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Why are we scared of growing old?

100-years-old

Age brings intelligence, experience, wisdom and beauty. So why are we so scared of it?

Britain is no country for old men. Or old women for that matter. If we think we’re taciturn and uptight about sex, try talking to us about age. Unfortunately, shoving our heads in the sand about the fact that we, our friends, our family and society at large are going to get old isn’t going to work in the long-term. This year it was forecast that a third of all babies born in the past year are expected to reach 100. A recent review from the Workplace Retirement Income Commission warned that millions of people face a “bleak old age” thanks to cracks in the private sector pension provision. And last year, the Health Service Ombudsman raised concerns that nearly a fifth of complaints received about the NHS related to care of the elderly, and a dossier containing stories about the alarmingly poor level of care elderly patients receive was published by campaigners. Add to that the diminishing number of role models – especially women – over a certain age, and you could be forgiven for thinking we live in a world where no-one gets old.

The trouble is that many of us find it impossible to relate to these worrying facts, unable to face the reality that every day we inch ever closer to our own dotage. An old age that we now believe starts at 59, according to a 2012 survey. It seems ‘the elderly’ are ‘them’, not ‘us’, to such an extent that advancing years provide a cloak of invisibility. You might offer an octogenarian a seat on the bus, or let them in front of you in a queue but how often do you engage in an actual conversation with a person you aren’t related to? It’s easy to forget that the man in his late 80s in Waitrose probably fought in World War II, or that the woman struggling to cross the road lived through an age when it was legal to fire a woman when she got married – and may well have campaigned against it. Our older generations experienced the majority of the most tumultuous century in human history and yet at best we infantilize, at worst outright ignore them. Pity instead of respect. A 1998 study showed that we use baby talk (higher voices and simpler words) when communicating with people we perceive as old. So why do we have such an extraordinary aversion to ageing?

Eternal Youth

One suggestion is that we aren’t forced to face up to our own ageing process because the elderly are deftly airbrushed out of our lives by an ageist media and a business culture in thrall to youth. A survey by the Department for Work And Pensions concluded that “age related stereotypes are rooted in American society” with one in seven people saying having a boss in their 70s is “completely unacceptable”. Whether this is because they are viewed as too old to cope in the workplace, or not in touch with modern business technology, it’s something people will have to learn to accept if current proposals to raise the American retirement age to 70 are successful.

Although one in three people in society is now aged over 50, you wouldn’t know it by looking at how women are represented by the media. Take the landmark case of TV presenter Miriam O’Reilly, 55. After she was dropped from Countryfile in 2009, O’Reilly successfully sued the BBC for age discrimination. A BBC report commissioned following her case concluded there was “particular concern” about the lack of older women represented on television, with more than a third of women over 55 saying there were too few of them. In trying to combat this, the BBC were accused of tokenism by Carole Walker, a 52-year-old newsreader who believes her subsequent appointment was “nothing more than a PR stunt” after she was given just one presenting shift in three months. It’s not just the Beeb either – in 2008, Selina Scott, 60, won a payout and an apology from Five after apparently being replaced in favour of a younger presenter.

We’re frightened of becoming weak and needy, but those who have a positive view of ageing stay healthier longer

And the representations of older women we do see in the media are problematic. “These fall into certain groupings,” says Dr Lorna Warren, senior lecturer in social policy at the University of Sheffield. “Firstly, there’s the likes of the impossibly beautiful Helen Mirren or photoshopped images in adverts… And then you get the figure-of-fun stereotypes – think of EastEnders’ Dot Cotton – they’re either sex-starved or asexual.” Even more damningly, ageism in the media is particularly rife when it bisects sexism. Older men are still afforded a high media profile; just look at George Clooney, Tom Jones (on The Voice), Pierce Brosnan and Jeremy Paxman. However, much progress we’ve made in the 21st century, we still inhabit a ‘display culture’ which measures a woman’s worth by youth. So as women lose this, they become overlooked. A poll in 2011 revealed women feel they become ‘invisible’ at 46 and that their opinions no longer matter. A third admitted to being envious of how well their male partners were ageing.

