Sunday, November 30, 2014

Paralyzed



“Berta.”

“Berta.”

My eyelids fluttered in the bright light. Then I saw Earl leaning over me.

I tried to speak, but couldn’t.

Earl explained, “You’re in ICU at Western Baptist Hospital. You had a wreck. Your neck is broken and you’re paralyzed. You have a trach and you’re on a ventilator. You and Kari were…”

“Kari?” I mouthed in panic.

“She’s fine. She had several cuts on her head and a mild concussion. Your sister, Bobbi, is here taking care of her. It was New Year’s Day. Do you remember your dream?”

“Yes.” I had dreamed  that my cousin, Bob Wiley, was going to be in an accident on New Year’s Day on Highway 80. Earl told him about my dream and asked him to stay off 80 that day.

“Bob didn’t stay off Highway 80. Instead, he assisted the paramedics getting you out of the car after the accident.”

Was my dream wrong? No. Bob’s name was Robert Wiley. My maiden name was Roberta Wiley. And we were both there.

 “How long?” Earl read my lips.

“Seven weeks,” he replied as he lifted a limp hand in his and I saw fingers that couldn’t possibly be mine.

“Berta, you wouldn’t believe how many people are praying for you. Even the truck driver calls to check on you.”

I returned home weak and exhausted five months after the accident. I couldn’t move anything but my arms. Not my hands or my fingers. I couldn’t feel anything below my collarbones.

Depressed, I just wanted to be left alone. I withdrew from life.

Though my body could do little, God wasn’t finished molding my earthen vessel. I sat through many Bible studies, sermons and workshops without paying attention – I thought.

Over the years, God provided me with multiple opportunities to serve Him. Hearing His word – no matter my intent – and continued study prepared me to live and breathe as Jesus taught His disciples.

I am still physically paralyzed, but I am not an invalid. I am a spiritually alive child of God through the blood of Jesus.

“(Y)ou, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mathew 28:19 NIV).

In Christ,
Berta

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Controlled



At sixteen, I lived with my family of eleven in the old Standard Oil gas station on the corner of Main and N. Putnam. We actually lived in the garage.

Daddy built three sets of bunk beds for us eight kids. The four youngest shared. Daddy and Mary, my stepmother, slept on a rollaway bed. My one-month-old niece slept in a bassinet.

We had an electric stove, a refrigerator and a large storage cabinet. We placed a 4' by 8' sheet of plywood over the hydraulic lift to use as a table.

Mary opened a gift shop in the office. Everything we sold was handmade by us. I learned how to create beautiful flowers, baskets and candles. I enjoyed crocheting afghans, hats and scarves.

Some days I forgot about the smell of engine oil and grease as I created beautiful objects that people would enjoy.

That winter we heated the garage with a potbelly, wood burning stove. When the temperature dropped below freezing outdoors, Daddy moved our milk cow into the garage with us.

My sisters and I shoveled manure into buckets and dumped it in the back yard. The foul odor became another normal part of our life.

The oddity of our lifestyle separated us from our peers. The matriarchal power abused by Mary to isolate our family trained us to follow her instructions to the letter. If not obeyed her punishment was severe.

For eighteen months, because of Mary’s control, I spoke to no one outside my family.

Why? Control. Plain and simple.

We all have a desire to be in charge of our own lives and our environments. Some, like Mary, cross the line.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish leaders added many laws after they received the Ten Commandments from God. The people focused on obedience to the rules and many lost intimacy with God.

Jesus did not come to set rules or force us to obey His commandments. He offers freedom not control. Abundant living is ours to receive and share. Love one another. Pray for each other in times of lack and times of plenty.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).

In Christ,
Berta

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dirty Water


McGee Creek flowed a quarter of a mile from our bus home. My sisters and I carried water by the bucketful to supply our little homestead.

