I Should Have Danced

Last night Teckla and I found ourselves sitting at a table in the Port Orford Community Building watching a bunch of people dance to excellent Cajun music. Peter’s band, Bone Mountain Brothers, had opened for the Etouffee Band, so we stuck around and listened. Some people were drinking beer, but no one to excess—at least at that point. Eventually the little dance floor in front of the stage filled with people.

But this is what was cool. They were mostly ugly people, many my age—some even older. It was nothing like Dancing with the Stars—this was dancing with the local yokels. A lot of the folks seem to know each other. Not only were these ordinary folks; they danced badly. And yet they had genuine fun. I even had fun watching them have fun. This wasn’t a crude mating or rutting ritual; it was just feet moving and hips swinging to some happy Cajun music.

Teckla asked me if I wanted to dance. I quickly said, “No.” She did not persist because she knew I have never danced—except a few bounces and two-steps in church. Teckla hasn’t danced since high school, so she was not overflowing with confidence either. So we sat and watched and felt ourselves more and more mere spectators.

Perhaps I should explain that I grew-up a pastor’s kid in a denomination that taught against dancing, movies, smoking, and alcohol. Although I have long been free (I hope) of legalism, I believe most of those teachings are probably wise. This is, however, part of why I have never danced.

I have worshiped in churches where people danced unto the Lord. I have no problem with that. But this wasn’t church, it was some people enjoying some wonderful Cajun fiddling. Is there a place for this in the life of a Christian?

So here is where it gets weird. After I told Teckla I wouldn’t dance, I felt terrible. Perhaps only evangelicals will understand this, but I felt something like conviction. It was like sitting through an altar call at church while everyone sang “Just As I Am.” I didn’t have a white-knuckle grip on the pew in front of me, but it was the same feeling.

I felt small, hard, and stupidly religious. I should have danced.

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Heavy Dew

These are the dog days of summer in Myrtle Point. The golden grasses have gone to seed, and it has been weeks since the last rain. South of here, near Brookings, a forest fire has burned over 100,000 acres. Smoke has turned the sky brown.  Yet, a morning walk through the high grasses will leave your shoes and pant legs soaked. These are also the mornings of heavy dew.

The other morning the dew and fog was so heavy that even the streets were wet despite no rain during the night. These dews are beginning to green the lawn. They give life.

Lizards and beetles of the desert have learned to sustain themselves on morning dew. Before dawn they climb to the top of a dune in Namibia and face the Atlantic. They let the morning dew and coastal fog condense on their bodies. They soak in the precious moisture before the rising sun scorches the earth once again.

After being shot down over Bosnia, jet pilot Scott O’Grady sustained himself on dew as he hid from Serbian patrols. He climbed into the heart of a thicket and awaited rescue. He could not get out to search for water, so he used the two sponges from his flight suit to soak up the dew. He squeezed the water from the sponges into his mouth.

God fed Israel manna that came with the morning dew. We sometimes glorify manna, but the Israelites tired of it. It was after-all, desert food. Just enough to keep you going. Just enough to keep you dependent on God. It was no promised land. It was daily love.

Honestly, I feel spiritually arid. In my heart is the silence of a hot August day when even grasshoppers stop moving. I am weary, and it seems I have been praying for revival for centuries. Yet in the morning when I turn my heart toward God, I am refreshed slightly, gently. It is no downpour. It is just a heavy dew, my heart a softening sponge.

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Tense Shift

Tense shift is an error I often mark in student papers. In church yesterday it occurred to me that it is also an error we make in our walk with God. In a paper, tense shift happens when a student tells a story in the past tense and without warning or reason shifts to present tense. Sometimes a student will shift back and forth throughout their narrative. It creates confusion and incoherence.

Spiritually, Christians are tempted to confuse past and present tense. We need both tenses for healthy spirituality, but each in the right way. For instance, I need to know what has been done for me on the cross: forgiveness, cleansing of my sin, freedom from guilt and shame, death to my old self-centered identity. I need this foundational past tense.

But I also need to fully embrace my present tense in Christ. I am a new creation, child of God, heir of Christ, and temple of the Holy Spirit. We were once children of darkness, but are now children of light. We sing a new song now.

However, many things muddle our tenses and keep us singing the same old song. Looking at our present tense failures and struggles, we are tempted to forget what Christ has done on the cross for us. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is always trying to define us by our past sins and present failures instead of what Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection.

