Aging With Grace by Sharon W. Betters & Susan Hunt — Book Review

In our culture we all want to live to a ripe old age — but avoid the aging process.  In this book, the two authors provide hope right from the Bible — hope that as we age, God still has a plan for us.  We have valuable contributions to offer.

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon….they still bear fruit in old age;  they are ever full of sap and green.”  Psalm 92:12,14

The world tells us that old age is an enemy, but according to the Bible, it’s to be coveted:

“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  Job 12:12

Using the examples of Elizabeth, Anna, Naomi and others, the authors paint a vivid picture of how older women can still be used for God’s glory.  They weave in their own stories and the stories of other contemporary older women who have “aged with grace.”  As we grow older spiritual activities and disciplines may change, but they don’t have to end.  We can be mentors, work with smaller groups or individuals, or become prayer warrior or caregivers.  Most of all, we become more aware of our need to depend upon God, rather than our own strength.  We can look back and gain perspective on how God has been at work in our lives.

There are questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter.  It could easily be used as a resource for small groups, or for private journaling.

VERDICT:  4 STARS

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

Aging with Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture | Crossway

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255..

For more posts about aging see:

Growing Older

Reimagine Retirement by C.J. Cagle– Book Review

A New Chapter

 

A Time to Die

I’m up to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes in my lectio divina study and the phrase that catches my attention is that we all have “a time to die.”  Ecclesiastes 3:2.  Death is all over the news these days — what celebrity has contracted the virus and died;  what the death toll is throughout the United States and the world;  what are the biggest “risk factors” that increase your odds of dying from this scary disease.  People are worried about what to do.  Should we wear masks all of the time?  Only inside?  Only in crowds?  Should we refrain from as much social contact as possible?  And now, a new question — is it safe to get the vaccine?

According to the Bible we all have a time to die, and God is the one who is in charge.  Here are some verses that support this conclusion:

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  Matthew 6:27

 

“Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass….”  Job: 14:5

 

“My times are in your hand …”  Psalm 31:15

Now I am not saying we should take crazy risks, or pay no attention to doing things that are healthy and increase your ability to stay well.  Caring for our body is part of good stewardship — it is one of the things God has given to us.  I am saying it’s wrong to get obsessed or fearful about the many things that can end our lives.  This is simply another way of turning in upon ourselves and it has a name:  SIN.

There is also an outer limit to the normal human life span:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty ….” Psalm 90:10

Guess what, I am already there, so any days I have left are indeed a gift from God!  At this stage of my life I can easily say along with Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21.  I’ve accomplished the major tasks of life, and when I die, I’ll be free of all my aches, pains, and worries as I enjoy the presence of God.

There is one piece of advice that God gives about extending our life:

“The fear of the Lord prolongs life …”  Prov. 10:27

 

“And if you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments… then I will lengthen your days.”  1 Kings 3:14

So, wear your masks;  avoid large gatherings, but don’t worry. Don’t give up attending church and studying the Bible;  don’t give up serving others. The best way to stay healthy is to fear God and follow His teachings.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

Hoping for Something New?

Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

Ecclesiastes 3:3

 

 

 

 

Are You Angry?

Almost everyone seems to be angry theses days.  Many are angry about how the pandemic has been handled — some think we should have more restrictions, others think we need less. Rioters are angry with the police and the government.  There are racial and political tensions.  Family members unfriend one another on Facebook because they don’t agree on certain issues.  Even church denominations are splitting and suing one another.  What’s the world coming to?

Maybe you are angry as well, and you may even have good reasons for the way you feel.  However, the Bible has quite a bit to say about anger, and here are a few examples:

“…. let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”  James 1:19-20

 

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”  Proverbs 29:11

 

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself;  it tends only to evil.”  Psalm 37:8

In plain words, anger makes us foolish, and leads us into other sins.  When we allow free rein to our anger, we damage ourselves and others.  It tempts us to become unkind, disrespectful and even violent.  It stirs up trouble and disrupts peace.

So, if you’re angry, take a breath.  Stay calm. Practice patience.  Think things over.  Don’t respond quickly.  Don’t dwell on the disagreement.  Pray for insight.  Respect the views of others, even if you believe they are wrong.  Anger does not promote righteous behavior, and it separates us from God and our fellow men.

“Be angry and do not sin;  do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”  Ephesians 4:26-27

For more on the topic of anger see these posts:

A Fruit We All Need — Self Control

Unoffendable

When There is No Clarity Exercise Charity

 

Praying Women by Sheila Walsh — Book Review

Subtitled, How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say, this is a good, basic book on prayer.  There are quotes by well known Christians at the beginning of each chapter, and sprinkled throughout — I love quotes, so this was a plus for me.

In the introduction, Sheila lists some of the comments she received from her Facebook readers about their experiences with prayer.  Many expressed the same struggles, which most of us encounter:

  • I get distracted or bored
  • I just say the same things over and over
  • Why bother if God knows everything?
  • Is God really listening?
  •  I never get an answer
  • I’m too depressed to pray
  •  God must be angry at me

In each chapter, Sheila walks readers through some of these issues, using examples from her own life.  At the end of every chapter there are prayer reminders and a prayer that suits the theme of that section.  I especially enjoyed the chapter on praying with the words of Scripture, which focused on Psalms.

Her conclusion?

“God is not looking for perfect words or perfect people–He longs for our ongoing daily presence in prayer and worship.”

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  Not extraordinary but solid, biblically based and an easy read.  Most will enjoy it and come away with some useful suggestions for improving their prayer life.  One caveat– Walsh is a Baptist and speaks of “accepting Christ” which contradicts Lutheran theology.

