Recently I was reading a discussion on face book with pros and cons about miracles of healing. Many vehemently rejected that a loving God would heal some and not others. I remembered my wonderful friend Bobbie. In her early forties she began to have trouble breathing, finally ending up in intensive care on a ventilator. After several specialists told her she was in the last stages of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and would never be able to come off of the ventilator, she asked her family to agree to her stopping treatment, because she didn’t want to spend what little time she might have left in ICU on this machine. Her family didn’t want to do this. That night while Bobbie was in total despair, a woman she hadn’t seen before stopped to talk to her in ICU. She told Bobbie that God loved her and had a plan for her life. To accept God’s love expressed in Jesus and trust God and put her life totally in His hands. She went away and Bobbie never found out who she was, but Bobbie did what the woman said and experienced a love so great that she was able to put her life in God’s hands. Three days later she was home breathing perfectly on her own. She sought a church to try to learn more, since she hadn’t ever belonged to a church, She joined a small Episcopal church of mostly intellectuals. Bobbie was a loving person with great competence in practical things, but had married at 15 and never finished high school. Though she expressed frustration with the complex vocabulary of her fellow Episcopalians, Bobbie became the heart of that little church. She started a clothing give away for the poor. She planted a lovely meditation garden of flowers. She had the whole church over for cookouts. Then, she attended a Cursillo weekend retreat that helped her articulate the love she had experienced and she spent many hours helping with these weekend retreats and others at a near by retreat house. After almost a decade, Bobbie had a heart attack and spent a month in a distant military hospital healing from a by-pass operation that involved removing a large blood vessel from her thigh. Unfortunately, Bobbie’s leg became infected. So, she had to spend six more weeks in a hospital in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber daily, Though far from family through all this, Bobbie’s bright eyes and loving heart made many friends and helped others find hope each day. Some months after coming home healed and regaining her strength, Bobbie and her husband drove to Florida to visit their son. Bobbi began to have pain in her leg on the trip and when she returned had to have surgery for blood clots and a clogged artery in her leg. She ended up with her leg amputated above the knee. She struggled to get a good fit with a prosthetic leg. Once after attending the theater at our Renaissance Center, she asked me to carry the leg for her while she wheeled herself out, because of the pain. So, I carried her prosthetic leg over my shoulder like a gun and followed her to the car. Bobby had an incredible ability to laugh at herself and roll with the punches life gave her. She constantly amazed us with her joy in the midst of incredible challenges. But Bobbie had wounds from childhood that had left her with hard places in her heart. Bobbie had three older sisters and two older brothers. Her father was both an alcoholic and an abuser in every sense of the word. Bobby had survived by often hiding in a sun flower patch at the back of the yard. She hated her father and was glad he died in a fire. Bobbie loved being in her kitchen cooking for others. It was a bright room decorated with sunflowers. It was her safe place. Bobbie liked polishing the brass candles and cleaning the sanctuary at her church as she prayed and meditated. One day while doing this, she felt called to pray for grace to forgive her father. And suddenly, her heart softened and she was able to forgive her emotionally crippled father and even pray for him. She experienced other insights and emotional healing. Bobbie spent two months the next Christmas in the Hospital with multiple health issues and in a great deal of pain. I and other friends took turns spending the night with her, because she had fallen once and often it took so long to get her pain meds, that even never complaining Bobbie was in tears. So, one night when I stayed, I took her a small tape player with ear buds and spiritual music on it to help her get through the times of pain. Bobby had a kind of raspy voice and was not really vocally gifted at all. But in the middle of the night, I heard a lovely soprano voice singing songs of praise. It wasn’t the tapes, it was Bobbie singing along with them.
Bobby never gave up. With a little help she was even able to take up casting pots on a wheel. Her faith and her humor got her through many challenges. But as time passed, it was difficult to drive on her own and handle the wheel chair for the places a lot of walking would be needed. So she was shopping for a handicapped accessible van when she had a heart attack and died on the way to the hospital. Bobbie’s miraculous healing, conversion, years of helping others both concretely and spiritually, her own emotional and spiritual healing, and the ongoing physical illness and challenges she kept her faith and joy through are an incredible witness to the reality that both miracles and suffering are part of life and that with the love of God that is grace, faith and love can grow through it all.
