God’s Christmas Gift

God’s Christmas Gift

 By Pat Knight

I had just settled into a pew prior to the church service, when my husband tapped me on the shoulder. As he whispered, “Something’s happened to my mother,” I heard panic in his voice. Her crumpled form lay on the cold floor of the church vestry. My hand over my mother-in-law’s chest detected the last heartbeat as someone else attempted to palpate her carotid pulse. There was no time to think, but simply to respond. Our knowledge of life saving, practiced and stored for future use, must be activated into quick and decisive maneuvers. The ambulance arrived and whisked Della off to the hospital. I was stunned. It was Christmas Eve and my mother-in-law had just suffered a cardiac arrest in church. In a few short minutes the serenity of the day had given way to utter chaos.

Further testing revealed our loved one had not suffered a heart attack, but worse—a ruptured brain aneurysm. The weakened wall of an artery had burst, causing a stroke in a vital area of her brain. She was transferred via ambulance to a larger medical center as a blizzard raged on Christmas morning. My husband and his sister followed the ambulance while I remained at home to create a little Christmas spirit for our young son and his four older cousins.

Exhaustion enveloped after the holiday dinner I prepared for eleven people was barely nibbled by five excited children. Aimlessly, I slumped into a chair while the teens supervised the young children outside playing in the snow. I could no longer focus on the events of the past twenty-four hours. Instead, my mind wandered to Bethlehem. On a cold, still night in the sheepfold, I was a weather-worn shepherd, frightened by the sudden appearance of an angel. Then the sky spontaneously opened to reveal a vast army of heaven’s angels, singing the jubilant praises of a birth announcement. ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:14)

In the midst of the adversity the Holy Family experienced on that first Christmas day, God assured them, and us, of the greatest gift of all time—His Son. I was rejuvenated by the stunning reminder that it was Christmas day and that I, too, had reason to rejoice.

Among the uncertainty and confusion, God lavished me with His marvelous gift of peace. The affirmation that the Lord was in control was very real. Knowing that His plan for the birth of His Son was perfect to the last detail, just as it had been prophesied for centuries, how could I doubt that God’s plan would be any less perfect for the life of my mother-in-law?

The physicians gave us no encouragement that our loved one would live. In fact, when we inquired about her future homecoming, they simply stared at us in disbelief that our focus was on her recovery. For weeks her life hung in the balance between life and death. She endured brain surgery, drug reactions, and paralysis. How should I pray? Seeing my husband’s mother in her fatal condition, I could hardly ask that she live. Yet, I didn’t want her to die. I realized that I must commit her life totally to God. Hesitantly at first, I prayed, “Thy will be done. How difficult it was to let go! But, eventually my ineffectual hold on her transformed to urgent, trusting prayer that God’s will alone take precedent.

In the town where we lived, news traveled fast. People congratulated me for my heroic actions in saving a life. I bristled against the distinction. “Oh, no,” I clarified, “God saved her. I was only one of many people involved in His plan.” But my explanation didn’t discourage the next well-meaning person from assigning hero status. It was futile to attempt to dissuade public opinion, but my heart and mind rebelled against the perceived distinction. It had never been my desire to participate in such a pivotal event.

Previously, I had wondered if I would be able to perform CPR on a family member.  Although the steps to the resuscitation process emerged naturally, my emotional reaction was overwhelming. One night at work, my nurse manager asked how I was handling the family crisis. I was shocked to hear the words I blurted out: “I can’t shake the terrible guilt I feel for participating in her revival, only to see her remain in a vegetative state these past few weeks.” 

My manager responded, “Oh, I thought you believed in the One who died to remove all guilt.” What spiritual introspection and unrest that one comment elicited! I then realized how significantly my faith had been stymied by personal guilt. How could I possibly pray with conviction, believing in God’s compassion, power, and authority, if my heart was filled with self-incrimination? I proceeded to ask His forgiveness and press onward, requesting God’s help to develop a confident, obedient faith walk.

The quintessential question remains as to God’s purpose for afflictions and hardships in a Christian’s life. Though we will likely never know all of the answers until heaven, the crisis produced an unexpected personal consequence: I grew substantially in my faith walk and prayer life as a result of my mother-in-law’s turbulent illness and prolonged recovery.

God eventually performed a healing miracle in our loved one’s life. She lived for another seventeen years following her recovery, pleasantly astonishing her neurosurgeon and caregivers. Never did our family celebrate another Christmas without boundless joy and gratitude for the spectacular miracles God delights to perform in His children’s lives.

Waiting in Faith, Trust and Hope

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
they will mount up with wings like eagles,
they will run and not get tired,
they will walk and not become weary.

─Isaiah 40:31

Waiting in Faith,
Trust and Hope

You may have noticed that I did not publish any blog posts last week. That’s because of some wonderful news I get to share with you today. Rick and I were in Phoenix because our family has officially increased by two precious babies.

Our journey with twins Austin and Alex began in June 2016 when they were just four months old. They were brought to Alan and Denise (my son and daughter-in-love) through the foster care system. Unsurprisingly we all immediately fell in love with them and have spent the last 33 months hoping, praying and waiting for everything to work out so that Alan and Denise could adopt these sweet little ones. Last week that long-awaited event happened and Rick and I were there at the adoption hearing, along with many family and friends.

I often write about faith, trust and hope. Over the past three years, all of us have been praying and praising God with faith, trust and hope during the waiting. Admittedly there were times when we all wondered if the adoption would ever happen. We repeatedly found ourselves high on the mountains of good news, only to be thrust down into valleys when those hopes were dashed. Still, we continued to rely on God for his comfort and peace while we waited.

