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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wellsboro, PA gas lights at Christmas 12/13 (Photo by Doris Kurtz)

Decorated gas street lights in Wellsboro, PA
Our friend Doris Kurtz and her husband John visited Wellsboro this last weekend during a special "Dickens Of A Christmas" festival. They share this photo from Wellsboro which , in our view, is one of the quaintest towns in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania.

"The Blessing of Giving Honor"

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"Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12). "Her children arise and call her blessed" (Proverbs 31:28).

Risser Mill Covered BridgeWhen we first moved to Lancaster County from New England in February of 2001 we rented a rambling old farmhouse overlooking the Risser Mill covered bridge. Even as we were still unpacking our U-Haul a new neighbor, Earl Martin, stopped by to welcome us to his neighborhood and brought us a Shoofly Pie made by his wife, Helen. Knowing I was a minister of the Gospel he also brought a hand-written prayer of blessing. He invited us to his church right up the road which is the church we've attended for nearly 13 years.

Their son Galen and his wife Nancy invited us to their farmhouse for a country meal the following Sunday after we visited their church. We developed a friendship with them and have often alluded to Galen's farming skills here on dailyencouragement.
His father, Earl, passed away in 2003 and in recent years Helen has taken up residency in the Mennonite Home in Lancaster. Their descendants now number 59.

Galen shared a wonderful testimony in our Sunday School class this last Sunday. Helen had her 92nd birthday recently and the family gathered in a community room at the nursing care facility where she resides. She has been dealing with memory issues for a number of years and grows uneasy or confused when too many visit at one time, yet the family realizes her days are numbered so they decided to invite any family member who wanted to visit which totaled 28.

Helen Martin 12/13
As the family gathered, visited with one another, and sang hymns together Helen experienced a remarkable "awakening" in her memory yet she was unable to convey it in their presence except for the fact that she was began to sing along with the hymns (photo on left).

It was when the family departed and she got back to her room that she began to speak audibly to the attendant and recalled the names of her family members, pointing to their pictures on her wall. Though she was unable to talk of the great-grandson (pictured below) she joyfully cradled her arms together as though she were holding a baby. Galen shared of the joy the family experienced after they were told of Helen's "awakening" experience. Though they have tried many, many times to get her to communicate in recent years this was a wonderful breakthrough and it was a joyous time for the family.

Helen Martin's 92nd birthday
Helen with her son Galen, grandson Darrel and great grandson Asher.

In this message we consider those who bear the burden of caring for an elderly parent. Many are in that phase of life and it can be a real challenge. We know that from personal experience.

Georgia Mae Weber
My dad passed away when Mom and Dad still lived in their home in Independence Missouri. After my dad died my Mom had a fall and serious brain injury which affected her memory and to some degree her disposition. That might give us a sense of what so many deal with when their parents enter that phase of memory loss. After a short time it was apparent my mother needed our care and she reluctantly gave up her independence and came to live with us.

Over the next several years my patience and gentleness was often put to the test and I came up short too many times. There were instances where I really struggled with honoring her as I knew I should. But now I look back and see that season of seeking to honor her as a blessing that I presently miss. God was not only caring for Mom's needs through me and my family, but He was shaping and pruning me as a caregiver as Brooksyne and I sought to fulfill a fundamental commandment from God.

Ten Commandments

In order for us to express honor toward another it must come from feelings of deep respect and devotion.  It requires appreciation and esteem that we should have toward the individual(s). The honor we show our parents is a microcosm of our spiritual honor toward God. Failing to honor our parents, as He commands, is certainly dishonoring to Him as is any type of disobedience. On the other hand when we honor our parents it is a tangible demonstration of our honor toward God. Additionally, our children will likely care for us in our golden years in the same way we have cared for our parents.

Of the Ten Commandments the last six deal with our behavior toward one another. The first four deal with our behavior toward God. The first of these "horizontal" commandments is the only one of the six that is worded positively as a command rather than a prohibition. It is the only commandment that includes a promise.  It's fundamental to wholesome human relationships and in God's design it is an essential building block in the practice of the remaining five commandments. If each generation would truly honor their parents, it would be a powerful deterrent to the breaking of the other commandments!

