Disclaimer: I certainly recognize that many others have gone through more serious, long-term stays in hospitals. These are just a few thoughts from my own personal experiences this week.
Our oldest son, Gary, went to the ER with respiratory distress early Monday morning. He was admitted to the ICU, sedated and paralyzed, and put on a ventilator. My husband and I hopped on a plane and have been with him ever since. While I wish Gary and his sweet wife, Chelsea, didn’t have to go through this, there are several reasons I feel blessed to have been here this week:
God’s Family has no geographical borders. Our home is in Colorado. Our son’s home is in Alabama. We have been welcomed and helped by Christians here just as if we were one of their own.
Christians are second-milers. Oh man, I don’t have enough word-count to share every kindness that’s been extended to us. We’ve had visits and messages of encouragement. We’ve been brought snacks, homemade bread, blankets, parking tokens, meals, a gift certificate to a restaurant that delivers to the hospital, a vehicle to borrow, and magazines. We’ve only slept in the waiting room one night because of the generosity and thoughtfulness of friends and local churches. The kindnesses just keep coming!
Every prayer matters. Within a couple of hours of our first morning here, we had four different area preachers come by and pray with us in the ICU. Through the years Neal and I have circled up with folks for a prayer around a patient’s bed. I never really knew how courage-bolstering that could be. So many others have let us know they are praying. Every single time, we feel comforted and grateful.
Things get put into perspective. The world goes on outside these hospital walls but in here it feels like time stands still. We are mostly focused on life, faith, and family. Questions rise to the surface: Does Gary know how much I love him and how proud he makes me? Do our Christian friends know how acutely we feel their concern and how much it means to us? Through it all, we’ve been praying and contemplating.
Love is greater than fear. It seems like every time my heart begins to worry, some kind gesture or word comes our way. We are really seeing the Light this week. Its warmth covers our cares.
Inside beauty is invaluable. Oh, our sweet Chelsea. She has helped Gary through things that weak stomachs won’t want to read about. She works long hours and sleeps short nights in a hospital room but has yet to complain about a single thing. Just now Gary asked her, “How are you holding up?” She answered, “I’m fine, Hon. You don’t have to worry about me!” She is a cutie pie but more than that, her inner beauty has been a blessing to us all. She is a worthy woman and we thank God for her.
Progress is worth celebrating. Every little step on the road recovery causes rejoicing. From big things (like coming off the ventilator) to little things (like sitting up for the first time), we smile and hug each other as we witness evidence of improvement. I was never so excited to walk in and see someone eating applesauce. When we share these good bits with others and they rejoice with us, it makes us smile all over again. Consider how much more important spiritual progress is for new babes in Christ or for those making their way back from waywardness. Every small step is a victory. If we celebrate with them it can only encourage them to keep trying.
God is so good!
I was going to include a point about vanity. It doesn’t matter that I only had five minutes to pack and left behind hair products and other beauty essentials (um, like tweezers). Our first visitor was an old college friend we haven’t seen in over 26 years. We’ve been meeting people for the first time and reuniting with family members this week. I’m wearing sweats and have my hair pulled back in a ponytail. I was going to include that point about vanity, but I do care. I wish I looked better. Ah well, I haven’t learned everything in the ICU.
Social media is pretty great. Apparently a lot of people think so since literally billions of people use it. I love staying connected with long-distance friends and family, seeing what God is doing the world over, and laughing out loud over a hilarious meme. It’s wonderful being able to post a prayer request or read an encouraging status.
But social media can also be misused. Wasting time, ranting, sowing discord, getting involved in an ungodly relationship, or promoting self are a few examples of being a poor influence through our activities on social media. Chris Pirillo said, “Twitter is a great place to tell the world what you’re thinking before you’ve had a chance to think about it.” Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). Which category will our posts and messages fall into? Justified or condemned?
The following list is from Romans 12. It seems perfect for making sure our social media activity stays good and Christlike!
