Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finger Pointing when God Doesn't Heal

I haven't forgotten how I felt on that fall afternoon many years ago. Some weeks prior to that afternoon my husband and I were involved in a pretty serious car accident.  The injuries I sustained required a difficult, painful time of recovery.  There was nothing easy about the following months but that's a story for another day!  Many people were praying for me and our family asking Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals, to show up and do what only He can - make me well again quickly. 

That afternoon a friend stopped by our home.  She asked if she could pray for me.  I was happy for all the prayers I could get!  She prayed and asked God to intervene and bring healing and restoration. When she finished her prayer, she immediately asked, Are you healed  I knew I wasn't.  No healing miracle took place during her prayer. I said, No.

That was when the finger pointing began.  When I said NO, she said, Well, you just don't have enough faith.  I was astonished and offended. 

I pushed back with a question:  That's an interesting conclusion for you to draw.  Tell me, how is it that I am not healed because I do not have enough faithI know that you recently prayed for Mr. X [a certain famous someone who had a spinal cord injury after being shot].  You went to see him just like you came to see me today.  You prayed for him just like you prayed for me today.  He is still in his wheelchair.  He also was not healed when you prayed.  Is that what you told him after your prayer - that he did not have enough faith? 

O, No!  she said.  He wasn't healed because it didn't serve God's greatest good for him to be healed at this time.  I was startled!  I was angry!  I was not healed due to my lack of faith!  It was my fault!  The other person was not healed - not due to lack of faith but rather due to the plan and purpose of God.  The only difference I could see between the two of us by her measure was that he was famous and I was not.

Sorry, but the God I know doesn't operate that way!  He doesn't pick and choose only the wise, the wonderful, the rich, the famous on whom to bestow His favor! He says, I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (Rom. 9:15)  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things ... so that no one may boast before Him. (1 Cor. 1:27-29) 

I took a deep breath, looked her straight in the eye and said, I agree that God does not heal at times because He has a greater plan.  But, my friend, faith is a gift from God.  Faith isn't something I conjure up or manufacture. (Eph. 2:8)   I know that God does not heal when He doesn't for His own good purpose and plan.  God does heal when He does also for His own good purpose and plan.  Healing comes from Him.  Healing depends on Him.  When God doesn't choose to heal me or anyone else, He has His reasons and that is enough for me! 

What a terrible burden to dump on a person in the middle of pain and loss - it's your fault! 

You aren't strong enough or spiritual enough to get what you need!  Pointing fingers, placing blame on the person God doesn't choose to heal is deeply wrong!  Point your finger at God if you must. Place the blame on Him.  He makes His plan.  He works His plan.  He walks with you and me in the pain.  Maybe He changes the circumstances.  Maybe He doesn't, but whatever He does is about Him.  It's His choice!  That's a very, very good and comforting reality!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Where is THE CHURCH?

Kids with IDD [intellectual developmental disabilities] pose a greater risk of sexual deviancy. They pose behavioral risks that hinder a youth group's normal functioning, making it difficult to minister unless they are removed-- an anonymous pastor  [for good reason, in my opinion]

There is a LOT of very sad news today:  Robin Williams committed suicide, ISIS is on the march in Iraq, Christians are under attack in many corners of the world, Ukraine is an explosion waiting to happen, and much more!  It sounds simplistic to summarize that we live in a totally broken world, but it's the truth!

For all the issues, THE CHURCH of Jesus Christ (His invisible body) MUST be the first in line! 
We must speak into hearts in desperate despair like Robin Williams'.  He gave such joy to so many people, and yet his own heart was so dark that he couldn't take it anymore because the pain just screamed for relief.

We must give and pray and even go to be on the frontlines where we can to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to people hated, displaced, and hunted for their faith!  Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse is on the front lines in Iraq providing shelter tents for many of the refugees who fled with only their lives.  I was so struck with the truckload of cradles just like this one I saw being unloaded in the tent city Samaritan's Purse is erecting in Erbil, Iraq.  What a sweet touch!

Two families who are friends have just in the last few days returned to ministry in Ukraine.  They have no idea what the future holds, but that's where God has planted their feet so there they stand to be salt and light in a very dark time for Ukraine. What the future holds only God knows for sure! 

All that and more seems far away and only comes close on our computer screens.  Then I read a quote like the one above from a pastor, no less, and my heart cracks more!  How can we EVER measure ministry by risk alone?  Of course, we need to be wise and prayerful, but LIFE itself is a risk from start to finish!  If we ever hope to walk in the steps of Jesus and do ministry the way He did, we can't sit behind a desk or hide with our technology and talk about  behavioral risks and IDD as an excuse for not living and loving as Jesus did! 