Being bombarded with advertisements with images of dewy teenagers selling us everything from soft drinks to deodorant inevitably has a deep effect on our own psyche. As we grow older, the inexorable march of wrinkles and grey hairs reminds us of our own waning power.

Society has taught us not to see wisdom and experience but weakness and ugliness. So when the inevitable truth of ageing confronts us in the mirror – is this sagging? Is that drooping? – we don’t react well. Consequently, the ultimate compliment has become, “Oh, you don’t look your age!” And it’s not just women in their 30s fishing for it – figures released by The Harley Medical Group last year revealed that there has been a 17% increase in women over the age of 65 using their clinics. Age has become a disease, to be cured and eradicated.

There is, of course, the inescapable fact that the elderly reminds us of our own mortality as well as that of our nearest and dearest. We are frightened of becoming weak and needy, of losing our minds and our mobility, so we avert our eyes – a recent survey from the Disabled Living Foundation revealed that two-thirds of us dread becoming a burden on family and friends, while three in four are scared of illness in old age. The irony is that research has shown that those who have a positive view of ageing actually stay healthier longer.

Still, so intrinsic is our aversion to age that it is the first defining characteristic that toddlers understand in others – studies have shown three-year olds can easily pick out pictures of differently aged people, pointing to cues such as baldness and wrinkles. We are, it seems, hard-wired to define people by the number on their birth certificate. Tellingly, statistics show that almost a third of people under 25 don’t have contact with anyone over 65, widening the gulf between the generations even further.

Social Change

Psychologically, we prefer to see the elderly as ‘other’ – with different attitudes, tastes and world views – and to admit that we have anything in common is to acknowledge that one day we will be like them (recent research has shown that people exaggerate the differences between themselves and others with characteristics that they fear having themselves).

Interestingly, in more ‘collectivist’ cultures – China, for example – it’s this very reminder of mortality that may underline respect for and the value of the elderly. Families know their time with them is limited, so they cherish their knowledge all the more – growing old is not growing obsolete, it is just taking on new and important roles. Our nuclear society in America – where many of us only have irregular contact with grandparents – is very different.

It seems that shifting our attitudes towards ageing would not only be good for old people, but for us in our older age too – studies in Japan, which has a similar respect for age to China, have shown the prevalence of depression and dementia is far lower, implying that this culture may exert a protective influence. Research in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science this year has actually shown that we get happier as we get older – when we move from middle to old age, we focus on positive events and filter out bad ones, plus we cope with a negative event by shrugging it off and moving on. So instead of gasping at every grey hair, we should learn to celebrate age, experience and the innate self-confidence that comes with it, to see it as a new stage of life rather than the slow march towards the end of it. We asked five women over 60 to tell us how they feel about growing old…

60s

Elsa Clark is 69 and a retired fraud officer. She’s married with two children and lives in Leeds

“I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 41. They removed my ovaries to boost my chances of the cancer not returning. It was devastating to go through the ‘change of life’ so young, but it was 20 years until the cancer came back. I think I’ve beaten it now and just want to get on with living

Getting older didn’t matter when I was younger – we’d been through two world wars. There wasn’t the superficiality there is today. We had film stars like Elizabeth Taylor, but we didn’t try to look like them. Nobody said: ‘You should have your boobs perked up’.

When you’re young, you don’t realise you’re getting old – you see an old lady crossing the road, and you never imagine that’s going to be you. If you did, you wouldn’t carry on. You suddenly get to 61 and think: ‘I’ve got those spots on my hands my grandmother had, I’m getting old’, but by then you’re not bothered.

What worries you when you’re 40 doesn’t worry you at 60. I wouldn’t want to live to be 100. I’d be happy to go in my 80s. It’s about the quality of life, not the quantity.”

With thanks to breastcancercare. org.uk for Elsa’s story

70s

 

Age - the 70's

Elaine Brown is 72, married and lives in Henshaw. She has three daughters, four grandchildren and has had several careers

“I was born in 1940 and three months later my dad (who is now 96) went into the army. I didn’t see him again properly until I was nearly six. It was a time of uncertainty but we just got on with it.

