January 28, 2012

Behave Like Christ Is Coming Again – J.C. Ryle

Wherever you may live, and whatever may be your trials; however great your difficulties, and however small your helps; nothing should prevent your aiming at the highest standard, to behave like one who believes that Christ is coming again! You should resolve, by God's help, to live so that the day of Christ shall find you needing as little change as possible! You should seek to have . . .

your tastes so heavenly,
your affections so spiritual,
your will so subdued,
your mind so unworldly —
that when the Lord appears, you may be thoroughly in tune for His kingdom!

January 26, 2012

A New Normal at Mom and Dad's by Joni

Things look different at my Mom and Dad's house these days.  Here are just a few of the changes you see when you come there: 

Hand Sanitizer at the door with a note for all visitors to use it upon entering... a cold or the flu would be very hard for my Dad to handle at this point. My mom is trying to get him to stop shaking people's hands but that is a difficult habit to break. (especially after 21 years in the consistory where they do a whole lot of hand shaking!)

The wheelchair lift from the garage into the house, the portable wheelchair parked in the garage, the power wheelchair plugged in and charging up - ready to roll!

The handicapped parking sticker on the van...

There is a bar on the side of the bed now to help Dad sit up at night. He can often only get half way up while pulling on this bar and then my Mom has to help him pull up the rest of the way. The physiotherapist began training her in some lifting techniques today to help protect her back. Dad is often not able to assist much and is "dead weight" which can make it very difficult for Mom to manoeuvre him.

The bipap machine,which is becoming essential for Dad to sleep, sits on his night table.

We may soon need to install a lift system because they have already had one situation where Dad fell in the night on the floor and Mom could not get him up on her own - she had to call Goran for help in the night.

There is a lot of education needed for our whole family in equipment and lifting techniques/ exercises etc. as the disease progresses. Most of Dad's care is falling on Mom right now, and she is happy to do it, but we are ready to step in and help out as she requires more help and Dad requires more care.

Dad's button that hangs around his neck and starts a call sequence to Mom and his children in case he would fall and need help and no one was home.

A large "doorbell" ringer - if Dad hits the big yellow button an electronic doorbell sound will ring in the house and he can summon help if he doesn't have the strength to project his voice.

Daily vitamins/ pills.

The HUGE stack of cards which encourage my Mom and Dad so much - they treasure every email and card sent to them.

Dad is really enjoying the Ipad. Turning the thin pages of the Bible and other old books is difficult - reading the large clear font of the Ipad, and turning pages with a simple swipe of his finger has been a real blessing.  The daily inbox - always full of encouragement and thought provoking things to read.

The computer has become a vital part of Dads life - both in his personal devotional life and in his contact with the outside world. As his physical world becomes very small (from the armchair to the bed and back) he is still able to stay very much in touch with the world around him through the blessing of technology.

The physiotherapist showing us some new exercises we can do on Dad.  They have provided him with some relief from the cramping at night, as well as increasing his hand mobility, making it easier for him to use a fork and spoon again.

Joni doing physio which helps to open up Dad's chest allowing him to breathe deeper and easier.  The ALS is causing his muscles to curl up - his hands, his feet, his chest, his head - they are all returning to a fetal position. The goal is to open up his arms, his legs and his chest to allow him to breathe deeper, and prevent cramping and loss of motion (which can be permanent if not regularly exercised). The stretching routine takes about an hour to do and seems to be showing real results which is very encouraging. Mom enjoys some time alone to run errands, get a haircut or go for a walk and we get a chance to have some one-on-one with Dad which is a treasured time.

Dad pretty much lives in this chair.

He likes to have it elevated - it makes breathing more comfortable and it is much easier for him to get out of the chair with it in an upright position. We are thankful that he is still able to use the walker a little bit in the house.

Mom and Ella hanging out on the walker.

When Dad was first diagnosed with ALS, somedays we could still forget that he had it, but it seems harder to do that now. His voice is different, his arms are weak, and the reminders of his ALS are everywhere in their home now. I was reading about sanctity of life Sunday and thinking about how our world devalues life.... Starting with the preborn, then the handicapped and then the elderly and the terminally ill... so many gifts from God can be revealed through difficult situations. Dad still has so much to offer and just being with him is such a blessing. We look forward to every visit with both of our parents and value their counsel. 

