Sunday, February 21, 2021

Warming Trend

It's Saturday afternoon as I write this week's entry in the quad life. The sun is shining outside making the snow covered ground extra bright. I have been sitting here all day thinking about what to write this week, and still haven't come up with a topic, even as my stick is putting out words on my keyboard.

As usual, it has been another week of staying inside. Last weekend and early in the work week, outdoor temps were well below zero. I woke up Tuesday morning to my thermostat reading -14° just outside my window. With a difference of more than 80° from outside to in, I wasn't surprised to see my room below where it usually sits. Thankfully, the weather has improved and that same thermostat now reads nearly 37°.

In the corner of my room, a five-sided, 45-gallon aquarium sits where I can easily see it. After a shift in fish population, due to the death of some and others becoming snacks for larger fish, I have been down to two fish for quite a while. One of the two was a large algae cleaning fish that frequently hid behind rocks. Therefore, I only saw one laxidasical angel fish most of the time. On January 29, my parents finally got to Des Moines and came home with a surprise of five new fish.

I enjoyed the new buzz of activity and watched the active new arrivals chase each other and explore their new home. However, our reliable fish store may have had a disease problem. As of Thursday, the large plecostomus was the latest burial in the snow. My original two fish died as well as three of the new ones. After having seven healthy pets, I'm back down to two survivors. Dad has been changing the water, filters, and adding medicine to help keep these two around. Hopefully they'll stay alive, but we may be more hesitant to repopulate the tank.

Finally, on Friday, I watched a conference about the current virus news, discussing mask wearing and the treatment. Many have been banned by social media for simply showing facts, and I therefore won't discuss specifics. However, I am more confirmed that I will not be getting the vaccine and continue to breath easily with my face uncovered.

February 20 also marks 36 years since becoming a quadriplegic. I'm thankful for the extreme number of blessings God has given me throughout the years. Even with just a regular week with little to come to mind, He has provided all I need. With the last full week of February ahead, I look forward to the coming of spring again.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Day of Love

February 14 is Valentine's Day, named after St. Valentine. It's a day when couples get each other cards, chocolate, flowers, and other gifts. Some claim this day was invented by greeting card companies so they could sell more product. Whatever the cause, it's a good day to be reminded of love.

The past several months have had riots, protests, finger pointing, and accusations of all sorts from different sources. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is patient and kind. It can be challenging at times, but we need to love those we disagree with and be patient with them. However, we can go too far in that direction as well.

If we see a child playing and having fun, it would not be kind, or loving, to stop them. However, if the location of the play is on a street, or railroad track, and danger is approaching, it is loving to stop the child's enjoyment and move them. In the same way, when someone is living in sin, it is loving to warn them about the danger ahead.

Yes, God is love, but He is also a just and righteous judge that must see sin punished. If you do not repent of sin and do everything possible to keep from it, then justice will be served. Unfortunately, many churches just preach the first part and forget the second.

As sinful men and women, God showed His love for us by Jesus' death on the cross and paying our debt. All who repent and put their faith in Him alone will be saved. We demonstrate our love for God by following His commands, reading His word, and telling others about the gospel. It can seem unloving to show sin in someone's life, and needs to be done thoughtfully, but we cannot give a solution unless the problem is known.

Throughout this day, and week, remember how God demonstrated His love for us, and extend it to all around us.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Leviticus, why bother?

Other than snow and cold, it has been a pretty calm week. I spoke virtually to a class of RT students, but that was about all. Every morning, I continue reading through the Bible. I am now in Leviticus, and some may wonder why this is needed in modern Bible study.

The main point of the Old Testament is to point toward the coming Messiah and His payment for our sins. This book, while sometimes hard to read, is a major illustration of what is needed to cover sins against God. While it is aimed at the Levites in their service in the tabernacle, it also has application for Christians.

First, the animal had to be perfect to be accepted as a sacrifice. It couldn't have any blemish, and then it had to be offered on the alter in a prescribed manner with only certain pieces of the animal. Every part had a function, and even the ashes had a required method for disposal. Sacrifices were also required regularly, some at prescribed festivals, but others every morning and evening. They were to be a continual reminder of the need for forgiveness.

In the New Testament, Jesus was called the lamb of God. Just as the lamb had to be perfect for sacrifice, so did Jesus. He was the only one who had not sinned, and was holy, blameless, and acceptable to cover our sins. The blood of sheep and goats could not cover our sins for all time, but Jesus' one act on the cross paid for the sins of all who truly come to Him for forgiveness.

Other sections of Leviticus tell the Israelites how to live as a distinct nation, apart from the people around them. Just as they were not to follow many of the practices of other nations, so Christians are to be distinct as well. In 1 John 2:15, Christians are told not to love the world or the things in it. While the world moves further away from God's Word, we need to hold to it and live as His people, no matter the cost.

