Haunting shame holds us back from joyful communion with God and with others
Jesus defends us from those lies
God is the Potter - taken from Romans 9:21 as well as looking at what happened to Job in the context of God being the Potter.
This message was shared with Redemption Church on Friday, Oct. 4. 2019 in Abbotsford, BC
As I have been praying for "immeasurably more" that we're told about in Ephesians 3:20-21, doors have been opening!
I was invited to speak to a beautiful group of survivors in my church's Friday night ministry called Redemption Church.
After that, I was invited to practice a 30 minute version of this message to an advanced Toastmasters group. God is faithful and has said that his message never comes back void - and so I am excited for these "practice" opportunities to share His message with audiences who might not otherwise sit to listen to a message about the grace and power and love of God!
I had another opportunity to share this message with my own Toastmasters group. Again, there are people who may not otherwise be interested in hearing about what God has done and yet, there they were, listening and taking in this message of LIFE and HOPE.
Then (and this is the big one!!) through a brief conversation with my friend, Dr. Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, suddenly we were talking about Missions Fest 2020 and how I could help him with his booth for the ministry he founded called Christian Mission to Gaza http://cm2g.org
That discussion quickly led to talk of doing seminar, which he had not thought of doing. I offered to look into it and discovered that we still have 2 weeks until the submission deadline!! All we need for that deadline is the outline of the seminar and not the completed project!
I was a seminar presenter at Missions Fest in 2012 and so told Pastor Hanna that I would be happy to put together an outline, submit it, and then put together and present a seminar on God's work in the Gaza Strip and the Christians there!
If you would like your church to hear a first hand account of the church in the Gaza Strip, I am happy to come and share with you. I lived and worked there in 2010, got sick there, wasn't expected to live to tell the story and was miraculously restored by God's healing power.
Does God actually do immeasurably more than we ask or even imagine? Oh yes He does!! I am living proof of that!!
This is a 10 minute presentation of Immeasurably More!
God is really speaking to me as I share this message. He is reminding me to bring all my concerns to Him because He really can and does do immeasurably more than I can ask or even imagine.
My friend is very sick and so I've been praying for him, non stop. I am encouraged to keep praying and believing that God can do so much more for him that I can even think or dare to pray for. God proved this to me years ago when He restored my health after I was ravaged by both encephalitis and sepsis while working in the Gaza Strip.
If God can do that, I know he can heal my friend who is being cared for in a Canadian hospital. Nothing is too hard for him. And so I keep praying, believing and knowing that God gives us miracles all the time, not because we deserve them but because of His grace and mercy. I pray that my friend's healing will be so obviously a miracle of God, so unmistakable, that his friends and family will see and know and believe!
This is a practice of my Immeasurably More! message. Unfortunately I didn't have a mic but I hope the message comes through.
Living in an RV has its way of making life interesting, sometimes in awkward ways. One of those ways is that I don't have a sewage hook up where I'm living and so I head out to my local McDonald's every morning to get coffee and to use their facilities.
Months ago, when I first started my daily ritual, I met a group of "older men" (when I say "older", I mean "older than me". One of my McDonald's buddies read this and gave me a hard time for calling them "older" hahaha I thought I better clarify) who meet up for coffee before they head off to their day. Some are contractors, some farmers, some retired, some I don't know what they do - but they are obviously friends who enjoy their morning visits.
Trading friendly and sometimes witty (and mostly hilarious!) salutations with them has become one of the best parts of my day.
I have learned the names of 2 of my buddies, maybe 3, and today they asked me my name, but that really doesn't matter. We talk and laugh anyways. No names needed.
They may not know how much it means to me to get such a great start to my work days.
I have been asking God "what is my message?" and he answered with this:
Eph 3:20-21 (NIV) "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen"
What does that mean? How is that my message?
That phrase says it all - "to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine". Let that sink in. Able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. The Good News Translation says "able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of"
I don't know about you, but I can think of a lot! Yet we are told that Jesus can do more than we can ever ask for or even think of! That's amazing!