It is tempting to let our past define our present and future. Although I understand the reason behind the practice, I still object to alcoholics having to say, “ Hi, my name is Mark. I am an alcoholic.” I want that “am” to be “was.” Recovery from addiction is an important step in the journey of many believers, but should never be a stopping place or become central to our identity.

Trauma can also work powerfully to define us according to our past. A person’s identity can be wrapped up in being a veteran or being a victim. Healing is needed, and until the healing comes, victims of trauma should never be told, “Just get over it.” We should patiently help victims receive and give forgiveness. The grace and love of Christ can free believers from the destructive forces of past trauma.

However, past trauma should not define who we are in Christ Jesus. Continually picking at old wounds and rehearsing the narrative of our trauma doesn’t bring healing—it stops it. Our wounds must not become our hobby. And our need for help must not become the basis of our all our relationships. What was broken is made whole, what was wounded is healed. Of course we are scars, but our scars now testify to the grace of God that heals us and calls us His children. We need to live in the present tense goodness and power of God so that past wounds don’t bring present tense injury to others.

As I age, I am also aware of the danger of defining ourselves according to the good things from the past—our glory days. This is not quite like the 1975 high school quarterback who threw the pass that won the state championship and has never let anyone forget it, but it is similar. Even pastors can be so locked-in on how the glory fell at a past revival or visitation of God that they are blind to what God wants to do now. We can be so intent on seeing God move the same way he did in the past that we miss the new thing God desires to do today. Even having been effective in the kingdom in the past can work against God’s purposes if it is an excuse for us to climb into the grandstand and become a spectator.

And, of course, only God can say, “I Am.” All the rest of us must use a present progressive, “I am becoming”—becoming who God made us to be.

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Not Betrayed

This last week I have been haunted by some Bible verses that warn against betraying our children.  In Psalm 73 Asaph speaks candidly about how he almost stumbled because he envied the prosperity of the wicked. He describes how they mock God and boast that God doesn’t see anything they do while he is stricken “all day long.” He wonders (v. 13) if it was for nothing that he kept his heart pure.

However, in verse 15 the psalmist steps back and looks as what he has been saying:

If I had said, “I will speak thus,” behold, I should have betrayed the generation of  Thy children. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of the God; then I perceived their end. (NASB)

When he contemplates the final judgment of the wicked by God, the psalmist realizes how foolish it is to envy the wicked. However, what has dogged me is word “betrayed” and the possibility that I could speak in ways that betray the next generation of God’s children.

From this Psalm, it is clear that bitterness is one way the old and gray betray the next generation. If we have grown disappointed in life and bitter about our failures or the unkindness of others, we teach the next generation God cannot be trusted. There is often no difference between anger at life and anger at God. Many who are old have had hopes dashed and hearts wounded and been infected with bitterness that poisons those around them.

However, our testimony must always be that we who hope in God will not be disappointed no matter how many ways the world and life lets us down. We can be honest about how others have wounded us, but we must have a clear testimony of how God has healed us. Every scar on our heart must testify to how God gave us grace to forgive those who hurt us.

A related way we can betray the next generation is through bitterness toward God’s people—the Church. I have seen this betrayal in action when parents criticize pastors and gossip about others in the church constantly. They then act surprised when their teens drift away from God and eventually start families where God has no place. The love and unity of God’s people is supposed to be the evidence that will convince the world that Jesus really was the Messiah sent by God (John 17:21). Complaining and criticizing others in the church is a sustained argument against the truth of the gospel. It is betrayal of our children. Like the Pharisees, not only did we not enter into the joy of God’s kingdom, we kept our children and grandchildren from entering too.

A third kind of betrayal is subtler. It is simply silence. It could be that we never mention what God has done because we have compartmentalized our life and shoved God into a religious box that has little to do with our actual life. It could be that social pressures have made mentioning God impolite or a sensitive issue. Or maybe we are silenced by the fear of sounding preachy or the knowledge that our own walk with God has been erratic and imperfect. But certainly, being silent about a source of strength, hope, love, and eternal life is just as much a betrayal as the bitter words we might speak.

The last kind of betrayal has, I think, hit epidemic proportions. It is kind of betrayal that even now is trying to seduce my heart.  It is simply settling—settling for a faith that is tame and discipleship that is safe. It is being content to talk about the great things God did in the past, but having no expectation He will do them today. It is telling stories about how we took risks for God in the past, but playing it safe today. It is shifting my focus from God’s purposes to my comfort. It is abandoning a holy discontent that cries out for more of God’s power, more of His presence, and more of his holiness.

So what should we be doing and saying to avoid betraying our children and grandchildren? Other Psalms help answer this. In Psalm 71:17 the psalmist speaks as one who is aging:

O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth; and I still declare Thy wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Thy strength to this generation, Thy power to all who are to come. (NASB)

The psalmist asks that he not die until he can tell the next generation about the mighty things God has done. This declaring is not just what we say, but also what we allow God to do through us as we yield to him. We want God’s strength and power to be revealed in us. I want the things I choose, the risks I take, and sacrifices I make to reveal God’s power to my children and grandchildren. So I need to live full of the Holy Spirit and daily go deeper in God so that his goodness and power is revealed in me.

Psalm 78:5-7 is even more specific about how one generation should speak to the next:

For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments. (NASB)

I know the phrase “testimony in Jacob” refers to all God did for Israel, but the story of my life is also a story of God’s faithfulness. I am asking God to establish a testimony in Mark. I believe that in the story arc of my life, God and I have not yet written the climax together. I am not sure why this happens as we age, but we can easily become full of fear. Certainly, failing health can bring fear. It may be we have seen more and therefore have more to fear. Whatever the case, God calls us to continue to live fearlessly and let our life declare that God can be trusted. We are called to be the reason the next generations have confidence in God.

I have been blessed with a mother and father who did not betray me. During the summer before he died of cancer, Dad sat across the kitchen table from me and said the thing he regretted most was not seeing a genuine revival—an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He was still praying for one. Although wounded, almost mortally it seemed, by the church, Mom and Dad never poisoned their children against God’s people. They never betrayed us with any bitterness.

After Dad died, Mom lived another 23 years faithfully serving in the church, praying for her children and grandchildren, interceding for revival. I had a pastor, Wayne Harmon, who died of a heart attack before he could retire a second time. He never stopped seeking for a way to reach the city for Christ. My older brother, Larry, is still loving the church and seeking more of God’s kingdom.  I know many more, like my friends Wes Adams and John David Hicks, who are still seeking more of God and an outpouring of His Spirit on Church. Although old and gray, they have not betrayed this generation. They have not been silent. Nor have they settled. Neither will I.

 

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Of Butterflies and Brothers

Last weekend my oldest brother and I went to Iron Mountain in Siskiyou Mountains to look for unusual plants and butterflies. Stanley is 73, ten-years older than I. Because he was older, we did not do much together as children, but I remember him taking me on some walks along the Walla Walla River where we saw a Black-chinned Hummingbird and Lewis Woodpecker. Stanley still talks about that walk.

Stanley, who has never married, shapes the narrative of his personal history around nature: what he saw where and when. His markers are butterflies, birds, and wildflowers. Of his time in Vietnam while in the army, he speaks of the birds and animals he saw from his guard tower. He was stationed near Washington, D. C. for a while, but only speaks of the birds and flowers he saw on the trails along the Potomac.

I knew that this trip to Iron Mountain would be another historical marker for Stanley. Iron Mountain hosts several unusual plant communities—the carnivorous cobra lilies and California lady slippers. Many wildflowers, however, had already bloomed by mid-July, so our attention was focused on the butterflies.

We drove down a spur that led to some mountain streams and seeps only to discover the road washed out. We parked and picked our way carefully across the mud and rocks to the other side. Eventually we came to roadside bogs full of cobra lilies, green bog orchids, and bog asphodel. Butterflies sipped nectar from the wild azalea and Labrador tea still blooming.

Along the way I swung the butterfly net and caught butterflies. I missed more than I caught. As we trudged along the road, two fat disheveled old men, Stanley spoke of Dad taking him for nature walks in Prospect, Oregon and Orofino, Idaho. He explained that he had been clumsy even as a child and that Dad had netted about half of the butterflies in his collection.

Today we were just catching and releasing. I caught some Northern Checkerspots, Western Swallowtails, Lorquin’s Admirals. Each time I handed Stanley the net with the butterfly for identification, I thought about how I was doing for Stanley what my father had done.

I was thankful for my father’s kindness to his clumsy first son. I was thankful for the example of compassion he showed his youngest. I am sure Stanley will never forget that on this trip we saw a Nevada Arctic dancing over an unnamed mountain stream.

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Vampires and Running Water


In Bram Stoker’s Dracula one of the Count’s limitations is an inability to cross running water. I find this comforting and instructive. Comforting because I live on the coast of Oregon where water is running everywhere. Three forks of the Coquille River meet near Myrtle Point. Instructive because it affirms that spiritual stagnation opens the door to all kinds of evil.

Our best defense against spiritual vampires is to make sure the springs of joy and life in our heart have not stopped flowing. Boredom, ennui, and acedia are a few of the modern vampires that suck purpose and joy from us. These bloodsuckers attack people who are basically ponds—nothing flowing in and nothing flowing out.

An important part of river ecology is restoring and maintaining a healthy watershed. The same is true of the ecology of the soul. Our spiritual watershed is what creates the river of life that flows through us. All the spiritual disciplines are streams of grace that flow together: prayer, fasting, silence, meditation on God’s Word, worship. We must live at the confluence of grace where running water surrounds us and protects us from the greatest vampire of all, despair.

Of course, running water must not just flow into us but also out of us. Some flows back to God in praise and adoration. Vampires, I suspect, love darkness and moonless nights partly because it blinds them to the glory and beauty of God’s creation. They are blind as a bat to the splendor of sunrises and sunsets. We can keep our waters running by pouring out humble praise for every sip of water and crumb of garlic bread, the gleam of the sun on a spring leaf.

We also keep the water moving by pouring out grace and blessing to others. Certainly with our words, but also with humble service to others. The living water of God’s Spirit in us must touch those around us with the presence and power of God. This means we can’t withdraw from others and become a catchment of grace.

We should probably avoid being too metaphorical about vampires. Some vampires are people who suck life out of us. They never get enough because neediness has become the way they feed their hunger for relationship and significance. If we give to these people without having a strong flow of God’s life into our life, they can drain us spiritually. Sometimes we need to just toss them in the creek. We need running water.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else guard the springs of your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” When our waters grow stagnant and scummy, we are vulnerable to vampires. But the dance of water over, through, and around our life drives vampires away.

I am praying that God’s Spirit will flow and overflow in Myrtle Point as freely as the rains have flooded our creeks and rivers this winter. May we have the summer rains of God’s Spirit. We have too many vampires. May all our running waters be holy

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Not Nice!

Have you ever wanted to stab someone in the eye with an ice-pick because they said you were nice?  Me, neither, but I hate being called, “Nice”.  I want to smack people who think I am nice and exclaim, “I’m not nice; I’m redeemed.”

Okay, I understand why that doesn’t work. But I tire of being dismissed as a nice person who happens to be a Christian. Although I am a church kid with no harrowing story of the crime and wickedness out of which I was saved, I have looked into my heart.  Apart from Christ, it is foul and dark—desperately wicked.  I am not nice.  I am saved.

Of course I should resist the temptation to be mean and edgy just to avoid being dismissed as nice.  But there is an offense to the gospel that we shouldn’t blunt with sentimental do-goodality. I want always to add “sin no more” to my “neither do I condemn you.”

In all the church’s good works we run the risk of being seen as just another social service to which our clients are entitled. I want to push beyond niceness by sitting with the hungry and the homeless, looking into their eyes, listening to their stories, and letting my heart beat with theirs.

I want a goodness that is heaven-born and purchased by Christ’s blood. A fierce goodness that sweeps away mere niceness and lays down its life for others. A brave goodness that shatters the strongholds of the darkness. I don’t want to be nice.

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My Jewish Son and the Holy Spirit

Six years ago, my oldest son, Peter, found himself hanging out at a Jewish summer camp in Rhode Island. The job he thought he had didn’t materialize, but he did some work and spent time talking to the rabbi as well as the Israeli soldiers who provided security. In August, I got a call from Peter saying essentially, “I have recommitted my life to God. And, uh, I think I am Jewish.”

In my heart there was a “Hallelujah” followed by a mix of exclamation and question marks. When he was one, I had visited Jerusalem and put a prayer for him into a crevice of the Western Wall. I believed there was a divine connection between him and Israel so the Jewish thing made sense to me.

