Death by Snakes

We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-and were killed by snakes.
1 Corinthians 10:9

Even though I struggle with the daily demands of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, I am cautious not to test the Lord because of my disease. I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in Nov of 2009 which means I’ve been dealing with the demands of Alzheimer’s for over eight years now. Throughout this time, I try to remain filled with thankfulness rather than filled with complaints. Like the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians about the Israelites, some of them tested the Lord (or complained) and were killed by snakes. What a terrible way to die!

Since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 55, I am thankful for many things to include:

  • An early diagnosis so I have had time to get all of my affairs in order and determine the things I still want to do in life.
  • A good disability retirement plan to help sustain me and my wife.
  • An understanding wife and family who have always supported my decisions as I learn more about adjusting to life with this disease.
  • A university research center nearby where there is easy access to clinical trials for new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A team of top-notch medical professionals who care for me.
  • Great medications, treatments, and procedures for this disease.
  • Promising research that will eventually lead to a cure for this disease.
  • An amazingly active Alzheimer’s Association chapter which provides education, support groups, and information for people living with the disease.
  • New purpose for my life as I write, speak, and share about living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A merciful God who continues to comfort me and bring me peace.

Was I “happy” about receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease? Absolutely not! However, I found much to be thankful for in spite of the diagnosis. For me, maintaining a thankful spirit has made all the difference as I deal with the many changes brought on by Alzheimer’s disease. Besides, death by snakes must truly be a horrible death so being thankful is much better than testing the Lord!

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).”  Rather than testing the Lord, Paul always opted to give thanks in spite of the struggles he faced. Perhaps he is the perfect model for thankfulness in the midst of turmoil. Why should I be any different? How about you?

Posted in God Cares | Leave a comment

Seek the Good of Others

Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:24

Since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I have participated in two 18 month clinical trials for promising Alzheimer’s drugs. These trials were conducted at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging by an amazing cadre of nurses, doctors, clinicians, and trial administrators. I am also part of a long term study at this facility where I hope they can learn more about the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease on the body and the brain. I do this not for my own good, but for the good of others just as Paul instructed the brothers and sisters in Corinth to do in today’s passage.

Of course, I don’t place my faith solely in clinical trial research. It is vitally important but my faith is placed in my stronghold, the living Lord. However, because I have a stronghold on which to rely, I have no fear of participating in clinical trials for new drugs to help fight this disease. In fact, my stronghold empowers me to participate to benefit future generations. When we have such a supportive stronghold, we can place our fears and self-centeredness aside and do amazing things for the greater good. Why? Because we know our Lord will be with us, protect us, and uphold us with His mighty right hand.

Let’s face it, clinical trial research is probably the only way a cure will be found and is certainly the only path to prove that new treatments/drugs actually ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, new drugs must be tested on people with Alzheimer’s disease to validate their benefits. Therefore, Alzheimer’s patients play a crucial role in finding a cure and helping develop new treatments. I honestly believe participating in clinical trials has been a gift of grace from God and I am hoping to participate in one more trial in my lifetime.

Today’s passage reminds us that we must always seek the good of others rather than selfishly seeking our own good. This is a tough testament to follow especially if you are dealing with the daily demands of dementia. However, there are things you can do to seek the good of others. If you have never considered participating in a clinical trial, give it some thought. If you decide you are up to the challenge, then log onto alz.org and check out the Alzheimer’s Association’s Trial Match program. There you can develop a profile and find all the clinical trials close to your area.

With the Lord as your stronghold, you can certainly meet the challenge to seek the good of others above yourself. Who knows, the clinical trial you choose might be the one that changes history forever and brings about the first survivor of this disease!

Posted in Service | Leave a comment

What Do You Have to Grumble About?

And do not grumble, as some of them did-and were killed by the destroying angel. 1 Corinthians 10:10

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he warns them about many things that happened in Israel’s history. In today’s passage he specifically reminds them what happened to those who grumbled in the desert: they were killed by the destroying angel. Wow, what a penalty for grumbling!

As you struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, you may have a tendency to grumble about what is happening in your life. Confusion and frustration tend to cloud your days. You may feel uneasy as you wander forgetfully through your home. It is an uncanny experience to constantly enter a room and forget what you came in to get.

For me, this was always made worse when I was stressed or worried about what might happen later on in my life. I finally had to turn it all over to Christ and asked Him to calm the storm raging inside my brain. You see, Christ had not left me nor forsaken me in spite of my situation. He was with me all along. All I had to do was call out to Him and He readily calmed my storm which eased my confusion and frustration.

