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

It is always difficult to acknowledge one’s own mortality. With Alice it was no different. There were the things she insisted on having done—which seemed to us to be so very trivial, especially in light of the fact that she could not live long anymore. When the many cards and letters came, Alice insisted (almost to the very end) on saving every canceled stamp. It did not matter that the stamp was of the most common sort—it had to be torn off and saved. Since she could not do it anymore, we had to do it for her. She and we knew that she would never be able to do anything with those stamps—but they all had to be saved anyway. The same was true with other inconsequential things. Alice was always somewhat of a “pack rat” who insisted on saving many (to our minds) useless things: picture postcards of every trip she ever took, cheap trinkets, etc. And surely in her present condition, Alice could find no useful purpose for any of these things anymore. What could she ever do with them? Yet she had been saving these sorts of things for most of her life. So we humored her and saved what she requested.

Good Morning Alice: 

I’ve been sitting here for about 15 minutes now thinking whether or not, and then, how to write my feelings to you on this text. I hope you don’t mind if I’m completely honest with you. When I first heard of your disease, I looked into it just a little and truthfully what hit me the hardest was that eventually one would not be able to talk. (Which is probably because I do so much of it.) I don’t know to what degree this has affected you, but even if and when you can no longer speak to others, you will still be able to “sing” praises unto our God. Please allow me to be open with my feelings and try to understand what I mean. Once in a while I get frustrated with this one-sided conversation and want to come to see you. I won’t because I believe God is blessing us more this way – but I am afraid you are not getting a very true picture of me either. 

I’m sure you spend time reading the Bible every day, but you know, as comforting as the Psalter numbers are, you might try “singing” to God every morning for His lovingkindness and every evening for His faithfulness. There is something these songs say to the heart that can be said in no other way. 

Please think about this for a while when you lay this note down. It should be the desire of each of us to become closer and closer to God, and it isn’t going to happen if we don’t direct our thoughts to Him often. 

Will you “sing” my favorite tonight: 281*, and your own favorite tomorrow morning? I’m sure you can find time alone to do this. 

With love, Your friend

Nahum 1:7

Alice always enjoyed going out with others to a restaurant—even after she herself needed assistance with eating. Several times a week, one or more of the relatives would take her to noon lunch or evening dinner. Some of her friends and cousins did the same with her. It was now her chief diversion and entertainment. However, to move her from the van in her wheelchair to the restaurant and back was very difficult.” (We did come to appreciate those “handicapped” parking spaces.) In the restaurant, Alice had to consider carefully what she could eat: it must be soft and easily swallowed, or cut in very small pieces, or she would choke on it. One could see the time coming when this little pleasure would be taken from her too.

Good Morning Alice: 

Well, “our” rabbits were at the corn again last night. I was up late and saw three of them and attempted to take a picture. The picture I really want is one of the cardinals. We shall see . . . . 

Did you know the book of Nahum is about Nineveh? Nineveh for all its show of repentance to Jonah soon turned away from God. 

I’m not sure if vs. 7 is to elect in Judah to assure them that God would not destroy them also, or if there were elect in Nineveh itself to be reassured.

But, for sure, this verse comes to elect children of God and so it comes to us too. Our God is good, a fortress, a place to flee when troubles come. And He knoweth them that trust in Him. 

“Knoweth . . . .” A word with so many meanings, but I think here, the best that fits is the “knoweth” of

Ps. 1:6,

“For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous . . . .” 

He knows us in such a way that He has chosen us to receive grace. 

Yes, He knoweth us, and to Him we can flee. 

When all seems to go wrong, we do have Him to flee to—our Fortress and our Strength. 

With love, Your friend 

Please read:

Exodus 14:12-13

Shopping had always been one of Alice’s great pleasures. She enjoyed shopping—and especially for the annual Christmas toys for nieces and nephews. But she loved shopping just for its own sake—and she would shrug off our jokes about this interest. Several times a week she would be taken in her wheelchair up and down the aisles of one of the larger stores. And not infrequently, she would insist on buying yet another dish or other knickknack for which she would have no possible use. For her, it passed away some of the long hours and provided a kind of entertainment she was able to enjoy still.

