Hang in There!

 

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The Saturday before Easter Mary took me on a long trip. We went to visit our older daughter and our son-in-law, and our three adorable grandchildren. Their home is around seventy miles away from our house.

I know that seventy miles from home doesn’t seem like a long trip to most of you, but anything further than our mailbox is outside of this hermit’s comfort zone. I was somewhat hesitant about getting in the van after our last trip to look at a new neighborhood that is being built nearby didn’t turn out so well.

Unlike the newer smooth-driving minivans with wheelchair ramps, we have a big not-so-smooth-driving Ford van with a hydraulic wheelchair lift. My wheelchair weighs about three hundred and fifty pounds, and I weigh about a hundred and sixty-five pounds. So the lift has to raise and lower over five hundred pounds. Using the controls, Mary lowers the lift so my wheelchair can back onto it. She then raises me to the level of the van where I can then back in. Our van and the wheelchair lift are twenty-one years old, but both work well. Usually.

It was difficult for me to look around the new neighborhood because, like every other muscle in my body, my neck muscles are extremely weak, so with every turn of the van, my head swung back and forth. To people following us, I probably looked like a life-sized bobble-head figure. But, other than having a neck ache when we returned home from our brief excursion, everything went fine. Mary just had to get me out of the van and get me back into the house. If it were only that easy.

After raising the lift halfway, I saw a panicked look on her face. “The lift is stuck!” After she pushed the up and down buttons over and over, I concluded the obvious – I’d be spending the rest of my life stuck in the van. We taught our girls never to call 911 unless it was a real emergency. This situation wasn’t like a heart attack or a car accident, but I knew that Mary and her eighty-six-year-old mother were not going to lift me and my wheelchair out of the van. Mary called 911 and explained the situation, telling them not to hurry, but…

Within minutes I heard sirens in the distance, and they were getting louder and louder. As I sat there hoping that God would somehow keep our neighbors from hearing the sirens and seeing the flashing lights, a big firetruck parked in the street and an ambulance pulled in the driveway. Just ten minutes after Mary made that “no need hurry”call to 911, six men and a woman were standing in front of me scratching their heads.

I have an old manual wheelchair in our garage, and they were able to lift me out of my wheelchair and plop me in that wheelchair. They were then able to lift my heavy wheelchair out of the van and transfer me back. We are so thankful for first responders, I just wish they didn’t have to use sirens and flashing lights. I don’t know for sure, but I think some of my neighbors might have gotten a glimpse of me for the first time. Mary got the lift repaired the following day, and it works great now.

This was actually the second time we had to call 911 because of this wheelchair lift malfunctioning. The first time was a scary situation. About five years before this incident, on our wedding anniversary, Mary and I decided we would pretend that we were a normal couple and go to see a movie. Everything went fine until we exited the theater and saw the pouring rain. Thankfully, our van was parked only about a hundred feet from the doors of the theater. Handicap parking is great. I turned the speed of my wheelchair all the way up, and we made a mad dash to the van. Mary quickly opened the doors to the van and grabbed an umbrella to hold over us as she operated the lift. She’s the best!

Within two minutes I was on the lift being raised up to the level of the van where I would quickly back in, and we’d be out of the rain and on our way home. It didn’t quite work out that way. We heard a popping noise when she was raising me up. “That can’t be good,” I thought.

The lift went all the way up to the level of the van, but there was a two-inch gap between the lift and the floor of the van. This has never happened before, the lift is usually flush with the floor of the van. But, my wheelchair is great, I can roll over high thresholds and other minor obstacles like toys that our grandchildren have left lying around. I figured that getting over a two-inch gap would be no problem.

However, I failed to realize that the lift and the wheels of my wheelchair being wet would make jumping this gap really difficult. I still had the speed of my wheelchair on its highest setting, but couldn’t get over the gap and into the van. I tried again and again. I would inch my way to the front of the lift then quickly pull the joystick back. But when the small back wheels hit the gap, the big wheels would start spinning.

