Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our many blessings. Mary and I have so much to be thankful for. You might be thinking, “but you have ALS, you can’t eat turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes with gravy. You can’t even eat pumpkin pie with a good cup of coffee for dessert…” Yeah, I think the same thing every year, it’s a real bummer sitting there watching family and friends eat Thanksgiving dinner while the “food” pump next to my wheelchair delivers formula into my feeding tube.
More frustrating than not being able to eat is not being able to speak when family and friends are gathered around our tble. I try to chime in using my computer’s Text-to-Speech app, but it takes me so long to type my thoughts that usually the group has changed subjects two or three times by the time I finish typing a sentence or two. Before ALS robbed me of my voice, when I was taking part in the table’s conversations, I never noticed how quickly even a small group changes subjects.
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The above verse doesn’t tell followers of Christ to be thankful for our difficult circumstances; God doesn’t call us to live in a state of denial. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can remain thankful in the midst of even the most difficult circumstances.
I am a more thankful person today than I was twenty-two years ago before being diagnosed with this dreadful disease. Way back in 1996, I was able to work, walk, speak, eat, and do all the other things that “normal people” do (I really miss being able to operate the television remote control). Like others living the so-called American dream, I took so many blessings for granted.
“If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8).
We have a home, clothing and, even though it’s not the food I’d like, this manufactured formula has sustained me for the last twelve years that I’ve been unable to eat by mouth. But, Mary and I have so much more than “food and covering.” We have air conditioning for the hot Texas summers, a heater for the cold Texas winters; we even have a water heater for hot showers. These are just a few of the many blessings I took for granted before ALS. Now, I thank God every day for so many blessings, including my wheelchair, my faux food, and my breathing machine. I am especially thankful for this eye-tracking computer that allows me to communicate and form relationships with followers of this blog.
More than the luxuries that God has given us, we’re so thankful for the family and friends He’s surrounded us with – including the friends I’ve connected with over the last six years that I’ve been posting on this blog.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)
If you are going through one life’s many difficulties, even if you don’t feel like doing so, try thanking God and those in your life that are trying to help you. Give it a whirl, I know first-hand that it will change your outlook for the better.
In my post from November 2nd titled, “Do ‘All Things’ Really Work For Good,” I wrote about Mary losing her job. She’s had this job working from home for twenty-nine years. At the suggestion of a few friends, my brother set up a Go Fund Me Account for us. I included a link to the account on my last post (“The Depth Of My Pride”). And, WOW, the response from family and friends, and so many of my fellow bloggers, my blogging family, was overwhelming!
The Go Fund Me Account has been such a blessing to us. Mary has worked that full-time job from home the whole time I’ve had ALS. As I’ve become more dependent on her, especially after my having pneumonia in September, it became like she was working two full-time jobs. All day long she was running back and forth between her office and our bedroom. It was becoming more and more stressful on her.
Through the GFM account, God blessed us through all of you that gave. We are so thankful to God and to those of you who gave to GFM. We are also very grateful for those of you who have been praying for us. We know that prayer works and is so powerful. In fact, we are convinced that it was prayer that led to the GFM account.
However, as much as a blessing your gifts and prayers have been to us, nothing compares to the greatest gift that God has given to man. This is what we’re most thankful for this Thanksgiving day, and every day of the year:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
God is good!
As the followers of my blog know, I’ve had ALS for twenty-two years, I’m completely paralyzed and unable to speak. I use an eye-tracking computer to communicate and I am totally reliant on Mary to take care of me.
I remember when I first started having to rely on others to help me with simple tasks. Even though my body was beginning to fail me and I sounded like a drunk when I spoke, I fought so hard to keep working after being diagnosed. Not just because we needed my income, but also because I just couldn’t imagine not working.
With my job as a Regional Sales Manager, I usually traveled two or three days per week, and usually left for the airport at five in the morning. I remember attending a convention and having to ask a coworker to button my shirt and put on my clip-on tie (I had already given up on adult ties).
On another trip I swung my overnight bag up on the conveyor belt going through security and lost what little balance I had and fell to the floor. Everyone in line just stared at me, until finally a frail elderly security guard helped me up. For most people, this incident would be close to the top of their “Life’s most embarrassing moments” list. For me, after twenty-two years with ALS, it doesn’t even qualify for the top 25. The incident did mark the end of my career, though.
One would think that a person who is completely helpless would have had every last drop of pride wrung out of him. Think again.
Following my last post about Mary being Laid-off from the job she’s had for the last twenty-nine years, and her income being more than double the amount of my monthly disability check… Several readers suggested setting up a Go Fund Me Account. “I’m not going to stand on a virtual street corner with a Go Fund Me placard asking for donations,” I thought.
