Charlie’s Bells

Charlie’s Bells by Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Jackson Smith lived in the pale yellow house with the whitewashed picket fence on Second Street. When he first arrived in town, he had already accepted a new position with the First State Bank. He brought with him a small inheritance from his favorite aunt, so he had not hesitated to purchase the three gabled structure.

Jackson prized the large porch on the house’s west side. He envisioned himself swaying gently on the wide swing. Handsomely painted a peaceful-gray, Jackson had it repainted a cheerful pale yellow to please his new bride when they married two years later. Since then, he spent many an enjoyable evening on that porch. The charm of Jackson’s home was appealing. An advantage was its’ location, just one block north of the County Courthouse and the bank.

Jackson possessed a keen intellect. He enjoyed athletic, good looks, a healthy shock of sable brown hair, smiling amber brown eyes and naturally straight white teeth. The only flaw found in Jackson Smith was he would not attend church. He had been enlightened at State University. One religion professor taught church attendance wasn’t necessary. That man’s teachings were validation for Jackson’s inclination towards the avoidance of church interiors.

Jackson avowed his Christian belief but insisted on sleeping late on Sunday mornings. It was with a kindly yet firm resolve that he rebuffed the invitations to attend the sermons of the Reverend Doctor George Whitefield Jones. He attended a few times when he first moved to town and joined the church.

Since Jackson could answer anyone’s questions on Christianity with his thorough Bible knowledge and rhetorical prowess, even Dr. Jones left him alone. The Reverend Doctor never challenged his lack of regular church attendance since Jackson subscribed to the church budget based on his gross income. He was one of the church’s top five contributors while never attending. That was indeed the only gossip the mongers could muster on the man.

Anyone familiar with small-town customs knows that such a refined, young man cannot be allowed to go through life unmarried. The eagle-eyed wife of a bank trustee spotted Jackson within days of his arrival. She set to work matchmaking Jackson with her beautiful, debutante granddaughter who was of marrying age. She thought, Julia needed a husband and so she went to work.

The scheming matchmaker worked to pair the two, her activities so blatant that both parties and half the town knew what was afoot. In the end, most felt Cupid intervened, releasing the twin arrows from his bow that pierced the paired lover’s hearts.

Jackson was happy the meddling trustee’s wife had insisted her granddaughter visit that first summer. He thought it endearing how she had plotted so many events to bring them together. They were soon courting and then engaged.

As the impending nuptials approached, Dr. Jones began lobbying Julia to have Jackson pay for the repair of the church bells so they might ring out gloriously in celebration of their wedding.

Julia imagined her wedding day, a perfect June morning with a blue sky, she and Jackson exiting the church and laughing at being drowned in showers of rice. Dr. Jones had vividly planted the suggestion of wedding bells ringing. Julia, too often indulging in her favorite wedding daydream, actually began hearing the church bells ringing.

When Julia finally asked Jackson to pay for the bells repair, he said yes. It was a bit sad when it was discovered that the restoration turned out to be so much simpler than anticipated. The armature holding the bell didn’t need replacing. The rope had merely become frayed and gotten caught up into the gears. It only required untangled from the mechanism and replaced with a new line.

That Tuesday afternoon in May, the unexpected ringing of the bells after so many years of their silence caught the community entirely off guard. People rushed out of their shops or stood at home on their porches admiring the sound. The melodic ringing elicited broad smiles, a few sentimental tears, and cheery goodwill.

When the wedding day arrived, it was as Julia imaged. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Smith exited the church with happy smiles as cascades of rice poured down on them. They dashed to the waiting car with the Just Married sign, the tin cans and old shoes tied to the bumper. The bells rang and rang. They resonated long and gloriously filling the blue sky with their joyous sound.


The Smiths were still unpacking from their honeymoon when the Richards family moved to town. Mr. Charles Richards was hired to replace the saw mill’s elderly superintendent, who after losing two of his fingers had grudgingly agreed to retire.

The Richards was an unassuming couple. Their family was small with one son, Charles Junior. Everyone called him Charlie. He had Down syndrome. It influenced his personality strongly.

Charlie was fifteen years old, always smiling and happy. He quickly gravitated towards the church. You’d find him there whenever the church doors were open. Some of the dear sisters thought his mother shooed him off in the church’s direction to have some time away from the simple-minded boy, but he was not a bother. He was competent and industrious when directed towards a task that was within his abilities. He was able and willing to dust and polish pews and rake leaves. Charlie had a special talent for plugging away at the most boring and repetitive tasks. He always completed them with industry and cheerfulness than no one else would, or even could.

Charlie’s efforts saved the church money. It was with appreciation that Dr. Jones would pay Charlie a small salary. The money swelled Charlie’s heart with pride. He would take the few dollars down to the shops on the square, buy himself a comic book and a double-dip ice cream waffle-cone with a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of butter praline.

The first time Charlie heard the church bells he wanted to ring them. A young man named Tom held the bell-ringer position. When Charlie found out that Tom would be leaving for college, he began lobbying to take over Tom’s duties.

Dr. Jones liked the idea of Charlie having the bell-ringing responsibilities, but he was also concerned with Charlie’s physical and mental challenges from Down syndrome that he might injure himself. The bells were as big as Charlie and weighed hundreds of pounds. The timing and rope pulling needed coordinating in just the right way to be safe for the bell-ringer and pleasing to the ear. It just so happened that Tom was both an athletic young man and gifted with a musician’s sense of timing.

