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Horse in field at Williamsburg, Virginia

Ronald Reagan – Alzheimer’s Disease

Has Anyone Seen a Phone Booth Lately?

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 KJV

I woke up early this morning. The house was empty, except for me and that funny looking image in the mirror. I wasn’t in the best of moods. It wasn’t that I was in a bad mood. No, I was just a little sad and a little worn down.

I envy those people who don’t have anyone pulling on their cape. Sometimes I think it would be really nice to have those moments where you did the asking for help and someone else wrapped you in their arms and flew you into the land with all the answers.

It’s not that I have all the answers. No, I’m definitely not that smart. Someone once wrote me a note describing me as a person of passion. That probably does a better job of explaining it than anything else. Passion is the big “S’” on my Superman outfit.

It really doesn’t make much difference what it is, passion follows me around like a shadow. I wake up and it is there. I turn to my right and it is there. I peek around the corner and it is there. I even close my eyes real tight, shake my head real hard, but when I open my eyes, you guessed it, it’s still there. The only time it is missing in my life is when it is a cloudy day.

I have passion when I play. I have passion when I work. I have passion when I care. I have passion when I dream. I have passion when I love. When I see someone who is down I want to share my passion in the hopes that it will lift them up. When I know someone can do or be better, my passion kicks in and wants to help them get to where I know they can be. When a job is not being done right or I see a better way, old passion kicks in and often, without even asking, it takes over.

I truly believe passion is a team sport. It’s fun to be with someone who has passion. The job is easier. The love is stronger. Selfishness seems to disappear. Confidence comes out of hiding.

Today is one of those cloudy days. I notice my Superman outfit sitting on the dresser. It is all neatly pressed and ready for me to put it on. I really don’t want to put it on. Instead, I decide to just pick it up and take it with me. Maybe later I will feel like putting it on.

I look over the note that describes my passion. I look over at my Superman outfit. Unfortunately, the note is not an encouraging, thankful note about my passion. I think the person might have been trying to make it sound that way, but the spirit of the letter completely changed in the next line.

The writer of the letter didn’t want to thank me for all the years he has seen me exhibit that passion. The writer didn’t try to convey a respect for my passion. The writer didn’t even try to encourage me, knowing that passion is an exhausting load.

No, the writer wanted to tap into my passion once again. He had another one of those “save the world moments,” and I was just the man for the job. The biggest problem was that I have had several cloudy days in a row and the passion just wasn’t there. I just didn’t know when, or if, the clouds were going to be chased away by the sun. Was the sun ever even going to come out again? Without passion I just don’t seem to fit into that Superman outfit.

He just loved horses. You might say he had a passion for horses. When things got really bad, he would head out to his ranch, saddle up one of those horses and head out over the horizon. It was his getaway, his escape. It also gave him time to think. If there was a big decision to be made you could find him alone riding at his ranch thinking about it.

Very often he was able to make his passion part of his job. Yes, as part of his job, he was sometimes able to ride horses. Many came to admire him, and a little part of that reason might have been the image he portrayed riding those horses.

One day he purchased a horse and named it Nancy D. Nancy D was a beautiful horse. She was also very gentle. She was so gentle that he trusted her with his little daughter Patti. And Patti loved that horse so much.

I know Nancy D was a beautiful horse, because one day an Appaloosa stallion broke through two fences to initiate a relationship with Nancy D. The result ended up being that Nancy D was going to become a mother. Patti was so excited about the possibility of having a cute little foal in the stable. Patti was about ten years old at the time.

Patti’s Dad wasn’t always at the ranch where he kept his horses. He worked in town and that was quite a long distance away. He had a pretty good job, and made lots of money, so he was able to hire Ray to take care of the ranch while he wasn’t around.

One day Patti and her Dad decided to head out to the ranch. All during the trip Patti talked to her Dad about Nancy D. I can hear her now. “Daddy, when is Nancy D going to have the foal?” “Daddy, how long after she has the foal can I ride her again?” “Daddy, do you think the foal will be a girl or a boy?”

When they pulled up into the ranch, near the stables, Ray wasn’t there to meet them like he usually was. Ray loved Patti and her family. He was almost like family himself. Her Dad shut off the car and looked around for Ray. Almost like clockwork, Ray came around the barn and headed toward them.

Ray didn’t have the same pep in his steps that he usually did. Patti looked at her Dad and saw a very puzzled look on his face. She knew something was wrong. She then looked closely at Ray and saw tears running down his face. He seemed to have trouble looking at her Dad in his face.

Ray motioned her Dad to come over out of earshot of Patti. Patti then noticed Ray breakdown and her Dad putting his arms around him to comfort him. He then turned to Patti with a very troubled look on his face.

Patti’s Dad slowly walked back to where Patti was standing. He didn’t look at all like he was bearing good news. Her Dad said to her, “Let’s go for a walk.” “What’s wrong, Daddy?” Patti said nervously.

They walked past the barns and toward the woods. Her Dad stopped for a moment and knelt down beside his sweet little ten year old girl. He said, “It’s Nancy D.” “What? What? What? Daddy! What’s wrong with Nancy D?” she shouted. With firmness in his voice he said, “She died.” Silence walk alongside them as they headed further down the path.

Buckets of tears fell from Patti’s face. Why did this happen? Did God understand how much that horse meant to her? The poor little foal never had a chance to breathe the fresh mountain air or run around in the fields.

Patti turned toward her Dad and noticed that not a tear was falling from his face. She asked, “Daddy, why aren’t you crying?” He put his hand on her shoulder very softly and looked her in the eyes. She saw so much comfort and peace in those eyes. He said, “Because, I’m thinking about all the wonderful times I had with her. We had some great years together.”