If even the lame and mute still retain their pride, is anyone truly humble?
Well, my brother did start a Go Fund Me Account for us and one of our daughters is helping him manage it.
I cringed when my brother, daughter, and several followers of my blog suggested that I put a link on my blog to the Go Fund Me Account. This step was even more difficult for me.
I’ve been thinking and praying about this for the last two days. I would never want to give the appearance that I was trying to capitalize on the friendships, so many good friendships, that I’ve built through this Unshakable Hope blog over the last six years.
God reminded me that over the course of this long difficult trial, financially and otherwise, He has blessed us over and over through the hands of others, and that this Go Fund Me Account is an opportunity for Him to bless us again.
(My brother set the fundraising goal without consulting me; I would have set the goal at a million dollars :-))
If you’d like to give, please click HERE. (Thank you so much, my friends).
(Please) “…don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
I saw the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” the other night. It’s a great biographical story about salvation and forgiveness. Writing movie reviews is not my thing, but I highly recommend this movie.
After seeing the movie, I began thinking about the title of the song and the movie, “I Can Only Imagine.“ Bart Millard, the man who wrote the song and the one that the movie is about, was imagining his dad in heaven as he was writing the song.
I started thinking about the imagination, especially when it comes to heaven and eternity.
What is the imagination?
(It’s) “the ability to form a mental image of something that is not perceived through the five senses. It is the ability of the mind to build mental scenes…”
The imaginary realm is not just the stuff of kids; for good or for evil, our imagination is a powerful force. For Christians, the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) also refocuses our imagination and we begin to see God’s vision for man and the whole of His creation.
Being wheelchair-bound, hooked up to a pump that feeds me, and not being able to speak for the last 20+ years, I use my imagination much more than I did before ALS invaded my life. Even my vacations are imaginary, lived out vicariously through family and friends, or through Rick Steves on PBS.
Before making a commitment to follow Christ at the age of twenty-three, the rare times I even thought about heaven, the picture in my mind was bleak. Back then, I wasn’t sure that I even believed in heaven. But, to the extent that my spiritually confused mind could imagine a heaven, I pictured it as an ethereal place where disembodied spirits were floating around aimlessly.
Can I sign you up? No thanks.
After making a commitment to follow Christ, I, like all Christians (I hope), began reading the Bible regularly and a much different picture of heaven, the true picture of heaven, was formed in my reborn imagination.
Just imagine this exciting place – a very real place:
Disembodied spirits floating around aimlessly? No way!
Don’t believe most of what well-meaning people tell you at the funeral of a loved one; God did not “need another angel.“ But, Jesus tells us that we will “be like the angels.” And, we’ll be (physically) like Jesus Himself after He was resurrected from the dead (Matthew 22:30 & 1 John 3:2).
What were the bodies of the angels like when they visited earth? And, what was Jesus’s body like when He appeared to more than five hundred people after His resurrection?
If you said they looked like men, you’re right.
The Bible tells us that we wouldn’t know the difference between men and angels even if they were our house guests (Hebrews 13:2). (I suspect that I’ve been married to an angel for 32 years).
Just imagine a body that defies the laws of physics. A body that can appear and disappear in a blink of the eye, but a body that can eat real food and drink wine (Luke 24:36-43 & Mark 14:25). I’ll have to take it slow because I haven’t had wine or any drink containing alcohol in over thirty-two years – a champagne toast on our wedding day.
Just imagine a heaven on earth. A lot of people, even many Christians, don’t realize that the permanent heaven will be on a “new earth.“ (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1).
Just imagine no more sickness, no more cancer, ALS or any other stinkin’ disease. No more heartbreaking St. Jude and Shriners commercials! No more need for feeding tubes and wheelchairs! (Isaiah 35:5-6 & Revelation 21).
“I saw a new heaven (earth’s atmosphere) and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” (Revelation 21)
After reading this, you might be asking, Bill, if you really believe this, why don’t you stop using your breathing machine and remove your feeding tube and move on to this beautiful heaven you’re talking about?
It’s a fair and logical question.
Believe me, there have been days, really bad days, days when pneumonia left me gasping for air. Days when my whole body was aching from the flu. Many days when I’ve wanted to die, even prayed to die, but…
And, I remembered that God still has a mission for me here. Like all followers of Christ, my mission is The Great Commission; persuading others, maybe even you, to join me in heaven for eternity.
Can I sign you up?
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Because we can trace our mother’s and father’s families back to Ireland, my nine siblings and I have always assumed that we were 100% Irish, but…
About a year ago a few of my siblings decided to get their DNA tested. I don’t know how accurate this DNA testing is, but the tests showed that we are only 95% Irish, give or take 1%. Somehow, maybe hundreds of years ago, our gene pool was corrupted, or, likely enhanced, by 5%. Apparently, the relationship between the Irish and the English wasn’t always strained; in fact, it seems that the relationship was quite good for two of my ancestors.
