Growing Old Together

I don’t quarrel with my parents much. But I do often prick their hearts by grumbling about the country and how much I long to leave it to a “better place” somewhere. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side.  

Lately, it seems more obvious that my dad is ageing. We are all growing older day by day but it seems that his physical appearance is changing quite a bit: he seems to be losing muscles on his limbs. Just a few days ago, he needed cushion to make him more comfortable when seated on the sofa. He now needs a walking stick too. 

While enjoying our afternoon tea just this afternoon, he choked on a “sunflower biscuit” (the name of the biscuit). The filling is too gooey for him. A mental note to self to pay more attention when bringing snacks or goodies home. 

God has commanded us to honour our parents. It is the 5th out of the 10 Commandments, and the first that talks about our relationships with others (while the first to the fourth commandments talk about our relationship with God). “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12, NIV)

We are to honour our parents regardless how old we are.

These incidents of noticing my father ageing make me realise that seeing your parents growing old can be a bittersweet experience: seeing them getting older, slower in movement, getting forgetful, weakening of eyesight or hearing and so on.

Nonetheless, it is also a privilege and a blessing. I am glad I did not leave the country and choose to remain by their side and accompany them in their old age.

What my 2-year-old niece taught me about life and faith

Time with my 2-year-old taught me new things about life.

My niece, Ariel, lives in Australia with her parents. Apart from video calls, I only get to see her physically once a year. She is now 2 and a half years old and she is such a bundle of joy!

I am single, never married and do not have children of my own. When Ariel and her parents were visiting, they stayed with me. Just spending time with her, playing and talking (she could not really talk yet as she had not turned two when I last saw her in person) made me reflect about life and relationships. She has taught me so much.  

Love others as we love ourselves: Love without condition

Ariel loves without condition. She gave hugs and kisses to us so generously.

As time passes, we pick and choose whom we want to love. We are afraid to love freely without conditions. We may be worried we might get hurt or be taken advantage of. We are generous with our good friends, we are only friendly to those who love us but we could not care less when it comes to people we do not really know.

Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31, John 13:34). When Jesus was asked what was the greatest of all commandments, the person who asked it did not really want to know because he considered himself to be an expert in the law and the prophets and he only wanted to test Jesus.

Jesus answered His question with wisdom and grace. Loving and taking care of ourselves is something that we can do. We do not need trainings or to go for courses. By nature, we want what is the best for us. Jesus said, the way you love yourself is the way you should love others: we don’t love others more than ourselves. Nor do we love others less than ourselves.  

What are the acts of kindness you can do for someone today?

Purity

We are living in this world. We are citizens of a country. But, as believers of Jesus, we are more than this. We are not of this world but of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). Jesus says in John 18:36 that His kingdom is not of this world. Therefore, our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), which is beyond our time on this earth. Our lives on earth are just like a vapour (James 4:14). We should have eternity in mind (1 Peter 5:10).

Moments before Jesus would be arrested and then nailed to the Cross, He prays to His Father in Heaven, “14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[a] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:14-19, NIV)

 Jesus brings His disciples before His Father, saying that they are “not of the world” (verse 14), “even as I am not of it” (verse 16).

 We are not of this world, but we are being sent into the world (verse 18). Jesus prays that God will protect us from the evil one (verse 15) and that the truth will sanctify us.

We live in the world but we are not of it. We don’t swim with the currents of the world culture and ways of living. As in the prayer of Jesus, we have been sent into this world. We are to be God’s vessels to bring the message of His love, joy, hope and peace. Our lives should reflect that we are the children of the Almighty God.

It may seem overwhelming but God is with us, He empowers us (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV). He has sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily livings so that we will make decisions that please His heart.

Let us live in purity and holiness. Let us also act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Live in the moment: full of wonder and curiosity

The older I get, the more self-conscious I became. I used to care a lot what people thought of me. But that is the little prison I had locked myself in. I don’t think this is the way God wants me to live—in a prison that only exists in my mind.

We can be so critical of ourselves when nobody is actually bothered about it.  

My niece, Ariel is full of wonder and curiosity. She finds joy in the things around her. She sings when she felt like singing. She sang when she was bursting with joy. She danced when she was happy. She laughed when something funny caught her eye. She didn’t care what we think. She was living in joy and she showed it. She didn’t know her singing and laughter brought joy to us too.

Chris Tomlin wrote a song, “The Way I Was Made”. A part of the lyrics go like this:

I want to live like there’s no tomorrow

I want to dance like no one’s around

I want to sing like nobody’s listening

Before I lay my body down

I want to give like I have plenty

I want to love like I’m not afraid

I want to be the man I was meant to be

I want to be the way I was made

When was the last time I looked at something with joy, wonder and awe?

Ariel reminded me to live in the moment. Be filled with love and wonder at your surroundings. Cherish the people around you. Enjoy the gifts God has given you. Honour the way that you were made so wonderfully by Your Father in Heaven (Psalm 139:14).

Trust in God: Everything will be all right

There were times when I would toss and turn in my bed and could not sleep because the problem I was facing seemed too big for me and I couldn’t seem to see the way out.

When her parents were with her (they were always with her), Ariel felt safe and secure. That was why she could laugh, sing and dance. She knew her parents loved her and that she was safe.  She trusts her parents.

Do we trust our Heavenly Father? Our Father in Heaven takes care of us. Time and time again in the Bible, God reminds us of His unfailing love. Psalm 121 talks about a God who will not fall asleep and who watches over our lives.  

The psalmist also prayed, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4, ESV).