I kept trying. The rain increased. Umbrellas don’t work very well when the wind is blowing. We were soaked. “A few more tries and we’ll go back into the theater’s lobby and wait for the rain to stop,” I told myself. I tried again, and the strangest thing happened, something I couldn’t even imagine. Apparently, the engineers who designed this wheelchair lift didn’t envision this happening either.

When I pulled back on the joystick, the small back wheels got stuck in the gap, and the big wheels began spinning just as in previous times. But, instead of the wheelchair going over the gap and into the van, the floor of the lift shot out from under me, sailing over the parking space next to us and landing against a curb. The boy inside of me thought, “THAT WAS AWESOME!” Then, that pesky rational voice in my head quickly took over, wondering: “If the floor of the wheelchair lift just went skidding across the parking lot, what was holding my wheelchair and me three feet up in the air?”

I glanced over at Mary who looked like she was in shock: “Bill, don’t move.” She obviously forgot that I was paralyzed. Trying to remain calm, she explained that only the outside edges of the tires of my wheelchair were resting on the narrow angle iron that used to support the floor of the lift. If my wheels had not been perfectly centered on the lift, the wheelchair and its occupant would have fallen to one side or the other. It turns out that the only thing holding the floor of the lift to the narrow supports was a strip of double-sided tape.

After examining my precarious state, Mary determined that she could not lower the lift because the small back wheels were stuck in the gap and lowering the lift would dump me out onto the parking lot and the three hundred and the fifty-pound wheelchair would likely land on top of me. She called 911, and some big firemen showed up, crawled over the back seat, and pulled me into the van.

I am so thankful for things like wheelchairs, wheelchair lifts, and especially for this computer that allows someone like me to communicate and type blog posts. But I’ve learned the hard way not to put faith in technology or any man-made things.

Was God holding me and my wheelchair up when the floor of the lift shot out from under me?

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

It was so strange to be sitting in my wheelchair three feet up in the air with seemingly nothing under me. But, because the outside edges of the two big tires were resting on the narrow angle iron, there is a natural explanation for my wheelchair being suspended in midair. Therefore, I can’t claim that it was a miracle that the wheelchair didn’t fall when the floor shot out from under me.

However, Mary and I believe that this was a miracle because God has been “holding us up” throughout the twenty-two years of my having ALS. Just when we need assistance, He sends family or friends or, in this case, firemen, to help us.

We know that the life of faith can often feel like we’re suspended in midair. There are times that followers of Christ can feel like God has left us hanging. This is where our faith, trust, and hope in Christ are tested and strengthened.

Hang in there. God has not forgotten you.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “Opps”

The woman is startled awake and looks at the clock. She leaps from the bed realizing she’s overslept and will be late if she doesn’t hurry. She dashes to the closet and without worrying about what to wear she grabs a pair of jeans and jerks a random shirt off a hanger and quickly runs to the bathroom to quickly run a brush through her hair.

Donning the jeans and shirt, she shoves her feet into a pair of shoes and races toward the kitchen. Opening the cabinet she grabs her medications and quickly gulps them down with a tall glass of water.

Grabbing the refrigerator door handle she throws it open and snatches up a small bottle of juice and races to pick up her Bible. Out the door she flies.

Glancing at the clock on the cars dashboard she thinks she just might make it to church services on time and relaxes a bit. She’s covered seven miles of her thirty mile trip when a man’s voice, through the radio, praises the song just played and states, “On this beautiful Saturday morning…”

She slams on the brakes!

Feeling pretty stupid, she turns the car around and drives back home. Ripping the jeans and shirt off, she throws them on the bed while kicking the shoes off her feet. She dons her bathrobe, sets her Bible back on the counter, and slowly walks to the living room.

Flopping down on the chair and shaking her head in disbelief, she begins to laugh.

