Friday, December 26, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, Deon preached a Sunday evening sermon based on Mark 1:29-31 that made me feel like he had been a "fly on the wall" at my house. In this passage, Jesus and his disciples go to the house of Simon and Andrew, where Jesus learns that Simon's mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. Jesus heals the woman of the fever, and she responds by immediately beginning to serve Christ and his followers. Why did Deon's sermon on this passage seem so extraordinarily personal to me?

Two days earlier, I had been sitting at the kitchen table talking with my sister and her husband, who were visiting from out of town. One minute, I was feeling great and enjoying the conversation. The next minute - WHAM - my head felt like it was going to explode, my vision grew blurry, and breakfast decided it was ready to "evacuate the premises." I spent the rest of that Friday either kneeling in front of the household porcelain idol or trying to lie absolutely motionless in bed - the day passed in a dark, painful blur. By Friday evening, my legs felt weak as water but the headache had subsided slightly and the world wasn't spinning as fast whenever I opened my eyes. I staggered into the kitchen thinking that I needed fluids and my neglected kids probably needed dinner. In the kitchen, I discovered my pastor's wife, Gaye, along with an assortment of kids - some of them mine, some of them hers, plus a few others. Oh, no! I thought, I forgot all about the kids' drama practice tonight! I pressed my palms against my throbbing head and tried to ignore my churning stomach. "Hey, you don't look so good!" Gaye laughed. She then assured me she had everything under control, that she would get everyone where they needed to be on time, and then ordered me back to bed. Later that night, as I sat curled in a ball in the bathroom floor, I prayed, God, You simply have to make me better. I can not be sick right now. Never mind Friday night drama practice - Saturday and Sunday were booked full of commitments and responsibilities that could not be ignored.

By Saturday morning, I felt MUCH better and managed to keep down some broth and black tea. By noon, although I still felt weak and tired, the headache and nausea were history. By mid-afternoon, I felt competent to tackle some of the responsibilities on my plate - drive E. back home to Dyersburg, fix a quick dinner, get the older guys to town for their drama performance. Amazingly, a bug that had incapacitated others in the community for the better part of a week only knocked me down for a little over 24 hours.

But did I respond with gratitude for God's gracious provision? Nooooooo. Saturday's obligations behind me, I crawled into bed with a mind full of whining and complaining thoughts. How come this Mom job doesn't allow any time off for sick leave?! Why can't I just call in sick and pamper myself a few days, until I feel ready to go back to work? Sunday morning, I was still full of self-pity and had a crabby, woe-is-me attitude. By Sunday evening, I really did feel pretty much up to 100%, physically, and I was beginning to tire of my negativity as well. . . . just in time for Deon's sermon.

I don't remember every point Deon made during his sermon that night, but, due to my recent intense affair with the toilet, a few things hit me like a two-by-four upside the head. Simon's mother-in-law was sick. Like her, we are all sick - not just sick, but dead in our sin. Christ went to this incapacitated woman and healed her. Likewise, He takes the initiative to seek us out, while we are yet unable to seek Him, and heals us, not simply of a physical fever, but of something much worse - our spiritual deadness. Christ not only healed Simon's mother-in-law of the fever, but He apparently also restored her to health and strength to the point that she was able to serve her Lord and his companions - He made her well, and He empowered her to work. Her response? She got up from her bed and began to wait on them. No feeling sorry for herself about her recent illness. No whining about needing a little more time off to pamper herself. No griping about having to serve someone else so soon after her infirmity. Her Lord healed her; she responded with the heart of a grateful servant.

Sometimes I forget that this Great Story is not all about me, my feelings, my preferences. God created me, redeemed me, sustains me . . . NOT so that I can serve myself, pursue my own goals, indulge my personal desires, but so that I can serve Him. Christ heals me; God, forgive me when I do not respond to your grace with the heart of a grateful servant.

