Healing: Miracle for All Ages

Age hourglass As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now for war, both to go out and to come in.” (Caleb, at age 85 – as recorded in the book of Joshua, Chapter 14)

As many of you wait for healing to manifest in your bodies, let me dispel a myth that the enemy may be trying to circulate in your reasoning. God doesn’t grant healing based on age; healing was purchased in the Atonement, and manifests in our bodies as we exercise faith to receive it. Period. God is not like our modern healthcare system–not even a government-run healthcare system! “The system” would say that you don’t deserve a new liver because you were an alcoholic. They would say that based on your age, it’s not feasible to do heart surgery or give you a transplant. At your age, cancer treatment is beyond the acceptable practice; or dementia and clogged arteries and failing kidneys are to be accepted. You need to just accept that you are approaching end-of-life and that you aren’t as worth saving as, say, a 20-year old.

Don’t be upset with them…they’re mere humans. They are working with limited know-how, resources, and only so much money. They also have some among them who are also motivated by greed; maybe even a few who would like to play God…but not all. They operate in the carnal, natural realm. They’re good; they do a whole lot of good in their element, but their scope is limited.

But! When you approach God’s throne of grace to obtain help (and health) in your time of need, God is under no such restrictions. He will hear and answer prayer whether you have 50 more years to live or 50 more hours. When you have been satisfied with your number of days, you can transition out of a healed body into eternity instead of allowing the enemy to chisel you away to nothing.  Wouldn’t it be something to pass from a healthy body whose organs were viable enough to donate to the next recipient?  Think about that!

If no one’s ever reinforced that with you, then hear it now! It’s a real game-changer! God will continue to invest in you when you’re 95 just like He did when you were 15, because it’s impossible to waste what comes from an infinite supply. There’s not “only so much” healing to go around. And you–yes, YOU–have the same grace to walk in it as someone younger, more productive, more socially upright, and better-insured!  Don’t bow your head in shame and say, “I don’t feel right asking for healing when others are so much worse off than I am.”  Ask for yourself AND for them too!

When as an “old man” receiving the commission to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, Moses presented his terrible stuttering (and the self-conscious shyness resulting from it) to God as the reason why he wasn’t an ideal candidate. The Lord cooled his jets really quick by asking, “Did I not make men’s mouths?” The same God Who makes men’s mouths just so happens to also unclog arteries, restore sight and hearing, quicken damaged limbs, dry up cancers, and repair a diabetes-ravaged pancreas! He’s perfected making something out of nothing, and He doesn’t have to wait for someone to die to give you a transplant…wait, Jesus already did that!

Don’t listen to wicked spirits who would taunt you and say, as Job’s wife did, “Why don’t you just curse God, die, and accept it!” Rather, why not approach God’s presence today, having cleared your heart of doubt, unforgiveness, secret sins, and all hindrances…and present a claim ticket for that healing which is already been provided for you. God will not make you fill out any forms, put you on a waiting list, or ask you any health-related questions. He will not grant your request based on a limited pool of resources. Your answer is only restricted by how much you are willing to ask and believe for–so do exactly what the Word says you can do. Approach His throne boldly! Walk in your full potential, in Jesus’ name!

Confidently Decreasing So that Jesus Might Increase

JohnBaptistJohn the Baptist has been on my mind a lot today. Jesus said there was none greater born to a woman than John…but that the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than him. This mysterious kingdom of heaven….so different from the kingdoms of man!

I don’t know much about John; just what’s recorded in the Gospels. I’m not sure what Josephus or other theological historians say. I have my own ideas about him, though.  Can I share?

John was just a few months older than Jesus; cousins. I don’t know whether they lived close to one another, but if they did, I can relate to cousins who feel more like siblings. When John was beheaded, it hurt Jesus deeply even though He knew John was in eternity with the Father. They had history together.  They were blood.

Though I can’t back this up, I have a feeling that John was the better-looking of the two; something that perhaps he chose to downplay by his strange appearance and habits. Maximizing on a handsome ruggedness would’ve no doubt landed him a wife, maybe a position of prominence in his village–but he was not deterred by personal ambition. He knew his role, and that was to decrease so that Jesus could increase. John loved Jesus enough to want to see His destiny fulfilled even above his own. Who better to “look out for” Jesus than John? Did cousin John ever have to pull the neighborhood bullies off a boy Jesus for teasing him about Mary’s pregnancy before her marriage to Joseph?

