Aging Gracefully

page47colorThe righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.  Psalm 92:12-15

During the last few weeks of her life it seemed that Sheba was sweeter than ever.  Time after time, even as we waited to cross a street, people would stop, roll down a car window, and comment on what a great dog she was.  And invariably, as practically every person we met on the sidewalk would pause to pet her and comment on her wonderful personality, that curly little tail would wag back and forth and those beautiful, big brown eyes would overflow with love.

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  My prayer is that I will age as gracefully as my sweet little Pug, and that at the end of my days, my life will overflow with the Holy Spirit’s fruit, proving to the world that I am God’s and He is mine.

Fear’s Antidote

Sheba circleGod, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful…There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  1 Corinthians 1:9 & 1 John 4:18

Sheba loves people and has no awareness that there are those who would abuse her, and even if she did I doubt that she’d be afraid because she knows that she belongs to us and she trusts us completely to take care of her.  As a result, she happily goes up to anyone and everyone she sees with no fear of rejection.  She also knows what behavior is expected of her and that she will be reprimanded if she misbehaves; yet she remains unafraid because she loves and trusts us.

Perfect love casts out all fear, and God loves us perfectly, so why are we afraid?  He’s not “out to get us.”  We don’t have to fear his wrath unless we disobey his commands; and even then, while we can expect a gentle reprimand, isn’t that what we need—what we want?  A master who loves us enough to correct us, to show us the right way to behave; yet a loving master to whom we can take our problems as well as our joys without fear of rejection.

As Sheba reflects our love for her by fearlessly loving others, so should we also reflect God’s love for us by loving even those who may seem frightening to us—those whose lifestyles are different than ours, those of whom we don’t approve.  Jesus himself reached out to the sinners of his day, even living and socializing with them!  They were the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the people who were looked down upon by the religious leaders.  He was criticized for it too.

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers.  “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”  Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matthew 9:10-13 The Message

What a role model! Lord, let me love as Jesus did—fearlessly!

Bitter Medicine

Sheba on PillowNot only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

Like most senior citizens, Sheba has a collection of pills that she takes daily, medications and food supplements to maintain her health and relieve her allergies and arthritis.  These are very effective treatments, and as long as they’re consumed she moves around quite comfortably.  But Sheba doesn’t like her pills—apparently they taste bad—and if they’re given alone she won’t touch them. Added to dry dog food, she’ll eat all around the pills and leave them in the dish; every morsel will be gone except the few tiny bites that will keep her healthy and pain free.  So we disguise them with moist food, coating each pill so thoroughly that she never even realizes she’s eaten something that’s good for her.

Life typically hands us a lot of ‘bitter pills’, and we all endure unpleasant experiences that ‘taste bad’.  But amazingly enough, these hardships that we despise so much may be the very medicine we need—opportunities disguised as problems that God allows so that we can become stronger.  And when it all just seems too much to swallow, Take the old prophets as your mentors.  They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God.  What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end.  That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” (James 5:10-11, The Message)

Hurry Up and Wait

 Kev & Sheba on Wade PorchBut do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:8-9

It seldom fails that Sheba decides it’s time to go outside at the most inconvenient times, and she is notorious for taking a very long time, sniffing everywhere for a place that meets with her satisfaction.  Now, Sheba may be deaf, but she’s not blind—in fact, she can probably see farther than I can.  So, though all I want her to do is hurry up and take care of her business, she’ll stop and gaze off into the distance if she catches sight of someone walking toward us.  Without moving, she’ll watch every step until they reach us.  Then she turns on the charm and usually manages to get the inevitable attention that she wants—few can pass her by without stopping to give her a pat on the back or a scratch behind the ears.  When they finally move on and turn the corner out of sight, she’ll get back to the reason we’re standing out there in the first place—and meanwhile I’m praying that another neighbor won’t decide to go for a walk so we can finish up and go back inside.

How often do we have an urgent task that needs to be accomplished—a purpose to be met—a destiny to be fulfilled by becoming all that God has called us to be; but we get sidetracked and let our attention waver toward other activities that appear more gratifying at the moment?  Unlike me waiting impatiently for Sheba, God is patient, and he waits lovingly and faithfully until we regain our focus and turn back to him and his agenda for our lives.  Then, he brings us back into his house where we are welcomed as “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (see Ephesians 2:19). I can’t think of any place I’d rather be!