Why would that be my message? Because I am an eye-witness to this truth. When I got sick in 2010 and wasn't expected to survive, there were people all over the world praying for me to survive that devastating illness. I had been diagnosed with a double-whammy of encephalitis and sepsis. Either illness can kill or leave a person permanently disabled.
As people prayed, they asked for my survival - but God, who is able to do immeasurably more than we ever ask for or even think of, did so much more! I know that, as I lingered in a coma, I was somewhere in that space between life and death. The doctors didn't think I was going to make it. My test results weren't giving them any reason to think I would make it.
"Immeasurably more than we can ever ask for or even think of".
There were dangers that I was unaware or, or at least unaware of just how much danger there was, for me in Gaza. I believe that God used this illness as a means of escape and then restored me to full health - physically and mentally.
It wasn't God's will for me to be harmed in Gaza at the hands of the his enemies nor was it his will for me to die from a devastating illness.
Have faith when you pray - and be bold. Whatever you ask for or even think of, know that God is able to do immeasurably more!
I listened to a sermon this morning that was exactly what I needed.
For a long time I have been plagued with doubts and insecurities over the mistakes I have made in my life. Some of my mistakes have been of little consequence but some of them have been doozies.
How could God still use me and even want me after what I've done? This morning, my wifi was finally working well enough to listen to a sermon by Dr. Erwin Lutzer of the Moody Bible Church in Chicago. He spoke about the fact that our mistakes do not render us beyond God's reach and use - AND BLESSINGS!!
As I lay in bed and listened and reflected on the message, I found hope returning to my heart and mind. God has used and blessed SO many who have gone before me who have also made colossal mistakes!
He is not deterred by our human frailty. That is not to say that there are no consequences that we must live with due to some of the mistakes we make but God is able to weave them into our story and still make make a way for us to be a blessing!
If you haven't heard of Dr. Lutzer, I encourage you to look him up. I first heard him when I was about 12 or 14 years old at a youth conference in Ontario. It was then that I heard of his book called "Failure: the backdoor to success". What a profound message of hope that book is!!
He is a prolific writer and has a strong message of grace and hope that is so desperately needed for those of us who find ourselves seeming much more imperfect than others.
We can find so much comfort in the fact that God used David for great things - even being in the human lineage of Jesus! And that was after David committed adultery and murder. He repented and God restored him.
My own mistakes are no less devastating than David's and so I can believe that if God went on to use David to be such a blessing, then I am not too far gone to be used greatly by God as well.
The grace of God is deeper, wider and more profound than we could ever imagine.
Take heart, my friend. as one who has been saved by the precious blood of Jesus, God has promised that you will always be held in His hands and never ever be discarded, even though the world may discard us. God takes us by the hand and lifts us to our feet again and calls us His own.
This has been a painful few months and I haven't been ready to talk about it. I can now but I still can't believe it.
In September of last year, my mom started to exhibit symptoms that suggested that something was going wrong neurologically. She was forgetful, emotional and was having trouble processing information.
My sisters and I were getting quite concerned when we added up everything and so got mom to go see a doctor. He was given her list of unusual symptoms as well as our heightened concern and sent her for an CT scan.
The scan came back suggesting that mom had a brain tumour and further investigation led to a diagnosis of GBM - glioblastoma. Stage 4 brain cancer.
We were stunned. How could this be happening to our otherwise healthy, active mom?
She was sent to a neurosurgeon who hospitalized her and had her ready and waiting for surgery.
After her surgery the surgeon was extremely pleased with her outcome! He said that she made it look easy. She came through the surgery and bounced back almost to how she was before everything started happening.
The plan was that she would then get 3 weeks of radiation treatments to get the rest of the tumour that the surgery had to leave behind.
Mom had been told that without surgery, she could expect to have "weeks" but with surgery, she would at least have "months" plus more options for treatment.
