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

There was but a single step from Alice’s garage apartment into the kitchen. Brother John attached handles on the door frame so Alice could hold to them while pulling herself carefully up the step. Another handle was attached to the door frame of her bedroom so that she had something on which to hold when walking into that room. Though she was still able to walk by herself, it was ever more slowly. The challenge was to find new ways of helping her help herself with steadily decreasing strength.

The virtual loss of the use of her hands became a source of frustration and disappointment to Alice. One thing she always enjoyed was painting ceramic objects. Another pastime was paging through the many magazines to which she subscribed. For a time she had been able to continue doing this, increasingly with the help of others—but soon she was forced to give this up entirely.

Good Morning Alice:

I’m not one to have “coffee’s” very often, but this morning I’m going to our annual aunts’ and cousins’ coffee. Do I enjoy these things? Yes and no—it all depends on the conversation. If it’s about food and figures—No! But sometimes we have a worthwhile discussion.

All through the scripture we read about prayer in many different ways. Here the command to always pray comes right after the explanation of how to fight our battle of faith. It necessarily follows from that battle that we must always pray.

I suppose it’s different with different people, but for me, it’s much easier to defend what I feel is right or study God’s Word and truly believe, than it is to pray.

I don’t mean prayer with the children or even the pleading one-sentence prayer when in deep need. I mean my private talk with God. I always, no matter how hard I try, end up praying mostly for myself—and here the verse says, “‘with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” I am aware of my lack and I do try and this is an excellent verse to keep in mind.

You have a wonderful opportunity to follow the command of this verse too, Alice.

We know prayer doesn’t change things or God’s will, but that command is still there! Do you know Alice, that healthy, wealthy, people are almost more in need of prayer than those who are ill? A man dying of cancer once told us that he experienced that illness and suffering brought him close to God and it was the people without trials who he prayed would become close to God. I know this is not always the way, but do remember us in prayer (as we do you) and please use some of your God-given time to pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit and watch thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

Love, Your friend

Please read

II Cor. 9:15

Little things, tasks which most take for granted, can gradually become great hurdles. Getting to the bathroom by herself during the night was becoming increasingly difficult. Even with the use of a cane and handles on which to hold, the struggle was becoming too great. John had another solution. The camper “porta-potty” was conveniently placed next to Alice’s bed. She had but to sit up, then carefully move herself from the bed and back again. That worked for a time. It was but one more reminder of growing weakness for Alice. Each restricted activity would add to her disappointment.

Good Morning Alice:

It’s mild outside again this morning, a disappointment to the kids, but appreciated by my husband!

My coffee yesterday went okay. With eleven women you can’t really get into a good discussion. I did talk to my aunt about her daughter who has gone from Christian Reformed to Methodist to Moravian to Pentecostal. It is a burden to my aunt.

You and I were talking about prayer yesterday, Alice; will you join me in often bringing our young people and their needs to our heavenly Father? The temptations to them are so many.

When you read

II Cor. 9:15

alone, you immediately see the text is speaking of our Savior. “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” It’s true, isn’t it, that words can not express how our hearts feel toward God that He has sent His only begotten Son to earth to redeem us from all our sins. But then when you go back and read the chapter first, you begin to think you might not be reading verse 15 right. Paul is talking about giving—not salvation; about ministering to the saints—not Jesus. And yet Paul could not have ended this chapter better. I guess I should have said God caused Paul to close this way because it is His gift that makes all giving possible.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift. None of us could give anything if Jesus had not come as man to save us from our sins.

We must show our thanks for His Gift by giving to others, and this does not mean necessarily actual gifts.”

You may wonder how you can give, Alice. This may be hard for you to understand, but you are giving by sharing your faith. By a content smile or a joyful tear you are giving to others the knowledge that God gives sufficient grace to all His children. As difficult as it may be, you are giving by making it possible for others to obey God’s commands for them.

Can you understand what I mean when I say that you are giving me something—the opportunity to serve God by loving you and sharing His word with you? And for your loved ones too, you are not a burden, but a joy, you are giving them the way in which they are drawn closer to God.

May you understand your gifts, and your abilities to give, and give with a joyful and content heart.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

God bless you in your giving, Alice.

Your friend in Him

Please read

Job 19:25

Almost weekly one could notice Alice’s back and leg muscles weaken. Though she could sit quite well to the end, it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to get into a sitting position by herself when she was in bed. John had another idea for helping her. The garage door had earlier been disconnected from its automatic opener. But the door opener remained on the ceiling. Now, with a series of pulleys, and with a rope attached to a hand grip, Alice could push the remote control button, and slowly, slowly the door opener would move—pulling Alice to a sitting position. From there she could still move herself from the bed. She had many a laugh about this novel approach!

Good Morning Alice:

It’s not very “early” morning—I overslept! It’s a good thing the kids had vacation so it really didn’t matter.

For I know that my Redeemer liveth. What a beautiful confession, when you really think about it, that Job in the middle of all his suffering could cry out . . . “I know . . . (he did not doubt) . . . that my Redeemer . . . (he didn’t have the New Testament and yet he believed his redemption by his Savior) . . . liveth (lob knew because of the testimony of God in his heart that his salvation was assured because his Savior lives).”

Can we say this morning, Alice, with our hearts: I know. . . I have no doubts. . . that my Redeemer. . . Christ who died for me . . . liveth . . . lives in heaven and with His Spirit in my heart?

As I began . . . what a beautiful confession! If we could bring that to mind even once a day—say it to ourselves: I know that my Redeemer liveth, it would make our lives more joyous.

With love, Your friend

Please read

I Cor. 15:19

and

Job 19:26

Alice had driven her car that fall until the weather became bad. She would take her car to visit with each of the brothers and sisters in turn. She could slowly enter and exit from the car and, with her cane and some assistance from others, could get into the various homes. The biggest difficulty was the steps. She could barely lift her legs that high. After the first snowfall, Alice did no more driving. From that time on, she would be picked up and later returned to John’s home after her visit.

Good Morning Alice:

It’s very early morning (as it always has to be when you have a family to get ready for church).

Today is the day we remember the birth of Jesus. A joyous day—a difficult day. Maybe if we could stay in church all day we might be able to accomplish what we really intend to do with this day—but how do you rejoice in the birth of the Savior with 20 to 30 family members together talking about absolutely everything, and the children busy having fun with new toys . . . .

I’m convinced only a spiritually strong child of God can properly use one day to celebrate Jesus’ birth and I’m afraid I’m not strong enough.

That wonderful confession we talked about yesterday doesn’t end there. It’s a confession with a wonderful promise.

I Cor. 15:19

tells us if it is only in this life that we have hope—we must be most miserable (pitiable) but this is a confession with hope, that expected certainty—and

Job 19:26

explains what that certainty is—that after my skin and body are destroyed—then without, or out of this flesh (as our ministers have explained the proper wording) I SHALL SEE GOD.

That’s what makes my daily struggle worthwhile, that is why I desire to examine my life and all that I do and say and, hard as it may be, learn that God is first in my life before anyone else, because that is the goal of my life . . . I SHALL SEE GOD.

In Him for Whom we wait, Your friend

Please read

Psalm 119:73