Don’t be conformed to this world- v. 2
Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought- v. 3
Show mercy with cheerfulness- v. 8
Be loving- v. 9
Avoid all evil and promote good- v. 9
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love- v. 10
Give preference to one another in honor- v. 10
Contribute to the needs of the saints- v. 13
Bless those who persecute you- v. 14
Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep- v. 15
Don’t be haughty- v. 16
Associate with the lowly- v. 16
Don’t be wise in your own estimation- v. 16
Never pay back evil for evil- v. 17
Respect what is right in the sight of all men- v. 17
As much as possible, live at peace with all men- v. 18
Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good- v. 21
“Don’t use social media to impress people; use it to impact people” (Dave Willis).
Every now and then I get caught up in the what-if’s. This afternoon was just such an occasion. I was worrying about something to the point that Neal asked me what was wrong. I unloaded my fears. “What if this happens….what if this doesn’t happen…?” Neal listened and reminded me that God is in control. I said, “I know but what if…..?” And I proceeded to try to get him to understand all my reasons for being concerned. He finally said,
“Even if the very worst scenario happens, God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”
Okay, that was powerful. How comforting to know that, no matter what, God will never leave me and neither will my husband. That truth helped me take a deep breath and let go of the useless worrying. I thank God for His promise to always be with me (Heb. 13:5). I thank God for Neal’s wisdom and his commitment to caring for me. I know that next time my “anxieties multiply within me” (Psa. 94:19), I will recall the peace-giving image of God and Neal flanking either side of me.
I wonder how many others need those words said to them? I can think of individuals I know who are hurting and could probably use the reminder that they’re not alone. May I never get so caught up in my own little world that I neglect to comfort those around me. That’s part of the purpose of the church, right (Heb. 10:24-25)? I love knowing that I could go to another Christian with my fears or failures and be reminded of God’s faithfulness and their love. May I ever strive to be that Christian for others, too. I may not be able to solve problems or make the pain go away, but I can certainly hug more, pray more, and remind more that “God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another…1 Pet. 4:8.
For those of you who don’t know, Higher Ground Encampment is a free Bible camp for teen girls in Sedalia, CO. It began in 2009 and is sponsored by the Bear Valley church of Christ.
For those of you who are already familiar with Higher Ground, I wanted to share a couple of things that are new:
Higher Ground is under new directorship. Beginning last year, Christy Swackhamer, mother of three girls and a diligent student of the Word, took over as director. She did a great job and will continue to do so. This year, Melody Sawyers, mother of three boys and the most hospitable woman you’ll ever meet, will begin serving as a co-director. Teri Autrey and I will still be involved. We are both serving as counselors this year and I will continue to teach Bible-marking.
Higher Ground will be held earlier in the year. Typically we’ve had camp in late July/ early August. The dates for this year are June 24th-30th. We are already accepting applications and Christy tells me they are rolling in!
Higher Ground is at a different location. A couple of years ago, the facility we’d been using was put on the market. We had to find other accommodations, which was no easy task since we had to find something reasonable enough for us to continue to offer this camp for free. We now meet at the Roundup Ranch (located right next to our original location). Because it is a much smaller facility, Christy said we can only accept a maximum of 50 girls.
For more information about Higher Ground, and for a link to the online application, click here.
Please join me in praying for this effort, for the staff, and for all the girls who will be a part of it this year. It will be a special week of spiritual growth, fun, and building or renewing friendships.
Last July, Neal and I made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel. We soaked in every minute of it because we knew it was our one shot to experience the very places we read about in the Bible. Little did we know that eight months later we’d be back. Thanks to the surprising offer and generosity of someone, here we are soaking it all in again. Somebody pinch me!
This trip is different, though. 39 of us (mostly from the Bear Valley Bible Institute) are traveling together. These are the people I work with. Now I am traipsing around a foreign country with them and that always changes things. It can either strengthen or strain relationships. Due to the expert diligence of our leaders, John and Carla Moore, this trip has been stress free. They’re taking care of all the details, so all we have to worry about is how to capture all these impressions in our hearts. Without the hassle or confusion that can sometimes happen overseas, no one is wigging out over anything. We’re all relaxed, happy, and well-cared for. Therefore, no strained relationships. Yay!
