Still in the fight ……. (February 2013)

I get many things in my electronic inbox. Some are worthy of deletion on sight, some are worthy of reading, and some are worthy of passing along.The following came to me several weeks ago from a local pastor acquaintance of mine, Pastor Steve Sabol. It, like many of his e-mails, is worthy of passing along. Because many of us do not have email, I elected to pass this one along via the Calvary Connexion. Enjoy.

“I have in my possession this letter from a struggling and frustrated brother in Christ. See if you can relate to the cry of his heart…

‘…If I know the will of God, but still can’t keep it, and if the power of my Shadow keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, my Shadow is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?’

Now for the surprise… Those words come to us via the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, chapter 7:17-24. Wow! The author of 13 books of the New Testament, the performer of incredible miracles, and yet he struggled so with his Shadow. Did he give up? Was he fatalistic? Hardly! He finished his lament with these words…

‘The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of my Shadow to do something totally different.’ (Romans 7:25)

You and I can find the same place of grace, confidence and hope that Paul found 2,000 years ago, if we place our dependence on God’s supernatural power and not our own will power. You and I HAVE failed, and often! But let’s look at those failures as practice shots, not death blows. Step up to the plate, the game is still on.”

Amen, Steve. This is a life still being lived, a fight being fought, a goal for which we are still striving. It’s not over, and our Shepherd is not finished with us yet. Grateful for his forgiveness and depending upon him, we press on toward the mark.

Jeremiah’s encouragement

From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing…   [Jeremiah 30:19]

When Jeremiah spoke these words to Judah’s inhabitants, the people had not yet been exiled to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness to the Lord. But dark times were rapidly approaching, and things were soon to get worse before they would get better. In only a few short years, they would witness the frightening slaughter of loved ones and the destruction of Jerusalem as well as their beloved temple. Then the few who survived would be stripped, chained together, and dragged away into captivity. But prior to these terrible events, God gave them the guarantee through Jeremiah’s preaching that He would intervene in their behalf and restore them by reversing their horrible plight, returning them to their homeland, establishing them again as a nation, and filling their barns with bountiful crops. Such great blessings would cause them to celebrate and even laugh, as the word “rejoicing” indicates in the original language.

Israel’s natural blessings then point to spiritual blessings which we may begin to experience now. By faith we can sing the songs of Zion even though darkness is covering the earth. Is He not the same yesterday, today and forever? Weeping and hardship endure for a time, but our God is with us as a mighty Champion, as the Redeemer who saves, as a Father who waits for His children to return to Him and walk obediently with Him. Trust in Him, lean heavily upon His strong right arm, follow His commandments, and wait patiently for His appearing. Celebrate His goodness today and hold to His faithful promises for that which is yet to come.

- by Jean Lewis

Questions at the edge of eternity

When John Todd, a nineteenth-century clergyman, was six years old, both his parents died. A kind-hearted aunt raised him until he left home to study for the ministry. Later, this aunt became seriously ill, and in distress she wrote Todd a letter. Would death mean the end of everything, or could she hope for something beyond? Here, condensed from The Autobiography of John Todd, is the letter he sent in reply:

“It is now thirty-five years since I, as a boy of six, was left quite alone in the world. You sent me word you would give me a home and be a kind mother to me. I have never forgotten the day I made the long journey to your house. I can still recall my disappointment when, instead of coming for me yourself, you sent your servant, Caesar, to fetch me.

“I remember my tears and anxiety as, perched high on your horse and clinging tight to Caesar, I rode off to my new home. Night fell before we finished the journey, and I became lonely and afraid. ‘Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?’ I asked Caesar. ‘Oh no!’ he said reassuringly, ‘She’ll stay up for you. When we get out o’ these here woods, you’ll see her candle shinin’ in the window.’

“Presently we did ride out into the clearing, and there, sure enough, was your candle. I remember you were waiting at the door, that you put your arms close about me-a tired and bewildered little boy. You had a fire burning on the hearth, a hot supper waiting on the stove. After supper you took me to my new room, heard me say my prayers, and then sat beside me till I fell asleep.