When I was 18 I went to London to train as a home economics teacher and lived in halls. You were meant to be home every night by 10pm but I used to sneak out to the opera. I ended up teaching for five years but left when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1966 (flextime didn’t exist then). My husband and I decided we needed our own income and I’d read about Mary Quant setting up her own boutique in London so that’s what we did in our hometown of South Shields.

We were fairly useless to begin with and then we discovered black flared trousers. They were a goldmine. We were trailblazers at the time, no-one else we knew was doing anything similar. Since then we’ve developed property and set up restaurants – we’ve had to be adaptable.

I’m not too worried about getting older. I’m very active and in good health (I think I have my father’s genes). I still keep up to date on news, culture and technology. I don’t really care if people think I’m old – in my mind I’m not.”

80s

Jean Simper is 89 and lives in Hungerford. She has two sons and used to be a nurse and a farmer’s wife

“When I was younger, we never really worried about getting old, like women today. We had other things to worry about and were too busy! Me and my friends never talked about it, we just had great fun together.

The worst thing about getting older I suppose is that you can’t quite get around like you used to be able to. Day to day, I play bridge and Scrabble, watch television and sometimes have a friend in for a drink. There’s not much else you can do, really – I am 90 next year!

I do miss playing tennis – I played right up until my late 60s and really did enjoy that. I had great friends and we went all over the place to tournaments. I can’t do it now – I’ve got three stone of fluid on my hip and it’s getting worse, unfortunately.

I’m very lucky in that I still have good friends and a great relationship with my two sons [Paul, 49, and Geoffrey, 61]. We go out for coffee and meals, go to concerts and to the Proms every year. I studied music before I went into nursing, and it’s still incredibly important to me. A few years ago I approached George Michael in a restaurant in London and told him that as my son always went to his gigs, he should go to his. That was in my heyday – being older, you don’t really care!

I don’t have a favorite age; I think they’ve all been quite good. For my 90th birthday, I hope my sons will organize something – I would like a party, definitely a party.

90s

Age, the 90's

Alice Ivimey is 98 and lives in Southend-On-Sea. She worked as a wedding dress maker and was widowed in 1975. She has no children

“Back in my younger days we never really thought about getting older, we just got on with it. I most enjoyed being between 35 and 45 because there was no war, it was over, and I was at home with my husband. I didn’t see him for five years while it was on – he went to war straight away; we’d only just got married. When he came back we had no worries. Life was quite pleasant.

Nowadays I definitely feel younger on the inside than I look on the outside. I certainly don’t like looking in the mirror. I can’t see properly to put on my make-up, but I still like to look nice even though the only person I may see during the day is my career. Just because I’m older, I still want to look my best.

Getting older is frustrating. People act like they don’t want to be interested in you. I think young people today don’t have any respect for the elderly; they don’t seem to have any sympathy for us when we get old.

Now life is different altogether. I can’t get out very much, I can’t read like I used to and I can’t see well so I don’t watch TV like I used to do. Also, I keep falling over and feel like my body is giving up on me. I’m 98 now and would rather go while I still have all of my marbles.

100s

100-years-old

Elfriede Bruning is 101, has one daughter and lives in Berlin. Part of the Anti-Nazi resistance in thirties Germany, she went on to become a prolific author.

“I had to give up my driving license four years ago. I really loved driving. Today my car sits outside my flat, reminding me of the freedom I used to have. But I still have some choices – I smoke three or four cigarettes a day.

The other thing I’ve had to give up recently is writing. I’ve had over 30 books published, from novels to reportage, but nothing else occurs to me now; I’ve written it all!

Writing was my biggest love. I never had much luck with men. I was married for 10 years until we broke up in 1947. After that I had a couple of affairs. When my father died my mother came to live with me so I could care for her. Myself, my daughter [Christina, 70] and my mother seem to have scared every man away from me! I’m not bitter about that. I could never really cope with being confined or restricted by a man.

I still give book readings at festivals and in bookshops, it gives me a lot of satisfaction. But when this attention is over, what then? My old friends aren’t around anymore. I’m not too bothered about living much longer.

“None of us lives to himslef, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”.

Romans 14:7-8

 

 

 

Race, The Cross, & Christianity

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War.

