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

It had now become a question of allowing Alice slowly to starve to death—or undergo the rigor of surgery, with its attendant dangers, to provide an opening directly into her stomach. Alice was not able to decide. The family debated the pros and cons, and finally decided on the surgery. It would alleviate the choking spells that developed when she tried to eat, and would make her more comfortable during her remaining life. One thing: the surgery would have to be scheduled the week of Thanksgiving of 1981. Thanksgiving was always much of a family-time—especially for Alice who would usually spend it in the home of one of the relatives. Nevertheless, plans were made to have the surgery.

Good Morning, Alice: 

I’ve always been kind of mixed up in my feelings about the account of May and Martha. I always felt a little sorry for Martha—she too served her Lord to the best of her ability. 

I can believe though, that the good part, the part that cannot be taken away is the “hearing” of God’s Word. We can believe, and be a true child of God, and yet concentrate so much on what we must do that we take little time to spend quietly alone with God in reading Scripture and in prayer. 

That is the part that is needful. Not to belittle the good deeds we must do, but without “sitting at Jesus’ feet,” and hearing His Word, we will not be nourished to continue in our lives of service to Him.

May our God give us grace to desire the good part, and to know that that part shall never be taken away from us. 

With love, Your friend

Please read

I Peter 3:8

Other means had to be found to communicate with Alice too. Alice’s expressive eyes, the nod of her head (the only part of her body she could move much anymore), or the guttural sounds were no longer enough to convey to us what she wanted. She knew what she wanted—her mind was always actively working. Finally, the practice of others with similar communication problems was adopted. A large card was used with five rows of letters of the alphabet—the top row contained the five vowels. Alice would nod “yes” or “no” as one pointed to each row. Next, the specific letter of that row was chosen. The process was a bit slow—but effective. Alice became quite good at this. She would usually spell out a key word—and the family could quickly fill in the rest.

Good Morning Alice: 

I really don’t know why, but I’m having trouble putting my thoughts about this verse down on paper. Read

I Pet. 3:8

again and ask yourself if you love all the fellow believers in the Lord as you should and maybe you will see what I mean. I’m going to think more about it and write tomorrow (I hope). 

With love, Your friend

Alice went to the hospital on November 22, 1981. The surgery was successful and recuperation went quite well under the circumstances. Members of the family stayed with Alice on a 24-hour basis, especially to help her when communication was necessary. Alice could not push any button to call the nurse, nor could she call loudly enough for any to hear her. She also found it impossible to convey to a nurse her need since she could not speak words anymore—or at least not clearly enough for anyone to understand them. So, a family member would serve as intermediary between Alice and the staff.

Good Morning Alice: 

Have you thought more about the last verse I asked you to read? Do you see why I have trouble with it? Oh, it’s easy enough to say, “Yes, I have compassion on other Christians,” and say, “I love them,” but when it comes right down to it—Do I? 

Too often I grumble either to myself or aloud if others aren’t just the way I think they should be, or do the things I think they should. 

It has been good for me to look at this verse and examine myself. I know the answer is in the verse; it says, “‘Be ye all of one mind.” But how do we do that? 

I guess the best way is to remember that we are such sinners ourselves, and yet Christ loved us enough to die for us. Knowing Christ died for the other Christians just as He did for me, and knowing the Holy Spirit dwells in his heart, how dare I not love him? 

If God looks upon His children through the shed blood of Christ, then surely I must love them. 

I hope I can more and more guard my mind against speaking and thinking bad of others, be of one mind with them and love them. 

With love, Your friend

Please read

Matthew 25:34

But everything did not always go the way Alice wanted in the hospital. On a regular basis, medicated air would be forced into her lungs to prevent pneumonia. On several occasions, suctioning of her lungs was required—since she could not cough up anything. It’s a miserable experience at best, but Alice simply detested it. On one occasion, a male technician decided it was necessary again. Alice did not think so—and her eyes clearly indicated that she refused to have it done. She had no appreciation for this particular person anyway—and had prior experience with what appeared to be his incompetence. Now he came to force medicated air into her lungs—and didn’t do it very gently or properly. Just before he left, he suddenly decided that suctioning of her lungs was also necessary. The tube was rather quickly and roughly shoved into her lungs. While Alice continued to protest feebly, he did this several times. Then he left. Alice was furious. Even though she now was having difficulty with coughing and choking as a result of this suctioning, she indicated her wish to use her spelling card. Slowly, amid considerable coughing, she spelled out: s-u-c-k-e-r g-u-y!

Good Morning Alice: 

There is just so much we don’t know about heaven, isn’t there? This text, of course, is about the final judgment when Christ returns. I am sure this cannot be too far in the future. It’s with mixed emotions that I look at my younger children and think: will they ever marry and have children, or will Christ return before that? 

Something Rev. Heys once said I will never forget. He said we should desire nothing more than the immediate return of our Lord. 

I was pregnant at that time and I really wanted that baby. I guess that’s why this sticks in my mind. 

Every once in a while I ask myself: Am I living as if that is my first desire? Do others know—can they tell by my attitude and actions—that this is my first desire? Always, I fall so far short! 

I’ve gotten far from the text. I really just wanted to ask if you can imagine the joy we will have when our struggle is over and our Lord says to us, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” 

My place of joy in His Presence was made ready for me since before the world began. What am I doing to prepare myself for that place? 

In Him for Whom we wait, Your friend 

Galatians 5:13-14

Now the cards really came flooding in—especially from the Grand Rapids’ area and from Illinois. Perhaps Alice enjoyed best of all the little notes sent from the lower class of the Christian grade school in South Holland. The childish expressions were simple but very precious to her. The hospital room, too, began to resemble a florist shop. Finally, a list had to be made identifying each new plant and its sender—because Alice insisted that each visitor must know who sent what plant. And Alice’s “friend” began writing her anonymous notes at this time. Nothing piqued her curiosity more, nor gave greater comfort than these notes. She began to anticipate their coming each day. It gave her something to think of other than her own current problems.

Good Morning Alice: 

Do you remember I told you I’d look up Rev. J. Heys’ explanation of liberty? I could never understand how having to obey the ten commandments meant we had liberty or freedom until he explained it this way.

Galatians 5:13-14

explains it and Rev. Heys’ diagrams make it clearer. 

God created Adam able not to sin. He was in liberty.

Adam fell into sin, was cursed and was not able not to sin.

As redeemed in Christ, Adam was called unto liberty, and in his new man was not able to sin.

The law of liberty is in keeping the ten commandments.

In keeping the commandments, we experience God’s favor and life. Outside of that liberty, breaking God’s commandments we would only experience wrath, bondage, death and hell. 

Knowing all this should make it all the more a joy for us to obey God’s commands as, called unto that liberty, we desire to continue in His joy and peace and freedom. 

In His Liberty, Your friend 

Please read

John 15:26-27