It also turned out Tom was kind and patient. When he learned Charlie wanted to be the bell-ringer, he taught Charlie how it was done. To begin the lessons, Tom rigged up a phony rope next to his. He’d have Charlie practice pulling along with him.

This thrilled Charlie, as he didn’t quite understand that his rope did not affect the bells because when he pulled his line along with Tom, the bells rang. After several sessions of perfecting the timing with the dummy rope, Tom had Charlie assist him at drawing on the real line so that Charlie could get used to the weight and feel of the swinging bells.

It turned out that Charlie was a natural bell-ringer. He wasn’t just competent; he was good at it! Charlie performed his duties safely. He had a natural rhythmic gift. Often when pulling the rope, Charlie would let the rebound lift him several feet off the ground, thrilling to it over and over. Charlie would tell his parents that he felt like an angel flying in the church, and Charlie’s mother would say to him that he was an angel.

Charlie’s bell ringing pleased everyone except Jackson. In his enthusiasm to gratify his wife and have the bells repaired, Jackson had not thought through the consequences of having functioning church bells so close to his home.

Jackson liked sleeping late on Sunday. He didn’t mind Julia getting up and going to Sunday services at the church. His request was she be quiet and not awaken him while she was getting dressed. Julia complied with his wishes as she put her clothes a and ate her light breakfast, but it was pointless. Julia might as well have shot off artillery in the front yard because the bells woke Jackson up just as predictably as cannons would have. Every Sunday, the bells Jackson had paid to repair caused him aggravation, all the more so because he was responsible for their now flawless functioning.

Julia suggested since he was going to be woken up anyway, why not accompany her to church? Jackson almost softened but said no. He didn’t explain. It was then that she realized Jackson’s real aversion was to attending church. She pointed this out to him and gently queried him further, but this questioning was met with an uncomfortable silence. Julia decided she respected her husband enough that he could keep this secret.

Jackson decided to do something about the Sunday morning bell ringing. Dr. Jones chuckled at Jackson’s request to silence the ringing, pointing out that Sunday’s bells called the congregants to church. Dr. Jones even suggested there was a positive Pavlovian response for churchgoing people to hear the ringing bells. He again thanked Jackson for having the bells restored, shared how much Charlie enjoyed ringing the bells, and the community’s appreciation. Well, that shook Jackson’s resolve. He resigned himself to wearing earplugs which didn’t always work.

One reason Jackson no longer pursued ceasing the Sunday bell ringing was Charlie. He and Julia were very fond of Charlie. The boy often stopped and drank a glass of iced tea if he walked by their home when they were sitting out on their west-facing porch waiting to watch the sunset. The three of them would sit companionably enjoying the evening and chatting about subjects that suited Charlie. Julia would also praise him on his bell ringing. She liked watching her husband grimace disapprovingly, but there would be that smile in his amber brown eyes.

I’ll have to resign myself to hearing the bells ring all the days of my life, he’d grumble to Julia. She countered the bells should fill him with joy, reminding him of their wedding day. She told him to remember their marriage was the reason the bells had been repaired. Jackson knew not to argue that point.

And so it was, every Sunday the bells announced church. Bell ringing went on year after year. Charlie with his bell ringing was a faithful servant unto the Lord.

Jackson and Julia had always assumed that they would have children, but the years passed and it just never happened. Julia sought advice from a doctor and tried some different things, but in truth, they were content only with each other. They also enjoyed spending time with Charlie though he remained a kid forever mentally. They often took Charlie places with them, sometimes to a movie, or on an overnight trip to the lake. They would have dinner with the boy’s family once a week, alternating homes and cooking duties. Mr. and Mrs. Richards eventually designated the Smiths to be Charlie’s guardian should anything happen to them. One Sunday Jackson didn’t wake up until noon. No church bells were ringing to serve as his alarm.

Immediately Jackson knew when Julia returned from church that Sunday morning. Her nose was red, and her face was wet with tears that continuously streamed down her cheeks. He lightly took her shoulders and pulled her to his chest, enfolded her in his arms and asked what was wrong. Julia could barely choke out her grief-stricken words; Charlie was about to leave for church this morning when he had a heart attack right in front of his Mama. They called Dr. Wilbur. He came right away, but they knew Charlie was dead. Dr. Wilbur said Charlie had flown to Heaven before he even reached the floor. His Mama said he was an angel now.

Now the years had been kind to Jackson. His work ethic complimented his banking skills. Before he turned fifty, the board appointed him president of the First State Bank. When Julia’s grandfather passed away, he assumed his seat on the board of trustees. Jackson had remained faithful in both pledging and paying his subscription to the church’s budget. He was now their most significant contributor.

One morning Jackson called and made an appointment to meet with the Reverend Doctor Jones. The aging minister had recently announced that he would be retiring on his seventieth birthday. Jackson wanted to meet with him while Dr. Jones was still in a position to help.

When he arrived at the pastor’s study, Jackson asked one question. He wanted to know who would be ringing the bells at ten o’clock A.M. every Sunday. Dr. Jones agreed there was still value in the bell ringing but said no one was willing to commit to taking the responsibility.

A couple of more Sundays passed with Jackson sleeping away his Sunday mornings because no one rang the bells to wake him. People started arriving late for the church service because they had no church bells to remind them to hurry to church.

The weather turned to match the cold, gray attitude that settled over the town on Sundays since the church bells stopped ringing. The joy of the little Down syndrome boy who grew into a happy man that had permeated the congregation and town for a quarter of a century disappeared when the bells stopped ringing.


