A missed opportunity to minister

James 1:2-8 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Perhaps it is a weakness in my character that requires refinement?  To witness the love of Christ to others in our times of trial serves as both a powerful witness for Christ and perfector of our own faith.  Heck, with the amount of suffering I have endured, I don’t want any of it to be wasted.  Or repeated!  So today I wonder if it is possible that I have missed one particular situation of opportunity:  the Emergency Room.  Finally my broken heart has calmed down enough to consider the possibility . . .

Ten times I have landed in the ER in the past 4 1/2 years.  The first time was at the beginning of this illness with the viral hepatitis that started it all.  The next nine trips were all for wretched, continual seizure attacks that would not stop.  Most times the ER Docs could get them and the pain that accompanied them to stop with a combination of fluids and some kind of medication.  Often the medication made me worse.  Usually I would walk out of there about 5 hours later as a beaten puppy with an exhausted husband faithfully at my side.  And sometimes I even got a break in the convulsive episodes for some of the subsequent 24 hours.  This became less true with each subsequent visit.

Twice during my severe distress, barely able to punch out a few words when having difficulty breathing and my “brain on fire,” I have sworn at the person who I thought was not helping me.  Not cool.  Even a person with Tourette’s Syndrome or senile dementia has some responsibility to try to find reasonable means to communicate his or her needs.  My frustration got the best of me and I forgot who I belong to in Christ.  I forgot Who was in charge those nights in the ER.  I forgot who allowed these refining fires into my life for my highest good.  I lost the image He gave me of His tears as He hung from the cross for me.  I ceased to remember the gifts, the crown of glory that awaits those who are in Christ Jesus.  I certainly did not remember that even these ugly things were working together for my good (Romans 8:28) even when amongst the staff at the hospital.  And my witness for the One Who saved me was tarnished for sure.  In my own strength, I failed to get my needs met and failed to minister.  We left this past Friday night with me weeping, still seizing, and unable to walk . . .

Sure, I am human:  weak, limited in strength and in power.  I pray and my husband prays continuously for all aspects of this illness.  I submit to the will of Christ.  I could also describe for you the victories, the growth, the good things that have happened amidst the traumatic.  For example, Friday night after an IV treatment for chronic Lyme disease was supposed to be for salvaging what remained of my birthday.  That did not happen when I spent the evening in the emergency room.  I was sick all day on Saturday and Sunday.  Even so there were sweet gifts at dusk on each of those days and in the morning on Monday when I got to work in my garden again; for that I am grateful.  My spirit soars out there dontcha know . . .

Here is the scripture that is convicting me on a Tuesday.  See if you can follow where my heart, where my spirit has led me:

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (NIV)

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Such is the opportunity for ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for those who suffer.  It’s not all about us.  My Lord, help me in your grace to use the witness of Your own life and the apostle Paul who wrote these words to strengthen my own ministry in times of need for your glory.  I have failed and want to do as You would have me do no matter what happens to me.  Please strengthen my beloved Steve as well.  Thank you for his care, love, and companionship in the best of times, the worst of times.  Bless him oh please.  He has been so good to me.

1 Peter 5:4, crown, glory, submit, His will, crown of glory, thy will be done, purpose, suffering, hope, Jesus Christ, reward, heaven

 

 

It’s just not my turn that’s all

Another day slipped into history as I pondered the gratitude I felt for a recent task accomplished.  It’s no matter that the wrapping of Christmas presents got done from about 2 to 6 in the morning on Saturday.  That’s just how I roll these days . . .

Social media is one of the ways that I employ to counter the tremendous isolation I experience while overcoming a serious illness.  I used to be shy about it.  Many folks write about their need for a sabbatical occasionally when Facebook and the like become too big of a time eraser.  My life is structured differently I guess . . .

My brother, Michael, often talked about the support he felt from fellow poker players online.  Really?  How can you experience anything valuable from an anonymous side chat in a gambling venue of penny poker through the internet?  Flash forward ten years.  Now I get it.  Mike was home all of the time caring for our mother who was struggling with lung cancer, chemotherapy, and alcoholism.  The things that he endured were very difficult.  He would say that he never knew what he would find when he returned home from running out to the store or anywhere at all, making it difficult to get things done.  Those little touch points with his fellow poker players gave him the assurance he needed to do what he had to do the rest of the day . . .

Should life return to “normal” one day for me then my time spent here with you will naturally diminish.  I’ll be sleeping in the wee hours of the morning instead of wide awake in the recovery phase of a hellish nightmare earlier that evening.  I have already grieved about it, the loss I mean.  So much time has passed with so little getting done in my own life.  Perhaps the tasks that have been completed are not measured on a calendar or my “To Do List?”  For those in Christ Jesus, we know that to be true.

Romans 8:28, encouragement, encouraging scripture, all things work together for good, hope, hang in there

Another example is how I finished reviewing a copy of a canoe and kayak paddling magazine last night for which my husband is the Editor.  I guess I can now add “Assistant Editor” to my resume for my contributions to the first four issues.  Cool beans.  I could list a bunch of crafty Christmas things that I would rather be doing yet that was not my calling for those hours.  Many will be blessed by this sacrifice including me.

Ever feel this way when sidetracked from your dreams, Gentle Reader?  In ways big and small we may struggle to discipline ourselves to do the tasks we must do when our hearts are in another room or time zone.  Know what I mean?

The bottom line for me on this subject tonight is that the sooner I rest in the promises of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the sooner I will realize that I am perfectly where I need to be.  He will provide everything I need from the breath that is not coming easily to the assembly of a Christmas gift still in boxes strewn here and there.  I know from another tumultuous time in my life that the Lord does answer our prayers in due time.  The waiting, the setbacks, the anticipation make the rewards sweeter.  How can I expect to make it to the finish line with style and grace if I give up on the last leg of the race?  I will not!

So don’t you give up on me either, k?  And please hang tough if you are going through challenging times as well.  If you need to cry out for help then please do so NOW.  Our God promises in His Word that:

The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed.

Psalm 41:3  New King James Version (NKJV)

He will see us through to our last breath if we but call upon His name.  My Heavenly Father has done so for me a thousand times.  He will do so for you too.  Tonight I am praying for us both.  JJ

Dog in bed

Who will save us?

9/11, 9.11, 9.11.01, September 11th, terrorist attacks, remembering 9/11, Christian response, hope in tragedy, Twin Towers, Pentagon, fields of Pennsylvania, rainbow over NYC, rainbow on eve of 9/11, rainbow over New York City
Bern Sterner rainbow over New York City as captured on the CBS Evening News during the Eve of September 11, 2001

I watched the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 unfold live on t.v. I will never forget. I will also never forget the chivalry of Mayor Giuliani and President Bush, our law enforcement, firemen, and countless volunteers who rushed to the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the field of Pennsylvania to help.  The event consumed Americans for a very long time. 

The United States of America mourned and prayed. We became more secure for a time.  We rebuilt and life carried on.

Then we became complacent again while Satan got a foothold.  He played on our fears, our vulnerabilities whilst taking away our sense of reason, patriotism, and reverence for God. In due time we opened ourselves up to new threats that will someday bring us to our knees again perhaps more severely — I am sure of it.

Who will save us from this evil? There is only one answer for all of us.  The answer has nothing to do with our leaders and our public policies.  No new world view or world order will stop it.  The answer begins in our hearts:  believing in the One Who transcends this evil.

Who will save us?  Jesus Christ, that’s Who.  He is the only One with the power to overcome evil.

(That’s a period at the end of that last sentence.)

JJ

Who will carry me?

It’s easy to bemoan the slide of morality in the United States recently escalated by the legalization of gay marriage.  What is natural to the human body has now been publicly adulterated by the unnatural.  The institution of marriage, which was created by God, has been changed by a few willful and unlawful men who did not even create the institution of marriage.  Alas another door has opened in our lives that will ultimately hurt everyone when his or her rainbow-colored eyes finally open to see it.  But most of us will never see the damage coming until it is too late . . .

When the truth, the pain of what we have done to ourselves is revealed, we will mourn.  Others will mourn the horror of what our complacency, our tolerance has produced.  Further, things will go horribly wrong even for those who believe that free living is right:  things that they could only imagine in a sex-slave murder mystery will come into their reality and hurt them too.  And those of us who have attempted to shine a light or sound an alarm on the moral decline will realize that what we have tried to do could never be enough to change unbridled evil.  Eventually, we all will grieve but for very different reasons.

So who will carry all of our tears?  Who will carry your grief and mine?  “Who” indeed.

boy and wheelbarrow, trees down, storm damage, carry, wheelbarrow, burdens, Lord carried me, Lord carried me, Footprints in the Sand
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Five-year old Braxton Davis joined the work crew 6.27.15 at Opechee Way and Nokomis Road, using his toy wheel barrow to remove leaves after a large tree fell in the front yard of his house at the Indian Village intersection.

The cute picture above denotes how we have trivialized the important issues of our day.  The picture above denotes how we have traded our core values and beliefs for a picture of life that feels good in the moment.  We have minimized the significance, the impact that our actions, our public statements, our private thoughts, the work of our hands can truly have in the larger picture of life.  These are not a small issues.  Eventually the magnitude and truth of who we are is always revealed.  Eventually a tiny wheel barrow carried by a child that is supposed to help us feel good about hundreds of thousands of dollars of storm damage will be crushed by the tsunami of horror headed our way.  Our world will never be the same for you and me beginning the events of June 26, 2015.

