Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Nightmare to Calm My Fear?

“Your husband needs a triple bypass.” The cardiologist who’d just done a heart catheterization on my husband, Bob, knelt on one knee in front of me in the waiting room. “Two main arteries are ninety percent blocked, and a third smaller one is totally blocked .”

To say I was shocked is putting it mildly. The husband of the other woman in the waiting room had just been told that her husband would be fine. He’d come in as an emergency. The doctors had worked on him for hours. They’d put stents in his heart.

Bob’s catheterization had been scheduled “as a precaution.” He’d been bumped several hours until the emergency had been taken care of. If they could put a stent in that man, surely they could put a stent in Bob if needed.

He’d had difficulty breathing for months. We didn’t recognize it as a symptom of coronary artery disease. Seven weeks earlier, when my husband, pastor of a small church, nearly passed out while preaching that Easter Sunday morning in 2000, the congregation insisted that he get a complete physical. He hadn't seen a doctor in seven years. Over his protests, I made the appointment for him. The round of tests began.

After the catheterization that Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, his bypass surgery was scheduled for early Tuesday morning. Bob was sent home with instructions to do nothing more strenuous than flipping burgers—no driving, no carrying trash down the three flights of stairs from our third-floor apartment, no carrying groceries up, and no preaching. I too am an ordained minister, so in addition to taking over his chores at home, I had to prepare a sermon to preach that Sunday.

By bedtime Monday evening, I was exhausted. Until then, I’d been too busy to think about the surgery. As I climbed into bed, pure, unadulterated fear assaulted me head-on.

Would my husband survive the surgery? How would I go on living without him if he didn’t?

Would he end up an invalid? Since I suffer with a serious back condition, I worried about how I would be able to take care of him.

Bob in Sound of Life Radio Studio
A bivocational pastor, Bob worked fulltime for The Sound of Life, a network of Christian radio stations in the heart of the Northeast, driving forty miles each way every weekday. Fortunately, he had finally obtained health insurance through that job just six months earlier after being without it for seven years. But would he be able to resume his demanding schedule? If not, how would we survive financially?

Too physically tired and emotionally distraught to pray, I breathed, “Lord, I need a word from You,” and fell asleep.

In a dream I found myself at a women’s retreat. At the back of the meeting room a medium-sized, hairless white animal lay on its side, legs stretched out into the corner. We thought it was dead, but we all eyed it fearfully, skirting cautiously around it.

All of a sudden, it roared to life and flew at my throat. I clutched at its neck with both hands and cried over and over, “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus!”

I awoke trembling, my heart pounding, tears coursing down my cheeks. “That’s not what I meant, Lord!” I sobbed.

To be continued...

Note: Bob is again facing open heart surgery this Tuesday, November 4, to replace his mitral valve. A "resternotomy" carries with it an additional set of possible complications--scar tissue and adhesions from the previous surgery, greater possibility of excessive bleeding, and even stroke. We would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pastors Are People Too

The Sunday in 1980 when we moved into the historic Kingsboro Presbyterian church in Gloversville, three families announced that they were leaving the church. Maybe the prospect of church growth in the larger facility felt threatening to them. With a congregation of about 60, that was half our group. That hurt!

One Wednesday evening, Bob felt so discouraged he wasn't sure he could even teach the adult Bible study. The first person to arrive that night, was Emily Spencer--the lady I've written about previously whose daughter had gone missing, the lady who had been miraculously healed of diverticulosis.

"I've been praying for you, Pastor. I brought you something," She handed him a flat, wrapped package.

He opened it and lifted out a vintage wheat-colored knit tie she had embroidered by hand with clusters of wine-red grapes. As he held it up, she explained her choice of colors and pattern. "It reminds me of Communion. Tan is the color of the bread, and the grapes represent the cup."

Tears filled Bob's eyes as he thanked her for her thoughtful gift then poured out his discouragement to her. That night, as the handful of people gathered for Bible study, they circled around their pastor and ministered to him in prayer.

Pastors are people too. They can become discouraged just as all of us do. Sometimes the simplest word of encouragement or thoughtful action is just what he/she needs to lift his/her spirit. How can you minister to your pastor not only in October, Pastor Appreciation Month, but all year?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"It's Jesus at the Door!"

One day, my pastor-husband, Bob, stopped by to see a family from our congregation. When he knocked, the couple's preschool daughter opened the door.

"Who is it?" her mother called from another room.

"It's Jesus!" came the child's excited response.

While they had a good chuckle, the incident illustrates a misunderstanding many adults demonstrate too. They act as though their pastor lives in a room behind the platform and is immune to the struggles of daily life, coming out only on Sundays and Wednesday evenings to conduct services.

In truth, pastors are human too. They are called of God to be shepherds of the flock God has put under their care, but Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. Only He is perfect. Pastors strive to be like Jesus, but none of us will become entirely perfect until we are in eternity with Jesus.

"Pastor" is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, along with the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, administration, giving, helps, hospitality, wisdom, etc. The Holy Spirit calls and gifts people as He chooses.

Being a pastor is a holy calling, but so are all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All Christians are called by God to exercise the gifts He has given them for the growth of His kingdom on earth.

