Ps. 140:12

I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

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Self Investigation: Healing

When I was going through cancer treatment and surgeries in my teenage years, all I
could think about was getting well. I thought surviving cancer would be the answer. But, it turns out, that being the one who survived has actually led to more questions.
I have had many occasions to think about this idea of healing. What does it mean to be healed anyway? Early in my life, I believe that I was healed because I wasn’t dead. Other times I believed I was not healed because I didn’t have my leg and God hadn’t spontaneously replaced it for me. Healing can mean so many things. My experience with healing has been less a moment and more a journey of understanding, reflection and struggle.
About three years after my last cancer treatment and my last major surgery, my family drove to Iowa City for a check up. We had been making periodic trips since they had amputated my leg and released me from further chemotherapy treatment. On this particular trip, the doctors had informed me that since it had been almost three years without any reoccurrence of cancer that I no longer needed to have check-ups with them. Their only request was that I get a chest x-ray next year with my yearly physical.
After receiving the good news, we left the pediatric oncology clinic and immediately headed over the pediatric oncology wing of the hospital, the floor where I had received all my chemotherapy treatments, for a visit. We trekked the long halls of the University of Iowa Hospitals and arrived at 3JC West, the place where I had spent at least a week of every month of my sophomore year of high school, and asked the person on duty to page my favorite nurse, Cindy. Cindy was my primary nurse when I was going through chemotherapy. Cindy was strong and intelligent and encouraging throughout my entire treatment schedule. Once, she even got permission from my mother to take me to the movies and out for pizza during one of my stays at the hospital. She was probably one of the reason why I briefly considered being a nurse.
The front desk paged Cindy and soon enough, she rounded the corner and greeted us with smiles and hugs. We told her the good news and she caught us up on the goings on in her life and on 3JC West. Before we left, I asked her about Larry and Becky and Melissa. How were they? What were they doing? She informed me that they had all died. Larry from Cystic Fibrosis AND Becky from a brain tumor AND Melissa from stomach cancer. I was shocked. As we left the hospital, I could scarcely take it in. All three of them were dead.
When we got back to the car and drove back toward home, my mother informed me that Jessica had also died. Jessica and I had the same cancer. She and I spent one afternoon together one summer. She was at the end of her treatment and planning a remission/recovery party and I, on the other hand, was still going through the treatment. My mother had met her father at work. My mom was a customer service representative at Des Moines Water Works and he was a vendor. The receptionist at Des Moines Water Works had introduced them to each other because she knew that both their daughters were going through cancer. Jessica’s cancer had spread to her lungs and after a few surgeries they were not able to save her. My mom told me that she had not told me about any of my hospital friend’s or Jessica’s death because they had all died right around the time that I was getting well. I sat in the back seat of the car by myself and cried.
Even now, I still think about what it means to be that one that lived. It is both joyous and confusing to be that person. Of course, I’m glad to be well. Of course, I’m glad to be alive. I’ve been told more than once that God must have ‘something’ for me to do. To some extent, given my current vocation and field of study, I even buy that line of reasoning, but only to some extent. People say a lot of things, and often those things seem cliche and hurtful to those who have lost someone.
If I am alive and God had something for me to do, then does that mean that God had no plan for sweet, funny, Elvis-loving, Becky – my pizza & ice cream friend? Does that mean that Larry, the little skinny guy who always seemed to be up to something even as he walked the halls pulling his oxygen and IV pole behind him, didn’t make God’s plan list?  Does that mean that Melissa didn’t have a chance? That God didn’t ordain a thing for this teenager to do but that God did for me? It is sometimes painful to try to answer these questions. If I tried, I fear I will come up with some insensitive platitude. No matter what I’d say, it might leave someone out.
I remember as a sophomore in college, sitting on the floor in front of the television enjoying an episode of the 700 Club. I don’t know if they still do it but at some point Pat Robertson and his co-host begin to pray and give ‘Words of Knowledge ’ like, “Someone is being healed of a neck pain, right now.” Things like that. I was totally in the moment with Pat and the co-host when my roommate entered the room. She said, disdainfully, “Do you really believe in healing?” The tone of her voice totally set me off and I turned to her angrily said, “There was a girl that had the same cancer I did. We received to same treatment. Mine in Iowa City and hers in Des Moines. We both had our legs amputated. Her left and my right. She is dead and I am alive. So, YES, I believe in healing!” Then I turned my back and continued to watch the show. She made the intelligent decision to remain silent.
That was healing, as I understood it then. I’m alive and she’s dead, so I’m healed. It’s not so cut and dry for me anymore. I believe that healing takes place in a lot of ways and that, we, as humans, must be very careful about how we judge what is healing and what is not.  Ministers often have to walk a fine line. We are the carriers of God’s word and bearers of Christ’s love, we look for indications of brokenness and hurt in people and try to encourage them to seek wholeness and health in their lives. But we must also avoid offering cheap hope. Although I believe that spontaneous and miraculous healing is possible, I never want to convey that the more common, long journey to wholeness is any less miraculous.  We must be careful not to presume that we know, more than God, what an individual needs.
There are instances in which people want to be encouraging and tell others that God can heal them. Yet, the so-called, ‘encourager’ has set the criteria for what healing is. If the healing process doesn’t go the way the ‘encourager’ anticipates then often, the person in need of healing is blamed for not having enough faith. No one should ever be made to feel guilty for not healing on schedule. This very hurtful when it happens. We project our beliefs on other people to their detriment when we might do well to look deeper at where we get our theology and examine it to see if it is sound or helpful.
Although I can’t answer all the questions that I have about healing right now, I can say that I know that God is God. I cannot control God. I cannot put God in a box. God is not my short order cook or my ATM. God is more than any of us can imagine. God is constantly exploding our idols  and our limited expectations of God abilities. God shows us that our expectations of the divine are not exhaustive. There is always more.
There is no formula to ascertain whom God will heal and whom God will allow to suffer or even die. Being alive is not an indication of healing but it is an opportunity for healing to occur. I find some comfort in the idea that God will do what God does and that healing is always possible and always miraculous, even if the healing does not occur in the way that we anticipated or on what we asked to have healed. And with that, I welcome God even further into my life to heal me and to lead me to whatever I can do to point others to God’s healing power.
In retrospect, I believe that God was present for me when I was sick and that God’s hand was present as I healed. I also believe that God was present with my friends who died. And if they are in the presence of God where all things are complete and make sense, I’m sure they have more understanding of the process than I do. Nevertheless, I’m open to learn whatever God wants to teach me.