* * * * *
Random Camille factoid: I am one of those people who spends an entire pregnancy throwing up. When most people get sick to their stomachs, they think "Maybe I have a flu bug" or "Have I eaten something bad?" Anytime I throw up, my first thought is always, "Is it possible that I am pregnant again?"
Here is a poem I wrote many, many years ago on one of those (too-frequent!) occasions when I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the demands and responsibilities of motherhood:
Who rocks the mommy?
Who soothes her with song
when the day has been full
and has lasted too long?
Who rocks the mommy,
softly kissing her head,
then whispers a prayer
and tucks her in bed?
To all you mommies out there - yours is a noble service. Press on.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Corporate worship, I believe, should produce in those gathered to worship an attitude either of doxology or of repentance - or of both , as was the case a few weeks ago as I joined my brothers and sisters for the Sunday morning service at Grace.

I woke up that morning with many concerns pressing on my mind, so lay quietly in bed trying to organize my thoughts and lift them up in prayer. However, I quickly slipped into a defeatist mindset and cut my prayer time short. "God, there are just too many things for me to sort through right now. I feel overwhelmed. To keep things simple, I am going to bring just one request - just one - and I will not bring any other concerns or needs to You until this one thing has been taken care of...." I presented my one request, threw off the blankets, and plunged into the Sunday morning hustle of shower-dress-kid patrol-breakfast-lunch prep-go-go-go.

If you were going to ask God for one thing (at least one thing at a time), what would be first on your list? I could have asked God to give my young Sunday school students tender and receptive hearts as we studied the building of the Tabernacle and His coming to dwell among His people in the wilderness. Or I could have asked Him to provide healing for my friend Frances as she undergoes ongoing treatment for cancer. Or that He would bless, guide, and grow the new body of believers at Grace Community, or transform the heart of the president of Iran with the gospel of Christ, or use my children to serve His kingdom, . . . .

What did I pray for as I lay in bed that Sunday morning? "God, please grant that I may have one reliable vehicle." That's it. And then I resolved to not ask for anything else until that item had been taken care of. Obviously, I am NOT a spiritual giant! But then again, as one of our children has commented, our family strategy regarding vehicles seems to be to keep enough clunkers in the driveway so that at least one is minimally operational at any given time. So maybe my praying for a functional vehicle was actually akin to Moses's praying for deliverance from the pursuing Egyptians - either would appear to require a miracle. Hmmmm, speaking of Moses...

Fast forward through Sunday school to the morning worship service. Prelude, announcements, liturgy, prayer, a hymn, more prayer. Then, the Old Testament scripture reading - Exodus 33:12-23. Moses said to the Lord, "...You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you..." . . . The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." . . . Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." . . .

Ouch. I was suddenly so ashamed of my petulant request earlier that morning. I wanted a working vehicle. Moses, on the other hand, wanted to know God, to find favor with Him, and to see His glory. Ironically, Moses's prayer was already underlined in my Bible, traces of past study and conviction. As we stood for the next hymn, I prayed, "God, please forgive my narrow vision. Forgive me for being so preoccupied with and overwhelmed by such small things. Forgive me for thinking that I can be satisfied with anything less than You."

Then, as if God were determined that I not miss the point, Billy's sermon was based on John 20:24-29 - you know, the passage where Thomas insists that he will not believe in the risen Lord unless he puts his own finger in the crucifixion wounds. The sermon title? "Experiential Religion." Billy emphasized that some of us tend to make demands on God, refusing to rest in His provision for us in Christ until He has done such-and-such to convince us. Thomas said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands..." Generations later, Thomas's sister Camille said, "Unless I see a well-maintained, late-model automobile..." Double ouch.

I love the way Billy wrapped up his sermon that morning. Billy pointed out that, once he encountered the living Lord, Thomas's demand for proof simply vanished. Christ encouraged Thomas to touch His scars, telling Thomas to "Stop doubting and believe." However, Scripture gives no indication that Thomas did indeed touch Christ's scars. Thomas no longer needed that token of proof, because now he was standing in the very presence of his resurrected Lord. His response? "My Lord and my God!"

I am amazed at the precision with which God confronts and addresses my sinful attitudes. I am amazed at the patience, grace, and tender forebearance He displays as He works to conform me to His Son. And, I am amazed at how God administers even painful discipline with a tinge of sweetness. What hymn did we sing that morning, as we considered first Moses, and then Thomas?
I know not why God's wondrous grace to me he has made known,
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for his own.
But "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day."
So, what is the next thing on my list? One thing have I desired of the Lord.....Himself.