The breakdown in parental honor in our society is evident everywhere and I believe it will likely worsen as we continue to reap the results of violating God's holy law regarding the sanctity of life and many other basic life truths. A fundamental aspect in the transmission of truth and order from one generation to another is the honor shown to the older from the younger and the blessing given to the younger from the older. So very often this is not the case. Parents who had no time for their children will increasingly find that their grown children have no time for them. 

Are you honoring your parents today, in your conversation, in your actions, in the way your children observe your relationship toward them?  Practice visible expressions of love and care toward your parents. and you will experience the blessing that God gives to those who express honor, as one day you will not just be giving it but you will likely be the recipient of honor.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, each spring as we see tiny featherless fledglings pressed tightly against their mothers in the hollow of their family nest, we're reminded of the human love children experience from their parents' safekeeping. We thank You for the love and care You extend to us through the preordained parents who sacrificially love and care for us all our days on earth. Thank You for their model of love, sacrifice, duty, protection, and for the other virtuous qualities seen in their parentage. Their example greatly influences the way we raise our own children.

We also pray for those whose relationship with their parent is a role reversal where they must act as the adult when their own parent behaves like a needy and at times a defiant child. May Your multiplied mercies sustain these caregivers in their ongoing stress-filled role so that, above all, You are honored and they find Your peace in the midst of the turmoil.  Father, we thank You for our human family and our spiritual family. And we thank You for our heavenly family that awaits our arrival on the other side. In the name of Christ Jesus Your Son we pray. Amen.

Great truths Godly parents transmit to their children:

1.    Love for God and need of salvation.
2.    Love for family and friends.
3.    Love for the church.
4.    Love and respect toward others.
5.    Godly values based on the Scriptures.
6.    Disciplined and responsible living.

A long-term choir memberBrooksyne's memory of Helen: Helen was a long-term choir member (as seen with the choir as we warmed up our voices). In 2006, as Helen's health was failing, she handed me her choir book and said, "I'm turning this in since this will be the last time I'll be singing in the choir." Helen had been so faithful in the five years that I led the choir missing only once when she was out of town (giving me plenty of notice, as well). The reason this was so touching is that Helen was 85 years old at the time. Our choir was made up of young people from 17 years all the way to Helen's age.

In 2005 the choir dressed in Bible costume for our Christmas musical and sat on bales of hay that were low to the ground during the hour long musical. I was concerned about Helen but she was certain it would be no problem. She was right. She sat down on the hay bale just like the younger choir members, rose when expected, and stayed right on time during very fast songs. She had no issue with singing contemporary songs written in recent years such as "Who Am I" by Casting Crowns. It was one of the numbers in that Christmas musical, but Helen gave no thought as to whether it was "her" style of music; she just always sung to the glory of God. It was rare that she held a hymn book in church services since she knew most every hymn by memory (all verses). Her hearing worsened considerably and quick page turning with codas during our choir numbers became a confusing task. But she gave her best and she told me, "When I can't read the words I follow your lips." She inspired each choir member and those who looked on as the choir ministered in song. At her last choir practice we had special prayer for her in our choir circle and gave thanks for her many years of dedication recalling her earlier years when she led children, youth and adults in music in the churches she and her husband, Earl, pastored over many years.

Helen Martin with family 12/13
Helen with her granddaughter Roanna along with Galen and his grandson, Asher

Stephen's Memory of Earl:  Earl was a godly man and shared numerous spiritual insights the 2˝ years we knew him. Here's a brief article I wrote following his funeral service "The Legacy":

Earl Martin lived well, died well and left a godly legacy on many. The visitation was held in our church (which I think is great) and many came out to pay their respects to this man of God. A wonderful display of photos showed Earl with his family through the years and I greeted each family member starting with his grandchildren. What a demonstration of the legacy of a godly man. One grandson, who will be returning to Asbury as a senior this fall, is majoring in Bible and Theology and planning on planting a church in the inner city.

