Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

Preparing Alice for bed at night came to be quite a routine. First, there were the prescribed exercises. Each finger and toe, the arms and legs, all must be moved the proper number of times. These exercises, too, were not to develop muscle strength, but rather were to stretch muscles enough to prevent or minimize painful cramps. Then, thick socks were put on Alice’s feet after lotion had been soothingly applied to her legs. Next, each arm and leg had to be placed in a position of her liking, with a pillow under her knees—since she could not move them even an inch. Her head must be set in such a position that she could breathe easily. It must be in this position that she would remain through the entire long night.

Good Morning Alice:

It seems so long since we’ve shared together. It has been a long five days. Even though I had every intention of getting up early to write, I was just too tired.

We have experienced the death of a loved one. Death, when it comes, makes us think of what lies beyond the grave. Only when we are assured of salvation can we say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. ”

I have also thought a lot about when Paul says, “For me to die is gain.” To be ready, and more, to desire death, to receive life, that “gain”—is difficult.

In our flesh we cannot do it. Only through the Holy Spirit can we truly desire to be near unto Him and be willing to give up all our earthly attachments.

As difficult as it is, it does us good to ask ourselves if it is our one desire, above all else, to be with the Lord.

Tomorrow we’ll go back to where we left off, so please read

Is. 35

which, interestingly, has to do with that wonderful gain we’ve been talking about.

With love, Your friend

After all of this lengthy process, Alice was not always happy with the final outcome. Relatives could have put forth their best effort to make her perfectly comfortable for the night; and Alice would agree that she was ready to sleep. The intercom would be placed in its proper position, final good-byes were spoken, and the lights turned out—then the relatives would quietly leave, trying not to disturb the sleep of John and Judy. But not infrequently, within minutes of their departure, the light would go on in her room again. Alice would have called John—for in the final analysis, only he seemed to be able to adjust her to her satisfaction. John would re-position her arms, legs, and then her head. Finally, all would be right and Alice could sleep.

Good Morning Alice:

I’ve just been reading

Isaiah 35.

It’s strange that I had chosen that passage the day before the death of a loved one.

Take time to read the chapter before, and see God’s judgments on unbelievers—they are to dwell forever in judgment, cursed of God.

The beloved of God, however will forever experience His blessed Presence as they see the glory of the Lord.

I love verses 5 and 6: it comforts us that all the infirmities (and wicked characteristics too!) we now have will be perfected and it will be unto our souls as water breaking out in the wilderness and streams in the desert—unbelievably refreshing! A place only for those made clean and holy by Christ’s blood.

Yes, Alice, we will come with sons and everlasting joy given to us by our heavenly Father. We will take hold on that which we so long for with joy and gladness and nevermore sorrow or sigh.

What a beautiful promise!

Read the chapter again, and rejoice in that eternal blessing promised to you.

In Him for Whom we wait, Your friend

Please read

Psalm 116:12-13

Those evening “good-byes” became ever harder—especially for Alice. No doubt the night was the worst for her—even though someone was always on call. She could not move through the night. She could not scratch any itch or chase away any insect which she could easily feel. Only with difficulty could she call out loudly enough to be heard through the intercom. So it was that when, before leaving at night, a passage of Scripture was read, and prayer spoken, tears inevitably filled her eyes. She could no longer speak, but could hear and understand everything well. Prayer and Scripture are particularly appropriate when one faces physical separation and death. Doubtlessly, the very reminder of this fact made Alice face the reality of her own situation. Tears often filled our eyes too.

Good Morning Alice:

What a beautiful morning! The kids are off to school and it’s a little later today. The sun is shining gorgeously and it’s so still and peaceful outside. 

Psalm 116:12-13

just stuck out at me yesterday when I was choosing a text for today.

God is so good to us. All we have to do is shut out all worldly selfish thoughts and desires, and we can see what God has done for us in our lives. Where and what would we be without His grace in our lives?

Verse 12 says, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits?” What can I give God? Nothing! Everything I have and am are His. Then verse 13 gives the beautiful answer. I will take the cup of salvation. I will take hold of that salvation He has given me and call upon the name of the Lord. I will give all back to Him. Do you see what that means? He has delivered me from the bondage of my sinful self and now with all of my being, my heart, my mind, my tongue, my hands, my eyes, and all of my time, I will call upon Him. I will live for Him.

Love, Your friend

Please read

Rom. 1:9

It surely would not be true to state that the family always joyously carried out its task of caring for Alice. She was often SO demanding and not always easily satisfied. She seemed not to understand that I each had other responsibilities besides her care. She seemed to expect someone nearby to answer her every beck and call. And for some of the relatives there was the question, why couldn’t we please her as quickly and easily as did Brother John? But then we’d have to face the question, “What would we do under similar circumstances?” Could we not put up with some of these seemingly unreasonable demands—understanding the complete helplessness of Alice—and her resulting frustrations and fears?

Good Morning Alice:

This is another verse that shows so clearly my lack in prayer. Paul tells the Romans that God is his witness that without ceasing he remembers them always in his prayers.

Paul had such a love for others. When I think of others, it means that I have to stop thinking of myself I’m not always so good at that. Sometimes I get very pre-occupied thinking of all my sins and weaknesses. I just wonder: if I strive to remember others, wouldn’t it follow that being busy helping and praying often for others, there would be less room for my old nature to sin?

And Paul says—without ceasing! We know that does not mean that every moment Paul was in constant prayer for the Romans, but that in whatever he did, preaching, traveling, and making tents, he always had the spiritual strength of the Romans in his thoughts; and brought their spiritual welfare before God every time he came unto God in prayer.

What a lesson! How I fail!

We must learn to remember, long for, and pray always for the needs of others

With love, Your friend

Please read

Romans 1:32

Helpless indeed ! The strange fact of ALS is that the muscles become utterly useless—but the sense of touch is, if anything, enhanced. Alice could feel any fly or mosquito that crawled on her. Often we noticed how her eyes would roam carefully over the whole room—and if any insect were spotted, those same eyes would let us know. Nor would she be happy until she was sure that every insect in that room would be killed -before we could leave. There were, however, those times when we were sure that she just imagined the presence of an insect, for we could not find it. Or did she, sometimes, use the presence of this imagined bug to keep us in the room with her a few minutes longer?

Good Morning Alice:

Once in a while it’s good to stand back and take a little look at my life as a whole to see if there are areas where I’m so used to doing something that I just don’t see it as sin.

A minister had a sermon on

Rom. 1:32

a while back, and it was an eye opener to me.

Verses 27-32 of this chapter are a description of the world, but it does us good to see if we are guilty of these things. The sermon stressed our enjoying the sins of others and therefore sinning ourselves. How often isn’t this true?

You can hardly pick up a magazine that doesn’t have an article in it about one sin or another, and how quickly we read it and therefore enter into “enjoying” that sin!

How often do we watch television not even thinking that every sin we watch makes us sin our selves when we continue watching it and don’t turn away.

This makes one really wonder—what can I do?

I am convinced this is a sign of persecution of the saints—we can no longer enjoy those things we once could—and of the last times when sin abounds.

What we can do is to turn closer and closer to God, and turn from all those things which make us sin.

Quite a difficult task, but possible through the Spirit that is in us.

Til tomorrow, Love, Your friend

Please read

Psalm 130