Julia came home from the Wednesday night church business meeting with all the color drained from her face. She told Jackson the church had voted to remove and sell the church bells. The value of the brass and the money obtained would be given to help those with special needs unless someone stepped forward, called by God to ring the bells.

Jackson shook his head in disbelief. He said nothing.

The next Sunday morning at ten o’clock, Julia and her Sunday school class heard the bells ringing. They closed their Bibles, picked up their purse and hurried to the bell tower curious to see who was ringing the bells. Dr. Jones left his prayers and last minute review of his sermon as soon as he heard the bells ringing. He also headed for the bell tower.  Leaving the Sunday school lesson and heading to the bell tower was repeated by class after class from the oldest men’s class to the older preschool class.

They all arrived at the bell tower at the same time. Someone opened the red door. Inside was the president of the First State Bank, Jackson Smith. He was pulling the rope up and down, ringing the bells. A great smile was on his face.

“What are you doing?” questioned the Reverend Doctor Jones.

“I’m ringing Charlie’s bells,” said Jackson Smith.

Photo Source: Pixabay

“Charlie’s Bells” was originally published in the June 30, 2015 edition of Beyond Imagination Digital Literary Magazine published by Dark Star Publishing, publication description: “Charlie’s Bells” by Jimmie A. Kepler in “Beyond Imagination Digital Literary Magazine July 2015” (Beyond Imagination 2015) Kindle Edition by Larry Lonsby, Jr (Illustrator), Craig Herndon Jr (Editor), Dayne Edmondson (Editor) “Charlie’s Bells” by Jimmie A. Kepler File Size: 1860 KB Print Length of Magazine: 147 pages, Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited, Publisher: Dark Star Publishing (June 30, 2015), Publication Date: June 30, 2015, Sold by subscription: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

“Charlie’s Bells” is included in “Charlie’s Bell’s: A Short Story Anthology” available on Amazon.

A special thank you to my editor Storm Small Ricamore who edited and provided great guidance on improving the short story.

How to be Strong and Courageous in the Lord

2 How to be Strong and Courageous in the Lord

2. 1 My Story

One of the first thoughts I had when my wife received the diagnosis that she had stage three Melanoma was how am I going to care for her and love her unconditionally until she dies.

I knew the Melanoma was going to kill her unless God intervened. I wondered if she would follow the doctor’s orders. Would my wife let me help her? How would she react? Could I handle being her caregiver?

In time all the questions were answered. The solutions didn’t happen in one day. There was some give and take. My spouse had to have a heart to heart with me along the way which included telling me to back off and give her some space as I was smothering her with kindness and care.

She didn’t need me reacting as if every little event she encountered was a life or death situation. I learned what she needed was me to be there. She desired my calm, steady presence.

A simple example is when I had a ball game on, and she came into the room I would change channels on the television to her favorite HGTV program. I stayed in the room with her instead of going to the bedroom and continuing the ballgame. If I were cleaning or doing other housework, I would stop, give her my attention and be with her.

In her last days of hospice care, she told me how much my just being there meant to her. She said I could get the house spotless after she was in heaven, but until then she needed the ministry of my presence. She needed me to be strong and courageous as I spent time with her.

2.2 How to Be Strong and Courageous in the Lord

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness understands how to be strong and courageous in the Lord.

Facing caring for a person with a chronic or terminal illness is a scary daily challenge for both the person with the disease, their family and you as the caregiver. Through Jesus Christ, we can be strong and courageous.

How can we do this?

We cannot do this in our strength. Daily the Lord Jesus our God goes with the Christian. We need to remember he goes with us. We need the Lord to strengthen us.

Today’s Scripture tells us the Lord will not leave or forsake the Believer in Jesus Christ.

2.3 Bible Verse

Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV), “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

2.4 What the Verse Means

Because Christians have God with them, they should be of good courage. The courage comes from their confident assurance in God which faith gives. This sure faith in Christ allows us to face each day bravely knowing through him we shall have the ultimate victory.

2.5 Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father, please help me and my family to continue to be strong and courageous in the face this illness.
  • Holy Spirit, I ask for your comfort. Help me to not fear or be in dread of the challenges I face as a caregiver. Help me not to grow weary.
  • Thank you for letting me know it is the Lord our God who goes with me and that he will not leave me or forsake me.
  • I pray my family and loved ones’ would confess faith in Jesus Christ where they too can experience the comfort available to Christians.

2.6 Responding to God’s Hope

  1. What are two areas that you are fearful of failing in as you care for your loved one? Name them.
  2. Take the two items you identified in question one. Admit your fears to God. Ask God for the faith you need to face fear courageously.
  3. Realize that God has entrusted you already with your loved one’s care. He’s put them under your supervision; God will equip you for the daily challenges you face. Thank God for the confidence He has placed in you, and for the way, He helps you daily as you care for your loved one.

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog post is from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

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Keep On Hanging On

Hang On

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness understands the value of hanging on to God.

You will get to the point in caregiving that only with God’s help can you make it through the next few minutes or day. You are exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually.

All you can do is grab hold of and hang on to God.

My Story

The date was April 11, 2018. It was a Wednesday. I had awoken at the usual time of 5 AM. I stepped into the master bedroom where my wife was resting. I took her hand and held it. I leaned over the hospital bed and kissed her forehead first. I said I love you. She squeezed my hand, and her lips moved to mouth love you. I softly kissed her lips. I could feel their warmth and her returning the kiss.

