That Bracelet – Thank You God

I asked the man how he knew I was a Christian, and he pointed to my bracelet that read, “God’s Work. Our Hands.”

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As I boarded the airplane to return home from visiting family there were over 40 seats available.  I found a middle seat with an overhead space for my carry-on luggage.  I asked if the middle seat was taken, and the man in the aisle seat moved over and motioned for me to seat in the aisle seat, which I preferred anyway.

During this hour and a half flight I had planned on reading a novel, but, soon after takeoff, the man asked me, “how did you come to know Jesus?”  While the question took me aback some, I was prepared by having given this “elevator speech” about my faith before.  What followed was a blessing. We talked about our shared Christian faith and their mission work around the world.

Jerry and Marilyn Fine are the authors of One-on-One with God (www.ONEonONEwithGOD.org). This is a structured training program for how to make disciples, which they have taught to thousands of people, many of whom have gone on to disciple other people.  As I have worked as a church leader and have learned about faith development, I have struggled with being a disciple teacher.

Of all the seats available on this airplane and of all the topics to talk about, here was a couple who could give me what I needed in order to learn more about making disciples. Late in the conversation I asked the man how he knew I was a Christian, and he pointed to my bracelet that read, “God’s Work. Our Hands.” And I said, “thank you, God, once again.”

Submitted by Paul Stratton

A Pep Talk in Each Drop: God Speaks in Unexpected Ways

Recovery from knee replacement surgery has proceeded on schedule to the point that just a few muscle groups have yet to recover. Unfortunately, when I try to sleep, the muscle group that stretches from my knee to my hip sets off alarms and I awaken frequently. So, last night was rough.

This morning I was on the phone praying with my prayer partner for other people to recover from illness or surgery and for other blessings from God. I was feeling sorry for myself, tired and hurting from last night. In front of me were several cough drops with their paper wrappers covered with the company’s logo. As I scanned over this pile, one wrapper caught my attention.

Centered on the wrapper in clear black letters it read, “”you’ve survived tougher.” I examined the other cough drop wrappers, and they either displayed no words or the writing was partially obscured by the twisted end of the wrapper. Before this I had never seen such a pep talk on a cough drop wrapper.

I looked at “you’ve survived tougher” and chuckled out loud. It raised my spirits and offered me hope that God had equipped me through earlier tough times. So, I can expect better times ahead. That was just what I needed at that moment.

I think of this as a God Sighting, partially because I have had so many God Sightings during this surgery and recovery process. It just fit with the others. I could have not thought about it, eaten the cough drop, and thrown the wrapper away. I could have written it off as a “coincidence” or as just “good luck.”

However, those attributions do nothing for my spirit or for my faith in a merciful and compassionate God, who is always with me, offering loving support. I believe that God is with me and that should be my first interpretation of events around me, whether those events are big or small.

Thank you, God, once again.

Submitted by Paul Stratton

Why Does God Let me Hurt So Much?

God’s work in my life is most evident to me during times of crisis. My recent knee replacement surgery has been one such occasion.  My last God sighting reflected on how I was encouraged when I accepted that my leg and knee were more God’s doing than my own.  I was encouraged when I accepted that God designed this body with the skeletal architecture, blood flow and immune system to make rebuilding after surgery possible. My contribution is minor by comparison; take my medication and do my exercises.  I closed that thought with, “God does not design junk.”

That begs the question, “why did God allow my knee to break in the first place?”  If God is a God of love, mercy and compassion, why did God allow me to hurt so much as to make surgery necessary, much less the pain after surgery?

Most of the time pain is a necessary sensation, just like seeing and hearing.  As a sensory input, pain allows us to navigate around our world and avoid things, like fire, that could hurt or kill us.  Before surgery the pain in my knee was God’s way of saying, “Something is wrong here. Do something about it.” Most often that meant that I would put less weight on that knee, support the knee with a brace, or just stop doing what I was doing. After awhile, the pain told me those things were not enough, and my knee needed professional help.  After several years of injections, which offered some temporary relief, surgery became the most pain-free option for  the long run.

But why did God design my knee to give me such pain in the first place? Why not design it to be indestructible?  I do not know any other body part that is indestructible. My eyes are wearing out. My bones are vulnerable to breaking if hit by a car.  Those bones lose strength as I age due to osteoporosis.  So, my knee is not much different from the rest of my body.  It gives me pain, when injured, and it wears out as I age.  I am grateful that God designed my knee to work as well as it did for as long as it did.

Perhaps that should be my focus. Be thankful for what I have and do not mourn for what I do not have.  The past is past and for all my crying and mourning, nothing will change that.  The future is ahead, and God has given me what is needed to move ahead.  God has given me my wife as my indispensible at-home support. God has given me excellent medical support in the doctors, nurses and physical therapists.  God has given me support through the prayer of friends and family in ministry. God designed my bones to grow into the new titanium knee to make it strong. God designed my blood to bring in nutrients and take away waste to allow my muscles to rebuild. God designed my immune system to beat down infection. God has given me what is necessary to allow me to do what I can do to rebuild after surgery, such as take my medication and exercise.

Thank you God, once again.

Submitted by Paul Stratton

An Insight From my Nightmare God Sighting

 

Have you ever asked yourself what is so difficult about being a witness for Christ?  While I cannot answer for you, I can better answer for me. I have experienced hesitating and then losing an opportunity to be a witness.  Sharing that experience may help you when you are reluctant to share your faith.

Recently I had a God Sighting that was very unusual for me. I wrote that down as “A Nightmare God Sighting,” which was distributed as an e-blast and blog.. I shared that God Sighting with great reluctance, and the process that I went through may be similar to what you have experienced.  You see, the God Sighting was a dream, like a scene from Revelation; fantastical, scary and full of symbolism.  It made sense to me, and, since it was my experience, I knew that it was real.

