Tag Archives: aging

No picnic!

I was speaking recently to an elderly woman.  She had just gone through a gruelling week.  She had been to the funeral of a good friend’s spouse, another friend had had a stroke and a third good friend was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack.  After describing these three tragedies in detail she paused for a moment and said grimly, “Growing old is no picnic.”

I remember visiting a nursing home when I was a teenager.  It felt surreal seeing so many people with such broken and aging bodies; it felt horrible.  I wondered, “Is that what I have to look forward to?”  I think that was one of the reasons that I decided as young adult to work in a nursing home.  It was a question for God, “There has got to be some hope there, I hope I can see it.”

Working closely with people in a nursing home for several years and coming to love the residents was an eye-opening experience for me.  There was more life there than I imagined, even in the midst of a lot of suffering.

Where is God in the picture of old age in your mind?  How do you see aging people relating to God in the challenges they are facing? I am continuing my sermon series on “Aging Gracefully” this week, hope to see you there!

This week’s prayer:  Give us compassion and a spirit of learning, so that we can listen carefully to the wisdom of the very old.

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Aging and magic

I was raised by my grandmother.   She was in her 70’s when we lived with her.  I remember looking at the photographs on the bookcase.  There was one picture of a row of lovely young women; my grandmother and her sisters in their early twenties. If I asked her, she would tell me which one she was.  I certainly couldn’t guess; the young woman in the photograph bore no resemblance at all to my Oma (our name for our grandmother) with the long white hair rolled up in a bun.

I knew that everyone grows old, and I knew that I would one day be old, but it seemed to be some sort of magic, that one could be transformed from a young person to an entirely different looking person.

Well, I’ve passed the mid-point now between the age I was then, and the age my grandmother was; and I see it isn’t magic!  It’s a slow process of aging that changes us.  Perhaps that is even more surprising, in some ways, because it creeps up on us so gradually!

God created us as people who grow old.  We change on the outside, and we change on the inside too.  The spiritual challenges of youth are exchanged for the spiritual challenges of our older years.  In our next four Sundays we are going to be examining these challenges.  This sermon series, I hope, will help the younger people think about the future, and understand and connect with the seniors.  For seniors, I hope that raising these issues can lead to reflection, conversations in our community, and an exchange of wisdom.

This week’s prayer:  Lord, help us to grow old gracefully, faithfully, prayerfully. Amen.

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Happy in your own skin?

Are you happy in your own skin? Do you love your body? If you are like most people, there are parts of your body that you like, parts you tolerate and parts you would change if you could. How we feel about our bodies is shaped by culture, and our culture has a lot to say about what our bodies should look like.

This past week every time I turn on the TV or open a newspaper there is an article about Michael Jackson. Reporters speculate on the number of plastic surgeries he had on his face as he pursued his perfect body image, and they show picture after picture to document the changes over the years.

What strikes me in reading this, is not how weird Michael Jackson was, but how much his life reflects our society. When I was a teenager, make-up, hair colour and dieting products were advertised, and that is still the case. But look in the newspaper now, and you always see ads for plastic surgery. Tummy tucks, chin lifts, botox treatments, these are all household words now. Surgery is just one more option to achieve that perfect look. Our culture encourages us (especially women) to make huge sacrifices to look a certain way…whether it’s getting that super expensive skin cream or a better, more attractive nose.

I think as followers of Jesus in this culture, we have to continually remind ourselves that our loyalty is to a different culture. We want our body image to be shaped by our faith in a God who created us beautiful. God came up with the idea of creatures who change from beautiful smooth-skinned babies, to beautiful wrinkled old people. God created us with big noses and little noses, straight noses and crooked noses.

In our July worship services, I’ll be preaching about our bodies. What scripture texts do you think I’ll be using? In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for ads…what are they saying about how you look? See if you can find an ad that says, “Your body is beautiful the way it is—don’t change anything.”

This week’s prayer:  Thank you God for bodies! Thank you for my body! Help me take off the glasses that the world gives me—glasses that make me see people as ugly or beautiful. I want to see with the eyes of Jesus, I want to see beauty in every face I meet this week.

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Lost for words

What would it be like to not be able to talk? I’ve been thinking about this a lot since our church member Rhea had a stroke several weeks ago. As we visit with her, she can nod and shake her head, or shrug her shoulders, but words escape her. I don’t know whether she has words inside her head and can’t get them out, or if her thoughts are mostly images and emotions.

Now her family and friends and community of faith gather around her hospital bed. We find words for her that she can no longer speak. She reaps the harvest of many words she’s sown in the lives of her family…they visit and tell her constantly that they love her and care for her. As a community of faith we share scripture, hymns and prayers, familiar words that have always provided meaning for her. We remember Rhea in our prayers, praying to a God who has no problem at all communicating with her.

There are other people in our church who may feel speechless. A person who is so depressed, they cannot face meeting people. A person who has just heard terrible news, and cannot bear to say it out loud. A person who has such big doubts, they are afraid they will be rejected if they articulate them. I know there are times in my life that I’ve felt speechless, maybe you have felt that way too.

This Sunday we will be celebrating the baptism of four new church members, as they dedicate their lives to Christ. They are joining us in our journey of faith. It’s a journey that may take us many places, maybe even places that leave us speechless. God goes with us everywhere.

A scripture for a week like this:

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork

Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth,  and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

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