At two weeks Raphael is finally off all tubes. He’s breathing on his own and taking a bottle. His bodily functions are all working. He’s focusing his eyes.
He is still on medicine for seizures, but it is controlling them. His heart showed a flutter over the weekend, but I haven’t heard any more about that. But please keep the prayers going. About five days after he was born the neurologist called and told Raphael’s parents that he would not have known the second brain scan was of the same baby as the first, it was so much improved. When we care and pray for one another, miracles can happen. Thank you all for your caring prayers.
The Love of God is the only thing
of any importance at all.
The Love of God is so incredibly different
and beyond compare
that it boggles our minds to believe in it,
never-the-less accept it.
No matter how much we have been loved
by family and friends,
no matter how famous and wildly adored
by the multitudes,
nothing has ever been more than
a barely glimpsed shadow
of the Love of God.
The Love of God is all that is necessary.
We need nothing more
than to know the unconditional love of God
with our whole mind,
to experience it with an open heart
until our spirit is so filled
with it, that we simply pass it on
by letting it overflow.
We begin to sense this Love of God
when we consider
the possibility that the creator of the universe
chose to walk in our skin,
to experience the frustrating and fearful limits
of being human,
being born under crushing political oppression,
a scorned minority,
bearing physical exhaustion and bodily pain,
of being abandoned and even betrayed
by his only friends,
publicly ridiculed, tortured and killed,
even taking the
leap of faith into the darkness of death
to show us there is more,
because of His Love.
The love of God can free us to see ourselves
exactly as we are,
to accept our own need for forgiveness
without guilt, just true sorrow
that brings a joy that sets us free from fear
and gives us grace to change.
The Love of God begins to free us to forgive
both ourselves and others.
The Love of God heals us of the crippling wounds
that stunt our growth in love.
The Love of God takes our mustard seed of good
and nurtures it with grace.
The Love of God builds our faith and sets us free
to die and live again.
The Love of God is
personal, unconditional, and eternal.
All else fails.
There is nothing greater than
the Love of God expressed in Jesus,
the Love of God for you.
It’s easy to lose sight of God in our lives and when we do, we become vulnerable to idols. These days an idol isn’t a golden calf, it’s anything we become dependent on, other than God. In the book of Jeremiah, God warns that not only will we suffer if we choose worldly idols, but so will our children and even our grandchildren. That part about grandchildren really gets me where I live. Though I don’t hear this as punishment, but rather as a natural consequence. So, let’s consider some modern worldly idols.
A very popular idol is pleasure, which isn’t bad in itself, only when we turn to it instead of God. Pleasures we turn to when feeling insecure or unhappy can vary from sex to jelly doughnuts, but if they become a dependency they lead to adultery or diabetes or other equally bad consequences.
Another potential idol is financial affluence and while there’s nothing wrong with being successful, it can grow into a need that becomes the focus of our lives to the point of destroying our relationships.
An even sneakier idol is an attachment to social acceptance that leads us to surround ourselves only with people just like ourselves, which not only gives us a warped view of the world, but isolates us from those in greater need.
How can we protect ourselves from idols? It’s a discombobulating world and sometimes I feel like the child of Christian friends, who when told to wash his hands muttered: “Germs and Jesus, germs and Jesus! That’s all I hear about around here and I can’t see either one!”
One thing that helps me, I call putting on “God Glasses.” That means consciously working to see God in everything. Surprisingly, the beginning step can even come through finding God in the hard things.
When heart break or pain has kept me awake all night, the first glimpse of morning light coming through the window often brought relief. Recently, after finally getting over several weeks of insomnia from the pain of a broken shoulder, I would wake up momentarily at sunrise each morning remembering that feeling of relief and thanking God with quiet joy that morning had come again and yesterday’s sorrows were behind.