However, when it came to sharing my nightmare God sighting, I was concerned about what other people would think of me. Would they think that I just made it up? Was I just plumping up my own ego? Was I boasting? Would people think I was crazy for having such a bizarre dream? Or drunk or on drugs? Why put myself out there for people to criticize? Those are concerns about the “me” part of the equation that wanted me to just keep my experience to myself and to not share.

However, I did share my experience as a God Sighting, because my perspective changed. It changed from “me” to “we.” The focus of my concern had changed from how would my sharing would affect me to how my sharing could affect all of us, the “we.”  In other words, the benefits to other people could outweigh the cost to me.  That is more in line with Jesus’ commandment for us to “love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)” and “you will be a witness to all people of what you have seen and heard (Acts 22:15).”

When I have more concern for other people, I have less concern for myself. Then I am more at ease sharing my experience of how God is working in my life with other people. That experience may be as personal as my recent nightmare, what I recently did at church, or as seemingly inconsequential as commenting on a cross that someone is wearing on a necklace.  The latter has initiated some interesting conversations about faith in the work place.  I have also had some interesting conversations with restaurant wait staff when I ask, “Before we eat, we pray. Would it be OK to include you in our prayer?” The most recent was a young woman who was to travel to Russia in two days, but her visa had yet to be approved due to international tensions. She was very thankful for our prayer of support.

Being a witness for Christ takes most of us out of our comfort zone and that makes us hesitant to share our faith. However, it is easier when we shift our concern from our self to our neighbor and focus on the healing that comes from that sharing. Being a witness for Christ is one thing that we can do to bring peace and healing to a world that needs what our faith has to offer.

Silence is the enemy of truth, and our truth is Jesus Christ.  Pass it on.

Submitted by Paul Stratton

Testify

I asked if he is a Christian, and that prompted his testimony about his faith and his having attended a church founded by St. Thomas in AD 52. We shared our faith stories . . .

Today (June 20) I had physical therapy at home, following my knee replacement surgery three days ago. The therapist was a pleasant fellow, who by his appearance and accent was most likely from India.  As we were planning our meetings, he said he would have to schedule around his vacation. So, I asked where he was going for his vacation, and he said that he was returning to where he was born in southern India, where there are a lot of Christians.

I asked if he is a Christian, and that prompted his testimony about his faith and his having attended a church founded by St. Thomas in AD 52.  We shared our faith stories, and, much to my surprise, his theology is very much like a Missouri synod Lutheran.

What a rich conversation we had! As he left, I felt that I had a new brother in Christ and that we had much in common, even though we were born and raised half a world apart. As a result I felt confident in his physical therapy and could relax into the pain and work that it involved.  Thank you, God, once again.

Submitted by Paul Stratton

Better Outcomes

 God works in me to create better outcomes than if I had let “chance” or “luck” or “mother nature” contribute to those outcomes.  Here’s an example . . . .

 God works in me to create better outcomes than if I had let “chance” or “luck” or “mother nature” contribute to those outcomes.  Here’s an example.

Karin and I were at the University of Michigan hospital getting me prepped for my knee replacement surgery.  Previously we had had experience praying with a surgeon and wanted to pray this time. However, with over 30 operating rooms working out of the same pre-op area, things were petty chaotic.  I had to intentionally ask my nurse about whether the doctor would be by to see me before I went into the operating room and if she thought he would be willing to pray with us. Frankly, I was a little hesitant to ask, especially since I had only seen the surgeon twice before, and I had no idea about his religion.

When the surgeon came by, I did ask him, and he stayed around to pray with us. And the anesthesiologist, his two assistants, and the nurse stayed, too. So there we were, seven people holding hands around my bed praying for a positive outcome. I felt a warm, calm come over me, replacing my anxiety. Entering the operating room there were stacks of equipment and about 15 people, three in HASMAT suits, bustling around and talking. Instead of anxiety, I felt a calm confidence that all would be OK. And it was.

What made the difference for me was not giving in to my hesitation about praying in public and intentionally asking my surgeon about praying. I believe that the Holy Spirit in me pushed me to ask, and I could not have asked for such calm or positive outcomes from “chance” or “luck” or “mother nature.”  Thank you, God, once again.

Submitted by Paul Stratton

 

Thank You God, Once Again

At home recovering from knee replacement surgery, I was introduced to “Jacob,” my in-home physical therapist. He was born and raised in India and is a Christian. We have had good conversations about our faith and life experiences as he worked my new knee and old leg through the pain of recovery.

One day he came into the house walking past my car that has the bumper sticker, “Real Men Love Jesus.”  He commented that he liked the bumper sticker, and we chatted about our faith and how we witnessed our faith on the job and in our life.  I asked him if he would like one of those bumper stickers, and he assured me that he would put it on his car, even though he lived with his wife and two teenage daughters.

These bumper stickers were left over from our men’s retreat and had been posted on the bulletin board at church to give away free.  However, when I had asked a friend to retrieve one for Jacob, he could not find it.  With apologies I had to tell Jacob that I could not get one for him.

However, today at church I did find one copy of the bumper sticker, “Real Men Love Jesus,” and will mail it to Jacob.  In this instance, how God is working in my life began with my picking up Jacob’s cue that he was raised in an area of India where there are a lot of Christians, and I engaged him in a conversation about his faith.  Then there is his seeing my bumper sticker and asking about it. Then, of course, there is finding a lost bumper sticker.

God will also working be in our lives by Jacob putting that bumper sticker on his car and driving that car all over southeastern Michigan while doing his job as in-home physical therapist. That means that thousands of people will be exposed to the message, “Real Men Love Jesus,” which should spark some interesting conversations.

Thank you, God, once again.