Here’s a paper I wrote for Pastoral Care class about an experience with healing.

When I was going through cancer treatment and surgeries in my teenage years, all I could think about was getting well. I thought surviving cancer would be the answer. But, it turns out, that being the one who survived has actually led to more questions.

I have had many occasions to think about this idea of healing. What does it mean to be healed anyway? Early in my life, I believe that I was healed because I wasn’t dead. Other times I believed I was not healed because I didn’t have my leg and God hadn’t spontaneously replaced it for me. Healing can mean so many things. My experience with healing has been less a moment and more a journey of understanding, reflection and struggle.

About three years after my last cancer treatment and my last major surgery, my family drove to Iowa City for a check up. We had been making periodic trips since they had amputated my leg and released me from further chemotherapy treatment. On this particular trip, the doctors had informed me that since it had been almost three years without any reoccurrence of cancer that I no longer needed to have check-ups with them. Their only request was that I get a chest x-ray next year with my yearly physical.

After receiving the good news, we left the pediatric oncology clinic and immediately headed over the pediatric oncology wing of the hospital, the floor where I had received all my chemotherapy treatments, for a visit. We trekked the long halls of the University of Iowa Hospitals and arrived at 3JC West, the place where I had spent at least a week of every month of my sophomore year of high school, and asked the person on duty to page my favorite nurse, Carol. Carol was my primary nurse when I was going through chemotherapy. Carol was strong and intelligent and encouraging throughout my entire treatment schedule. Once, she even got permission from my mother to take me to the movies and out for pizza during one of my stays at the hospital. She was probably one of the reason why I briefly considered being a nurse.