We cannot fix this.  No one individual, you or me, can carry us through to a better future. No one:  no President, no preacher, no crafty writer, no partner, no one can fix what is coming for us or carry our wheelbarrow of tears.  We are alone to face the consequences of these actions.  If we want the pain, the grief to stop then we will have to take our sorrow somewhere many of us have never gone before . . .  But where?

We understand the dilemma inside our own home too, in another way.  Last night was hell for me and Steve.  In the middle of 3 1/2 hours of  continuous convulsive episodes, I struggled to squeak out a request for him to carry me to the bathroom.  I was also in the middle of a 24-hour urine hormone test procedure so imagine my shame in trying to figure out what to do when my hands or legs were not working right.  Neurological collapse had settled in.  Gratefully as soon as he got me upright and helped me with a sip of water, I could use my hands well enough to position the urine cup myself when sitting on the toilet.  I was able to get the sample and dump it into the collection receptacle resting in the bottom of the tub next to the toilet.  Steve then helped me back to bed just in time for the next round of head-banging, wailing, tears, and terrible pain.  And so it went for the sixth night in a row.

I am grateful that when Steve is home, he is very capable of carrying me.  He has done so a hundred times.  He has held me through the ugliest of moments, fed me, clothed me, prayed, and artfully let his deft gallows humor fly at just the right moment in time when we both needed it!  Then there were the thousands of times when he was not there and I still needed help.  I needed to get to the bathroom but my legs would not move.  My throat was parched from cries of sheer angst, hyperventilation, sweats episodes, and chronic dehydration.  I wondered if my next breath would arrive or not.  My tummy growled for hours and I could do nothing to satisfy the hunger.  My brain became too numb to figure out what was in my ability to do or not anyways.  Oh the neck pain from the seizing!  Fearful thoughts, not my own, pushed into my mind by force of some electrical misfiring that goes with seizure activity.  And I cried deeply, feeling alone.

In those moments, Jesus Christ carries me (John 16:32).  I am not alone!  Jesus Christ carries and equips Steve over and over again for the tasks at hand in our marriage (1 Peter 4:10).  Jesus Christ will also carry those who do not know him whenever, wherever they finally reach out for help (Psalm 10:17).  Our God, Jesus Christ, is worthy of our reach since He created us out of love:  shown to all as He grieved bloody tears for our sorrow, our pain (John 11:35) that we endure in this life.  He existed before the time, space, and material that characterizes our lives (John 1:1-4) and is the very reason that we are here.  He loves us more than we can ever imagine and is always here for us, no matter what is going on around us (or within us!) (Matthew 28:20).

Further, we can never say that what freedoms we want, doubts we have about our lives, or the philosophy in our own minds will have anything to do with Who God is.  God, the triune Holy Spirit, Father, and Son (Jesus Christ), is separate from mankind and is not subject to the constraints of this earthly life.  Our ideas simply cannot match up. We will never fully understand Who He is with our finite minds so rejecting Him won’t get you anywhere worthwhile.  The answer to our questions, our unmet needs in life is belief.

Because we are finite, we must place our belief in that which is infinite:  true yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The only entity that is infinite is God.  He never changes.  He is perfect, all-knowing and we are not.  We can reach out to Him in with our tears, know that He cares (Psalm 139:17-18), know that He has our back (Jeremiah 29:11), and live on with hope for tomorrow amidst our trials, our heartache.  It follows then that our victory over the heartaches of this life is in Christ alone:  the Son of God.  Jesus Christ, manifest in His Word (the Bible), reflected in His creation, and felt through the longing inside our hearts, is not bound by our limited view of the world.  Jesus transcended this life when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.  Jesus Christ will “carry” each of us through the mysteries of life to a better place when we place our trust in Him (John 3:16).

Our Lord Jesus Christ made the difference for me and Steve last night and a hundred other horrible nights.  Jesus Christ will make the difference for you too in everything, Gentle Reader, whether you choose to believe in Him now or at another time.  But why wait?  Why not enjoy His transcendent peace, love, joy, hope, and more right now?

For the believer in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t really matter for our future, what is going on around us in the world right now.  We will live infinitely longer in heaven with God than the time it takes to complain about a Supreme Court decision.  Join me in doing what we can to love people, all people.  Reaffirm in our minds that we ultimately place our trust in only one place:  the Person of Jesus Christ.  He is the One Who matters most.  He is the One who will carry us from here into our blessed eternity with Him.  And that is a celebration worth waiting talking about!

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.  (Jude 17-21)

The Lord is the one who carries me for sure.  What do you say we go together?

With love, JJ