“Some day soon God will send for you, to take you to a new home. Don’t fear the summons, the strange journey, or the messenger of death. God can be trusted to do as much for you as you were kind enough to do for me so many years ago. At the end of the road you will find love and a welcome awaiting, and you will be safe in God’s care.”

 - The Autobiography of John Todd

Day 7 without my luggage

Well it’s been an adventure living in Africa with what I carried in on my back. I hadn’t planned it this way of course. I’d LOVE to have more than one pair of underwear for these humid, scorching past seven days, but apparently the 14 pairs I packed decided they preferred NY City to Togo and stayed there for a while.

I hope they at least bring me a t-shirt when they arrive. (Fingers crossed)

In the meantime, it’s almost like I’m African with my one outfit, plus crappy complementary t-shirt Delta gave me to tide me over for A WEEK.

Yesterday, I spent the day with some missionaries who served many years at our hospital in Bangladesh. They are here to train some of the staff who are moving to Mango, a mainly Muslim city where we plan to build a new hospital. As we sat around the dinner table, this elderly couple began talking about living through the war in Pakistan, like it was an RV trip they took across the states. They also told of the oppression they faced from the Muslim extremists, who burned down their church, and threatened their lives many times. At one point the opposition so was strong, men gathered in the market to come and attack the hospital compound. A few minutes later, the sky opened up and poured as they had never seen it rain. For three days the storm raged–so strong and so long that the men gave up and went back home. Shortly after, the Muslim men again decided they would attack the hospital. This time they made it as far as the gate of the compound when the Bangladesh military began practicing maneuvers overhead. The men ran off afraid, assuming the American’s had called their military and the planes were overhead for protection.

Finally, in the last attempt, men began stirring up trouble in the market, announcing they were going to kill the Christians. Weapons in hand, and ready to attack, they loaded into a truck in the market. At the very same time, a bus coming down the mountain into the village lost its brakes, swerved and smashed into the truck, killing some and injuring many of the men–who ironically, were then transported to the very hospital they were about to attack and burn, for treatment.

It is amazing the types of adventures and lives these people have. Yesterday while walking to one missionary’s home for lunch, I heard yelling and saw a gardener heaving rocks. There was a venomous tree snake several hundred yards from me—angry that his nest had been run over by a lawn mower. Men ran from all directions and there was a frantic skipping and yelling dance with the snake, until the 6 foot long creature was finally killed. A few days ago a man was taken to the hospital after being bitten on the head by a puffer cobra; his lips swelled up about the size of a hot dog bun. So no one takes any chances around here when it comes to snakes.

For that, I am thankful.

Today, I did rounds with the doctor and got to go into the isolation ward where a woman is dying of what they think is an a-typical case of rabies. It is a bizarre disease that can lay dormant up to 19 years after you’ve been bitten. This woman had a crazed look in her eye, and was restrained on the bed. The doctors also keep tabs on the spiritual elements of some of these diseases, which present as something like rabies, but after prayer, disappear. There are a lot of fetish priests (witch doctors) in this area, whom people rely on first before trying modern medicine. Coming from the scientific/western background, it is easy to write off the spiritual element. But being here in Africa has shown me that there is some sort of power there, and people are impacted by the rituals, curses, and sacrifices. One of the missionaries was telling me she had a student who would release a blood curdling scream every time someone said “Jesus”, like she was being tortured.

I also sat in on a few surgeries, including a large hernia repair, a prolapsed rectum repair on an 18-month old, and a mastectomy. I was fine until they pulled out the tumor and the doctor opened it to show me the cancer. It was about that point when the room starting spinning and I got really hot. I was soon the girl with her head between her knees in the hallway, trying not to throw up. But I’m proud to say I made it through most of the surgery…and the surgeon expects a full recovery for me!

Now it’s off to Mango, one of the hottest places in the world. Can’t wait to bust out the burka I brought just for the occasion!

Leah

Leah is in Africa working toward the building of a hospital. She is a member of Calvary Church and she works for the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism who is sponsoring the hospital project.   –Editor 

Worthy of Reprint —- “I wish you enough.”


At an airport I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her plane’s departure and standing near the door she said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.” They kissed good-bye and she left.

