Simon

 

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“God is still speaking. Today I will be quiet and listen. Whether through the Bible, others with whom I share my faith journey, or the world around me, God is still speaking to me. I want to be sure to listen.”

A recent posting from one of my Facebook friends.

 

The last time I saw him would have been about 5 or 6 years ago. A good man—a gentle giant. He was our personal handyman, so to speak. He grew up in the home of a skilled woodworker who had his own carpentry/cabinetry business. Simon learned his father’s trade at an early age—and he became a gifted, meticulous craftsman.

We hired Simon to rebuild our kitchen, to remove tiles and refinish our floors with hardwood, to add custom crown molding throughout our house. He became like family and even brought his young son Sebastian with him to our home. Sebastian would sit quietly and play with his toy cars and planes as his father worked. He was just 3 years old then, smart, articulate, precious.

But then we lost contact with Simon. We sold our home and moved to another city.

About 3 years ago, Ron and I decided to make some cosmetic changes to the inside of the new home we were building. And we tried to get in touch with Simon. We called his cell phone but his number had been disconnected.

We called the only other person we knew who also knew Simon and asked how we could reach him. The response we got was “Simon is not reachable.” It was a mystery. And we worried that Simon might be ill—or something worse.

Then a remarkable thing happened about a month ago. We had dinner at the home of one of our former neighbors who lived next door to us. We stepped outside into their yard and met the couple who now lives in our previous home. They invited us to come and look inside.

As we walked from room to room, they stopped in the kitchen and showed us a problem with their cabinets. A guest had accidentally damaged the wood on several of the doors and the new owners asked if we could help them find the cabinetmaker to do the repairs.

So I tried once more to locate Simon. This time I googled his name—and discovered that he was incarcerated.

I was shocked and deeply troubled. This shy, gentle man was now in prison. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, his wife and his son Sebastian who would now be about eight years old. How does an eight-year-old boy deal with having a father who is in prison? How can his wife be coping? What must Simon be going through?

Call it a prompting, a nudge, a whisper, like my Facebook friend who posted the message at the beginning of this blog, I believe that God does speak to us, to me—sometimes in the form of nudging or prompting, and yes, sometimes in the events and circumstances that are placed before us.

This past week, I was tidying up the church sanctuary—going through the pews, replenishing offering envelopes and prayer request cards. About half way through the rows, I felt a nudging to fill out a prayer request card for Simon.

I stopped what I was doing, pulled out a card and pen and wrote, “Prayers for Simon who is in prison.” I carried the card with me until I finished my work in the sanctuary, then left the card in the hands of our pastor as he greeted me in the office.

Last night, in an email to the Prayer Warriors team in our church, I saw my prayer request for Simon, modified to read “Pray for Simon, a prison inmate who needs to stay strong.” God’s touch, I am absolutely certain!

Today, I was nudged once more to write this blog and ask for my readers’ prayers as well.

“Remember those in prison as if you were together (in prison) with them…”  Hebrews 13:3

Please pray for Simon today as though you were there in prison with him.  Pray for him to stay strong.

There is power in the prayers of the Faithful.

 

 

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The Lady Across the Hall

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I just got home a couple of days ago from a 4-day stay in the hospital—a surprise attack of diverticulitis. I didn’t see it coming—and I had no idea, until now, how serious diverticulitis disease can be. I’m grateful we caught it early and that serious dosages of antibiotics are resolving the issue.

I must admit there were times during the 4 days in the hospital that I was worried—anxious even. And I failed to do the one thing I do routinely several times each day—turn to the Lord in prayer. I’d start a prayer, but just couldn’t finish or follow through.

One night, the lady across the hall from me was having a very difficult time. She had come into the hospital that day from a nursing home—alone, afraid, confused, and needing a lot of attention.

The nursing staff did their best to address her issues, but honestly, with all the running to and from her room throughout the night, they began to grow weary.

It was difficult for me to sleep with all the ruckus and it would have been easy to become frustrated or annoyed by the disruptions, but I felt for the woman. I thought about my own 91-year-old mother. What if she were in trouble, alone, confused, and frightened—and in a hospital.

And I began to pray in a way I wasn’t able to for the past two days. I prayed for this woman who needed comfort and help.

Routinely, in the morning, when the staff’s shift is over, the evening nurse comes by to introduce the next nurse who will be taking his or her place for the day.

Well, the next morning, there were two nurses instead of one assigned to our unit—with one nurse dedicated to the woman across the hall. I could hear this kind, experienced nurse talking to the elderly woman. She had obviously been trained to work with the elderly and/or difficult patients. Her presence, concern, kindness and patience had a calming effect on the distraught older woman.

I wept. Because I was touched by what the hospital and the Lord had done for her.

I quickly turned in prayer to the Lord and thanked Him for sending someone to comfort this dear lady. And I was reminded once again of His Great Love and Boundless Compassion. Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Absolutely!  And it was my blessing to see His Hand at work.

Our Miracle Departure!