Just reading through some of the Old Testament can be a challenge. However, when we pay attention and apply it, the difficult passages make sense. If medical personnel in the Civil War, or Black Plague, had followed Leviticus and separated sick people from the well, and cleaned instruments with running water, it would have saved many lives. This is why it is still useful to read books such as Leviticus and see how it can point to today.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Umm...What's the word?

Around the time of high school, I started doing more writing. I worked with the school newspaper for two years and helped a small local newspaper during my senior year. I also got into forensics and giving speeches at competitions. I felt like I had a firm grasp on the written and spoken word and could present my ideas confidently. Now, I'm starting to wonder and find it more challenging.

Watching videos online, I frequently see advertising for a service called Grammerly. It is marketed as free and helps to write with confidence. The majority of what the commercials show are simple errors that are caught in Microsoft Word or other editors. With my computer, I also get alerted to spelling errors anywhere I write and can generally catch most of hem.

However, reviewing my book, I an often second-guessing myself on wording and clarity of what I'm trying to say. Composing emails to clients, I am spending more time editing and wondering if what I wrote is as clear as it could be. My confidence in what I once found easy is starting to decrease, and not only in writing.

For the past few months, I have also started having trouble finding the right words to say. In casual conversation with my caregivers, I know what I want to communicate, but come up with the wrong word. It's more frequent in the morning, but I notice it at any time of the day. It's frustrating, but also makes me wonder why.

I haven't had any formal writing or English classes since starting college in late 2000. In the two decades since then, I have only done my own writing without critique. I can easily spot errors in books or whatever I'm reading, so it may not be as bad as I think. As everyone can say, I have not been as old as I am now. It may just be age I'm noticing combined with a full year of very little interaction with the general public.

In two days, I'm scheduled to help instruct RT students virtually. Hopefully, I will have clarity of thought and speech to convey the experiences I've been given in the quad life. Whatever happens, I'll use the gifts God has given me as well as I can, including communication.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Forgetful Israel

For about the last ten days, I've been reading the book of Exodus in my daily Bible plan. After the Israelites left Egypt, they camped at Mount Sinai. God set boundaries around Mount Sinai and told Moses to prepare the people for God to speak with them. At the appointed day, the mountain was ablaze with fire, smoke, and a trumpet that continued to get louder.

Terrified, the Israelites decided to have Moses tell them what God said, and they would obey. Through much of Exodus 19-32, Moses is then given the rules the people are to live by as God's holy people. We are told this time period was 40 days and nights.

While Moses was gone, his brother Aaron, the priest, was the temporary leader of the people. In Exodus 32, they requested a god to be made for them to worship, as they didn't know what had happened to Moses. In not much more than a month's time, they had gone from being terrified to even have the Lord speak to them, to breaking His first two commands to have no other god, or idol, in place of Him.

Today, we can look back at Israel and wonder how they could so quickly abandon what they had been told. It was also very likely that the mountain they were camping by was still covered by fire as Moses met with God. However, we are not any better than this nation.

Christians in the U.S., and I'm sure everywhere, often neglect the ten commandments and just make Christianity into something for self improvement. We forget, or ignore, God's judgement and only want to get our own desires. However, that is not the reason to come to God with a humble heart. We deserve eternal punishment for our sins, but Jesus came to be our substitution. He also said we will have trouble in this world.

When trouble or uncertainty comes, let us remember the true God of the Bible and not go seeking our own desires and. make up a god in our image.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Venturing Out

It has been a year when getting out of the house for anything seems to be a momentous event. This week, I had appointments for a haircut and regular dentist appointment, back to back. Thankfully, it was a decent day and relatively warm for January in Iowa, the upper 30's.

Since my last visit, my barber remodeled her shop. Now, when getting hair done, you sit in front of a floor to ceiling mirror. I commented that such an addition would be nice in my room. However, now I can easily sit and make faces at myself while getting hair shortened. Yes, I'm nearing the start of my fourth decade in life, but I'm very easily amused. My beautician thankfully doesn't require me to wear a mask, but that's not the case for dental work.

After getting screened at the door, my assistant Sara and I sat in the waiting area to be called back. In the five or so minutes I sat wearing my face covering, my nose kept getting more irritated and congested. It quickly became a struggle to breathe and I tried tilting my chair to see if different seating angles would help.

Thankfully, I was ushered back toward a chair and Sara removed my covering as soon as I stopped. I had the dental hygienist give me some time to get air again before he started cleaning my teeth. No cavities were found and I was given a clean bill of mouth health. I dreaded exiting the building with breathing issues again, but with nobody else around on the path out, I could stay free of restriction.