***

Matthew 10:20 “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of the Father who speaks in you.”

***

In this scripture Jesus is telling the disciples that He will give them the words to speak to nonbelievers. The Holy Spirit can speak to us through people, like the announcer on the radio in the story, did. The Lord saved the woman in the story from driving all the way to church to find an empty parking lot. It is amazing that there are some people who say that when we speak to the Lord, that’s prayer, but if the Lord speaks to us, that is mental illness. If the Lord our God can speak through a donkey in Numbers 22:28, then surely He can use a radio announcer. God is not limited in His ways of communicating with us. We just need to listen and sometimes the best way to deal with our mistakes is sit down and just have a good ole belly laugh.

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I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “Free Entrance”

In the distance music softly fills the air as two teenage boys are walking down the street. They hear music and cannot figure where it is coming from. They continue to walk toward where the music seemingly is coming from when they see a church as they round the corner.

One boy approaches the front door. “I’m going to peak in,” he states and puts his hand on the door knob.

“You don’t want to do that! It’s just a bunch of old people singing those religious songs.” The other boy announces.

The boy tries to turn the door knob but it doesn’t turn.

“Come on. Let’s get outta here.” The other boy states while tugging on his friend’s arm.

A Man walks up to them and the boys turn in fear that they have done something wrong. The Man smiles and says, “It’s okay. I’m glad to see you want to enter My church.”

The boy removes his hand from the door knob and asks, “Are you the preacher?”

“You could say that. I am the head of the church, or I’m supposed to be.” The Man replies.

The other boy tugs on his friend’s arm and snarls, “Let’s go!”

“Why can’t I get in?” The boy asks, jerking his arm away from his friend.

The Man looks at the boy intently and states, “In order to be a part of the body of Christ you must have a key. Do you want the key?”

The boy looks to his friend, then back at the Man. “Yeah, I think so.”

The Man hands the boy a large key. The boy looks at it and printed in large letters across the key is “Faith.”

***

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God.”

***

There are many that fill the pews of a church and listen to the Word, mouth the songs, and glance at their watches wondering when it will be over. God has given us grace to journey through this life.  He assures us He is always with us yet many do not cling to that promise. It is by faith that we can walk with Him. If we do not believe His promises, if we do not receive the grace He offers, we have become our own gods. To trust Him is to believe He is the Creator, the Lord and Savior, and that He died for our sins.  He states that His grace is sufficient and it is through faith that we learn it is.

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Tears of a Saint

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My heart hurts. The tears flow. I don’t know how to stop the evil in our world. I have begun to doubt that God is really in control. How can He be when the most innocent of innocent are slaughtered at the hands of the most evil and vile of what is known as human beings? How can the Highest of Highest stand by and allow these monsters called intelligent beings rip from the womb the most innocent of His?

My heart cries and there seems to be no answers. I scream, “Come Lord Jesus, come and stop this madness!” Yet I see Him not on the clouds of heaven racing toward earth to save us from the insanity that has crossed this land.

Is He in control? I have to remind myself through faith because He died on the cross to save us. I have to hang  onto the faith that He has instilled within me through His Holy Spirit and the trials and tribulations that He has brought me through. I have to hang on to His promises.

Can I finish this race with confidence that I will see Him in Paradise? Can I rest assured that He will greet me with open arms because my thoughts are so confused and the enemy invades. The doubts, the fears, the anger, and the hope, are all  intermingled with the tears streaming down my cheeks.

There is a Rock and a Life line that I must cling to or drown in this sea of evil, pure unadulterated evil! Can I make it that long? Can I hang on long enough to hear the trumpet sound?

I hope so.

I have to.

I will!

