None of Us Lives for Ourselves Alone

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. Romans 14:7

One of my favorite devotional books is My Utmost For His Highest written by Oswald Chambers. For many years while working as an engineer and analyst for the Department of the Army, I would always start my morning by reading a devotion from this book which was readily visible on my desk. Reading one of these devotions before I started my day helped me remember who I served as I went about my day.

In one of Oswald Chambers’ devotions he asks, “Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? For instance, if I allow any turning away from God in my private life, everyone around me suffers.” Wow, what an awesome task to be responsible spiritually to God for other people! Interestingly enough, Chambers places no condition on his question. In other words, it makes no difference if you are healthy or ill, wealthy or poor, joyful or sorrowful, employed or unemployed, married or single, or living in an estate or homeless. As Christians, we are duty bound to be spiritually responsible for those around us through our actions, prayers, words, and thoughts.

Since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and subsequent early retirement due to the disease, I have come to appreciate how important it is to be spiritually responsible for others. Perhaps because I have more free time now than while I was working, I spend more time studying the Bible, meditating on its words, praying for others, and being of service where I am able. I do these things in spite of my disease because that is what Christ expects from me.

Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul was trying to get the saints in Rome to understand in today’s passage when he said, “None of us lives for ourselves alone.” We are greater than ourselves and therefore responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of others. Besides, isn’t this exactly what Christ called us to do?

If you are dealing with the daily demands of dementia, you may wonder what you can do to spiritually help others. First and foremost, stay attached to the vine of Christ and don’t turn away from God in your private life. Then pray for those around you whether it be your caregivers, members of your support group(s), family members, or even the people in the nursing home/assisted living facility which you may reside. Then ask God to show you how you might be of service to them in some small way. He will always bring forth an opportunity that fits your ability if you ask.

Remember, none of us lives for ourselves alone if we belong to Christ. Therefore, become spiritually responsible for those around you. When you do this, your actions will be a pleasing and selfless offering to God.

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Serving Our Neighbor

Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” Romans 15:2-3

Yesterday was our church’s food pantry distribution day. It is an exhausting day for all involved. The volunteers unload the truck, unpack the food, arrange it for distribution, bag up food, get boxes ready for loading, and then help folks get the much needed food to their cars.

By the time distribution day has ended, I am completed exhausted and emotionally spent. There is barely enough energy to make it back home. You see, my early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is an unforgiving foe when it comes to this type of effort. I pray for enough strength to make it through the afternoon and evening until the last family is served. Then I go home and collapse after we are finished. Even though I am tired, I am ever so grateful to have a wonderful house to go home to, a loving wife who prepares a meal for me, and food in our pantry so I never go hungry. This is not the case for so many of the people our food pantry serves.

Today’s passage reminds me why I pour myself out on food pantry days. Christ gives me strength and long ago He set the example of service I am to follow. Besides, when I help at the food pantry, I am touched by at least one incredible family who demonstrates remarkable determination in the face of unbelievable adversity. I am humbly encouraged to continue on because of their personal perseverance! I know that I help others on these days but I am also helped beyond measure as I pour myself out for others who have experienced far greater need than I may ever know.

No matter what you are facing, whether it is dementia, illness, job loss, relationship problems, or anything else, there is always someone who suffers more in life and needs your helping hand. By helping others, we not only extend the hand of Christ but we humble ourselves as we share in their lives. In essence we are loving our neighbors as we love ourselves which is exactly what Christ instructed us to do (Mark 12:31). Perhaps this is the heart of the message which the Apostle Paul was relaying to the saints in Rome in today’s passage.

As you go about your day today, ask God to give your strength, perseverance, and humility so you can help someone scale their wall of adversity and despair. Allow God to turn your foggy days into light by helping someone else. Then you will be loving and pleasing your neighbor just as Christ and His beloved Apostle Paul instructed.

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How Is Your Serve?

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8

During my Junior and Senior years in high school, I played on the varsity tennis team and was a fairly good competitor within our region. The key to being quasi-good at tennis is to have a fast and accurate serve. If your serve gets in the box with speed and spin, then it’s considered a great serve.  To develop a great serve one must practice, practice, practice. Practice makes it easier to serve consistently with accuracy and speed.

