Friday, September 23, 2016

Hope in What is Not Seen

Hope in What is Not Seen
David Brust

            In April of 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare condition --myelodyplastic syndrome.  This infirmity causes the bone marrow to become so thick with fibrosis (scarring) that it can no longer produce blood cells.  My doctor told me without a bone marrow transplant my life expectancy would be about three months.  With the transplant he said chances for my recovery would be in the 10 percent category.  I decided to have the transplant. 
            For someone who had been healthy and energetic all of his life I found myself thrust into an infirmity that came as quite a surprise!  It was at this point in my life that I came to realize how a person whose life is in jeopardy has a new motivation to turn to God - wanting to walk very close to Him.  My wife and I had been Christians for more than 30 years, so turning to God now was not going to be anything new to us.  Our focus was on scripture that pertained to health and healing, and we were definitely praying concerning the condition I was experiencing.  As a result, I developed an aggressively positive attitude about my being healed.           
            The transplant took place in June.  During the following seven months I had been going in for bi-weekly bone marrow tests.  Regardless of my condition during the months of treatment, my faith continued to give me confidence that I was going to be all right! 
            In January 2016 when I went in to see my doctor, his words were: "a miracle has taken place."  He told me that the most recent test results showed the bone marrow had completely healed itself of all scarring and was producing blood cells in a normal manner.  In other words, there were no blasts (i.e. cancer) cells present.
            Without taking away any of my appreciation for my doctor and the rest of his medical team, I felt compelled to share with him my testimony.  I relayed to him how God had revealed to me back in April that I was healed.  It was as though He had spoken to me in such a way as to provide me with an understanding in my heart and in my mind that He had already ordained my healing.  Since that time I had been professing, "I am healed, and I am getting better and better every day in every way."  On this day God gave confirmation to this testimony!
            Another point of interest has to do with the donor of the stem cells for my transplant.  Remembering him, I sent him an appreciation note.  The rules for engagement between donor and recipient is ... we would not be introduced to each other until one year after the transplant.  Therefore, we had to use some discretion in what we shared with each other.  We could not know each other's names or locations.  My note extended to him my gratitude for his willingness to be a donor - volunteering to help a stranger recover from an infirmity.  I took a chance and also informed him how marvelously well the transplant has gone.  I knew the letter would be monitored by the medical team prior to being forwarded.  I was told everything in my letter went as written except I had signed my first name at the end.  That was removed.
            I received a response from my donor letting me know how much my note meant to him.  I also found out he was in his last semester of college, graduation coming up soon.  He also expressed an interest in our being able to meet after the one year silence period.  I am looking forward to that with some apprehension knowing how emotional this event will be for me.  He signed his note, "your blood brother."

            At this writing it has been 217 days since my transplant.  I am thankful for all the prayers offered for me by so many.  It is definitely a great day for my praising God for his healing touch and for the connections He has made in my life!  I certainly want to thank Him for revealing to me in advance that I was healed before I even began my treatment.

Friday, September 16, 2016

His Protection

His Protection
Mary Brinson

            Years ago, my husband and I lived in Louisiana.  After serving four years in the US Marines, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, we were then in Louisiana because he was a full time college student there.
            When our son was only two years old, I took him with me to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend my youngest brother's college graduation. I had packed only enough clothing for the weekend. As we prepared to catch our flight back to Louisiana after the commencement activities, my mother insisted on taking my son home with her to North Carolina. Although I explained that he only had enough clothing for the weekend, she replied, "I'll buy him more." Her urgency to take him with her was unexplainable, but eventually I relented.      
            Several weeks after my return, a friend and her toddler came to visit us at our home. Suddenly without warning, the sky on that summer afternoon became very dark. The wind howled with a volume that was unfamiliar to me. With a very intense voice, I said to my friend, "Take your baby and please leave!"
            My friend had not been gone more than 10 minutes when a tornado touched down on us. It totally destroyed our home and all of its contents. Amazingly, although our home was reduced to just a pile of rubbish, my husband and I survived with just the clothes on our back. I feel it was God's direction telling me to emphatically insist that my friend leave. I also came to realize afterwards, with certainty, that my mom's insistence on taking my child was no coincidence.

            I have no doubt it was God's infinite power that protected us!