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This afternoon, my wife and I watched the moving The Help staring Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, and Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma_Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. When she arrives home, she finds that her nanny and family’s maid Constantine Jefferson (played by Cicely Tyson) is gone. Skeeter sees the chance of writing a book about the relationship of the black maids with the Southern society for an editor from New York. First, she convinces Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to open her heart to her; then Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is unfairly fired by the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a leader in the racist high society, and Minny decides to tell her stories after finding a job with the outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). Soon eleven other maids accept to be interviewed by Skeeter that also tells the truth about Constantine. When the book “The Help” is released, Jackson’s high society will never be the same.

Barak Obama, in his new preface to his older book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, quotes William Faulkner to show that history is never dead. He describes the difference between the time the book was written and the time he was writing the new preface.

The book was published in 1995, “against a backdrop of Silicon Valley and a booming stock market; the collapse of the Berlin Wall; Mandela – in slow, sturdy steps – emerging from prison to lead a country, the signing of peace accords in Oslo.” He observed that there was a rising global optimism as writers announced the end of our fractured history, “the ascendance of free markets, and liberal democracy, the replacement of old hatreds and wars between nations with virtual communities and battles for market shares.”

“And then,” he says, “on September 11, 2001, the world fractures.”

“History returned that day with a vengeance; … in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches our own.”

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War. Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animosity have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.

In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism, prejudice, and discrimination keeps being repeated.

The Bible has much to say on racial intolerance in both testaments. The good Samaritan story of Luke 10:25-27 was an attempt by Jesus to expose the wrongful attitude of racial intolerance that existed between the Jews & Samaritans during the time of Jesus. In Matt 28:19 Jesus told his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and this would include all people groups. Jesus never said to only make disciples of some people groups, he said Òall nations. Also, Paul in Galatians 3:28 condemned racial intolerance in the church. Racial discrimination should not be a part of the true regenerated Christian.

The first thing to understand is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to stop and repent. “13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. Some consider the “curse of Ham” to be an excuse to hate those of African descent. Others insist that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and deserve our ridicule. Both views are patently false. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

A new year will be upon us soon. What will it take to put our racism, prejudices, and discrimination aside and unite as ONE in Christ Jesus?

Ring of Truth

The Greatest Gift

God is a giver, not a taker. Throughout Scripture, we find evidence of His great generosity towards His creation. From the beginning of time as we know it, when He called forth Creation — when He gave existence to things that had never before existed — we can see the true heart of God. He literally gave of Himself to make each one of us. 7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7 (NKJV))

The very nature of God is to give, to create, and to bless His creation. Unfortunately, many of us are so self-absorbed and greedy for gain that we do not even have the eyes to see the countless gifts that God has already worked into our lives. Yet, God wants us to be givers too. He created us to be like Him – to pour of ourselves into other people, and to reciprocate His love for us. God created us with the power to be able to give back to Him! When I really stop and think about this, it truly amazes me – that God – the sum of ALL good things, who holds ALL power and authority, would humble Himself in this way.

He didn’t make himself entirely independent of His creation, or set Himself up as a mere casual observer of humankind, though He certainly had the power to do so. Instead, He allowed Himself to love us to the point where our returned love would be a blessing to Him. Each one of us, little and insignificant as we are, has been given the profound gift of the ability to bring joy to the heart of God. It is extremely humbling to me, when I stop and consider that God has thus set the laws of His creation into motion. That the One who is Love personified, would actually be blessed by the love that I could offer Him. This is the greatest gift of all, and it is given to every human being who has ever lived or will live–the ability to give of ourselves to God and to each other. Without this gift, life would be very empty indeed.

Bible Says Christmas Is Time of Blessing

In the mad rush of the holiday season, the true meaning of giving is often forgotten. What is meant to be a time of blessing and joy becomes instead, a time of stress and depression. Recently, as I was praying for the church and the nations of the world, a great sorrow began to rise up inside of me. God has placed so many gifts within His church. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given strategic giftings and a unique place that none other can fulfill in quite the same way. Yet, so many are not moving into their rightful place. They are afraid to use their gifts, or they think their gifts are insignificant. Many are secretly hurt and angry at God because they feel they haven’t been given anything remarkable. They mistake God’s anointing and talent in certain individuals as a sign of God’s approval of those people, and they assume their “lack” is a sign that God doesn’t love them as much as He loves others…that God is somehow “prouder” of other people than He is of them. Because of this fear and resentment, they are crippled in taking their proper place in God’s kingdom, falling short of the gift they were created to be.

