Monday, March 23, 2015

I Begged God

I remember the first person I saw in a wheelchair. I was at the doctor’s office for my kindergarten physical. Who was in the wheelchair? My doctor. He’d had Polio as a child. 

Then, there was Dale, a young man who slobbered and walked funny. He taught me to dance the two-step. He had Cerebral Palsy. At the time, I didn't know the diseases nor did I know they were disabled. They were my friends.

In seventeen years as a nurse, I saw a multitude of persons with physical disabilities. Some had accepted their disability and functioned well in society, like my childhood friends. Others hadn't. They were angry and depressed.

In 1991, an automobile accident injured my spinal cord paralyzing me from my shoulders down. Three months into an ICU stay, my neurosurgeon spoke to Earl. “Mr. Dickerson, she’ll be bedridden, ventilator-dependent and have brain damage. You're too young to be saddled with an invalid wife. We can let her die comfortably.”

Earl remembered his wedding vows, “…in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live.” Earl chose life for me and arranged my transfer to a spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

Once stable, off the ventilator, and using a power wheelchair I went to the gym for therapy. My neighbors and I sat in wheelchairs and struggled to feed ourselves. We encouraged each other. I fit in.

Back home no one was like me. Strangers and friends patted my shoulder and called me a “poor thing.” Many stared, ignored, yelled or treated me as a child. I became angry and depressed.

I begged God to heal my spinal cord injury or at least my hands. Nothing. I turned to God’s Word through Bible study and read about Paul’s “thorn in his flesh”.

God’s call for me is to be Christ-centered and bold in my faith as I share what He has done for me. My disability continues but I am a healed child of God first and forever for “By His Stripes, We are Healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Henri J. M. Nouwen described this type of ministry in his book, “The Wounded Healer.” Stephen Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine at Asbury Seminary, and author of “Wounds That Heal,” told me, “His wounds have healed you. Now He's using your wounds to heal others.”

“‘I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me’” (2 Corinthians 7-10 NIV).

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).

In Christ,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Enrich Your Faith

Every night as Earl and I prepare for bed, Earl places my Bi-PAP mask over my nose to help me breathe oxygen-rich air as I sleep. When he lays down he positions his C-PAP mask over his nose and turns the machine on to help him breathe deep and oxygenate his blood.

All our lives we have inhaled and exhaled with hardly a thought—taking breathing for granted. With these therapeutic measures, we’ve discovered afresh how oxygen truly sustains our body. Without it, our minds become confused and disoriented. Our bodies weak and tired.

When I take deep refreshing breaths to fill my lungs with oxygen-rich air I feel the strength return in my body and my mind clears.

This is often the way we relate to God. It’s easy to take the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, for granted. Shallow Bible reading and irregular Bible study allow our Christian faith to become lethargic and our relationship with the Lord wanes.

Sometimes we need “therapeutic measures” to enrich our faith. Most Christian churches have a multitude of faith-enriching activities. Whether you like large or small, young- middle- adult- or seniors, men’s or women’s Bible study groups they’re all available. Local, national and international mission opportunities abound for growing stronger in our faith.

You can read daily devotionals or follow a Bible reading plan. Read, watch or listen to stories of Christian faith, tribulation and triumph. Recently I watched a video of Billy Graham preaching in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1970. The era and location was different but God’s word is unchanged.

By actively pursuing ways to enrich our faith, we awaken each morning fresh and energized—ready to share the gospel.

“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:11, 12 NIV).

In Christ,

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You Can't

As a child, I went to vacation Bible school at the same church every year. Games, toys, fun and homemade ice cream!

Sitting around a small table with a few girls, our teacher had each of us read a verse from our Bible lesson. The other girls laughed at me when I had difficulty reading from the King James Version of the Bible. The teacher never encouraged me nor did she stop the teasing.

I occasionally stayed at a girlfriend’s home on Saturday nights. Her family attended that church so I went with them on Sunday mornings.

Year after year in VBS and Sunday school, children raised in that church told me, “You can’t be baptized because you haven’t been saved.”

Thinking about those experiences, I see the harm done to me. “You can’t…” and I believed it.

The curse riddled my life with painful scars. My heart bled a little more with every failed relationship. My emotions never fully developed. My spirit only knew evil. My body knew sexual abuse. I couldn’t be loved.

If you have read my devotion, “Earl Would Tell You”, you know of my anger and fear toward Earl when we met.

I accepted Earl as a man – not a Christian. I separated his roles. Fighting with the calling God had on Earl’s life, I declared, “I married Earl – not the pastor.”

By the faith Earl and other Christians lived before me, I began to know the love of Christ. Through the testimonies of women whom God had redeemed, I saw Jesus working in my life.  I felt more of God’s love for me each day.

How did I know I was saved?

My life changed without my conscious effort. I didn’t have to give anything up. I didn’t have to do anything against my will. Every yoke of sin fell away. Bad influences stopped talking to me. My sinful desires were no longer there. My language no longer cursed but praised God for redeeming my soul.

I later heard about some awesome prayer warriors who had lifted my plight to the Lord for salvation and forgiveness over a year.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV)..

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 9-10 NIV).

In Christ,

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