But Peter has been raised Christian, so I haven’t quite known what to do with his Jewishness. Like many Christian teens, he had drifted from God for several years. His return to God was, of course, an answer to prayer.

Being Jewish in a remote logging town on the coast of Oregon isn’t easy, but Peter has tried. When he was living in Portland, he studied with a rabbi. And he continues to study online. As of now, he isn’t a Messianic Jew—he is drawn more to Orthodox Judaism.

I have been intrigued by what he found attractive about observant Judaism. After all, he is an Oregon kid and Oregonians are famous for non-conformity and independence. We hate rules and Orthodox Judaism has a lot of them.

Peter said he was attracted to the community he experienced at the summer camp. Everyone celebrated Shabbat, ate kosher, and shared a similar lifestyle. Walking with God was truly joining a family and community.

Related to that community was an approach to God that was all-encompassing. In Judaism, there are 613 mitzvot, or commandments from the Torah. And of those commandments each has, some rabbis say, a thousand related commandments. Every area of life is covered by the Torah and all the rabbinical teaching. There are also prayers and blessings for everything in life. Walking with God is what you do 24/7—not just a set of theological propositions you believe.

When I compare this to the evangelical Christianity in which Peter was raised, I realize two things. First, we don’t do community well. Like many non-observant Jews, we are well-assimilated into an individualistic American culture. In the west, rugged individualism is even more prevalent, so church tends to be something we get out of the way on Sunday morning rather than a gathering of the community we have been connected to all week.

My second insight is that we evangelicals often take a very rationalistic approach to God. We too easily reduce our faith to mental assent to a set of doctrines. This why it is increasingly difficult to distinguish evangelicals from other middle-class consumers. Except for Sunday mornings and a set of beliefs, our lives don’t look much different.

The central belief of evangelicalism is that we are saved by grace—not by 613 Torah commandments that rule over every area of our life. However, we often fail to grasp what this grace saves us into. Of course, we have a short list of things not to do now that we are Christians. And we are supposed to start being nice. But this is not a walk with God that fires the imagination. What’s the answer?

Pentecost.

Only the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit can give the same or greater 24/7 walk with God provided by 613 mitzvot and dozens of rabbis. Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). We often, however, fail to see that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by giving the Holy Spirit who is the author of the all the Law.

At the end of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, the Jews to whom he was preaching asked what they should do to be saved. Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The gift of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of all the law. They now had dwelling in them the Holy Spirit who could guide them moment by moment and day by day.

If we read a little further in Acts, we discover amazing community, the other thing my son valued about Judaism.

And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. Acts 2:44—46

This sounds like a degree of community that even Crown Heights in New York would find hard to beat.

If we embrace a kind of Pentecostalism that practices the presence of God and results in us living in continual prayer and praise, we will indeed be a people as set apart as observant Jews. If we live as those always listening and led by Spirit, we fulfill all the promise of the Torah and enter into all the blessings that come to those who keep the law.

Paul makes it clear that through the Holy Spirit we are joined together as members of the Body of Christ. God’s Spirit is the common life that makes the Body of Christ one. It is not a list of shared theological propositions that unites us, but rather God’s Spirit blazing in each of our hearts and calling us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

I don’t know if I can persuade my son that the Holy Spirit is the best rabbi, but I am convinced that only the life of the Spirit can fulfill the promise of the law.

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Praying Prepositions

I have been praying prepositions—the prepositions that express different, perhaps essential, aspects of a believer’s relationship with God.  I have discovered some harder to pray than others.

I begin by reading Scripture that expresses truths about God going before us, behind us, and with us. I begin by asking, for instance, God to be with me. I meditate on the ways and places I need his presence with me. I listen for how I might act or speak differently because of him being with me. I end by thanking and praising Him for being with me always. I do the same for God before me and behind me.

I also do this with the ins. I often read John 15 and ask that God would help me abide in Him. Sometimes this becomes a dialogue because I ask Him what I might need to let go of to really abide in Christ—pride, anger, fear, ambition. We talk as I try to settle in and rest in his love, trust in his grace.

The other in I pray is for God to dwell in me. I find this one hard to pray with much faith, but there are scads of verses that speak of Christ dwelling in us through his Holy Spirit. Although Jesus taught his disciples to pray to “Our Father in heaven”, Paul speaks again and again about God and his power dwelling in us. Even so, I think we are reluctant to pray about God in us.