I grew up in a family of pastors. My husband and I pastored churches for more than 35 years. I know from experience that pastors face the same challenges, trials, and struggles as any other member of the congregation. And they feel your highs and lows as well as their own. They need rest, relaxation, and time with their families just as you do.

Pastors need people to come alongside and hold up the hands that grow weary just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses' tired hands in the battle with the Amalekites (see Exodus 17:8-16). Only as pastors and congregations pull together can the Church prevail against the onslaught of Satan.

The month of October is set aside as Pastor Appreciation Month. How can you help and encourage your pastor not only this month but all year?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thank God for Antibiotics!

Monday, we celebrate Columbus Day. It always reminds me of a most memorable time when our little family decided to celebrate the holiday by taking a hike up a mountain near Indian Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Our son, Bobby, was in fourth grade, and we wanted to do something special as a family.

First, we had to drove a couple of hours north from Gloversville to the trailhead. The leaves glowed in full autumn colors until it began to snow--a wet snow that didn't stick--yet, so we decided to climb anyway.

Naturally, the trail was steeper and longer than we anticipated. Up and up we climbed, our sneakers getting wetter and wetter. Coming down wasn't any easier. But we still had fun.

The next few days, Bobby went off to school. Meanwhile, I came down with bronchitis and Bob with pneumonia. The doctor said he could stay home IF he promised to stay in bed and rest. If not, he'd be admitted to the hospital.

Then Bobby's teacher called midday to say he had a low grade fever. He hadn't been sick that morning, but I picked him up from school. Since he had no other apparent symptoms, I let him rest on the couch and watch TV.

Later that afternoon, he suddenly pulled off the sock from his left foot and scratched it furiously. I noticed a sore on his little toe, but I assumed the reddish streak from it to his ankle was from scratching. He said the blister was from our hike, and I scolded him for not telling me about it. I made a mental note to check it again at bedtime.

That's when I realized the streak was infection ascending to his ankle and decided to take him to the doctor first thing in the morning. I had always thought the streak from an infection would be a narrow, red line, but this was a wide swathe more dark pink than red. If I had known then what I learned later, I would have taken him to the emergency room that night.

The next morning, Bobby's temperature was over 103 degrees, and he had a rash on his chest. When he tried to get up to walk down the hall, he was too weak to stand. He was too big for me to carry, so I loaded him onto a blanket and towed him to the stairs, helped him slide from stair to stair on his bottom, towed him to the door, and walked him to the car.

His doctor took one look and said to me, "You have a very sick boy. Take him right to the hospital. In layman's terms, he has blood poisoning. Even though the streak is just above his ankle, internally, it has reached his groin." Then he too scolded Bobby for not telling his mommy about his blister.

Bobby spent three days in the hospital on intravenous IV antibiotics and then a week at home resting with his foot elevated. Realizing that prior to antibiotics, blood poisoning was usually fatal, I thanked God over and over for the discovery of antibiotics!

That Columbus Day turned out to be quite memorable--in ways we did not expect!

Friday, October 3, 2014

God Has a Sense of Humor!

Several blog posts ago, I told how our new church in Gloversville had been blocked from advertising on the church page in the local newspaper because we didn't have a building. Then one of the local businessmen pressured them to put us on.

In 1980, after we had been holding church services at the YMCA in Gloversville for three years, the historic Kingsboro Presbyterian Church became available to us. Suddenly, our church gained lots of attention around town.

Built around 1800, the brick structure had been maintained beautifully. Its four-pointed white steeple rose high above the town. A Gloversville postcard featured it as a historical landmark. Everyone knew its location.

A small congregation of older people met in the sanctuary for a 9:00 a.m. service on Sunday then gathered in the fellowship hall in the basement afterwards for a coffee hour. We began our Sunday school at 10:00 a.m. and morning worship at 11:00.

Our first Sunday there, we cautioned everyone to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the older congregation. That morning, the other congregation stopped my husband to tell him how thrilled they were to see children and teenagers coming to their church.

"Don't worry about the noise," they said. And there was never any conflict between the two congregations.

In time, the Presbyterian congregation joined with the larger Presbyterian church in Gloversville, and we had full use of the building.

In the local library, Bob found a published copy of the diary of the first pastor, Elisha Yale, under whose ministry our church had been built. In the 48 years of his ministry, the area changed dramatically. When he had come in 1804, the town was called "Stump City" and was known for its rampant alcoholism. As a result of his spiritual influence, by the time of his death in 1953, no still could be found within a four-mile radius of the town. That was significant when travel was by horse and buggy or on foot.

In time, as our congregation grew, Bob began negotiating with the Presbyterians to purchase the building. By faith, he offered to pay $25,000.00 cash, and the Presbyterians agreed. But first, we had to raise the money. A lady in the church made a poster of a brick church building and people "bought bricks." We raised $25,000.00 and paid cash for the building! The sale was completed in 1986, shortly before God called us to pastor another church.

We chuckled at God's sense of humor. He had placed the newest church in town in the historic church building. Today, it is known as Kingsboro Assembly of God.

Has God ever done something in your life that demonstrates He has a sense of humor?