He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?” “Yes, I have,” I replied.

Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So I knew what this man was experiencing. “Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?” I asked.

“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, her next trip back will be for my funeral, ” he said. “When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?” He began to smile.

“That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. “When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Good-bye.”

He then began to sob and walked away.

———–

My friends and loved ones, I wish you ENOUGH!!!  They say, “It takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.”

Take the time to live!!!

What A Dad

( Luke 15:11-24 )

I wonder who among us hasn’t read through the story of the prodigal son and imagined being one of the characters in the parable.  Years ago I was sitting in church one Sunday listening to my pastor preach a sermon on forgiveness.  I can’t remember the text but I certainly remember the message.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are absolutely certain that the Holy Spirit is speaking directly to you?  This was one of those times.  I was in my late twenties at the time.  I sat there listening, squirming, as the pastor said, “Even if you know the person whom you sinned against has already forgiven you, if you never asked that person for forgiveness, you need to go back and do so.” 

I just knew he was talking to me about my dad.  I had spent too many years being angry with my dad.  My dad had a job that frequently took him out of town when I was in high school.  I had been mad at him, feeling like he missed out on a big part of my life. 

As chance would have it, I had plans to go to my parents’ home after church that day for lunch.  I knew what the Holy Spirit was requiring me to.  I had to speak to my dad.  But more than that, I had to repent, apologize, and ask my dad for his forgiveness.  We sat down at the dinner table, prayed, and began to eat.  I knew that I couldn’t eat a bite before I spoke to my dad.  I said, “Dad, I need to apologize to you for something.  I was so mad at you when I was younger and I didn’t give you the respect that you deserved.  I disagreed with you on everything, for no reason.  I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”

My dad looked at me and said wholeheartedly, “Tim, I don’t remember any of those times.”  I was completely blown away by his reply.  How could he not remember those times?  Then I realized that my dad was acting just like my Father.  He was choosing to forget.  He was choosing to run to me.  He was choosing to throw his arms around me and kiss me.  Never before had I seen so clearly the heart of our Father in the actions of my dad.  That event was a turning point in my relationship with him.

As we continue on this journey of discipleship we need to remember how necessary it is to die to ourselves each day, to respond to the Holy Spirit, and to walk in obedience to Father, just like Jesus did. 

Father, thank you for never giving up on us.  Thank you for keeping watch for us, for showing us Your extreme compassion, for running to us and for welcoming us home.

Carrots, eggs and coffee

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.  She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.

 She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen.  She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire.  Soon the pots came to boil.  In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans.  She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners.  She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl.  She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.  Turning to her daughter, she asked, ‘ Tell me what you see.’

‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.  The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee.  The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.  The daughter then asked, ‘What does it mean , mother?’

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity:  boiling water.  Each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

‘Which are you?’ she asked her daughter.  ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this:  Which am I?  Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat?  Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a marital problem, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff ?  Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean?  The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.  When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. 

How do you handle adversity?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Just Stay — Semper Fi

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside.

“Your son is here.” she said to the old man.

She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened.

He was heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.

“Who was that man?” he asked. The nurse was startled. “He was your father, wasn’t he?” she answered. “No, he wasn’t.” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”

“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”

“I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed.”

The next time someone needs you … just be there. Stay.

“I Wish You Enough”

At an airport I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. Her plane’s departure had been announced, and standing near the door she said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.” They kissed good-bye and she left.

He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied.

Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So I knew what this man was experiencing. “Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?” I asked.

“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have health challenges ahead and the reality is, her next trip back will be for my funeral,” he said. “When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?” He began to smile.

“That’s a wish that has been, handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. “When we said ‘I wish you enough’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with enough good things to sustain them.” he continued, and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

              I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.              I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

              I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

              I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

              I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough ‘Hello’s’ to get you through the final ‘Good-bye.’”

He then began to sob and walked away.

He then began to sob and walked away.My friends and loved ones, I wish you enough!!! It has been said, “It takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.”

Please, take time to live life to the fullest, to appreciate it, and to share it openly with others.

                                                               - submitted by Jacque Banas