Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unexpected Kindness In Boston

Done early with John's follow-up appointment with his surgeon (which went very well), we called The RIDE to cancel our return trip home in favor of driving our wheelchairs throughout Boston to South Station and taking the Commuter Rail home. We couldn't have made a better decision!

The sun shone warm and bright as we wheeled across Cambridge Street and past City Hall to the Old State House. Boston never seemed so marvelous, and we savored each inch, feeling as if we'd returned home after a long, involuntary war. Continuing our trek, we traveled down Washington Street, pleased to see Old South Meeting House (a favorite building of mine). On we went, turning right at Downtown Crossing and darting up Winter Street (with a nod of respect at the site of Samuel Adams' home) to cross Tremont Street to Boston Common.

Park Street Church stood tall and welcoming, but we veered left toward the Visitor Center, knowing a certain Freedom Trail Walking Tour Guide would be there to sell his next tour. What joy to see him! He'd been following John's saga, so he looked delighted to see John looking so healthy. He invited us to walk with him a bit, but we wanted to get our usual train home. Passing back to Downtown Crossing, John made sure I glimpsed the gold dome of the State House, another favorite view of mine.

So we breezed down Summer Street to South Station, disappointed that our friend who sells The Boston Herald wasn't there. That disappointment gave way to joy when our train buddy boarded at JFK/UMass Station, visiting with us all the way to our stop.

Although we had no time to take pictures, no camera in the world could have possibly captured our exhilaration at having both John's health and our beloved Boston restored to us! The Lord didn't have to restore either, but we praise Him for His unexpected kindness. What a glorious day!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Supreme Court's Blunder Can't Dismay God

As hopeful as I was that the Supreme Court would actually make as sensible of a decision on Obamacare as it did on Arizona's Immigration Law, I'm strangely calm about it. Disappointed, of course. I'm well aware that John and I will be pressured toward "palliative" end-of-life care, lest the cost of keeping us alive drain the middle-class. (I'm struggling very hard to restrain myself from making snide comments about how many more abortions the government could finance if it convinced us to let "nature take its course" next time either of us face cancer.)

John MacArthur believes that God has abandoned America by giving us over to our evil desires. Our country, especially over the past 50 years, has steadily rejected Biblical principles, including those of able-bodied people providing for their own needs and the Church caring for those who truly need assistance. His Word implores us not to entrust our lives to government, but rather to look to Him as our Provider:

Put not your trust in princes,
     in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish. ~~Psalm 146:3-4 (ESV)

By the same token, Christians should not be overly fearful of policies that will lead to America's implosion...which I believe Obamacare most certainly will do. As appropriate as it is to mourn the Court's decision (and wonder why Roberts threw his hat in with the liberal judges), we must remember that the United States of America is just another once-great nation that will be destroyed with the rest of the world before the Lord establishes His Kingdom. Therefore, whatever fall-out we suffer from bad policies that will continue to emanate from Washington D.C. (regardless of what happens in November), we can trust the Lord to be in control.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Rehearsal of Holiness

Opening night. The actors move across the stage speaking their lines with eloquence and handling their props quite naturally. The six weeks of countless rehearsals have helped the actors perfect their characters until they can think and speak and even feel like them. They have learned more than just lines; they have learned to portray their characters exactly as the writer had planned. And now, as the curtain rises and the footlights illuminate them, they inhabit their parts as if they had never known anything else.

How on earth is this this a metaphor for Heaven? To answer that question, first consider that Heaven will revolve around the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than being a place dedicated to our comfort and pleasure. (This is not to say, however, that we won't experience a joy that we can not yet imagine.) Heaven is characterized, more than anything else, by His holiness and righteousness, and its inhabitants must be adept at living holy righteous lives.

At this point in time, we live on earth, struggling with the attractions and temptations that the world system sets before us. It is in saying no to these attractions that God's people train themselves to live in the holiness and righteousness that will typify our eternal lives. Therefore, we are like the actors in the rehearsal. Right now we drop lines, mishandle props or forget to stand stage left, but our director (the Holy Spirit) faithfully corrects our mistakes and shows us how to step into our new character. How gracious He is to prepare us for His great play rather than plunking us on stage before we've even read the script!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Of Little Consequence

Christians with disabilities sometimes speak with great excitement and anticipation about the new bodies we will receive when Christ establishes His Kingdom. And our Christian friends love reminding us that we'll be able to run and jump and dance, no longer trapped by Cerebral Palsy, Polio, Spina Bifida or any of the countless conditions that impair bodies and minds. But, while the promise of glorified bodies certainly is glorious, I question whether or not  we should make them our focus.

