So yesterday I had the privilege of taking my 90 year old Dad to the VA Hospital at American Lake near Tacoma, WA. No worries, it was just for his regular visit with Dr. Allen and an annual visit with the lab. It’s what always seems to happen there that keeps me encouraged.
While waiting to see the lab techs, another vet walked in. We both said hi. He asked me, “How you doing?”
“Fine,” I answered. “And how are you,” I asked.
“I am blessed. I woke up this morning. For that I am grateful,” he replied.
He sat down. Some small talk took place. Then he began to share. I won’t give you the details. It would take too long. However, a few points are necessary for what’s coming next. His wife left him (he reported this with no anger or animosity). He lost his home in the settlement (again his attitude was one of “she needs it more than me”). He is currently homeless (but trying to get back on his feet). To say the least, I was moved.
While we continued chatting another vet walked in. He shuffled toward an empty chair to sit, but not before shaking all our hands and asking each of us personally, “And how are you doing?” After taking a seat, he breathed out deeply “Whew.”
The other vet asked, “So how about you? Hanging in there?”
“Trying,” the other said, “but I need another $40.00 by the end of the day for rent or I’m out for good.”
The first fella I was talking with quickly asked, “And are you positive your landlord will be satisfied with the $40.00?”
The other vet answered, “That’s what he told me. I think I can trust him.”
And out came the other vet’s wallet. I watched and observed. He pulled two twenty dollar bills…leaving what looked to be three ones behind. He reached across the small waiting room to offer the money to his fellow warrior. The other’s response? “No, I can’t do that. I know you need it just as much as I do.”
He was met with, “No, I insist. Please, I don’t mean to offend you, but you have a deadline.”
The other received the gift graciously. He then asked, “How do I repay you?”
The response was beautiful, “Pay it forward, brother, pay it forward.”
And then came church. We celebrated. The vet who received the gift quoted scripture. The one who gave responded, “Amen! You know He is good.”
I too said, “Amen.”
There was more testimony. The rejoicing continued.
Finally, a nurse came into the room. She said, “Mr. ______________. Is Mr. ______________ here?”
The vet who had received the gift stood. Without ceremony, he followed the nurse down the hall. The vet who gave the gift went back to filling out paper work. I read a brochure. My Dad sat quietly. A few moments later a lady asked “Mr. Brooks?” We stood up. We followed her to Dad’s exam room.
This seems to be a regular occurance for our trips to the VA Center. Last year, after returning home from a visit with Dad’s docs, I shared the following on Facebook (August 23, 2013):
Today was a lesson in the art of soft-spoken tender warrior-ese. While helping my 89 year old father at the VA Hospital, I was privileged to have a conversation with a highly decorated vet. 82nd Airborne. Ranger. Recondo. Pathfinder. Multiple combat deployments. There was no brag, just simple facts offered only because I asked. His voice was soft and gentle. His disposition indicated no pain or regret. He was well-spoken and equally polite. He had been waiting in line for over two hours and was still waiting when my Dad and I left. Both his words and his attitude said, “It was an honor and a privilege.” He was a man, sir, a man. Yes, his body was broken, mended, broken again, twisted, and mended yet again…at least as much as the Army Medical Core could fix…a six two frame reduced to a shadow of its youth, but a king-size heart bursting and filling the halls, waiting rooms, offices, and exam rooms of a soldier’s sanctuary. Thank you VA Hospital for a college level education in humanity by a professor of life, battle, and grace all in the space of a Friday morning.
I’ve been learning something through these visits. Adversity is usual. It’s common. It’s every day. You might just as well get used to it. It’s either already arrived or it’s on the way. However, that’s only half of what I’ve been seeing through the eyes of wounded warriors. The other half is far more spectacular. It’s one of those surprising antidotes that begins to sooth the pain of adversity. It’s called giving. Grace.
When adversity slaps us around, we sometimes need to go with it. Let the slap propel you. Let it turn you. Let it motivate you to come full circle. And as you come back around have your hand extended, not to receive, but to give. Hear that wounded warrior’s answer, “No, I insist. Please, I don’t mean to offend you, but you have a deadline.” Give yourself away…even if the giving also hurts.
No wonder our Lord Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Dan Wallace is at the head of the class…both spiritually and scholarly. You’ll want to read more, so here’s his link: danielbwallace.com.
So, this time around it’s not my thoughts I want to share. Instead, I want to ask a question and a follow up question. While I have my own tendencies regarding the question, I’m interested in hearing back from pastors and other leaders. Here it is:
When folks facing adversity come to you for help, where in the Bible do you turn?
And how do you help them to apply that passage?
Let me see if I can get this straight or not…
Our government cannot account for 619 Billion Dollars
and the complaints are few and far between, but folks in southern CA, and folks near Ft. Sill, OK, and my neighbors in Pierce County surrounding Joint Base Lewis McChord pitch hissy fits about taking care of children who are by every conceivable measure victims.
These terrible days were bound to arrive. In a 1994 brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Mother Theresa included the following, “America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts–a child–as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”
Now, 20 years later, we are beginning to see the bottom of the slippery slope. Not only the defenseless unborn, but the defenseless already born will be forgotten.
Bureaucrats misplace, misappropriate, mis-spend, or, probably most likely, simply mis-report (who knows) $619 billion and not very many even flinch. “Oh well, what do we expect after the scandals in the Secret Service, Veterans Affairs, Home Land Security, Dept of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, General Services Administration, National Labor Relations Board, and the IRS (and all these just since 2009). Yet we whine about accepting responsibility for the compassionate care of innocent children? We use excuses like, “We don’t have enough resources for our own? Who are we trying to kid? Drive the streets of America, then look up the conditions of any third world nation.