***

Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

***

In every Christian’s life there will be times when we just cannot understand what is taking place within our world. Doubts can and will arise and it is then that the enemy will invade and convince us, or try to convince us, that all we have believed is wrong. That we have been fed a pack of lies and we can no longer trust what is truth. If we allow those thoughts to take root we will lose all hope. We will lose the strength and perseverance that the Lord gives us. We must cling to the Word of God and cling to His promises. Don’t allow a lack of understanding to squelch the truth of God and all that He is and all of Who He is. Stand strong on the faith that has been instilled through the Holy Spirit and lean not on your own understanding.

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I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “The Devil’s Playground”

The Devil’s Playground

The day began bright and sunny and the woman went about her daily chores. She stopped by her office to quickly check her e-mail and suddenly her world seemed to turn upside down. Reading the last of the short e-mail sudden anger boils up within her. The day is now shot as she stomps about office with questions broiling through her mind. In a short time her strong faith has taken a sucker punch to the gut.

By sundown tears continue to flow, not only from the anger within, but from the devastating news and the confusing thoughts screaming through her mind. Sorrow fills her heart but the anger and confusion overrides all feelings of empathy and sorrow. How can God do this!? screams in her mind.

By bed time her tears continue to flow and sleep is non-existent. The news she received pounds through her mind over and over and then other events, past events, intrude. Her anger boils until she feels she will go crazy. By the wee hours she is exhausted yet sleep will not come. Angry thoughts, thoughts of an unloving God, thoughts of how everything she has believed is hog wash intrude her mind.

Without realizing she has dozed off she’s embroiled in a dream. In the dream she is on a tight rope and at the far end of the tight rope a large black panther is creeping toward her. Step by step he comes closer with teeth bared and a riveting intent on killing her.

He gets close enough that she suddenly and viciously kicks the panther as hard as she can. He flies off the tight rope, but returns. Again, he slowly stalks his prey. Hunkered down with piercing eyes focused and teeth gleaming through a low vicious growl, he moves slowly and purposefully.

She cocks her leg once again and when the big cat raises its paw to rip her wide open with his deadly claws, she kicks with all her might and hears a painful yelp from the cat as he falls into the abyss below.

Jerking awake, with heart racing, and jagged breathing, she sees a Man standing at the foot of her bed.

She blinks.

“Now you know where the anger and confusion is coming from,” the Man states and disappears.

***

1Timothy 4:1 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”

***

When things are going well it’s easy to thank God for all His blessings. We walk and talk our faith and then suddenly something happens that seems to knock the skids right out from under us. When that happens there is a hungry lion ready to pounce on us and rip our faith to shreds. The devil waits for any opportunity to invade our minds for that is where we are the most vulnerable. I like to say, the mind is the devil’s playground, but in reality our mind is his prey and he is deadly serious! If he can invade our minds and feed us deception, and we listen, he will accomplish his purpose. His sole purpose is to turn us away from God. The slightest occurrence that takes place in our life can be a target for the enemy. Maybe the job we wanted didn’t come through. The devil will jump in with, “You aren’t good enough for that job.” He is the master of lies and deception. Standing strong in what God’s Word says is not always easy but to hold onto our faith and holding to God’s promises we must fight the lies of the devil. Today many churches have been invaded by spirits of darkness that leads them to compromise the truth of God’s word. People are being deceived by many who the enemy is using in these last days to deceive the congregations. Beware for the devil prowls about like a lion looking for his next prey, and we all are his targets!

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I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “Suspense at the River”

 

SUSPENSE AT THE RIVER

Having left his family behind, the man runs along the river and needs to stop to catch his breath. Breathing deeply he looks about while listening to the chirping of the birds. The breeze rustles his hair.

Stroking his beard he walks to the edge of the water. It’s late afternoon and while leaning forward and breathing deeply he listens to the sounds of nature as he thinks, I better get moving. It will be dark soon.

Taking another quick deep breath he begins to run. Suddenly he hears footsteps behind him alerting him to a possible danger and he glances back but sees no one. He continues to run and has to stop again to catch his breath. He has no idea how far he has run but feels an urgency to accomplish his mission. He kneels down and takes a long drink of the cool clear water. He splashes a little on his face, and then continues to run.

Running farther along the shore he slows his pace as he glances back again. The sun has lowered in the sky. Shadows begin to appear along his route and chills skitter down his spine. The footsteps behind become louder, closer, more threatening, yet he isn’t afraid.

Glancing back he suddenly stumbles over a branch lying on the ground and falls into the river, just at the edge, not the deep water. Someone grabs him. He fights, he struggles, and  he lashes out. His strength is giving out but he continues to fight the stranger and has decided he will fight to the end. He feels his life depends on it.

Water blurs his vision, his hair strings across his face, his beard is soaked feeling heavy on his face, his muscles are weakening but he won’t give up.

No words are spoken and the night melts into the dawn. He’s weak but still determined. The fighting, the wrestling, has continued all through the night. It’s taken its toll on his body. He feels a sudden jab to his hip and groans loudly but continues to wrestle the stranger.

With one last determined spurt of energy he swings at the stranger and grabbing him by his sleeve he wrestles him toward the sandy shore. The silence is suddenly broken as the stranger begs for him to let him go. He won’t let go! He grunts and breathing heavily he grabs the stranger by the shoulders. Shaking him he looks directly into the stranger’s eyes and yells, “I won’t let you go unless you bless me!”

***

Gen. 32:26 – “And he said, “Let me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless You bless me!”

***

So many times we are going through life and everything seems to be going great and then something happens that really rattles our faith. It could be a death of a child or a loved one that is so unexpected it throws us into a tailspin. It could be a sudden job loss or business that seems to suddenly go sour and we don’t have a clue as to why it happened. We reach out to God and there seems to be no answers coming. We wrestle with the “whys” and “how come this happened?” and then we begin wrestling with God. We want answers! We want Him to explain and to help us understand. We want Him to at least give us some guidance or comfort or peace. We want something, anything to stop the mental wrestling going on in our minds. Finally we are so  exhausted from the mental wrestling match that we grab hold of Him and scream, “Bless me O’ Lord, I need You.”

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I AM – Devotional Style Short Stories – “The Wheel”

Imagine it. The horses are tethered, they stomp their feet in anticipation of a long trek and snort their disapproval of having to wait. John and Tom crawl up onto the driver’s seat as the Man, with spurs jingling, throws open the stage door and takes His seat on the hard wooden bench. John gives a loud whistle as he cracks the whip above the horses and the coach jerks forward.

The day is hot even though the sun has just risen. The Man reaches up and takes His big white hat off and lays it on the seat beside Him as He leans back against the hard wooden seat. It will be a long ride along the dusty path. The wind blows his hair and reaching up He moves it out of His eyes. He can hear John and Tom talking and occasionally laughter fills the air. He smiles and closes His eyes and is soon asleep.

A sudden jolt and dangerous tilting of the coach startles the Man awake throwing Him against the wall. One side of the coach has collapsed and the coach suddenly stops. John and Tom jump down from their perch and Tom wrings his hands while groaning loudly. “What are we going to do?” he shouts while pacing back and forth, spurs jingling, in front of the broken wheel. “Where’s the Man?” he shouts and spins around to see the Man carefully maneuvering His way out of the coach and popping His hat back on His head. In spinning around, Tom catches his pants leg on a spur, and down he goes. He hollers, “Ouch!”

The Man stands for a moment and brushes the dust off His chaps. When He looks up He sees Tom on the ground rubbing his behind.

The Man shakes His head while chuckling.

Tom pulls himself up and runs to the Man, “The wheel is broken, what are we to do? We don’t have a spare. We’re stuck out here!” Sweat pours down his face and he quickly swipes it out of his eyes. Fear has gripped him and the Man gently places His hand on Tom’s shoulder, “Fear not, Tom, I am with you.”

The Man walks to the side of the stage-coach. He stands studiously peering at the good wheel with John and Thomas close behind Him.