Experiencing Israel with fellow Christians adds a whole new special layer. I am loving every minute of it. We are praying together when touched by a particular location. We are singing together, and that may end up being my favorite thing about this trip. We’ve sung in the Nazareth church building, on top of Mt. Carmel, on the bus, on Mt. Precipice, etc. Singing always gets me, but to sing with dear ones in the land where Jesus walked….oh man. We’ve had all kinds of conversations together about Bible passages as we pass through the very places where they took place. We’re using all of our senses; we’re seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and tasting Israel. We’re experiencing this together, and I know these will be priceless memories that we will forever share.
Yesterday, on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, I looked around at the 38 other Christians who are with me. I couldn’t help but pray, “God, I love these people. They are my FAMILY, thanks to the One who walked on this water.”
Perhaps the choices you made over the past year were hard on your heart.
By Kathy Pollard
I know what a stony heart feels like, don’t you?
It’s when I am indifferent to the needs of others.
It’s when I am disengaged in worship week after week.
It’s when I’ve been involved in sin and my conscience is no longer pricked.
It’s when I withhold forgiveness.
It’s when I no longer hunger for the Word.
It’s when I stop thinking souls.
It’s when Calvary doesn’t move me.
It’s when my heart has become divided instead of devoted.
It is an unhappy thing when you know your heart has hardened in any of these areas but you lack the desire or discipline to do anything about it. Perhaps the choices you made over the past year were hard on your heart. Perhaps you can tell you’ve drifted away from God, or you’ve allowed your connection to your church family to grow cold. When that happens, it’s easy to become disheartened, discouraged with yourself, or indifferent in your spiritual walk. Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked, “What’s the matter with me? How did I get here?”
Listen to what God said to His people.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
God gave this beautiful promise to people who had misrepresented His holy name. They weren’t acting like people who belonged to Him. Those who saw them acknowledged their hypocrisy. In modern terms they said, “They call themselves ‘Christians’ but they don’t act like it” (v. 20). Yet God still wanted their heart. He wanted to redeem them and give them His Spirit (v. 27).
This encourages me. There are times when my heart problem is obvious to others. But there are times when only I am aware of the hardening while I continue to go through the motions. Either way, I can know that God still desires to cleanse me and save me (v. 29, 33). God is willing to act on my behalf for my good (notice all the “I will” statements He makes in v. 23-38). This may not be pleasant at first. It may be in the form of exposed sin or an unhappy trial. But I can see how necessary it is to shake me out of my complacency. It reminds me of the song, “Break my heart, dear Lord.” I am thankful for the opportunities God gives me to soften my heart again.
According to an article published in Entrepreneur a couple of months ago, “most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation.” I’ll be paying more attention to my speech to make sure I don’t fall under the category of “most people,” but even if I don’t voice a complaint in my conversations I wonder if I think it? The article goes on to show the negative effects of complaining:
It rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely.
It becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.
It damages other areas of your brain.
It raises stress levels.
It lowers your immune system.
It’s contagious. Like second hand smoke, it negatively affects those around you.
The article states that the solution to complaining is “to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.” “When you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something you’re grateful for.” Gratitude:
Reduces stress levels
Improves mood, energy, and productivity
I imagine gratitude is also contagious and will positively affect those around you.
I find it interesting that this nonreligious article (based on scientific research) is simply confirming what God has been telling us all along. “Do all things without grumbling or complaining” (Phil. 2:14). Instead, “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18; Col. 3:15,17; Eph. 5:20). It doesn’t surprise me that it’s been proven that complaining is bad for our health and gratitude is good for our health. As the saying goes, “When God says, ‘Thou shalt not,’ He’s really saying, ‘Do yourself a favor.'”
The article suggests that, over time, complaining or gratitude can become a way of life. This means my words may reveal more to others than I intended. They reveal my heart and all that I choose to focus on (Luke 6:45; Prov. 4:23). My words affect more than I intended. They affect my own health and even the health of those around me. Complaining or gratitude. This simple, daily choice has great impact.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart