Friday, July 27, 2018

Recovering Joy

Recovering Joy
The Reverend Sarah Bronos

I came to Christ in my early 30s and was baptized and confirmed on the same day as my young children.  Soon thereafter I became part of a study group, read copious amounts of Christian literature, and became involved in many of my church’s ministries. I had never felt more alive as a Christian. But after almost ten years the Lord called my family to leave that community and move to Orlando, Florida.
We had moved to start a business.  Although what I wanted more than anything was to be in ministry in a church, my time instead was consumed with work and my children who were now in middle and high school.  My prayer life dried up.  For almost two years I was in a dark and dry place spiritually.  I grieved the loss of the sense of God’s nearness that I had experienced during those early years in the church.
During this time someone sent me a book, the title I cannot now recall, in which there was one phrase that stood out to me as if in neon lights: “no person, place, or thing can be Christ to you.”  Reading that made me stop and realize that I had become more attached to the blessing of doing ministry than to the person who had called me into that ministry.  That previous church, its community, and the ministries that had so much been part of my life, had become like idols.  They had replaced Christ in my affections.
One night near daybreak while still asleep, I knew I was sobbing and my pillow was drenched.  It seemed to me as though I was with Mary Magdalene as she ran to the tomb early that first Easter morning.  I was actually sobbing with her as she found the tomb empty.  All of her grief was my grief - it was overwhelming!  As she longed for her beloved Savior Jesus, I, too, felt the absence of my Lord.  Turning around we were blinded by the rays of the rising sun.  Yet we were able to make out a figure.  I heard Him call my name and then He said, “Child, I am not back there, but I am here.  I will never leave you.  I am always where you are.”
Immediately my dark cloud lifted.  JOY!   Once again, I felt the nearness of the Lord!  Very soon thereafter I joined another church and was once again involved in Christian ministries.  But this time, I knew better than to allow the love for ministry to replace the love for my Lord who never leaves me or any of His children.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Prayers Heard

Prayers Heard
Lillian Petersen

Several months ago I was having severe migraine headaches, nose bleeds, and high blood pressure, in spite of medication.  I was taken to the emergency room.  I was told that I might have an aneurysm.  Both a CT scan as well as an MRI of my brain were going to be necessary to determine what was wrong.  The MRI came first.  I was highly anxious – especially since I had heard from so many friends that it was a frightening experience since you are encapsulated inside the machine.  Never having had one before, I didn’t know how I was going to react.  I was told the procedure would take two hours, and I was to keep my head and neck perfectly still.  Those were even more reasons for my anxiety.
            Before the procedure, I prayed.  I asked the Lord for healing; I also told Him I would accept whatever was His will.  Once inside the “tunnel” I began praying again – moving my lips without moving my neck or head.  Soon a doctor in a white coat came to stand beside me, and thankfully, he put me at ease.  
            Forty-five minutes into the procedure, I heard the tech say I was going to be given a break.  While outside the tunnel, I asked the tech who the doctor was.  He said no doctor had been there.  I then said, “I mean the man who was in the white coat.”  He told me there was no man in a white coat either.   He said, “I saw you praying while being tested, then I heard you snoring.”  I was astonished by his comments.  The man was so very real to me! When I returned to the scanner to complete the test, I was at complete ease.
            The results of all the testing done in October 2017 showed nothing was found to be wrong with me.  Since that time, I have not experienced any migraine headaches, nosebleeds, or high blood pressure. It is now March of 2018!
             I have no doubt the Lord was the one who put me at ease and healed me.  My prayers were heard and answered!  Praise be to God!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Making Connections

Making Connections
Jeanne Graham / Ann Cooper

I (Jeanne Graham) received a copy of Magnify the Living Lord- Volume 7- a publication containing testimonies by individuals telling of ways they have been personally touched by the Lord's hand.  It was compiled at my church, The Church of the Good Shepherd in Maitland, Florida. While reading it, I noticed one of the writers was Ann Cooper.  Many years ago I had a dear friend by that name.  Could it be?  After losing contact with her for over 25 years, could I once again be finding her?  I called Joy Sutton, the compiler, and we determined that indeed she was my friend!  Joy told me that Ann had moved from Florida to Tennessee to live near her daughter.  I was absolutely delighted to find out Joy had her phone number!
I called.  How marvelous it was to hear Ann's voice once again!  As we talked and caught up on our lives, we discovered that for years both of us have struggled with an eye condition which had made it almost impossible for each of us to see.  The renewal of our friendship is truly a blessing for me!
            I (Ann Cooper) was ELATED when Jeanne called me! I'm so glad to be back in touch with her!  As a result of talking with her, a really great thing has happened.  When we talked about our eyesight, Jeanne told me about a lighted magnifying device that was making it so much easier for her to read.  I had never heard about this device. My daughter found one online, but it was way too expensive for me.  However, she was able to also find a used one that cost only a fraction of that amount.  My daughter ordered it, and NOW I can read again!   My reconnection with Jeanne as well my discovering this device have truly been blessings for me.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Friday, July 6, 2018

God's Healing Power

God’s Healing Power
Jan Ramsey

In the fall of 1999, I became interested in the healing power of faith while visiting my sister, Missy, in Winter Park, Florida.  We attended a healing service at All Saints Episcopal Church, and it made a lasting impression on me.  Because my sister and I were very close and daughters of a minister who taught the power of prayer, attending this service with her brought us even closer together.
About that same time, I read the book, The Healing Power of Faith, written by Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center of Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University.  This book reinforced the motivation I received at All Saints.  In the fall of 2000, at my home church in Mississippi, I helped to organize a “healing weekend,” to be held in the spring of 2001.  I emailed Dr. Koenig inviting him to speak to our congregation.  To my surprise, he replied to me immediately agreeing to travel to Mississippi for our weekend.  However, my hopes were dashed when I learned about Dr. Koenig’s long and distinguished curriculum resume, and about his high fee.  I knew our church could not afford him.  Serendipitously, while working on a church committee with a faculty member from the Mississippi University Medical Center, I learned that he was also looking for a speaker.  Our timing coincided perfectly with the medical school’s annual symposium for new students. (At this time, medical schools began to focus on spirituality as one way to treat patients.)   Graciously Dr. Koenig agreed to speak at both the MUMC symposium as well as our church’s healing weekend.  Amazingly, the school paid for half of Dr. Koenig’s fee, and the complicated schedule fell into place.  Surely, God’s hand was evident to us all!
In September of 2000, my dear sister Missy and her husband Jimmy were killed in a plane crash.  Thankfully, their two daughters were grown and not with them.  While I knew God did not cause or plan this horrific event, I also knew that He was ever present in our suffering.  Nevertheless, all of our family churned in grief and turmoil as we grappled with the aftermath of the tragedy. 
Missy and Jimmy had lived very full lives, raised two beautiful daughters, travelled the world, and were loved by friends and family.  They were also valuable contributors to their community.   I heard from well-meaning friends questioning — “Why?”   Why and how could such a tragedy happen to such a young and vital couple with so much more life to live and give?  I can honestly say that practical answers come easily — because of Jim’s love of flying and the many hours they spent in the air.  
Sometimes I think when we ask, “Why, Oh God?”, we’re really like children throwing tantrums demanding, “I want my cake and to eat it too, and…a second helping, please!”   Why do we take lives fore granted until we lose them?  Each life is a gift.   
The appropriate response to a gift, even when it is taken away, is gratitude.  When I remember this truth, I am personally able to change my focus and to thank God for Missy’s beautiful life and legacy.
When I returned to Mississippi after the funeral, I continued to give thanks in spite of my grief as I dealt with the loss.  And I then resumed my preparations for the healing weekend.
The healing symposium took place in the spring of 2001, and became even more meaningful and comforting to me.
On a trip to Florida later in 2001, I again attended a healing service at All Saints.  I sat in the very same pew where my sister Missy and I had sat. During the passing of the peace*, the woman sitting beside me introduced herself.  Her name was Missy.  I was astonished, and told her my sister’s name was Missy….actually Margaret Melissa.  Her name was also Margaret Melissa!  At that moment, my eyes drifted up and across the entire body of believers.  I realized that I still had a sister, and a family in the Body of Christ.  I was deeply comforted.  I remembered the words from The Life of the World to Come, by Carol Zaleski.
“Every death, every bitter separation, every uncharted change we face is part of the price we must pay for our share in the deifying light, which confers fullness of life and clarity of vision. It is a terrible price, but God paid it first, and that is our comfort.  This does not make the universe a friendly place. It is still vast beyond comprehension.  There is no security except in knowing that however far and fast we fall, there is God beneath us; we are falling into God’s arms.”