I was speaking with a friend who lost her mom to cancer and she was sharing how she just longed to share one more cup of coffee with her mom even if her mom was so radically changed by the disease. She treasured those moments as the gift they were. There is something about knowing you will lose someone that heightens the relationship to a point you didn't know was possible - it brings a sweet intensity, honesty and transparency of your feelings that helps bring the rest of your life into a proper perspective. Anne Voskamp, in her blog www.aholyexperience.com writes of walking by the beach with her mother, aware that they won't do this forever, that she will one day lose her mom, and she says:

When you wake to losing someone, you win love. When you realize that what you have, you will lose - you will win real eyes. You win grateful joy....it's only when you realize everyone you love will one day leave you - that you really begin to love. Close your eyes and imagine a day without sight. And you open them to a brighter light. Imagine no water. And the next glass quenches like desert rain. Envision life without the loveliness of those you love - and you see how much you love. There's a way to wake up and not to live numb. The way to love life is to imagine losing it. He who loses his life shall find it.

Treasuring these days we are still together, and comforted knowing this world is not all there is, but we will one day be together with Jesus,


January 25, 2012

His Eye Is On the Sparrow by Civilla Martin

Early in the spring of 1905, my hus­band and I were so­journ­ing in El­mi­ra, New York. We con­tract­ed a deep friend­ship for a cou­ple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doo­lit­tle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle had been bed­rid­den for nigh twen­ty years. Her hus­band was an in­cur­a­ble crip­ple who had to pro­pel him­self to and from his bus­i­ness in a wheel chair. De­spite their af­flict­ions, they lived hap­py Christ­ian lives, bring­ing in­spir­a­tion and com­fort to all who knew them. One day while we were vi­sit­ing with the Doo­lit­tles, my hus­band com­ment­ed on their bright hope­ful­ness and asked them for the se­cret of it. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle’s re­ply was sim­ple: “His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me.” The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­press­ion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the imag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mar­tin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Spar­row” was the out­come of that ex­per­i­ence.

The next day she mailed the po­em to Charles Gab­ri­el, who sup­plied the mu­sic. Sing­er Ethel Wa­ters so loved this song that she used its name as the ti­tle for her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.


I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.


Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.


January 24, 2012

Ascertaining Your Spiritual State – J.C. Ryle

Leave no stone unturned in order to ascertain your own spiritual state. Be not content with vague hopes and trusts. Rest not on warm feelings and temporary desires after God. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. Oh, allow me to say that if you are content to live on, uncertain about salvation, you live the maddest life in the world! The fires of hell are before you—and you are uncertain whether your soul is saved. This world below must soon be left—and you are uncertain whether you have a mansion prepared to receive you in the world above. The judgment will soon be set—and you are uncertain whether you have an Advocate to plead your cause. Eternity will soon begin—and you are uncertain whether you are prepared to meet God. Oh, sit down this day, and study the subject of salvation! Give God no rest until uncertainty has disappeared, and you have got hold of a reasonable hope that you are saved.

January 19, 2012

Ordinary Things

If you should be given the message by a doctor that you have a fatal, incurable disease, with a limited time left to live, what would you do? Better yet, what should you do? My neurologist suggested that if there was anything special that I always wanted to do, I should do it now (this past summer). Some people have called it “your bucket list”. Some might think to go on that coveted cruise or spend some quality time at that exotic all-inclusive resort. I’m not saying that doing this is necessarily wrong, but what is the right, biblical thing to do? What would God have us to do?