In the display I picked up a newspaper article written about Earl in 1984 when his farm was recognized as a "centennial farm" (that is, in the same family for 100 years). Earl was quoted, “The Lord’s been good to us and the best crop we’ve raised here is our children.” What an interesting description of ministry in the family and beyond. It describes the Biblical pattern for ministry. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

That’s been the pattern for two thousand years and continues to this day and will most certainly continue until the trumpet sounds. One generation passing down the faith to the next. You’re reading this and hopefully you have the faith. Someone has passed it down to you. Are you passing it on? Are you leaving a godly legacy as Earl Martin did to those who come along behind you? That’s our call.

If interested, see below the resource section for a longer daily encouragement message I wrote  with reflections on Earl's funeral service in 2003 which is before we started posting archives online.

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Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"A Parent's Love"  Video  An extremely powerful perspective. I recommend all who have elderly parents to view this.

"He Was Walking Her Home"  Video  Mark Schultz  A song of enduring love based upon a true story of Mark's long time friends who reached out to him when he first moved to Nashville.

"When It's All Been Said And Done"  Video  Robin Mark

"Legacy"  Video  Nicole Nordeman

"I Want To Be Just Like You"  Video  
Phillips, Craig & Dean

"5 Ways Adult Children Can Honor Their Parents"  Article by Daniel Darling

"How Can You Honor Your Parents When You Feel They Don't Deserve It?"  Article  by Sabrina Beasley McDonald

Here is the daily encouragement I wrote following Earl's service:

"Living Faith"

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5).

I've been to a lot of funeral/memorial services and conducted quite a few myself. Some of these services are very sad, while others have an atmosphere of victory and joy. This last week I have shared about the home going of several people in our church and today's encouragement will be the last time I will reference these deaths. But I believe there is a powerful encouragement challenge in the message I share today.

Yesterday's funeral service for Earl Martin was extremely edifying. Now certainly there was a grieving that we would no longer see Earl on this side, but he had lived and died well. He had accepted Christ when he was nine years old and lived his life in service for his Lord, including ministry as a pastor.

The most powerful component of the service to me was when all his grandchildren gathered on the platform and sang "Blessed Assurance." Midway through a granddaughter expressed her faith in Christ and challenged each in the crowded church to place or renew their faith. The grandchildren then sang.
    This is our story, this is our song.
    Praising our Savior all the day long.

Then she welcomed the entire congregation to stand and join in and what an incredibly moving time as God's people sang with great conviction and fervor about their faith in the Savior. I just can't imagine how any choir in heaven will sound any better!
    This is my story, this is my song.
    Praising my Savior all the day long.

One grandson, who flew in from Africa from a missions trip, expressed how his grandpa had regularly challenged him with the same challenge presented by Joshua to forsake other gods and choose to serve the Lord. In the daily text the apostle Paul acknowledges the godly impact of Timothy's grandmother and mother in passing down the faith. Elsewhere we read that Timothy's father was a Greek and there is no evidence of any passing down of the faith from him.

What a powerful impact godly grandparents can have. Notice the phrase "which first lived in your grandmother Lois." I wonder as I read the passage whether these words indicate that she was the first in her line to have faith in Christ or that she was the first one to personally have a spiritual influence on Timothy. Either way we see the transmission through grandmother and mother to son.

Some of you can trace your spiritual lineage way back. I recall Earl sharing with me the study of his own lineage of faith going back several hundred years to his immigrant forefathers. Others of you are the very first in your family line to have faith. Last night in my personal ministry I shared with a couple of their need for Christ and challenged them to live the remainder of their lives on this earth for Christ. We prayed together and I shared how beginning now they could begin building a life worth living.

So can you and I strongly urge you to consider this: If you've been building on the right foundation for a godly legacy keep on doing so. If not stop right now, examine yourself and take the steps necessary to build on a foundation that lasts.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's perspective: Though the majority of people gathered for the funeral were elderly, I felt in my heart this was a wonderful funeral service for young people.  Earl's testimony was a fine example of one who had met Christ at a very early age and maintained his faith in the Lord throughout all his life.  The spiritual legacy a person can leave who has followed Christ his entire life is rich beyond measure, and brings tremendous spiritual blessings to the family he or she brings into the world.  What a wonderful challenge to our young readers today!

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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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