In a hope of optimism, I started mailing grade schools to get scheduled for spring. Within a few days, I already have two on my calendar. It looks like I may need to to adjust my regular routine a little, but I will see what is going on by then.

Now, I don't have any outings scheduled again until late February. It's not unusual for the quad life in winter, but hopefully it doesn't last into the next season. Whatever happens, I'm thankful I can get out and be at least partially active!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Preparing for Possibilities

It has been a busy week in the quad life, and I have enjoyed it, at least somewhat. However, wondering of changes to come has also required a bit of learning new things.

For the last few years, web development work has primarily only been declining and I have had little opportunity to flex my programming muscles. I had the opportunity to build a site from scratch this week and enjoyed getting into it again. The designer did a very good job in preparing it and made my job easy.

Within just a few hours, spread over two days, it went from start to finish for design. Now, it's down to approval and a group of people adding content to the pages. While it was a short-lived project compared to some sites I've made, it was still a good feeling getting back into it again.

Some of my friends, and conservative news resources, have been getting either temporarily suspended or completely banned by social media platforms and tech companies. Therefore, alternative options have been suggested and utilized in hopes that free speech will be allowed on them.

I made accounts on a couple platforms, but am learning how they operate and finding friends, and channels, to follow. With all the time I spend laying flat, I frequently use these sources for keeping up with friends, including other quadriplegic families, as well as education and entertainment. Adjusting to new sources without a list of areas I follow takes time to learn.

One of the companies having issues with Christian related content is the provider of this blogging platform. I have a small enough following that I don't think it will get removed too quickly, but is still possible. Therefore, I'm trying to download backups more frequently and consider alternate locations.

My own website, joelvm.com, is capable of having a blog like this. I'm not sure if I can transfer earlier posts from here if needed, but I will look into it further if needed. Until then, have a great week ahead and I will continue to remember God is in control of everything.

Friday, January 15, 2021

How old was Benjamin?

For the last few days, my morning reading has been about Joseph in Egypt. Yesterday, and today, he tested his brothers when they came to Egypt to buy food (Genesis 42-45). Part of the evaluation was to bring Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin, to Egypt. However, Jacob, Joseph's father, initially refuses to let his youngest son go for fear of something happening to him.

Jacob refers to Benjamin as a boy, or lad, multiple times in this passage. In the times I have read it, I pictured him being anywhere from the age of around 5-12 years old. A child that was no longer a toddler, but had yet to reach puberty. When I carefully read the text though, I realized this wasn't the case at all.

When Joseph's brothers sold him to Egypt, he was 17 years old (Genesis 37:2). After testing and trials, he became the second highest ruler in the country at age 30 (Genesis 41:36). Seven years of plenty then passed and Joseph made himself known to his brothers in the second year of the famine (Genesis 45:6). Looking at these numbers, we can see Joseph had been in Israel 22 years before being reunited with his brothers.

Since Joseph knew, and recognized, Benjamin when he first saw him, he had to have been at least a few years old before Joseph was sold to Egypt. We aren't told exactly what year Benjamin was born, but I would guess he had to be in his upper 20's to early 30's at this point. Therefore, my original thought of a boy he wasn't even a teenager was very incorrect. This is further confirmed when Jacob's family is listed to say who traveled to Egypt, Genesis 46:21 lists Benjamin as having ten sons.

Just casually reading the Bible is a good habit and has many benefits. However, taking time to thoroughly study the text and understand it will open it further and correct possible wrong ideas. This passage shows that no matter what age, we never outgrow being our parents children. It also reminds Christians that as children of God, we always need to look to our Father in heaven for guidance, protection, and forgiveness.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Writing Week

The first week of the year is now complete, and it was a busy one for writing. It feels good to make progress on projects, but it also makes for more work ahead.

As the last two entries show, I did write comments on current Bible reading. It is something I have considered doing for a while, but didn't take time for it. With just two posts though, I can already see it will take more commitment than I considered. I read every morning when I get on my computer.

Going through the passage, thoughts come to mind that I want to elaborate on. However, working in time to get them recorded can take longer than I like. Friday's entry was in my head all morning, but I couldn't write until early evening. By that time, I had forgotten part of what I wanted to say and just mainly pushed myself to get it done. These Sunday entries aren't as time sensitive and easier to write. Future Bible commentary will need to be done differently if they continue.

After several years of working, I finally completed the initial draft of my book. I concluded with 2020 and plan not to go further in time. Now, I'm going back to the beginning and starting my first round of serious editing. In just the first chapter, talking about life before my accident, I already added half a page of writing. The book is currently 261 pages long, but I'm afraid to guess a page count after getting edits complete. I'm trying to set a goal on when to have it finished, but I don't know how well it would go with other upcoming projects.

