Tuesday, March 24, 2015

He Touched Even Me

Jesus touched a man with leprosy.

Matthew 8:1-3: “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’ Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’ And instantly the leprosy disappeared.”

This passage has always touched me. No one touched the lepers. They had to stay away from everyone else and constantly call out “Unclean”. But Jesus touched him.

I grew up going to church every Sunday and made the decision to become a Christian when I was seventeen. In college, I became involved with a campus ministry. They offered worship services, large and small group Bible studies, and classes on serious Christian topics—women’s issues, Old Testament prophecy, and more. They offered the opportunity to learn to do ministries—visits to hospitals, nursing homes, prison, others.

I knew I was getting a good Christian education. I developed a strong knowledge of and commitment to the Bible. Most of my social time was spent with other students involved with this ministry. I wrote about the Bible for my classes, and I witnessed to people. I was charged.

I was proud.

It took growing up, venturing more out into the world, a few bumps, temptations, some growing stress, and a lot of mistakes for me to finally realize I was really a sinner. I was unclean.

I’m not going to describe to you all of my sins. It doesn’t matter. I just finally realized I wasn’t God’s gift to Missouri.

I needed God’s grace.

I hit bottom, more than once, before I could come up. I have suffered from depression since I was very young. God has given me great healing in this area, but I experienced times when I was buried in it, as crushing as if I was in quicksand.

I have gone through times when I let Satan convince me that I had never been saved. Other times, he made me sure that even if I had been saved, I had gone too far away to be able to come back to God. Satan told me I had committed sins that God could never forgive.

I now believe that God has spent many hours crying over my lack of understanding about how much He loves me.

I wish I could say that I went through an earth-shaking, immediate, miraculous recovery.

God has shown me more miracles than I can count, but I didn’t let the change happen all at once. He used my family, many other people, His word, a torrent of tears, and multiple years to bring me to a strong belief that He does still love me.

When I open my ears, and listen to God speak to me throughout His word, He shows me so many people in the Bible whom He touched. They were in trouble for many reasons; all of them were sinners. But He found them, and He touched them. He touched even me.

Tenderly, God showed me His love for specific sinners in the Bible, including some who were already His children: David, the adulterer and murderer; Peter,, one of His closest friends, who denied Him; the woman at the well; the thief on the cross; the woman caught in adultery; Paul, persecuting the church.

The Lord gave them the privilege of helping him and his children. He called David a man after his own heart, Acts 13:22. The woman at the well brought many out to meet Jesus, John 4:28-30. He asked Peter to feed his sheep, John 21:15-17. He sent Paul to rescue the gentiles, Acts 9:15.

When I was young, I believed I could draw people to God by my knowledge and fervor. Now that I am older and weathered, I pray that I can be kind to others who share similar sins and struggles as mine.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

I have often felt so unclean by sin that I don’t see how anyone can bear to touch me, especially God. In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says that he is the chief of all sinners. I have often said that I am his closest deputy.

But the Bible says that God forgives me. He accepts me as his child. He loves me. Psalm 103.

And when I still worry if God can accept me, he reminds me that his love and forgiveness continue.

Lamentations 3:21-23: “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Benjamin and Time Travel

I wrote this story about my son Benjamin in March, 2013.

Hey, here’s a time travel program, Benjamin thinks as he scrolls around the internet. I wonder if it works.

Oops, I didn’t mean to hit enter there.

Benjamin feels himself being pulled backward, off his chair, out of the dining room, fast, fast, down some strange hallway.

Now he’s outside and whoa! He’s riding a horse, and the horse is galloping. “Whoa, horsie, sloooooow down!”

But the horse doesn’t slowdown—it gets faster.

Benjamin has only ridden horses at camp, and always pretty slowly. He grabs onto the mane and prays he won’t slip off.

Oh, no, he is falling off—no, he’s being pulled backward down the hallway again.

He stops in a busy sounding room. People are laughing and calling out to him, “Yay, Benjie! Yay!” And he’s laughing like a little kid. What’s going on here?

Oh, he’s at the St. Baldrick’s Day place downtown when he’s just six, getting his head shaved. This time travel thing keeps switching him. Where next?

Now he finds himself in a dentist chair. He’s four or five, and he’s getting one of his many cavities filled. Well, he wouldn’t mind being taken out of this one.

And out he goes, fast, fast, down another hallway.

Next, Benjamin finds himself sitting on the ground with a young Einstein, who is working on the “E equals MC squared” problem. Benjamin has to explain this very slowly and patiently before Einstein finally gets it.


Benjamin finds himself lying in a trench in France during World War I. Many shots are going on around him, and for whatever reason, Benjamin has his head raised out of the trench. He quickly lowers it snugly into the dirt and prays he’ll be able to get out of this one fast too.

But he’s not sure this next place is what he would have hoped for.

He’s on a horse again, on a very bumpy road. Other riders are coming up quickly behind him.

“He’s got it! Hurry up, catch him!”

They sound like rough English accents from maybe the 1700’s. If he had to guess, he would think they are robbers, and they seem to think he has whatever they want.

“No! No! I don’t have it,” Benjamin yells.

“He’s Lyin’. Hurry up. Get him!”

This time, Benjamin wants the horse to go fast. He leans forward, grips the mane in terror, and yells, “Faster, horsie! Faster!”

