Richly Blessed

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him. Romans 10:11–12

There is a wonderful old hymn entitled Count Your Blessings written by Edwin Othello Excell in the late 1890’s. The closing words of the first verse are:

Count your many blessings,
Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

The words of this familiar hymn ring in my head for days after we sing it during a Sunday morning worship service. The words are a vivid reminder of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome as evidenced in today’s passage. “The same Lord is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him.” These words are as true today as they were when Paul wrote them to the church in Rome nearly 2000 years ago.

We often forget how blessed we truly are especially during the difficult times that often arise in our lives. Alzheimer’s disease can certainly be considered one of those extraordinarily difficult and distressing times that clouds one’s life. It can be devastating but it doesn’t mean God’s rich blessings no longer flow in your life.

The closing words of this famous hymn always remind me I’m not alone in my battle with Alzheimer’s disease:

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

I find comfort in the simple truth God is Lord over all things to include Alzheimer’s disease. I am truly grateful that His angels attend to me daily, His Holy Spirit guides me, and His Holy Word comforts me as I journey through this valley. Because of God’s grace, love, and mercy, I know I will not be alone and He will provide me help, comfort, and rich blessings all the days of my life!

If you are struggling with some form of dementia or some other serious situation, call on Him today. Then you will come to realize that He is Lord of All and He richly blesses all who call upon Him!

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Help for My Journey

I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Romans 15:24

Paul was quite the traveler and accomplished many long and arduous missionary journeys in which he helped establish and firm up the early Christian church. However, Paul did not accomplish his missionary journeys without the help of others. Today’s passage presents Paul’s plans to pass through Rome on his way to Spain. He shared his plan in his letter to the church in Rome in the hope of gaining assistance from his brothers and sisters in Christ for this missionary journey.

Without the help of his Christian brothers and sisters, Paul would have been less effective in spreading the gospel throughout the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. We also know Paul had a thorn in the flesh that caused him great anguish. As such, Paul received help in many different ways as he spread the gospel.

A few years after my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, while I was still able to drive safely, my wife and I drove to a seminar at which she was one of the key speakers. On the day we left for the conference, I was having a very good day with great mental clarity, so I drove most of the way. However, I did require her help in navigating and making decisions at crucial points along the route.

You see, Alzheimer’s disease has negatively impacted my decision-making ability. As a result, I am not afraid to ask for and accept help in areas where my abilities are somewhat degraded. Like Paul, I realize in order for me to be successful, I need the loving assistance of others.

Now I am no longer able to drive safely on most days so I have given up driving except for driving my truck around the farm and homestead. I rely on the excellent driving ability of my wife, friends, and other family members to get me to places I need to go and to ministries in which I serve. Alzheimer’s disease may certainly be my “thorn in the flesh” but with the help of others, I am able to continue forward and serve God in many ways! How about you?

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The God of Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Have you ever been around someone filled with joy and peace? Do you remember how it made you feel? Didn’t you feel more at peace and bit more joyful in spite of all that might have been going on in your life?

I know many such people but one person in particular stands out. That person is my wife’s aunt, Beverly Heath. She is a joyous lady who always has a smile on her face and good things to say about life, people, and her circumstances. She is also a gifted artist who paints beautiful pictures, creates amazing ceramics, and handcrafts many wonderful things. The joy and peace she exhibits are contagious to those with whom she comes in contact. Her hope and blessed outlook overflow so that others are touched by what spills forth from her spirit.

Beverly also retired as the director of a local Adult Day Care center and now helps my wife and I with the memory café we host once a month at Hodgenville United Methodist Church. She has a joyous way of reaching people and getting them to talk about what is going on in their lives. Everyone who attends leaves the memory café with a joyful heart and a peaceful spirit because of the way Christ shines through Beverly.

This is exactly what Paul was talking about when he asked God to fill the people of the church at Rome with joy and peace. Paul knew if the Roman church received the gifts of joy and peace, others would see the manifestation of Christ in their lives, just like Beverly. Then the people of the church would be content in their circumstances and a spirit of hope would emanate from them. Paul knew contentment flows freely from a spirit filled with joy and peace.

Having Alzheimer’s is a difficult situation but it should not impact how God’s spirit shines through you. Joy and peace can still be products of your life so you can be content in your current situation. I know this to be true because I am content, joyful, and at peace as I live with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Like Beverly, we should all be filled with the joy and peace of Christ. Why? So we can overflow with hope so others might find hope through us!

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Power through the Holy Spirit

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he expends a considerable amount of ink explaining the basic system of salvation to those who have never before received the teaching of an apostle. In today’s passage, Paul focuses on the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. He emphasizes how the Spirit helps us in our weakness and even prays for us in ways we may not be able to fully comprehend or even express.

Anyone who suffers with Alzheimer’s disease understands the “weakness” of this illness. There are things you just don’t do well anymore. Sharing the news of your illness is one of those things because it takes good communication skills. And anyone dealing with this disease understands how the ability to communicate clearly can be impacted!