I don’t have to be a democrat, republican, something in-between, or something to either the left or right of both to say, “Shame on us.” I need only be one of two things: an American citizen who recalls the profound words of both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution; or the kind of follower of Jesus who at the very least “wants” to do as he does.
I’m sending money to help.
And I’m pleading with you to join me.
I once heard a preacher say, “There is an old German proverb that says, ‘The main thing must always remain the main thing.'”
Makes good sense to me.
However, what happens when the main thing goes away? We may very well want the main thing to remain. We don’t want to lose it. We cherish it above all else. Yet…there it goes…
…a relationship dries up.
…a business folds up.
…a skill shrivels up.
…one’s drive gives up.
…one’s appearance ages up.
…one’s health withers up.
What then? One or more of these often form the very foundation of the “main thing” for many people. Yet, each of them runs the very real potential of “going away.” It’s at times like these that we really start to understand phrases like…life just tossed me a curveball and it feels like the roof just caved in.
The expression, “I have a heavy heart,” takes on all new meaning because you literally feel like a stack of bricks is lying on your chest.
When you say, “It seems like I’m living in a dream world,” you mean it because to you life literally looks foggy on the edges.
The questions then are these:
- What can really be the main thing?
- What won’t ever go away?
- What is there for us to cling that by its very nature will forever be a firm foundation?
Answer these correctly and adversity receives a whole new look.
Adversity can make you better or bitter. Adversity can be a kick in the pants. It can also kick you in the teeth. Obviously we want the former, not the latter. But how do you know? How can you tell when adversity has become your master?
Three words can help: critical, apathetic, and sullen.
If these adjectives paint your life picture, adversity is winning.
● When finding fault sprints to the lead while compassion and understanding struggle to keep pace…adversity is winning.
● When indifference and insensitivity climb the leader board while concern and kindness fail to make the cut…adversity is winning.
● When pouty pessimism scores all the goals while cheer and hope get shut out… adversity is winning.
It means you’ve lost purpose. You’ve lost your way. Helen Keller once said, “True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
If a worthy purpose puts criticism, apathy, and sulleness in their places, imagine the power of ultimate purpose.
“Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing… remains…”
by Jesus Culture
Yeah, I know her. Just sayin.’ Seriously, the young people in our church sometimes take my breath away. Keep on keeping on, Miss Hyla. Eph. 3:14-21
Originally posted on hylachamberlain:
In spite of my purity ring, people have asked me what I will do if I do not get married. This is a great question! My answer is, wear it of course! Yes, even if I am sixty and if I do not marry I will be wearing my purity ring. As I have mentioned in my other writing I Wear This Ring I do not only wear mine as a reminder of sexual purity before marriage, but also for purity in all areas of my life. Say I do marry, then what happens? Some people add to their purity rings, or save it to pass down to their children. In my case, I will replace it with an engagement ring, and then add the wedding band to it. I’ve explained to other girls that a wedding ring is just another purity, but within marriage.
I’ve broken it down…
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Diann, thank you. And thank you Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for all you are doing. Reports like these are sweet water to thirsty and discouraged souls. Keep on keeping on. You are all in my prayers.
Originally posted on Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Blog:
Diann Whisnand is one of CBF’s field personnel serving in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Her efforts are mostly in Hidalgo County, which is top in the U.S. for concentrated poverty, and she works on several levels addressing the issue of systemic poverty.
Whisnand’s main focus—the Rio Grande Valley Literacy Center—is a development ministry specifically targeting Latino adults who want to address their lack of education or English skills. Recently, she has also helped CBF to coordinate aid given to refugees crossing the border after the huge influx of families and children entering the U.S. from Central American Countries.
By Diann Whisnand
As a field personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, I’ve been ministering in the Rio Grande Valley…
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I’ll be blunt, adversity stinks.
…thing you cherish goes missing.
…hope you grasp slips away.
…one you love suddenly dies.
And… adversity becomes your up-close, personal, unwanted guest.
It more than stinks.
…a lot…too much…too long.
You know it and I know it, because we’ve been there. Perhaps, you’re still there. If you’ve not been there. Hang on, it’s coming.
So, for just a few moments think about this question: “what do all those items above have in common? Slow down for just a bit. Try not to read on. Can you think of at least two things they have in common?
Okay, you’ve probably arrived at the same thing, but just in case here it is:
1. They all represent loss and loss requires grief.
2. They all fill a part of your soul and what fills the soul produces purpose.
So, will forgetting the loss heal the grief? No, because forgetting will never fill your soul and therefore will produce no purpose.
So, will time heal all wounds? No, because time is just a prolonged encounter with the pain.
So, will something new and similar to the thing lost fill the void? Maybe in part, but not completely, because it’s never quite the same
Then what? What will help?
One thing. Purpose. Ultimate purpose.
People, pursuits, and things pass away. The result. They never completely fill the holes in our souls. Please don’t get me wrong. They are beautiful and wonderful. We desire them and need them. They complement us. They often bring out the best in us. However, by their very nature they are not permanent. They may not outlast us. When they go they leave holes in our souls. Joy flows out. Pain rushes in. Grief.
Maybe you recall a famous scene from the Billy Crystal movie, City Slickers.
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s____.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.
So one question needs an answer if adversity is to become an opportunity rather than an ogre. Got purpose…ultimate purpose?