God’s Light

In a previous quote I mentioned that God is light.  That made me think about all the ways that God provides light to His people.

The Holy Spirit “enlightens” us.  When Jesus was about to leave the disciples, He told them:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:12-12

It is the Spirit that opens the Scripture to us and allows us to understand God’s Word.  The Word itself is described as light is this passage:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path ” Psalm 119:105

When we read God’s Word and the Spirit enlightens us, we will be guided into a way of living that is righteous and helpful to us and to others.

Finally God “lightens” our load.

‘Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

When we rely upon God, when we trust Him to do what is best for us, it lifts our spirits and gives us hope.  We feel lighter because our sins are forgiven.  We know that whatever difficulties we face, they will not last forever (This Darkness Will Not Last).  In the end, we will bask in the light of His countenance and experience His light forever.

 

Call Upon the Lord

Reading through the Psalms for the last post, brought the Christian song, “I Will Call Upon the Lord” to mind. It was written by Michael O’Shields,  a young minister travelling in Oklahoma and Texas during the 1970s. He wrote this song as he was struggling to make ends meet, and times were especially tough.  No doubt he had questions about how he could continue in his ministry.  He was calling upon the Lord to supply very basic, tangible needs.  Even if you are calling upon the Lord, or questioning the Lord about something entirely different, I imagine that you can still relate to this modern rendition of Psalm 18.

For another song based on one of the Psalms follow this link:

A Favorite Psalm

 

Who Can Satisfy Me?

A verse from my devotional reading this morning reminded me of this hymn, which reminds us of where true satisfaction is found.  It was written by Omer Westendorf, one of the earliest lyricists for Roman Catholic liturgical music in English, and contains many beautiful biblical images.  It is often used during communion.

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,  for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”  Psalm 107:8-9

 

 

Growing Older

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish
 in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”  Psalm 92:12-14
Recently I’ve been reading a book called Elderhood, by Louise Aronson, a geriatrician.  It’s an interesting book, and has a lot to say about how our doctors and medical establishment often don’t do a good job of treating seniors.  Our health goals and needs are different than younger adults.  Certain treatments and tests which are worthwhile for someone middle-aged and fairly healthy, can actually be damaging to a frail, elderly person.  As a former hospital buyer, I find this all very interesting, and I agree with most of her conclusions.
In addition, she speaks of how our society in general, favors youth, and older people are made to feel less valuable, and even “invisible.”  What stinkin’ thinkin’ this is!  Every stage of life has pros and cons, and not all age-related changes are for the worse.  Studies have shown that:
“… by their later sixties or early seventies, older adults surpass younger adults on all measures, showing less stress, depression, worry, and anger, and more enjoyment, happiness, and satisfaction.”
Older people often report that this stage of life brings freedom– they care less about what others think;  have greater confidence in their own abilities;  develop clarity of purpose.  Once retired and done with child-rearing, they are able to concentrate on the things that they enjoy and are most important to them.
More to the point, the bible verse above tells us that old age can still be a time of hope and growth–so it must be true!  God still has a plan for each of us. You don’t have to be young to mentor a teen, serve meals at the mission or send a card of encouragement, or even create a blog!
 Don’t be discouraged if you’re a senior citizen! We’re older and wiser;  we can continue to bear good fruit.

Martin Luther on the Psalms

In case you don’t know, Psalms was one of Martin Luther’s favorite books of the Bible …. possibly because he was a musician.  I gave my husband a copy of The New International Commentary on the Book of Psalms for his birthday.  The preface included this quote by Martin Luther:

” (the Psalter) …. might well be called a little Bible.  In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible.  It is a really fine enchiridion or handbook.  In fact, I have a notion that the Holy Spirit wanted to take the trouble himself to compile a short Bible and book of examples of all Christendom or all saints, so that anyone who could not read the whole Bible would have anyway almost an entire summary of it, comprised in one little book.”

It is comforting to me to think that as I age and become less able to read and comprehend some portions of the Scripture, I will still have the Psalms — short bursts of insight and emotion to pray and meditate with every day.

For more quotes from Martin Luther on the Psalms, refer to these previous posts:

Martin Luther and the Book of Psalms

Martin Luther Quote on the Psalms #2

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

Psalms 120-134 are known as “Songs of Ascent.”  They were sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they traveled the road to Jerusalem, the highest city in Palestine, for the great worship festivals.  Eugene Peterson uses each of these songs to describe a portion of what takes place along the walk of faith, as we travel upward toward God.  The chapter titles include:  Repentance, Worship, Service, Security, Joy, Perseverance, Humility, Community and more.  I love Eugene Peterson!  He never fails to engage and enlighten me.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society / Edition 20

In the updated edition, Peterson uses his modern version of the Psalms, from his translation, The Message.  Many will like this, but I preferred to go back and read from the NIV, as I enjoy the familiarity.  His goal is to encourage people to once more pray the Psalms, as an encouragement to pray all their emotions, good, bad and messy.  We can take it all to God, in fact we must if we want to progress in the Christian life.  According to Peterson we won’t change overnight:  it takes “a long obedience in the same direction.”  This is not a popular idea in our “give it to me now” culture.

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

This book was recommended to me in a comment by my friend, Nancy, and I heartily recommend it as well.  It’s not a difficult read, and the chapters could easily be read one per day, as part of a devotional practice.  Has anyone else read this book, or others by Eugene Peterson?  If so, let us know what you think, we’d love to hear.

P.S. Check out the archives for another Peterson book I reviewed, Eat This Book.