Ever since an ice storm left us without hot water for eighteen days some twenty years ago, whenever I feel that first marvelous spray of a hot shower, I treasure it for a few moments while thanking God profusely.
Some months ago, our hearts were heavy when a beloved grandchild stopped chatting and smiling because she sensed family conflict. Last weekend, she kept me awake once again cheerfully chatting about her favorite books and beamed with glee at trouncing Granddad at UNO. Now, as I go to sleep each night, I cup those memories in my heart with tears of joy and thank God.
Please, while you can still hear birdsong, stop and listen with your heart and thank God for it. Thank God not only for flowers, but the strength to water them and even to cut the grass. Thank God for the joy of that first taste of morning coffee or tea. Age can take all these away from you. Enjoy them now and let them bring you to God. Thank God for faith to pray. What a wondrous gift that is. And definitely thank God for laughter, which will be your saving grace in old age.
Watch, listen and thank. All these small things are the face and voice of God. And more and more you will experience the deep joy of finding Him in each moment. Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. And joy trumps idols every time.
The day of my Spiritual Awakening was the day I saw, and I knew I saw, all things in God and God in all things. A quote from an unknown Author:
Because one of our grandchildren was diagnosed at two years of age as suffering from Autism, I’ve attended many classes and conferences on the subject.
The documentary Looking for Me of dance therapist Janet Adler working with two pretty little girls, who were severely autistic, seems to me to illustrate beautifully what God has done for us by becoming fully human in Jesus.
One of the girls was close to three years old and the other was almost four, when they began therapy. Neither of the girls had ever wanted anyone, even their parents, to hug or hold them or even touch them. They made no eye contact. In fact, they didn’t respond to anyone’s presence except to try to keep their distance.
One little girl walked on her toes while waving or shaking her hands. She was in constant motion. Even when she tired, she would sit on the floor rocking back and forth. The other little girl made strange little movements with her fingers, curling them in and out and shaking her head a lot and sometimes standing, licking the wall. Neither child paid any attention to her own reflection in the mirrors in the large dance room or to the therapist.
The therapist worked with them separately. She put music on and just stood to the side. Slowly she began to copy their movements, watching them carefully, so she could get it right. She skipped around the room on her tip toes along with the one child, but giving her plenty of space. When the child sat down and held herself, rocking back and forth, the therapist sat in front of her, but at a ‘safe’ distance, and did the same thing, until the child did something else. She copied the hand movements of the other little girl and even licked the wall.
This went on for months.
Very gradually, the children let the distance close between her and them, but never touching. Slowly, you see them watching her intently and changing behaviors to see if she would. They began to look less tense and even began to seem to be enjoying the ‘interaction,’ such as it was. Finally, in a breath taking moment, when the therapist and the child are skipping side by side all around the room, we see the child reach out and take the therapist’s hand as they are skipping.
Soon, the other little girl, when she and the therapist were sitting facing each other almost in touching distance, suddenly got on her knees and reached over to put her arms around the therapist’s neck and even snuggled her head on her shoulder.
Both children progressed slowly to sitting on her lap, establishing eye contact, and even feeling her face and body over and over, like a baby learning the shape of her mother. Then and only then, they began to notice themselves in the mirror and to spend time looking at themselves, turning away and coming back over and over. They would touch their reflection, lick their reflection, see their movements copied, touch their own face and body, connecting the feeling with the reflection and finally smile at their reflection. Then, they would move back to relating to the therapist.
In the last video the children would hug and snuggle and smile and laugh and play and dance with the therapist.
The video didn’t say when or whether they began to talk, but it did say that they began to relate to other people also.
Can you imagine the joy of their parents?
Do you think perhaps God’s (and the universe’s) joy is like that, when we finally accept unconditional love and begin to respond?
