ALS is part of the course

Someone asked me why I do not talk more about heaven in this blog. If I am a Christian and I have a terminal illness (ALS), it seems that perhaps I should talk more about a longing for heaven.

My mind went to a Christian song I heard sung frequently as a teen at my church in Fort Lauderdale.

  1. He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
  2. When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
  3. Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
    Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
    Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
    The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
  4. His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
    His power no boundary known unto men;
    For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
    He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. — Annie J. Flint

I know that my last gulp of air in this life will directly precede my first glimpse in heaven. At death Jesus will personally come to escort me, just as he has promised (John 14:1-6).

However, I view ALS as a classroom in the school of life where I am a student and God is my instructor. The course is entitled, “Limitless Grace and Love in the Time of Trial.” Some of the anticipated student outcomes are (as listed in Annie J. Flint’s song):

  1. receiving more grace when life’s burdens grow greater;
  2. understanding God’s mercy during an extreme affliction;
  3. as ALS increases in its control over my body, God’s peace enables me to rest;
  4. while arms and legs weaken, looking to my Father whose power has no boundary;
  5. when restless and frustrated, trusting in God’s infinite riches in Jesus.

I do not want the course of study to be wasted by my  gazing dreamily out the classroom window at the blue sky above. There is too much good stuff yet to be learned. I have only begun to master the course content.

Hebrews 12 reminds me that “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Two visions that I gain from that exhortation:

  1. There is a race that has been marked out for me–like a cross-country race course with hills to climb, sandy stretches with loose footing to navigate , logs to jump over, and creeks to slosh through before I get to that last 100 yards leading to the finish line. ALS is terminal, and therefore I know the finish line is up ahead. But I still have parts of the course to navigate. And the more fatigued I become the more mercy, grace, strength, and love from God I must appropriate.
  2. There are many spectators watching me run, and while Hebrews 12 pictures those in heaven who have finished the race before me, there are spectators on earth watching me, those who are in various phases of the race–my wife, my children and grandchildren, siblings and friends.

Thus, while I do have an eye on the finish line, I have an eye on the present course lest I stumble and fall and hear the spectators groan with disappointment.

It is my goal to show those watching that if a frail weakling like me can run the course because of the mercy, grace, power, and love of God, as Annie Flint depicts in her poem above, so can they. If I can run the course, then so can they.

So, to my familial spectators, Ruth, Paul, Allison, Paul Andrew, Aaron, Christian, Kelly, Karen, Anthony, Tyler, Rebekah, Hannah, Linda, Rob, Jonathan, Lauren, Kendall, Daniel, Eunice, Ron, Jennifer, Michael, Cheryl, Mario, Lisa, Emilie, Jason, Alan, Jane, Rob, Katie, Megan, Steve, Sarah, Christopher, Jessica, Elisabet, to name but a few, keep on the course. Don’t follow rabbit trails that will take you off course.

(Picture in header used with permission from Shutterstock.)

15 Replies to “ALS is part of the course”

  1. I love you, Big Brother! This blog reminded me of a recent event in my life. We attended our first high school graduation for a grandchild, Carter Grace. She graduated 17th in a class of 600, and we wanted to show her our pride and support. So I made poster-size letters of her name for each of her family members to hold up high as her name was called and she walked across the stage. We were part of her crowd of witnesses! More than that, we were her personal cheering squad!
    I am one of your crowd too, Ken, and you are amazing to watch as you run your race. Please remember that I am more than a witness, I am on your cheering squad and I am shouting your name to our great God!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what passionate grandmothers do. Fortunately Carter’s surname begins with an “L.” Dad said when he saw how long it would take to get to the “W” surnames at my graduation, he went to Dan’s for a steak sandwich, and still got back in time!

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  2. I never grow tired of re-reading your gems of wisdom….I am challenged today to remember to consider all trials big and small as God’s lessons in His school of life, and to respond not with idleness, but anticipation of God’s grace, strength and wisdom.

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  3. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, Ken. Not the wind and the waves. LeRoy and I pray for you daily. You continue to be an inspiration to us. Much love, LeRoy and Donna

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  4. Ken…you have certainly provided me with many things to consider and helping me to spiritually and mentally prepare for my ALS trials…. I can’t saynI look forward to the challenges, but I do intend to handle these challenges with the grace God will provide me. (Jenny Gill’s Dad and Jonnie Gill’s father-in-law)

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    1. Tom, it can be a deepening of your faith, a new and fresh look at grace, and new assurances of God’s love. Immersing yourself in scripture is very important. I am very willing to share the passages that sustained me. Also, have your neurologist write a prescription for a Phillips Trilogy Ventilator to use while sleeping. The doctor at Mayo put me on one immediately. Choose a good neurologist. Most have never had an ALS patient. They are tracheostomy crazy. An emerging group has now endorsed a ventilator, including Mayo, Rutgers, and USF. There is an excellent ALS clinic in Tampa at USF. The lead neurologist is Dr. Vu. It is located north of the Tampa airport and near Veteran’s Highway. (813) 396-9478

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  5. Dr Wackes, thank you so much for speaking truth to me yet again in my life. When I read this it felt like I was in your classroom again or listening as you preached the Word. Your testimony is and has impacted countless people and I believe most likely has brought others to Christ. I think of and pray for you often. You were such a good faithful friend to my Dad and I have always been grateful. Every time I read Psalm 139 I think of you because you had us memorize it in your class. I learned so much about the Lord and His Word under your teaching and as I watched you teach us about Christ through actions. You lived what you taught. I will always be grateful for you. God bless you abundantly as you continue this journey.

    Jennifer (Corrigan) Long

    Ephesians 3:14-21

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    1. I go through a list of memorized passages every day and Ps. 139 is on the list. Thanks, Jennifer, for encouraging me. Your father was truly a close friend. He always brought joy, laughter, and radiance every time we met.

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  6. Thank you for this message Dr. Wackes! I felt like I was sitting under your teaching in Sunday School–a fond memory of long ago. I love the imagery of the Cloud of Witnesses! You continue to impact so many even from miles away.

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  7. Grateful to hear these words with perspective and wisdom. We know there is a finish line but so much to learn and enjoy in life. In the stumbling He gives us team mates to help us along. Praying for you today. -C Preg

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  8. Wonderful words of trust & Grace. Ken, you have MANY praying for you & your family.
    Much love & hugs to you…..
    Jeff & Lynn Masterson 😇🙏❤️

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