Others are busily using their gifts, and by their own efforts are successful in the eyes of the world. Maybe they have a thriving ministry. Maybe they are making good money. Maybe they have the respect and admiration of those around them. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that their actions are a blessing to the heart of God, or that they are even obeying what God has told them to do. Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NKJV) says, 4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. Many are so busy creating their own kingdoms, that the kingdom of God suffers a great lack. Their pride and busy occupations have blocked the measure of their true worth in God’s kingdom.

Who will fill these missing places in the body of Christ? Even now as we go about our daily lives, all creation groans in frustration, waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-22). There is so much work to be done, and so few who are willing to do it. John 4:35-36 (NKJV) says, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” God intends both the sower and the reaper to share the same joy of the harvest. There should be no competition among God’s faithful servants, no jostling each other for the “prime” positions, no envy or personal ambition. If we truly love the Lord, our only goal should be to bless Him, to serve Him, and to advance His kingdom.

As I was praying, I saw a vision of the Lord, manifested in the person of someone I love very much. In the vision, I saw this person laying in bed, exhausted after a hard day’s work. The Lord said to me “What do you think she would like right now? How could you bless her?” I could instantly see that a cup of hot tea and a home-cooked meal would be just as much, if not more of a blessing to her than whatever big, distant work I could conjure up to show her my love. Immediately, I could see what God was trying to show me. We are created like Him. If we appreciate a “small” gift given in love more than the fanfare of a “big” gift given in insincerity, how much more does God?

As the vision continued, I could see Jesus sitting alone by a road with people running up and down it. They were all very busy. Some were stopping and chatting with Him for a moment here and there, but as I overheard their conversations, they were mostly to inform Jesus of what they wanted from Him, or what they were going to do for Him. One man in particular ran up to him. “Oh, Jesus, I’m so excited,” he cried. “I’m off to tell the world all about you!” Quickly he ran off before Jesus could say anything at all. My heart broke, as I saw Him there, sitting by Himself. Yes, He wanted to bless those people with things beyond their wildest imagination. Yes, He wanted them to find fulfillment in serving Him. But what He really wanted most of all was for those people to come and sit with Him and talk awhile…to hold His hand and look deep into His eyes…to share their dreams and sorrows, and to hear His joys and sorrows…to let Him simply give His love to them. In all their mad rush to give and get, they missed the greatest treasure of all, sitting right in front of them.

So much of what we do for God is with mixed motives for our own personal fulfillment. We all want to have a purpose and reason for living. We all hope that if we were to die tomorrow, we would leave a legacy of some kind behind us. Yet for most of us, this becomes the end to which we live. Sadly, when we make anything other than God our reason for living, that thing will become an idol in our lives. Even if it is a good thing, like a ministry or a mate, it can still never fulfill us because it wasn’t designed to. It simply can’t! It doesn’t even have the ability to fulfill. In fact, those idols will begin to work against us, and cause us to suffer spiritual barrenness. They will put us on a treadmill until we become broken-hearted and exhausted trying to keep it all alive. On the other hand, if we receive them simply as the gifts they are and continue to love God first in our lives, we will be given the ability to enjoy them, for this too is a gift. Ecclesiastes. 3:13 (NKJV) says, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. The key is simply to: 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)).

When all is said and done, only those things which were done “as unto the Lord” will count for anything. In God’s eyes, there are no “big” or “small” things done for His Kingdom. All He asks of us is to obey Him in what He tells us to do. Let us follow through and obey Him, whether His commands seem great or small. After all, it is Jesus we are talking about here! The One who left His home in glory to bleed and die a humiliating, painful death for each one of us. The One who made himself vulnerable to us, by giving us the ability to bless him or hurt him. As we obey Him, we bring such joy to His heart! Then His joy, which is a strength to the spirit of man, becomes our joy as well. God is not impressed, nor is He blessed by the best of our works done in self. He is only impressed by the attitude of our hearts.