Looking back on my writing changes will likely prove to be the biggest challenge. When life is presenting difficulties, I know it is reflected in the way I write. Making a coherent flow for anyone to understand may require a lot of work. No matter what, I'm thankful I got this far with it. I will see what this week brings in the quad life and what, if anything, I can get done.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Two Nations Together

Reading this morning, Friday, was continuing in Genesis, chapter 25. In verse 22, Rebekah is talking to God about problems with her pregnancy, the babies were fighting in her womb. God responded that two nations were within her and the older would serve the younger.

The first book of the Bible is the foundation for the rest of the book. Within a week,  I have already covered nearly 2000 years of history and the foundation of the world. In this passage, I noticed something a lot of people want to deny, God says Rebekah has people, live humans, in her womb.

As abortion continues to be part of many countries, and increasing in allowances, proponents try saying what is in the woman's body is just a clump of cells. However, medical science let's us see a developing embryo and different stages. Through these images, we can clearly see a human, with all correct features.

Any time the Bible talks about a pregnancy, it says a child is in the womb. It's clear in this passage as well as Jeremiah 1, Psalm 39, Luke 1, and elsewhere. When the Bible is used as our foundation in every part of life, it gives the correct way to gauge our thinking.

Sadly, as the world compromises on the Bible, everything else becomes unclear. America will rapidly show this in upcoming weeks, but I pray a return to biblical truth will eventually return.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Isaac Thoughts

In my morning reading this year, I'm going straight through from Genesis to Revelation. Part of today's reading was Genesis 22:1-19, where God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Every year when I read this passage, I wonder what Isaac thought about it or what kind of conversation took place between him and Abraham. The Bible doesn't give us this information, only that Isaac asked where the sheep was (verse 7). First, my question is how old was Isaac at this time?

He is referred to as a "lad" or boy depending on the translation. I have seen these terms used for anyone around age six to late 20's, but I'm guessing Isaac was likely in his pre teens if not younger. He was old enough to be familiar with regular sacrifices, know what was needed, and why they were done.

Abraham traveled for three days, on foot, knowing what God had asked him to do, but he and Isaac didn't discuss the journey until the end. Today, with kids buried in cell phones, I could see this happening easily, but it must have been hard for Abraham not to say anything.

When we finally get to the mountain, we're only told that Abraham told Isaac a lamb would be provided. Next, the alter is arranged and Isaac is bound and placed on it. God then stops Abraham and shows him a sheep caught in a thicket.

Either in this instant or on the way home, father and son would have talked about faith in God and serving Him in all times. Abraham's faith is referenced multiple times in the Bible as a testimony to him and an example.

A few months ago, I watched a documentary on people who were persecuted for their faith. One man from Russia recalled when he was a boy, his father was arrested for being a Christian. The boy and his mother were later allowed to visit his father in jail, and see how much he had been tortured.

When the mom tried to quickly slip a New Testament to the dad, a guard noticed and threatened torture, or execution, for such an action. Mom stood up to the guard and said she, her husband, and son could be killed and they would not deny Christ. Now as an elderly adult, and his own prison story, the man said that instance solidified his faith and made him respect his parents.

Thousands of years earlier, I imagine this must have been similar for Isaac. He too was a faithful man of God as an adult. This entire passage is a foreshadowing of what was to come. Jesus, God's only Son, was sacrificed for our sins. All who repent of sin and trust in Him alone will be saved.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Thankful Nights

We are three days into 2021 and, so far, all seems well. I haven't watched the news, and don't plan to start, but I still haven't heard anything major. Today, I am thankful to have a month with all nights covered.

In mid-December, my main night nurse, Jackson, let us know he would be having surgery at the end of the month. Recovery time would be 6-12 weeks and he would not be back until after that time. I only have two night nurses and Jackson normally covers five nights a week. My agency rearranged my other caregiver to work five nights a week, but that still leaves two without coverage, every week.

My parents and I were preparing for a long winter with little sleep, but received an early Christmas present. Jackson researched further, and decided that surgery was worse than the problem he was having. Therefore, he wasn't having the procedure and could work. Instead of having months of late nights, everything is now covered.

He was gone two nights this past week for something else. Tuesday night was after snow and ice all day in my area. Dad had little sleep Wednesday morning when he cleared the driveway and sidewalk, but he got it finished very well. It is always a relief to see a full schedule, and I'm thankful that God has blessed my family with funding and caregivers to help.

I know several other people living the quad life and most only have a few hours a week covered by nursing. The rest is up to family, sometimes a single family member, or volunteers. As we continue through this year, changes will likely come, but I can give thanks for the current times.

This year, I may also blog more often about comments on Bible reading. I'm still considering how it would work and when to write, but it is at least a thought. Looking back at last year, most posts ended up with 20-30 views. It isn't very many to help educate, but anyone is welcome. Until next time, have a good week!