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.
I felt like I was on the receiving end all day long. I went to bed last night with a full heart and an overwhelming love and gratitude for God and His family. Here’s a sample of what I got:
A sermon that served as a reminder of God’s merciful grace and His presence in my life. It seemed tailor-made for me.
Lots of warm hugs
Some sisters specifically asked how I was doing with my boys leaving home. They hugged me and told me they were thinking about me.
A couple of friends know of a confidential situation that is weighing on me. They took the time to listen and assured me of their prayers.
A new Christian led a public prayer for the first time. It was heart-felt and beautiful. I was reminded of God’s power to transform lives. I was filled with joy and grinned all the way through the prayer.
A couple of men responded to the invitation yesterday morning. Others went up to sit with them on the front row to offer support. I love that. It makes me feel good.
Last night a godly, faithful widow responded to the invitation. She mentioned a specific sin she struggled with and asked for forgiveness and help to overcome it. I was so touched by her humility and courage. My love and respect for her grew even more. She went forward to ask for help but I wonder if she knows how much she helped me?
The fellowship seemed to linger longer yesterday. We stood in the parking lot “forever” chatting. No one seemed in a hurry to head home. We talked about nothing overly significant…just flowers, school, our kids. On the way home I told Neal how dear it is to just share LIFE with so many fellow Christians.
The tone of this post is completely self-focused. And really, I left some things out that I was able to take away from yesterday. The focus of our coming together to worship shouldn’t be “what can I get out of this?” “Does it meet my needs?” We are to gather together to GIVE. We’re to bring our hearts to God (Matt. 15:8,9). We’re to bring our sacrificial offering (2 Cor. 9:7). We’re to encourage and exhort one another (Heb. 10:24,25). We’re to offer up praise (Acts 2:41-47). And yet, I couldn’t help but notice all that I GOT.
Yesterday wasn’t an isolated case. I always “get” when I gather with fellow Christians to worship and learn and grow. Even though my purpose and focus should be on bringing, giving, and offering, it’s amazing how I can leave with a heart so full of everything I have taken in. It reminds me of the saying, “You can’t out-give God” (Luke 6:38).
“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
One thing I love about the Lord’s church is the fact that we are family. We are brothers and sisters united by the precious blood of Christ. That means no matter where we go, we can find family.
This past week Neal and I have been with the Hollywood Rd. church of Christ in Houma, LA. We both feel like we have been among true family and gained true friends. In the body of Christ, it doesn’t take long to form heart connections! The Christians here are warm, friendly, and giving. It is obvious they love being together. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
It was easy for Neal and I to identify that common love in the church here. We are Christians coming in among fellow Christians. But what does the world see?
Tuesday night one of the members brought a guest to the gospel meeting going on this week. The guest showed up early enough to enjoy the meal we had together first. What was his impression? What did his first glimpse of the Lord’s church reveal? I am so thankful that we learned the answer to those questions. Last night we found out that this visitor went to work the next day talking about his experience. He said, “Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.”
A higher compliment to the church here in Houma could not be paid! Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Isn’t the goal of every church to be so loving that visitors walk away with the impression of being loved? This visitor knew that he was taken in and loved because the Christians here love Jesus. What’s their secret here? How did a one-time visit leave such an impression on this man? I know the answer to that, too, because I saw it unfold. He was greeted warmly, he was hugged, and he was served. This visitor knew the Christians here love Jesus because they acted like Jesus.
I hope I remember this for a long time. I am so convicted by this simple experience. I am challenged to do my part in my home church to make visitors feel loved.
What impression are people left with when they visit your home congregation? How do you make them feel? May we all do our part to make sure others “know we are Christians by our love.”
Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.
Christians are to “walk in the Light” (1 John 1:7), “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), and “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10). How can we make that real and personal? Here is an activity that can help accomplish that. It’s a simple activity to work on with your children, to discuss with a group of teens or in ladies’ Bible class, and to incorporate into your own daily to-do list. It’s a practical way to help us take our Christianity from the generic to the specific.
Brainstorm: List some verbs that are a part of Christianity.
LOVE (Col. 3:14)
SERVE (John 12:26)
GIVE (Acts 20:35)
SACRIFICE (Rom. 12:1)
FORGIVE (Matt. 6:14)
GROW (Eph. 4:15)
TEACH (Matt. 28:19, 20; Tit. 2:3)
CONFESS (1 John 1:9)
Perform: Next to each word, write down how you (personally) can fulfill that command. Be specific. Serve whom? How? Sacrifice what? Forgive whom? Grow how? Teach whom? When?
This would be a great exercise (for personal reflection or for family devotionals) to do every first day of the week. For extra study, find as many Scriptures as you can that teach about each command. For instance, some verses talk about loving and serving God while others talk about loving and serving others. This activity can help us take some of these big, general concepts and make them personal and real. It’s one way we can intentionally walk in the Light.