It seemed to me, that the therapist in reflecting the children, took on their limits. She communicated not only acceptance, but even a valuing of who they were. She spoke their language and walked in their skin with them, freeing them to grow in the safety of that relationship. Finally they were able to generalize from that relationship and risk the vulnerability of relating to others.
It seems to me that God, through fleshing out His love in Jesus, has shown us that he not only accepts us, He understands our humanity from the inside out, that He knows first-hand what a rough gig life is. He says to us, like the therapist to the children, “You are not alone.” Then He loves us gently and patiently into wholeness, or holiness, freeing us to love ourselves in our imperfection, and thus, to then risk the vulnerability of loving one another.
In my seventy-eight years of life I have held the hands of those I love as they died, I have lived to walk again after years of a crippling condition, survived to laugh again after scary strokes, and suffered enough prolonged pain to free me to embrace the relief of death. And I have, in turn, been freed by each of these to experience greater joy in living.
One of the gifts of age is learning not to take the smallest beauty, kindness, insight, or experience of love for granted. I can see the door from here, which reminds me daily that this moment may be the last of life as I know it now. Yet knowing that life’s greatest mystery lies on the other side of that door gives an aura of light around its darkness.
Though I realize that getting through that door may be terribly hard, sometimes I imagine all my atoms, with my spirit now one with the Spirit of All within them, being freed from the limits of my body to join in the dance of eternity. I can almost feel them shooting off joyously into the farthest embraces of the exquisite glory of pure beauty, truth, and love…..in other words, God.
Reflecting on the Body,
you the hand, I the foot
Christ the head, perhaps the heart,
all at times the hidden part,
I let the Scriptures
flood my mind with images,
with suddenly one image,
a moving picture
so harshly real
I gasp aloud.
A person staggers
arms flailing, head jerking
back and forth in spasms,
body parts all pulling
This then, reality,
Christ’s earthly body now.
God, forgive us.
I have Linda Peterson’s book and loved it. But these excerpts testifying to faith in the face of great hardship are particularly powerful. Her book is The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane. It’s been available as an E book and now is out in print
My life has been blessed with the certainty of God’s existence. My brother was born multiply disabled with Rubella syndrome, (a warning to those who do not believe in immunizations.) He was almost deaf, blind, severely developmentally disabled and had a cleft palate, along with several other physical anomalies. My mom spent the first few months of his life sobbing on her bed. It was a confusing time for me as a child…my mom was not available to me, this new creature in my house mewed like a kitten for hours on end, and my dad did everything he could to not be home. Then, one sunny, warm day, my mom sat in the sun parlor on a rocking chair, rocking Curtis as he cried his kitten cry. Then a miracle happened…she was visited by the Holy Spirit. He/she came right on in, with a brightness that far surpassed the…
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(Notes from the September 29th sermon at Cross Point Churches in Nashville, Franklin, and Dickson, Tennessee, USA)
Whatever is in our heart comes out of our mouth. Just avoiding sin by keeping quiet is not God’s goal for us. God’s goal is that we will have and share joy, peace, hope, faith, and love.
Everyone needs healing, no matter how fortunate or together they may seem.
Today in our relationships have our words been healing or damaging? For most of us it will have been a mix of both. Some of us did not experience being built up verbally when we were growing up, so we may be uncomfortable loving in this way. But choosing comfort over building others up is a tragic choice.
The scriptures urge us to build others up according to their needs. This assumes we care enough about others to spend the time and effort to learn their needs.
The challenge for today is to list our top 5 closest relationships and become aware of whether we use words to build those loved ones up, or damage them, or just speak about the weather and safe impersonal things, assuming they know they are loved and admired and appreciated., or do we even speak to them on a regular basis at all?
As parents, our grown children, no matter how old, will still be like drought stricken flowers soaking in our life-giving words of affirmation and love. As grown children, our parents, no matter how old or even forgetful, will also soak up words of love and affirmation that will touch and heal their weary hearts. As spouses are the words exchanged in the frantic mornings or the exhausted evenings only reminders like pick up the laundry or questions as to whether we did? Are our longest conversations “nag lists” or worries about the children or money?