The same is true for Christianity. To be a great Christian, you must be good at serving. To be good at serving, you must firmly embrace and continually use the gifts God has graciously given you. In other words, you must practice, practice, and practice again your gift seeking God’s help in its perfection. Perhaps that is what the Apostle Paul was trying to tell the early Christians in Rome in today’s passage. Paul knew that God gave each of these Christians different gifts. These included prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and mercy. These gifts were given so they might graciously serve their fellow man in love. Therefore, with the love of Christ in their hearts, they should graciously practice using their gifts.

The same is true for those of us afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. God has endowed each of us with gifts which we can still use to help our fellow man. As long as we have love in our hearts, then we can serve and bless others. The key to serving is love. The key to love is Christ. Alzheimer’s really doesn’t have a say in the matter.

So how is your serve today? Is it a bit off since your diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease? Have you been reluctant to serve because you are embarrassed or you are mad at God because of your illness?

Do not become a selfish slave to Alzheimer’s disease. You belong to Christ and He is your master. He still loves you despite the disease and He expects you to continue to use your gifts in some manner. So get out there and serve! You will find favor in His heavenly eyes.

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Live at Peace

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

David Snowdon, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota began a pilot study in 1986 using data collected from School Sisters of Notre Dame living in Mankato, Minnesota. This study is now known as the Nun Study which is a longitudinal study of aging and Alzheimer’s disease. When Dr. Snowdon joined the College of Medicine faculty at the University of Kentucky in 1990, the study was expanded to include older Notre Dames throughout the United States. The Nun Study is housed within the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky’s Chandler Medical Center. The goal of the Nun Study is to determine the causes and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, other brain diseases, and the mental and physical disabilities associated with old age.

The results from the Nun study pertaining to peace, happiness, and a positive attitude, were quite remarkable. They included:

  • For every 1% increase in the number of positive sentences in the writings of the nuns, there was a 1.4% decrease in mortality rate.
  • The happiest nuns lived 10 years longer than the least happy nuns.
  • By age 80, the most cheerful group had only lost 25% of its population while the least cheerful group had lost 60%.
  • Cheerful nuns had an 80% chance of getting to age 85 while the least cheerful nuns only had a 54% chance of reaching 85.
  • By age 90 the cheerful sisters survived 65% of the time while the least cheerful sisters only survived 30%.
  • 54% of the happy nuns reached 94 while only 15% of the least happy nuns reached that age.

If we truly want to live longer we might want to make our own happiness a priority and learn to live happy peaceful lives. Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul was trying to teach the saints in Rome when he wrote today’s passage. Somehow, Paul knew that living at peace with everyone would not only encourage their spirit but it would also make their lives happier and perhaps longer.

Many of us faced with early stage dementia are diligent about exercising, eating properly, getting enough sleep, taking our medications, and exercising our brains but yet we neglect our own happiness. Or perhaps, we have misplaced our priorities and focus on the things that bring instant pleasures rather than true happiness. Living happy, peaceful lives may be the key to enduring dementia in a joyful manner. Therefore, live at peace with everyone, to include your caregiver, just like the Apostle Paul instructs in today’s passage.

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A Spirit of Unity

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5-6

Last week, I spoke at a Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) meeting. It was a meeting which focused on health so I shared a little bit about my story of living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease as well as information about the disease. I was surprised to learn how many of the DAR members had close family members or relatives who had passed away from complications brought on by Alzheimer’s disease. These ladies were so wonderful and they even gave me a donation for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

One of the things I really appreciated was how they opened up their DAR meeting. It started with a beautiful prayer, then the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by singing the National Anthem, and then reciting the preamble to the Constitution. It was such a delight to know that God was always part of their meeting and how much they appreciated our great nation. It was readily apparent that God gave them a spirit of unity, endurance, and encouragement

These Christian ladies were such an encouragement to me as I spoke and as I met with them after the meeting. It brought to mind today’s passage which the Apostle Paul penned to his brothers and sisters in Christ at the church in Rome. Paul prayed that God would give these early Christians endurance and encouragement. But he didn’t stop there, he also prayed that God would give them a spirit of unity so their fellowship might bring glory to God the Father of our Lord.