Because I seldom feel Him in me, it is hard for me to celebrate Him in me. And I think there is another more disturbing reason this preposition is hard to pray. If He is truly in me, He should be flowing out of me. The wisdom, fruit, and power of God’s Spirit in me should be flowing to the people around me.

I think the reality of God in us is earth-shaking and life-transforming. It means where I go, God goes. Where I go, salvation goes because the Savior is abiding in me. Where I go, the kingdom of God goes, because the King lives in me. Where I go, healing and deliverance goes, because Jesus lives in me and I live in Him.

Yeah, this is a hard preposition to pray. If I keep God in heaven and ask Him to do stuff for me, I am off the hook. But if He is in me then He is wanting to do something through me. Through may be one of the scariest prepositions because it means obedience and risk. It is always easier to have faith in God to do something for us than through us.

Praying prepositions is a potent weapon against fear. When our hearts and minds are filled with the reality of God going before us and behind us, of him always being with us and even in us, and us in Him as tower of strength against enemy–well, it’s hard to be afraid.

Of course the enemy will try to tell us of all the reasons God can’t dwell in us or work through us, but we must simply put on the full armor of God and drive Satan out. We can put on Christ and the armor of light.

 

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Praying for Mom

Beneath the crinkled paper that had become my mother’s skin, I could feel her bones and tendons. Since her stroke she had lost a lot of weight. Her left-side weakness had stolen her ability to swallow and the use of her left arm and leg. On the small chance that a feeding tube might give her time to recover the ability to swallow, Mom chose to have one inserted. Teckla and I prayed faithfully for her recovery, not because we could not accept her death, but because starving to death or drowning in one’s own fluid seemed a terrible way to die. We prayed she would end strong, in God’s way and in His time.

But in the last weeks, holding her hand or arm felt like touching a husk—a ragged shell about to be laid aside. Her stroke came in the midst of my own pilgrimage to faithfully pray for the sick. Once I was half-way out of the hospital when I remembered I hadn’t prayed for her. I went back and prayed. I often asked Mom if she wanted me to pray for her. She always said, “Yes.” Sometimes with great difficulty she would croak, “Pray for me.” After prayer, I often asked if she felt better. She always nodded yes, but I could seldom see any improvement in her condition.

Whether it was the stroke or just approaching death I don’t know, but at night she would suffer the restlessness common to those with dementia. She would pull at her hospital gown and covers. Her arms and legs would jerk. Twice this restlessness caused her to pull out her feeding tube. The second time this happened, I had to go to the emergency room and ask her if she wanted to die or have the tube put back in. She said she wanted it back in for “a while.” She seemed to have some sense that it was not yet the right time. During this time, my brother Larry flew out from Massachusetts and spent many hours with Mom. He too prayed for her healing and for a strong ending.

Toward the end she because less responsive to questions. Sometimes I would wrap my arms around her and say over and over, “I love you. You are a good, good Mommy.” For a while she had the strength to pat my back gently. Each touch broke and healed my heart.

The night before she died I laid my hand on her forehead and prayed again for the strength and life of God to enter her body. She had been restless so I spoke peace to her body. I had clear sense that beneath this husk, there blazed a spirit strong and peaceful. Her body relaxed and her breathing got slow and easy. About five the next morning, she died.

So were my prayers for her answered? I don’t know. She did not end as strongly as I had hoped, but we avoided any long state of unconsciousness that would have required us to decide to end her life. She was until perhaps the last few days aware of our love and presence. She didn’t suffer much. All of this good.

Also good and maybe important is that her sons ended strong. We prayed for her and loved her until the end. Larry and I share the conviction that Jesus still heals and desires his followers to heal. On this journey toward doing the works of Jesus, it is clear that we have to move past all our need (sometimes demand) for answers.

Both Larry and I are analytical to a fault. We can debate theology and philosophy until stupid. Nothing shuts up theory and opens the heart like praying for your mother. Our experience with Mom has helped us to faithfully obey Christ’s command to pray for the sick even if we don’t see the sick healed every time. Obedience is better than perfect understanding.

We must be willing to say, as I have here, “I don’t know.” I am simply clinging to my heavenly Father and saying, “I love you. You are a good, good Father.”

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