Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Praise --- From the Hospital

I received this email from a friend, and I offer this "guest-post" as a reminder of what it REALLY means to be thankful:

Hi Tom. Happy Thanskgiving again! It's been a long day today as my mother continues her recovery and is in quite a bit of pain from the internal bleeding from the IR procedure, but I can give you the following praise to pass along in your blog.


On Monday night I was terrified. If the procedure for opening my mom's arteries in her right leg failed, the surgeons were considering other life-changing options [none of which my mom wanted to consider, and none that I wanted to consider for her, especially for someone of her age]. After leaving the hospital really late, I returned to my house to get ready for the next day and, more importantly, to pray, like I had never prayed before. Now, I could have ignored the inner urge from the Holy Spirit and gone about the 100s of things that I left unattended over the past few days (I was in my mother's hospital room nearly 24/7 during the last 7 days), but I didn't. I opened my Bible, for the first time in quite a while, and knelt by the bedside, reading before I prayed.

The first piece of paper that slipped out of my Bible was a copy of a sermon from 2002 (interestingly enough, that was the year of my mother's 1st major bypass surgery...which remained relatively successful until the past year, and definitely until the last week). The sermon focused on trust -- Is God worth trusting? When your life (or the life of a loved one) is threatened, where do you look?

The first part of the sermon focused on Elijah, and the second part concentrated on Peter. This is where I will direct quote from the sermon:

Peter gets out of the boat. This is an incredible thing [for several reasons].

The Sea of Galilee is known for its deadly storms. It's narrow, but it's very long and become very wavy in a bad storm. If you were a fisherman and you lived your life fishing on that lake, you probably had friends die when those sudden storms came up.

The disciples are out there on the lake, by themselves, and they see Jesus, or a figure, walking on the water and the very first thing they think is, it's a ghost. You wonder why. Had they ever seen a ghost before? No. But, for some reason, they don't know who this is, and they think there is a ghost walking on the water. Jesus makes it clear that it's Him. And Peter says, "If it is You, then ask me to come to You across the water." -- a very, very trusting thing to do. But it shows something about Peter's heart. Peter loved to go wherever Jesus was. Later when Jesus is seen on the shore, Peter simply jumps out of the boat and swims to the shore. Not willing to wait until the boat makes it to the shore because his heart is to see Jesus. He wants Jesus. He wants to be where Jesus is. He wants everything that Jesus has to offer.

So, he gets out of the boat. The first step was the hard one. Imagine, your foot's going over the edge and you're about to stand on water. This isn't a typical event. Especially the first time. This is one of those miracles that was particularly hard because there was no precedent for this. There was precedent for splitting seas and splitting rivers, but walking along watching the water on both sides of you, or even just standing on the water -- this was a first. And so, he takes that first step. After that it was easy. He kept taking steps -- second step, third step, fourth step. But, the first step was the hard one. Do you think he turned around and said, "Andrew, have a rope ready."?

And then Peter makes the mistake that is easy for all of us to make, he suddenly realizes what an amazing thing this is: he is standing on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm! He then makes the classic mistake, which is all so easy to make: he takes his eyes off of Jesus and he looks at the circumstances -- [Peter to himself] Here I am, violating gravity. Here I am in a storm. What am I doing out here?

Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus, he looks at the storm and his immediate response is he starts to fall. Jesus is immediately at his side, and pulls him up. He doesn't let Peter go down the first time or a second time to teach him a good lesson. Jesus doesn't wave good-bye to the disciple that doubted. Jesus pulls him up. But, Jesus reminds him, when you're in the middle of a storm and you're walking on the water, don't take your eyes off of Me.

That's always the temptation. We're surrounded by the storms all the time. Sometimes the calm in our life is only the eye of the hurricane. And the bottom line is if we take our eyes off of Jesus, we will get blown away; we will go down. The only security, the only saftey we have is to keep our gaze constantly fixed on Jesus Himself.

Peter loved Jesus. Peter wanted Jesus. Peter risked everything and ultimately gave everything for Jesus. After Pentecost, Peter is a great spirit-filled evangelist who, in Rome, was willing to lay down this life for the One Who loved him first, because Peter learned the lesson: never, ever, ever take your eyes off of Jesus. No matter what situation or circumstance is clamoring for attention, look to Jesus. No matter how much the storm is raging, look to Jesus. Because only there can we be safe. When Jesus says "without Me you can do nothing", that is exactly what He meant.

Wow! Fairly powerful sermon and exactly what I needed to read, but the real blessing came when I opened the Bible directly to Acts 9:32-43. The first 4 verses focused on Peter healing Aeneas at Lydda and the remaining verses focused on Peter raising Dorcas at Joppa.