I recall telling my children about my doctor’s preliminary diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease over eight years ago. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. I also remember asking God to help me find the words that would provide my children comfort and peace knowing how He was in complete control of this situation. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit was working behind the scenes and interceding for me in groans which words could never express. Perhaps this is why the conversation went so well. Once we decide to surrender the disease to God, He is able to work wonders in our lives that we simply cannot fully comprehend.

That is why it is important to share the news with those close to you. You can be a witness even in your weakness. You may not feel strong enough but the Holy Spirit is already in your corner praying and preparing you for this conversation!

So if you have been recently diagnosed with this disease and have not yet shared the news with your family or close friends, spend some time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to prepare you for this conversation. He won’t let you down, and like Paul declared in today’s passage, the Holy Spirit will help you in spite of your weakness!

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Unwavering Faith

Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God. Romans 4:19–20

Today’s Scripture is a particularly pressing passage but at the same time a very poignant passage from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. I like it because of Paul’s depiction of the strength of Abraham’s fervent faith in the face of the physical realities of old age. “Without weakening in his faith” and “he did not waver through unbelief” both stand as vivid examples of unwavering faith in the midst of the uncertainty about a promised future. Abraham’s unwavering faith in God was credited to him as righteousness.

Isn’t it ironic how the stark realities of life often challenge our faith because of the difficult situations we face given the weaknesses of our earthly bodies? However, if we can simply stand firm when these challenges arise, our faith will most certainly be strengthened. With each new challenge, our faith muscles are stretched in preparation for the one great challenge marking our lives. Who we are in Christ is not necessarily defined by the blessings that fall our way but by the trials we faithfully endure.

Alzheimer’s disease is such a trial that must be endured faithfully by the patient and caregiver alike. There are good days when I know God has blessed me with clear thinking and a sense of normalcy in my journey through this uncertain valley. But the not so good days always seem to test my faith. On the not so good days, I must hold firmly to His precious promises that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) and all things work to the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

It is truly the perseverance on the difficult days that make the good days such a wonderful blessing. It is also a glorious reminder God how is still in complete control and He loves me more than I can ever fathom. Therefore, I stand firm knowing that Alzheimer’s disease can never take my faith from me.

How are your faith muscles today? Are they weak or are they strong? If they are weak, stretch them by trusting God no matter what the circumstance!

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Patient in Affliction, Faithful in Prayer

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:11–13

Have you ever experienced a period of time when you lacked the zeal to get up in the morning and start your day? It is devastating to feel like this because you may think you have nothing to contribute to society, family, or friends. But nothing could be further from the truth for a disciple of Christ. Perhaps that is why Paul reminded the early Christians in Rome not to lose their zeal and keep their spiritual fervor so they could practice hospitality and share with others.

This lack of zeal hits close to home as we face the life changing impacts of Alzheimer’s disease. We must fight the tendency to throw in the towel, believe we have nothing to contribute, and stay in bed. Instead, we must remain physically active, pursue mentally challenging activities, socialize with family and friends, and continue to vibrantly serve the Lord. By doing this, our zest for life will flourish as we fulfill a godly purpose in our lives.

But the Apostle Paul doesn’t stop with keeping one’s spiritual fervor. Paul goes a bit further and instructs the early Christians in the Roman church to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. Joy, patience, and faithfulness are three of fruits of the Spirit which naturally flow in the life of someone attached to the vine of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul provided prudent advice for the early church and it certainly applies to those of us dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. We must remain joyful in hope and patient in affliction in spite of our predicament. This may seem difficult considering all we face but Paul equips us to do this by reminding us to be faithful in prayer. Prayer proves to be the catalyst for joy and patience in a Christian’s life.

In spite of all the things Alzheimer’s disease brings into our lives, it should never push out our prayer time. Prayer keeps us centered on Christ, sets our priorities for the day, and allows us to focus on the concerns of others by prayerfully interceding for them. Prayer is so powerful it makes me feel normal again and part of something so great even Alzheimer’s disease can’t destroy it!

That is why I get out of bed in the morning! How about you?

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A Journey Like No Other

By faith, Abraham when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

Today’s passage is one of my favorites from the Book of Hebrews. I memorized this particular passage over 10 years ago when my wife was going through a women’s Bible study called “First Place.” Part of the First Place objectives was to memorize a weekly Bible passage. When my wife was finished with her lesson book, I would take it, look at all the Scriptures, and put them to memory. This would take weeks to accomplish but these passages, like today’s passage in particular, helped me on my journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

You see, every journey begins with the seemingly simple decision to go to a new place. In most cases we choose the journey and select the best route to get there. However, sometimes the journey and the route are selected for us.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a journey no one chooses to take on their own. Nonetheless, it is a journey just like Abraham’s. Why do I say that? Because you have no earthly idea where you are going, what specifically lies ahead, or how long it will take until the journey ends. One thing I do know is God is there and He prepares a perfect path for those who love Him. All you need do is be obedient, fully trust in His perfect guidance, and relinquish complete control to Him. Ultimately, God is in control and He will lead you through the valley along the least difficult path if you will trust in Him.