 

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Happy we could enjoy this sunset on the ship off the coast of St. Maarten!

At first, I wasn’t going to write this story. It seemed somewhat trivial to write a spirit-filled blog about asking God to help us please get back in time to board our departing cruise ship. But then I recalled two things: First, a scripture,

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30

And second, God uses all things for His mighty purpose, and maybe this story will touch someone somewhere in ways that only He will know.

So here it goes.

It was a beautiful day on St. Maarten. Ten of us (all neighbors) had hired a private company to create a tour just for us, rather than buy one of the many tours available through the cruise ship (the only downside of hiring a private tour rather than taking a cruise tour: if you are late for final boarding call, the ship will leave without you).

We had a lovely day driving around the island, stopping at several magnificent beaches.   Our last stop of the day was Maho Beach where we would stand at the end of the small island airport runway with hundreds of other tourists to watch the 2:50 Air France 747 land directly over our heads. The ship was docked about 35 minutes away from the airport and we had 2 hours from the plane’s touchdown to make it back in time for boarding.

We waited for about 15 minutes along the edge of the ocean at the end of the runway watching other smaller planes come and go. Disappointed, we left early when we could see on the arrivals board (yes, there’s actually an arrivals board next to the viewing spot on the beach) that the plane was going to be about 30 minutes late.

Before we could even get out of the airport, we were trapped in deadlock traffic—which we could see in the distance stretched all the way over the mountain road headed back to the ship. Must have been an accident, we all concluded.

Then to make matters worse, rain began to pour! We were in standstill traffic for at least 40 minutes with no hope of moving forward on the one road on the island that would quickly take us to the ship. We were down to about one hour before we had to board. So we turned around to head back in the direction from which we had come—about an hour’s drive back to port.

As we drove, it didn’t get any better—pouring rain, slow, slow traffic. Everything seemed to be going against us.   At first, we laughed, joked…but the longer we drove, the more we began to realize we might not make it back in time to catch the ship.

One of our neighbors suggested he call the cruise line emergency number on the back of our SeaPasses (the stateroom keys). When he reached a person on the line in Miami, he very calmly and respectfully stated this was not a life threatening emergency, but that we were tied up in traffic and not likely to make the final boarding time for our ship. Could she contact the Captain and ask him if it would be possible to delay the ship’s departure? We have 10 people and will likely be 5-10 minutes late.

She said she would make the call, but couldn’t guarantee any result. “Understandable,” we all agreed after he hung up, “but certainly worth a try.”

As we drove along, our stress levels continued to increase, yet our driver remained calm and professional, even under our constant questioning—what’s the latest estimated time of arrival. (The neighbor sitting in the front seat next to the driver told us later, the driver was calm, but his hands were shaking just a bit).

At 4:40 (last call for boarding was at 4:45) we asked the driver yet again, “How much longer before we reach the ship?” And he said, “Another 20-25 minutes if we don’t hit worsening traffic.” Just then, a slow-moving truck pulled into traffic right in front of us—and the van became very, very quiet.

I prayed for a miracle—and I’m pretty certain others in the van did, too.

A few minutes later, suddenly, out of nowhere, we could see the ship in the distance and the tour company called the driver to say he had permission to drop us off directly at the pier.   As we continued to move along through traffic, the clock showed 5:06 pm—6 minutes later than the 5:00 pm ship departure time.  Hopeful that we were close enough to still maybe make it, one of our neighbors asked the group, “Can anyone here still run?” (we’re all in our sixties/seventies). Ron volunteered and was one of two designated runners prepared to leap from the van the moment we would come to a stop. When we finally did stop about 5 minutes later, we all grabbed our belongings and ran as fast as we could for the ship.

At the point of security, we were waved through and rushed to the dock. Unbelievably, the ship was still there and the gangway still extended. About 25 crew members greeted us, shouting, “Hurry!” Ron arrived first and they told him they were waiting for 10 people who had managed to get to the Captain. Ron simply said, “That would be us.”

And so we all squeaked on board.

As we sat on the top deck watching the ship slowly pull away from St. Maarten, several in the group commented, “I don’t know how we made it. We were 20 minutes away in heavy traffic, then suddenly, we were here!”

I whispered, “Thank you, Lord!” And I later found out, I wasn’t the only one.

To some, it may seem silly or a stretch to think the Lord was somehow involved in our stressful journey. You might even be saying to yourself: “Well, this is all just coincidence—or good karma. Besides, God doesn’t get involved in the little things in our lives.”

To this I would respond: “God is involved in the details of our lives. He hears and has an answer to our prayers. Sometimes He gives us what we ask for—often in a way that is mysterious or a beautiful surprise! Sometimes His answer may be no or not right now. And when that happens, instead of losing faith, we need to trust Him and His plan for us.

