Miracles.

Today dear reader, I am going to tell you about some things that you may find it hard to believe.  But please stay with me, it will be worth your time.

Last week, I posted this:

For my friend

Yesterday, I was informed that he had been given a clean bill of health.  For which I thank my Lord.

My own health struggles over the past nine years have been fairly well documented, and those who know me well are quite familiar with what has taken place.  But I want you to know and understand how those things have helped to shape my faith.

A few  years ago, I wrote these words in my devotional journal:

“Why do we see so much less of the miraculous happening then Jesus said we would?

You can pray for anything, and if you have faith you will receive it.  (Matthew 21 : 22 TLB).

I have spent a lot of time pondering this question.  For the past year or so, I  felt specifically challenged by the idea that I wrote about in this post:

Help my unbelief.

My continuing prayer, since then, has been: “Lord, please mould and my heart and reshape my thinking so that I begin to believe with conviction that you will   respond and answer my prayers.  I don’t want to remain stuck believing only that you can answer prayer.”

I began to reread and rethink my understanding of miracles

For example, the woman with the bleeding problem who snuck through the crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus cloak.  Someone that desperate had to be thinking, “If I can just get close enough to him I will be healed.    That is the kind of faith that makes things happen. If she merely believed that she could be healed, that would have been far too passive and weak.  No, her faith made it happen. (ref. Matthew 9 : 21,22).

Then the example of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof by his friends. (ref. Mark 2 : 1-12).

After years of childhood Sunday school lessons, I had always understood that it was the faith of the man’s four friends as evidenced by their perseverance.

But Jesus tells the man that it is his own faith that has opened the door to forgiveness and healing.

From that I infer that he must have kept begging and pleading his friends, “Guys, please, just get me to him.  If you do that I know that I will be healed!”  Telling his friends , just get me to him. If you do I know that I can be healed.  That isn’t desperate enough thinking to compel four guys to dismantle a roof in front of a large crowd.

As a result, I have developed a firm conviction that my faith needs to believe that God will act in response to prayer.

However, those are examples of people who expected to be healed. There are other narratives to look into.

Early in the book of Acts, as Peter and John are headed to the temple for prayer, they meet and heal a man who has been lame and unable to walk since birth.  Neither Peter nor John had developed any degree of notoriety or fame yet. So unlike encountering Jesus, the lame man had no reason to expect either that they could heal him or that they would heal him.  Yet he is healed.  Which means it was their bold faith not his that was on display.  Even though it has only been a short time since Jesus had departed, they clearly fell back on what he had promised them with respect to performing miracles. (ref. John 14 : 12) and tried it out believing that the miracle would take place.

Now in each one of those narratives, the miracle is both instantaneous and visible. (at least to the person who was healed.  Those things were verifiable.  And there were many other narratives of which I have not written.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a lot of those type of miracles happen.

But there are a couple of exceptions that I can tell you about.

A couple of weeks ago, during a baptismal service held at our church, one of the candidates for water baptism was a young girl who testified of how she had been healed from a lifetime of food sllergies, at a church service a few weeks earlier.  The pastor had preached on healing and extended an invitaton for people to come forward for prayer.  At the altar, as she was prayed over, she was healed of a litany of very real food allergies.  To prove the point, she had brought a container of ice cream to church with her on the day that she was to be baptized and enjoyed eating some of it in front of witnesses.

That Sunday morning, wen I heard her story, I knew, beyond all doubt that the next time a call was given to come forward for prayer for healing that my turn would be coming and that God will do something miraculous.

Since that morning, I have been playing the song “I’m trading my sorrows,” by Darrell Evans, over and over again.  It is my current campsite.

I recommend that you look up the song and listen to it.

But let me bring all of this full circle and get  back to my friend.

I was deliberately vague about his health troubles when I first told you about him.

But I feel comfortable in saying now that the issue was cancer.

To me, this illness is somewhat akin to what leprosy was back in Jesus’ time.