This is perhaps the hardest part of the journey, letting go and allowing God to have complete control of your situation. Trusting in God is the critical first step. You either go with God, trusting in Him, or you go it alone, ignoring Him.

I chose to walk this journey with Him knowing His guidance will put me on the perfect path through the Alzheimer’s valley. There is absolutely no place I’d rather be than right alongside Him as I continue along my journey! How about you?

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A Breath of Air

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Psalm 150:6

Today’s passage closes out the book of Psalms and reminds us that everything that has breath should praise the Lord. It is a fitting passage to read and meditate upon on today. Why? Because praising our Lord should be as simple and automatic as taking a breath of air!

Psalm 150 starts and ends with the proclamation “Praise the Lord.” Perhaps that is how we should start and end each day of our lives. The gift of each new day deserves our heartfelt praise to our Lord while our surviving the day in a fallen world also deserves heartfelt praise to the One who sustains us.

Praise is the natural reaction of a grateful heart. I love the way Merlin R Carothers puts it in his book Power in Praise, “We praise God, not for what we expect will happen in or around us, but we praise Him for who He is and where and how we are right now.” So no matter what circumstances engulf our lives, we should praise God for who He is; our Refuge, Redeemer, Rock, and Righteous Ruler.

Even in the midst of my worst foggy day, I can always find something for which I can praise the Lord. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease does take its toll on me every day but God is always good and gracious. Somehow He works these foggy days to my good. How could I not praise Him for His goodness and grace in my life!

On this spectacular day, find some special time to praise the Lord for all He is, for all He has done for you, and for His persistent presence in your life. He is worthy of your praise and He is always pleased when you praise Him in the midst of your most stringent struggles. Therefore, let your praise flow as easily as you take a breath of air.

Praise the Lord today!

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Praising the Lord In Song

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Psalm 150:1

Whenever I think about praising the Lord, my mind immediately conjures up the words to some kind of praise or worship song and I begin singing the lyrics. There is just something special about praising God in song. I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul quoted to the church in Rome in his beloved letter to them, “Again, it says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’ And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.’ (Romans 15:10–11).”

In spite of my failing memory brought on by early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I can still remember some of the words to hymns, praise songs, and contemporary Christian music. You see, experts agree music has a way of connecting Alzheimer’s patients to the past. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s robs people of their short-term memory but their long-term memory often remains unaffected.

It is funny how I may not be able to remember all the words to a song; however, when the music begins to play, the words magically begin to flow from my lips. Perhaps the Apostle Paul knew how important music was when he wrote his letter to the Romans.

Music is important in corporate and personal worship but also in preserving our memory of spiritual things. “It appears the words to a song get encoded in a different place in the brain than the words we use in speech, and it appears that people with Alzheimer’s actually preserve the music, and the words that go to music, long after much of the rest of the brain is not functioning well,” says Elaine Bearer, a neuroscience professor at the University of New Mexico. Music provides a comforting connection to past spiritual experiences and allows us to rejoice in memories of our fervent faith. By singing worship songs, you remain mentally active and joyfully content in your connection to the Lord.

Alzheimer’s robs us of many things but it needn’t rob us of the joy of praiseful worship in song. Just as Paul declared to his brothers and sisters in the church at Rome and the psalmist proclaimed in today’s passage, rejoice and praise the Lord. And the best way to do this is in song! Besides, singing will connect you to the Lord in a beautiful way and minister to your heart and soul as well.

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Sing for Joy on Your Bed

Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:5

In Steven J. Lawson’s book, Holman Old Testament Commentary on Psalms, he writes the following insightful reflection on the 5th verse of the 149th Psalm, “In response to god’s grace and goodness, all the saints should rejoice in this honor of worshipping God. This honor is the underserved privilege of being made the object of God’s delight and deliverance. Their joy is so real that even when they lie down at night on their beds, they do not worry. Because their confidence is in the Lord, they do so without panic. Adoration, not anxiety floods their souls.”

As I have previously mentioned, this particular Psalm was written when Israel was being threatened by encroaching enemy powers that threatened the safety and sanctity of their nation. However, in spite of the life-threatening peril which Israel faced, their joy and trust in the Lord was so real that even when they lay down on their beds at night, they did not worry, panic, or become overly anxious. Wow, what a faithful way to live your life even when disaster looms around the horizon.

I must admit that I feel just like the psalmist! Even though early-onset Alzheimer’s disease threatens my life, my finances, my independence, and my sanity, I trust in the Lord completely so that adoration and peace flood my soul. I am able to do this because I remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to his beloved brothers and sisters in Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”

Perhaps the Apostle Paul and the psalmist understood how important it was to not be anxious about any situation no matter how difficult or dismal. Instead, they knew how important it was to rejoice and pray with thanksgiving in their hearts. When you can do this, then you can lie down on your bed at night and not worry about what tomorrow may bring.

Therefore, be completely confident in the Lord so that adoration and peace will flood your soul as well. And may anxiety never get a foothold in your life no matter what dire or dismal situation comes your way. Then maybe you too can sing for joy on your bed at night!

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