Three Ships Passing in the Day

“Yay, Evelyn!  Did you see her stand on her own?”

“Leo, aren’t you a big boy pulling up and shaking that metal grate!”  

I didn’t know watching grandchildren develop would be so enjoyable . . . and disturbing.

“Look at John, he’s standing on his own!  I even saw him take a few steps the other day!”  “Wow! Nice job putting on your shoe!”  

Yes, right now my grandchildren and I are sharing many of the same challenges.  We are three ships travelling the same waters, but they are sailing one direction and I another.  They are free standing and feeling so proud; I am free standing right before I freefall. They are taking their first steps with glee; I am pounding out my last steps with difficulty.  They are using nimble fingers to pick up big people food; I am using curled paws to assist my liquid feeding through a stomach tube. They are babbling their first words; I am babbling my last.

Like Benjamin in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” I feel my body is going in the wrong direction — towards childhood.  All muscular strength and ability is fading away. I am walking backwards down life’s stairs. I am sinking into the quicksand of paralysis. I feel like I am melting.  I have no major physical pain, but rather a foreboding angst that I will soon be trapped in a helpless and dependent body. This is the very condition from which my grandchildren are freeing themselves.  Majestic mountains are ahead for them and deep valleys await me.

Sounds discouraging?  Pity party? Absolutely not.  Because, curiously, I am able to say that life is better now than it has ever been.  I want that to sink in — my life is better now than it has ever been! Over the past year, I have received hundreds of cards, kind messages galore on social media, never-ending daily prayers, gifts, visitors from near and far, and just plain ol’ love.  I have implored thousands of people to see more to life than the physical body. And best of all, I am knowing Jesus Christ through suffering.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28)

Experiencing rest in Jesus is the good life.  I would not trade it for an Olympic body. This joy from the Holy Spirit eludes any earthly description.  It is ethereal, sublime. I feel at rest, and I am content.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

The Apostle Paul speaks of doing all things.  What things is he talking about?  They are found in the verses above; they are the full spectrum of life’s conditions.  Paul is saying that wherever you find yourself in life, contentment is available. Am I reading this correctly?  Reread it. Yes, that is what Paul is saying.

Contentment and rest are found in Jesus.  This may sound abstract, but the more intense the need, the clearer this truth becomes.  Contentment is not found by reshaping life’s external circumstances. Contentment comes by reshaping the life within.  I spiritually died with Christ. I resurrected with Him a new man. I am seated with Him in the heavenlies. He has given me the Holy Spirit.  I hold on to Christ by faith. I trust His promises. I will be given a new life beyond the grave. In this I experience contentment and rest. Life is now as good as it gets.  This is available to all who believe.

“Who’s ready for a little supper?”  Evelyn pounds her highchair and gets some avocado to squish into her mouth.  Leo pounds his highchair and carefully pinches a few peas. I teasingly pound my wheelchair and get a cup full of liquid poured into my belly.  Then we all take a ride around the house in my wheelchair. (Apparently, Grandpa-on-wheels makes me quite popular with the toddler set.)

Three ships passing in the day.  I sense a closeness to my grandchildren and I love it.  I am sensing a closeness to Jesus and I love it. “There is rest for my soul.”

33 thoughts on “Three Ships Passing in the Day

  1. Thank you for this Heavenly perspective to earthly suffering. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, amen and amen!
    I love you!

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  2. I so love reading this…and so love you, John. You’re an inspiration…however, I never expected it to be through this, but I fully appreciate and am thankful for it…God is shaping me through you…I see that’s the way He intended…continuing to pray for you and your family…you are all cherished souls…God bless.

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  3. Yes…grandchildren…love, love, love. You are so blessed to have them close to enjoy every little, and big, thing they accomplish!!! You are loved. xoxoxo

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  4. You are so right, John. So many people mis-interpret that verse. It means Jesus is with us and strengthens us in the good times and in the bad times. Peter had been in jail and had tremendous success in witnessing and God was with him in both places. I think of you and your family often. Thank you for your guidance and love for my children when they were at Eastwood.

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    1. Thank you Carol. On a fun note, Soren and family are moving to Montgomery this summer for three years. He will study Law. It will be so nice to have all my children and grandchildren within a stone’s throw. Greetings to Charles.

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  5. What joy to experience these events with the grandchildren and to have the grace to appreciate that when you are weak you are strong. We love you so.

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  6. I love you my dear brother. That is an amazing story and you are such an inspiration to so many more than you know.

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  7. I wish I could see life the way you do, good and the bad. I so miss our weekly meetings and getting to hear your words of godly wisdom to start off the week. This blog helps to fill that void. We miss you terribly! Keep writing!

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  8. Kinda paraphrasing Paul who also said to suffer for the Lord is to please the Lord and to die unto the Lord is to be with the Lord. Suffering is something we all do, you and I just have a more visible form to the world. Take care my friend.

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  9. Thank you, John, for inviting me to view your blog and get updated on what’s been going on in your life since I left
    Eastwood (and Montgomery) back in 2010. I am amazed, humbled, and encouraged by your responses to the Holy Spirit as He brings you through these trials and tribulations. Although we are both suffering from different afflictions, your “Reflections” mirror so much of my own! I so do understand what you mean when you said, “Falling apart is another way to praise God!” In Deuteronomy 30:20, God tells us through Moses that, “He is our life and our length of days.” I cling to that. As the doctors tell me the number of my days are limited, I know that God has already set that number and that I will not be going home before His time. Thank you, John, for your blessed testimony of our wonderful and loving Savior! The Grace and Peace of Christ be with you every moment.

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  10. As I read your post John, I am reminded of Horatio G. Spafford and the words he penned, “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.” His soul was at peace during his suffering and it is evident that you have the same as you look to the giver of your rest. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). Because your faith is rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ, you are granted that beautiful, supernatural peace that comforts and sustains. It is clear to all those that interact and know you!

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    1. Thank you Matt for the encouragement and the Scriptures. I have wondered how Paul and Silas could sing in prison. It was through the joy of the Holy Spirit! Let’s press on towards the upward call in Christ Jesus. Further up and further in!

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