For people who contracted it, it was life-altering.

It meant a diagnosis of hopelessness.  Nothing could be done for the leper but to cast him or her out of society to die.

Cancer is typically a death sentence as well, and people often withdraw from society.

Well I knew that this was my opportunity.  The test of all that I had been thinking on.

So after telling my friend that I would pray for him, I took it on and got aggressively expectant with my prayers.  I was determined that a miracle  was going to take place.

I remember riding the bus one afternoon last week and fearlessly rebuking the disease and casting it out of my friends body.  I was firmly believing that God would perform the miracle for which I was asking.  I was not going to be satisfied with just believing that God could do it.

Of course, unless it is a skin melanoma, cancer is internal. No one will see the healed tissues.  So how was I to know whether or not my faith had made a difference?

There is one narrative in the bible that helped to provide me with some understanding on this.

In the book of Matthew, we are told the story of how Jesus healed a man with leprosy, (ref. Matthew 8 : 1-4).

In this narrative, the first thing that Jesus instructs the cleansed man to do is to go and show himself to the priest and to present the offering required in the Old Testament law.

So, even though the man had been healed physically, it wasn’t official until he had completed that last step.

From that, I knew that even when God did act it wouldnot be official until it had been verified by doctors and that there was nothing wrong with that.  Going to a doctor for verification that a miracle had indeed taken place  was not an indication of weak faith.  Just like the former leper required official confirmation from the priest.  When something that can not be seen, such as cancer is healed, it still requires official confirmation from a doctor.

So yesterday, on FB when  my friend told of  the good news that he had just  received from his doctor, my only comment was “I have been waiting to hear that.”

And now, my old friend, you know why.  As Paul Harvey always used to say on the radio; ““And now you know the rest of the story.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is yellow?

Yesterday afternoon, while riding the bus, as we were coming down a tree lined street, the driver commented, “I really love the yellow colour of the trees at this time of year.”

I agreed that I felt the same way.

The only other passenger on the bus was surprised to overhear this, saying, “I thought the leaves were green and only turned yellow in the fall.”

Now you must understand dear reader, that this fellow has been blind since birth.

And it suddenly occurred to me, “How do you explain or describe “yellow”  for someone like that?

Or for that matter any colour? What meaningful point of reference can you use?

I was able to explain to my friend and fellow passenger how and why the earliest buds start out with a soft yellow and then mature into green.

But what does that mean to someone who has seen neither a dandelion in full flower or the leaves of a tree  in midsummer.

He knows, through conversation that the leaves of summer are a rich green, and that they change into a colourful palette of many different hues in the autumn.  But how meaningful is that knowledge?

It is really only academic. Nothing more than a collection of facts.

How can your heart really love something just for its’ colour and the pleasure that it  gives you?

I have always enjoyed impressionistic paintings just because they attempt to capture the essence and interplay of light and colour versus focusing on precision and detail.

When I used to commute from my home in Waterloo to my place of work in the small town of Ayr,  I loved the interplay of colours in the sunlight that were  on display this time of year.

For me, the colours of early spring were more engaging than the riot of colours in the fall.        They are more gentle.   They are not competing with each other for your attention.  They are content to be noticed and appreciated in a more relaxed way.

In particular, I remember the fields that lay ahead of me as I travelled Northumberland street toward Roseville, on my homeward trip, each afternoon. I used to lose myself in  the indistinct stripes of brown and yellow that revealed the rich earth and the stubs of the previous seasons corn stalks.  Only by stopping the car and getting out to stand by the fields for a long look would the precision and detail become clear.  But that wasn’t where the beauty was to be found. The beauty was in the indistinct interplay of colour and light which, from a distance,  made the field look more like a textured tapestry.     That was where the pleasure was to be found.

But how do you share that in any meaningful way with a man who has never seen colour.  His other senses can’t help him.