Friday, September 9, 2016

His Mysterious Ways

His Mysterious Ways
Nicki Ridenour

            A little boy once said," My mommy always comes when I call her in the middle of the night. She doesn't always come right away, but she always comes." I have begun to
increasingly think of God in that way. Actually, God often comes even before I remember to call upon Him. And He sometimes responds when I am not even aware of a danger or a need.
            This year in the midst of having financial stress and strain, my BiPAP machine,
which I use to help me to breath at night, was damaged due to an accident involving
a great deal of water. Since this had happened once before, I knew that the repair
cost was $640.00. Insurance had paid most of it the first time, but I knew they wouldn't
pay a second time. This second occurrence happened right before Christmas. What was I
going to do?
            While trying to figure that out, I got a text from my husband's cousin and his wife. They asked if I had received their Christmas card. I thought this was odd; I never call to ask people if they've gotten my Christmas card. Since I hadn't gone to get the mail yet that day, I didn't answer. Later that day when I did retrieve their card from our mailbox, I forgot about their earlier text message. I put the mail aside to be opened later.
            That evening I got a phone call from them, asking the same question. While still on the phone with them, I opened their card. Inside was a note which said, "We got a refund for a car repair, and we thought we would share it with you." There was a check enclosed. For how much?  $638.00!!!  Amazingly, they had no prior knowledge of my BiPAP delimma.
            Is this a God story or what?! As you can well imagine, I was giddy with surprise and delight - my giddiness must have gone on for ten minutes. I shed tears of gratitude
for their gift and for the God who orchestrated it. I am sure that God was behind it all, and they agreed.
            Opening the card in their "presence" was also a gift since we were all able share firsthand my joy and thankfulness. A true blessing from God!

            Thank you, Lord! Amen.

Friday, September 2, 2016

He Did It Again

He Did It Again
Meg Folsom

            On July ninth I came down with the flu and bronchitis. For those who know me... I prefer all my healing to be done through natural remedies and prayer, but since nothing I tried had worked and I was leaving in 9 days on a trip to Europe, I decided to go to the doctor.  The doctor put me on medication and told me to stay home from work and rest.
            As a result of this illness, I lost my sense of smell and taste. However, I was well enough to travel. It was awful going to Europe without being able to taste the food!             
            In early August on my return from Europe, I went to the doctor again, and I agreed on more medical testing. He did blood work that came back normal.  He now recommended that I see an ear, nose and throat specialist, so I saw one a couple of weeks later. The specialist also prescribed more tests to be run.  On my follow-up appointment the specialist told me that all those tests results returned normal. After giving me that news, he just simply dismissed me saying, "Sorry, it's probably permanent since it's been so long." I felt very hopeless.  This condition had now gone on from July until now -- October!
            After leaving his office, I very angry at the way I had just been treated.  I sat in my car and cried out of frustration and prayed for healing.  Not tasting and smelling is more difficult than I could have ever imagined.  I began to worry. What if there was a gas leak from the stove or smoke in the house when I was alone! I wouldn't be able to smell it. What if no one cleaned the cat box, and the house smelled awful.  How could I win the upcoming chili cook-off contest if I couldn't taste! And Thanksgiving wasn't far off - -I'd be missing out on some of the delights of the holiday.  Then my mind went straight to CANCER. I had been in remission from cancer for 8 years, a lot longer than the oncologists ever thought. Was it coming back?
            The only good thing that came of this trying time was loosing a few pounds. What's the point of eating chocolate if you can't taste it and, trust me, I tried.  I would get little whiffs of taste and smell, but they only lasted for about 30 seconds or less. 
            In November I tried to make an appointment with my oncologist to eliminate the possibility of it being caused by the return of cancer.  I was told it would the middle of December before I could get in.  GRRRRR... another brick wall.  So I did what I know works... I prayed to God for His will to be done, no matter what.
            It was now going into the fifth month of my not being able to taste or smell, and I was also experiencing terrible headaches.  I decided to make an appointment to see my chiropractor for the headaches.  Almost a year earlier my son had given me a gift certificate to have a massage.  I thought this would be just the right time to use it.  I tried making a massage appointment for the same day I would be seeing the chiropractor. I tried to schedule Jessica to give me my massage.  I felt very comfortable with her since she was a former patient of mine whose baby I helped deliver five years ago.   However, she was booked for that day, so I made an appointment with a new person instead.  Then I received a call saying that appointment had to be canceled due to overbooking, so I just said," Please give me the first one available with Jessica."  I saw her the next Tuesday evening.  After hugs and updates I told her to please focus on my back, shoulders and neck.  I never mentioned what was going on with my taste and smell.  I tried hard to relax and stay in moment asking the Lord to please guide her hands to any areas that were blocked and PLEASE UNSTICK THEM if it was His will.  
            I headed home feeling much more relaxed and pain free from the headache. When I got into the garage, I noticed I could smell dinner and it was for more than a few seconds.  When I came inside, I yelled to my husband Keith, "I can smell dinner cooking!" I quickly grabbed a few green beans and ate them. I could taste! I grabbed some potatoes. I could taste! I got a piece of chocolate. I could even taste it!  I went into my bedroom and sprayed my perfume. I could SMELL. I was speechless!  
            After dinner, I got ready for bed and then sat in my chair contemplating what had just happened. Keith had gone on to bed. I was alone reflecting on the whole experience. I wanted to tell someone else so badly. I texted my friend Mary, but she never responded.  So what's a girl to do who's just been healed by her loving Father? Post it on Facebook. I don't normally put too much of my stuff out there on social media, but I wanted everyone to know about God's healing.  I also sent Jessica a personal message explaining everything I had been going through. Her response was one of love, amazement and gratitude for her work.

            I have experienced God's healing more than once in my life. I am so very grateful!  I am very happy to say I have seen my oncologist, and I am still in remission despite the stats saying I shouldn't be doing so well. I know that God loves me and wants me to be whole.  And I believe God had something to do with the timing of my massage appointment so that I could finally be treated by Jessica.  I'm so thankful that God answered the prayers offered up for me by my church's prayer team and by so many others. God gets all the Glory! 

Friday, August 26, 2016

God Works in Mysterious Ways

God Works in Mysterious Ways
Darryl Bloodworth

Anyone who has been a Christian for more than a day recognizes that God works in mysterious and unpredictable ways.  Sometimes, however, the full extent of just how mysterious and how unpredictable God intervenes in our lives is not fully apparent until later - sometimes years later.  As one who has passed his 70th birthday, I am only now able to fully recognize how the trajectory of my life was altered by certain key events. I am convinced that they were orchestrated by God to bring me to where he wanted me to be and married to the wife he had for me.
For the past 44 years I have been a practicing attorney in Orlando, Florida, married to Mary, for nearly 50 years.  I have thoroughly enjoyed practicing law, and Mary has been the love of my life, but this is not at all the life I imagined for myself growing up.  In high school I became interested in the Air Force Academy and looked forward to having a career as an Air Force pilot.
I did receive an appointment to the Academy, and did well enough to have my choice of assignment to any of the eight pilot training bases following graduation from the Academy.  Long before I had to officially tell them my choice, I had made up my mind to choose Williams Air Force Base just outside Phoenix, Arizona. At least that was the plan until the night before we were to choose our pilot training base.  That night our squadron received a letter from a former cadet saying how much he was enjoying pilot training at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia.  One of the things he enjoyed most was going to Tallahassee on weekends and dating girls at Florida State University.  Having grown up in Apalachicola, Florida, I was quite familiar with Tallahassee; I even had relatives there.  The letter changed my mind: the next day I chose Moody AFB. Looking back on it now, I realize I would not be in Orlando today nor married to Mary had I chosen Williams AFB.
The next key event that changed my life (although I did not realize it at the time) came early in pilot training.  The aircraft in which we initially trained was the Cessna T-37, a small twin engine aircraft that had side-by-side seating. The first check ride that we took required us to make simulated single-engine landings with a full fuel load.  I totally blew that portion of the check ride.  However, after attempting the simulated single engine landings, as we were climbing to a higher altitude for the other portions of the check ride, an engine fire warning light came on.  Both the check pilot and I were pretty sure there was no fire, but we had to abort the flight and return to base.  Because we did not complete the check ride, it did not count.  After a few practice flights with emphasis on single-engine landings, I retook the check ride, and had the highest score in our class.  I went on to have the top flying scores in our class and got a highly sought assignment as an instructor pilot in the T-38, the Air Force's advanced trainer, at Moody AFB.  Had my original check ride not been interrupted by the fire warning light, however, I would have had a failing score which would have ruined my chances of becoming a T-38 instructor pilot.  That fire warning light was the only one I ever experienced during my five years as a pilot.
Following additional instructor pilot training in Texas, I returned to Moody AFB and Valdosta.  Soon thereafter, I began dating Mary who was in her last semester at FSU, and we married shortly after she graduated.  Three years and two children later, and after much prayer, we decided I would resign from the Air Force and attend law school.  Following law school we moved to Orlando.   Looking back on it now, however, I realize that but for a letter the night before I made my pilot training choice, and but for a false fire warning light, I would not be here, and would not be married to Mary.  Some might say that those events were just serendipitous, but I do not believe it.  God does have a plan for each of us, and will intervene to bring his plans to fruition.  I am deeply grateful that God intervened in my life.  His plans for me have far exceeded anything I had imagined for myself.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Family of Believers

