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!

 

Crossroads

The IntersectionA terrible tragedy occurred on Saturday morning in Stillwater, Oklahoma.   A car plunged into the Oklahoma State University Homecoming Parade crowd killing four people—including a 2-year-old boy—a child the age of my little granddaughter. Another 47 people were injured, several in critical condition.

It’s understandable that we are angry with the 25-year-old woman who has been identified as the one responsible. Many consider her to be a monster. I myself was angry at her, asking how she could do such a horrible thing, hurting so many innocent people.

But then God reached out and touched my heart—and I remembered. How could I, of all people, not feel compassion for this woman.

Most of my friends will be surprised to read what I’m about to tell you. Only my family and a handful of others are aware of this difficult chapter in my life story.

~~~

Six years ago this past September, I made a left turn at a green light at a busy intersection. I turned—and never saw the motorcycle that was heading toward me from the opposite direction. It all happened very quickly. I remember seeing him only at the very last minute.

That’s all that I remember. The next thing I know, I woke up inside a smoke-filled car with airbags deployed and shattered.

As a result of a split-second decision, my life has never been nor will it ever be the same again. The motorcyclist didn’t make it. I wasn’t drinking; I wasn’t texting; I wasn’t on drugs; I wasn’t speeding; I wasn’t on my cell phone. I simply made a left turn and didn’t see the motorcycle.

I’d like to say I can’t imagine what the driver in Oklahoma is thinking or going through at this moment—but unfortunately, I can. No matter what the rest of us might think of her, she is numb, in shock, feeling desperate, hopeless, full of fear and unbearable anxiety. And she’s just beginning her terrible journey—and I can tell you it gets worse before it ever might get better.

Please understand. I am in no way condoning or excusing this woman’s behavior—whether she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or mentally unstable. We are after
all, all accountable for our actions. I’m just saying that we’ve been told not to judge or condemn, to love our neighbor, and to forgive others. God offers redemption to even those who seem most unlovable.

So I would ask each of you: Pray for the families of those who lost their loved ones. Pray for the families and the victims who are critically injured and recovering. Pray for all who were touched by this horrific incident.

But also pray for this woman who has to be, inside herself, hurting, too. I know I feel compelled to do so. I hope that you do, too.

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In the end, my traumatic journey turned out to be a blessing. The Lord called me, said he loved me, forgave me for this and all my past and future sins, and asked me to follow him. And I said “yes.”

I wish this for everyone who has their own unique walk as they journey through their time on this planet. My family, my friends, all of those affected by these terrible events in Stillwater, Oklahoma—and yes, also for the woman who is responsible.

The Power of Prayer

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Mark 11:24 (NIV)

For months I’ve been searching for an answer to a consistent nagging question. What is it that God is calling me to do? Not that I’m lost or searching for something that seems to be missing. On the contrary, I’m quite happy and very busy enjoying my retirement. My Faith is strong and I’m a work in progress. However, I must admit I sometimes angst over how He wants me to serve.  I wonder, does it have to be large, a difficult choice, or a life-changing event?

Well, on a recent 2-week vacation to Aruba, I discovered something important.

Let me begin with a story. About midway through our trip, I experienced something that dramatically changed my thinking. One evening as I was sitting in the lobby waiting for Ron and his sons to come down for dinner, I noticed the 30 or so people who had just arrived at the hotel standing in line to finish check-in.

At the same time, I was watching a little 2-year-old boy (who reminded me of my soon-to-be 3-year-old grandson). One moment the boy was laughing and playing, the next he was screaming in pain. His father who had just finished checking in and was in line to secure his luggage came running. I could see the panic in his face and that of the boy’s mother, too, as they struggled to comfort their terrified child.

I watched, my eyes tearing over, as I considered how my own son and daughter-in-law would have felt if my grandson were the one experiencing this awful moment. My heart was breaking for this young couple and their injured toddler. Within minutes, the father called for help and an emergency worker arrived to examine the boy. He quickly sent the parents off with their child to the hospital. I felt a deep sadness and helplessness–until something inside me said, “Pray for them.” And I did. I prayed for the little boy, the doctor and staff at the hospital who would soon help them, and for the upset parents.

About 3 hours later that evening I went down to the lobby once again to pick up some milk in the marketplace gift shop. There I saw the parents and the toddler who had just returned from the hospital. The little boy was happily playing and showing no signs of having had any earlier issue. I approached the parents and said, “I am so glad to see that your little boy is okay. I saw what happened in the lobby earlier and my heart went out to both of you. I have a grandson about the same age and I know how terrified my own son and daughter-in-law would have been under the same circumstances.”

I then mentioned to the mother and father that I had said a prayer for them and for their son.

They thanked me and said their son had had a dislocated ligament and the doctor just pulled the arm and the ligament snapped right back into place where it belonged. And everything was fine–just like that.

I left the gift shop feeling wonderful. Then I realized why. We don’t always have to be involved in big, life-changing events to do God’s work. A simple prayer of compassion for someone in need can make a difference.

Please understand, I’m not implying that my prayer made this young boy better–although I do believe the prayers of a believer can contribute to a miracle. What I’m saying is that I now know that prayer for others can be a way of serving, too. And I’m at peace with that!