They may help him interpret many things in the world that surrounds him. Your fingertips can tell you whether something has a smooth  or a dimpled surface. Your nose can tell you whether something is pleasurable or repulsive. Your ear can tell you whether or not something delights your heart.

But what is yellow?

 

The Tiny cottage.

In the past, I have recounted how we used to spend the Victoria Day weekend while we were down at the cottage.  Victoria Day.

Well dear reader, here is one more story that took place on one of those holiday weekends.

One year,  about ten years ago, on that particular holiday weekend on the Saturday of that weekend, a community yard sale was held.

Many homes and cottage residents participated.

Once we concluded breakfast that morning, since the sun was shining and the day promised to be clear and warm, we decided to take a walk down the main street to see what bargains we might find.

Stopping at one cottage, my daughters became engrossed in a table of books, while my wife looked at some kitchenware.

Now you need to understand dear reader that not only have my daughters been raised with Long Point as a part of their summer heritage, this is also a place that is very much a part of my childhood. In fact, the property we were standing in front of had once belonged to my uncle. I can remember celebrating family birthdays there (mine in particular). There are photographs in my mother’s photo album showing me inside wearing pajamas, and sitting on the couch among my older cousins happily unwrapping gifts.  I received my Hot Wheels supercharger that year, as I remember and as one  photo bears witness.

This was a lakefront cottage on the beach. But, also on that property  there was a small one bedroom guest cottage in which my grandparents often stayed. When they holidayed  there they very often invited me to come and stay with them. I can still remember , as a three year old sitting and eating meals at the small kitchenette sized table. And my grandmother often recounted the story of how on one occasion, when we had finished our breakfast, I sat back in my high chair, folded my arms across my chest and in a smug and satisfied voice declared, “This cottage is just PERFECT for the three of us!”

So, that morning,  while my wife and daughters scanned the goods that were for sale, I just stood and looked at the two buildings, lost in my memories.

Eventually, the cottage owner and resident sauntered over my way and we began to converse.

I told her how much of a backdrop the place had been during my childhood and of its’ significance to me.

We spoke of how sad it was when the main cottage was destroyed by fire and had to be rebuilt.

Then, referring to the guest house she asked, “Would you like to have a look inside?”

Of course my answer was yes. So she went and retrieved the door key and let me in.

The furniture had been replaced over the years, but the basic layout was unchanged and was just as I remembered.

A rush of memories came flooding back to me. Particularly that feeling of smug satisfaction. Once again, in my imagination I was seated at that breakfast table with my grandparents.

Thanking her, I went back outside and rejoined  my wife and daughters, each of whom had purchased at least one treasure to take home.

As we turned to walk back down the street, the woman kindly said to me, “Any time you feel like doing more reminiscing, you are welcome to come back.”

Those few minutes inside of that small guest house were pure magic and just added the perfect bonus to my weekend.

Since my confinement to a wheelchair limits my mobility, I have never gone back. But that one single visit that enabled me to once again step back into my childhood brought a wonderful sense of satisfaction.  Not everyone gets to do that.

I wish you  a wonderful holiday weekend dear reader.

 

For my friend

Yesterday, I heard news about a friend who, a few weeks ago, received a difficult diagnosis concerning his health.

To encourage that friend, I want to offer these words of encouragement:

“The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can endure a crushed spirit?”  (Proverbs chap. 18 v. 14. NLT).

And also these:

Self-talk.

As well as one of the passages from my serialized story which have been incorporated into my novel manuscript.

“ Oh Frank, however shall we cope with this?  The doctor said the cancer will probably take me within  three to six months, even with radiation and chemotherapy.  Where am I going to find strength for this? “ She said.

Reachng into his pocket, he pulled out a small bible with a worn leather cover.  He laid it open on the counter and turned to Psalm 23 and then quietly read to her.  “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Those aren’t just words on a page, Susan.   He will be with you through everything that is to come.

His rod and his staff are very real.    In his hands, I will be those objects of comfort in your life.

