God is Real–Part Four

How do I know God is real? I’ve experienced Him in extraordinary ways; it’s as simple as that. To read what I’ve written in previous posts of this series, click here:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)

Here is another example of my experience with God, proving Himself real to me.  Years ago I had a skiing accident and tore my ACL.  It was repaired and I recovered well, with the help of physical therapy.  Then, several years later (perhaps 20 years ago now) I went to a couple’s home for a farewell party and their dog came running out to greet us.  Since it was heading towards my bad knee I twisted to avoid it.  Just like that, my knee gave out, for the first (and only) time since surgery.  I couldn’t walk on it and was soon in surgery for an arthroscopic procedure to see what was injured.  The ACL was broken loose and balled up in the center, so the doctor removed it through the tiny incision.  I was supposed to undergo physical therapy for a few weeks, recover from the surgery, and then have the ACL repaired.  For a while I was getting better, and no longer needed to use crutches.  But after about six weeks I realized I was getting worse again and eventually had to use crutches again, due to the pain.  Surgery was not possible until we could discover what was going on with the knee.  After bone scans, a spinal tap and more physical therapy, it was decided that my knee had developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I understand it, it’s a nerve related disease with no apparent reason for the pain (it is now known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).  It has to do with messages being relayed by the nerves back and forth from the brain.  We decided against knee surgery to repair the ACL and, in fact, my knee was very stable, surgery didn’t seem necessary, and it was not recommended with this new problem of pain.

Now fast forward a few years.  They had said that “RSD” could develop anywhere in my body, and when I needed surgery in both shoulders for bone spurs, they were reluctant to do the procedure, and put it off as long as possible, for fear that RSD would develop.  But the pain was getting worse and we eventually decided to do one shoulder; the result was great.  We waited six months; I healed up from the surgery and had no RSD causing further problems, so we decided to do the other shoulder.  However, as soon as I began to recover from the second surgery, I became aware of the fact that “RSD” was now in several areas–both knees, my neck, and both shoulders.  I couldn’t reach for items in the kitchen cabinets without deep pain; it hurt to open a door or even carry a purse.  I could hardly function in normal ways.  One night, I prayed to God, “I can’t handle this.  You’re the only One that can heal me, and I ask you to heal me.  I can’t function.”

Lo and behold, when I awoke in the morning the pain was gone, 100%, even in my knee.  I knew I didn’t need to take the Tylenol that I has been taking each morning.  There was NO pain.  I didn’t take anything for over a month.  And then the pain returned, but only in the knee.  Why?  I believe He allowed the pain to return in one area in order to remind me that everyone has some kind of pain.  Think about it:  you do somewhere–relational, financial, spiritual, or in some other area.  Somebody you love has died, or will die soon.  Some relationship is not quite what you’d hoped it would be.  Parenting is hard.  Jobs are difficult.  You’re frustrated with politics or the church or your community.  Everyone has pain.

I’ll never forget the fact that God healed me overnight, and that it lasted a full month.  I’ll never forget that others around me are hurting, too.  I’ll never go running to another doctor to see if he or she can heal my knee; I already know that God is the One who can heal it, and He will if He chooses.  Previous to this I had gone to many different doctors and was receiving suggestions coming from lots of people about how to find healing.  I no longer need to run around to every doctor and clinic.  I’m OK with the pain; I can live with it and be thankful every day that it isn’t my back, or a more serious condition.  I use a great knee brace when standing for any length of time.

Do I ever go to doctors any more?  Of course, but I’m no longer looking for answers to this knee problem.  Why doesn’t God heal every disease and pain for good?  I don’t know.  He will when we arrive in Heaven, assuming we have trusted Him with our lives and salvation.  But I do know, for certain, that He’s real.  I’ve experienced His instantaneous healing more than once.  A month without pain was heavenly, literally; how much better will the real place be!

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A Question

Today’s video features West Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International and a specific question.  It’s a heartbreaking story to hear of the abuse he endured as a child, and how his experiences caused him to be who he is today.  He became a strong advocate for children who don’t have a voice against such abuse, and against a world of poverty and hardship.  Please listen to this story carefully and you will understand what Compassion is all about and how you, too, can be a voice for children. Watch to the end and you’ll hear what the specific question is.