The creek’s appearance changed often. Calm weather meant nearly clear water. If it rained north of us, the water would be brown with thick yellow froth. The pesticides and herbicides from our neighbor’s fields washed into our only source of water.

Our full water buckets sometimes stood a few hours as we waited for the sediment to settle and could skim the oil from the tops. When we could see sand, small pebbles and even tiny shells lying in the bottom, we declared the water safe.

My family’s life depended on that water. We assumed it was clean because it was clear. Looking back, the poisons I ingested daily for nearly a year have never made me ill.

I have questioned my survival from many situations in my life. I believe there is only one answer to my survival. God was active in my life from the beginning.

God had a plan for me. His power protected my mind and my body from the harmful toxins in McGee Creek.

I continue to see God in my daily life. He is with me when I meet a new friend. He holds me when I hurt and laughs with me in joy. Every encouraging word or prayer spoken comes through nail-scarred hands.

“Can clean water and dirty water both flow from the same spring?” (James 3:11 CEV)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jerimiah 1:5 NIV).

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NIV).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NIV).

In Christ,
Berta

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

I Don't Know


As a hospital corpsman in the Navy, I worked in many areas of medical care. Part of my job in Aviation Medicine included physical examinations.

Five days a week at six-forty-five AM, the staff and I began evaluating the physical fitness of active duty, reserve and retired men and women.

We checked vital signs, height, weight and visual acuity. Lab techs collected blood and urine specimens. EKG’s and chest x-rays were done.

I pressured myself to learn the guidelines for the multitude of physical examinations performed in the clinic. Different jobs had different requirements.

A pilot’s eyesight had to be greater than that of an air-crewman. An electronics technician couldn’t be colorblind.

As I typed out the summary of each physical, I had to ask my chief the same questions repeatedly.

One day Chief retrieved a copy of the manual for Physical Examination and Standards. He set the four-inch thick book on my desk. He tapped his finger on it and said, “You don’t have to know all the answers. You just have to know where to find them.”

What do we do when we have biblical or faith based questions and we don’t know the answer?

God has made His manual, the Bible, available to many.

Children’s Bibles begin with soft cloth for infants and hard covers change as a child matures. Teens and college-age students have their own styles. Each of us chose the version and format that help us understand the Word of God.

We each have opportunities to study the Bible be it personal, in a small group or an internet broadcast. God encourages us to be strong in our faith, to study and be prepared to help others grow.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 15 NIV).

In Christ,
Berta

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Barely Spoke


Fear held my heart in a clenched fist when Earl introduced me to his father, Tucker. My past with my own father had already cast a dark shadow over our meeting. 




Tucker, a lawyer and a judge, had the power to tear my life apart. I barely spoke to him.

When I started writing about my childhood, I asked Tucker to read a rough draft. Reading about my father’s attacks baffled him. He said, “I don’t understand how a father could do such things?”

That confession changed how Tucker and I communicated. He was a man my own father’s age who I grew to love.

At some point, I began to call Tucker “Dad”. Earl and I frequently traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to visit Dad and share a meal with the rest of the family.

I loved Dad and still do. I cherish the memories of talking with him alone. He often called me in the middle of the day just to talk a few minutes. Soon, I found myself thinking of him, and so I’d call him.

I saw Dad three days before God took him home. He held my hand and told me again, “I don’t understand why a father would do what yours did.” He followed with, “I love you, Berta.”

After Earl and I prayed with Dad, I attempted to pull my hand back but Dad held it tight. He wanted to sing before Earl and I left his bedside to go home. He led us in the hymn Blest Be the Tie That Binds.

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Dad sealed our relationship through this verse. In the years we had, he touched my heart with the love of an earthly father.

Dad had worried I wouldn’t receive my birthday card before he died. When it came I called him one last time, “Thank you, Dad. I love you.”

Because Tucker loved me with all my history, I believe my Heavenly Father loves me even more.

“Happy All Saints’ Sunday!”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1,2 NIV).

In Christ,
Berta

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