And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Encouragement by God through a Disabled Friend

With my new pastorate I am finding myself captivated with meeting many wonderful people.  This church has already shown an overwhelming spirit of love toward me and my family.  In the last seven days our doorbell has rung with people sharing warm smiles and armloads of garden delights.  Tomatoes, melons, berries, and the like are only a few of the tangible expression of love that we are experiencing.  Not a day goes by without several people offering help, providing service, and assuring us of assistance in the upcoming move of our belongings.  When I look at these folks, I find that I need them.  I am to be their pastor, and a church needs a pastor, but God has shown His hand in the blessing that as much as they need me I need them. 

Therefore, my thoughts today have been about how the church is always the people. My Bible study and prayer time this morning had me in great thankfulness for all the folks past and present that have been a part of my life.  Looking through a few photos recently taken, one person in particular has come to mind.

When I first became the pastor at Holiday Shores Baptist God placed me in a friendship with a man, who to this day still encourages me greatly.  Mark came by on the second day I was in the office to help me learn the lay of the land.  We climbed in his immaculate Dodge Ram truck well stocked with ice cold cokes.  Everything about Mark was particular.  Whether it was his endless lists or pegboard garage walls, everything has a place and purpose.

That day Mark drove me around for eight hours, from one end of the county to the other.  He pointed out history, stores, and his favorite: restaurants. I learned about Fast Eddy’s, the River Road, the Innkeeper, Red’s BBQ, and where to buy a good boat.  He told me of fishing holes and places to take the family.  He helped me to find hospitals and churches in the association. 

Often, Mark would come up to the church to piddle.  He seemed to love any opportunity to change light bulbs, paint walls, and clean out closets.  His service was extremely heartwarming.  Never complaining, he simply served in silence.

I remember opportunities Mark created for us to go fishing together, to eat out, and to simply send a card of encouragement in the mail.

Then on day Mark took ill.  The illness was very serious.  It would forever change his marriage to Patsi.  He nearly died on several occasions.  He was hospitalized in ICU for several weeks, and it would be months before he could be transferred to a nursing and rehab home.  All his hopes and dreams for retirement, his big plans to take his beloved wife on a special trip all changed in a matter of hours.  In his condition his mind is often foggy, his speech impaired. This brings upon me a heavy heart of sorrow.

Two weeks ago, I attended Mark and Patsi’s 40th wedding anniversary party.  It was a great joy.  Patsi’s willingness to love on Mark despite his infirmities is an inspiration.  She is a rock of strength, though she would never ever admit it.  She emanates unconditional love for a man whom need constant care and can provide little response.  She looks at what was and is with great thankfulness to her Savior.  Without dwelling on what could have been, she presses on giving glory to God.

An ambulance from the nursing home brought Mark to the party at church.  He was wheeled in and Patsy immediately took his side.  I was quite overwhelmed at this scene, loving wife and husband, still together.  Then in the style that Mark always displayed in our friendship, his eyes met mine, he grinned with his amazing smile, and simply said “Hey Wes.”  

That simple action has reminded me of how our great God is so good.  How we can delight in Him despite our circumstances.  Mark’s simple hello brought a flood of warmth and encouragement to me through the memories of our better days together.  Mark’s “hey Wes” reminded me that our circumstances are always in the hand of God.  Looking forward, there are better days ahead.  This illness is passing.  I have confidence that one day Mark will be physically whole again in Heaven.  Till that day comes, Patsi will be loving her husband and I will hold to the hope that is in Jesus as He still works through the saints.  God is still using Mark, to encourage Patsi, myself, and those who call upon the name of the Lord.

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