One of the principles we find in the word of God is to ‘set your house in order’. In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. (
2 Kings 20:1) What did Hezekiah do? How did he respond to this devastating news? We read that he prayed unto the Lord and wept sore. This of course is the most important thing for us to do – to get right with God. To pray, repent from past and present sin, to read His Word, and to commune with Him. Hezekiah received a most unusual answer to his prayer request. His life was extended by 15 years. God can and does work miracles like this at times, but more often He uses the ordinary means of medicine, doctors advice and treatments. Sometimes these means are blessed and are successful, and sometimes not. God’s will and purposes will be carried out, to His glory, regardless. We are not to fatalistically give up praying or using the means God has given us, but ultimately we need to be made willing to align our will with His will for our lives. That can be a challenge and test of faith, but God can give peace and comfort while under affliction.

Other aspects of ‘setting your house in order’ may require the clearing up of old outstanding unresolved disagreements with other people or wrongs that may have accumulated. Forgiveness might need to be begged for, or apologies might need to be made. It is always best to take the lower place and to make an honest effort to heal those festering wounds. Clearing up financial matters, paying off debts, organizing your bank accounts, credit cards, investments, arranging your funeral, and updating your will, are all good things to do. We need to be realistic, practical and responsible with whatever God has given us.

But what should we be doing with the rest of our time and resources? I have been thinking about this lately, and just last night asked Lena, " Is there something else I should be doing? How should I be spending the little time I have left?" I was feeling that perhaps I should be doing something special or memorable while I could. We found the answer this morning when we were both reading the Head Heart Hand blog, and Dr. Murray had a link to Tim Challies article titled “On Doing Ordinary Things”. Challies says: “What does it look like to live a life that has been transformed by this gospel of grace through faith? Paul lays it out in all its ordinariness. It is not a life of doing things that makes all the world take notice and declare your virtues, but a life of quiet, humble service and a long, slow growth in godliness.” (
www.challies.com January 18, 2012 post) It is in the ordinary things, the routine daily things, that we are called to live in gratitude and faithful dependence on the Lord. Conversations and visits with fellow believers, family times, regular devotions, church attendance, eating and drinking, physio, walking, these are the things that fill our day, they are all actually quite ordinary, and yet each is a special gift from God to us. We are called to have a quiet confidence and hope in God. ”In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15). We should aim to glorify Him in all areas of our life, yes, even when they're just "ordinary".

January 13, 2012

New Routine

Now that we have begun a new year, Lena and I felt it was time to bring more structure to our day. Since we are both no longer working, the daily routine of a work schedule needed to be replaced with another routine, for our physical and spiritual well being. Without routine, you can quickly fill up a day and not accomplish all that much. We can also easily get sloppy with devotional time and miss out on spiritual blessings. We need to spend time with God in His Word.
First of all, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get up, washed, and dressed each morning. I wear compression socks to prevent edema in my feet and ankles, and they are tough to get on. These socks help quite a bit. Lena has to completely dress me, as the weakness in my arms and legs do not allow me to do this for myself. Then we have breakfast, which Lena prepares. I can still feed myself, but it is a bit messy and I require a bit of clean-up afterwards. After breakfast we take some quiet time for devotions. I am using an ipad to read the Bible, and am following R.M. McCheyne’s one year Bible reading program. The ipad eliminates the difficulty of having to turn pages, and there is an audio option if reading becomes difficult.
After devotions, I need to go through a daily stretching exercise routine which takes about 1 hour. These are range of motion activities to maintain joint flexibilty in the neck, arms, shoulders, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. The program was planned and taught by a physical therapist, who monitors my progress. Several of our children take turns doing these stretches with me so that Lena has a break. These exercises help my breathing, sleeping and ability to use utensils. By the time we finish all this, it is about 12:30 p.m. and I feel like having a nap.
Visitors usually come at 1:00 or 2:00 p.m., or else we run to town to do some shopping and errands. Skipping lunch, we usually have an early supper by 5:00 p.m. Our evening is then filled with reading, emails, phone calls or visits. And so a day quickly passes. One day resembles the next. Days, weeks, months quickly fly away. The highlight of the week for us is the Sunday, where we have the opportunity to publicly worship God and be instructed from His Word. How comforting it is to hear the overtures of His grace and mercy for sinners such as we are. How wonderful it is to be able to lean on His precious promises to believers.

January 11, 2012

Eliminating the Bitter in Bittersweet Moments

Our daughter Sarah posted this on her blog yesterday.  We wanted to share it here as well. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eliminating the Bitter in Bittersweet Moments:

I just downloaded these pictures of Maya hanging out with her Opa. I love that we have captured these moments of my dad spending time with our daughter. I love how the sun is streaming in the window behind them while my dad is listening to her tales about Alyssa (her doll) and all she did that day.

Spending time with her Opa....

And laughing her head off with her Opa!

I love this picture, just love it! I love how it contrasts the bittersweetness of our life right now.

The bitter? Seeing my dads hands in this picture gets me. They are so not him. They are becoming more curled up and gnarled every day. Yet in a way they are so him. Or I should say, they are becoming him. They are becoming how I picture my dad when I think of him and I cannot decide if this bothers me or not.

The bitter? In this picture I know that my dad can just barely hold Maya on his lap still and that his days of him holding our children are almost over.

The bitter? The fact that I know that the chair they are sitting in is almost completely standing in an upright position because my dad is having troubles breathing in a regular sitting position (or in any position for that matter).

The ultimate bitter is probably the fact that this disease is showing no signs of slowing down. No signs of plateauing or easing up. This reality is present everyday, every moment. It is impossible to ignore anymore. A few months ago if my dad was sitting in a chair and chatting with you, it was not hard to pretend or imagine that he did not even have ALS.

That is not the case anymore. His voice, his slow movements, his curled hands, his puffy feet, and the way he is starting to struggle with each and every breath he takes. All reminders, constant glaring reminders that this disease is rapidly taking our dad.

But there is also the sweetness of this picture. The sweetness? The joy I can see on Maya's face, the giggles I know that were happening when this picture was taken. The way her head is thrown back in an explosion of laughter and happiness, so real and true. The sweetness? The look on my dads face as he looks at our daughter. I see his love for her in this picture and it touches my heart.

So despite the reality of the bitter, we are doing our best to live these days with joy and enjoy the sweetness of this life as well. It is my dad's desire to honour Christ not only in his life, but also in his death. And it is our desire as his family to not only support our dad in his journey, but for us to also honour Christ in all things. Honour Him in receiving blessings as well as having these blessings taken away from our lives. It is our desire to say as Job said, The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

In his book Dont Waste Your Life John Piper says "God and God alone is the only treasure who lasts. When everything in life is stripped away except God, and we trust Him more because of it, this is gain, and He is glorified. ....No one ever said that they learned their deepest lessons of life on the sunny days. People go deep with God when the drought comes."

And we read in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.....For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

You just have to read those words again to fully comprehend them. The promise of eternal glory beyond all comparison! Those words alone extinguish the bitter in the bittersweet and must leave us with nothing but sweetness and pure joy!


January 6, 2012

Come Ye Sinners Poor and Wretched

One of my favourite hymns was written by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768. At one time Joseph Hart’s hymns were widely used, especially by Calvinistic Nonconformists. Many of them are loved because of the great earnestness and passionate love of the Redeemer. This particular hymn is very special to me because of its unconditional free offer of the gospel to guilty sinners.
1 Come ye sinners poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power;
He is able,
He is willing; doubt no more.
2 Ho! ye needy, come and welcome,
God's free-bounty glorify,
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings us nigh,
Without money,
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.
3 Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream:
All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel you need of him;
This he gives you,
'Tis the Spirit's glimmering beam.
4 Come ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and mangled by the fall.
If you tarry till you're better,
You will never come at all;
Not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call.
5 Agonizing in the garden,
Lo your Maker prostrate lies!
On the bloody tree behold him,
Hear him cry before he dies,
"It is finished,"
Sinner, will not this suffice?
6 Lo! th'incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of his blood;
Venture on him, venture freely,
Let no other trust intrude:
None but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good.
7 Saints and angels, joined in concert,
Sing the praises of the Lamb,
While the blissful seats of heaven,
Sweetly echo with his name,
Sinners here may do the same.

A New Years Day Challenge - J.C. Ryle

A New Years Day Challenge:   Walk more closely with God, get nearer to Christ and seek to exchange hope for assurance. Seek to feel the witness of the Spirit more closely and distinctly every year. Lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets you. Press towards the mark more earnestly. Fight a better fight, and war a better warfare every year you live. Pray more, read more, mortify self more, love the brethren more. Oh that you may endeavor so to grow in grace every year, that your last things may be far more than your first, and the end of your Christian course far better than the beginning!

~ J.C.Ryle

January 5, 2012

Articulating Your Prayers – by J.C. Ryle

Let us pray more, and let us pray more earnestly. Let those who never prayed begin to pray. Let those who have prayed pray better.

Pray for yourselves — that you may know the Lord Jesus, and cleave to Him — that you may be kept from falling — that you may serve your generation — that you may be sober in prosperity, patient in trial, and humble at all times.

Pray for the congregation to which you belong— that the word of the Lord may have free course in it, and be glorified — that the household of faith may become stronger and stronger, and the household of unbelief weaker and weaker.

Pray for your country — that her ministers may preach the Gospel, and be sound in the faith — that her rulers may value the Bible, and govern according to it — and that so her candlestick may not be taken away.

And pray for your minister — that he may be strong to work, and willing to labor for your good, that all his sicknesses may be sanctified, and all his health given to the Lord — that he may be ever taught of the Spirit, and thus be able to teach others — that he may be kept faithful unto death, and so be ready to depart when he is called.

Let us all pray, one for the other — I for you, and you for me — and we shall be blessed in our deed!

January 3, 2012

Dutch Cousins Reminisce – Thoughts from Bas & Lydia

I have known Jack since our first trip to North America (1979), when we visited Jack and Lena. I remember it as a very pleasant visit. During dinner one evening, Joni was sitting and sleeping in her highchair and Sarah was sleeping in the pram.

Joni in her high-chair

Many years later, we met Jack again together with Uncle Gerrit in the Netherlands when they came over for the funeral of “Ome Dick”, Lydia’s father. Lydia’s father was sick for a few years with ALS, and died in June, 1986. Together with Ome Gerrit and Jack, we made a short trip to Germany and visited the Castle in Bentheim.

In 2002 Jack and Lena came to the Netherlands again, because Jack had to to do some work at a Christian high school in Kampen. We organized a Westerink-family reunion in Enschede, and that was a great meeting.

So many Westerink’s together in one place, it was very “gezellig” (cozy).

At the end of the evening, Ome Gerrit read the words of Psalm 68:10. That psalm has been the “Westerink’s psalter” for many years. In the past, at the end of a family meeting, the whole family sang this verse: Geloofd zij God met diepst ontzag. A great psalter, words with deep meaning.

The Sunday after the Westerink’s reunion, we started the church service with the first psalter ..…Ps 68:10. Since that time Psalm 68:10 is also a special one for me, both in the old and new rhymed versions.

During our next trip to Canada we stayed with Jack & Lena and ome Gerrit & tante Jopie in a cottage at Redstone Lake. We had a wonderful time. We learned to know the family a lot better and we are thankful for that experience. We learned to know them as people of God, as brothers and sisters in Jesus. In Jack we met the Love of Christ. In his listening, in his speaking, his interest in other people, his sense of humor etc. etc.

From our experience Jack means very, very much for the people around him and also for people on the other side of the ocean. We all feel the pain of his illness. We’re grateful for Jack’s trust in God, or better, for God’s grace for Jack. The only thing we can do and have to do is continuously pray for Jack and all his family. I wish, pray and hope that we all have that confidence in God as Jack has.

We love you all!
Bas and Lydia

Die God is ons een God van heil; 
Hij schenkt, uit goedheid, zonder peil, 
Ons 't eeuwig, zalig leven; 
Hij kan, èn wil, èn zal in nood, 
Zelfs bij het naad'ren van den dood, 
Volkomen uitkomst geven
(Psalm 68:10)

Our God upholds us in the strife 
To us he grants eternal life, 
And saves from desolation. 
He hears the needy when they cry, 
He saves their souls when death draws nigh, 
This God is our salvation. 
(Psalter 420:5)