 

When you are weak with sickness due to chemotherapy, I will be the staff that you will lean on.  When you are too weary and frightened to get out of bed and go for your next scheduled radiation treatment, I will be the rod that prods you to get there.

“What he says is real.  We just tend to interpret those words far too figuratively.  He brought me back to this town, years ago, to marry a girl who used to wear  blue jeans and pink hightops, with this moment in his mind. “

“This probably will be a walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  But it is through, it is not into. ”   “There will be another side to this valley; high ground that leads you back up into sunlight, either  here or in heaven. “

“Through it we shall pass,  you and I. We shall hold each other’s hand and take each step together.

And if I knew how to insert the correct hyperlinks,  I would include the lyrics from three of the most encouraging songs that I know:

Lean on Me by Bill Withers

and

He Ain’t heavy, he’s my brother by The Hollies.

I’m trading my sorrows by Darrell Evans.

I have been listening to that last song a lot of late.

 

 

 

 

Louise.

Tomorrow is Mother’s day.  I could be writing about my own mother. But today, dear reader, I thought that I would speak on behalf of my four daughters and tell you about some of the things that I think has made my wife a wonderful mother to them.

To begin, she has always loved them unconditionally, even when,  like any parent, she felt like throttling her child.

They knew that she did. And, like most children, would test that love  just to find out exactly where the boundaries were.

She was raised on home-canned goods and, in turn, always involved the girls when  canning any summer fruits and vegetables, for our own household,  so that those skills have now been handed down one more generation ( x4 ).

In fact, our four daughters were raised only on home-made jams, jellies and apple sauce such that to this day  they tend to hold their noses in the air and “poo-pooh” mere commercial grocery store products.  (only peasants and boors would resort to those).

Her expectations of her daughters were never unreasonable. Although young children seldom see it that way at the time. But were intentionally directed toward their good.

When they were still in their early years of education (kindergarton through to grade six), she would collect them together at the front door each morning so that she could pray with, and over them before they headed out the front door for their walk to school.

They knew that both mom and God were watching out for them.

But when somebody was in need of some discipline,  WATCH OOUT!!

Our four daughters were named as follows:

(1) Martha Grace.

(2) Lydia Marie.

(3) Emma Ruth.     and

(4) Elizabeth Jane.

When discipline was going to be meted out, she would add the name Louise and you might hear an angry shout such as Martha Grace Louise  or Lydia Marie Louise, come here right now!

When they heard mom call them Louise they knew that they were trouble.

Discipline was always tempered by love and each of them knew that they could confide all of their troubles with mom.

Summer days were never to be spent entirely idle or unsupervised.  My wife always preferred that they be involved in a VBS, a summer day camp or a planned family activity such as, The Picnic.  whenever possible.

As young women, each of our daughters have absorbed different character assets from their mother.  They are ready to take on the world, thanks to mom.  This evening they are planning a mother / daughters outing as their way of recognizing her and thanking her.  As far as I know, Louise will be the only one staying home to keep me company.  But that is okay.  I am rather fond of her and she and I will watch a movie together and have some father / daughter time.

Happy mother’s day Ange.  I could not have asked for a better mother for my children.

With all my love,

Todd.

 

 

 

Dissatisfaction.

Today during my devotional time, with the first few sentences that I read from Our Daily Bread, the writer seemed to be describing my life as well as his own.  I don’t know enough about this writer to know how much we do share in common, but he was certainly describing my life with today’s  piece.   

He wrote:

I peaked over the grape-stake fence that encloses our backyard.  There I saw folks running, jogging, walking and shuffling around the track that surrounds the park behind our home.  I used to do that when I was stronger, I thought.  And a wave of dissatisfaction washed over me. 

Now when he wrote this, he had no idea of who would be reading it or what their circumstances might be.  Yet God knew.  He knew where I would be and what the circumstances of my life would look like.

