessed are those with a cheery smile
Who stop to chat for a little while.

Blessed are those who never say,
“You’ve told that story twice today.”

Blessed are those who know the ways
To bring back memories of yesterdays.

Blessed are those who make it known
That I’m loved, respected, and not alone.

Blessed are those who know I’m at a loss
To find the strength to carry the Cross.

Blessed are those who ease the days
On my journey Home in loving ways.

- Esther Mary Walker

Related reading here at Stray Thoughts:

With All Our Feebleness.
Despise Not Thy Mother When She Is Old.
Caring For a Parent at Home.
Assisted Living and Nursing Homes.
Decisions for a Parent’s Care.
How Older Women Can Serve.
A Public Service Announcement Concerning Walkers.
Senior Version of “Jesus Loves Me
Am I Doing Any Good?
The Winter of Life.

Related reading on the Web:

Insignificant Is Beautiful.
Maintaining Sanity During Dementia’s Cognitive Decline.
8 Things Not to Say to Your Aging Parents.
Elders Who Abuse Relatives Taking Care of Them.
Adapting Your Home For An Older Parent.
10 Ways Caring For Parents Is Different Than Caring For Children.
You Are My Sunshine.
Alzheimer’s…My Reflections.
I’m Still Here.
A Psalm For Old Age.

Crowded to ChristThe first I remembering hearing of Crowded to Christ was in an online sermon from a former pastor that I think I listened to while home sick one Sunday. He must have mentioned it before, but this time he recommended finding a copy and reading it. It was first published in 1950 and is apparently out of print now, but I found an inexpensive used copy online.

Its author, L. E. Maxwell, was a co-founder, principal, and eventually president of Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada, which I don’t know much about except that Elisabeth Elliot attended there for a time and Don Richardson (author of Peace Child and other books) graduated from there.

Maxwell’s main theme is that God uses a variety of measures – the law of God as well as pain, pressure, and other means – to draw or to “crowd” people to Christ in the sense of realizing He is the only answer.

For instance, “In his determination to be humble, to love His enemies,… to be more than conqueror – in other words, to be like Christ -  the Christian may come sooner or later to a sense of crushing failure and defeat.” He realizes he can’t possibly do this on his own. Some go on half-heartedly, thinking full victory will just never be possible, while others, “not having made Paul’s deep discovery, ‘I know in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing,’ they redouble their efforts…They think that if they are only more watchful, more prayerful, more diligent, they will yet be able to attain. They strive and struggle; they fight and fast; they yearn and pray.” He quotes Hudson Taylor as saying, “I felt I was a child of God: His Spirit in my heart would cry: ‘Abba, Father’; but to rise to my privileges as a child I was utterly powerless.” Maxwell continues, “Not until they had come to an end of all self-righteousness and satisfaction in themselves, not until all their peace and joy and strength of will and resolution and purpose had been ‘slain by the law,’ could faith stretch forth her hands for victory. Only when they sensed the tragedy, the futility, the folly and failure of every human attempt to overcome the law of sin and death, were they shut up to Him who not only ‘justifies the ungodly’ but also ‘quickens the dead’” (pp 17-18).

He describes how God sometimes puts us in extenuating circumstances that result in a crisis of faith that drive us to Him as our only way through, like Jacob on his way home finding out Esau was coming to meet him, or Israel’s being caught between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, or Israel when called to enter into Canaan but looked at the obstacles instead of God and failed.

I have far too many quotes marked to share, but here are a few that stood out to me:

“Have you ever had God lay hold of you in the wee hours and reduce you until you had ‘Nothing left to do but fling/Care aside and simply cling?’” (p. 29).

“God must secure our confidence, and…He tries us in order to make us trust where we cannot trace. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. ‘Thy way is in the sea.’ While, therefore, He has no pleasure in our agony and perplexity, He knows that it is in the trackless and traceless sea of trouble that we come to trust” (p. 38).

“To be self-centered is to be self-destroyed…The preservation of self is the surest path to self-destruction” (p. 128).

“When the Lord Jesus dealt with souls, His method was adapted to the need of the individual. However, it is remarkable that almost invariably He brought souls face to face with some one thing which in their own strength they could not do, and there demanded an act of obedience…In order to create a sense of sin and a need of divine strength Jesus gave command just where men were inclined to wander or argue or excuse themselves” (p. 150).

“If only the Saviour had asked me to do something else! But that something else would not have reached your heart. You could have done that other thing without faith and without grace; yes, without even being right with God. So, in asking you to do the one impossible thing, Christ crosses your will through your withered limb” (p. 178).

“Grace is no mere favour conferred upon the ungodly, but it is to be experienced as a ruling force and sufficiency, reigning in our hearts as the new, living ‘law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,’ and enabling us to prove the no-more dominion of sin. Grace abounding is to lead at once to grace reigning” (p. 219).

In ways simple and inscrutable and fiery God must drain away the dregs of self-confidence. He must let the flesh fail…when all those remaining are convinced that God alone is their rescue and remedy…” (p. 256).

The New Testament is enfolded in the Old, and the Old Testament is unfolded in the New” (p. 272).

“Love and righteousness are not contrary principles” (p. 299).