Wherever There is Pain

It’s time to review my Word of the Year again for 2015 — the word is “Pain.”  It has been an interesting word for me to follow.  Here are more of the quotes I wrote down this year:

Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world.  Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.  –Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 341

It’s clear in Psalm 126 that the one who wrote the psalm and those who sang it were no strangers to the dark side of things.  They carried the painful memory of exile in their bones and the scars of oppression in their backs…A common strategy for achieving joy is a change of scenery.  Eliminate the things that hurt.  Get rid of the pain by numbing the nerve endings…Get rid of disappointment by depersonalizing your relationships.  Then try to lighten the boredom of such a life by buying joy in the form of vacations and entertainment.  There isn’t a hint of that in Psalm 126.  Those who went off with heavy hearts came home laughing, with armloads of blessing.  There’s plenty of suffering in life for everyone.  The joy comes because God knows how to wipe away the tears and create the smile of new life.  This joy isn’t dependent on our good luck in escaping hardship.  It isn’t dependent on our good health and our avoidance of pain.  Christian joy is actually in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness, and misfortune.  –Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 910-911

Crushed with Pain

Here are the final quotes this week on my Word of the Year — “Pain.”  I have certainly been experiencing this word recently, both due to physical pain and emotional pain for the deaths of others we have seen recently.  I’m so thankful God has been faithful to give me just the encouragement I need each day, even in the midst of painful circumstances.

Note:  This is what the Prophet Micah said to Jerusalem, just before they were taken away captive to Babylon, due to their persistence in bowing down to idols.  I love Eugene H. Peterson’s translation of this verse in The Message:

Well, go ahead — twist and scream, Daughter Jerusalem.  You are like a woman in childbirth [i.e., in pain].  You’ll soon be out of the city, on your way and camping in the open country.  And then you’ll arrive in Babylon.  What you lost in Jerusalem will be found in Babylon.  God will give you new life again.  He’ll redeem you from your enemies.  — Micah 4:10 [MSG]

Judgment is painful.  But the pain is purposeful.  It isn’t like the pain of passing a kidney stone and having nothing to show for it.  It’s more like the pain of childbirth in which you have everything to show for it.  After the pain, you’re able to cradle new life in your arms.  And wrapped around that new life will be a blanket of deliverance from your enemies. — Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 1425

Good for you.  More it hurt more better it is.  Can’t nothing heal without pain, you know.  What you wiggling for?  — Toni Morrison, Beloved, pg. 92

Pain entered into, accepted and owned, can become poetry.  It is no less pain, but it is no longer ugly.  Poetry is our most personal use of words; it is our way of entering into experience, of inhabiting it as our home, not just watching it happen to us.  — Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 144

…how like Father Zossima kneeling down at the feet of Dimitri Karamazov because he sees that great suffering is in store for him and because he knows, as John Donne did, that suffering [pain] is holy. –Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 170

Still, the most amazing quotes on pain are from a portion of the book of Isaiah that describes the Messiah in perfect detail.  This was written 700 years before the birth of Christ.

The servant grew up before God…There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.  He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.  One look at him and people turned away.  We looked down on him, thought he was scum.  But the fact is, it was our pains he carried…But it was our sins that did that to him…He took the punishment, and that made us whole…We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.  And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him…He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word.  Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence…Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain.  The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it…He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep.  — Isaiah 53 [MSG]

It doesn’t get any clearer than this — mysterious as it seems — Christ took all our pain on his shoulders and purposefully endured the punishment of our sins so that we can have eternal life.  What a great Savior!

 

Wishing Pain Away

Here are some more quotes I have come across this year regarding my Word of the Year — “Pain.”

When Miriam’s bones were breaking, for instance, if I could have pushed a button that would have stopped not her pain but the pain of her pain in me, I would not have pushed the button because, to put it quite simply, my pain was because I loved her, and to have wished my pain away would have been somehow to wish my love away as well.  And at my best and bravest I do not want to escape the future either, even though I know that it contains what will someday be my own great and final pain.  Because a distaste for dying is twin to a taste for living, and again I don’t think you can tamper with one without somehow doing mischief to the other.  — Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 146-147

We don’t become cheerful by avoiding what is painful.  In fact, one of the surprising things is that some of the most cheerful people you meet are those most often confronted with tragic circumstances.  The source of the cheerful heart is the conviction that the world and our existence is, at the center, good.  That God is working continuously not only for good but for our good.   That beneath all the misery and pain of our common lives is the reality of grace working toward a predestined good.  If you can believe that, you can maintain a cheerful heart that will be medicine both to you and to everyone around you.  –Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 961

 

 

Pain and Trouble

I told you earlier that my Word of the Year for 2015 is “pain.”  Well, it certainly has proved to be an appropriate word for me now, for many reasons.  I have many friends that are suffering from physical pain, emotional pain, the pain of the death of a loved one, relational pain, fear of the future, and the list can go on and on.