We were blessed with a hospice critical care registered nurse in our home twenty-four hours a day. I looked at the nurse and said I was going to Starbucks for a couple of hours to have morning coffee and write. I would be back home by 8 AM. I reminded her my adult son, adult daughter, and my wife’s sisters were in the house if needed. I would only be ten to fifteen minutes away. I made sure the nurse had my contact info. 

I then read Psalm 23 to Miss Benita, my wife, prayed with her, and feed her a container of flavored shaved ice before I stole another kiss and then headed to Starbucks. As I drove to the coffeehouse, my heart was heavy. Death was near.

Around 7:30 AM I had a telephone call from the hospice supervising nurse. She was at my house checking on the situation. She had arrived at the shift change to speak to the overnight nurse and brief the incoming nurse. She told me she felt death was imminent. She encouraged me to get home to say any final goodbyes. 

Miss Benita and I had already said our goodbyes. I never left her side without saying a final farewell, just in case she died when I wasn’t there. I wanted to be present with her, holding her hand when the time came for her to depart to heaven, so I hastily retreated to my house.

When I arrived I could see a marked change in my wife. In only two hours she had moved closer to death’s doorway.

No, she didn’t die on April 11. Benita Kepler passed away at 3:54 pm on April 12, 2018. I wrote that day, “She is in Jesus loving arms in heaven. She was surrounded by her husband, children, and sisters when she went to be with Jesus in heaven.”

Bible Verse

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 King James Version (KJV), “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”

What the Verse Means

The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. Here are seven Biblical principles that explain the verse. These principles give the Biblical alternative of how to hang on when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope.

Principle One: I must not forget God loves me. Don’t lose heart! 

2 Corinthians 4:1 (KJV), “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;”

1 Corinthians 15:10 (KJV), “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

It’s not who we are. It’s whose we are!

Remember our performance does not give us our worth. God’s grace gives us the power to start over.

Romans 8:37(KJV), “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

Principle Two: I must keep a clear conscience.

2 Corinthians 4:2 (KJV), “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

We must have integrity. We must have character.

Principle Three: It is not about me.

2 Corinthians 4:5 (KJV), “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

Your ego will only take you so far.

Principle Four: I cannot do it all.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV), “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”

We must pace ourselves. Life is a journey, not a sprint.

Principle Five: Love, love, love.

2 Corinthians 4:15 (KJV), “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”

Principle Six: Take time to refresh, renew, and revive.

2 Corinthians 4:16 (KJV), “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”

Principle Seven: I must keep my eye on the goal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (KJV), “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Remember — You cannot do your best at caregiving if you do not face your troubles and hang on until you reach your goal. 

Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father help me to cling to you.
  • Lord Jesus, help me to ask your help daily as I keep on keeping on.
  • God Almighty help my eyes to be fixed on the unseen.

Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Do you remember God loves you?
  2. Is your conscience clear? Maybe you feel bitter about having to care for your loved one. If so, ask God’s forgiveness.
  3. Are you seeking God’s help and guidance? Ask God for his help.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Thanks for the Memory

The Value of Giving Thanks 

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness understands the value of giving thanks for what you have.

When you care for a person with a chronic illness, too often you focus on the negative and the bad. Instead of focusing on the adversity of the situation you are living through, you should give thanks for what you have and have had. 

For the caregiver and their charge who are Believers in Jesus Christ, this includes being thankful knowing that death is not the end. That separation is temporary. You know you will again see each other in Heaven.

My Story

As death was imminent for my wife, I did not feel sorry for the brevity of her life. Oh sure, I would have preferred her being healed and having another thirty plus years with me. After all, dying at sixty-one years old is dying too young.

I understood that God has our days number. From the beginning of time, he knew when you would be born and when you will die. 

Psalm 139:16 King James Version (KJV) says, “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them.” In modern English, the verse means that God has ordained or predetermined for me the numbers of days I will have in my life. He knew when I would be born and knows when I will die. God has this information already written in His book of life.

I find great comfort and security in knowing that God has my life so ordered that I will neither die a day sooner nor live a day longer than what has already been recorded in his book. I will defer happily to let God take care of the decisions of this magnitude.

Without a doubt I know I clearly understand this divine principle. Because of my understanding, I am freed from fearing death. My faith which frees me from this fear allows me to live the life God had designed for me.

Knowing and trusting that God knows best allowed both my wife and me to enjoy the time we had. Instead of weeping over her upcoming death we were able to reflect and reminisce. We looked at old family pictures remembering the events, thankful for our time together.

I still call Miss Benita thanking me for loving her and staying with her until “death do we part.” I know it was I who was the real lucky one. I give thanks to the Lord for the forty-three plus years we were married. I thank God for what we had.

When I miss her and feel sad, I focus on the memories, ask God’s forgiveness for my failures and regrets, and look forward to the Heavenly reunion I’ll have one day with late wife, Miss Benita.

I am thankful for the assurance of Heaven for the Believer in Jesus Christ. 

Bible Verse

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV), “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

What the Verse Means

The verse reminds us that Christians should not only to pray to God but also give thanks to Him. We should thank him for everything, in every circumstance, in joy as well as in sorrow. 

Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father help me always show gratitude to family and friends who aid and support us.
  • Lord Jesus, help me to praise God daily for who he is and for his love and care.
  • God Almighty, I thank you for a loving church, Bible fellowship class, our brothers and sisters-in-Christ who help and support me.
  • I give thanks for the quality medical care and counsel I have as well as the health insurance that pays for so much of the treatment and prescriptions.

Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Are you thankful for the days you have with your loved one?
  2. Are you thankful for the memories you have? I am amazed God created us with the ability to have remembrances.
  3. Have you told your caregiving charge that your thankful for them and the opportunity to serve them? Have you said thanks for the memories?

This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Do Not Lose Heart

Not Losing Heart

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness is not losing heart. Your maintaining a positive attitude helps you to provide the best care. To keep an optimistic attitude, it is helpful to maintain our outlook from an eternal perspective.

In today’s verse, God is pointing out we should view all earthly adversity in comparison with our future heavenly glory. When we do this, we should be strengthened to endure our human trials.

My Story

My wife was excited when the eleven months of her taking the prescription chemotherapy medications concluded.

I was expecting her to do a happy dance and to go celebrating her accomplishment. Instead of a time of rejoicing, it became a solemn watershed. She was tired of the handful of pills she took multiple times a day.

“Jimmie, I will never do chemo again. I know you’ll support my decision,” she said with the authority and resolve of a military general ordering troops into battle.

I looked at her. I’m sure she saw the questioning, the disappointment, the lack of understanding in my face. I knew better than to question her decision. Her mind was made up. Questioning her decision would bring her to tears. Challenging her choice would breach my commitment to her.

I prayed for God to give me wisdom before I replied. I heard myself say, “You have decided to never do chemo again. You request for me to support your decision. Is that correct?”

“Don’t be so clinical. Please do not treat me like you did the children when they were young,” she demanded.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I was just restating what you said to make sure I heard you correctly.”

“You heard me. Our body isn’t made to take these treatments. You can’t imagine how horrible they are.”

I just looked at her and listened as she continued talking.

“I’m not saying I want to die today. I don’t want to die. However, I know that I have an eternity with Jesus Christ in Heaven waiting at the end of this horrible journey. No pain, no suffering, a new body, a grand family reunion with my family and your mother (my mother was deceased, my dad would live another 3 months). It’s only because of the final destination that I can continue with this journey with Melanoma. Living with cancer is hard. It’s terrible.”

Bible Verse

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (KJV), “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

What the Verse Means

While our bodies (outward man) grow old and suffer from diseases, our spiritual side (inward man) is renewed daily. Too often we only focus on the things we see in this present life. We need to also focus on the spiritual, that is the things that are not seen but given to us by God as a future promise. 

These are only seen with our “spiritual eyes.” It takes belief. A part of faith is believing that what God has promised he will undoubtedly bring to pass. I have confidence in God’s word and promises.

Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father help me to focus on you, our loved one’s final destination and never lose heart.
  • Lord Jesus, help me remember that while my loved one’s outer body is perishing, yet their inward body is being renewed daily.
  • God, I realize the chronic illness my loved one is facing won’t last forever but is working in them and me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
  • Lord God, help me to not look at my loved one’s circumstances which are temporary but to look on the things that are not now seen, but eternal.

Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Lord Jesus, help me have the courage to see my loved one’s situation from their point of view.
  2. God in Heaven, help me to support their choices.
  3. Father, help me to listen to my loved on.

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

The Influence of a Writing Mentor


One way a writer can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. While writing groups can serve as a mentor, the right personal mentor will help improve your writing by giving you guidance each step of the way. Let me share an example of the influence of a mentor.

In 1919 a young veteran returned from World War I. He moved to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood for the purpose of being close to the author Sherwood Anderson.

Sherwood Anderson

The critical praise for Anderson and his book “Winesburg, Ohio” impressed a young, beginning writer. This hopeful writer had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to meet Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

Ernest Hemingway

The aspiring writer brought his own works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing contacts. The aspiring writer did okay with his first book “The Sun Also Rises.” The aspiring writer was Ernest Hemingway.

William Faulkner

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orléans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He became roommates with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book “Soldier’s Pay” published. This young author was William Faulkner.

John Steinbeck

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell were also mentored by Sherwood Anderson.

Ray Bradbury says Sherwood Anderson’s book “Winesburg, Ohio” was on his mind when he wrote The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury basically wrote “Winesburg, Ohio” placing it on the planet Mars.

Mark Twain

Arguably, only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in shaping modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he?

Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prizes

William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I urge you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The people in my writer’s and critique group keeps me encouraged and motivated.

Encourage your writer friends, keep reading and writing.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Photo Source: Public Domain

God’s Comfort

God’s Comfort is Available to You

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness is understanding God’s comfort is available for you. 

Have you ever been overwhelmed by your thoughts of how you will be able to handle or manage your loved one’s chronic illness? Have the “what ifs” overtaken you? Are any of your thoughts confused and even torturing you with the cares and fears about the future?

Today we will see how God’s comfort delights our soul. His promises, contained in His word (the Bible), and the memory of our past experiences of His care and kindness to us, afford us comfort. They can restore our discouraged mind.

My Story

My spouse was the primary bill payer in our home. We had a budget and discussed our financial priorities, but she wrote the checks each month and made the electronic payments.

I had a basic understanding of what bills were due each month but did not know if they were paid electronically or by check. I also did not know the account numbers, contact information, and the like.

My spouse clung onto the bill paying. I asked her to tutor or mentor me where I could have some transition if the time came where I had to assume responsibility. She told me if she turned the bill paying over to me she felt like she was giving up on life. She added that it was the last thing she was holding on to do.