As I sat at the meeting, I was reminded of how important it is for folks with dementia to socialize with others. This is one of the Best Practices because it forces the person with dementia to converse with others, it stimulates the brain, and it gets them out of the comfort of their home. And there is no better place to socialize than with good Christian people who are united in purpose.

If you are struggling with dementia, find a godly group where you can socialize. It could be an Alzheimer’s support group, a Memory Café, a small group from your church, or even the Daughters of the American Revolution. Whatever group it may be, socialize with them and use your brain. It will be good for your spirit!

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If God Is For Us

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

As a child I couldn’t wait for my birthday so I’d get another year older and hopefully reach a new milestone like:

  • Five when I started school.
  • Eight when I rode my bike alone in the neighborhood.
  • Ten when I started cutting grass with the power mower.
  • Thirteen when I became a teenager.
  • Sixteen when I received my driver’s license.

All along my body was growing stronger and my spirit was growing more mature. Somewhere along the way my body reached its prime and the downward spiral slowly began. Then tragedy struck at fifty-five when I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It reminded me of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians in Corinth when he said, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).” Like Paul described, my mind and body started wasting away in such a manner it was outwardly noticeable.

But what about my inward spirit? How was it fairing? Luckily, it was growing closer to Christ and being renewed daily even after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Like Paul wrote in today’s passage, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” No matter what was happening in my life, God was with me, standing beside me, advocating for me, and helping me. Even my spirit could remain healthy, continue maturing, and be renewed daily no matter what was happening to my earthly body.

Each new day brings an opportunity for spiritual revival if you abide in Christ. Of course, this spiritual renewal isn’t guaranteed if you succumb to the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things that systematically choke out His Holy Spirit. Therefore, remain attached to the vine of Christ, stay rooted in His word, speak with Him often, walk in the Spirit, and live in His presence.

So how is your spirit today? Is it being renewed continually or is it being choked out? Don’t let the wasting away of your body impact your spiritual well-being. Always remember, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

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State Advocacy Day

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Romans 12:3

Today is Kentucky State Advocacy Day for the Alzheimer’s Association so I will be going to our State Capitol in Frankfort to speak with legislators about the needs of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. I will share my story and talk with them about the need for more funding for research at the University of Kentucky, the additional need for improved care and support for Alzheimer’s patients, the critical need for support for caregivers, the need for dementia friendly communities, the need to improvement in nursing homes and memory care facilities, and the need to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

Today’s passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is quite fitting because I need to remember to not think to highly of myself or my demands but rather think of them with sober judgment. Our state legislators have a full plate and a limited budget. But this cause is so overwhelming that if we don’t find a cure, Medicaid and Medicare will go bankrupt because of Alzheimer’s disease care.

Please say a prayer for Sarah and me as we speak with legislators about this cause. Pray they will have an open mind and a caring heart as they hear my story. Pray that our message will make an impact. Pray for all of the folks living with this disease. And pray for our legislators who must make difficult choices every year!

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Living with Christ

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:8

I remember many of the “first time” events I faced as a teenager living on a small farm in Kentucky. These included learning to drive our John Deere tractor, baling hay for the first time, learning to cut and spear tobacco, learning to drive a manual transmission car, going on my very first date, and getting my driver’s license. All of these new activities were accompanied by a bit of anxiety, uncertainty, and a bit of trepidation. However, the one thing I remember fondly was that my father was there giving me advice for each new journey and encouraging me in each of my new endeavors.

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul is reminding us that as Christians who have died to sin, we now live with Christ. By “living with Him” Paul is reminding us that Christ is our friend, teacher, counselor, protector, and guide in the here and now. Wow, what wonderful news as we face all kinds of unexpected events!

I like how the psalmist put it when he wrote, “Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory (Psalm 73:23-24).” In other words, the Lord is so close that He even holds our right hand as He guides us with His wonderfully wise counsel and comforting touch. What a perfect passage of heavenly assurance for the more serious “first time” events we face in our lives.

Of course, now I am facing another “first time” event, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Although my earthly father has long since passed away from the very disease I am struggling with, it is the Lord’s awesome assurance and His holy presence that makes living with this disease so much more manageable. Why? Because I know He is guiding me along every step of my journey.

