When the sick do the carrying

bible_old_hands2[22]My grandmother, widowed mother of six boys, commuted to work daily in downtown Chicago until she was in her eighties. Grandpa had died when their youngest, my dad, was five years old.

A tenacious woman, she is remembered for her steel determination and faithfulness to God and His Word. She had no hobbies other than reading and studying the Bible. I remember her often humming old hymns, like “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

All six of their boys became preachers of the Apostolic message. But as time passed, two sons found themselves outside the will of God. Whether it was personal offense or tragedy or temptation, I don’t know. But I do remember praying for uncle Lindy and uncle Billy from the moment I knew what it was to pray.

Well into her eighties, when she grew too old and ill to work any longer, it became necessary to sell the house in which she had raised her family. I still remember the screen door at the top of two well-worn concrete steps, the mint growing wild by the door, the vintage linoleum in the eat-in kitchen wherein lingered the wafting remnants of vitamins, nuts, and fried chicken. An old radio was always playing WMBI, Moody Bible Institute radio.

The whole house was scented by the treasured, leather-bound volumes left behind by Grandpa, which held their respected position in the front living room behind the protective glass panels of the old bookcase. Those commentaries and theological treatises were the glue that bound us together when seams were strained and the family fabric threadbare.

It was decided that the best place for Grandma was with Uncle Billy, who lived alone. Uncle Lindy, who never married, would quit his job as a truck driver to take care of her. The two prodigal sons were now entrusted with the care of their rigidly faithful mother, from whose lips a beloved Scripture or loving rebuke came often.

Grandma would never miss a church service. Uncle Lindy drove her to church in Harvey, where Reverend Terry Cox pastored. Lindy, guilty, tenderhearted and miserable, knew that if he spent too much time in the services, he would find himself at the altar. So he kept his distance as long as he could bear it. Uncle Billy would come on occasion with them, and both brothers found an occasional moment of repentance, but the change was never complete.

Then in June of 2004, Grandma died. Lindy, who had devoted his daily life to caring for his mother and now left with a great void, was most directly affected. The day of the funeral came, and for the first time in more than twenty years, all six brothers were in the same room.

Where differences and guilt had divided them, the passing of their mother united them. They talked and reminisced and laughed together. They sang beloved old songs, and ended in prayer, brothers praying for one another. Lindy and Billy were so moved by the presence of the Comforter who visited us that day that they both re-dedicated themselves to the Lord.

It has now been seven years, and Billy and Lindy have been faithful. Those who repeatedly had carried their ailing mother to the Lord had been themselves carried into His presence.

I have wondered about the four who carried their crippled friend to Jesus and let him down through the roof in Mark chapter 2. It is their faith that brought healing to their friend. Would they have been so adamant about seeing Jesus for themselves that day? The crowd was pressing, but the need of their friend overrode their difficulty.

What became of them? They were witness to one of the oft-recounted miracles Jesus performed.

Whatever their story might have been, the fact is that they encountered the Messiah that day because of a sick friend. My uncles both found Jesus again because of their ailing mother.

Many people have heard our story, and prayed for us as Wes endured brain surgery and its various complications. People we have never met–and still may never meet–have lifted us up.

I don’t presume to know the issues of all those who have prayed for us, but I do know God does nothing without purpose. And it isn’t the ‘main character’ alone who is suffering for a reason. The ‘supporting characters,’ the extras…they all matter, and they are all involved for a reason. There’s a reason each person who has heard about us has been exposed to our situation. God has been in it from the beginning, and His plan includes all the cast.

So, for all of you who have carried us to Jesus, I thank God for you. I pray His purpose finds you, and that you are closer today to Him than yesterday.

Whatever it is that brings us to our knees, I hope we are thankful to be found there, pliable in His hands, listening to His voice, and ready for the next step in His Way.

This is literally the best post ever. Literally.

I literally had to wait thousands of years in line…

The car behind me was literally up my tailpipe…

She literally hit the roof when that raccoon came parachuting into the living room…

One needs not ask the question, “Do you know someone who overuses the word, ‘literally’?” We all do. One Englerican (or Ameringlish) tendency is to mutate–or mutilate–a word’s definition and usage. I love words and their meanings–“Words mean something!” I often tell my husband.

To me, it’s abuse to use a word like “literally” out of context or loosely. He who uses such a word too liberally jeopardizes his credibility.

Dictionary.com defines “literal” (the adjective form of “literally”) as follows:

“in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word.”

But if you google “define literally“, a second definition is given:

“Used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true: – I have received literally thousands of letters”

Sigh. To what point has our language sunk, when a word becomes its own antonym? How is it that a word’s caricature is used as often as its original meaning?

With such treatment of this poor, defenseless word, it’s no surprise that it no longer carries its proper weight. For that matter, it seems few words have kept their intended meanings. I find this tragic.

Why is this? What are we trying to accomplish? Why do we think following word-trends displays a fresh, ‘hip’ persona? Do we not understand that doing so threatens to disembowel so many meaningful terms?

Do our words carry any value, or are they all up for personal interpretation? Is there no sacred standard by which to define them? If not, doesn’t all communication become vulnerable to this verbal cannibalization?

Let’s take a look at a well-known statement in a well-known Book:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

…is this literal? Or is it an ethereal, nebulous shell that you fill with your own marshmallowy meaning? Since the very word ‘literal’ no longer means what it should, I can really make of this statement whatever I want, and fit in convenient partial-truths (anti-truths?). For instance, ‘God’ really might be interpreted ‘enlightened essence’, and ‘created’ can now mean ‘developed’ or ‘evolved’….

…and down the slippery slope we slide. (say that ten times, really fast) 🙂

How about this one:

“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”

Okay, since literal’ is really not, maybe one’ here means three‘……or more.

See what I mean?

The question is (and here I arrive at the guts of this post), does God really intend for us to take Him seriously, literally, in the original sense of the word?

If so, then:

God did create the earth. Literally.

There is, and always has been, only one God. ONE. Literally.

He set in order a literal plan for mankind. Literally.

He came to us Himself, in flesh, literally.

He healed people and performed amazing miracles. Literally.

He (that is, His flesh) died a cruel, horrible death, without sin. Literally.

He resurrected after three days and nights. Literally.

He ascended into heaven, literally, offering His own blood once, for everyone. Literally.

He returned as promised to those who waited for Him and prepared their hearts to receive Him. Literally.

He filled–and still fills–people with His Spirit, giving them the Literal Evidence of His presence, of the adoption into His family.

The Promise of this adoption is for you and me. Literally.

Those who have received this literal adoption have literal hope for a literal heaven. Literally (I couldn’t resist).

For those who take Him at His Word, He rewards them. Literally. 🙂

Give Him a chance to prove Himself…what if He really does mean what He said, in all scripture? What impact would this have on your life? What literal changes do you need to make?