She opted for the surgery, She had plans to celebrate 6o years of marriage to my dad and had a number of growing great grandchildren that she wanted to have more time with.
The surgery had gone so well that I really thought that the worst was behind us and by the time "months" had passed, we would have time to find an effective treatment for her.
Before her radiation treatments even started, we noticed, not only a return of symptoms but also worsening. Another MRI was done but I was not made aware of the result at the time.
I work full time, Monday to Friday so I would spend every weekend with my parents. My oldest sister cared for them during the week so while I was with them on weekends, it gave her a chance to get a break.
She was off work at the time and so didn't have to worry about missing work.
Mom struggled with the radiation treatments but she kept smiling and remained optimistic through it all. We would talk and laugh and enjoy our weekends together.
From the end of September (when the tumour was discovered) through to the later part of November, I firmly believed that we just had to get through this rough part and then mom would get better and we would face whatever came in the coming months.
Although she was getting radiation treatments, she continued to become weaker, but I thought that was due to the treatment and that she would feel better once the course of treatment was complete.
I spent the weekend of Nov 16-18 with my parents as had become our new normal. We talked and laughed and made "to do" lists. I was determined not to cry in front of her. She didn't need the burden of my grief while she was still alive, plus, as hard as it was to see her struggling with this illness and treatment, I still thought that soon the worst would be over and she would be on her way back to health.
When I was back at home that week I was told that mom's appointment with the doctor didn't go so well. The radiation treatments weren't helping and her tumour had regrown almost as if it had never been removed. I was frantic. How could this be?
That was a Wednesday and I was heading back to my parents' place on Friday November 23rd, after work anyways. I had not been given any updates on mom's condition except that she had accepted the doctor's update and decided to decline further treatment.
I wasn't prepared for how much she had declined in that week. I had seen her when I left for work the previous Monday and when I got there on Friday, she was bedridden and needed a LOT of support to move around at all. When I saw her that Friday, I finally understood that she wasn't going to make it. The disease had gotten the upper hand. I asked my sisters when this extreme decline happened and they told me it had happened shortly after her appointment with the doctor but they hadn't wanted to tell me. Hadn't wanted to tell me? I needed to know!
During this time, I started listening to a Christmas album I had by For King and Country. The music soothed my agonized heart and soul. Songs of Hope. Songs of Jesus' purpose for coming to earth to save us and heal us.
I barely left mom's side that weekend. She knew that her illness would end with her slipping into a coma and then passing into the presence of her Lord in Heaven, so she kept asking me if she was in a coma yet. I had been in a coma years before, and so I would tell her that, although she wasn't yet there, when she was, she would feel the deeply peaceful, very real presence of God. I assured her that when that time came, she would know she was ok.
She seemed satisfied with my answer each time but it was also evident that she was wishing she was there already. She could feel the tumour and often asked me to press against the side of her head, putting counter-pressure against the tumour to relieve the pain it was causing. I put my hands on her head, told her I loved her and prayed that God would let her suffering end soon but grateful for every minute that I still had with her.
At one point, she asked, "Why doesn't God want me?", not understanding why she was still alive and suffering rather than being in Heaven yet. Her question broke my heart and I told her "No no no, He wants you but in the Bible we are promised that our mansion is being prepared for us. Yours isn't quite ready yet but it almost is. They're just rounding up a few more pictures of your grandkids and greatgrandkids so your mansion will be perfect and you'll love it! Then He'll take you there." I had to choke back tears as I told her, knowing she would soon be there and so knowing that soon she'd be gone.
But her peace of mind was so much more important to me than my breaking heart and so I gave her the comfort I knew she needed.
On Saturday, November 24, my sisters and I were keeping busy at our parents' place when my niece's daughter came up to me and told me about a letter she'd written at school. She told me that the kids at school were giving her a hard time about it and so I asked her to explain it to me.