Ooooohhhhh. He’s being pulled backwards again…

Bang. He ends up on the floor in his own dining room. Ping-Hwei sits in the chair beside him.

“Ping-Hwei, Hurry, unplug my computer,” he gasps.

Benjamin lies on the floor, trying to get his breath back under control. I hope I’ll have the chance to work on that time travel program before using it again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Our Golden Anniversary

I started writing this last August, close to our anniversary. Lately, I’ve felt the need to add to and complete it.

No, we haven’t been married fifty years.

When our kids were little, we told them it was their golden birthday when they were three on the third, five on the fifth, twelve on the twelfth and so-on. On the 27th of August, in a couple of weeks, Murray and I will be married twenty-seven years.

If we make it to fifty, that might be our “Can you believe we lived this long?” anniversary.

We only knew each other five or six months when we got married. We were engaged less than two weeks.

Our first year of marriage was quite a tumble as we finally got to know each other.

But we were happy. We had plans—school, careers, children. I knew we would be different from most couples. I knew even after we’d been married for a while, even after we had kids, we would hold on to our romance.



Life became complicated. We grew busy. We certainly didn’t always agree on how to handle the kids. The world slapped us in the face with some pretty hefty problems.

We were Christians. We did not believe in divorce. We would stick it out, but we were not the sweethearts we’d been in our early years.

For our 25th wedding anniversary, we planned to take a trip to Nashville. That would be fun.

Two months before our anniversary, I suffered a brain injury and spent six weeks in the hospital. Our lives were turned upside down.

My memory of those first six weeks is sketchy, but I remember thinking how wonderful Murray was being to me.

Every morning he came to the hospital to spend the day with me. He didn’t go home until I fell asleep. A neighbor asked him if the people in the hospital didn’t get tired of him coming there all the time. Murray said, “I don’t care.”

“We have abandoned her into the hands of our sweet Lord Jesus,” Murray told our family and friends during the first couple days, when they didn’t know how it would go with me. When they knew I would live, but not what my recovery would look like, Murray was sure we would manage it, as a family. He told a member of the hospital staff, “When I said ‘I do,’ this is one of the things I said I'd do.”

We praise God for how well I have recovered. I have not retained many of the terrible effects which a great number of people with brain injuries do.

Certainly, I do still have a number of results from the injury. I am no longer able to work outside the home. My balance is not predictable. I have lost a significant amount of hearing. I have memory problems, and the strangest words come out of my mouth sometimes. Yet we are thankful. We know it could have been so much worse.

God has brought many good things from this tragedy. One of the most beautiful is the change in our marriage.

I want to cry when I remember how I treated Murray before the accident. He would call me at work, and as soon as I heard his voice, I was terse. I had things to do. I didn’t have time to talk. Now, when he calls me at home, I “usually” remember to smile, and let him know how happy I am to hear from him.

Before the accident, I found so many reasons to criticize him. I can’t claim I’m anywhere close to perfect, but I work hard at biting my tongue. I used to spend so much of our time being irritable, not being loving. Now I work to remember to smile, to hug him, to hold his hand, to say “I love you.” Most of the time, it’s not that hard of a job.

Murray tells me, “You are the wife I am happy to have.” He takes my hand and tells me, “I want you to know, nothing’s changed.” He holds me in his arms and says, “Oh yes, this is the good stuff.”

No, we’re not perfect. We still fight sometimes, and we still say things we’re sorry for. But as our twenty-seventh anniversary draws near, we know our marriage is a gift of gold.

James 1: 16-17: Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

A few months after our golden anniversary, when I hadn’t worked on this story for quite a while, I was going through a terrible time of moodiness. I self-diagnosed my problem as coming from menopause. I cried and got upset so easily, about things that happened in the past and present.

I got into a huge fight with Murray—I cried and screamed and couldn’t stop—over something we could have handled with a decent discussion at my more reasonable moments. After that day, I went through days of being furious with Murray, about so many things, about just about anything, about nothing.

One night after I’d gone off at Murray about something, I was in our room crying and praying for God to forgive me and help me. A couple of minutes later, God answered my prayer.

Murray knocked on the door and told me a friend had called and wanted me to call her back. He could tell I was crying and asked if he could help me. I didn’t answer, so, courageously, he came in.

I said to him, “I’m so mad at you, and I don’t want to be, and I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

He held me, and tried to say it was all his fault, but I kept crying and going on about how bad I felt about everything and how I’d diagnosed it as being from menopause.

I told him that I remembered something that happened right after we got married. We were driving and fighting, and he’d pulled the car off the road and stopped. He put his arms around me and said, “I’m so mad at you right now, and I love you so much.” I told him that’s how I felt right now.

When I’d calmed down some, I said it was a good thing that God had brought that memory to me, about the fight so long ago, because that was a statement we could use on each other for the rest of our lives: “I’m so mad at you right now, and I love you so much.”

Several more months have passed now, and I am struggling through days. Not usually screaming and crying, but unsure of what I should do with myself, and having a hard time making myself get out of bed and do simple daily tasks. I’m sure this will pass, but I don’t know when or how.

Murray keeps hugging me, and holding my hand, and saying, “I’m so in love with you. I want to cry, I love you so much.”

God has given me a treasure so much stronger than gold.