do you trust me?

Three years ago I started listening to God regularly.

Before that time, I had always (like most believers) gone about my days reading my Bible and praying, not expecting God to speak into the mundane but usually relying on his direction for big decisions or problems or things that I thought I couldn’t handle. What I figured out in a state park in East Texas three years ago was there is never a time God is not going to speak if we are willing and expectant to listen. Plus, I can’t handle life – period – so why am I not listening to God’s voice every day?

That day, I started listening to God speak to me as much as I speak to him, or at least trying to. I gave his voice its own color in my journal so now I can flip through the pages of my life and see what God has been telling me…

 

Trust me

Big bold letters.

Almost every time he speaks, it’s repeated over and over and over because apparently I don’t trust him. I followed him to a tin box in Africa, how can I not trust him? That was comparably easy. That was the plan. That was something I wanted. In fact, it’s the only “long term goal” I have ever set for myself.

So now, as I sit and hear God ask, ” Do you trust me?” I am ashamed to answer no, but he already knows that so there is no point in lying or trying to hide it.

I don’t trust God because I still think I know what is best for me. I see a future that looks easy and I try to make it happen. I see what I want, not necessarily what I need. I don’t let him put the pieces of my life together so instead I’m falling apart or perhaps in this mess I am falling together but if that’s true, I have yet to see what the picture is.

Have you ever met anyone who tries to put a puzzle together without looking at the box? I feel like I’ve met these people before – they claim to “like the challenge.”  Personally, I think it is complete idiocy.  How can you put together a picture if you don’t know what the picture is?  I guess that’s life though, isn’t it?

We don’t get to see the box. We know the artist, but if we try to put the pieces together on our own we could end up with Picasso instead of Rockwell.

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We are asked to trust that the artist of our life knows what he is doing and to listen when he directs the pieces.

In these moments I am humbled by the patience and love and grace and mercy that I can come before the Sovereign God and act like the stubborn child that I am. I can be angry before him. I can yell and curse and tell him I don’t trust him to be good because what I want he hasn’t given me.  I can be broken and messy. I can be ignorant of my life up until this point and claim he has done nothing for me in the past.

I can be weak. I can be unreasonable. I can be human.  Because he is God and he is always good.

And when I’ve calmed down enough to once again listen and hear his still voice whispering in my ear “Trust me” I can remember and testify to his faithfulness in every step up until now

So maybe right now I’m not trusting or believing it, but I can rest assured that God has written my future and it is a good one.

 

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you take me into glory

Psalm 73:21-24

 

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On Our Knees

It has been a week since we arrived back in Tamatave, Madagascar and it feels as though we have never left.  However, we did leave and the time in between has been quite the journey.

The last few weeks of our time in Durban were faced with one delay after another.  With work projects coming to an end in dry dock we found more damage.  With the damage diagnosed we ran into complications.  With the complications resolved we found ourselves at anchor.

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Though the ship is at anchor and we are delayed.  Though the hospital is closed and we are canceling surgeries. Though the nurses are reassigned and we are ready to leave, yet I will exalt in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

We were desperately trying to get back to Madagascar. There were patients returning and new ones arriving. We knew God was going to do amazing things in these amazing people’s lives and yet we were still not there.

What was the constant through this all?

That we as a crew REMAIN on our knees before the Lord.

We may never know why circumstances landed us at anchor for three days but sure enough that is where we ended up. Yes, we know on the surface why we had to raise that black buoy up the mast and lower the anchors down but I personally believe there is much more going on.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

It is not enough that we come before the Lord with our requests and pleas for help.  We must stay there for we cannot fight this battle alone.

I am fully convinced that this field service is going to long.  It is going to be hard.  It is going to be a fight.

The wonderful patients in Madagascar often bring with them more spiritual baggage than we could ever imagine.  The only way we will make it to the end of this field service is to remain on our knees in the presence of the Lord.  He must be our source of strength in times of trials and peace.

Holdfast

This is a term that came to me one morning as I was praying while we sat at anchor.  I wasn’t sure what it meant or why it was lodged in my mind.

Hold fast: something to which something else may be firmly secured (Mirriam-Webster).  Holdfast: a root-like structure that anchors aquatic sessile organism, such as seaweed etc. to the substrate. (wikipedia)

Either way, this word implies being anchored and that is exactly where we sat.