My discomfort with emphasizing the joys of receiving a glorified body occurs because Heaven really has little to do with us, and everything to do with Jesus. While He most assuredly promises us great blessings in that life to come, I've observed that most Christians--including myself--tend to regard Heaven in terms of how God will bless and reward us, rather than dwelling on how those eternal blessings will double back to His glory. Shackled as we are to self-absorption, we struggle to envision an eternity of losing ourselves in abandonment to Him.

Quite honestly, I wouldn't mind being disabled in Heaven. Oh, I know that won't be the case. Perhaps serving Him there will require me to have a fully functional body. Scripture teaches that in His Kingdom pain and sickness cease to exist (Revelations 21:4), and that we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), so of course I can't minimize the fact that I'll have a perfect physical body upon His return. But I believe my joy will be in finally seeing the Lord and gazing into His beautiful eyes. Once I see Him, my physical condition really won't matter.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Beauty Destroyed For Greater Treasure

So much about life overflows with goodness! My husband rests in the next room, finally having gained enough weight that he can wear his wedding ring without fear of it falling off. There's enough of a break between thunder storms to allow me time on my computer, and the woods outside the living room window seem greener as a result of this morning's downpour. I sit surrounded by a comfortable silence, noticing that even the birds have muted their songs in favor of a tranquil afternoon.

Yet beautiful afternoons like this can't compare with the new heavens and the new earth that will come after the Lord destroys this present universe.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. ~~2 Peter 3:10-13 (ESV)

Despite all the beauty in this present world, the horrible infection of sin permeates it, seeping even into churches that claim to believe the Bible. Instead of fleeing from immorality, we sanction same sex marriage. Instead of running to God's Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths (Psalm 119:105), we resort to subjective spiritual experiences and "Christian" psychology. Instead of accepting that America was built on Christian principles that compromised themselves with the false teachings of Freemasonry, Deism and whatever it was Jefferson believed, we join with Mormons and Catholics to "restore our nation to it's Biblical roots."

This world, however, is beyond repair. One day (though undoubtedly not the day predicted by the Mayans), the Lord will come bringing judgment, dissolving the universe to replace it with new heavens and a new earth. Holiness will characterize this new realm, and all will worship and adore Jesus without the distractions of sin.

Appreciating the blessings of this life may demonstrate thankfulness to God. And such thankfulness pleases Him. But we err when we invest too much in the here-and-now, forgetting that our treasure lies in spending eternity praising and adoring the Lord Jesus Christ in holiness. How wonderful that we can begin living holy lives now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

With Very Insincere Apologies To The Associate Pastor's Wife

So, John showed up in church today, after nearly three months of illness. A few people were, I think, mildly surprised to see him using a ventilator. It's one thing, I suppose, to read about it in a Prayer Chain email. and quite another to actually see it in his mouth. Interestingly, the children didn't seem to notice!

He got two ovations in Adult Sunday School and one in the church service, as well as handshakes, hugs and pats on the back. So many people had prayed for him, and were delighted to see him looking so well and healthy.

As for me: As much as I appreciated the Associate Pastor's wife sitting with me all those weeks, I took immense pleasure in having my husband next to me. Think she understood?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Skin Cancer and Eternal Warnings

Yesterday, a teenaged friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was tanning. In 98-degree heat, no less! This young lady has beautiful skin, and needs absolutely nothing to enhance her complexion, yet she's setting herself up for wrinkled, leathery skin in middle age and possible skin cancer earlier than that.

Feeling a bit motherly, I left a comment warning her of tanning dangers, encouraging her to appreciate her lovely complexion, and assuring her that, when she's 50, she'll be glad she exchanged the temporary enjoyment of a tan for healthy, younger looking skin. I knew, of course, that she'd reject my advice. After all, I was once her age, and routinely dismissed adults who counseled me to wear seatbelts (until California made them mandatory). So, when I saw that she deleted my comment, I wasn't terribly surprised. I calmly posted a link from the American Cancer Society, hoping she'll read it before tapping the "Remove" icon.