The front desk paged Carol and soon enough, she rounded the corner and greeted us with smiles and hugs. We told her the good news and she caught us up on the goings on in her life and on 3JC West. Before we left, I asked her about Luke and Barbie and Michelle. How were they? What were they doing? She informed me that they had all died. Luke from Cystic Fibrosis AND Barbie from a brain tumor AND Michelle from stomach cancer. I was shocked. As we left the hospital, I could scarcely take it in. All three of them were dead.

When we got back to the car and drove back toward home, my mother informed me that Jessica had also died. Jessica and I had the same cancer. She and I spent one afternoon together one summer. She was at the end of her treatment and planning a remission/recovery party and I, on the other hand, was still going through the treatment. My mother had met her father at work. My mom was a customer service representative at [utility company] and he was a vendor. The receptionist at [utility company] had introduced them to each other because she knew that both their daughters were going through cancer. Jessica’s cancer had spread to her lungs and after a few surgeries they were not able to save her. My mom told me that she had not told me about any of my hospital friend’s or Jessica’s death because they had all died right around the time that I was getting well. I sat in the back seat of the car by myself and cried.

Even now, I still think about what it means to be that one that lived. It is both joyous and confusing to be that person. Of course, I’m glad to be well. Of course, I’m glad to be alive. I’ve been told more than once that God must have ‘something’ for me to do. To some extent, given my current vocation and field of study, I even buy that line of reasoning, but only to some extent. People say a lot of things, and often those things seem cliche and hurtful to those who have lost someone.

If I am alive and God had something for me to do, then does that mean that God had no plan for sweet, funny, Elvis-loving, Barbie – my pizza & ice cream friend? Does that mean that Luke, the little skinny guy who always seemed to be up to something even as he walked the halls pulling his oxygen and IV pole behind him, didn’t make God’s plan list?  Does that mean that Michell didn’t have a chance? That God didn’t ordain a thing for this teenager to do but that God did for me? It is sometimes painful to try to answer these questions. If I tried, I fear I will come up with some insensitive platitude. No matter what I’d say, it might leave someone out.

I remember as a sophomore in college, sitting on the floor in front of the television enjoying an episode of the 700 Club. I don’t know if they still do it but at some point Pat Robertson and his co-host begin to pray and give ‘Words of Knowledge ’ like, “Someone is being healed of a neck pain, right now.” Things like that. I was totally in the moment with Pat and the co-host when my roommate entered the room. She said, disdainfully, “Do you really believe in healing?” The tone of her voice totally set me off and I turned to her angrily said, “There was a girl that had the same cancer I did. We received to same treatment. Mine in Iowa City and hers in Des Moines. We both had our legs amputated. Her left and my right. She is dead and I am alive. So, YES, I believe in healing!” Then I turned my back and continued to watch the show. She made the intelligent decision to remain silent.

That was healing, as I understood it then. I’m alive and she’s dead, so I’m healed. It’s not so cut and dry for me anymore. I believe that healing takes place in a lot of ways and that, we, as humans, must be very careful about how we judge what is healing and what is not.  Ministers often have to walk a fine line. We are the carriers of God’s word and bearers of Christ’s love, we look for indications of brokenness and hurt in people and try to encourage them to seek wholeness and health in their lives. But we must also avoid offering cheap hope. Although I believe that spontaneous and miraculous healing is possible, I never want to convey that the more common, long journey to wholeness is any less miraculous.  We must be careful not to presume that we know, more than God, what an individual needs.

There are instances in which people want to be encouraging and tell others that God can heal them. Yet, the so-called, ‘encourager’ has set the criteria for what healing is. If the healing process doesn’t go the way the ‘encourager’ anticipates then often, the person in need of healing is blamed for not having enough faith. No one should ever be made to feel guilty for not healing on schedule. This very hurtful when it happens. We project our beliefs on other people to their detriment when we might do well to look deeper at where we get our theology and examine it to see if it is sound or helpful.