The next thought that occurred to me was that if Peter, who learned the lesson of keeping his eyes on Jesus in the middle of a storm, could go on (in Jesus name and power) to actually heal someone who had been paralyzed for 8 years, certainly I could focus through prayer on this same Jesus and believe Him for His healing power to reach my mother in a hospital. And, He did. Despite all the unfavorable circumstances, my mother's age, the nature of the artery failure, the fact that the first surgery on the preceding Friday failed, the doubting surgeons -- Jesus overcame! He worked through the talents and skills of the hospital's leading interventional radiologist and did something that the vascular surgeons didn't think was possible. PRAISE GOD!!!

Now, I'm not going to say that mom's ready to run a marathon (she has a long recovery road ahead of her with physical therapy), but God did intervene in exactly the way I prayed that night, and in the next morning as I knelt before her hospital bed.

So, while this isn't the Thanksgiving I expected (with a dinner table full of different foods, and family and friends at the house), it is certainly still right for me to give thanks to God, for saving my mom's life on Tuesday, and for being here with us now in the hospital, even as she struggles through the pain. And, I've learned, how each day it is a choice to focus our eyes on Jesus, and it's a path that must be chosen every day, in every circumstance -- bad or good.


  1. Wonderful post-great lesson! My prayers.

  2. My dear friend,

    Praise God for the miraculous news about your Precious Mother. How blest you and your family must feel!

    I am blest as well. I opened your blog this evening after massaging the bottom of my mom's feet which she describes as "burning like fire" from the bile acid which is being blocked by a tumor in her pancreas and travels to the skin where it crystallizes and causing itching and burning.

    I've been living with her since immediately following her 94th birthday on September 1st.

    On November 23rd, my husband's biopsy report generated a phone call from his oncologist who wants to see us in his office on Monday morning at 9 am to find out whether the cancer (mantle-cell lymphoma) has returned.

    On November 23rd, our 49 year old daughter filed for divorce after 27 years of marriage to an alcoholic who in January of 2009 at age 49, suffered an alcohol related heart attack and stroke.

    My husband cooked his first turkey dinner ever at my home where I traveled to eat with our other daughter who is single and our grandson whose mother couldn't bear to be with anyone and traveled to the beach to be alone. You see, last Thanksgiving, my son-in-law's mother died of lukemia.

    My younger brother stayed with Mom where I left a little chicken all ready for them to heat and eat.

    My other brother in N. Jersey stayed in his apartment and had brachwurst that he purchased with a gift card from Target. He is unemployed and could not afford to make the trip home. His car is falling apart and he has no money to rent one. He is blest... he is receiving free medical help for HIV medicines which have kept him alive for 14 years now. He had a real "Paul-like" conversion experience and is walking with and trusting in the Lord!

    On my way back to Mom's Thanksgiving evening, I gave myself permission to cry. By the time I got there I had finished my cry and couldn't remember driving from my home to hers.

    I felt like an alien... I didn't belong anywhere and yet I desperately wanted to be with my husband but instead had to return to Mom because she needed me to take care of her while my brother worked his part time job - his unemployment just ran out!

    "Yes" As Peter said to Jesus:
    "Lord, to whom else shall we go... you have the words of everlasting life."

    Despite the above, our Thanksgiving Prayer which was generated by my brother in North Jersey went something like this:
    We thank you Father for everything you have given us... everything. Especially one another and the love and the faith we share. We thank you for the bounty set before us and we say THANK YOU, Father in the name of every person who has forgotten to thank you today. We say THANK YOU, Father for those who do not yet know you. Please bless us, our loved ones and friends and the whole world. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

    We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! PRAISE GOD!

  3. Dear Anne and Mary Ann, thank you for your comments here and prayers, and know you are in mine also, each day as I spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. At least most days ...

    Yesterday I spent the day with my friend and her mother at the U of MI hospital, where my friend was called back late Thanksgiving night. Two surgeries yesterday and she was deemed stable, for now, and I drove her daughter home. I'm sure she is back there again today, where the next day or two will determine "the next steps" for her mom by the doctors. Your continued prayers for my friend and her mother, Barb, are appreciated. I know you both know what Thanksgiving really means, and what prayers can do.

  4. What a beautiful post, full of boundless thanks.
    The email (guest post) is heart warming, and the sermon she relates is very enlightening and encouraging.

    The entire post spoke to me as it covers the very same lessons I depend on every day now. I must not ever take my eyes off Jesus again.

    I have different methods of bringing my eyes from the circumstances and fastening them on Jesus. By printing off the wonderful sermon, I now have another avenue to shore up my spirit when it begins to flag.