Archive for January, 2013

Many of our Elderly are suffering

January 30, 2013

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The issue of how elderly people are treated, both in their own homes and in nursing homes of all types is something which has been on my mind recently. I believe that it is the elderly, more so than any other sector in our western society who are most vulnerable in these days. Now, I am not elderly (just yet!) but for the past few weeks I have been suffering from a really bad flu virus which, after two weeks continues to leave me feeling worn out, incapable, weak and really ill and it is at times like these that you really are confronted with your own vulnerability. Thankfully, my family are at hand to assist and are so kind but what if I was totally alone? Those times when I could not so much as get myself a glass of water and those times when I felt really sick, were times when I really started to think about growing old and what the future held for me.

Now I know that as a Christian, the Lord will provide for me whatever happens and that He supplies grace in our suffering – for suffering may be our lot in our latter years. Yet, I have been dismayed in recent years to personally witness lack of compassion in hospital wards and in a home for the elderly. Of course this is not always the case but a growing amount of abuse has been highlighted where elderly people are concerned.

Often mere basic respect is missing – but even this can be distressing for the elderly people concerned. There are many verses in scripture that uphold respect for our elders…“Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old,” (Proverbs 23v22). And of course the fifth commandment (and the first with promise) is: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20v12)

Leviticus 19v32 instructs: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.”

It has been said that a society or nation may be judged on the basis of how it treats its vulnerable members and if that is so, then our western society does not score very well. A recent survey revealed situations where an elderly woman was left alone in the dark for hours, unable to find food or drink; another was left without a walking frame and was unable to get to the bathroom, while other elderly people were neglected with regard to essential medication, for diabetes etc. Other surveys highlight even worse situations, where elderly people are psychologically and physically abused on a daily basis, by being sworn at, shouted at, struck violently – and even worse.

Some societies have a special regard for their elderly and would be horrified by even a lack of respect for them. For example, every year on the third Monday of September, the Japanese hold “Respect for the Aged Day.”

However as Christians, the Lord gives us a love and respect for elderly people, whose ranks we will join sooner or later! Of course I recognise that, like other age groups, not all elderly people know Him and this is where I believe that we need to be close to them and to be faithful to them – not only attending to their physical and emotional needs – but also to their spiritual needs.

There are so many lonely elderly people out there- even in old people’s homes, who would benefit greatly from a Christian visiting them and reading to them – and telling them the Good News that very possibly they have never before had the privilege to hear. My father-in-law, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has short term memory impairment but his long term memory for the most part is intact. How he enjoyed seeing once again the old house where he lived as a boy, something I took a recent photograph of and was able to let him view on my laptop. He also recognised and was fascinated by photographs of old steam trains, sewing machines and flat irons which were used in his day, some of which were on display in a Greek museum that we visited on holidays. But most of all there are tears in his eyes when we read God’s precious Word to him and pray with him. Elderly folk are precious, eternity lies ahead and the Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should find in Him a refuge in this, their hour of greatest need.

May we be faithful to them, respecting their experience and knowledge of all the decades they have lived through and may we be vigilant with regard to how they are treated and the circumstances they are living in, caring for their health, their needs – and loving their souls.

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A True Fireside Tale – The Night of the Big Wind – Oíche na Gaoithe Móire (1839)

January 6, 2013

This January 6th and 7th will mark the 174th anniversary of the “Night of the Big Wind,” known in the Irish language as “Oíche na Gaoithe Móire.” This ferocious storm was one of the worst in our history; there had been nothing like it for all of 300 years and no one was prepared for the widespread devastation and death that it would cause. These days people complain of inaccurate forecasting, although our sophisticated weather forecasting would normally tell us of an impending hurricane of such magnitude. Such hurricanes nowadays are given names like “Charlie,” “Katrina” and “Irene” long before they reach our shores.

Oíche na Gaoithe Móire began on the night of January 6th, traditionally known in Ireland today as “Little Christmas” and in the rest of the world as Epiphany. In those days Ireland had no border and this storm certainly knew no borders for it raged through many counties destroying property, churches and even great houses and large buildings to be deroofed and a total of 42 ships to be wrecked at sea. According to Irish folklore, Judgement Day would occur on the Feast of Epiphany and as the severe storm raged on in the darkness of the night, many began to believe that the end of the world was near. Indeed for around 300 people who lost their lives, that storm meant the end of the world for them as they were swept into eternity.