In addition, I have personally been experiencing more physical pain than usual due to the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy in my knee, fibromyalgia, and because I didn’t keep up the physical therapy exercises I needed to continue at home when my formal sessions ended.  The muscles in my knees have atrophied (again) and my left kneecap (the same knee that has RSD) has moved back out of place, causing a lot of discomfort.  Although I continue to ride the stationary bike (or my real bike) and the elliptical every day, it hasn’t been doing anything to help keep the kneecap in place, of course.  For that I needed to do the other strengthening exercises I’d been given.  So I’m going to start that again now.

In the meantime, I can tell you that although my body has been in pain, my spirit is healthy and strong because of the faithfulness of God to give me the exact words I need for each moment, from the various sources I happen to be reading each day.  It’s amazing how each quote fits something specific I’m dealing with at the time.  I’d like to share some of these “pain quotes” with you this week.  If you are hurting in any way (and it seems everyone is), I hope this will be an encouragement.

“Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea.”  It had been offered as consolation, a reminder that even the most pain-racked life finds ultimate release… –James Michener, Centennial, pg. 917

If ever there should turn out unbelievably to be a God of love willing to search for men even in the depths of evil and pain, the face of Jesus is the face we would know him by.  –Frederick Buechner, The Faces of Jesus, pg. 132

I’m hurt and in pain; Give me space for healing, and mountain air.  Let me shout God’s name with a praising song.  Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.  –Psalm 69:29-30 [MSG]

The Word of God isn’t about somebody else.  It’s always a personal address, never a general, abstract truth.  The biblical revelation is never a commentary or ideas or culture or conditions; it’s always about actual people, actual pain, actual trouble, actual sin.  –Eugene H. Peterson, Conversations, pg. 461

Woe to those addicted to feeling good–life without pain!  Those obsessed with looking good–life without wrinkles!  –Amos 6:6 [MSG]

When the worst happens –whether war or flood or disease or famine — and we take our place before this Temple (we know you are personally present in this place!) and pray out our pain and trouble, we know that you will listen and give victory.  –2 Chronicles 20:9 [MSG]

In closing, here is another great reminder about pain.  Look for more of the many quotes God has been giving me in recent weeks in my next two blog posts!

 

 

Out the Window

For our final quote from Alexander McCall Smith, we have a conversation taking place between Mma Ramotswe and her husband, J. L. B. Matekoni:

She signed.  “Everything is too complicated these days, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni.  Everything is made to be thrown away rather than fixed.  It is all very wasteful.”

She warmed to her theme.  “When I think of what we made to with in the past, it makes me very sad.  If you found a hole in a sock, you darned it.  We were taught how to do that at school.  And if your collar frayed, then you had it turned.  If the handle came off a cup, you glued it back on.”

“Yes,” said Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni.  “You never threw things away.  Nowadays, if something goes wrong, you throw it out of the window, just like that.”

“And people too,” said Mma Ramotswe.  “If you suddenly decide you don’t like somebody, you throw them out of the window too…”

The story continues and various relationships in the book are strained and others are close.  The hardships of children in Africa are revealed.  It caused me to think of the real children that Compassion International works with.  The results and pain of poverty is complicated and deep.  It affects their whole outlook on life — often causing them to feel useless and hopeless.  But then, when a sponsor steps in and provides meals, health care, discipleship, education and social skills through the partnership with loving native people in the country (teachers, social workers, pastors), that child’s whole life changes for the better.  They have purpose in life; they now believe they can reach their goals; they now have the ability to be a strong leaders in their communities.  I love the way Mma Ramotswe (in the novel) explained a similar situation with a boy that had been caught up in society’s injustices, but who had found life completely changed for him due to her kind intervention:

“Do not be upset, Mma,” she whispered.  “What has happened has happened.  The boy is not to blame.  And now he will be getting something that will make up for it.  That can happen in life, Mma, can’t it?  Things start badly–very badly–and then they change for the better and those who have nothing, or who are unhappy, or who live in fear, suddenly find that these things that were bad for them have gone.”

“It’s like rain,” said Mma Potokwane, who had not said much but had clearly been affected by the story.  “The rains come and they wash everything away.  The dryness, the thirst, the dust on your skin–these are washed away, Mma, all washed away.”  [Alexander McCall Smith, The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, pg. 227-228]

Take a moment and look at these children awaiting sponsors who will help wash away the pain and difficulties of a life lived in poverty.  Click the image below to find a child you can sponsor.

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