Although I can’t answer all the questions that I have about healing right now, I can say that I know that God is God. I cannot control God. I cannot put God in a box. God is not my short order cook or my ATM. God is more than any of us can imagine. God is constantly exploding our idols  and our limited expectations of God abilities. God shows us that our expectations of the divine are not exhaustive. There is always more.

There is no formula to ascertain whom God will heal and whom God will allow to suffer or even die. Being alive is not an indication of healing but it is an opportunity for healing to occur. I find some comfort in the idea that God will do what God does and that healing is always possible and always miraculous, even if the healing does not occur in the way that we anticipated or on what we asked to have healed. And with that, I welcome God even further into my life to heal me and to lead me to whatever I can do to point others to God’s healing power.

In retrospect, I believe that God was present for me when I was sick and that God’s hand was present as I healed. I also believe that God was present with my friends who died. And if they are in the presence of God where all things are complete and make sense, I’m sure they have more understanding of the process than I do. Nevertheless, I’m open to learn whatever God wants to teach me.

End notes:

1. They do, in fact, still do the Word of Knowledge thing on the 700 club.

http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/BringItOn/healing-index.aspx . Additionally, the biblical reference often used to explain this phenomenon is 1 Corinthians 12:8.

2.   Not an exact quote by any means but a definite shout out to C.S. Lewis and Paul Tillich.

3. Names have been changed for privacy.

Psalm 55

A friend of mine posted this summary of Psalm 55 on his status on Facebook:

“Open your ears, God, to my prayer; Come close and whisper your answer. I really need you. My insides are turned inside out. Get me out of here; I want some peace and quiet and I’m desperate for change. I call to You, and my life is well and whole, secure in the middle of danger. I pile my troubles on Your shoulders—You’ll carry my load, You’ll help me out…And I trust in You.”  Psalm 55, Message

For the full passage, click here.

Lose Yourself

You know, Eminem is ‘special’ but I feel him on a lot of these lyrics.

“Lose Yourself”

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s choking, how everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up over, bloah!
Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked
He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that
Easy, no
He won’t have it , he knows his whole back’s to these ropes
It don’t matter, he’s dope
He knows that, but he’s broke
He’s so stagnant that he knows
When he goes back to his mobile home, that’s when it’s
Back to the lab again yo
This this whole rhapsody
He better go capture this moment and hope it don’t pass him

[Hook:]
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

The soul’s escaping, through this hole that it’s gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a, new world order
A normal life is boring, but superstardom’s close to post mortem
It only grows harder, only grows hotter
He blows us all over these hoes is all on him
Coast to coast shows, he’s know as the globetrotter
Lonely roads, God only knows
He’s grown farther from home, he’s no father
He goes home and barely knows his own daughter
But hold your nose cause here goes the cold water
His hoes don’t want him no mo, he’s cold product
They moved on to the next schmoe who flows
He nose dove and sold nada
So the soap opera is told and unfolds
I suppose it’s old partner’, but the beat goes on
Da da dum da dum da da

[Hook]

No more games, I’ma change what you call rage
Tear this m************ roof off like 2 dogs caged
I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed
I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage
But I kept rhyming and stepwritin the next cypher
Best believe somebody’s paying the pied piper
All the pain inside amplified by the fact
That I can’t get by with my 9 to 5
And I can’t provide the right type of life for my family
Cause man, these g*****
food stamps don’t buy diapers
And it’s no movie, there’s no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life
And these times are so hard and it’s getting even harder
Trying to feed and water my seed, plus
Teeter totter caught up between being a father and a prima donna
Baby mama drama’s screaming on and
Too much for me to wanna
Stay in one spot, another day of monotony
Has gotten me to the point, I’m like a snail
I’ve got to formulate a plot fore I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only motherfucking option, failure’s not
Mom, I love you, but this trailer’s got to go
I cannot grow old in Salem’s lot
So here I go is my shot.
Feet fail me not cause maybe the only opportunity that I got

[Hook]

You can do anything you set your mind to, man

Thank God for grace and mercy. Opportunity does knock more than once and God gives us so many chances to get it right. He has mercy on us daily. Every morning, in fact, his mercies are new every morning. I need every single one He’s got…especially now.

