Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8
I sat in my car after having just left yet another doctor’s appointment and announced out loud, “I hate doctors!” One more doctor who treated me with some level of impatience all the while acknowledging I needed surgery. But then I took a step back from my prideful emotions and realized this person – a man of flesh and blood – was gifted by God the ability to heal me. I didn’t need him as a friend, I need him as a healer. And I gave thanks for his able hands and depth of knowledge concerning my medical issue.
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5:8
I was reminded of the scene by the healing pool when Jesus encountered the invalid who had been laying by the pool for 38 years. Jesus simply asked, “Do you want to be healed?” And then told him to get moving. And I realized how much I expect my doctors to be the tender, compassionate Jesus. But even Jesus himself was a no nonsense healer.
My own daughter is a doctor of physical therapy. She’s a pretty no nonsense kind of person. She’s also very good at her job. When her patients are done with treatments, or during the holidays, they shower her with loving, thoughtful gifts. It’s because, while she is good at listening to their needs, what they truly want is healing and she delivers.
I’ve had kind doctors, rude doctors, dismissive doctors, attentive ones. I have to admit that just about all of them have done what I needed them for – healing. Doing something for me that I could never do myself. So, while I may not like every doctor’s bedside manner, I can say a prayer while sitting in the “big chair” thanking God for their skill and for the healing that is to come. And I pray for me to have patience and kindness in between.
Listen diligently to me, and eat
what is good, and delight yourselves
in rich food. Incline your ear,
and come to me;hear, that your soul
may live;and I will make with
you an everlasting covenant,
Jesus said to them, “I am the
bread of life; whoever comes to
me shall not hunger, and whoever
believes in me shall never thirst.
As so many of us prepare to enjoy delicious Christmas meals and beautifully wrapped gifts it’s easy to overlook that most of what we call “Christmas” isn’t necessary. Stripped down, Christmas is about one thing – God’s promise to deliver us the greatest gift, His son Jesus.
This year our “Christmas” seems a bit different. We are missing family and friends. But the promise I wanted to share with you is this, he always provides for us. Even in times that seem bare, He provides. In fact, the opportunity to truly appreciate what we do have is when situations seem the most difficult. It’s lessons like that which Jesus passed along to us through His bloodline.
He will provide in the most God-like ways – a stranger lends a hand, a paycheck bonus comes at the right time, an offer of food from a neighbor when you need it most. And the covenant agreement we need to uphold and hold on to is to trust in that promise.
I pray every day that what I write in this blog is what someone, even just one person, needs to hear from God. And the other day I was thinking about which Isaiah verse to use for Christmas. That day, my friend Betsy shared a story written by her sister for her local church. As she read it, all I kept hearing was “He provides.” I asked if I could share her beautiful family story here. Betsy’s family bloodline has passed down some amazing lessons. I hope you enjoy it!
A Privileged Life Growing Up By Rachel Mueller
I’m the oldest daughter of an Episcopal priest. I found growing up totally immersed in the culture of the Episcopal Church something very special.
This photo was taken July 2, 1953 for the Glendale California News Press announcing that my father was to be the new rector of St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, California and it introduced our family to the community. One of five and the oldest, you will see me pictured to the right of my father and holding my favorite Madam Alexander doll. My younger two brothers and two sisters completed our family – yes, five children in six years, something my mother said raised eyebrows at our new church! We lived in the large rectory, which was next door to the church and suited our big family perfectly. Apparently while constructing this new house, there was some opposition on the vestry to its size. And supposedly the previous Rector said, “Well, who knows? The next Rector might have five children.” Perhaps the Search Committee went looking for a priest with five children to justify their new building.
Living next door to the church, we were very much aware of all the church activities on a daily basis. There was always something, be it the regular church services, a wedding, funeral or special events. My father believed his family was an extension of him, so we were taught to answer the telephone properly; in my case “St. Luke’s Rectory, Rachel speaking” and to take messages in detail and often answer questions such as the times of the church services, or dates of meetings. In a way our parents used us as extra employees — we gave out keys, opened doors, passed the cookies at vestry meetings, set up the tables and chairs for parish events, washed the coffee cups after church on Sunday, went with our father to visit people in the hospital, took food to orphanages, helped relocate refugees (first the Dutch Indonesians, then Cubans, and later Vietnamese), and helped load real sheep into our station wagon for the live Nativity outside the front of the church at Christmas. Anything going on at the church was dinner table conversation, including who was sick and in the hospital, or just died, or had a baby. The doorbell rang morning, noon and night with someone wanting something, or wondering “Where’s Fr. Sadler?” It was a constant in our life. The parish got to know us, and we quickly learned the names of all the parishioners.
In contrast to many clergy today, our father always wore a black shirt (not grey, or blue or some other color) and his clerical collar. I don’t remember ever seeing him not wearing this “uniform” until years after he retired. Even on his day off he was dressed in “the collar”. He was very active in our community which made him well known, which in turn brought great benefits to our family. He was usually the clergyman on stage at our school graduations, there to give the invocation or benediction, which made me very proud. Everywhere we went folks would stop him to say hello and show us special kindness. We were often invited to parishioners’ home to swim on hot afternoons. We were treated to Disneyland when it first opened. There were always special gifts of food and goodies at holidays – items that weren’t part of our regular family fare.