Good Morning Alice: 

I wonder again this morning as I sit here, how you are feeling about these notes, Alice. It has been very good for me to write them. I have looked into verses and books I didn’t know anything about. It has really given me more of a desire to search all of God’s Word. I hope that is your desire too. It was only about 14 or 15 years ago that I still couldn’t keep it straight who lived before whom: Abraham or Noah. Believe me, that wasn’t easy when I married into a family who very often discussed God’s Word. I have learned a lot since then, but you know, it was about two and a half years ago now that God used a very dear friend to be an example to me to look inward as I search Scripture, and then desire to live by faith close to God. 

I’ve so often heard

Ex. 14:13

explained this way, and I’m sure you have too: the children of Israel, just after the wonderful deliverance on Passover, cried out against God. They would rather return to being slaves in Egypt than to exercise trust in God Who had just delivered them. 

Moses trusted and knew that God would provide the way; and he told them not to fear but stand still, or look and trust, and they would see God’s way of providing. This is a beautiful promise to us as children of God. When we begin to fear and doubt the way God has chosen for us, we must “stand still,” trust in God, and rest assured that He will provide the best way for us. 

But today as I read this passage, I wondered if we may be content with that comforting thought. Reading farther, we see that God asked Moses why he was crying out for the people. He told Moses to lift up his rod and open the way through the sea (Moses here is a type of Christ) and tell the children of Israel to go through; and He would hold back the enemy. 

I think we should apply this to our lives too. Christ has provided our salvation, and we must trust God to lead us through our trials but we must go forward too. Not physically, of course, but spiritually—living however we can for Him. 

For the Israelites, it was going through the Red Sea. For me it’s being an example to my children; obeying my husband; striving to control my selfishness and my tongue; and trying always to learn more about God through Bible reading and listening to sermon tapes. For you, it might be exercising patience; giving a cheerful smile when smiles don’t come easily; showing your love of God; learning more about God’s Word by reading it and listening to sermon tapes. 

We can do these things because the Spirit dwells in our hearts. 

With love, Your friend

Please read

Luke 22:60-62

With her ability to move decreasing, the time came when it seemed advisable to obtain a hospital bed with electric controls. It was another reminder of the inevitable progression of her disease. Alice could not turn herself anymore in bed, nor could she move herself easily. With adjustable foot and head sections, Alice could push a button and make bodily changes in this way. It relaxed muscles and reduced cramps to change position periodically—and she could do it herself. She had thought first that she did not need this new bed, and rather resented the fact that it had been ordered—but soon came to appreciate it greatly.

Good Morning Alice: 

I think I’ll stay in the house today—our outside thermometer says 0º. At least it isn’t windy. 

I could always feel for Peter when I read this story. 

I may be wrong, but I think Peter’s whole problem was selfishness. Peter loved Jesus, or he wouldn’t have been in the high priest’s house. But Peter loved himself more. He was afraid for his own life. He couldn’t tear himself away; he wanted to see what was going to happen to Jesus, and yet he loved himself more. When it came to confessing Jesus with his mouth, Peter failed. It’s not that Peter just quietly said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” One of the gospels explains, “He began to curse and to swear saying, I know not the man.” 

Then came the cock crowing. 

Then came Jesus’ look. 

And Peter went out and wept bitterly. 

So often in our disobedience, we deny Him. We love ourselves more than Him. 

We will never see that look on Jesus’ face, but in His grace He gives us, in our hearts, the sorrow for our sins. Peter had to wait to know forgiveness until Jesus spoke to him; while He gives us that knowledge as soon as we repent. That’s the wonderful knowledge of mercy and pardon. And that is the time when the child of God is the closest to God he will ever be on this earth. 

Love, Your friend 

Please read:

I Pet. 4:7; I Pet. 1:9

* Mindful of our human frailty is the God in Whom we trust; He Whose years are everlasting, He remembers we are dust.

Man is like the tender flower, and his days are like the grass. Withered where it lately flourished, by the blighting winds that pass.

Changeless is Jehovah’s mercy unto those who fear His Name;

From eternity abiding, to eternity the same.

All the faithful to His covenant shall behold His righteousness;

He will be their strength and refuge, and their children’s children bless.