I pleaded with her to show me her system. Finally, less than two weeks before she went into hospice care we talked about finances and bill paying. She started to teach me but then stopped. She said the checkbook is here.

Her next words took me by surprise as she said, “I can’t do this. I can’t talk to you about the bills. You’re a brilliant man and will be able to figure this out. I’m sorry. You’ll have to deal with it when the time comes.”

I didn’t scream or yell. I didn’t even roll my eyes. I remember thinking that Miss Benita had more confidence in me than I did. I felt scared, helpless.

I also said a silent prayer. I wish I could tell you it was spiritual, but I asked God why she wouldn’t help me. I recall immediately thinking to love your wife. She doesn’t need upsetting; she needs to feel my love through you. I’ll help you find the answers you need. It will be okay. It was the still, small voice of God. I have no doubt. No one will convince me otherwise.

Gulp, I turned my fears over to God, trusted him, and to my amazement am still getting it all figured out. All bills have been paid on time. I have developed my routine. Instead of all the worst case scenarios that ran through my mind. I am wasn’t traumatized. I am surviving.   

Bible Verse

Psalm 94:19 (KJV), “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.”

What the Verse Means

When we are worried because of considering various possible outcomes and scenarios, listening to ungodly counsel from well-meaning friends, or just drowning in self-pity, we need to return to the Lord for real rest and comfort. 

God’s comfort satisfies my soul. Focusing and meditating on His Word and teachings comfort me and delight me. True satisfaction only comes from God’s Holy Spirit!

Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father I confess too often my thoughts are filled with various and confusing ideas. Protect me from the negative thinkers and their contrary counsel.
  • Lord Jesus, I confess sometimes being tortured with cares and fears about my future due to my chronic illness.
  • God Almighty, I praise you because your comfort delights my soul.
  • I have heard your promises taught in Sunday School as well as heard them preached in church, and have read in the Bible. They comfort me.
  • Lord, the memory of my experiences of your care and kindness to me, affords me such comfort as they restore my at times discouraged mind.

Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Turn your worries and concerns over to God.  Take a piece of paper and write down five concerns you have. When you finish writing your five fears say out loud, “God, the concerns I have written I now turn over to you.” Crumble the paper and throw it into your trash can.
  2. Do not focus on your worries and fears. Instead, thank God that for your ability to provide some care and comfort for your loved one. Remember, sometimes the essential support you provide is being there with them. I call it the ministry of your presence.
  3. As I type this, I am praying for the person who is reading these words needs. Know that at least one person has prayed for your needs, cares, and concerns in advance. God ew from the beginning of time that you would have this appointment with caregiving.  Maybe that’s why I felt impressed to pray for you as I typed this morning.

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Slow Down and Know God

Slow Down and Know God

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness is slowing down and knowing God. As we live with the daily challenges of caring for a person with an ongoing disease, it is essential that we get adequate rest.

This respite is both physical and spiritual. Today’s Scripture tells us to slow down, that is to be still and know I am God.

My Story

I had been up for thirty-three consecutive hours. My marathon of being up began on Tuesday when I had awakened at 5 PM. I had gotten up, checked on my spouse, showered and went to Starbucks at 6 AM for my morning writing. From writing, I had headed to the local climate controlled shopping mall where I did my morning walk. Following the walk, I had an appointment with the dermatologist.

I returned home just before lunchtime. I again checked on my wife. She was in her recliner. She said her head was hurting, and she had been trying to call her doctor and me.

Her neurologist had reduced her steroids dramatically. When the steroids had previously been cut, she had felt bad, so the doctor increased the dosage to former levels. Miss Benita assumed this is all that was needed.

His time she couldn’t figure out how to use her cell phone. I called the neurologist office. They increased the dosage. My wife took the increased medications and went to sleep. I had checked on her every twenty minutes all afternoon. She did not wake up until after 8 PM.

When she awoke, she didn’t know who I was. She couldn’t tell me what day or month with was. When I asked if she knew the time she answered “blue?”

We headed for the emergency room at the hospital where only four months earlier she had a brain tumor removed.

I was up all night. My three children took shifts being with me. Around 9 AM on Wednesday the doctor told me the brain tumor had recurred. He said another surgery would only add a few weeks to maybe two months maximum to my sweetie’s life. He said your options are surgery or hospice. With hospice, you have days to weeks at best.

Miss Benita and I had spoken on what to do if the brain tumor recurred. I followed her wishes and chose hospice. I called my children, my brother, her sisters, my minister, and my best friend informing them of the situation.

The next step was to move her from the intensive care unit to an intermediate care unit where they worked on stabilizing her and helping her regain her faculties. It wasn’t until late in the days was moved from ICU. During this time my oldest son arrived on the scene. My best friend was there with me as well.

I was the next morning before the massive amount of drugs took hold and had her where she was conscious. I shared with her what was happening.

I still remember her response. She said, “I knew the Melanoma was going to kill me. I just didn’t realize it as going to be today or in the next few days. I really thought I would make it to the end of the year. I hope I live long enough to see Jason (our son) graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in May. Thank you for not letting them cut on me. Thank you for loving me enough to let me go by honoring my wishes.”

I was nearly noon on Wednesday before I somehow managed to drive home. Instead of sleeping I prepared the house for the arrival of my wife’s sisters who were coming in from out of state. I had my sons schedule to shuttle them from the airport to the hospital.