Level 3, Pre-Cancer

Okay, so I’m really sick of visiting the doctor. Really, really sick of it! So Iris calls me yesterday and tells me that the colposcopy did, in fact, confirm the Pap results.

I am so sick of this year. Miscarriage, now this. I am exhausted! She said she will go talk to the cancer doctors to discuss my situation. She said she may refer me to them. She said she’d call me next week with a plan of action.

Today, I cried….

Best case, they do the LEEP procedure and clean house. Clean, I want it clean and I don’t want to hear any of this garbage come out of a doctor’s mouth ever again. Negative effect of best case: next baby delivers at 37 weeks instead of 40 weeks. That is the side of effect since this will be my second LEEP. I can handle that. Right now, that is all I can handle. And yes, I know that He will sustain me.. I know that! He does it every time. He did it last time. He did it a minute ago. He’s doing it now but I don’t want to do this. I want to deal with regular uncertainty, not this.

One set of foot prints.

I am afraid and angry. I am sick of this. Div School. Miscarriage. Level 3, Pre-Cancer. Life as ministry tool? Lord, make it worth it, please. I know I have work to do so I’m counting on you to make it alright. Please.

Create-Your-Own Summer Internship

After all I’ve been through this quarter I decided that I would not do C.P.E. (Clinical Pastoral Education) this summer. C.P.E. is basically an chaplaincy internship. They can be done at a hospice, hospital, nursing home, community center, etc. I want to do hospice but not this time. I’m not ready. I need to heal and recover and I want a summer to do me. So I sat down with Pastor AJ and put together a plan. I’ve added a few things to the list since then:

  • Launch the Women’s Group
  • Launch the Resume/Job Posting Ministry
  • Community Partnerships – Angel’s Touch, BIAMA, City Council Meetings
  • Preaching – Once per month
  • Teach a Bible Study – Once per month
  • Pastoral Care – Office hours twice per week
  • Shadowing PAJ – Go with AJ to do ministry stuff and talk about what to and how to and when to, etc.
  • Update the church website and get the blog going.
  • Get people in place to do the administration stuff after while I am doing my field placement next year.

That ought to learn me and make the summer fly by. I’m nervous about preaching and teaching. I’m afraid I will not be good but I also know it will be okay.

A Plug for H.O.P.E. Ministry

Deacons Walter and Marsha Peeler are on business with H.O.P.E. Ministry. If you email them and get on their mailing list you will get one to two devotionals per day that will not only keep you off the roof but will inspire you to represent Christ, handle your business and grab a brother or sister that’s already missed a beat.

Here’s the latest one:

                                            Disappointments

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12

Life is filled with disappointments. Many of God’s greatest servants experienced deep disappointment in their journeys of faithfulness to God. Joseph, after spending years as a slave and in jail for crimes that he did not commit, revealed deep disappointment when he was forgotten another two years in prison. John the Baptist, when awaiting execution, doubted whether Jesus was, in fact, the Christ because he was sitting there awaiting his death. Elijah, losing all hope and despondent to the point of death, asked God to take his life in the desert; and Peter, who left his fishing business and invested three years of his life only to watch his Savior crucified, wondered whether the purpose of those three years could be justified.

When life doesn’t add up, it leaves the heart sick. When we have done all we know to do and the formula has not worked, it leaves us questioning. These are times that try the very souls of men. There is no human sense to be made of it. We are left with a choice: to cling or not to cling. There are times when holding on to our Master’s robe is all that we can do. It is all that He wants us to do.

The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not obtained by sudden flight;

But they, while their companions slept,

Were toiling upward in the night.

Standing on what too long we bore,

With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,

We may discern-unseen before-

A path to higher destinies!

~Longfellow

There is only one answer to life’s disappointments. Like the psalmist, we must “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Ps. 62:5-6).

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Heb.3:13)

DEACON WALTER & MARSHA PEELER
H.O.P.E. MINISTRY
MISSION STATEMENT:
HELPING OTHER PEOPLE TO ENDURE
prayer lets you speak to God; meditation lets God speak to you.

http://www.hopeminstry1@yahoo.com

Contact them if you want to get on the mailing list.