The Word hints to us that Jesus was very ordinary in His appearance. He passed right through the crowd who was trying to throw Him off a cliff, He was so ordinary! And the Word says that there wasn’t anything about His appearance that would cause us to desire Him–not regal, not standout in any way. Yes, I believe John may have been that charismatic cousin whose natural appearance could’ve attracted people away from Jesus, had he been a typical ego-driven alpha male who used every advantage to advance himself; but I also believe that he knew how to back off to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.  Whether his potential success could have lay in an earthly realm, or a spiritual realm, or both–John knew that the greater glory was to be simply no glory at all.  His greater glory was to prepare the way, to deflect attention away from himself and onto Jesus.  I don’t believe just anybody could’ve filled that role!  No wonder the Holy Spirit filled him while he was still in Elizabeth’s womb!

John had to be pretty comfortable with whom God called him to be. We don’t know how old his parents were when they passed; whether he was left alone young or whether they were still alive when he went to the wilderness to prepare for his ministry. Can you imagine, though, the pressure? He was a miracle baby too–perhaps not the miracle that Jesus’ virgin birth was, but a tangible miracle nonetheless. There was no denying the unlikelihood of his birth, so he probably had a whole village doting on him, celebrating the fact that his parents didn’t die childless. His dad, a priest, was surely pleased at the thought of a son to follow in his footsteps; and yet, this would not be the role John would play.  This gifted orator, who no doubt could’ve risen in ranks in the temple, chose the temple of open air and sand in which to preach.  Was there criticism? Did Zechariah and Elizabeth have to explain why their wonderful boy was not becoming a success, a protege to his priestly father? A good young husband and father of many children?  Did John have to shy away from the constant naggings of the well-meaning neighborhood mothers of “a real nice Jewish girl who would make you such a good wife?”

I wonder. And I wonder if some of the things which aren’t written are what caused Jesus to say of John that there was none greater. I wonder if Jesus watched and took note of John deliberately diminishing his own successes and opportunities just so that cousin Jesus could move to the forefront. I wonder about that emotional encounter when, in the river of baptism, John preferred that Jesus baptize HIM instead. Were there nostalgic tears blinked back as this great exchange took place? Would they both go their separate ways after that baptism, full of greater love and appreciation for one another? Isn’t it wonderful to know that Jesus not only impacted the lives of others, He allowed others to impact HIM?  Clearly they loved and respected one another deeply; and yet, John knew that Jesus was different.  Jesus was Divine.  He had a mission that was just beginning as John’s was coming to its climax.  John was blown away by the magnitude of Who his cousin really was; and he would tell others that the One was coming Whose shoes he wasn’t worthy to buckle.

I really have no idea where all this is going…except it’s been on my heart today and I couldn’t wait to sit down and share it with you.  I’m not trying to elevate John the Baptist above the man that he was–but to show you that God can trust someone who’s learned to push self-promotion off the burner.  When you are willing to lay down every semblance of personal success, goals, gain, respect, and approval of man at the feet of Jesus, you are showing yourself to be a worthy vessel to contain the very things you lay down: because you will not allow them or yourself to be exalted above the God Who’s given you those things to steward!  And here, finally, is my point.

You have a destiny that is too incredible to build merely upon what the world views as your strengths. Oh, that seems like the perfect way to get where you’re going: to be on top of the game and to outdo everyone around you. If you’re the competitive type, it feels especially good to go around your opponents on the inside track!

If God should so will for you, however, to become a different kind of great–like John, great in the kingdom by being as the least in the kingdom–could you set it all aside and be obedient to His will? If His will would elevate you to incredible heights just so that, as you were handed those trophies, you could cast them at His feet and say, “For Your glory, Lord?”  You may have everything going for you, and you may be the envy of others who wish they had your popularity, your looks, your brains, your boldness; but could there be something even more important than being the kind of successful that other men and women covet?

Father, help us to know who we are in You, like John the Baptist. Help us to desire Your will above any dreams and fantasies we may have about our future. Help us to think of ETERNAL future, not just the temporal future. May all that we do attract people to YOU and not to ourselves. May we take the time we are afforded in this one vapor life, and use it to win as many people to our Savior as possible. May we be God-inside, kingdom-minded, for the greater good.  May we decrease so that our Lord can increase, and may we count it all as loss!   For You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

A “Well-Timed” Encounter

DipperIsn’t the story of the woman at the well one of the most beautiful short stories ever recorded?  I love makeovers.  I love seeing comebacks.  Love watching the underdog rise from the bottom.  I don’t know the rest of her story, but I do know that in just a few short minutes, her life is altered forever.