As we look around the world this holiday season, let us stop and consider Whose birthday we are celebrating. Let us not forget to offer sincere thanks to our precious, precious Lord for His many blessings in our lives. And let us show our thankfulness by our actions! Let us offer the same mercy that God has given us to those around us. Let us press deeper into the heart of God, that we may have something to offer this world besides the same old cycle of greed, pride and rebellion. Let us not be ashamed to become the servant of all, showing our love for God by laying down our rights, our plans, our time and money for the sake of others. Let us demonstrate our love to God by giving Him the very things we are afraid to lay down, trusting that He has the best plan for our lives and would never use or abuse us. Let us truly fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to 27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’[a] and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27(NKJV)). Each of us is destined to make a profound difference in the world. Let us not fall short of our destinies! Let us give the greatest Christmas gift that we have been afforded to give; one that we can give year-round – to bless the heart of God!

If you do not know God the way you want to, you can receive the gift of knowing Him right now. Simply pray to Him from your heart and ask him to forgive you for your sins and turning your back on Him. Romans 10:9 (NKJV): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  Ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, born of His spirit. You can give to Him a gift He considers more dear than anything else in the world – yourself. In return, you will receive eternal life with Him, which begins the moment you are born again. May God bless each of you richly as you seek to give unto Him your all.

If you just prayed to ask God into your heart, or you would like to know more about becoming a Christian, please visit the link on becoming born againhttp://bibleresources.org/how-to-be-born-again/.

 

Keeping Your Eyes On Jesus

John 1:1-2 (NKJV)

The Eternal Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:14 (NKJV)

The Word Becomes Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

When you choose to live with Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you will know blessings beyond your wildest imagining. Consider the blessing of being in a relationship with the holy and almighty God of all creation. Then there is the blessing of being able to serve Him, a blessing that yields an abundance of joy and purpose. Followers of Jesus are also blessed by the gift of Jesus’ Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Teacher, the Guide, who is always with you.

The world offers many distractions, loud voices, fleeting pleasures, and heartbreaking pain, but the Spirit will help you keep your eyes on Christ so that you can experience the richness of walking through life with Him and for Him.

John 15:14-16 (NKJV)

14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

What is an Invisible Disability?

In general, the term disability is often used to describe an ongoing physical challenge. This could be a bump in life that can be well managed or a mountain that creates serious changes and loss. Either way, this term should not be used to describe a person as weaker or lesser than anyone else! Every person has a purpose, special uniqueness and value, no matter what hurdles they may face.

In addition, just because a person has a disability, does not mean they are disabled. Many living with these challenges are still fully active in their work, families, sports or hobbies. Some with disabilities are able to work full or part time, but struggle to get through their day, with little or no energy for other things. Others are unable to maintain gainful or substantial employment due to their disability, have trouble with daily living activities and/or need assistance with their care.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) an individual with a disability is a person who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment (Disability Discrimination).

Furthermore, “A person is considered to have a disability if he or she has difficulty performing certain functions (seeing, hearing, talking, walking, climbing stairs and lifting and carrying), or has difficulty performing activities of daily living, or has difficulty with certain social roles (doing school work for children, working at a job and around the house for adults)” (Disabilities Affect One-Fifth of All Americans).

Often people think the term, disability, only refers to people using a wheelchair or walker. On the contrary, the 1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that 26 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) were considered to have a severe disability, while only 1.8 million used a wheelchair and 5.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker (Americans with Disabilities 94-95). In other words, 74% of Americans who live with a severe disability do not use such devices. Therefore, a disability cannot be determined solely on whether or not a person uses assistive equipment.

The term invisible disabilities refer to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injurieslearning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.  These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, ranging from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.

Also, someone who has a visible impairment or uses an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane can also have invisible disabilities. For example, whether or not a person utilizes an assistive device, if they are debilitated by such symptoms as described above, they live with invisible disabilities.

Unfortunately, people often judge others by what they see and often conclude a person can or cannot do something by the way they look. This can be equally frustrating for those who may appear unable, but are perfectly capable, as well as those who appear able, but are not.