The most important lesson I learned from my father was “God will provide.” So many wonderful things happened to us, I thought we were very wealthy. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I learned what salary my father actually made. I couldn’t believe it. On paper we were poor. But our lives were rich and much more interesting than those of my friends. For example, we might suddenly have some homeless folks at the dinner table. My mother would just say “Rachel, please set the table for three more.” We often would never see those people again but the memory and lesson of hospitality remain.
I could fill a book with stories of wonderful things that happened to us as a result of living in a family grounded in love, trusting that “God will provide” and accepting life as it comes; but enough for now.
And he said to his disciples,
“Therefore I tell you, do not
be anxious about your life, what
you will eat, nor about your body,
what you will put on. For life is
more than food, and the body more
than clothing. Consider the ravens:
they neither sow nor reap, they
have neither storehouse nor barn,
and yet God feeds them. Of how much
more value are you than the birds!
My youngest daughter is a poster child for God’s transformation. When she was a toddler, she constantly begged me to buy her bright and shiny things she saw advertised on tv then displayed on the grocery shelves. I left the grocery store many times during one of her meltdowns. As she got older, I heard on a daily basis of her “needs.” “I need more shorts (from the expensive store).” “I need more pants.” “I need a new straightener.” “I need a new (fill in the blank).” And then there were the social status issues: “Olivia’s mom gets her those, why can’t I have that?” We started calling her the family princess. My older daughter, who to almost frustration, never asks for anything. My prayer life was filled with asking for patience. This beautiful, smart, vivacious, talented, young girl acted like a spoiled brat. Thankfully, she reserved all the negative behavior for her home life. Away from home her teachers, coaches, and friends all loved her. But they didn’t have to live with her. My husband and I decided enough was enough. He started planning frequent mission projects for the two of them to participate in. She taught vacation Bible School. She got a job. We knuckled down on all those “needs.” And then we sent her off to college, waiting for her to start begging us for money each week.
James first starts in chapter 1 that we should consider it pure joy whenever we face trials (James 1:2). I loved my daughter immensely during those younger years. I enjoyed her humor, her ability to make any situation into a song. She was a fierce, talented competitor on the field. She would burst into the house after school and shower me with love. That’s what I would thank God for, not for when things went off the rails. Without the hard stuff I might not have fully appreciated the good stuff. So, when I sent her off almost 2,000 miles away for college my house felt quiet, too quiet. And for her, she came to realize how good she had it at home. She faced terrible roommates, crazy coaches, and bored, lazy professors. But she also was led to a relationship with Jesus, thanks to being invited to attend an Athletes In Action meeting. Her “needs” became a need to live in God’s love – not the world of earthly desires. She surrendered herself fully and in turn, found what really matters in life – an eternal love plus the love and friendships that make us better. Now when she asks, she asks with the right motives. She asks for God’s will – not her’s.
This amazing, transformed, daughter of Christ has plans. But they’re God’s plans. Her creative mind and her earthly tendency to “want stuff” is still there. It’s amazing to watch her pull it back in. You can tell that peace dwells more frequently in her. Before they got married about a year ago, she and her husband went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program. Having the desire to do it in the first place showed their spiritual maturity. They both have great jobs after having graduated college. And they could have a lot of “stuff.” But they made a plan with God in mind. My little girl who demanded so much is now so incredibly disciplined. And yes, she has thanked my husband and I many times over for instilling so many morals and values in her. But it’s God’s work that fully planted those in her heart. I truly believe the trials she went through while in college gave her a choice – to go down the earthly path or to turn and surrender to God.
James 4 was a message to my daughter.
James 4 is a message to all of us who struggle day in and day out with trying to control our lives. Trying to get all our “needs and wants” satisfied. It’s a message to all of us who have put “Self” in front of God. It’s also a message of hope that when we do what we ought to do, when we submit and surrender everything to God, He will draw near to us. We have a role to play and unless we take our required steps, God cannot finish the work in us. How many of us who struggle with money are willing to spend the next few months going through Financial Peace University?”
And lest we think “those people” are the ones that need to hear this message, the work God had to do in me with my relationship with my daughter was huge. When I finally surrendered her over to him, when I finally threw up my hands and said, “Ok, I’ve failed, I’ll try it your way,” I could start mending our relationship. When I started praying His will, and not mine, great things happened. The planning of her wedding was God’s gift to both of us. Had she been the “girl before God” she would’ve demanded expensive, well, everything. Instead she and her fiancé put together a tight budget. We made decorations. We eliminated needless activities. God sent them people who would make a cake for $60, a free videographer, an inexpensive caterer. They wanted the focus to be on Jesus. It was so darn fun.
God’s gifts to me, my two beautiful daughters, are just that – His gifts. And like my finances, and my marriage, and my home, I need to be a good steward of His gifts. So, I pray for His will be done. And may the devil flee.