All of us want to delete information that challenges our behavior. This opposition to admonishment particularly rises up when Christians present us with the demands of the Gospel. It's fine, we insist, to talk about God's forgiveness and sing about the unconditional love of Jesus. To a certain extent, it may even be okay to mention his grace in dying for sin, as long as no one insinuates an actual need for repentance or suggests that the Lord has any right to direct our thinking and behavior as if He had any claim on us. Furthermore, we adamantly resent all warnings of future judgment and eternal damnation.

Like teenaged girls ignoring the risks of too much sun exposure, we reject the clear teaching of Scripture that we need a Savior who forgives our sins (even to the point of denying that we've sinned in the first place) and a Lord who requires us to let Him lead us into His holiness. He knows that basking in the temporary pleasures of this life, while making us attractive to others who hold temporal values, will ultimately result in a destruction far worse than skin cancer. If only we would seek His shade!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

MacArthur Challenges Evangelicals

I just listened to Brannon Howse's interview with John MacArthur, which can be accessed here for the next 13 days. MacArthur expresses views that many evangelicals are certain to find disagreeable, but he holds these views because he loves Christ and His Church. The interview, though an hour long, is well worth the time.

Perhaps a few of MacArthur's comments are a bit extreme, but not many. Churches have downplayed doctrine increasingly over the last two centuries, forgetting the zeal for truth that brought about the Protestant Reformation in the first place. Contending for the faith now denotes judgmentalism, rather than a passion to see God glorified by people who love His truth. As you listen to the interview, ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to be challenged.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Superman John And The Direction Of Praise

John's doing wonderfully in his recovery! Yesterday we took The RIDE to his appointment with is two oncologists, who were amazed by how well he looks. For the most part, his blood work was good, though he needs more iron (he's finding iron supplements online). They believe he's ready to go to church this coming Sunday!

The consensus on chemo was that, because he's now on a ventilator 24/7, the risks outweigh any possible benefits. He only has a 5% chance of the cancer recurring. Additionally, new studies suggest the possibility that daily aspirin (which he's already taking in response to his heart attack) may be an effective therapy in fighting colon cancer. So he will have quarterly oncologist visits and annual CAT scans.

John is amazing, certainly, but let's be careful to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ deserves all the praise for this remarkable recovery. To attribute it to anything less (even to the power of prayer) would be a misdirection of gratitude. We praise Him for His goodness in bringing John through this crisis.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Look Out, Rodney Dangerfield!

"It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's simply that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody." ~~Brendon Behan

That quote amused me Saturday, perhaps because it gives a comforting nuance to my tendencies toward cynicism. Hey, I'm Irish. Therefore, my lack of respect must be regarded as a wonderful quality. Right? Aw, c'mon...the idea sounds so endearing when Brendon Behan says it! Show me some respect! (Unless, of course, you're Irish...)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

He's Getting Stronger

Our friend Shelly came for lunch (after we'd had dessert with John's mom). I'd opted to stay home from church today, knowing he wasn't quite ready for that much of a day, so Shelly filled us in on Adult Sunday School and the service.

Once we'd eaten, John felt like going outside. The three of us took a lovely walk, almost making it into town! I'm astounded by his stamina!

Friday, June 15, 2012

What More Do you Want?

In the 1970s, evangelical Christians tended toward conservative theology, despite their growing affiliation with Charismatic ideas (which depended heavily on individual experiences). As ties with Charismatic teachers strengthened, however, and pop-psychology gained acceptance, the personal experiences of believers became authoritative in how evangelicals approached the Word of God. As time elapsed, the paradigm of experience eased into the greater evangelical church to varying degrees, so that encounters with God could be independent of the Bible.

And although always careful to insist that the Bible is God's final Word, an increasing number of Christians firmly believe that the Lord speaks directly to them. In fact, many churches and popular Christian teachers insist that such mutual communication with Him should be normative. To substantiate this claim with Scripture, they typically point to Samuel's experience in 1 Samuel 3:4-10, Elijah's encounter with the "still, small voice" in 1 Kings 19:11-12 and other Old Testament examples.

Never mind that Samuel, Elijah and the other people mentioned were prophets, entrusted with the ministry of bringing God's Word to Israel before Scripture was completed. And ignore the greater narratives of rebuking Eli's sons for desecrating the holy place or sending Elijah back to Damascus to anoint Hazael, Jehu and Elisha to accomplish the Lord's specific purposes. Instead, focus exclusively on the "techniques" for hearing God's voice.

In doing so, of course, you'll pretty much miss the Scriptural context of these passages, applying minor parts of the narratives to Christian living instead of beholding God's wondrous intervention in Israel's history in order to catch glimpses of His sovereignty and faithfulness in world events.