It was around one-thirty on Wednesday afternoon before I tried to sleep. I slept less than ninety minutes before waking up and returning to the hospital.

When I got back to the hospital my oldest son and best friend lectured me on the need for rest. I went home around 7 PM that evening and cried out to God. I hurt. I was exhausted. I remember having today’s verse come to mind, “Be still and know that I am God …”

I got in med and started recalling Bible verse after Bible verse. I had worked with the children in my church for nearly two decades in a program called “Bible Drill.” The program’s purpose was Scripture memory. I had memorized the same verses as they had. Those verses came to memory, calmed my spirit, and helped me to sleep.

I also was listening to spiritual songs that praised God. The songs calmed my nerves and spirit. I had to slow down enough to experience God’s presence.

Bible Verse

Psalm 46:10 (KJV), ” Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

What the Verse Means

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness is learning to slow down.

Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father help me to be still and know you more intimately, and to feel your presence.
  • Lord Jesus, please help me to slow down and even stop when necessary to get to know God.
  • I pray that I would find rest in the adequacy of God.

Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Are you getting enough rest? You cannot care for someone twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. You need assistance.
  2. Are you slowing down where you can hear God and feel his presence?
  3. Ask God to help you rest, have the help you need, and to experience his presence.

Photo Source: Pixaby

This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

We Need a Safe Place

God is Good

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness realizes that sometimes we need a safe place. We need a place of refuge. A Christian has such a safe place of refuge in God. 

The same God who was powerful enough to create the heavens and the Earth and who could destroy the world with the flood in Noah’s day has a compassionate, kind, and charitable nature. God is an unquestionable harbor of protection to those who worship and serve him. He is good. Because of his goodness, the Believer is never ignored or deserted by him. God accepts, keeps, and preserves the Believers of Jesus Christ.

My Story

I remember Sunday, December 3, 2017, well. My wife had not been feeling well for the previous two months. It seemed to start in early October when she worked a week of nights doing a stock reset at the big box store headquartered in Arkansas. I recall her commenting that she usually didn’t mind working a week of nights. This time she lacked her usual energy.

We spoke after her first night of work. She said the bosses were messing up. Specifically, she mentioned they had printed signs that had left off the last two or three letters of words. She said when she mentioned it to them they acted as if she was crazy. Even as she insisted something was wrong with the sign, the manager on duty said they were okay and ignored her comments. She was told to keep working.

A week later she flew to Denver, Colorado for a week of rest with her two sisters. They met at her older sister’ who live in the Denver area’s home. Her younger sister flew in from Tennessee to join in the reunion. Miss Benita had made it clear my presence was not needed or wanted for this week.

While in Colorado, my wife got sick. It was her normal nausea, vomiting, and something new, a headache. She went to see a doctor. They just told her to take to her nausea medicine and let her doctor know about this spell when she returned home.

Once home the symptoms lessened. She did not see her doctor or call the oncologist. She had a PET scan scheduled in a few days with a follow-up visit to the oncologist. 

She saw the oncologist in early November. The PET Scan was a body scan. It did not show any Melanoma. It only showed the other cancer she had, the neurologist endocrine carcinoid. It had not changed. She mentioned the nausea spell on her recent trip to Colorado.

The oncologist commented that while flying and high elevation caused issues in persons with brain tumors, her last brain scan six months earlier had not shown any cancer in the brain. He looked at scheduling a brain scan which after the paperwork, insurance company denial, resubmission, and final approval were scheduled for the week after Christmas.

Moving on to the Friday after Thanksgiving, my wife was now having severe nausea issues.  She goes to an urgent care facility declining me taking her to the emergency room. They encourage her to see her primary care doctor and to call the oncologist to update him.

She feels better when Monday comes and decided against going to the doctor. “I can’t run to her every time I hurt or I would need to move in her office,” she says.

She is feeling better when home by keeping the lights turned off and the windows closed with blackout curtains. She mentions to me that my latest book “Thy Will Be Done: 60 Prayers for the Chronically Ill” wasn’t edited very good. She says some sentences aren’t complete and it just seems like words are missing.

I check and all is okay with the book. I ask if she is having vision problems. She mentions the signage at work from back in early October with letters and words missing.

I suggest we mention this to the oncologist and schedule an eye exam. We leave a message with the oncologist office and schedule an eye exam for later in December.

On Sunday, December 3, 2018, we attend Sunday morning worship and Bible study. She comments that inspire of the loud music it is the one place she feels perfectly calm. She comments the upset stomach vanishes at church. A remarkable peace seems to wrap its arms around her. She feels normal, well, and the heavenly hope engulfs her.

Thursday, November 7, 2017, she calls me from the doctor’s office parking lot. She has driven herself there from work. She needs help to get from the car to the doctor’s office. I dash to the parking lot which is just a mile from my house. She see’s the doctor. The doctor sends her for a CAT Scan of the head. The CAT Scan shows a large brain tumor. We go immediately to Presbyterian Hospital Plano which is a certified brain trauma facility.

The remove a malignant Melanoma cancer tumor. The managing oncologist tells me she shouldn’t have flown in October and should not have gone to high elevation in the Rocky Mountains. The size of her tumor leads him to believe she had it in October and being at elevation caused her spell in October while in Colorado. He said in getting records from her primary care doctor helped him get the total picture. Benita had mentioned vision issues just the primary care, not the oncologist. The oncologist said her flying and going to very high elevation probably caused brain swelling. Being at higher altitude caused her being sick in Colorado. The brain swelling reduced when she was back at a lower elevation.