Today, tomorrow, the rest of the week, listen not only to your words, but listen to what’s missing. Are our words, words of life, or words of death, or even just silent deserts?
I do not attend this multi-congregational, non-denominational church, but I do listen to the sermons that are streamed online at 6pm on Sunday nights. This is the 3rd in a series of 6 on relationships. This church balances its words with action. The Dickson congregation meets in the high school auditorium. They pay rent, but also do things like paint the walls and this week they are cleaning up the stadium after the football game. They have adopted a stretch of a local road which they keep clean, they are chopping wood for people who need it for winter, and both adults and children visit nursing homes taking food and crafts they have made. They have outreach to Appalachia and third world countries where their members provide much needed services and supplies. They are beginning a new ministry to victims of slavery.
Their sermons can be heard online at Cross Point Church Nashville, Tennessee at 6pm each Sunday by clicking on Messages.
Once again, a miracle: I, of the erratic memory, did remember to join in praying for peace this Sunday evening. I am unexpectedly peaceful about being a part of this. I decided long ago that inner peace is quiet joy. And that is exactly the gift this experience brought me. I got so caught up in prayer and reflection that I lost track of time. Prayer for both my own and others’ broken relationships stretched out as I thought of more and more needing healing. When I reached the stage of praying for peace for all people, because of my own recent experience of reconciliation, I actually felt hopeful that events small or large would begin to happen in the lives of every person to help them become a tiny bit more peaceful. It made me want to not only persevere, but to gather more and more others to commit to praying for peace on a regular basis.
This year, when Kozo, through his ‘B4Peace’ blogging project, invited us all to begin blogging about peace at least once a month, it challenged me to become more open and committed to the healing of some broken personal relationships. My most serious alienation happened about two years ago and had not only gone unresolved, but had caused complications with other relationships. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but if I was going to write about peace, I needed to at least start dealing with my own conflicts.
As I began praying for the grace to let go of my bitterness and allow God to heal the hurts that fed it, I was invited by friends to participate in a Spiritual Growth Class based on the book, Soul Feast, by Marjorie Thompson. I read the book and found it challenging and exciting, but one of the two facilitators of this class would be the man whose words had both wounded me and set off the very painful chain of events that resulted in more broken relationships. It hit me that this might be the answer to my prayer for grace and healing, so I joined the class, but chose a seat safely far down the long table from my adversary.
For several months, we managed to interact civilly, but cautiously. We tiptoed around anything relating to our controversy, while finding shared ideas on spirituality. I could tell that both of us were truly trying to apply the insights in the book.
Out of the blue, a conflict developed between my male nemesis and the female co-facilitator. He quickly became so defensive and verbally combative, that she left in the middle of the class. No one knew what to do, but when he began to just go on with the class, as if nothing had happened, I asked if we could pray for our friend who was hurting. I said that I didn’t believe any of us really wanted to hurt each other, but Christians or not, conflicts happened, and we all needed grace for healing. We said a simple prayer for healing of hurt and then we went on with the class.
Within two days time they had reconciled completely. He had called her after class. Though she didn’t take his call while she was still furious, by the next day, she had prayed her way through to understanding and forgiveness, and so had he when she went to see him.
As I witnessed this, I immediately realized that I should have gone to him soon after being hurt, explained how I felt, and trusted God to give us the grace to overcome our differences. But, I also recognized that I hadn’t, because he had unwittingly blundered into my worst minefield of insecurity. Now, in praying about and coming to grips with that particular personal demon, I finally experienced a greatly needed new freedom. Then, I was not only able to reconcile with him, but to share with our class how powerful seeing the human frailty of our co-facilitators being healed by their commitment to love was.
I don’t think any words in a book or sermon could have had that power. We really are called to flesh out the gospel for others, not by pretending to be perfect, but by our commitment to forgiveness. I am now praying and working on reconciliation of the other broken relationships set off by this one. Thanks again, Kozo for challenging me to do this.