The Samaritan woman is one of my favorite Jesus-encounters, simply because of the transparency factor He shows a lady who’s probably seen more than her share of people not to be trusted.  Sensitive to the short time He has to impart truth into this broken woman, He cuts to the chase–but He also solidifies the ground for trust by making Himself vulnerable to her.  Oh, she can handle the fakes, the con-men, the bullies, and the gigolos.  She’s had a lifetime to build up a thick skin.  But what to do with this blatantly-honest prophet who’s just used a drink of water to weaken her defenses!

In one lunchtime conversation at the water cooler (smile), Jesus not only reveals the Samaritan woman’s greatest secrets to her, but then He turns around and reveals HIS greatest secret to her, too! If you read the NT, there weren’t that many people recorded to whom He came right out and said, “I’m He. I am the Promised One. I am the Son of God!”  People who are in His company all the time, He will allow to chase after that revelation; even His disciples are discovering it somewhat gradually.  He calms their storms and they eventually conclude, “Surely He’s the Son of God!”  Yet, while just passing through, He shares that quiet truth with this Samaritan woman on a thirsty day by the well.  And she gets it.

He throws her off guard on all counts. He is a male; in that culture, an unlikely person with whom to strike up a conversation. He is Jewish and she, from Samaria. These two groups pretty much tolerate one another, but it isn’t a warm cross-culture bond. So this other-gender, other-culture fellow draws her into a conversation so far beyond a little water (and without trying to hit on her or seduce her or appeal to her need for relationships–even those purely physical) that He changes her life forever. She is the woman with whom country music could have a field day. Single again, hold onto your men. Women like you are a dime a dozen. 

I doubt she is a “black widow” with five dead husbands; or a woman looking for a sugar daddy, an intentional home wrecker. Probably not even a prostitute considering she’s been in front of the Justice o’ the Peace five times. I’d say she is just an unfortunately lonely person, who now on top of her fatal attractions, has half of Samaria’s female population hating her for breathing. Half the men in town wouldn’t dare ask her for a dipper of water from that well for fear of being called out, guilty by association. And for all we know, perhaps she is even planning Number Seven! Maybe Jesus looks like a potential transition out of Bad Relationship Number Six. She wants respect again, if ever she has had it at all.  She wants social interaction without ulterior motives.  She wants desperately not to be talked about in private gossip sessions, and not to have to be so stinking afraid of what the future does or doesn’t hold.  She wants.

It’s not a crime to be lonely, and not even a crime to be unlucky in love. It is, however, a tragedy to go through one’s entire life in a perpetual state of unrequited love. Has she been abused? Is she unattractive and having to settle for bottom-feeders just to have a roof over her head? Or is she one of those women who is beautiful to the point where she is a threat…high-maintenance single lady, getting older, reputation for rockslides, tragically alone, the lovely shell that hides some major relationship flaw? Or yes, even the man-killer seductress who levels happy homes and leaves devastation in her wake? We may never know this side of heaven. She could even be standing there trying to let her headdress drape over a badly-blacked eye and burst lip; crouching like a whipped puppy anticipating no good out of another man just wanting what he can take from her. Boy is she about to get the shock of her life!

When she runs into town yelling and beckoning those whom she typically avoids, it isn’t just because Jesus nails her whole five-husbands-shacking-up-this-time-around routine. Her reputation in town probably doesn’t make that much of a prophetic discovery. No, she is excited. All that other stuff is old news, and bad news. Tabloid cover.  She has just been given new news. Good news. For all the times she has stared at her reflection in the water pots and asked, “How did I end up like this? Why can I just not be happy? Don’t I deserve even a little better?” she has just been given an answer to them all! Her jubilant cry in the town square isn’t because she is proud of her past: it’s because she is finally hopeful of her future! She no longer NEEDS to put on the front, play the game, endure the torment, for at last she has learned that her void can be permanently filled through a right relationship with her Heavenly Father–Who is nothing like the men who have failed to fill shoes too large for mere men to ever fill! What relief…what peace!  Her cell door has just been torn off the hinges!  And not only has He done something incredible for her, He has shattered the glass ceiling by revealing a precious secret of His own to her!  His encounter gives her some words she’s not used to hearing (with any a truth attached to them, at least):  YOU CAN TRUST ME; AND TO PROVE IT, I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU THAT I TRUST YOU TOO!  I’M ABOUT TO  MAKE YOU A COURIER OF SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT–AND I BELIEVE YOU WILL CARRY IT WITH FLYING COLORS!   Wow.  I believe in you.  That’s a cold drink of water on a hot day.