Well, I could go on and on with what ifs. What ifs lead to regrets. Regrets can lead to despondency and depression. Please, don’t go down regret row. You won’t enjoy the journey or the destination.

The bottom line is as my spouse’s illness worsened it seemed that the only time she was in a state of nirvana was when she was in church, listening to Christin music, or reading or having Scripture read to her. I’m not saying what will work for you or your loved one. I am testifying to the Lord being Miss Benita’s stronghold and her place of peace and comfort.

Her experience also shows how difficult diagnosing and treating a disease can be. 

Bible Verse

Nahum 1:7 (KJV), “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

What the Verse Means

But though God is steadfast in his power, yet he is merciful, gracious, and beneficent in his nature. God is a sure refuge and protection to those who know him as their Savior, worship him, serve him, and put their trust in him. He knows and pays a regard to all such so that they are never overlooked or neglected by him. As such, God approves, owns, and preserves us.

Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father I praise you for your goodness.
  • Thank you for being my stronghold in the day of trouble.
  • Thank you for never neglecting me.
  • Thank you for your provision.

Responding to God’s Hope

  • Are you going to the Lord God in your day of trouble and everyday? 
  • Remember to read God’s word on a regular basis. There is comfort in God’s word.
  • Are you treasuring the days you have with your loved one? E the day good or bad, it is the only one you have. Enjoy the day. Enjoy your loved one.

Photo Source: Screen Capture of Facebook entry from December 3, 2017. Miss Benita and I were seated in the balcony at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas. This was her last time in the building. The next time her body was in the building was for her funeral service on April 12, 2018.

This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Real Peace Comes from God

Real Peace Comes from God

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness is understanding that real peace comes from God. Living to care for a person with a chronic disease can leave us overwhelmed. The endless stream of questions from well-meaning family, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers drains us. We find ourselves emotionally and physically exhausted. At times we need more than rest. We need peace.

As we learn to care for a person with a chronic illness, we realize that real peace comes from God.

My Story

I thought I was Superman. I believed I could handle anything that would come my way in caring for my wife as she battled Melanoma cancer.

I was wrong.

Over Mother’s Day Weekend in May 2016, my wife started an eleven-month treatment with prescription chemotherapy medications. In less than twenty-four hours of taking her first dosage, her temperature was 104-degrees. She was disoriented, non-communicative, and I was convinced she was at death’s door. I was scared and felt helpless.

All three of my children were home for the Mother’s Day Weekend. My wife’s two sisters had flown in from out of state to visit. They had good reason to come.

My wife’s PET Scan in late April had shown Melanoma had spread. It was in her left shoulder, lungs, between her lungs, in her Thyroid, neck, pelvic area, right thigh, and in almost every area of the body except the brain. The oncologist said she would have weeks to a few months without taking the chemotherapy prescription medications.

My wife reluctantly agreed to the chemotherapy meds. Within hours of taking them, she wished she hadn’t. She was sure death would be better than dealing with the sickness she was now experiencing.

I remembered the managing oncologist’s instructions as she started the medications. He had said she might experience elevated temperature. 104-degrees plus wasn’t elevated; it was extreme. He also said nausea was common. Her nausea was endless vomiting. The doctor had also told me to call him first before taking her to an emergency room at the hospital or calling 911.

I call the doctor. He gave detailed instructions. I felt like I was now a critical care registered nurse. I felt overwhelmed, incompetent, scared, and responsible for my wife. He had me make sure she stayed hydrated. We stopped the chemo meds for a few days. We adjusted the dosages and the way they were administered.

During this time my wife’s oldest sister’s faith in God, calm demeanor and trust in my caring for her sister guided me through the valley of the shadow of death through which I knew my wife was walking. Somehow my bride’s body adjusted to the meds. They were miracle drugs.

Within six weeks, the PET Scan showed no traces of the Melanoma. It stayed in remission from then until a brain tumor was found on December 7, 2017. She never had Melanoma recur anywhere except in the head. Unfortunately, the prescription chemo meds could not cross the barrier into the brain.

During the process with the chemotherapy prescription medications, I saw a fantastic peace descend on both my wife and myself. Yes, it was a God thing. But it also was a family thing. Having sister’s in law that prayed and believed was a blessing. My children’s belief in my ability to care for their mother also helped.

God’s giving me peace of mind and an ability to keep on keeping on was the key. God is faithful. I can testify that I cried out to him and he was there to walk with me through caring for my wife.

Bible Verse

John 14:27 (KJV), “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

What the Verse Means

The verse uses the Jewish form of greeting and blessing. Indeed, the hearers understand this wish for peace. Jesus wishes them the same serenity of soul as he experiences. He leaves this availability of this peace with them.

Jesus lets them know his words are not idle or meaningless. He means what he says. His words are true. Because his words are factual, we should not fear the future.

No matter how difficult the challenges are that you face, stand firm. Remember Jesus paid the price for your comfort, salvation, and redemption.

Prayer Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father thank you for the gift of peace.
  • Lord, I pray my heart would not be troubled.
  • I pray I would not fear as I continue the battle against the chronic illness.

Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Have you asked God for peace of mind? Why not pray for peace of mind now?
  2. Have you turned your fears over to the Lord? He’s listening even now. I encourage you to start listing them. God will hear you.
  3. Being afraid is normal. Thank God for giving you the ability to feel and care.

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog post is adapted from the forthcoming book, “Caregiving: A Biblical Alternative” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.