It’s kind of fun to think about the possible scenarios of how and when our ancestor’s blood became mixed with another family’s DNA. I told my brother that it was probably a golfer from London who came over to Ireland to play a–round. Or, maybe my great, great, great grandmother traveled to England and got a job as a chambermaid for a wealthy family and ended up marrying a member of the household staff.
Regardless of how our ancestors got together, these two are probably to blame for my rebellious nature, and I’m pretty sure this is where I get my sense of adventure from. Living with ALS for 21+ years is quite an adventure, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, I have been an Online Missionary with Global Media Outreach since 2010. Like here on my blog, I have met and become friends with Christians all over the world; Africa, Europe, China, Iran… I don’t like to admit that I’m geographically-challenged, but I’ve even connected with people from tiny remote islands that I had to Google to find the location of.
As I am writing this, I’m thinking about two men that I disciple and communicate with regularly. These two men have become friends of mine. Their names are Claude, from Burundi (that’s in East Africa for my fellow geographically-challenged readers), and Biruk, from Ethiopia. Biruk is living in Japan right now finishing up a Masters program. He’s hoping and praying to get accepted into a Ph.D. program in Australia for the next school year.
I’ve never asked, but I’m guessing that, like most native Africans, Claude and Biruk have dark skin, probably several shades darker than my pasty white skin. I’ve never asked about their race because it really doesn’t matter to me. The strange thing is that both of these men address me as “Brother Bill.” They are both relatively new followers of Christ and genuinely believe that we are brothers, spiritually speaking. And, I believe that we are brothers too. Why? Because the New Testament tells us that followers of Christ are brothers and sisters in the eyes of God:
“There was a crowd around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)
Claude, Biruk and all true followers of Christ are “strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11;13-16)
I am so looking forward to living in “a country” with no racism, no human trafficking, no murder, no rape, no child abuse or any other form of evil.
No, I am not delusional, I know this place exists, and I hope that one day you’ll be there with me.
“…you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians–you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-29)
In a very real sense, Jesus has become the DNA of those who follow Him.
Sometimes this simple Bigger fish to fry idiom comes to my mind when I begin to lose focus on what’s really important.
In case you don’t understand the meaning of this idiom, it basically means that there is more important or more urgent business to attend to.
Of course, “what’s really important” is different for everyone, but as followers Christ, we should have a spiritual foundation of “important” and “urgent” business (“bigger fish to fry“) to keep our priorities in check. Without this “bigger fish” priority list, how would any of us know if we are wasting our time and efforts on fruitless endeavors?
“As He (Jesus) was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon (Peter) and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (Mark 1:15-18)
Maybe it’s from watching too many zombie movies when I was growing up, but the above passage is kind of funny to me. I get this picture in my mind of these two ordinary fishermen becoming so transfixed by Jesus’s words and presence that, like zombies, they literally drop everything, their whole life’s work, and follow Jesus.
But then another picture comes into my mind; a picture of thousands of people at a Billy Graham crusade walking down to the front after hearing the words of Jesus preached with authority and conviction. Even two thousand years after Peter and Andrew dropped their fishing nets to follow Christ, His words still have the power to change the hearts and minds of millions of people.
Like many of us, I think Andrew and Peter were ready for their lives to take on a greater purpose; they were ready to be set free from the monotony of the trivial and this is why they (and we) responded to the call of Jesus.
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)
What’s really important?
I think about this question a lot. I believe the answer to this question should be different for followers of Christ than it is for unbelievers because unbelievers by definition do not have an eternal perspective.
I remember so well the grieving process after the death of a loved one or the day the neurologist told me I had ALS. I remember things like the news, my favorite television shows, sports, politics, and so many other things that filled up my day and the discussions I had with others, suddenly seemed so insignificant by comparison.
Maybe we’re at our best, our most compassionate, our most empathetic and our kindest when we’re in the midst of these difficult times. Maybe this is when we are most like Christ. Yes, I am convinced that this is when we’re most like Christ.
Instead of trying to avoid thinking about these difficult times, I think we should purposely reflect on them and remember all of the things that seemed so trivial. Those things are still trivial in the good times. And, the things that still mattered to us in the hard times, are, I’m convinced, the very things that Christ wants us to build our lives around; these are the bigger fish.
Can you have joy and happiness building your life around these bigger fish?
Through all of my really difficult times, especially battling ALS for the last 21+ years, I’ve discovered that building my life around these things that matter, these “bigger fish,” is the secret to true and lasting joy.