Years ago, a fellow writer shared this gem with me about waiting. I have shared his wise words before and they never get old. It definitely applies to our situation:

Even though it was very hard at times to keep on trusting and believing that God was working out the details for the good of all of us, including the babies, we never gave up hope that adoption day would finally happen. The most important thing we learned from everything we went through is that God already had a plan in place, and last week we witnessed the fruition of that plan.

So here we are, almost three years later. Because of the anonymity and protection required for children in the foster care system, we haven’t been able to speak publicly about this … until now.

Oh, dear Lord, this Meemaw is utterly thankful to be able to finally tell how You walked with us through all that waiting. To You—our awesome and everlasting God—be the glory for allowing us to be part of such an amazing journey with these two precious children.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, 
the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
─1 Timothy 1:17

As I was writing this post, the song To God Be the Glory kept running through my head, so here is a video of Nicole C. Mullen singing My Tribute (To God be the Glory)/My Redeemer Lives:

Revive to Thrive

Revive to Thrive

By Patricia Knight

Acts20-7-8--AMP

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting” (Acts 20:7-8).

The Apostle Paul didn’t typically preach a marathon through the day and evening, but the new believers in Troas hungered to feast their souls on the Word of God, creating a sweet spirit of fellowship during the last night of Paul’s week-long crusade.

Many torches provided the light source in the meeting room, likely causing a poorly ventilated, heated environment. Eutychus was a young man seated on a windowsill. By midnight, as Eutychus’ eyelids grew heavy and his body relaxed, he fell sound asleep. Eutychus abruptly careened out the window, falling three floors, dying instantly when he hit the ground below. “Paul went down, threw himself on the young man, and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said, ‘He’s alive.'” (Acts 20:10)

Basic resuscitation technique at the time advocated surrounding a victim with body heat from another person to stimulate blood flow. So how did Paul revive Eutychus from a traumatic death merely by the transfer of body heat? Paul possessed special gifts assigned directly by Jesus. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus empowered His apostles with sovereign authority. “‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy {and} drive out demons'” (Matthew 10:8). Christ sent His apostles to minister with credentials similar to what He possessed. Though it appeared Paul’s only action was surrounding Eutychus with his own body heat, the risen Christ enabled Paul to revive Eutychus from premature death. “The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (Acts 20:12).

John20-30-31--AMPHistorians in Jesus’ lifetime attest that Jesus literally healed thousands during his three-year ministry. Though we only have anecdotal records of a small cross-section of healings in God’s Word, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

Each healing miracle by Jesus was magnificent and unique. Jesus rarely employed the same healing technique twice, individualizing care. He made a mud pack, applied it to the man’s eyes, and restored his sight (John 9:6). Jesus’ ability was endless, as He demonstrated by converting the dust of the earth into a medium of healing. Another time people brought to Jesus a deaf-mute. “Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue” (Mark 7:33). Next, Jesus prayed to His Father in heaven, saying in Aramaic, “‘Ephphatha,’ which means ‘be opened'”( v. 34). Instantaneously, the man’s hearing and speech were restored.

Ministering with an overwhelming pattern of healing on earth, Christ faithfully fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament centuries earlier. “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6).

The most frequently repeated act of compassion Jesus used for healing was His personal touch, conveying gentleness and loving kindness, as He laid His hands on the affected body part. Imagine the impact His gesture of touch made on the leper, who had received no personal contact for years. According to Jewish law, those suffering leprosy were required to live in colonies outside of town, an early form of quarantine. “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured” (Mark 1:41-42).

When Jesus’ apostles healed disease, they were the Savior’s health agents. Jesus administered His healing miracles through human conduit, delegating authority from His throne in heaven. Neither Jesus nor His methods have changed. Our modern healthcare workers provide sophisticated medical treatments, surgery, and transplants, only because the Great Physician offers them knowledge and wisdom, powerful and compassionate gifts that Jesus liberally extends to humankind.

On earth Jesus could have healed every disease with one stroke of His sovereign hand. But Jesus always reinstated health for the benefit of spirit and body. Complete cleansing was His goal. He confirmed that the person He cured believed in Him, requiring that Jesus interact with each individual.

Rom8-28--AMP

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them”
(Romans 8:28, NLT).

God’s plans are perfect. He already knows the outcome before we are aware of a problem. Though believers aren’t always aware of His purposes regarding their health status, He consistently promises more of Himself: His love, presence, and comfort for our spiritual wellness. God never abandons us to our own unreliable resources. And, He is fully capable of confounding earthly physicians with miraculous healings they cannot explain in scientific terms.

God designs our immune systems with the innate ability to release microscopic armies of militia cells to combat toxins that invade during illness. He strengthens our mental tenacity and physical endurance to wait upon Him for improvement or cure. God created you; He knew you before you were born, continuing to care for you throughout your entire lifetime. God delights in you and He loves you in enormous proportions.

Aren’t you thrilled that God is the Master Physician responsible for your medical care? He has more education, more experience, more patients, and the best healing rate on the planet. You will never wait for an appointment; His services are complementary. His power and authority extend throughout heaven and earth. And, His Son practices with Him to provide the most superlative care available. Father and Son answer every call personally. Where could you locate another physician so divinely invested in your life?

On the cross, our Savior suffered the very depths of human depravity to restore physical and spiritual wellness. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Trust the Savior, the Great Physician, for He is always available and responsive to you.