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“Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” (Luke 8:13)

They worshiped together every Sunday. The service was a simple one with the old hymns of the church, familiar scripture readings, and short prayers of reassurance. To the casual acquaintance, the mother and daughter strongly resembled each other. The younger could recall what her mother looked like in earlier years, and she had to admit that the features of the elder at her age were quite similar.  When the mother looked at her daughter, she could not identify her. But there she was holding the hand of this unnamed other who surrounded her with affection. Perhaps there were hints of recollection of her former self. Or maybe, she was just comforted by the presence of the one who visited, knowing somewhere in the tangles of the Alzheimer’s Disease which she possessed that this lady was indeed very special to her. And although she could not begin to verbalize a name or understand the relationship, when the piano started to play – she effortlessly began to sing, “There is a place of quiet rest . . . ”

How is it that one can forget the name of her only daughter but at the very same time know the words of a hymn? While great progress has been made in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, some of the mysteries such as ‘selective memory’ continue to baffle us. It is at times amazing to observe a person of deep faith progress through the various stages of the disease. Frequently those connections which were established at an early age, such as memorization of scriptures and reiteration of prayers, remain intact. Similar experiences are at times true for a person who is dying and seemingly in an unconscious state but who appears to respond to recorded gospel music or scripture reading. The prophet from long ago reminds us: “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). There is something to be said for those who are grounded in the faith being able draw upon the comfort it provides during the difficult times.

The concept of being grounded has somehow taken on too much of a negative tone. Children are grounded because they have broken certain rules or need to improve their grades. Flights are grounded due to bad weather, projected threats, or mechanical concerns. However, in each of these cases – the act of being grounded is for our own good. Yet when it comes to our faith, the idea of grounding through the discipline of daily devotions or Bible readings seems incomprehensible to us. The Apostle Paul said, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7). Even those who are ungrateful or who happen to stray from the faith for a time will have something to which they can return, if they have developed strong roots in their earlier years.

Increasingly, there are those who claim to be persons of faith but whose lives are easily uprooted when the troubled winds of life prevail.  The only way for a believer to become grounded in Christ is to grow in the word of God. It strengthens and maintains us. His word is transformative and powerful, because it is alive. Jesus explained that seed sown on rocky ground without much depth of soil would wither in the heat of the sun because it lacked root (Matthew 13:5-6). The word of God provides all of the nutrients and moisture for strengthening to the innermost core of our soul, joining our heart with His very own. And that, my friend, is exactly why the lady who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease so clearly articulated those words, “There is a place of quiet rest.”  For she also remembered that the words which followed were . . . “near to the heart of God.”

REFLECTION: What early recollections of scripture do you have that you may have memorized at Bible School or heard repeated time and again by an older person? Is there a part of your daily routine that helps to keep you grounded in the faith? What changes might you make this week for sowing seeds to grow deeper roots of faith for yourself and others?


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