In the New Testament, Jesus reassured His disciples that God’s children would not be in lack. Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27, NIV) 

Apostle Peter also urges us, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, ESV). We can rest in the Lord, knowing that He is with us and He watches over us.   

1 Peter 5:7

Jesus Christ teaches His disciples to have childlike faith. Childlike faith is to:

  • Love others as we love ourselves
  • Remain pure in this world 
  • Live in the moment, be filled with wonders and curiosity 
  • Put our trust in God

I have had my experiences in disappointments, hurts and so on. But, I have also experienced so much joy, wonders and blessings in life! It is amazing that a 2 year old can help me to rethink about my life and to treasure each day with God and cherish the people in my life. 

10 Ways to Honour Our Parents (Part 2)

This is the part 2 of “10 ways to honour our parents”.

In the previous post, we were looking at these 5 things we should do to honour our parents: (1) Treat them with respect, (2) appreciate them, (3) spend time with them and communicate with them, (4) speak your parents’ love language, (5) pray for them and with them. You can read the previous post here: http://eireneletters.com/uncategorized/10-ways-to-honour-our-parents-part-1/

6.Make wise decisions and be responsible

Our parents spend a lot of time worrying about us although we may be all adults. Learning to make wise decisions and be a responsible adult will put them at ease and reassure them that we are capable of taking care of ourselves.

7.Provide for them and care for them

In his letter to a young pastor named Timothy, Apostle Paul reminded him that, Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

One of the ways that we can show our love to our parents is to care and provide for them both physically and financially so that they can live comfortably. Taking care of our parents’ needs honour them and pleases the heart of God.

As our parents grow, some examples of taking care of them are: driving them for groceries, take them to the doctor’s appointment, pay the bills, help them with errands and take more initiative to see what they need around the house.

8.Speak well of our parents and their generation publicly and privately

Honour our parents and their generation by speaking well of them. They are learning to be in touch with us through gadgets and technology, so if they are still struggling to get on Zoom, or are fumbling with WhatsApp, be patient with them and help them.

We are not honouring the older generations if we show our impatience and frustrations or use an irritated tone when talking with them. The way we talk to them is a reflection of the way we think about them.

9.Ask for their advice and seek their wisdom

Proverbs 1:8-9 tell us, Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck (NIV).

Our parents have gone through many experiences in life. They are able to guide us when we are at a crossroad in life or when we need to make important decisions.

When we ask our parents for advice, they will be pleased that we trust them and think highly of them to ask for their advices. It also shows that we are interested to know what they think and we want to learn from their wisdom. Of course, this is more applicable if your parents are Christians and are walking in God’s ways. But even if your parents are not believers, we can ask for their advices and use this as a reference point. Remember to seek the Lord and hear what He says.

Job also understood that wisdom is found among the older people. Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12, NIV).

10. Enjoy them!

Our parents are human beings too. They have their short comings. Their personalities may be different from ours. They were also learning to raise us up when we first came into this world as babies. If we harbour resentment against them for their mistakes, ask God for forgiveness, healing and the courage to move on. Just enjoy them!

I am interested to hear from you about how you honour your parents. What would you add to this list? Which area do you need to work on to better honour your parents? May you be a blessing to them!

10 Ways to Honour Our Parents (Part 1)

With Father’s Day just around the corner (I understand that different countries celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on different days, but in Malaysia, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May, and Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June), let’s pause for a moment and thank God for our fathers and for all that they have done for us. God had commanded us to “Honour your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12, NIV). This commandment is the fifth one, and it is the first commandment regarding our relationship with others. The first four commandments are about our relationships to God.

The word “honour” (τίμα) is translated as: to determine the value of something. When we honour our parents, we are saying that they are so valuable in our eyes (as well as in God’s eyes).

How do we honour our parents? Here are 5 ways we can honour our parents (another 5 will be in the Part 2):

  1. Treat them with respect

When we show frustrations and resentments to our parents by our actions and speech, it shows that we are not grateful for all that they had done for us. Also, we are not respectful of the authority God has ordained to them.

They are one of the most important people to us. They deserve our respect in our actions, speech and behavior.

  1. Appreciate them

List down all the things that you appreciate about them. It can be the things they have done for you throughout the years, or what you love about them. Read the list to them on special occasions such as Parent’s Day, on their birthdays or on their wedding anniversaries. This activity reminds us to be grateful for all that they have done for us, making us the people we are today.

“Honour your father and mother” —which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

 

  1. Spend time with them and communicate with them

Visit your parents as often as you can. My dad still visits his mother once a week before the lockdown. If you are living in another town or country, calling them on the phone or video call them regularly. Sometimes life gets the better of us and we neglect spending time with our parents. But your visit or your call is definitely a highlight for them. They can’t wait to hear from you!

God had created us for relationships, and the first relationships we had were with our parents. Show them that we care by asking them about their day, ask them questions about their childhood or younger days, talk about the topics of their interest and listen to them. Such conversations will deepen the bonds with our parents.

  1. Speak your parents’ love language

In his book, “The 5 Love Languages”, Gary Chapman listed five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. These love languages help to express and experience love between partners but I guess the same applies to our parents as well. Does your mother love to receive gifts? Does helping her with a chore bring her more delight? Does your father enjoy doing something together with you? Knowing your parents’ love languages will make them feel loved and appreciated.

  1. Pray for them (and with them)

Praying for our parents is one of the best gifts we can give them. Commit them into the loving hands of God. Pray for wisdom of the Lord to guide them in every decision they have to make. Pray for God’s peace and love to surround them. Pray also for protection for our aging parents as they may slip and fall.

Honouring our parents is our duty. Let’s do so with much joy and love. I will see you in the Part 2!