She told me that she had written a letter to Santa, asking him to make Christmas come early because her great-grandma would die soon and she wanted her it to make to Christmas, but the only way that could happen is if Christmas came early.
I told my sisters about the letter and we said, "Why not? Let's do it!" and we rushed to the grocery story at about 11pm that night and quickly bought everything we'd need to make a Christmas dinner for the whole family the next day.
We put up mom's favourite Christmas decorations, filling her room with lights and beauty. By this time, she was no longer able to get out of bed but she could see the decorations and loved them. Mom always loved Christmas so we told her that she had made it to Christmas. We played Christmas music and after a wonderful turkey dinner, the whole family gathered around mom's bed and we all sang Christmas carols. Each of us setting aside our own grief so that we could give mom one last beautiful Christmas celebration.
She hummed along with the music and hugged everyone. Mom LOVED babies ever since she was a young girl and she had a special place in her heart for every new baby that was born into our family. As she lay in her bed, she said, "Somebody bring me a baby" and one of the many babies present was laid in her arms.
Finally the evening ended, the dishes were cleaned up. I stayed over that night as I had been doing for several weekends and left for work the next day.
I hugged and kissed mom and said that I had to go to work but that I'd come back after work.
That day was the first day of training for a new girl at work and I was the one training her. Because of that, I wasn't able to check my phone for messages until we took our lunch break.
There was a message on my phone that was an hour old. It was from my brother and he just said that I should call Elizabeth (my oldest sister) because mom was having difficulty breathing.
The message was an hour old and it would take almost an hour for me to drive from work to my parents' home.
I immediately called my sister and she told me that mom's breathing was very laboured and that it wouldn't be long. My heart pounded and my breath caught in my throat. I just remember hanging up my phone, turning to the doctor I work for and simply saying, "I have to go", and I ran out.
It was pouring rain that day and visibility wasn't great. I got on the freeway and started out driving quickly, while trying not to go too fast. I cried out, "Wait for me mom, please!" but then I would say to myself, "You can't ask her to wait. You know she needs to go, she wants to go. You have to let her go". Then my tears would blind me and I'd cry out again, "Please just wait! I'll be there soon".
Then I looked at the road and the weather and had to slow down. My kids were losing their grandmother that day. It would be cruel of me to risk ending up in a ditch - or worse - on the same day that my kids already had to deal with more than they could bear.
I spent that whole drive speeding up, slowing down, praying for my mom to wait, reminding myself that she needed to go. It seemed like it was taking way too long for me to get to mom's side.
When I arrived at my parents' home (they lived in the basement suite of my oldest sister's home), it was such a surreal moment. I opened the door, my nephew (niece's husband) greeted me silently. Without saying a word, he just waved me through so I ran past him. Upstairs, my brother in law was playing the piano with such flourish, such grandiose style. It was music fitting for such a solemn, holy time as this. As I ran around the corner to mom's room, I suddenly saw that her room was full of family. My kids weren't there yet but there were many of us there. I just ran in, reached out for mom's hand and held it tight.
I slid in right beside her and whispered in her ear, "It's ok, mom, I'm here now. I love you. You can go. It's ok." I bowed my head, trying not to cry, then I looked at mom's face.
The look in her eyes told me she was seeing another place, another world. She was no longer aware of the world where her body lay. She gasped and took 2 more breaths after I took her hand, and then she was gone.
She had waited for me.
My aunt took me aside later and told me that they thought mom had already gone. It had seemed that she had already taken her last breaths, and then I got there and she took 2 more breaths.
In my grief and pain, God gave me a beautiful picture of that brief final moment I had with my mom...….
"As her earthly vessel bumped against the shore of Eternity, the King smiled and stretched out His hand.
"Look!", He said, pointing behind her. In that moment of hesitation, I slipped my hand in hers and squeezed gently.
"It's ok, mom, I'm here now. I love you. You can go. It's ok."
