Thursday, July 3, 2008

Redeeming Sojourn

Our second child David was born in 1996. Before he was born our doctor recommended an Amnioscentesis test to check for birth defects. We discussed the risks to fetus and mother. The only treatment for birth defects is abortion. We knew that wasn’t an option for us so we passed on the test. We said we’d deal with whatever happened.

David was born with Downs Syndrome – a genetic variation that means a less developed brain and intestinal tract. The poorly developed intestinal tract leads to a comprised immune system. Later in life this leads to a degenerative condition akin to Alzheimer’s. We dealt with it.

We soaked up the recommendations from therapists, social workers and doctors. The lists of therapies available is overwhelming. There isn’t enough time in the day – even if there was the money – to do them all.

But David’s mother is a Healer. Once she gets a subject in focus, Carol will never leave a stone unturned in her quest for answers. Ten years earlier she self-diagnosed a medical condition that her doctors couldn’t put their fingers on. Once she’d figured it out, she tracked down one of the few M.D.s in Canada who knew how to treat the condition. Turns out that the doctor’s office was about ten blocks from where we were living. Also, at the heart of Carol’s condition was a compromised immune system.

In hindsight - it was like God had been preparing Carol for David’s birth.
I know that many people believe that “Everything happens for a reason.” When David was born people said “God only gives you what you can handle.” and “God gives babies like David to special parents.” Personally, I think these ideas are nice things to say to help parents cope. But you don’t have to look very far to see that when “Shit happens” many people can’t handle it. Marriages split - mental, physical, and financial health suffers. The stress of raising a disabled child takes a terrible toll.
Is this God’s plan?

When David was born I asked God “why?”.
God still hasn’t answered that question.
But God has been present. God has been present in the church community who mourned David’s dis-ease while celebrating his birth. God has been present in the people who have helped us to physically, mentally, and financially sustain our health. David’s birth forced us to dig deeper into community – to open ourselves to the help we need.

Then David was diagnosed with Autism.

Now, what’s important in this story is not your sympathy. Autism is not a life-threatening disease. It’s just a major pain in the ass for us. But for David - the child whose spirit emerged from the trinity of mine, Carol’s, and God’s – it means he is not living his life fully.

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 New Revised Standard Version)

Here’s the theological nugget. While life is often chaotic and cruel, God’s power moves within the chaos to grow, redeem, and give new birth. Redemption is making lemonade when life gives us lemons. Redemption is discovering a deeper meaning for our lives when they fall apart. And redemption is God’s spirit birthing new wonders in the shell of the life we’re convinced is – “all there really is”.

John 3: 5- 15 from The Message
Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind hovering over the water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”

Jesus said, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?

“No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up— and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

The eternal life Jesus is talking about is the life God wants us to lead today. It is the offer of abundant life redeemed from the chaos of dis-ease. The serpent lifted up on Moses’ pole (see Numbers 21:8) is the symbol our M.D.s use for their medical arts. Yet their views on healing are kept “down to earth” by the science of what is observable, provable, explainable. The serpent lifted up is about God’s miraculous super-natural redemption.

Right? Y’know? Eh? Hmmmm – I wonder?


Once a month or so I get to sit down with four retired ministers. I get to listen to their stories and hear their take on current issues. I often will pose a problem to them and hear their counsel.

I worked up the courage to tell the VAMS (Voluntary Associate Ministers) Walter, Dale, my Dad and George (with us for the first time) about our trip to Florida next week. We’ve decided to go visit a healing evangelist. Canadian Todd Bentley is at the centre of a three ring Circus. God is using this guy - a tattoo-covered thirty-something man with a troubled past - to heal all kinds of people from all kinds of dis-ease.

In the United Church we don’t go in for this kind of stuff. We keep things pretty rational and on the level. Faith healing just ain’t in our church’s box. So, I was quick to tell these four wise men about how cynical I was about the whole thing. I can’t stand the heat. Going to Florida in July is like a sojourn into hell for me. I told them that when Carol first proposed the idea I was not enthusiastic. I told her “we don’t have any money – so if a miracle happens and somehow the money arrives….” thinking that was a good safe way to get out of going – and blame it on God.

Now, I explained, I had an unsolicited cheque for $2,000 in my wallet.
This was the latest in a series of “signs” we’d received.

I began to tell them about the story Carol had told me that morning – about how Bill - who works with David every day at the afterschool program - told her that he’d had two dreams where David was talking to him like any other kid! But before I could get the story out I choked up and the tears started to flow. I managed to spit the rest out through the tears.
George, bless him, says in my ear “That was a nice moment you had there – enjoy it”.

Why would God heal my child and not another? Why is God healing in Lakelands Florida and not in Bobcaygeon? Why spend the money on a wild goose chase instead of feeding starving children?

Nicodemus asks, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?”
Jesus said, “If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?

On my way back to the church I wondered about those tears at lunch and they welled up again. Alone now, I wept and let the tears stream down my face. It felt like they came from a deep wide place where my love for God lives. More than that, they come from the place where my love for my son flows. I love David so much it is overwhelming. It shakes the shell that is me and threatens to burst it open. How can I contain such love? It is so much bigger than me!

What would I do for my son? What wouldn’t I do for my son? The power of that emotion moves me, drives me, floods away all fear and doubt and nothing else matters. Laugh at me – I could care less. Talk sense to me – love is roaring in my ears. If there is a stone we haven’t yet turned in our mission to give David a chance to redeem the fullest life within him – then we’ll turn it.

If we turn away from this opportunity that has come into our lives then, will we have missed the adventure Christ offers?
Should we settle for acceptance - for what’s normal?
Why start now?

As we’re paying our lunch bills, Walter says “If nothing else, it’ll be good for a few blogs.” Then he shared in the sincere blessings the four wise men each gave us for the adventure.

Wednesday July 9th we’ll be in Lakelands Florida. If we cross your thoughts that day, please enter into God’s redeeming possibilities with us - as members of a Kingdom that knows no limits.


Wayne & Linda said...

Dear Brother Al, this is the best blog ever. The few that follow will be even better. After that, who knows?

I read this aloud to my own son Mark. Mark was also born three bricks short of a load. These days he spends his days in bed, waiting for his last breath. I have no idea if he can understand a word. I only assume he can and therefore I've asked him to pray for David.

I know those tears you speak of and the love that roars in our ears.

God bless you oh mighty man of God and truly vulnerable nut cake whom I call brother.


corrie said...

Hi Al,
Keep on turning stones, let not one be unturned, God works in mysterious ways, follow your gut feelings.
I be praying for you and Carol and especially David, if this is God's will, it will happen, sometimes you have to reach far and wide to find the answer or miracle.
Whatever happens, keep on loving each other and don't take it out on God, nothing does happen without a reason, keep searching and live in peace. God is there right with you, Carol and David, listen and feel, you will know.
All I can do here is keep on praying for you and yes, my God is an awesome God, now and always.
I am not saying this lightly, I have my personal struggles as well, especially with my health right now, and am enrolled in a cardiac pulmonary rehab program at Ross Mem. Hosp. Yes, I am healing with a heart and lung disease, but in spite of my down days I keep being motivated and positive, with the Help of God, I can savely leave all of this in his hands.
Love, Corrie

brenda said...

Allan, I have marked July 9 on my calendar and will light a candle for you and for Carol, and especially David.

Your blog is a mighty testament to faith a la Jesus, not the mighty teacher with all the answers, but the curious edge-of-the road healer who said "those who follow me will do greater things than I can." Who knows but your tattooed healer is one of those? Worth the trip. Worth the chance.

Northern Chirp said...

Hey Al. You and your family have been in my thoughts a lot lately--and now you'll definitely all be in my prayers (when I actually do pray, but I'm praying more again lately for various reasons, mainly selfish).

Your blogs are great; I miss you, brother, but these help me keep connected to your foolish wisdom and great heart.

I haven't got a clue about how God's will and healing power work, or why and when they do or don't, but I say go for it, and God bless.

Someone once told me that "a cure is hi tech, but healing is knowing who you are." I've prayed long and often for that kind of healing for my kids, and sometimes I think it's working (although, you know me, I hate to get too optimistic). My motto is pray and work for the best and expect the worst. That way you can only be pleasantly surprised.

Of course there are many who would say expecting the worst leads to self-fulfilling prophecy, but that hasn't been my experience. Perhaps that's because part of me doesn't really expect the worst, but hopes for the best. I don't know.

I'm rambling, which means I am spiritually and emotionally stirred. Thanks for that. And may we all--including David--come to understand sooner rather than later how God is daily blessing David, and blessing us all, including through David.