You may be in a relationship sag right now: in a bad marriage, a rocky engagement, a long dry spell in-between lovers, or perhaps some estranged parents, siblings, or kids. You may wonder if you will always be left disappointed and longing. Whether you are that woman with a “past” or a young man eager for a future he’s not quite ready to step into, your solution is one and the same: Jesus. If you will surrender that achy void to Him, He will fill it with the relationship that trumps all others: a permanent encounter with God. In His rightful place in your life, no human being is left responsible for your happiness. People fail us. We fail people. God never does.

Pray with me from your heart:

Jesus, I’m tired of my frustration! I’m tired of feeling the eyes of others on me, judging me, sizing me up. I cannot meet the expectations of the whole world, and I’m so disappointed with the whole world’s inability to meet mine. You’d think with all of the opportunities, all the people, all my hard work, I could get past this EMPTINESS.

I am told You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I haven’t truly experienced that in my “knower” just yet. I don’t really know what it is like to be sold-out to a relationship with You, allowing time for it to grow. There may have even been times I’ve looked to You for a quick fix, but I’ve not stuck with You long enough to take root.  

Forgive my failures, please! Forgive the sins against our Father, and the sins I’ve committed against myself (which always wound up hurting more than just me), and forgive me for not really allowing You time to transform me. I haven’t made You Lord of all…but in this moment, I know I need to. Help me.

Take over the controls in my messy, complicated life. Clean me up. Replace all my drama with the peace that sounds almost cliche’…I have never known it in reality. Cause me to know in my spirit that You are my Source. Man cannot HELP me (initially, not the news I’d hoped for), but now I see that neither can man HARM me (that’s pretty GOOD news!). I’m not enslaved by my need for others’ approval, so I no longer need to heap up harmful, destined-to-end-badly relationships. Help me to put God first now. Help me to put God first in all my tomorrows. Be my Savior! I receive Your living water now, and I need never again thirst for another source! Thank You for proving Your love for me.  Thanks for leaving Heaven’s comforts just so you could come and identify with my discomforts.  You did that for me–experienced every temptation, to the greatest of suffering and death, to raising from the dead.  Now after all that, I’m told that You are listening from the right hand of Father God for my cry!

I believe in You.  Help me to embrace what I might not yet understand, and to know that just like that woman at the well, I can trust You.  I receive the life You died to bring me; and with Your help, my life changes now in this moment. I won’t go by my fickle feelings, I will rely on the fact that You do not lie! You are here for me forevermore, and I will never have to be alone again.  I love You for that…and I am excited to know that the love will only grow.  The more I seek You, the more I’ll find You.  The more I know You, the more I’ll want to know!”

Your Breath, Lord

We did a new worship song today/tonight, and one of the lines in it says, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.” Both services it just completely reduced me down to tears. Even as I write this, they’re dripping down onto my pajamas.

As we sang that song, I thought of coming up on 5 years ago, when a motorcycle wreck nearly took Dana and me out permanently. That entire first night in the hospital, I struggled to breathe and it was terrible. I guess I’d gotten the wind knocked out of me in the impact. And it was as if no one understood that I felt I was being smothered by a pillow. My O2 stats were ok, so I wasn’t being administered oxygen. I was begging for relief no one could give me, and being strapped down to a trauma board flat on my back made me feel even less able to draw breath into my lungs. To finally get an open window and a cool breeze and a chance to sit up on the edge of my hospital bed sometime in the wee hours of the morning, much to my nurse’s alarm and disapproval, was inexplicable relief.

My Dana would have a much harder road to travel. He had a punctured lung from one of several broken bones, which set up infection and pneumonia on top of his multiple brain bleeds and state of comatose for 17 days. His neurologist told me that they had been more concerned with his lung condition killing him than even the traumatic brain injury, for he had developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). The illness causes your lungs just to shut down and start deteriorating. They weren’t wanting to re-inflate and work; they were a bit like wet paper towels that start just coming apart in the water.  Statistics are very high of people who don’t make it out of the hospital when they develop this condition. I can’t tell you what it was like for me, bandaged and braced myself, to sit there and watch him lying on an ice pad a few nights into our accident, as his fever kept climbing critically higher and higher–on top of the brain hemorrhages.  A person’s lungs and brain don’t survive much more of that–bouncing down the hardtop, then cooking with fever till they come apart.  For him to be on a ventilator for about the first six weeks of his hospital stay before moving on to the rehab center, unable to eat or drink for 43 days (yes, not so much as a cool piece of ice to chew on), I shudder to think of what might have happened if not for God. I was so glad that he was unconscious for the first 2 1/2 weeks, and not knowing how scary it is not to be able to breathe…for that is the most horrible kind of fear. I’d had enough of it in one long night to last me a lifetime.  All this was a surreal, curious mix of crazy nothing-left-to-lose faith and a threat of impending doom wanting to sit down on me and squeeze the life right out.