International Disability expert, Joni Eareckson Tada, explained it well when she told someone living with debilitating fatigue, “People have such high expectations of folks like you [with invisible disabilities], like, ‘come on, get your act together.’ but they have such low expectations of folks like me in wheelchairs, as though it’s expected that we can’t do much” (Joni).

The bottom line is that everyone with a disability is different, with varying challenges and needs, as well as abilities and attributes.  Thus, we all should learn to listen with our ears, instead of judging with our eyes.

I Resolve to Believe You

“But you LOOK good” “You just want attention”
“But you don’t LOOK sick”

resolve-to-believe-sherri-connellAnother year is about to dawn and of course I need to make at least one resolution. The good news is that I know I can keep this one. I resolve to believe you! I resolve to listen and acknowledge the pain and illness you live with daily even though your symptoms might be invisible.

For me, the opposite of believing is prejudice. Prejudice defined by Dictionary.com is “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” How many times have we been frustrated and impatient as we wait for the person in the cross walk at the store? They seem to walk so slow and we are in a hurry. Why can’t they speed it up? Maybe they are in chronic pain or have a myriad of other illnesses or injuries that we cannot see. I say that we sure err on the side of caution and belief first, not be suspicious and prejudice.

Or maybe we have seen the person park in a designated Accessible Parking Spot and they exit their car and proceed to the shop or office without using a cane or wheelchair and with no noticeable signs of injury or disability. Many of us have seen the notes left on windshields of people just like this person. The notes are full of anger and mistrust. One example is in the article by Phil Mutz. “A Disabled Veteran Responds to a Nasty Note Left on His Windshield.” Here is another story with the same subject “Note shames mother for using disability parking spot,” by Victoria Sanchez of KUSA. And one more example was written by Parker Lee of the Independent Journal Someone Left a ‘Faker’ Note by Her Handicapped Tag. Here’s What They Didn’t Know About Her.”

People would question, stare and scream at my wife, Donna, for parking in “Handicap” parking spaces. Even though she has lived with overwhelming pain, fatigue and neurological symptoms of Ankylosing spondylitis and since the symptoms are not noticeable, people tend to jump to judging her first. Because of her struggles with people understanding her disabilities, Donna thought the phrase, “invisible disabilities” aptly described the debilitating illness, pain and injury she battles along with millions of others around the world.

The Invisible Disabilities Association was launched 20 years ago, in 1996. One of their first pamphlets was Don’t Judge by Appearances , addressing the issue of misunderstandings surrounding disabled parking. The last few sentences in the pamphlet are crucial “Therefore, if a person is displaying a license to park in an accessible parking space, try offering a hand, instead of a visual judgment. After all…the people you are graciously intending to defend, may be standing right in front of you!”

Yet disabled parking is only one example of the disbelief people have of those living with illness and pain. Oftentimes the person living with illness and pain is misjudged because of their appearance. Sherri Connell (picture above) was a model, actress and pageant winner before she became sick. She still looks stunning and people tend to disregard when she tells them about the bone crushing pain, fatigue and brain fog she deals with daily. Her and her husband, Wayne Connell, wrote the book, But You LOOK Good: How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain because people for some reason think their loved ones who look good can’t possibly be sick or at least not as sick as they contend they are.

Creator of the Spoon Theory, well known author and blogger Christine Miserandino has dealt with this issue as well.  The following is from her website, ButYouDontLookSick.com. “From the age of fifteen, Christine Miserandino has been diagnosed with a myriad of illnesses from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to Epstein Barr, and finally, many years later to a determination of Lupus. As though battling a shopping list of symptoms, Christine has consistently been told, by both well-wishers and doctors alike, But you don’t look sick.” as if that was some kind of compensation for being chronically ill. Many times, being pretty or not sickly looking, made it harder to validate an illness you cannot see.”

Even super model and actress, Yolanda Foster has encountered the mistrust of not only strangers, but friends and co-workers as well in regards to her diagnosis of Lyme Disease. The following is from the article “’Is this even real?’ Lisa Rinna suggests Yolanda Foster may be faking Lyme disease on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” in the DailyMail.com.

“Yolanda Foster has been suffering from Lyme disease, but Lisa Rinna on Tuesday’s episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills showed her skepticism.

