March 30, 2013

Small Things and Big Things

God has proven again and again in my life to be faithful in helping me with the little things, and answering my prayers. What do I mean? Let me give you some examples:

1. Lena filed our income tax, and the refund came in after one week to the dollar.
2. The 24 cedars Gerrit and I planted together two years ago, made it through another winter.
3. I prayed for a peaceful sleep last night, and Jesus heard and answered my prayer.
4. I asked God to help me get through my meal without choking, and He heard my request, and it tasted so good.
5. I needed to go to the bathroom, but I was having difficulty and Jesus helped me there too.
6. I looked forward to the end of winter, and God is faithful to send bright, sunny, spring days and longer daylight.
7. I am receiving wonderful daily care from my PSW team.
8. After sitting 12 - 14 hours a day in my lazy boy chair for two years now, I still have no bed sores, thank you Jesus.
9. I am still able to breathe without assistive devices.
10. I usually get at least one visitor every day, which helps me get through my day.
11. Lena gets meals on wheels from our church community, and baked goods too, so that she rarely ever has to cook supper.
12. I enjoy listening to church services by using church telephone or sermon audio.

I could go on and on, but these few examples illustrate how God cares for me in the little things, hour by hour, and day by day. It reminds me of the beautiful hymn that I often think about:"I need Thee every hour". Shall I not trust Him then to take care of the big things and fulfil His promises to me in His Word such as:

1. Preparing a place for me in heaven (John 14:2)
2. "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb13:5)
3. "I will remember their sin no more." (Jer 31:34)
4. At the last trumpet He will raise my body from the grave incorruptible. (1 Cor 15:52)
5. The Great Shepherd will guide with His rod and staff through all my afflictions, yes, even the fearful Jordan river crossing at the end (Psalm 23).
6. I will live and reign with Him in heaven for an eternity. (John 14)
7. I can count on His covenant promises to my children and grandchildren. "Jehovah's truth will stand forever, His covenant bonds He will not sever." (Psalter 425:5; Psalm 105).

I read somewhere that there are more than 3,000 promises in the Bible. If you would think about one promise a day, it would take you about 9 years to read them all, and then you can start over again. God is so good, and that to those who deny Him and sin more, every day. To God be the praise, and the glory, both now and forever.


March 26, 2013

Faithful Caregiver

My wife Lena, has been my faithful caregiver for two years now. We are travelling this ALS road together, side by side. As the disease progresses, Lena has to take care of more and more of my basic needs, to the point where I am totally dependent on her.

It is not uncommon for the spouses of ALS sufferers to leave out of frustration, and head for greener pastures. But Lena has truly fulfilled the vow she made nearly 37 years ago: "in sickness and in health". Not only has my life been impacted and restricted, but Lena's has as well. There are many things that we would like to see and do together, but we have had to give these up. We looked forward to retirement, in order to spend more time with our grandchildren and at our trailer by the lake, but God had different plans for us, and He makes no mistakes.

In a sense, we do have an early retirement, as we both had to stop working, and now spend all of our time together. We also have the special privilege of enjoying many visits with our children and grandchildren. Although living with a terminal illness does put extra stresses and strains on a relationship, the Bible tells us that "a three-fold cord is not quickly broken". (Eccl 4:12) Husband, wife, with God in the middle.

Thank you Lane, for all the physical, emotional, and spiritual help you have been to me.


March 19, 2013

Colds, Coughs, and the Flu

Every winter, it is quite normal for me to get a cold that develops into a persistent cough, lasting several weeks, or even months. My stomach muscles would be sore from coughing by the time it was over. It often interfered with my work as a principal and elder, because they require a lot of public speaking.

In the last two years, since I have had ALS, I have not had a cough, cold, nor the flu. God has been taking care of me. Having a cold along with the ALS would be very difficult, if not fatal. My wife, children, grandchildren, and caregivers have all had their turns, but not me. God has been a fiery wall around me. Praise and glory be to Him.


March 8, 2013

My Only Comfort

My first catechism teacher was Pastor C Schouls, at that time, a deacon in the Toronto Free Reformed church. The first lesson was on question and answer 1 from the Heidelberg Catechism. Deacon Schouls said "this question and answer is so important that I should be able to wake you up in the middle of the night, and you should be able to recite it for me". At the time I wondered why he told us that but now I know why. It is full of comfort for Christians, especially when facing a death sentence.

Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and death?
Answer 1: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

ALS is a disease which has no known treatment or cure. There is no medical faint hope clause. The only hope or comfort is to "belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ". Then "all things must be subservient to my salvation", yes, even the bad things and the afflictions. Those "all things" bring us closer to Him.

I feel so trapped inside my body, and it frustrates me when I can't make the simplest needs known to my caregivers. The greatest loss is being unable to communicate with my family, friends, and visitors. It is as if I am very slowly sinking into quicksand or a miry pit. First my feet went numb, and then my legs. Next I felt pressure on my chest, making it more difficult to breathe, and cough. My arms and hands felt like they were slowly being pressed to my sides, and I lost the ability to move them. Now my neck and jaw muscles are being affected and getting weaker. This makes it difficult to chew and move food around my mouth. It feels like coming back from the dentist with a frozen, numb mouth.

Family members, Pastors, and friends from church and school do whatever they can to help and encourage me onward from the sidelines, but the slow regression continues. To be honest, there are times when I wish it was over, and that I am tired of living like this. But through it all, I have never felt abandoned by God. He sends His Holy Spirit to comfort me, and to give me peace in my heart along my journey. He hears my groans and cries for help, and comforts me with His Word. Now I understand more fully what Deacon Schouls meant 45 years ago.

March 4, 2013

The Red Sea Place

This was sent to me by a former student to encourage me. Jack

The Red Sea Place

Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind, He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul, “Go on.”

And His hand will lead you through–clear through–
Ere the watery walls roll down,
No foe can reach you, no wave can touch,
No mightiest sea can drown;
The tossing billows may rear their crests,
Their foam at your feet may break,
But over their bed you shall walk dry shod
In the path that your Lord will make.

In the morning watch, ‘neath the lifted cloud
You shall see but the Lord alone,
When He leads you on from the place of the sea
To a land that you have not known;
And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed
You shall be no more afraid;
You shall sing His praise in a better place,
A place that His hand has made.

Annie Johnson Flint, 1866-1932

March 1, 2013

We Do Not Lose Heart

This article was sent to me by a relative at a time when I was feeling down, and losing heart. I think God wanted me to read it.

We Do Not Lose Heart

I suspect there are some reading these words might take exception to the title: "We Do Not Lose Heart". You do not mean to lose heart. You do not want to lose heart. You know that you should not lose heart. But, you are. You are losing heart or at least you feel like you may be losing heart.

You have dreams that seem to be fading. You think about opportunities that have passed by, or never came. You see obstacles that are too big and too powerful to overcome. You are faced with problems that seem to have no solution. You feel the pressure, you are perplexed, you feel you are being attacked on every side and from the most surprising people, and are afraid that if you are knocked down one more time you make not be able to get back up. You feel weak, tired, and defeated.

What are you going to do? What can you do?

Start here. Read what Paul wrote, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, NIV)

Does that sound like you? At least the "hard pressed, perplexed, in despair, persecuted, abandoned, and struck down" parts sounds familiar? The other things? Not so much right now.

Read what he wrote at the end of the chapter, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

Feel any better? Does it help to know you are not alone in your struggles? Do you find any comfort in hearing that others have experienced the same difficulties? Maybe? Maybe not? I know. I have been there.

Before you quit take a deep breath. Before you slump off into depression and hopelessness because you still cannot figure out how to fix all the stuff that is wrong in your world read this third paragraph that fits between the other two. This is where Paul reveals the reason he does not lose heart.

He wrote, "It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." (2 Corinthians 4:13-15, NIV)

Did you see it? It is right there in the middle of the paragraph. One sentence: because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

That is the secret. That is the key. That is what can keep us from losing heart. Look up. Look at Jesus. Rely on the fact that He will raise us up. Our struggles show that the Gospel is at work in us. Our difficulties will be turned into His glory. There is a lot we cannot see if we stay focused only on what we can see. This is temporary stuff. We are about the eternal.

I pray that through our faith in Jesus Christ who will raise us up we will not lose heart.
Tom Norvell