  • When I take on a new task, He is guiding me.
  • When I struggle with the daily demands brought on by this disease, He is guiding me.
  • When my memory fades on foggy days, He is guiding me.
  • When I write words of encouragement through my daily devotions, He is guiding me.
  • When I am frail, weak, and unsteady because I have overdone it, He is guiding me.
  • And when I take my final breath, He will be guiding me!

If you are struggling today because of Alzheimer’s disease or any form of dementia, you also need a gentle guide, a heavenly host, and a compassionate counselor. You need someone who will always be with you. Someone who is so close that He will hold your right hand from this point forward. The Lord wants to be your gentle guide, your heavenly host, your excellent teacher, your faithful friend, and your compassionate counselor as you face the daily demands of living with dementia. Reach out to Him today and live with Him from now on!

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Hope through the Holy Spirit

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5

One of the things I love to write about in my devotions is the hope that God promises and then pours into all Christians. This is the message the Apostle Paul was relaying to the saints in Rome in today’s passage. He explains to them that this hope does not disappoint. Why? Because God has poured it into their hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given to them once they were justified through faith in Christ.

Scripture is filled with references to the hope God promises. Here are some of my favorite snippets:

  • God’s plans are to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we have hope (Romans 15:4).
  • The God of hope fills us with all joy and peace so we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
  • We have this hope as a firm and secure anchor for all of life’s storms (Hebrews 6:19).
  • Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see (Hebrews 11:1).

Where would life be without hope from our Heavenly Father? Would we become ungodly people simply living life to accumulate more things than our neighbors? Would life have no godly purpose at all? Would the storms of life destroy and devastate our spirits? Would illness mean insurmountable despair? Would death be the end of everything? Thank goodness for the hope the Lord brings!

Hope gives us encouragement to live life in a Christ like manner no matter what befalls us. With hope, we realize our anchor is not earthly possessions but eternal promises. With hope, we have a firm and secure anchor to hold us in place when the storms of life rage around us. With hope, we can endure illness knowing that God has a better plan for us than just being ill; in fact, he has a purpose for us to fulfill. With hope, a terminal illness simply means we will be with our Lord sooner than expected. Hope is an amazing thing that brings us ever closer to our Lord and for that I am truly grateful.

If you are struggling today, spend some quiet time with the Lord in prayer. He will comfort you like no one else can. He will fill your heart with hope, joy, and peace as you begin to trust in Him. Let Him be your anchor no matter what you are going through in life. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to overflow with a hope that does not disappoint so others might see Christ through you.

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Hope for Your Spiritual Race

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

As a long time runner, I appreciate the analogy Paul uses in today’s passage to the church at Rome. You see, running long distances does produce pain and suffering in your legs, knees, and ankles. But, if you continue to persevere through the pain and suffering, you get stronger. With this strength you are able to run longer distance which builds your character as you endure the hardships of running. However, what is more important is how all the suffering, pain, persevering, and character building lead to the hope of running even further distances as your body adapts and grows stronger.

Prior to my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I ran for three specific reasons: to reduce the stress of a high pressure career, to improve my health, and to maintain my fighting weight! This triad of benefits was the precious prize for running my physical race successfully. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I had to give up running because of problems with depth perception and simply getting too exhausted. However, I made a conscious decision to continue running my spiritual race in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ. I could have simply given up on the challenge and let Alzheimer’s run its course. No one would have blamed me for this “selfish” action because I might have had only a few good years left so why spend them serving others? Instead, I opted to press on in my spiritual race in spite of my situation. I continued to teach, write, read, pray, serve, and give like nothing changed in my life.

Why do I still do this? Because of the hope I have in Christ. He assures me He is in control and He will guide my steps as I willingly serve Him. Will my service be different than before Alzheimer’s disease? Absolutely! I’m certainly not as mentally focused as before, my mind is not as sharp as before, I forget more things than before, and I tire out more easily than before. But nonetheless, I can still serve because of the perseverance, character, and hope Christ has instilled in me. You see, in a race there are often steep hills runners must endure if they are to complete a long distance race. I see Alzheimer’s as just another steep hill in my long distance spiritual race. Rather than give up, I push on hoping to reach the top!

Perhaps you are struggling in your spiritual race as you deal with Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t give up hope. Hold on to what Paul penned in today’s passage. Keep running but do so in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling. Run knowing that Christ will instill within you perseverance, character, and hope for your spiritual race as well.

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