Turning to John 10:3-5, these same people assert that Jesus Himself offered assurance that those who follow Him would have the capacity to hear directly from Him. This interpretation, however, spawns countless discussions on how to distinguish His voice from self-generated thoughts or suggestions from Satan. As a result, Christians who genuinely hunger to know the Lord's will often struggle with spiritual pride, frustration...or both. But according to Bible commentator Albert Barnes, Jesus here is talking about making distinctions between true and false teachers:

The sheep hear his voice. The voice of the shepherd. A flock will readily discern the well-known voice of one who is accustomed to attend them. The meaning is, that the people of God will be found disposed to listen to the instructions of those who are appointed by Christ, who preach his pure doctrines, and who show a real love for the church of God. There is scarcely any better test of fidelity in the pastoral office than the approbation of the humble and obscure people of God, when they discern in the preacher the very manner and spirit of the doctrines of the Bible.
He calleth his own sheep by name. It was customary, and is still, we are told by travellers, for shepherds to give particular names to their sheep, by which they soon learned to regard the voice of the shepherd. By this our Saviour indicates, doubtless, that it is the duty of a minister of religion to seek an intimate and personal acquaintance with the people of his charge; to feel an interest in them as individuals, and not merely to address them together; to learn their private wants; to meet them in their individual trials, and to administer to them personally the consolations of the gospel.

Hearing the Lord's voice, then, happens as Christians familiarize themselves with Scripture. As heady as it may feel to believe that God has spoken individually to us, such an attitude removes the authority of Scripture and elevates the believer. Consequently, attention shifts, oh so subtly, to the believer's proficiency at hearing God's voice instead of focusing on what He revealed about Himself to the prophets and the apostles. And shouldn't we conform our lives to all He's said in His Word before looking for Him to speak further?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Yielding

Whoosh! John returned with two full bags of stuff, and all sorts of details needing to be organized. I'm exhausted from watching him and his Personal Care Attendant scurry about the apartment trying to hang clothes, file papers and locate water bottles. But he's home, refreshed by familiar surroundings and savoring freedom after over two-and-a-half months of hospitals and rehabilitation.

The flurry of his arrival lasted about three hours, involving calls to Walgreen's, using new equipment (successfully) and I can't remember what all else. Now the commotion has yielded to quiet. He's on his own bed, resting and using his laptop. The peace feels better than the unrelenting silence of his absence, for no longer am I separated from my husband.

Dream Come True

As I type, John's being readied for the ambulance that will bring him home! Tuesday night, it looked as if his return might be delayed a week because the type of commode he requires wasn't in stock, but yesterday morning his case worker located one. It was delivered yesterday afternoon!

We so appreciate all the prayers, encouragement and practical help many of you have extended to us throughout this ordeal. A few times, we seriously wondered if the Lord would call John to heaven, and we're so thankful that He's instead chosen to give us more time as man and wife.

This Sunday, I'm choosing to stay home from church, but I'll be back next week--with or without John! Soon, we'll both be there, and Adult Sunday School will once again have its resident trouble-maker! Again, thanks for your prayers. The Lord has responded to them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Abigail Adams, Be Proud!

John left the apartment early on March 29 for his colonoscopy. The procedure triggered a heart attack, delaying surgery for colon cancer by six weeks. So he's been in hospitals for just over two-and-a-half months.

I'd never lived alone before, and I seriously doubted that I could manage. But the Lord constantly provided the help I needed, assuring me that, through His power, I indeed can live independently! During this time apart from my husband, He often reminded me of Abigail Adams' many long separations from her husband, John.

On this eve of my John's homecoming, I hope I've lived up to her example.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Heeeeeeeeeere's Johnny (We Hope)

During rounds this morning, John's doctors told him that his homecoming Thursday (as in day after tomorrow) is contingent only on getting equipment, transportation and visiting nurses in place. Setting all this up could delay things until Friday. John, quite understandably, doesn't want even that delay, so he's aggressively pushing to meet with his case worker today. Please pray that all the details get worked out.

Also, pray for our transition, as we adjust to different routines and diets. John will still be a long way from recovery, and our Boston Adventures will be doctor visits rather than cannolis at Quincy Market. Pray that we'll be patient with each other and with the process.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Complaints And Gratitude Of An Awkward Transplant

Complaining has always come easily for me. In college, the kids I associated with taught me (by example) that complaining demonstrated a strange sort of sophistication, presumably because we could analyze our situations well enough to identify their shortcomings and our professors well enough to pinpoint their many flaws. Additionally, we could take comfort both in our superior powers of discernment and in our courageous martyrdom. At age 58, I can look back at our self-importance and laugh.

I cannot, however, take amusement in how those college attitudes set me on a pattern of grumbling and ingratitude. My habitual complaining has been obnoxious, offending friends, family and the Lord. Most of all, the Lord! He has corrected me patiently, over the past several years, mostly through John's example of gratefulness. Though I've stumbled back into the familiar behavior of complaining since John's hospitalization began, lately the Holy Spirit has shown me blessings He has brought about as a result of this ordeal.

Our church is certainly one such blessing. Up until John's illness, I felt as if I was on the periphery of the church. I'd remember the close friendships I enjoyed in the churches in California and Memphis, and long for female friends that connected with me. John's long absence from home, combined with the serious nature of his condition, opened many opportunities to spend time with ladies from church as they've fed me meals, waited with me at the hospital, and visited me.

As  relationships between me and various members of the church have developed out of my abject need, an amazing and glorious thing has transpired: I'm no longer merely John's wife at church, depending on him to interpret for me when people can't deal with my speech defect. They've been forced to listen carefully, so that they've learned to understand me! And I've become comfortable asking for everything I need. I've begun some friendships that, in some respects, are even deeper than those I cherished in California, and women have openly talked to me about their struggles, heartaches and dreams.

Secure in these friendships, I notice that I move about the church with confidence that I finally fit in there.  No longer an awkward transplant, I'm part of this body of believers. My prayers for friends have been answered, although in a manner I definitely would never have chosen.John's colon cancer and heart attack have been horrendous, to say the least. But once I stop complaining, the Lord opens my eyes to His provision for me. And I can't complain.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Judging The Change Of Climate

Quiet Time the past two days has set off several trains of thought. Too many, really, to be contained in a single blog post, especially as I remember the maxim of my beloved college professor, Sister Nicholas: "Write a lot about a little." So, in approaching 2 Peter 3:1-9 (please click the link to read it). today's comments will revolve around some thoughts about people who worry about climate change.

At first glance, the connection between this passage of Scripture and efforts to reverse climate change undoubtedly seems obscure. I noticed it only after someone expressed "worry about what we are doing to the environment." As I thought about the underlying assumption that humanity has the ability to both destroy and redeem this planet, Peter's words about those who ridicule the idea of the Lord destroying the world in judgment took on an added texture.

To begin with, people prior to the 20th Century clung to the notion that God had never sent cataclysmic judgment on the earth, and so He probably never would. Peter reminds his readers that non-Christians and false Christians would mock the teaching of Christ coming to judge the earth.
knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.   They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”  For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. ~~1 Peter 3:3-7 (ESV)

According to several of the commentaries I read, these scoffers base their derision on the idea that the earth operates under a pattern of uniformity. This uniformity assures people that cataclysmic judgment is  more myth than reality, therefore conveniently removing consequences from whatever behavior a person pursues. The Biblical accounts of creation and the worldwide Flood must be categorically dismissed. Thus, humanity has license to behave according to each individual's own inclination.

Ah, but now the Lord is changing the weather, demonstrating His authority over the earth. And those who reject His authority need an explanation for these changes that take Him, and particularly the possibility of His judgment, out of the equation. So the theory that humans created "Global Warming" entered popular thought.

Since "Global Warming" came about because of poor human choices, the reasoning goes, we can now make more responsible choices that will restore our climate to its normal rhythm. Of course, ascribing such tremendous power to ourselves seems tremendously arrogant. But then, it's indeed arrogant to suppose that God will never judge his rebellious creation. 

Perhaps the world's climate truly is changing. Could the Lord be changing it to get our attention? Instead of presuming that we have the capacity to fix it, ensuring that then all things will go on as they always have, maybe we should consider that He is warning us of His authority to judge us.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Slow and Steady

John continues his recovery, despite minor glitches here and there, such as last Saturday's fever (caused by a UTI). He's regaining strength, and breathing a bit without his ventilator. He's hoping to come home next week.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Indulge Me

I haven't felt like blogging lately. Frankly, I still don't feel like doing so. Let me take this mini-vacation. I know I'll return soon, with all sorts of interesting topics, skillful writing, and nice pictures.


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