The Bible is full of stories about Superheroes. You have stories of men who could divide water so you could walk on dry land. There is a story of a man who saw a huge storm coming, so he built a huge boat on dry land and he would save mankind. There are heroes who tear apart lions and slay giants. Some wrestle with angels. Still another goes unharmed sitting in a hungry lion cage. Then there is the other one who miraculously finds his way out of a big fish.

Each of those characters has a shadow that follows them around. That shadow is passion. Almost without exception, each of those brave heroes also has those cloudy days where their passion is nowhere to be found. When the clouds come in they get discouraged, they get mad, they try do things their way, or they reach out to God about their situation.

We often see God as the answer, or so we think we do. Our life is going along fine. We have no troubles at all, or if we do have troubles, they are troubles that are easy for us to fix ourselves. Then that big thing happens. Then something else happens and something else and something else. Before you know it, you are covered up with things happening. It is more than you can handle.

The solution in those times of trouble is to go to God and have Him fix it. We can’t fix it ourselves so now it is His turn. We are confused by His silence. “Wait, didn’t I just ask You to fix something?” seems to be our questioning. The more upset we become the greater His silence seems to be.

God doesn’t seem to be answering us and we are giving Him all the “correct answers” to fix our problem. We are not asking, we are telling God what the acceptable answers are. We pout. We cry. We jump up and down. We lose faith in Him. We blame Him. In fact, the only thing we don’t do is wait for and listen for Him. His answers are not always our answers.

Ronald Reagan was a very special person. He was the type of person you could totally disagree with and you would still like him. He had a passion inside him that was contagious. He could give speeches that would inspire even his deepest critics. He knew what it was like to wear the Superman outfit.

Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, in “The Long Goodbye,” writes a heartfelt tribute about her father. They didn’t always see eye to eye, especially on some political issues. But she is forced to acknowledge an undeniable fact: her father loved her so much and she loved him so much.

Patti testifies to the fact that the man you saw in front of the cameras was the exact same man she called Dad. He cared. He loved America. He loved his family. He was a man who wore the Superman outfit of passion with honor and dignity. She goes on to tell the story of the long, slow death that comes to a patient with Alzheimer’s disease.

Patti hints that Alzheimer’s is death in slow motion. Slowly, the person you love, loses the memories that you and they once treasured. Your heart is broken as your loved one stares into the deep horizon. It seems like there is something out on that horizon waiting for them. They want to go, but seem paralyzed to take the steps in that direction. They seem to not be able to focus on anything other than that horizon.

Jesus is probably the biggest Superhero in the Bible. He walked on water. He healed the sick with just a touch of His hand. He spoke out for the oppressed. It’s hard to imagine Jesus without His Superman outfit.

If you look closely, though, there are times when Jesus’ Superman outfit seems to be missing. He gets frustrated with his disciples. He tells them, “Come on guys, how much longer am I going to be with you? Please hear what I’m saying.” He chases money changers out of the temple in a fit of rage, because they just don’t seem to get it.

There are two other times we see Jesus without His Superman outfit. One is just before the soldiers come to take Him away for his trial. He is in the garden with his disciples. He decides he needs some time alone. He asks his disciples to stay back and pray for Him. He needs them so much but they just don’t seem to sense how bad He needs them this time. He leaves His Superman outfit with them.

Without His Superman outfit, Jesus is just another human being. He walks a little further into the garden and faces God as just a regular man. He doesn’t want to die. “Please, God, don’t let me die,” comes his cry. But almost without hesitation, He listens to God without offering one solution to his dilemma. He states, “But God, if this is the way You want it to go, I will do what You want me to do.”

The second time we see Jesus without His Superman outfit is when He is on the cross. The guards below are using His Superman outfit as a betting prize. Like they would fit into it anyway. Jesus’ frustration begins to show again. Some of His last words are, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?”

God seems to have gone silent with Jesus. He didn’t give Jesus what He asked for. He didn’t seem to be listening to the demands of the Son who loved Him. Where was He?

Patti opens her book with the horse story. She goes on to explain that her father probably had a much better understanding of death than most people. He realized our time on this earth is short and when it is over, it’s not about the grieving. He believed our lives are about remembering the impact we have on others and the impact they have on us.

As President Reagan’s last day approached, Patti leaned over his bedside and whispered into his ear, “You’ll see Nancy D again. The two of you will go on long rides just like you used to.” I’m sure President Reagan would have been proud that his daughter had learned a lot from one of his lessons.

Sometimes God doesn’t appear to be listening to us. One of our first questions is, “God, where are you?” We don’t understand. I think we misunderstand God when we don’t seem to hear from Him.

When we don’t hear from Him, the way we want to hear from Him, we keep trying to plead our cause. We think He is not listening to us, but I believe God is out planning our victory party.

When Jesus died on the cross, God didn’t abandon Him. No, God was planning Jesus’ victory party. Jesus would now have a Superman outfit He would never take off. There would never be another cloudy day where Jesus couldn’t find His passion.

Like President Reagan tried to teach his daughter, life isn’t about losing our passion. Life is about knowing that one day our passion will never again experience a cloudy day. There is a forever Superman outfit just waiting for you. Are you willing to wait for it?

Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, When my moods get cloudy and I start feeling down, please send Your Son to help me see my passion again. Please help me not to get discouraged about wearing my Superman outfit. Others need me, just as I need others. Thanks for the Superheroes you have sent into my life to rescue me. Amen.

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