Lisa, 52, suggested to Kyle Richards and Lisa Vanderpump that the former model might be faking the symptoms for attention.

The former Days of Our Lives actress grew sniffy about Yolanda’s social media output.

‘I feel that Yolanda’s posts on Instagram can be confusing, because one minute she’s in a hospital bed with needles in her arm and the next she’s on a yacht looking like she’s having a great time,’ said Lisa.

The Melrose Place actress then read a description of Munchausen syndrome or ‘factitious disorder’ – where people feign illness to gain attention or sympathy.”

The belief that people living daily with illness and pain really just “want attention” is not the truth in most cases. The problem is that disability and pain usually brings abandonment and isolation, not attention. If someone was seeking attention, having an illness or injury would not be the best way to go about it. The loneliness of illness and pain is very real.

I think of IDA Ambassador and award winning, singer songwriter Mandy Harvey. Even though Mandy is profoundly deaf, her voice is clear and beautiful. As a singer, she is often mistrusted because of her deafness. Some people can’t believe that she can sing so incredibly well and not hear what she is singing herself. Wayne Connell has been on radio interviews with Mandy and can understand why people think the way they do. How can she respond to the interviewer so quickly, she must hear something? Actually, Mandy uses a very cool piece of technology on her phone called Clear Captions. Anytime she is on her phone, the words spoken by the caller are typed on her screen by an individual with Clear Captions and Mandy then responds to the caption. Actually, it is quite exhausting for her to read and respond verbally so quickly. Mandy also reads lips very well.

Just because we may not understand an illness or disability, doesn’t mean we need to disbelieve people living with them. Kara O’Daniel is also someone who has felt the sting of misunderstandings regarding her disability.  Kara’s brother Kyle writes the following about her.

“My twin sister, Kara, hasn’t had the easiest go at things over the last 24 years. She has gone through a lot and handled it all with patience and grace. Through all her struggles she has always found a way to be there for others and help as many people as she can.

Her most recent endeavor is a result of this selfless habit; she is starting a career as a motivational speaker, sharing her story with those who need to hear it the most. What is this story, you ask? Well.

It’s a story of 39 surgeries, endless struggles with Spina Bifida, and countless inspiration for all those who are fortunate enough to have Kara as part of their lives.

HER goal is to share her story and advice with those who are in similar situations; to those like her who have struggled through so many times.”

Kara also shared with Wayne Connell her journey with Spina Bifida and how it has been difficult because of the misunderstandings surrounding it. Kara is able to walk because of numerous surgeries and therefore people often don’t believe her. They think that all people with Spina Bifida must be in a wheel chair. This same misunderstanding impacts people with MS. Being in a wheelchair is not always indicative of someone’s disability or even the severity of their disability. Using a wheel chair is because someone is unable to walk, maybe for the moment or maybe all of the time.

I resolve to believe you this year. Let’s believe people first. Let’s not play armchair doctor and think we know. Let’s listen and acknowledge and learn from the people who know best, those who live daily with pain and illness and disability. They are the true experts. Let’s not judge people by how they appear or don’t appear. I love the quote from IDA Advisory Board Member, Peter Strople: “When in Doubt, Love.” Let’s love and encourage and believe people living with illness and pain. Life is struggle enough for them. Let’s not make it worse by our words and prejudice.

Join me this year and every year to resolve TO BELIEVE. Let’s all envision a world where people living with illness, pain and disability will be Invisible No More!

Invisible Disability

Lynn Thaler

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There are some disabilities which are invisible, meaning you can’t tell the person has the disability just by looking at them.

Hearing impairment is an invisible disability and that can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings.

  • If someone greets you and you don’t respond, they usually assume you are rude.  They may never consider you are hearing impaired.
  • Failure at school or difficulties following directions may be viewed as an intellectual problem, if the hearing disability is not addressed properly.

Family and friends will shrug off my failure to respond, my problems with understanding, and even answers that make no sense.  They know about my hearing disability and they understand how it causes problems in my daily life.

Strangers or even people that don’t know me very well, may assume I am rude or stupid.  They may allow their assumptions to stop them from getting to know me, which I think…

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