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April 27, 2012

Steudler Gardens, Lancaster County PA
Blooming Azaleas in Lancaster PA

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"Remember Your Creator"

"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them'" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). “When the almond tree blossoms” (Ecclesiastes 12:5b).

Before we begin our day of ministry we pray that God will open doors of receptivity among not only those we come in contact with formally in the course of our chaplain ministry, but also to all we may providentially encounter. In the same way we always pray together before we send out these daily encouragement messages for people to read or listen with a receptive heart.

Jeanette Steudler beside oak treeA couple of days ago on the spur of a moment we stopped in to visit Jeanette, a pleasant older woman, we’ve come to know through her sons, Rick and Fred. It’s been nearly a year since we last visited and the age progression continues to take its toll. We thought we might encourage her with a brief visit.

In this photo, taken several years ago, she is in front of a very large oak tree that she planted as a tiny sapling some 70 years ago!

Jeanette continues to live in her own home due to the loving support of her children and the devoted caregivers who tend to her needs 24/7. In fact she was being dressed when we arrived so we took a walk among the beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas planted all along her long back yard, gifts from her sons who presented her with
a new bush to plant each Mother’s Day.

The trees and plants have grown older and fully matured and so has Jeanette, who recently celebrated her 94th birthday. When I (Brooksyne) asked her, “Do you know how old you are?” she just laughed at me as she shook her head. In the living room family pictures dotted the walls, all taken during a much earlier era. I especially noted the photo with her husband and sons when her hair was gray rather than the gleaming white that we’ve admired since we first met her.

Jeanette is wonderfully polite and her beautiful smile engaging, but at times she drifts in and out of substantive conversation. So I began to sing a couple hymns to draw her back. Rather than join in singing, as I had hoped, she just took it all in and as she did, tears began to slowly trail down her cheeks. She expressed her appreciation and pointed to a tissue lying on the sofa. I picked it up and gently wiped her tears. Then she pointed to her nose reminding me that it also needed attention.  

We conversed together but there were times Jeanette tried to communicate and the words just wouldn't connect in an understandable manner. We played “charades” as I tried to vocalize what she might be wanting to communicate. When I was right on, she vigorously nodded her head and her smile grew even larger. We had a nice time of prayer before I left her side.

Following our visit, I thought of how wonderful it is that Christ dwells within the believer and knows our every thought even during the fogginess of old age. No interpretation or guessing needed.

But I am also saddened by those who reach their golden years who don’t know Jesus personally; they’ve never communed with God. Their hearts aren’t warmed by hymn tunes like “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” or “In the Garden” where the hymn writer described communion with God as, "He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.”

Almond blossom In Ecclesiastes 12 Solomon writes about the changes that come to those enduring old age. In today's second verse he writes about an almond tree, which has blossoms progressing from white to dark pink. Blossoming in this case is an analogy of aging. Commentator Adam Clarke sees it this way in regard to aging: “The hair begins to change, first gray, then white; it having no longer that supply of nutritive juices which it once had.” He analogizes the changing color of the gray hair to the changing colors of the almond blossom as it ripens to maturity.

Essentially Ecclesiastes 12 speaks of a life with and without God. CS Lewis wrote: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done'." *

The Life Application Bible study notes makes this interesting observation concerning this passage: "A life without God can produce a bitter, lonely, and hopeless old age. A life centered around God is fulfilling; it will make the "days of trouble" - when disabilities, sickness, and handicaps cause barriers to enjoying life - satisfying because of the hope of eternal life. Being young is exciting, but the excitement of youth can become a barrier to closeness with God if it makes young people focus on passing pleasures instead of eternal values. Make your strength available to God when it is still yours - during your youthful years. Don't waste it on evil or meaningless activities that become bad habits and make you callous. Seek God now."

Indeed let us, "Remember our Creator in the days of our youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when we will say, “I find no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1 slightly modified by using the first person pronoun). Whenever you may be reading this; whether you are young, middle-aged or old, we encourage you to "Remember your Creator."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Father, we who have received Christ early in our young years are grateful for the solid and lasting foundation we're building that will provide comfort, solidity, and needed perspective when we approach the golden years of our life here on earth. The older we get the more this earth and all that it has to offer grows dimmer while the lights of glory grow ever brighter. It happens because our eyes are fixed on the eternal city not built with human hands but fashioned and designed by the Builder of the Ages. Keep us true Lord Jesus, for there's a race to be run and there are victories to be won on this side of heaven. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

* This quote is in "The Great Divorce" which is a complementary to Lewis' earlier book "The Screwtape Letters". The working title was "Who Goes Home?" but the final name was changed at the publisher's insistence. The title refers to William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." The Great Divorce was first printed as a serial in an Anglican newspaper called The Guardian in 1944 and 1945, and soon thereafter in book form.

Teaching insight: Yesterday we wrote about the Master Pruner and in the course of our message commented on James 1:2 which states,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2). Will, a pastor friend from Marin County CA, makes this interesting and helpful observation:

"The passage that you quoted from James is a stumbling block for many--viewed as contrary to nature and nearly impossible. May I suggest that this is not about "attitude" (which means to me a developed outlook of the heart), but about a volitional mental process, of which attitude is the product. I am confident that you know this, because your attitude could not be what it is without it.

Too many that I speak with interpret this to be about a positive attitude or feeling, which their trials do NOT elicit, so they become even more discouraged and want to avoid this verse, as it seems to expose a fault in their faith. To the contrary, I believe, James intended to provide relief and encouragement to battered and weary souls. I think you'll agree that "consider" or "reckon" is a chosen response to circumstance--a choice to categorize it and think of it in a certain way.

If I consider it "joy," even when my feeling is fearful or grumbling, it will begin to adjust my heart and, thereby, my attitude. I guess what I'm trying to say is that discouraging feelings are natural in difficult circumstances; the way to have a better and godly attitude toward them is to intentionally think about them in the way James prescribed."

For further consideration: Early this week I mentioned that trees are referenced from the first chapter to the final chapter in the Bible. Here's the final reference: "On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:2). I had intended to write a message based on this text but justn't wasn't getting the insight.

Almond tree
Jeanette's property has an abundance of mature, stately trees

Azalia flowers
Close up of a pink Azalea

Wood carving
"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (German) This is carved into the mantle above a huge fireplace at Jeanette's home.

32nd anniversary photo
Our 32nd anniversary photo was taken four years ago when we first met Jeanette.
(Photo by Rick Steudler)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus"  Video  Casting Crowns

"He Leadeth Me"  Video  The Martins

"In The Garden"  Video  Pure Praise Hymns and Worship

a message to Stephen & Brooksyne

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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