Now I am at peace in the midst of my battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is hard to explain how Christ has comforted me in this catastrophic crisis. I no longer worried about what the future might bring. Instead, I simply enjoy the pleasures of living an abundant life in Him. When I focus on Him, there is no need to worry or grumble about the future. He is in complete control so what have I to fear?

I am reminded of the situation with the disciples in the boat when the storm blew in upon them. Mark records how Jesus handled this in his Gospel when he wrote, “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” In spite of their fear, worry, and grumbling, Jesus calmed the storm. He can do the same for your storm as well.

In the midst of an unconscionable illness, He can bring peace and joy if you yield complete control to Him. Christ asks this simple question, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Take firm hold of your faith and seek His help. He will bring peace in the midst of your raging storm. So what do you have to grumble about!

Posted in Faith | Leave a comment

A Spiritual Race

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24

Today’s Scripture is one of those passages that sticks out in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. It is quite notable and as such, I put it to memory many years ago. Perhaps it caught my attention because I was once a runner and this passage alludes to running a race. Of course, Paul is not suggesting we run a marathon so we can win a medal. No, he is talking about a spiritual race that has difficult stretches. Stretches that try our patience, zap our strength, and beg for us to stop running. However, Paul encourages us to continue on in our spiritual race so we can win the prize that only Christ can give us: a crown of salvation and a ribbon that declares, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

But I also like this passage because it reminds me that I must maintain my earthly body. In order to do this, I must exercise and stay off the couch so to speak. Many of us exercise to stay healthy, fit, and mentally alert because Alzheimer’s experts claim exercise improves brain function and stimulates endorphins which make us feel better. This is all well and good but it isn’t enough according to Paul. We need to exercise so we are healthy, fit, and more mentally alert in order to serve the Lord.

I remember after completing the harsh physical training of Officer Candidate School, Basic School, and Flight School in the Marine Corps, we were all advised to maintain a rigorous exercise program not just to stay in shape but because it would enable us to serve the Corps more effectively. In essence, I was exercising to be of better Marine who was more capable to serve to the needs of the Marine Corps.

As I struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, I have to remember that I am still a servant of the living Lord. Therefore, I must exercise to stay in shape which will enable me to serve Him better. As such, I have found a fitness program I can maintain and work at it as if working for the Lord and not just to offset Alzheimer’s disease! Because I exercise, I know I am a better servant.

Remember, we are all in a spiritual race. Let us run that race with perseverance so we can get the prize when it is over. Whatever you do, don’t let Alzheimer’s disease stop your spiritual marathon just because this stretch of the race is more difficult. Exercise to enhance your mental abilities and press on with your race because Christ is counting on you!

Posted in Exercise | Leave a comment

Learn to Be Content

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned him to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17

For the past eight years I have been participating in a long term study with the University of Kentucky for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This study records my steady decline in cognitive capability, tracks my mental health over the years, monitors my health, and accesses my general outlook on life. At the end of my life, the University of Kentucky gets my brain for scientific research in hopes of finding a cure for this dreadful disease. Throughout the many visits to the study site over the years, I am asked a vast array of questions as I conduct my annual long term study visit. Two particular questions stick out in my mind as I write this devotion:

  • Do you think other people are better off than you are?
  • Are you happy with your life in general?

I always respond with the same answer at each visit. To the first question about people being better off than you, I answer NO! To the second question about are you happy with your life, I always answer YES!

Some people are quite surprised by my responses to these two questions. How can I be content with my life as I deal with the demands of early onset Alzheimer’s disease? Why don’t I feel that others are better off than me? Well, today’s passage sheds some light on these questions. The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth and tells them that they should live confidently and contently in whatever station in life God has placed them.

Paul pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject as I deal with the daily demands of dementia. God continues to provide me confidence, comfort, contentment, counsel, strength, sustainment, peace, and pleasure as I go about my day. What more could I ask for as I continue to serve Him in spite of my disease?

The Apostle Paul had very wise counsel for the brothers and sisters in Corinth. His wise counsel still stands solid for us today. No matter what your station in life may be, commit it to the Lord and He will direct your path in accordance with His will. Like Solomon declared, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).”

Therefore, trust in Him today and learn to be content!

Posted in Contentment | Leave a comment

An Attitude of Gratitude for God’s Grace

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:4

Today’s passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth is one of those precious passages that reminds you to continue to give thanks to God for all things. In this case, Paul is thanking God for the saints in Corinth and more specifically for the grace through which Christ has enriched their lives. It is this grace which makes all the difference no matter what circumstances you may face in life. In other words, God’s grace is completely adequate for anything a Christian faces.

Of course, some people only believe grace is present in their lives (or adequate for their situation) if they are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can experience illness, poverty, and even worldly ignorance and still be living under the complete adequacy of grace for our particular situation. The key to understanding this is to determine if you are overflowing with thankfulness in spite of your predicament.

Since my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I have met and corresponded with hundreds of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Some folks are very angry about the things they (or their loved ones) are no longer able to do. Their focus remains on the negative attributes and bitterness, anxiety, and stress built up inside them. Contrast this with the folks who are grateful for the things they (or their loved ones) are still able to do. Their focus remains on the positive attributes and they overflow with thankfulness even in the midst of their dementia storm.

Now let me ask you, which group do you think understands the complete adequacy of God’s grace in their lives? Obviously, it is the group which overflows with thankfulness. They live under the comforting shadow of grace knowing God is with them daily, comforting them in their struggles, encouraging them when they feel discouraged, and strengthening them for the battles they face. All they need do is remain faithful, thankful, and connected to Christ. This is the group to which I belong. How about you?

Therefore, continue (or start) to appreciate God’s grace in your life. Be rooted and built up in Christ. Be strengthened in the faith. Overflow with thankfulness and hope no matter what your situation. Why? Because God loves a thankful and hopeful spirit.

Draw close to Him and allow His grace to flow freely in your life. Then, as you see His grace move in your life, have an attitude of gratitude for it!

Posted in Grace | Leave a comment

An Enriched Life

For in him you have been enriched in every way-with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge-God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 1 Corinthians 1:5-6

In the opening of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he reminds them how they have been set apart, sanctified, and called to be holy in a city that brought all kinds of people together to include the educated and sophisticated; people seeking wealth and riches; prostitutes and criminals; and those worshipping all kinds of gods and cults. Paul wanted them to understand how important holiness would be in their lives and to remain dedicated to God. In spite of the influence of Corinthian culture and society, Christ would keep them strong so they would be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus.

In the first part of Paul’s letter, he asserts that the believers in Corinth “have been enriched” in every manner possible to include speaking, spiritual gifts, strength, and knowledge. These blessings from God should enable them to live holy lives and be a righteous example among Corinthian society. In essence, God had given them all they needed to live fruitful lives in spite of their surroundings.

For someone living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, this is an important message as well. You see, if God can enrich the lives of the believers in Corinth, He can certainly enrich my life as well. It reminds me of what M.N. Sheehan, SJ, MD, who works in a Catholic palliative care ministry, said, “God is present and active even in those who are confused or unable to remember. Hope and love can remain alive even when cognitive function declines.” Wow, what great news!

To go right along with this, the Alzheimer’s Association has an interesting page on their website “alz.org” entitled Live Well. Buried within the Live Well section you will find the following statement:

“You have a choice in how you live your life with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. It is possible to live well with Alzheimer’s by taking control of your health and wellness, and focusing your energy on the aspects of your life you find most meaningful.”

Wow, what a wonderful way to live your best life with Alzheimer’s disease. As we focus our energy on what we find most meaningful, like serving God, we can be assured of living well with Alzheimer’s. Well this is exactly what I’m doing and God is graciously enriching my life as I stay attached to the vine of Christ. How about you?

Posted in God Cares | Leave a comment

Back In Time

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10

One of my wife and mine’s favorite movies is entitled, About Time. In this romantic comedy, the main start Tim, learns on his 21st birthday that he can travel back in time just like his father has been doing for decades. At first he uses this unique gift to help him find, court, and marry the girl of his dreams. But as he matures, he discovers that his gift is best used to reenact his day with acts of kindness, grace, love, humility, and goodness to make up for the many times he acted unkind, inpatient, unloving, arrogant, and hateful.

I suppose it is one of my favorite movies because of Tim’s great discovery of how to use his gift to better mankind. Of course, none of us can travel back in time to reenact a day. We must make the best of every opportunity to show kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, and grace to those we come in contact with during the day we experience.

Perhaps this may have been part of the message the Apostle Paul was revealing to his brothers and sisters in Corinth. Apparently there were divisions in the church as evidenced in today’s passage. These divisions caused strife within the church and stifled the message of the Gospel. But the underlying problem may have been the absence of love, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, love, and humility in the lives of the believers. If these fruits of the Spirit flowed in the Corinthians as they stayed attached to the vine of Christ, the strife and divisions in the early church could have been avoided.

