Dementia is a hideous condition to witness. Those who suffer most are the ones who must watch the dismantling of their loved one, memory by memory. The person they knew crumbles before their eyes and is replaced by a shadow, confused and helpless.
Grandma June was dying of cancer, it had spread to her brain and was wreaking havoc. Grandpa could not take care of her and she was moved to a nursing home where she would stay for the next year of her life. I would often travel with my mother to Pleasantville, Iowa to visit and help care for her. Mom made the long trip once or twice a week for months. An example of love and self-sacrifice in itself.
For his own purposes God decided this strong woman I have been describing to you this past month, must spend her last days as a deteriorated human, unable to care for herself or think properly. I remember my mom’s tears overflowing as she frequently wondered out loud why her mother, who had had such a difficult life (I have only told you portions) now had to also have a lengthy, difficult and undignified death.
But was it undignified? We must always remember that our lives are not our own. The reason for life being placed in bones and flesh is not for the benefit of the bones and flesh. What a pointless waste of a soul that would be! We live to display the everlasting glory of God, our lives should point to God. “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:7.
In the last year of Grandma June’s life she displayed a beauty that I will never forget: the Word of God remained in her. It was an amazing thing. She couldn’t brush her own hair or remember the faces of her family, but she remembered God’s Word.
During church services held at the nursing home, the pastor would mention a scripture reference and Grandma June would recite it out loud, word for word. The pastor would ask a question about the Bible and Grandma June would respond. I remember one pastor saying with a smile, “June always knows it!” God’s Word had not left her heart and it still came out when nothing else would.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8. Grandma June was a human example of this verse. The dust that was her body was failing, the Word of God which is eternal stayed, a magnificent gift from God.
Was the end of Grandma June’s life undignified? Certainly difficult, yes, but not undignified in the way that matters. To be used as a conduit of God’s living Word is a blessing; truly a treasure in a very broken jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). He did not have to allow it, but he did. Grandma June provided evidence that she had spent her life well. She had spent it pursuing her Savior and treasuring his word in her heart.
What will be the evidence of a life well lived when your final days come? Will you be surrounded by worldly treasures and trophies, with the accolades of others ringing in your ears? Or will others around you be able to observe that you have spent time with God? The choice is made every day and every minute. Live for God… or live for dust. Which are you doing at this very moment?
Grandma June lived for God and all the trials she faced are long gone now. She would be among those who heartily agree with 2 Corinthians 4:16-17:
Grandma June’s life displayed God’s glory, not in a way that she (or any of us) would have chosen, but in the way that God chose for her, therefore the best way possible. She is now reveling in that sweet glory for all eternity. She lived her life on earth for the life to come, not for the life that was. It is evident in the words she would write in the Bibles she gave to others: “Read this, obey it and meet me in Heaven. We’ll sit under the tree of life a thousand years and eat the fruits and drink of the living waters flowing from the throne of God.”
I look forward to singing beside Grandma in Heaven someday soon. I can’t help but wonder if God gave her a perfectly tuned voice to sing his praises when she got there… or if it had been perfect all along.
We were late again, not unusual for our family of six. Dad found a parking space in the crowded church lot and we four kids tried to make ourselves look presentable after having slept for the last hour and a half on the drive up. Even before we made it all the way inside, we could hear one particular voice rising above the rest as the congregation sang…we smiled at each other. We knew that voice well. The sound of it may cause you to make a strange face, but the sincerity in it would make you stop.
We walked into the sanctuary, hoping the back row would be open so we could slip in. It was. When the song was over, Grandma June (who always sat in the very front) glanced back, saw us and beamed. She gathered her belongings (the hundred pound purse, her Bible and the many tissues) and proudly walked back to sit with us. The next song would begin and her voice would again loudly send forth praises to her Savior.
This scene plays in my mind as one of my favorite childhood memories. What warm feelings I have of visiting that church, of seeing Grandma June smile at us; knowing we were there to worship with her. My fondest memory of Grandma is one of sound. Her loud, off key singing was glorious. An odd thing to say, I know, but so true. If God would allow me to relive this experience once more I would love to hear her sing “How Great Thou Art” at the top of her lungs as she raised her arms to heaven and tears rolled down her cheeks.
If you have been reading my series of writings this month you have already read of Grandma June’s contagious joy and her fervent love of God’s Word. However, I cannot allow you to think you have a good picture of Grandma June in your mind unless you have been told about her legendary singing. My brother Aaron once said that what Grandma lacked in quality she made up for in volume. My Uncle John, her youngest son, recently expressed it this way, “Mom sang with great vigor, although she had problems with ‘carrying a tune.’"
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” Psalm 100:1 was the very verse that Grandma June often quoted regarding her singing. It doesn’t say to make a perfectly pitched tone, to harmonize, to hit the high notes or even to make a beautiful noise. It says a joyful noise. And that is what Grandma June did. She didn’t just sing with all of her heart she worshiped with all of her heart.
Here are a few brief points I want you to learn as I did from Grandma June’s example of worshiping in song:
However, don’t stay silent for long. Not singing out to God can be a display of a prideful heart or one that isn’t truly owned by him. Those who truly love God cannot help but to proclaim his greatness and worship him. Luke 19:37-40, “the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
No stone will take my place in praising my savior; I know Grandma June would heartily agree.
Not exactly the words you expect to read so soon after the first of the year I suppose. However I mean it – eat already, girl! First, I don’t care what your weight is or what your current diet plan is (no, really I don’t). If people would be as concerned about their standing before God as they are about that number on the scale in the morning the world would be a much healthier place in the ways that really count (see 1 Tim. 1:8). Eat for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). That’s all you need to practice (yes, I struggle with this too, but realize it is a heart issue above all).
