What if I’m Too Old?- Isaiah 46:3-11

Nurse Doris lost her patience with me as I counted the pills and placed them in tiny plastic bags. We were working in a bush clinic made of straw bales and thatch, and though I wanted to be helpful I struggled to understand her unfamiliar pronunciations of the medications we dispensed.

I was especially intimidated when I asked her for the bathroom facilities.

Doris huffed, cinched the chitenge skirt tighter around her hips, and sent me to the thatched hut at the edge of the village.

What if . . .

I walked around the circular latrine to check it out and found it was merely a hole in the ground with an open doorway facing away from the village. While I figured out how to manage I worried that my days of serving in missions might be numbered.

“What will I do if I’m unable to squat in my old age?” My physical limitations could keep me home. I was in my forties at the time but wondered how I could be useful if I eventually lost the ability to count pills, or hold sick babies, or bounce along bumpy African roads without crying out in pain.

How can I serve if I’m disabled?

There can be benefits reaped from experiencing disability. One is that our weakness can give someone an opportunity to practice compassion and service. My elderly father was in the hospital recently, and he received encouragement from a young believer as she cared for him. He was able to give her a boost in return, saying “God bless you for being so kind to an old man.”

Another is that we can strengthen others in their faith. I followed the life and writings of Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of the Nazi death camps during WWII, and learned a lot about faithfulness in serving God no matter a person’s limitations. One of her stories was of a woman in Soviet Russia, bent and twisted from multiple sclerosis, who could barely lift her head. She could, however, move one finger well enough to type and translate the Bible and Christian books. The authorities left her alone because she didn’t seem to pose a threat, yet the pages she produced were passed far and wide.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”

“. . . remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'” (Isaiah 46:3-4 and 9-11 ESV).

What I fear most

My physical condition and personal needs don’t hinder God in accomplishing his will, so why should I worry? He has cared for me since I was conceived. My needs will never be too much for him. He has never disappointed me. He will never abandon me.

But will he help me pluck out the dark hairs on my chin when I can’t see them any more? It’s a huge thing to worry about, right ? The truth is that what I fear the most is not being able to read the scriptures. Will his life-giving words be there for me when I am old?

Maybe he will send someone like the young believer that served my dad in the hospital. Whatever comes I can humble myself, quiet my soul, and trust him.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25 NIV).

Thankfully, for now I have the ability to move more than one finger to serve others. I should go visit Nurse Doris and ask if she needs anything plucked.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

When I was the Stranger to Avoid

Why should she be suspicious of me? Can’t she tell by looking that I’m a good person and only want to help? And who pinned a BEWARE OF THE STRANGER sign on my shirt?

How quickly I forgot that earning trust is work.

As I searched for mushrooms in a crowded produce department last year, I maneuvered my cart around a young mother and her brood. A little girl hung on to the outside of the cart, asking for strawberries, and a wide-eyed infant squirmed in his sling. The woman had to be overwhelmed.

A minute later I heard their cart hit the cement floor, scattering their groceries. Mom calmed her terrified daughter and reached to get their belongings out of the way of other shoppers.

How well I remember shopping with multiple children in tow, taking care to keep them safe from sharp objects and questionable people.

Parking my cart out of the shopping lane, I picked up some bags of produce and cans and set them back in her cart. When I found a cell phone, I handed it to Mom thinking she’d be grateful I’d rescued it. Instead, she scrutinized me as though I might grab it and run.

I’m sure to her I looked like a meddling nuisance, a stranger who shouldn’t be trusted. I’d thought the same things of people who seemed overly friendly to my children.

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18 ESV).

Now I knew that she didn’t need me for a best friend at that moment. Instead, the best way to love my neighbor that day was to back off. Spotting a loose dime on the floor, I bent down to pick it up, knowing I was still being watched. I handed it to the little girl. “Here, why don’t you hold this for your mommy?”

And I slipped quietly away.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

How to Fall Sleep Anywhere, or Not – Psalm 4:8

Don’t expect me to fall sleep in public. Before our trip to Zambia I stayed up all night mending clothes and packing, convinced I would have no trouble sleeping on the twelve-hour flight across the Atlantic. But, you guessed it, sleep never came.

On another trip I had the same problem. After flying into Delhi on a Saturday evening and leading worship with my team, we rushed to board the night train for the 250 mile trip to Lucknow. Our plan was to sleep in our clothes (it was a public conveyance, after all), get up and lead worship for the Sunday service the following morning.

Again sleep eluded me. My narrow berth separated me from the aisle by only a thin curtain, and a couple of times I was startled by someone brushing by on their way to the toilet. I resolved that since God brought me on this trip, he would somehow supply my needs as I did his work – with or without sleep.

As I lay in my little space I prayed, admitting I was also concerned about how my hair might look in the morning. I thought about using a little water and a comb, but that would mean me sitting upright while it dried. No, sleep would be better for my appearance and my attitude, I reasoned. You can read about God’s answer to my concerns that night in a previous post.

I peered through my window, still amazed I was actually in India. In the passing shadows I could see tiny dwellings, cooking fires smoldering, and the outline of buildings. Nothing looked familiar.

Then I spotted the moon, looking exactly like it did from my front porch in Oregon. From the moving train the moon was an anchor point, a brilliant thing to remind me God hadn’t changed and that he was with me even on the opposite side of the world.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 NIV).

After talking to God about my trivial concerns, my worries for my safety and my appearance melted away. I laid down and slept peacefully.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis