Feeling the Effects of Many Prayers

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Caring Bridge these last few months, mostly as a writer, but sometimes to check in on friends or acquaintances.  What a terrific way to ask for and receive prayers — lots and lots of prayers, from lots and lots of people.  Nearly everyone writes that they feel the effects of these prayers in one way or another.

One of the most profound times I felt prayers working was before my husband Mike’s surgery to amputate his lower right leg.  It was a terribly difficult time, as we faced losing his leg and an unknown and profoundly changed future.  We asked for prayers on Caring Bridge, Facebook, from the people of Easter. People were praying for us left and right — people from church, the Saint Thomas Academy community where Mike is the assistant headmaster, Facebook friends, friends from high school, people we hardly knew and people we didn’t know at all!

Before surgery I was very anxious and it just felt like everything was hard.  But one morning while in the car, I felt the tension in my body, the fear in my mind and the anxiety in my heart physically melt away and be replaced by a profound sense of peace.  It was a physical transformation, as well as a spiritual and emotional one.  Every bit of me relaxed, and  I was able to rest in God’s love and tenderness. Mike must have felt it too, because the night before and the morning of surgery we were calm and completely without fear, and completely at peace.  It was weird.

I know that this feeling of peace was due to the prayers so many people were praying for Mike and for our family.  There is strength in groups, and profound strength in praying in groups.  In this case, I don’t know if a group was praying together, or if it just happened that many people were praying at the same time (yeah, right, it just happened!).  But I do know that we felt them. And they made a huge difference in how we felt and how we faced the surgery and recovery (which all went wonderfully, by the way!).

Words

Words.

Words can be complicated.  They can hurt or heal, divide or unite. Foster understanding or cause great misunderstanding.

I have been hearing words on the news about Baltimore this week like thugs, looters, rioters.  Riots. Uprisings.

Last week, when there was so much death in the seas between Africa and Europe, we heard people described as migrants.   In Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other hot spots, we hear people referred to as villagers.  People from Central America and Mexico are called illegal aliens.

These words all serve to separate them from us.  They are villagers, we are suburbanites.  They are migrants, we know people who are immigrants or refugees.  They are rioters, thugs, looters.  We know fans who got carried away during celebrations (and happened to hurt cops and burn cars and buildings). They were having riots, we have demonstrations.  Us versus Them.  Separation.  Distinction.

Hmmm.  They are not like us, making it so much easier to judge and criticize.  What were they thinking? We wouldn’t do such a thing.  They are problems.  We are law abiding citizens.

But wait.  What if we called them our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters?  What if we thought of them as our neighbors?  What if we replaced all those “they” words with children of God?  Then how would we react?

Children of God protested the killing of an innocent man in Baltimore.  Children of God are fleeing war, putting their children on a rickety, overloaded boat and risking everything for a better life.  Children of God were victims of a terrible earthquake.  Children of God are starving, thirsty, without hope. Children of God are walking hundreds of miles through Central America to our border for a chance at education, health care, good jobs, stability.

Now they sound like us, don’t they?  Turns out, there is no they.  We are all us.  Together, all children of God, all loved, all valued, all important.

Next time you watch the news or listen to the radio, replace the words migrant, villager, thug, rioter, looter with children of God, and see how it changes your perspective.  It’s the first step to changing the way we act, the way we treat others, the way the world works.

Try it, and comment below what happens.

There is Joy in the Pain

Written by Denise Sjoberg, Easter Member

My husband Mike has been struggling for the past year with an ankle injury that won’t heal, due to diabetic neuropathy. It has been a long, often difficult road, with four surgeries, a boot, a scooter and a lot of pain. The most recent surgery has failed, causing his whole ankle to collapse. It barely even resembles a foot anymore.
 

Recently we have decided, along with a phalanx of ankle surgeons, that the only remaining option is amputation and a prosthesis (artificial leg). It was shocking to hear those words. Amputation. Prosthesis. What? This is not how we planned things. This is not what we expected out of life.
 

We have been thinking about this over the past two plus weeks, and have settled in to the inevitability of the surgery, and have begun looking forward to a life full of possibilities – walking, fishing, golfing, COACHING, and all the things that come with having two good legs.
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All through this process, it has never occurred to me to wonder where God is in this mess. Never. I know that God is with us, in us, before us and around us as we go through not only the trauma of what is going on, but all the little every day things. We still stop to appreciate God’s work in a beautiful winter sunset, or in the hoar frost and sun dogs that can accompany a very cold morning. We still marvel at how wonderful, smart, friendly and faith-filled our kids are.
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But we are most amazed and joy-filled at the outpouring of support this week as we let people know what is going on with Mike and what the future holds for us. Mike has received dozens of calls, emails and CaringBridge posts from people near and far. Those we see daily and others we haven’t seen in 20 years. Offers of help and prayers, jokes (especially jokes) lift us up and remind us even more of how there really is joy in the pain.
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The pain isn’t the only thing. It never is. God is in the pain, joy is in the pain. Friends are there, prayers are, too. Everyday life is in the pain, and that doesn’t ever end – even if you are facing surgery to remove a leg, you still have to unload the dishwasher sometimes!
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I woke up with this song in my heart. It is beautiful and filling. Google it and listen if you have a moment.
 

I Am Not Alone
By Kari Jobe
 

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

Mike’s surgery is scheduled for Friday, March 6. You can follow his journey at caringbridge.com/mikesjoberg

Outrageously Open

THE FULL ABUNDANCE CHANGE ME PRAYER

If you feel drawn, let it enter your Being, releasing any old ideas of constriction or limitation and returning Your true essence as expansive, radiant Light.

“God, Change Me into someone
who can give with complete ease and abundance,
knowing You are the unlimited Source of All.

Let me be an easy open conduit for Your good.
Let me trust that all of my own needs are
always met in amazing ways
and it is safe to give freely as my heart guides me.

And equally, please Change Me into someone
who can feel wildly open to receiving.
Let me know my own value, beauty and
worthiness without question.
Let me allow others the supreme pleasure of giving to me.
Let me feel worthy to receive in every possible way.

And let me extend kindness to all who need,
feeling compassion and understanding
in even the hardest situations.

Change me into One who can fully love, forgive
and accept myself… so I may carry your Light
without restriction.

Let everything that needs to go, go.
Let everything that needs to come, come.
I am utterly Your own.

All is well.

(adapted from Outrageous Openness, by Tosha Silver)