My mother used to tell me how my Grandma June would occasionally set their table for supper when they were young. She would prepare the meal and set a plate out for each person: my mother, her two brothers and herself. Food would fill the plates of the children, but on her own plate Grandma June would set her big black Bible. While the children ate, she read the Word of God. All were feasting.
This is the second and more important way I am encouraging you to eat. Consume the written Words of God. I’m not sure if Grandma June was fasting to conserve money, lose weight, or out of pure devotion to God. However, I do know she LOVED the Word of God. She consumed it readily and stored it within her heart like David in Psalm 119:11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” I told you last week of her passion for Jesus; this passion only comes through deep devotion to God’s Word.
This is a beautiful picture of depending on God to provide our sustenance, our daily bread. A plate set out and a Bible on top. Did that speak volumes to her children? You can bet it did. In this action she was stating that God’s Word was more important to her than food and through it she found her strength and all she needed to continue on. She ate it up.
You eat up too, Ladies. So many of you are emaciated. Whether your waistline is thick or thin, whether your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, whether you attend church or not. We wander around and discuss the dust (aka food) we consume or don’t consume and do nothing to fix the problem of our true starvation. Continually suffering from a preventable disease for no good reason. The cure lies covered in dust on our bookshelves or even at times in our very hands. We may take a small sampling on Sunday mornings yet decide to starve ourselves throughout the week.
We wonder why we are weak and don’t feel up for the task of living this life. Always seeking strength through other avenues; trying to fill that Jesus shaped whole in our soul with more dust (food, hobbies, TV, love).
Stop. Go to the table and eat. Not just a crumb here and there, gorge yourself on it. God’s Word is an anomaly. The more we get the more we want. If you don’t feel a craving for Scripture, here is what to do:
1 – Pray for God to give you the desire, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” Do you think it is God’s will that you read the Bible? Absolutely! Ask already.
2 – Read it anyway, read God’s Word whether you feel like it or not. Someone who is truly starving eventually loses their appetite for food, it is an illness, and it can kill you (it kills thousands every day). Read whether you feel like it or not, trusting God that his word brings life. “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” Psalm 119:25
Grandma June read her Bible not just at the dinner table but nearly everywhere. She would heartily agree with David’s 176 verses of adoration in Psalms 119. How appropriate that in God’s Word the longest chapter contained in it is a love song about that very Word!
Eat, ladies, and stop starving. Fill your body with the life giving words of God. Like Peter when Jesus asked if he wanted to stay with him or go, reply, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68
Ladies, it is high time I introduce you to my grandma June, my mother’s mother to be exact. There is so much I want to tell you about her as she was quite the lady. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as I write about her this month and how she lived out her love for Jesus.
I think of my grandma June when I read what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure dwells in you as well.” Grandma June is my Lois so to speak and I see the linking of faith through our generations. Faith in Christ cannot be inherited like blue eyes or big noses, but it sure can be taught and witnessed as it is lived out.
Let me draw you a quick picture of my grandma June to help you better understand her. Grandma June grew up in poverty with many brothers and sisters during the years of the Great Depression. I remember stories of eating orange peels that were thrown out as trash alongside the roadside. Her first husband fought in WWII and came home a different man. He had met someone else and left June on her own with three young children to raise. She worked hard as a nurse at the Veterans Hospital to support them.
Grandma June as I knew her was short and plump and fashion was way low on her priority list. She was not a delicate flower and if I called her that she would laugh at me. She loved family and telling stories and had an ornery streak about her.
Grandma June gave big, tight, busty hugs and talked of smothering when it was hot out (they had no AC). She canned a lot, was thrifty and loved to give tube socks as Christmas gifts (oh so many years of tube socks!). She made pies better and faster than anyone I have ever known. She had a big garden and grew… so… many… tomatoes. She carried a huge purse that weighed more than I did and she kept large quantities of tissues in her bra for whenever she or anyone else might need one.
My grandma lived through many trying years; you may think she would be a little bitter or even angry. Yet, she was quite the opposite. Grandma June was full of the joy of the Lord. I have never seen someone so in love with Jesus as that woman. She lived out Nehemiah 8:10, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
She would often suddenly break into singing hymns, all of which she knew by heart. Or she would out of nowhere begin to recite memorized portions of scripture. Sometimes I would just hear her utter the name of Jesus over and over as she thought on him. It was obvious that during her years of struggle she had learned to hold fast to God and to trust in him to take care of her.
Her smile was never just a smile, it was a barely contained laugh ready to burst out. To know June was to know the joy of Christ. She hid nothing about her relationship with Jesus and told others about him as often as she could and as much as they allowed her to. She prayed for those in need and shared the burdens of others. Wow, how she prayed.
“Glamorous” would not describe Grandma June as you can clearly see from what I have shared, but she was certainly glorious to me. The treasure of Jesus shined out of her like no one else I have ever known. She was a living example of Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” And one of my favorites, 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Grandma June was not concerned with appearances, fashion or staying ahead of the crowd, she would gladly boast of her weaknesses if Christ could shine through them.
In this modern society, even today’s modern church, we often confuse glamour for glory. We gladly assume the appearance of knowledge of Jesus instead of the glory of living a life sold out and madly in love with him. Don’t shoot for your religion to be socially acceptable or comfortable for others. Aim to passionately serve the Lord whole heartedly no matter what that looks like.
Grandma June left a legacy of faith behind for her family to remember. Do the same in your life, teach future generations to love and follow the Lord. Teach them by living it out yourself.