It was pretty risky from a human view for Jesus to land on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee on a dark night.  But, Jesus had a Divine appointment:
They went across the Sea of Galilee to the area of the Gerasenes. Jesus got out of the boat. A man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. The man lived in the tombs. No one could keep him tied up anymore. Not even a chain could hold him. His hands and feet had often been chained. But he tore the chains apart. And he broke the iron cuffs on his ankles. No one was strong enough to control him. Night and day he screamed among the tombs and in the hills. He cut himself with stones. - Mark 5:1-5
Jesus touched the leper. 
Jesus made blind eyes see. 
Jesus opened deaf ears. 
Jesus raised the dead. 
He didn't shrink with fear or disgust nor did he calculate risk. 
He calls us to be like Him! 
If we do ministry like He did, then it's messy and risky and has eternity in view!  And, the same Spirit who was in and with Jesus walks with us in ministry even and especially when it's messy and risky!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Heaven's Gate

Two years ago this morning marked the end of one of the sweetest experiences of my lifetime.  With my siblings (except for my brother Ed who had already walked through death into everlasting life) and most of our spouses, I spent ten wonderful days walking my wonderful Daddy right up to the gate of Heaven!  It was truly amazing, and a model for the death experience in a Christian family if circumstances permit.

I know circumstances don't permit in every case.  That August Saturday 23 years ago when Ed walked into Heaven, I was 3 states away and only got there after he was gone. His death taught me a lesson about death: that death (especially when it appears untimely from a human perspective) is HARD!  Ed was a Marine of Marines!  He was many other things too and my closest sib in age.  He had served in combat in many war theaters including Vietnam for 3 "tours" including one while he was still a midshipman at the US Naval Academy but that's an interesting story for another time.  He had stared death in the face with nary a scratch. 

Three weeks after he retired from the USMC he was bush-hogging his pasture on the farm where he retired with his family in NC.  He didn't know his life on this earth was almost over that Saturday morning.  He planned to begin the next phase of life with a new job and to continue building his farmhouse.  God had other plans:  the tractor turned over and crushed his chest.  He was in Heaven a few hours later. We celebrated his life and worshipped our great God who gave him life and then took it away at his memorial service a few short days later!  At the end of that service, we sang Handel's Hallelujah.  It was Hallelujah time even when it didn't feel like it!

22 years later on an August Tuesday we celebrated eternal life again at my dad's memorial service.  We sang hymns.  We were comforted with God's Word and truth as two sons-in-law pastors and another pastor led us.  We remembered a life well-lived!  For me, the memorable thing about Daddy's Heaven journey wasn't that worship service.  It was the days leading up to it.

July 26 my brother called and said Daddy had a large sub-dural hematoma (blood clot on his brain).  They were moving him to the main hospital and operating as soon as possible.  We begin the trek from Pittsburgh to SC early the next morning and went straight to ICU.  And, so it began........

Mother and Daddy were living in my sister's home.  After the surgery it became increasingly apparent that Daddy wasn't going to climb the huge mountain back to a measure of health.  It was just too steep a climb with advanced Parkinson's and all the rest!  A week later on August 1st we took him home in an ambulance with hospice. 

In the hospital and at home we were Team Robeson.  We walked shoulder-to-shoulder, heart-to-heart watching the winding down of Daddy's life on earth.  We prayed.  We sang hymns.  We cried.  We hugged.  We talked and remembered.  We said many things to Daddy and each other - those things of the heart that need words.  And, then early Sunday morning, August 5th, we all stood around his bed with our dear mother and waited at Heaven's gate for him to take that final step from this life to the next!

Death is what it is.  It was never meant to be in God's good creation.  Sin brought death.  And so, we all die.  But, for those who walk with Jesus who trust in Him ALONE, He is the Way to eternal life!  That's the comfort beyond death, and it IS enough!
*picture is from newspaper shortly after Daddy's return from war.  He is holding his Japanese sword and me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Running on Fumes!

Are you a care-giver for someone with special needs - your child, spouse, friend or other?  If so, you know exactly what I'm talking about - running on fumes!  There's just not much left to give!  Respite or relief seems too far away to get there on the fumes. You begin the day more weary than you ended yesterday!  The days blur as they run one into another.  The needs remain the same or become greater.  It's just plain hard, and there's no gas in your tank!

The details are unique to your situation.  I don't have a special needs child in my home.  I do have a mother who lives many states away with rapidly advancing Alzheimer's. I am certainly not on the frontlines involved in her care. But, I do a LOT of care-giving!  That's what most of my life is about.  That's especially hard when there are only fumes in the tank. So, I get that part!

As a pastor's wife, I can't hide from people needs. My heart won't let me! Believe me that I have LOTS of stories of care-giving over the years.  Some of them are pretty messy! Some are short; some are VERY long!  Often there is no one else to help shoulder the need for even a little while!  And, always there's that running on fumes thing!

People talk about boundaries - healthy ones!  That's great, but once you or I are signed on for duty especially care-giving, there are few options beyond just doing what needs to be done even when you're running on fumes! Tired is a reality but quitting or just checking out to rest may not be an option for many care-givers.  The needs that require care-giving don't take a vacation!  They just keep coming day in and day out.

I don't have the answer for the running on fumes thing!  And, I have struggled for 5 days with how to end this post!  That's how low I am running on fumes!  THEN this morning it came to me:  even Jesus came to the running on fumes part.  That was when He knew He had to recharge/refill so He would trudge off and up a mountainside to be alone and pray!  He didn't have disposable time to go on a retreat or something.  People needs pressed Him on every side all day every day!  He sacrificed more and went without sleep to get alone and pray!  But, the end result was that His Father supplied the fumes problem every single time.  He will do the same for me and you!