He spends a good deal of space in the book talking about the law of God. Though Christ has fulfilled the law and we never could, and in this day of grace are not required to, still, God has uses for the law, which the Bible describes as “good” and “spiritual.” “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” His appendices on “The Old and New Testaments Compared” and “The Purpose of the Law” are some of the best parts of the book, especially on this point.

Overall I enjoyed, benefited from, and saw myself in the pages of this book. I wasn’t quite so interested in arguments about dispensationalism and ultra-dispensationalism or Calvinism vs. Armenianism: those seemed to make the book drag a bit, but I understand their necessity, especially with Maxwell coming from an academic background where students have debated these things back and forth for ages.

I think the only places where I disagreed with him were some such as when he described a man who did not want to go into a grove and pray as the folks in that place and time did when they wanted to meet with God after a service. He acknowledged that there is nothing in the Bible about doing such a thing and that one can get right with God without that action, but this man had no peace until he finally did so. I guess perhaps I could see that if it was just a matter of pride or something, but I’d still have trouble saying he should have done that when it is not a Biblical issue.

This book often brought to mind a quote from Hudson Taylor, though the quote itself is not in the book: “It doesn’t really matter how great the pressure is. What matters is where the pressure lies, whether it comes between me and God or whether it presses me nearer His heart.” As Maxwell says in the second quote listed above, God takes “no pleasure in our agony and perplexity.” He is not dreaming up ways to torture us, but He knows best what we most need in our inmost hearts to grow in our faith and relationship with Him.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

I often post hymns texts on Sundays, but I don’t have much time at the computer on Sunday itself, so if I don’t have a post ready beforehand I’m not usually able to get to it then. That dilemma was compounded yesterday when I had two different songs on my heart and couldn’t decide which one to share. :)

I’ve been rediscovering a CD that I’ve had for a while but somehow got buried in my little basket I keep on the kitchen counter for CDs: Beyond All Praising by the BJU Singers and Orchestra. One of the songs that stands out to me from this CD is “In Your Silence,” words by Eileen Berry and music by Molly IJames, on the theme of trusting God even when He seems silent and distant.

In Your word I find the echoes of the questions in my mind;
Have I fallen from Your favor, is Your ear to me inclined?
When Your silence is unbroken, though my prayer ascends each day,
Father, keep my faith from failing in the face of long delay.

While You wait in gracious wisdom and my doubts begin to rise,
I recall Your loving kindness, and lift my hopeful eyes.
While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart.
I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.

When the troubled thoughts within me hold me wakeful in the night,
And the shadows that surround me seem to hide me from Your sight.
Father, bring to my remembrance mercies shown in days gone by.
Help me rest upon Your promise: You will not neglect my cry!

While You wait in gracious wisdom and my doubts begin to rise,
I recall Your loving kindness, and lift my hopeful eyes.
While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart.
I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.

It is performed beautifully here:

I think many Christians go through times like this. Biblically Job and the psalmists share similar thoughts, and this song echoes some of the Psalms: the second stanza brings to mind Psalm 63. The last two lines of the chorus particularly resonate with me: “While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart. I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.”

This song also brings to mind a section in Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose (linked to my review). The following occurred while she was in a Japanese prison camp, having been captured while a missionary to the New Guinea during WWII.

I knew that without God, without that consciousness of His Presence in every troubled hour, I could never have made it…Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I felt enveloped in a spiritual vacuum. “Lord, where have You gone? What have I said or done to grieve You? Why have You withdrawn Your Presence from me? Oh Father—” In a panic I jumped to my feet, my heart frantically searching for a hidden sin, for a careless thought, for any reason why my Lord should have withdrawn His Presence from me. My prayers, my expressions of worship, seemed to go no higher than the ceiling; there seemed to be no sounding board. I prayed for forgiveness, for the Holy Spirit to search my heart. To none of my petitions was there any apparent response.

 I sank to the floor and quietly and purposefully began to search the Scriptures hidden in my heart…

 “Lord, I believe all that the Bible says. I do walk by faith and not by sight. I do not need to feel You near, because Your Word says You will never leave me nor forsake me. Lord, I confirm my faith; I believe.” The words of Hebrews 11:1 welled up, unbeckoned, to fill my mind: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The evidence of things not seen. Evidence not seen — that was what I put my trust in — not in feelings or moments of ecstasy, but in the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ. Suddenly I realized that I was singing:

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

 On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

I was assured that my faith rested not on feelings, not on moments of ecstasy, but on the Person of my matchless, changeless Savior, in Whom is no shadow caused by turning. In a measure I felt I understood what Job meant when he declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:35). Job knew that he could trust God, because Job knew the character of the One in Whom he had put his trust. It was faith stripped of feelings, faith without trappings. More than ever before, I knew that I could ever and always put my trust, my faith, in my glorious Lord. I encouraged myself in the Lord and His Word.

We don’t always know why God seems distant. Sometimes it is sin: though He is with us always, that fellowship can be broken when we’re sinning against Him. Sometimes, as in Darlene’s case, He is teaching us to trust in Him and His Word and not in our feelings. Sometimes, like for Daniel, answers are delayed due to spiritual opposition. There may be other reasons as well, but the answer is the same: reminding ourselves of and resting on His Word.

Though this is not a “dark” time for me, it is for a few friends, so I hope this encourages them, and I can shore these truths up for myself for when those times might come around in the future.

Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Isaiah 50:10

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 349 other followers