In hindsight, asking for help through prayer about our need to catch our ship was not a trivial matter. If we had missed this ship, some would have been without life-saving medications for several days, and without the identification necessary to return to the United States (most had left their passports, credit cards, and cash on the ship) travel home would have been very difficult. There would have been no way to just catch up with the departed ship at the next port—for it was sailing for the next 3 nights and days directly back to the United States.

Reaching the Captain, the Captain holding the ship when he was not required to do so, arriving at the port just in time against all odds—is it possible that God had a hand in the outcome of this journey? A response to our prayers? I happen to think so!

 

Nothing on My Tongue But Hallelujah

From the Hallelujah song by the Canadian Tenors

 
Several weeks ago, I had an 11th Hour with a hospice patient. For those of you not familiar with this term, it means the patient is, in the opinion of medical staff, in their final hours.

I spent several hours with the patient, Lillian (a fictitious name), over a 2-day period. On the morning of the 3rd day when I arrived at the nursing home, I expected to find that Lillian was gone, but by the Grace of God she was alive.

The nurses told me Lillian had miraculously recovered. I stopped by her room briefly to check in on her, then said I’d be back later in the week.

When I arrived at the nursing home the following Saturday, I found Lillian in her usual state—sleeping and nonresponsive. I sat down and started to talk to her. I talked about my mother (both Lillian and my mother are close to the same age), what it must have been like growing up in the Great Depression, being a teenager during WWII. I even played a couple of songs from the 1930s-1940s.

As I was getting ready to leave, I remembered a beautiful, contemporary song that I had just downloaded on my cell phone—the Hallelujah song by the Canadian Tenors.

They tell us in hospice that patients, even when they are nonresponsive, can hear you. Family, friends, and volunteers are encouraged to talk to hospice patients. I love playing music to those I visit.

So I decided to play this song for Lillian before departing. And here’s the amazing thing that happened. Sitting by her bedside, I witnessed a miracle. About 4 and 1/2 minutes into the 5-minute song, Lillian, who never moves or speaks, sat straight up, eyes closed, and began to silently mouth the words “Hallelujah” along with the Tenors as they sang their final chorus.

Startled, surprised, awed, amazed—I can’t really find the right word that precisely describes my thoughts, my feelings, my reaction at that moment. But I can find the words to describe what I think happened that afternoon to Lillian: I believe she was touched by the Holy Spirit. And for that, I say, “Hallelujah!”

 

If you’d like to hear the Hallelujah song, here’s a link to the Canadian Tenors. I chose this version because you can see the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8UELF3IATw

A Tiny Seed

I listened to a sermon the other day in which a minister said we should share our personal experiences of mighty acts (things that happen to us that we believe are the work or Hand of God). A few days ago, I ran across this photo and it reminded me of an experience I had on a business trip to India. One that I think was a Hand-of-God experience. But first let me take you back a few years into my past.

Like so many others, from the time I left high school throughout my working career, I put the Faith I was taught as a child pretty much on hold. A kind way of saying my life was busy with things I thought were more important.  But God, ever patient, never abandoned or gave up on me.

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Missionary Home in New Delhi, India

I was blessed with the opportunity to travel overseas with my work–to Europe, India, and multiple trips to China.  Whenever I traveled to third world countries, I always took gifts for the children. This was true of the trip to India with two of my working colleagues. We arrived in India with stuffed animals, coloring books, watches, toy cars, books, etc.

When we had finished all of our business, we hired a driver to take us to an orphanage where we could leave our gifts.  We arrived at a compound inside the walls of a New Delhi inner city location.  Unbeknownst to us, there had been a communication glitch, or maybe the driver just got lost, but we never made it to the orphanage like we expected.

Instead, we stopped at a Missionary Home full of people terminally ill with tuberculosis and other diseases.  We walked through the open-air buildings with men, women, and children all sick in their beds and volunteers hard at work watching over them.

Not quite sure of where we were or what we had just experienced, we thanked the sister who walked us through the facility, left the toys for the children, and donated the small amount of money we could find on the three of us.  We had also brought along little bars of soap, shampoo, plastic combs, toothpaste and toothbrushes that we had collected from the hotels we stayed in along our journey.  And we left those, too. We never saw the sign posted at the gate (pictured) until our departure.

The next day we left the country.

For years, I felt the trip to India had been a mistake and a disaster. But then five years ago something happened in my life that returned me to my Faith. I’m a new and totally different person. Now I look back and view this trip to India and the stop at the Home for Dying Destitutes as a blessing–a Hand-of-God experience.  Of course, at the time of our journey, I didn’t see it.

Even though I was, at that time, out of fellowship, somewhere in the middle of New Delhi, God planted a tiny seed in my heart that began to slowly germinate and grow. For years, I’ve felt the nudge to help children and the elderly–those who are most vulnerable.  Well, three weeks ago, I finally listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and began volunteering inside a nursing home for hospice.

Yesterday was my first 11th Hour experience sitting with an elderly woman alone in this world as she passes on to the next one. What a privilege and blessing it was to spend that hallowed time with her.

A tiny seed starting to grow? I truly believe so.