A New Interest

Sheba KevDo 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.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Sheba is getting old; she walks slower and seldom runs, and she loves to lie around and sleep a lot.  If she were human she would probably complain that life has become boring and meaningless, with her only pleasure coming from pleasant daydreams of the past or from the love and attention of her family.  But the other day Sheba developed a new interest that revolutionized her attitude.  There are lots of rabbits around our home and Sheba has pretty much ignored them for the year we’ve lived here.  On this morning, she stopped and stared—for a long time—not moving, hardly breathing—at a rabbit.  And the rabbit was watching her pretty closely too, ready to bound away if Sheba so much as blinked!  Finally, curiosity got the   better of her and she made a quick move toward the rabbit, but surprise, surprise; it didn’t just sit there and wait for her; and the chase was on.  Suddenly her whole body was infused with a new purpose; she just had to chase that rabbit.  Where did it go?  She knew it was on the neighbor’s patio, but how could she get to it?  Straining on her leash, her eyes bright with excitement, her cute, curly little tail wriggling with anticipation; she was like a puppy again, with a whole new goal in life.

Do you ever catch yourself sinking into monotony—content to lie around and sleep, or to sit and watch TV, or to do whatever it is you do when you’re bored and have no sense of purpose?  Have you ever considered just sitting still and waiting on God for a while; then getting up with a renewed sense of energy and purpose as He takes off in a new direction and your desire is to chase after Him?

If Sheba could get to that rabbit next door, just think of the fun she might have continuing the chase.  And remember the hidden joys that God has waiting for us if we persevere and follow him to the next adventure.  Then when we come to the end of our lives we can agree with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Great Insurance

Kev Sheba BeachFor the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.  1 Corinthians 1: 18-19

Sheba could easily have a career as a garbage disposal.  She will ravenously gulp down almost any food, never exercising any restraint; not even slowing down to savor the taste.  Or, perhaps she could masquerade as a pig, albeit a likeable one, maybe a bit like Miss Piggy.   Left to her own appetite—her own wisdom—Sheba would eventually destroy herself by eating herself into oblivion.  But she has a health insurance policy—me.  I’m here to make sure she doesn’t self-destruct.

Not all of us have an eating problem like Sheba, but we all have a sin problem that can eventually destroy us if we follow our own foolish plans.  But God has a life and health insurance policy that can’t be beat, one unlike anything the world has to offer. First of all, it’s free; there’s no cost to us at all.  It was purchased by Jesus on a wooden cross about two thousand years ago, and it never goes out of date or gets canceled.  Second, it wipes out all of our past mistakes and provides everything we need not only to survive but to flourish during our life on earth.  And third, it guarantees an eternal home with God in heaven.

So how do we sign up?  It’s easy. “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame…for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:11,13)

Running in Circles

Kev Sheba CouchFind rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5-6

One of Sheba’s favorite pastimes when she was younger was to run around in circles and entice people to chase her; and there was no way to catch her either, unless you managed to get tricky and trap her.  Such fun! But it was a temporary pleasure.  She would eventually get tired and have to rest (and so would we!)—and then go back and do it again…and again…and again… Always pleasurable, but always tiring, and needing to be repeated in order to experience the joy.  Never really getting anywhere either; just going around in circles.

Do we ever do that?  Run around in circles, spinning our wheels, to achieve the satisfaction of being the best, with nobody able to keep up with us because we’re so fast, or talented, or efficient?  If we do, we eventually fall into a trap—it may be that  someone else outperforms us, or it may be that we simply get tired or old and can no longer manage the pace.

Now that Sheba’s an old lady there are very few circles anymore; just a deep contentment that comes as she rests at my feet.

Perhaps we also need to learn that there is a level of peace that cannot be achieved by our hectic lifestyle, a quiet contentment that comes from learning to rest at the feet of our master.  We no longer have to work so hard to feel good; all we need to do is follow Him around, do what he says, and we will be rewarded with constant peace and joy, not just a temporary “fix.”