With his description of the track, over the fence and behind his house, I immediately pictured the back yard of our first home.  Behind that house there was a green belt , through which ran a creek.  And along the creek, there was a public walkway which was a popular haven for casual pedestrians.  I had no difficulty in imagining myself, in my wheelchair,  once again in that backyard while enviously watching everyone. 

“Enviously.”  It isn’t a nice word. It isn’t a nice experience.  Even now, with the weather growing warmer, if I sit out on the front deck, the small handful of pedestrians that I can see inspire dissatisfaction.

The writer of today’s devotional  further made this statement:

I realized that . . . dissatisatisfaction (thirst) is the rule not the exception in this life.

And it’s true.  We may say that we don’t like change.   (I happen to be president and board chair of that particular club). And I have seen many of you attending our meetings.

 

Yet what we really do not dislike change.  We simply want to be in control of any change.  We want to determine  what it looks like as well as determine the timing of it.

I can not control the timing of any improvement in my current condition.

What I can do, is keep reminding myself that there are many others with less mobility than I who envy what I am able to do and wishing that they had at least that amount of independent mobility.  And I can be thankful for how far I have come, and how my life has changed:  

Building Character. 

 

And I can go outside right now with a good book and some music and take in the sunshine and the warm spring air.

 

 

 

 

What exactly?

This morning dear reader, my devotions took me to the account of the crucifixion of Christ as narrated in the gospel of Luke  (Luke 22 : 32-46).

The devotional that I was also reading from focused in on the words of Jesus as he hung on the cross suffering a slow and cruel death.

But it was someone else’s words that caught my attention today.

 

Luke is the only gospel writer to record much of the detail of the conversation that went on between Jesus and the other two men who were hanging on the crosses next to him.

Whoever he interviewed to learn the details of that afternoon was standing a lot closer to the the cross than Matthew, John or Peter (whose recollections Mark recorded in his gospel).

As remarkably forgiving, and at times incredibly despairing as Jesus words were,  it was the request made by one of the criminals that caught my attention this morning.

“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  (Luke 23 : 42 NLT).

Now all three of them were hanging on crosses.

We know that Jesus had also been beaten to within an inch of his life.  It’s unlikely that the other two men were treated gently either.  The Roman practice of crucifixion wasn’t meant to be gentle or humane.  It was meant to be a public display of the strength and fury of which Rome was capable.

Rome could easily have made her perceived enemies and criminals quietly disappear, with bodies dumped into mass graves in the dead of night.

But it was more important to her to display her angry vengeance as publicly as possible.

So this was an ugly  scene.

When this man (condemned as a criminal asked Jesus this question, what was he expecting?

When did he think Jesus was going to come into his kingdom?  The resurrection was still three days away. And even Jesus closest companions and friends hadn’t yet fully clued in to what was coming.

Any teaching or preaching that I have heard on this subject has proceeded from the understanding that the criminal was referring to heaven, or at least to a life of the human spirit after it has departed from the body.  An assumption that he recognized Christ’s true identity.

If so, he was a minority of one.

“The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed.  He saved others, they said, Let him save himself.  (Luke 23 : 35 NLT).

The soldiers mocked him to.  (verse 36).

“They called out to him, If you are the King of the Jews save yourself!”  (Luke 23 : 37 NLT).

And even this man with his plea of desperation had originally joined in with the crowd jeering at Jesus.

“So you’re the Messiah are you?  Prove it  – and us too, while you’re at it!” (Luke 23 : 39 NLT).

It wasn’t until after he was reprimanded by the other man being crucified that his tune changed.

That is a rather abrupt change of heart.  So what was he expecting when he really expecting (or hoping for) when he made his request?

Clearly his plea for mercy was sincere, based on Christ’s reply.

He went from disbelief to belief in a matter of moments.  He didn’t stop to mull things over for a while.  When he made his request, was he thinking strictly about his soul after it departed from his corpse, or did he have a sudden insight into the reality that Jesus kingdom was going to be one of resurrection and new life?

I don’t know.  But that is what has me thinking this morning.