Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Incredible Value of a Single Human Life

Mom's beautiful bay window, just one of the many blessed features of the apartment that was built just for her. 
This summer I've been reading John Piper's, A Hunger for God. Through this book, the Holy Spirit is doing a work in my heart and mind. I'm being changed in the best possible way; through the sculpting influences of God's Word and God's Spirit.

In his chapter on abortion, Piper's clear teaching on the sanctity of human life has led me to this conclusion:  in order to be God's hands and heart as I provide care to my elderly mother, I must respect the value of her life to God.

There is a worldly view of human life that is gaining prevalence in our society; a view that would consider human beings to be just one life form that shares the planet with other, equally important creatures and plants. This is not the view of human life put forth in the Bible. Not only are human beings created in God's image, we are His beloved. It is the love of God for my mother that has time and again turned me from a worldly train of thought that, if followed to its logical end, would lead me to conclude that my mother's life is no longer of  value.

In the eyes of the world, my mother is utilizing resources while paying back nothing, but in God's eyes she is precious.  I believe He loves her scribbled praises and prayers, and that the sound of her warbling voice singing hymns gives Him joy.  

When I was new at the job of caregiving, the inequality of my labor versus Mom's life of relative leisure sometimes caused me distress.  The sacrificial service God was asking of me seemed beyond reason.  Furthermore, I could clearly see that my mother, although in possession of many honorable traits, was not and never had been perfect; and thus did not particularly deserve such an extravagant display of love.  The Lord was gracious to explain to me that I was seeing the fruit of His mercy and grace in my mother's life; she is incredibly precious to Him simply because she belongs to Him:
This was God’s love in action; the sacrificial love that allowed Jesus to die so that my mother could live the life of a beloved child of God. When I began to comprehend God’s grace toward Mom, I was helped toward greater trust in His grace and provision for me. From My Mom Has Alzheimer's: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers p.238
As human beings living in a fallen world we become so easily convinced that there should be a limit placed on the resources and sacrifice expended for the sake of one human life.  But in the economy of God's Kingdom, there are no limits; His love is beyond reason. He has withheld nothing from us, not even His only Son.  I've been reminded once again that we are precious in His sight. 

Scripture: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16). 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beauty in Unexpected Places

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided to re-do a little upstairs bedroom in our old farmhouse.  OK, let's be honest here; I am the one who made the remodeling decision.  Poor Farmer John is so busy in the hayfield and so tired when he comes home at night that he would not have initiated such a project, although to his credit he helped me with every phase of the process.  At times (when texturing the ceiling, for example) he took over the work altogether.

Our house is nearly 100 years old, and has its idiosyncrasies.  For example, the door to the room we refurbished doesn't belong with the rest of the house.  Our theory is that the builders were one door short and so used a door from another building project, or perhaps from an older home that was being torn down.  This door has only four panels while the rest of our doors have five, and there is a plate beneath the doorknob that the other doors do not have.  The hinges and the doorplate had been painted over so many times that I took them off and applied paint thinner to remove multiple layers of color.  As I scraped away at the doorplate, this is what emerged:

The way I carried on you'd have thought I'd won the lottery. It was such an amazing feeling to see that beautiful pattern emerging from beneath the layers of sticky old paint.

I'm sure you can see it coming. I'm about to draw an analogy here! But that's the way the Lord speaks to me, so go with me on this...

I can't see beauty in my Mom's Alzheimer's disease. The disease itself is like those layers of sticky paint that hid the pattern beneath.  Alzheimer's is a travesty, an invader; a robber and a thief.  It takes so much from an individual and from a family.  It robs not only the memories of the patient, but also the memories of those who care for her.  It is hard now for me to remember who my mother was before Alzheimer's.  However, I have it on good authority that when my mother goes home to be with the Lord, that the effects of the disease will fade away much as those layers of paint dissolved.  And beneath will be not only my memories of the mother I once knew, but also the beauty of the pattern of God's perfect plan.  I can't see it now.  Someday I will.  Meantime I have faith that God has a plan, and that it is a good plan.  

Scripture: "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Like a Well-Watered Garden

 The  little kitchen garden just outside my back door, with its lush crop of two varieties of basil (and non edible petunias)!  Note the water hose in the upper right corner of the photo.  Frequent watering has kept this little garden green and growing during the triple digit temperatures we've experienced the past few days.  

My cousin Pam is a woman of God who has withstood many assaults on her heart and her faith.  She nursed her husband, Brad, through the cancer that took his life at age 51, and was holding his hand as his spirit left his body.  God's ways are not our own, and at the point at which a human administrator of life might have designated Pam's grief quota to be complete, she's had other sorrows to bear.  And yet over the years her faith has deepened while her sense of peace and well-being in the Lord has increased. 

Isaiah 58, sometimes called the fasting chapter, tells us that when we give to the Lord that we will become like a well-watered garden, bearing fruit even in times of drought.  Pam is a generous person, giving unreservedly to her children and to her Lord.  Recently she said to me, "I need to be cautious, because sometimes I give without praying." 

In one of those Spirit driven flashes of insight into my own sin I replied, "I think I tend to pray without giving."  

If we had to chose one sin or the other, I think it would be better to err by over-giving than on the side of ignoring God's nudges to meet the needs of those who are in need.  If Pam's life is any indication, the fruits of a giving heart are well worth pursuing.  

When we are identified with the Lord,  His concerns become ours, and then our giving is sanctified by His own heart.  I'm thanking God today for the presence in my life of my generous cousin, friend, and sister-in-Christ, Pam. 

When you have time, stop by Pam's blog.  I especially like her reading about flexibility in one's quiet time.  Here is the link for the home page of her blog, which is called  "Somewhere in Time."  And if you would, say a prayer for Pam today. 

Scripture: "The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" (Isaiah 58:11, NIV).