Oct31ThuOctober 31, 2013
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he talks of his final days. These are, what we believe to be, his last words. Paul, as he waits for his imminent execution, writes to Timothy; words of encouragement and he suggests that evil may or may not continue, but for him to continue with what he has been assured of….faith. He charges Timothy to preach the word. Paul was guided by divine inspiration and asks that Timothy be guided too. Paul is saying take strength from my words. We take strength from them too.
Have you ever found yourself in a place surrounded by evil or despair or inconsolable grief? We are reminded by Paul to keep our faith until our end. What is faith? ~ complete trust or confidence in something ~ Faith sticks around; within our psyche, in our belief system and in our trust. Sometimes faith takes the back shelf or tucks itself away under the bed covers. Sometimes faith hides in a darkened room. But once we have known faith, it will return...and it will return more quickly.
I found myself in a place where faith wasn’t in the room...or rather, found myself in a place where faith had tucked itself away. I have told this story, and so you may know it. But as I tell it again, I know it more deeply. And it sounds different each time I tell it. Because I am different each time I tell it and so too are you. Like the letter from Paul to Timothy, you know the story, but each time you hear it, you know it more deeply. Someone once told me how beautiful it is to know something but even more beautiful to know it, like I know it, I know it, I know it.
Four and a half years ago, a phone call came in the middle of the night, my Dad had had a stroke. The dreaded midnight phone call….a long drive alone to the hospital. Staying awake the rest of the night, sending whatever faith I could hold onto, from my soul to my Dad’s. As the sun rose early that morning, I needed to attend a scheduled appointment with a Neurologist, following a 21 day bout of extraordinary vertigo that overtook me the summer before. I could not stand or sit or move at all, for three weeks. So this appointment was long awaited. My husband drove me to the appointment, me in a fog…still praying for my Dad, my mentor, my strength, he is my girls’ papa, my mom’s husband. He is the man who helped me plant my brand new garden the prior fall. How could it be that he went into the hospital with a sore arm, and now lays in a bed unable to talk anymore? The Neurologist sat me down, and said “you are sick, you have Multiple Sclerosis. You have ten lesions on your brain and in order to be healthy and survive, you will need daily injections for the rest of your life. I am referring you to the Chief of Neurology at St. Mikes.” I am not sure if he said anything else....that was all I heard, and it didn’t seem very “pastoral” of him and we went on our way. We walked out, I was pretty quiet in the car on the way back to the hospital where my Dad lay, unable to talk or move. How can it be that my brother is now on an airplane coming to say goodbye? My dad passed away two days after my appointment.
How could it be that my Dad sold his car just a few months before or canceled his lifetime golf membership just months before? How could be that he traveled twice, within 6 weeks, to BC to visit his newest grandson? How could it be that he’d already taken down his Christmas lights in early January, just days before? These were God moments, over and over and over again....for God needed my Dad so he could watch over me from the heavens. I miss my Dad and wish he could have seen my garden. Life can change in the blink of an eye....In just 48 hours, the doctors told me I was sick, and I watched my Dad take his last breath.
So there I was, deep in grief and underneath mountains of despair….finding solace in the dark, and finding warmth under the covers. I’d been handed a road map of what my life might look like as someone with MS.
Somehow I managed to find the strength to sing “Instrument of Peace with words from the Prayer of St. Francis” at my Dad’s memorial service…. I believe now, that it was God that helped me find the faith, I needed, to stand up that day and sing words of hope, love, light, and peace....amidst the darkness I felt within.
Faith was right there, right here in this space. In fact, the faith was in my soul, I just didn’t know it yet. Soon after, my life did a 180 degree turn. I learned that God is always with me, on the easy days and the extra hard days. I learned that I have somehow become a vessel for God’s Good Word, and that there are people who are listening when I speak. I find myself so humbled when I am asked to speak or write. When I start, the Spirit I know in my core, just comes to the surface, and I can’t stop it.
I made a conscious choice to not be bitter because of those days in January, but instead I chose to take a deep breath and start over. What came, was beyond my wildest imagination. A world filled and over-flowing with God. The road map my Neurologist handed me, wasn’t my map, it wasn’t going to be my story. I realized that through the strength of Spirit, I could create my own map, my own path, my own healing choices. No injections, no negativity, - I make space for healing and positivity. Life is short, and so this is where I am spending my time, in a deep and faithful place.
I attended a spiritually directed seminar in Pennsylvania this past summer. I spent three days at the Joyce Meyer conference, listening to her speak, and singing along with Christy Nockels and Matt Redman. I learned about being content....loving where we are. Loving where we are, even if we are wishing for more. I learned to understand the difference in wishing to be some place else, in a state of unhappiness or wishing to be some place else in a state of contentment and rest. There’s a big difference – one of them is aligned with Spirit and the other is not. I learned that light is always around me, gifts are aplenty, if I open myself to God and feel it within. I learned that when the dark days come, and they will, it is okay.
I invite you now to listen to a song I heard at my conference.
Click here ...
As I read my story aloud today and in my head every day, I learn more. It took Paul a lifetime, and it will take us just as long. We learn each day, and each moment, how to be better, how to be loved and give love.
What I know now is that the dark wouldn’t be dark, if it weren’t for the light...and that the dark times will come, but the light will always follow. Once faith is right here, and we’ve seen it and touched it, and felt it and breathed it in .... if it drifts away, it doesn’t seem to take as long to return. A dark place not too long ago, found me sobbing and pouring out endless tears. My friend and mentor reached out her hand and guided me to the faith and the light again. She helped me find my voice and connect to Spirit again.
Paul implores Timothy to teach when it is easy and to teach when it isn’t. ~ to teach when he feels like it and to teach when he doesn’t. As Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”… I want believe we have all done this…or we all want this don’t we? Paul knew he had given it his all....not concerned with winning or losing, but grounded in his faith, knowing he’d done his best. So if I’m in a wheelchair one day, then thanks be to God, for giving me tools to love and cherish each of these moments today when I’m not...and to preach the word on a good day or a bad day. I will be okay, whatever my map looks like. I will be okay – I trust in God to believe that.
The ministry of God continues even when our lives end. 10,000 years....
Looking back, I am glad my Neurologist appointment was brief, for my healing journey was never really about those 10 minutes. It was about me coming into faith, finding God, and longing to worship Him each day, and every day. Longing to look to the light and find the peace. Longing to search deep within for reasons to wake up each day. Finding the faith came to me when I began to write, and when I began to dance. It comes in waves, from the Holy Spirit. It holds me and moves me to tears. It is the deepest spiritual connection that I have, and so I continue to write and continue to dance.
Paul believes that when he dies the Lord will take him into the kingdom of heaven. Nothing that is evil can get into that place. Nothing that is evil can get into this place. It is where Christ and the Holy Spirit lives.
This is the Good News today...my life’s journey of discovery and learning. Allowing ourselves to be in deep darkness, without judgment, but knowing the light is right there waiting for us to come out. Spirit awaiting us with an open heart. Each and every day. And I know now that my Dad has seen my garden...he has the best view of all.
Thanks be to God.