I dropped my head, never letting go of her hand.
As soon as I finished speaking, she turned to face the King and stepped forward into His warm embrace.
"Welcome home, my child", He said. "Well done. Enter into your rest."
I miss her with every beat of my heart but am comforted with knowing that she is healthy and pain-free as she walks with her family and friends and others who have gone before her and lives in the physical presence of the Almighty God.
One of my grandsons was waiting for her there, so when she said (and I KNOW she did!)
"Somebody give me a baby", the baby given to her was her precious greatgrandson.
When I was in a coma, I was aware of myself. I can’t tell you how much of the time I was aware because, well, I was in a coma.
I don’t know if I should call them dreams, visions or hallucinations but I prefer dreams or visions because they all had the same focus – my comfort and peace of mind. It was like God was reassuring me all through it that He had me – no matter the situation.
One thing I remember vividly is “seeing” myself laying in a hospital bed (I always saw myself laying in a hospital bed, completely incapacitated) and as I looked around me, I saw that I was in a room that had a staircase going upstairs. The walls around me were rich oak with frosted bevelled glass windows. The stairs had a fancy brass railing so I guessed that I was either on a yacht or in a mansion. Either way, I could see that I was in a very nice place.
I could hear people talking upstairs and, by the acoustics, it seemed that the room upstairs was a very large, open space with quite a large group up there. I could even hear their discussion. They were discussing where to allocate funding. From the nature of their discussion, it was apparent that this group wasn’t the slightest bit concerned with meeting a budget, they just determined how much money was needed for a given project and then directed that the funds be sent.
The conversation went on and on and I realized that there was no limit to this group’s resources – they just needed to make sure that each project was sent enough. All the projects they were discussing were humanitarian in nature – meeting the needs of people everywhere. The chairperson would ask the group members to bring up a project they were in touch with and the group members would speak up, explaining the project and how much was needed. There were projects like floods and famines and anything that left people in dire straits. After each speaker finished, the chairperson would say to someone (the treasurer, I guess) to make sure that the funding that was needed was sent.
As I lay there looking around and listening (all I was capable of) I realized that these people were also taking care of me. Even though I had no idea why I was stuck in a hospital bed, completely unable to do anything, I knew I’d be ok. I was in the care of people whose compassion matched their resources.
I remember being so comforted by this knowledge that I just went back to sleep. The funny part was that everyone in the upstairs room had Filipino accents. (My only explanation for that is that I love that accent and find it very friendly and comforting)
Another time, I saw myself in my hospital bed (and I always saw myself from my own point of view, not from outside my body) and I didn’t understand where I was or why but I saw through my open door that there was a lottery booth out in the hallway. As soon as I saw this, I relaxed back into my bed and thought “oh good – at least I’m in BC” (where I actually live except I was in hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel)
As I tried to see out into the hallway, I saw a young man mopping the floor. He kept mopping back and forth and I’d see him every time he’d pass my open door. Each time, he would look at me and just nod and keep going.
I felt safe, knowing he was keeping an eye on me. I knew I’d be ok
One more is that I saw a thing hanging on my wall. It was a box with what looks like sticks jumbled in it. After looking at it for a while, I figured out that it was one of those games that you shook and tried to get the sticks to make words.
But I was stuck in my hospital bed, unable to move, so I realized that if I closed my eyes and shook my head, the sticks would move. I closed my eyes tightly and shook my head and then opened my eyes and quickly looked at the box to see what it said. Every time I did this, I’d open my eyes to find a different encouraging messages! Things like “You’ll be ok!” “Everything will be alright” “Don’t worry”, etc. Each message would relax and reassure me.
It felt like it was God sending me messages to give me peace of mind and courage. Even though I always saw myself as completely incapacitated in a hospital bed, and I never knew what had happened to put me there, I never once felt afraid or panicked, always calm and peaceful, knowing that no matter what had caused “this”, I would be ok