What is the ship anchored in and what is our anchor?  Unless the Lord is our anchor and we are secure in his Word – the substrate that gives us nutrients – we will fail.

This field service needs to be approached on our knees, tackled on our knees and completed on our knees.

Thank God we have arrived.

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Last Sunday the sun rose, the Malagasy flag was raised and we sailed into port, hopefully in his presence, to accomplish all he has set before us.

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8 by Friday

Faith is an interesting thing, prayer even stranger.  To think that I can intercede on the behalf of another person to the almighty God for healing and not only believe it will have an effect but wait in anticipation for the results is nothing short of mind blowing.

There was recently a patient on the ward who underwent a total thyroidectomy back in February.  Unfortunately, in the process her parathyroid gland was disturbed and stopped functioning properly.  Why is this important?  The parathyroid is responsible for controlling calcium in the body.  Calcium is necessary for nerve communication and muscle contraction.

Photo Credit Justine Forrest, Dr AJ Collins (AUS) General Surgeon and Dr Shehnarz Salindera (AUS) General Surgeon PAT16147 Hanta

Photo Credit Justine Forrest, Dr AJ Collins (AUS) General Surgeon and Dr Shehnarz Salindera (AUS) General Surgeon 

This patient, Gloria*, was receiving copious amounts of IV calcium as well as oral and still she was symptomatic with labs well under the normal range (8.4-10.2 mg/dL).  Week after week she continued on the medication without seeing any results.  It was to the point that, in my opinion, all medical options were exhausted and still no improvement.

One Saturday evening I was praying for Gloria and I felt the Lord say “8 by Friday.”  If this was her calcium it was a great deal above what she had been running and frankly seemed impossible but who am I to argue with the Great Physician.  The following Monday the general surgery team leader informed me that the goal for this patient was to have her calcium reach 8 mg/dL by Friday.  I just nodded and said, “Yeah, I think it will be.”  Little did she know the confidence in which I was making this statement.

As the week progressed Gloria’s calcium was steadily increasing as her dose was also increasing.  By Thursday she reached 8.4 mg/dL.  We were all in awe.  Friday morning I eagerly awaited her result.  It was exactly 8.0.  I almost started crying.  However, in the days that followed her medication was weaned back resulting in her levels once again dropping.  Many people onboard were discouraged and doubted if she would ever be healed.  Gloria herself started doubting.  Sure, she was 8 by Friday but she was also on a mega-dose of calcium so those levels weren’t necessarily a reflection of her true condition.  For me though, it didn’t matter how she got there, God was saying “I’m still in control.”

Weeks went by and still no improvement.  “God, where are you?”  One night I was reading my Bible and came across this verse in the book of Habakkuk

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:2

I heard God once again speaking to me, this time simply saying “I will heal her.”  I was overwhelmed and convinced that this would be my declaration the day Gloria was healed – I would stand in awe of the Lord’s deeds!  I have seen that God works on his own time table in his own ways and who am I to doubt or question.  The only thing I can do is pray and have faith in his Word and his promises.

Fast forward of few weeks and Gloria’s levels are once again rising.  This time her dose was either remaining the same or steadily decreasing.  She was taken off IV calcium and still her levels remained in range.  Her oral dose was decreased and still she was on target.  Last week Gloria was discharged.  The day before she was sent home there was a party on the ward for her.  Our physician who has been managing Gloria’s care for the last 4 months walked over to her and put her arm around her – Gloria had tears running down her cheeks.  I’m sure she thought the day would never come.  There were a lot of people on the ship who thought the day would never come, myself included.

Photo Credit Catrice Wulf - Ward nurse Maria Geary (USA) cares for patient

Photo Credit Catrice Wulf – Ward nurse Maria Geary (USA) cares for patient

Gloria is not totally off medication but she is now on a much more manageable, oral dose with continued improvement.  I know God is not done.  I know he will heal her fully.  I know that he does things for his purpose and his time so he receives the glory.

On the day she was discharged a friend of mine and nurse on the ward was excitedly saying she too was amazed that Gloria has finally been discharged and said “Doesn’t it make you want to say ‘Go team.’”  I looked at her and said “No, it makes me want to say, ‘Go God.’”

We had nothing to do with her healing and I fully believe that.

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*The patient’s name in this post has been changed to protect confidentiality of the individual.

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