“Sit!” the Man says to the two men. “I want to tell you something.” They sit down, Tom easing himself down gently, onto the ground and looks up at Him. “He’s going to tell us a story in the midst of this crisis?” Tom thinks while rubbing his backside. John sits quietly waiting.

“Do you see this wheel?” the Man asks, pointing to the good stage-coach wheel.

Both nod yes. “This wheel represents the body of Christ.” Tom whispers, “Huh?” The Man smiles and then continues. “The spokes are My children.” Tom moves his hat aside and scratches his head. John nods. “Pay attention, Tom!” The Man demands. “Each spoke is equal but each has been given a divine purpose. One has a gift of prophecy, another has the gift of exhortation, another is a teacher, another is a home maker, and another a preacher. All work together to make the wheel, the church, strong.”

The Man reaches over and takes hold of one of the spokes and gives it a good jerk. “As long as these spokes cling tightly to the hub the wheel will remain strong and sturdy. I tell you the truth; I am the Hub that holds it all together.”

“Okay.” Tom states and glances up at the hot sun shining down on them.

“Now let’s go look at the broken wheel,” The Man states.  The two men stand and walk to the broken wheel. The broken and crushed wheel lies tilted on the dirt beside the coach. Splinters and jagged wood protrude from it. The rim is bent beyond repair. It’s useless.

“What do you see?” the Man asks. Tom is quick to reply, “A broken, crushed wheel and we’re stuck out here in this heat.”

“Oh ye of little faith.  Look at it! I tell you the truth, the body of Christ is broken!”

“Huh?” Tom says. John nods in understanding.

“My shepherds are not teaching My Word. They are following the dictates of what the people want to hear. They are accepting evil as good and turning good into evil! Instead of loving one another as I love them they are divided. They are accepting the ploys of the enemy to destroy their faith. When one falls away the others are quick to condemn.”

Tom sits quietly rubbing his behind where the spurs dug in, and John asks, “I’m not sure I fully understand. How does this relate to this broken wheel and the circumstances we are in?”

“Do you not yet understand, John? When one spoke is broken the wheel can still turn, the others offer support. It keeps the wheel from completely falling apart. But when several spokes break it weakens the whole wheel until eventually the wheel cannot move forward.” Pointing to the broken wheel, He continues. “It lies dead in the sand. Just like that! Now what good is that wheel?” He asks sternly.

Tom states dejectedly, “Good for nothing.”

“That’s where my church is heading unless the body repents and comes together in unity. If My children will turn back to Me I will hear their prayers and heal their land but they must stop being weak in their faith, silent in the face of evil, and stand up to the sins in the world or the church will be as weak and damaged and useless as this wheel!”

Tom shifts uncomfortably. He still doesn’t get it and asks, “But what are we to do?” and thinks, We’re still stuck out here.  

The Man turns and points to a large stick in the distance. “Have faith! Tom, go get that long stick over there.”

“What for?” Tom asks, carefully getting up off the ground.

“You’ll see. Just trust Me.”

Tom retrieves the long stick. “Now what?”

“Strike that broken wheel three times with it.”

“Huh? What good is that going to do?”

“Just do it, Tom!” The Man states emphatically.

Shaking his head in bewilderment Tom strikes the broken wheel.

The Man tosses His hat on the wooden seat and leans back as the dust from the spinning coach wheels and the horse’s hooves billows through the open window, When are they going to trust Me!? He thinks and closes His eyes.

***

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will guide your paths.”

***

There are so many situations and circumstances that we find ourselves in that at times we merely stand and scratch our heads wondering. “What in the world are we going to do now? In our flesh (humanness) we try to figure things out and at times we just cannot come up with a solution. If we turn to the One who has the answers we will find life’s problems aren’t as complicated as we sometimes think they are. If we reach out to Christ in those “head scratching” moments, it can become a time of, “Oh wow, why didn’t I think of that?” moments.

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