So it is as I deal with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As I stay attached to the vine of Christ, then the fruit of the Spirit will continue to flow through me. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will over shadow my day and thereby impact my actions. There will be no need for me to travel back in time to reenact my day to correct acts of arrogance, hatefulness, anger, compulsiveness, and unlovingness. All I need do is focus on Christ and respond to the urgings of His Holy Spirit.

As you travel through your day today, I implore you to stay attached to the vine of Christ. Seek His counsel, read His Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide your actions. Then the fruit of the Spirit will flow through you and you will not need to travel back in time to correct any deeds that may not have been pleasing to Christ!

Posted in Fruit of the Spirit | Leave a comment

The Grace of God in Me

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:9–10

Paul has a perfect way of expressing how glorious the grace of God is in life. Saul, before his conversion and name change, persecuted the early church with a vigor that surpassed all of the Pharisees. He was a “dirty dog” to the early Christians but because of the grace of God his life was changed. God used Paul’s zeal to further His kingdom, enhance the Gospel message, and spread His grace to the gentiles. God’s glorious grace can channel a person’s gifts, once used against God, to spread God’s message as well as His goodness.

Grace is a wonderful gift none of us earn but which all of us are allowed to partake. It does not matter whether you are sick or healthy, rich or poor, naïve or street smart, or a hard worker or a bum. Grace comes upon you no matter what circumstance you are facing. Grace is God’s gift to everyone as evidenced by today’s passage.

As I struggle with the demands of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I have come to more fully understand how truly wonderful His gift of grace is in my life. There was a time when I felt I had to earn grace by serving God in extraordinary ways. I worked on Emmaus Walks, served as a Lay Speaker in churches, chaired church committees, visited the sick and homebound, and filled in for our Pastor all in an effort to gain God’s grace. But none of this made a difference when it comes to parceling out God’s grace! Now that my abilities have diminished considerably, I have come to understand how God’s grace still abounds in my life and it won’t diminish accordingly to my declining abilities.

By the grace of God I am still alive, joyful, content, at peace, and blessed with purposeful activities. His grace definitely continues to flourish in my life. I’ve come to understand that God’s grace is something Alzheimer’s disease will never change. Whether I’m sick or healthy, His grace continues to overflow in my life.

If you are struggling with the daily demands of dementia, turn to God today for His help. Allow His grace to flow gently into your life. You will feel the warmth of His love and He will bring strength, comfort, peace, joy, and contentment into your life as well. Accept His grace today!

Posted in Grace | Leave a comment

Sons of God

Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14

Growing up as the son of an Army staff non-commissioned officer was quite interesting to say the least. My father survived two wars (World War II and the Korean Was); served as a drill instructor at Fort Knox; served in the Infantry during World War II, in the Armor Corps in the Korean War, and in the Intelligence branch during the Cold War; spoke Russian and German; and did numerous tours overseas in his illustrious 22 year career. He was a gentle man with a strong sense of honor and commitment to our nation. Because I was his son, I loved and respected him greatly and always tried to please him. I excelled at school, sports, and debate because it brought him great joy when I’d bring home various accolades of achievement. I especially worked hard to please my dad whenever we worked together in the immaculate yard he maintained and then on our family farm after he retired from the Army.

Today’s passage reminds us that we are sons of God if we are led by the Holy Spirit. As sons (and daughters) of God, it is important to please the One whom we serve. The fact is, what pleases God is pretty straight forward but accomplishing the task is far more difficult. As I reflect back on my life under my earthly father’s tutelage, the things that pleased him most were my love for him and my obedience to his instructions. Whenever I was disobedient, which occurred more often than I’d care to admit, my father was not only displeased but also disappointed in me. I believe my disobedience broke his heart!

The same is true for our heavenly Father; He desires first our love followed closely by our obedience to His instructions. I love what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident said about obedience, “Only he who believes is obedient and only he who is obedient believes.” In other words, as children of the living God, if we truly believe, then we must strive to be truly obedient. If we can do this, it will most certainly please our Heavenly Father.

As a child of God, even though you struggle with the daily demands of dementia, it’s refreshing to know that pleasing God only requires your undivided love and unswerving obedience. You don’t have to build elaborate churches, erect marvelous monuments, serve in the darkest jungles of Africa, or build enormous wealth to hand over to Him. Love and obedience are more than enough. Surely, as sons and daughters of God, we can do that in spite of our disease!

Posted in Obedience | Leave a comment