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22nd January, 2007

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God and Edna

Martha and I have just returned from the funeral of a special lady, Edna Bagley. I had the genuine privilege of saying a few words of tribute. Hers was one of the smallest funeral services I have attended. In the eyes of the world, she had nothing and accomplished nothing. Her name is not mentioned in any Who's Who?, but I feel somewhat confident that it is inscribed in a book of infinitely greater value — the book of life.

Edna grew up in abject poverty and to the day she died at the age of 78 barely reached a higher rung on the ladder of wealth. She was forced to leave school as a young teenager and so was denied the educational opportunities taken for granted today. Without going into details, let it be said that her family afforded her little cheer. Life was a perpetual struggle. For years she walked a couple of miles every day to a menial job at “the skin shop”. About 13 years ago her husband died; within months she was diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease, and soon found herself in a nursing home where she spent the last 12 years of her life, the last two in a coma. Her health deteriorated rapidly, neck in neck with that of Pope John Paul II, and for about the past five or six years one could hardly understand a word she tried so hard to say.

Yet Edna is one of the few people I can honestly say I admire. She never betrayed any signs of bitterness against life or God. Though she no doubt experienced moments of deep frustration and sorrow, she did not let self pity carry her off in its ruthless grip. In spite of her suffering, she did not turn inwards and become absorbed in her own woes. She maintained an acute interest in world events and other people. Instead of merely occupying a bed at the home, she made it her home and moved in just about everything she could get away with — books, pencils, paintbrushes, music tapes and pot plants. In spite of shaky hands, she set about painting pictures of flowers, birds and animals. She occupied her time pursuing knowledge. She regularly read a dictionary to increase her vocabulary. She taught herself shorthand. She always had a pile of borrowed books — not pulp romances but biographies

and books about nature — she loved the works of God's hands. Above all, she was interested in God, Jesus Christ, and spiritual things. Often she had an open Bible in her lap when we came by. She loved singing hymns and talking about God. As her body shriveled, her mind, though sometimes garbled through medication, expanded.

The purpose of this blog is not to praise Edna but God who, though He owns the entire universe, including every galaxy, every planet, and every living soul in it, though He is far more glorious than the entirety of creation put together, He is humble. Not in the sense of considering Himself of little worth, but in the sense of willingly and unstintingly taking a deep personal interest in us human beings:

Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth? (Ps. 113:5-6).

Stephen Hawking has said, “We are on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies. It is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us” (Readers Digest Sept. 1993, p. 148). That's the whole point — the God of the Bible is so humble He is more than willing to care about us. He monitors the thoughts of every person (Ps. 139:1-4). And this amazing God is more impressed by one insignificant yet God-loving Edna Bagley than by all the billionaires, good-looking movie stars and sports super-heroes who have no interest in God:

Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar (Ps. 138:6)

Being wealthy or good-looking is no obstacle of itself to enjoying God's favor. But these attributes do not impress Him in the least. God is humble enough to take a keen interest in us human beings. He is so humble He pays particular heed to the most insignificant of human beings who fear and love Him. He is impressed by nobility of thought, not by the size of one's bank balance or fan club. What a God!


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