All around the country the vicious winds wreaked havoc, from the houses of Armagh to the houses of Athlone. In Ballinasloe great woods were felled; Belfast saw fatalaties and much destruction; in Carrickfergus a tree in a graveyard was said to have been uprooted, forcing many bodies to the surface; most property in Castlebar was affected; Drogheda had never seen such devastation in its history; Dublin saw death and terrible destruction; houses were burned down in Kilkenny; barely a house was left standing in Longford, while places as diverse as Mullingar, Sligo, Tralee and Waterford were badly struck.

Such severe weather has always been most unusual in Ireland. We complain mostly of our dreary grey skies and boring constant drizzle but we rarely face any extreme weather conditions, yet like the city of Babylon referred to in Revelation 18, in just one hour we could be “made desolate.”

Yes, even our advanced weather forecasting may not announce the reality of  the fact that some day every island will “flee away” and the mountains will not be found. (Rev. 16v20)

Jesus said: “When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16v2&3)

Jesus also said: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matt. 24v42) Do you know Him today? If not – His desire is that you repent and trust in Him who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Do you profess to be His servant today? Be not like “that evil servant” who shall say in his heart, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” (Matthew 24v48) “The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Verses 50&51)

There are many things in this world which have the potential to make His servants angry – but we must never lose our love for souls and for reaching the lost. “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24v12&13)

Whatever injustices you face today, that have been caused by life’s evil winds, if you are His servant, leave it all in His hands and He will put matters right, “for vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12v19)

Ferocious storms created by the evil one may seek to destroy us spiritually, but there is nothing that cannot be vanquished by our Saviour’s rebuke.

“And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8v26&27)

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Turning Over a New Leaf

January 1, 2013

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A new year, a new page in the book of your life… However you view it or whether you celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) or the Islamic New Year (Hijri); every new day is the first day of the rest of your life. People invariably see their New Year as a new beginning and most people want to be better morally and make a new start; yet the reality is that individuals cannot turn over ‘a new leaf’ in their own strength. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13v23)

Yesterday, on the last day of the old year, I was confronted by an age-old problem. My daughter rang me from abroad, in tears, to tell me that she had been attacked and robbed of every cent in her possession. Her house keys, bank card and ID card had also been robbed and I had to quickly find the right number and ring that emergency number to get her current card cancelled.

I daresay that most people have been victims of robbery at one time or another, but it is interesting to note that when someone commits this (or any crime) it affects many more than just one person, leaving other loved ones of the victim very distressed and concerned about the whole situation.

We pass this way but once, and whatever we do ultimately affects a wide circle of people. The law rests on these two commandments… “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10v27) And if you love your neighbour as yourself, you will not attack or rob his person and you will not lie to him or even slight him.

It is true that not all of us are by nature, thieves, for example. We may find a lady’s handbag and hand it in to store personnel. We may be honest in our business dealings – but do we think nothing of telling a ‘white lie’ to get ourselves out of an embarrassing situation?

No, we can no more reach God’s standards for us in our own strength, than we can ‘lift ourselves up by our own shoelaces.’ Are you weary of whatever it is that has you enslaved to it? Is it an addiction of some kind, dishonesty or even resentment or jealousy of someone? Do you feel that you can never overcome that which you abhor within your very soul?

Perhaps you feel that none of these evil traits belong to you; you may be an honest person, having no ill-feeling towards anyone that you are aware of… but unless you have come in repentance to the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, there will always be something amiss with your life, for the Word of God tells us that we “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3v23)

Original sin is something which we all have inherited – our unfortunate legacy from ancient Eden.

But the Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again to free us from the law of sin and death!

On this first day of the rest of your life, if you have not already done so, cast your burden of sin and worry and useless strivings at the feet of Jesus who loves you like no else ever will. He died for you, wherever and whoever you are, to set you free from the chains of sin and death.

And when you trust Him to come into your life, He will give you the will and the strength to love Him with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself.

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3v19)

Jesus said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matt. 11v28-30).

May you truly know His peace “which passeth all understanding,” on this, the first day of the rest of your life.

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