Family of Believers
Lavon Shelley
      Many years ago God blessed me with a very close connection to a church family.  My life was not only centered on worshipping at the Church of the Good Shepherd, but also focused on the caring flock led by a very special priest, Father Al Durrance. It was during this time that I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 
      Not long after receiving the Holy Spirit, I began to sense the physical presence of my Lord. I felt His presence so strongly that I would even move over so He could sit beside me in the church pew.   It was a sensation I'll never forget!  It happened on a number of occasions, and I became accustomed to His being next to me.  How wonderful it felt to have Him so close as we prayed together!
      Being a member of this special church family gave me such joy!  I was delighted to serve on the prayer team and to assist at the altar.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit service was held on Monday evenings.  Even ministers and priests from other congregations would come to participate in this service. Many, many other people were drawn to this service as well.  In fact, I can remember people lined up outside to come in.  One evening the service lasted so long I didn't get home until after 2 a.m.
      So many people were attracted to this church that we soon outgrew our small chapel.  A larger church was needed.  Father Durrance was extremely influential in its construction. Under his guidance, the planning and the building of the new church was accomplished.  The project became a united effort of all those who attended.  This new church was truly made possible by the hard work and love of the tightly knit church family members.  We even helped in the making of the stained glass windows.
      When Father Durrance left, I began attending another church.  I was away from the Church of the Good Shepherd for more than 35 years.  Now at the age of 93, as the passing of time would have it, many of my friends there began moving away - or passing away.  I was so saddened.  I decided that I would try returning to the church which I had felt very attached to so long ago.  As soon as I walked in the door, I knew I was "back home.”  The new priest, Rev. Sarah Bronos, welcomed me with open arms.  Today I am sitting in the same pew I used to sit in - feeling the same love I used to know.

      I am so grateful that the Lord has kept me in His family of believers!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Blessings - One After Another

Blessings - One After Another
Mary Ellen Ferderber

            On November 19, 2009, my mom went home to be with the Lord after struggling for seven months with pancreatic cancer.  Unfortunately, numerous other health issues prevented her from attempting any treatment for the cancer.  Because I had worked in healthcare since 1980, I tried to guide her to make informed decisions each time a new challenge arose.  I soon realized she was not interested.  It made me so sad to think she had no hope for this life.
            As time went on we talked and reminisced.  Through our discussions she became reassured that as a believer in Jesus she would be made whole when she finally reached her heavenly home.  She was looking forward to this promise.
            Before the tragic event of my mother's passing, I was a very healthy person - never sick a day in my life.  I was very happy as well - made joyful by my fellowship with the Lord and by my having a wonderful marriage.   However, the following year after her death, I was consumed with the nagging thought of pancreatic cancer.  I decided to have a CT scan to ease my fear of having cancer myself.  The doctor called with the results. He said, "All looks good, but you have a cyst in one of your ovaries.  You should probably have an ultrasound to make sure." 
            For the next three years we kept a close eye on the cyst.  Then it started to change.  I decided immediately to have both ovaries removed - foregoing the biopsy step - since cancer is prevalent throughout my family tree.  
            On December 13, 2013, the doctor called to see how I was doing following the laparoscopic procedure.  "I'm doing well," I replied.  Then the bomb dropped.  He said he was sorry to have to inform me that I had a rare form of ovarian cancer known as "clear cell."  He then referred me to an oncologist.
            During the next month my life took a 180-degree turn. In February I had laparoscopic surgery performed by the oncologist. I feel very blessed that neither one of the surgeries caused me any pain.
            Three weeks later I began having 21 doses of chemo.  Blessings from God - one after another - got me through this time. During most of these treatments, I had enough strength to work.  During the last few weeks, however, I did become very weak making it hard for me to even get out of bed.  My blood count was very low.  I lost my hair; I felt very cold a lot of the time.  Although this period of time was brutal, God stepped in to rescue me.  Godly women friends- some I hadn't even seen in ages - surrounded me with their loving care.   They fixed meals for me, watched me while my husband was at work, drove me to appointments, and read scripture to me as I was being infused. In addition, someone in Tabitha's Treasures, a ministry group at the Church of the Good Shepherd that makes and gives blessed caps to cancer patients, gave me a very soft one that provided me with much needed comfort and warmth at night.  My wonderful husband never once complained.  Hundreds of people were praying for my healing.  I felt a peace that surpassed all understanding during the entire time!
            Interestingly enough, I had a scripture verse on my work desk - one I had gotten when at chemo treatment -which is one of my favorites:
            All things work together for good to all those that love the Lord, to those that are             called to his purpose.

            That verse happens to be Romans 8:28.  As I noticed this reference, it suddenly came to me that my mother's birthday was August 28 which also happens to be referenced as 8.28 - the same numbers that corresponded to that Bible verse.   How wonderful to have that connection with my mother! Coincidence.  I don't think so.