My mind then drifted tonight to our worship pastor, Jenelle Martin​, who a couple of years after our wreck was nearly crushed in a car accident. Her thin ribcage and small bone structure wasn’t enough to withstand that airbag’s impact, which broke her ribs and punctured her lungs. The hospital didn’t even know immediately what all was wrong with her, except she was in bad shape with pain and terrible shortness of breath.  It might have been easier to figure out what was wrong, except that before she collapsed on the roadside, she got her small sons out of the back of her car and to safety!  She was panting out the Word in her prayers as they shoved a chest tube in without any medication to help shield her from yet more pain. Her recovery time was painful and, like Dana’s and mine, a scary time of not being able to get a deep, satisfying breath and being able to expel it fully. I imagine she, too, felt like a good deep breath was worth all the gold in Fort Knox.

So I’m sitting at the keyboard tonight and I’m thinking of these things as I worship; and in the same line of sight, I see Jenelle and Dana both engaged in worship. He’s back on the back row with his hands raised (as high as they will go, anyway) and Jenelle is moving about and singing with her whole body, as she does–her worship is a little bit song, a little bit dance, and all heart and soul. The two of them are worshiping wholeheartedly, different in their individual expressions, and it’s a beautiful thing.  I am able to lift a sax to my lips and blow long notes with healthy lungs.  And the words to that song then hit me…all three of us are here now because of God’s breath in our lungs. If anyone in that whole church needed to be singing like we meant it, us three did. The emotion just overcame me, and I couldn’t hold it in; nor did I want to. How can we NOT praise Him with the breath we almost didn’t get! If not for Him, we’d surely have perished…and perished in a terrifying way.

You may be going through something hard and seemingly endless right now. I understand that, because Dana’s and my recovery seemed to be so far-removed from “anytime soon.” It took a good while to see light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed as if it would take more faith than I had to offer, but the Lord fixed that—He saw to it that, even in a time when I was shut away from church and worship services, that I still had the wherewithal to chase (with a neck stabilizer and a shoulder sling) after chances to read and hear His Word. When sleeping on cots, chairs, and couches for 8 months afforded me less than ideal sleep, and Dana’s erratic behavior would have me getting an hour’s rest here, two hours there, I would fill my ears with the Word. I read it. I spoke it out loud, I prayed it. I cried it. I even argued it! Somehow, in all of that, I did wind up with enough faith! Hearing and digesting and repeating it back to God, there was never a time in those 8 months away from home, or in the past 4 1/2 years of ongoing recovery, that I found myself with “not enough” faith to at least get me through one day at a time. God never required me to pay up front for that grace; He didn’t even ask for a deposit! He didn’t demand proof in advance that I have enough faith to move a mountain. I didn’t have to have it all figured out on that October night when life as I knew it changed forever. Neither do you, friend. Give your problems to Him and know that, while you won’t get all the answers up front, He will not once let go of your hand as you labor to get that good, deep breath. Lean back against your Father and let Him hold you as you work to just breathe with ease again.

It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise

It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.

Thank You, O God. You deserve every ounce of that breath offered back as an offering.

Stop Hating the Haters (A Poem About Forgiveness)

SShacklestop hating the haters, start hating the hate. The time to move on isn’t up for debate. Those who have wounded you, broken your heart Aren’t here, so why let the past tear you apart? Holding them captive, or so you believe, Is a misunderstanding and YOU are deceived! You see just the bars, but not the whole tale They’re walking around–but it’s you in the cell. No guilt trip, no lawsuit, no long-seated grudge Will unblock your peace flow; it simply won’t budge. At some point in time begs the question you dread: “Will I ever let go and forgive them instead?” They don’t have a button, a magic rewind And neither have you; so just leave it behind. Remember, although you are hurting, ’tis true, Forgiveness is something that you’ve needed, too. At some point in life, on purpose or not, You’ve gossiped or slandered, kept stirring the pot. You’ve been the one guilty of hurting another, Of wounding your enemy, sister, or brother. If not for the grace of the good Lord above, You’d be wanting for mercy, tolerance, love. And as He granted forgiveness to you His mandate was that you forgive others, too. So go forth today, and make it all right. Release the offenders, stop holding on tight. Perhaps in the sowing, you’ll reap mercy, too. Release from offenses for others and you. Stop hating the haters, start hating the hate. When love takes the high road, it’s never too late. ©2015 Lisa Crum