Monday, February 16, 2009

Part 5 - A Time for Giving Thanks

A few weeks before my accident, I spent a Saturday night at my dad’s house. When I awoke Sunday morning, I found Daddy & his wife dressed up as though they were going to work – suit & tie for him, dress for her. At first, I thought I’d had a Rip Van Winkle moment & slept straight through ‘till Monday. I asked them what was going on & they said they had decided to go check out the church right outside their subdivision. I was surprised because, except for weddings & funerals, my father hadn’t been in church in years. He wasn’t an unbeliever, he just didn’t attend church. I was thrilled that they were going! I loved the Lord &, as I mentioned earlier, He had been drawing me back to church, too. (I didn’t actually recognize the similarities in Daddy’s & my situations until months later, but I was still thrilled they were going.) Well, they must have liked the church because they joined it on the Sunday before my accident. That would prove to be very much a “God thing”.

The folks from that church – Harp’s Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville, GA - became such an integral part of my family’s life & of my story. As I’ve mentioned, God tried to warn me to stay away from the accident, but He knew I wouldn’t, & because of that fact, He knew we would all need the people of that church very much. They continually exemplified the LOVE WALK of a Christian in so many ways.

My first contact with the Harp’s congregation (that I remember) came at Thanksgiving. My accident occurred just 5 days before Thanksgiving Day, & I was transferred to Shepherd Center the day before Thanksgiving. Now for those of you reading this from outside the USA who don’t know about Thanksgiving, it is a national holiday celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November. It was originally set aside as a day of prayer, remembrance &, well, giving thanks. In my experience, it has, however, transitioned into a day for family & friends to gather & eat WAY, WAY too much food – usually a turkey dinner – & watch a lot of football on TV.

Needless to say, holiday meal plans were no longer at the top of my family’s priorities. Well, God took care of that for my dad & his wife & stepchildren. When they arrived home from Shepherd on Wednesday evening, they found a complete Thanksgiving dinner waiting for them at their front door, anonymously given by one of the family’s in their new church – the church they had only joined 10 days earlier. The meal even included a big teddy bear for me & an unsigned card filled with love & prayers.

Thanksgiving was just the beginning of all the blessings given to us through the people of Harp’s. They faithfully mailed me so many cards that my hospital room wall was literally covered in them. The Single Adult group came to visit me & I gained a few close girlfriends out of that group. They prayed, prepared meals, visited, sent gifts & so much more. They didn’t even know us, but they loved on us with the heart of Christ – a servant’s heart.

There were two couples in particular that practically “adopted” me, if you will. The first was Kay & David. They had recently lost they’re only child – a daughter. She had been born with Spina Bifida, but died as a teenager, so they really understood what it was like to live with a disability . Kay & David visited me often, even ringing in the New Year with me. They gave me a special breath-operated phone so that I could make calls unassisted & a talking clock so I would know how soon my next body rotation or the morning would arrive, as I often lay awake in the dark. Those gifts were indescribably valuable to me. Kay & David were wonderful friends!

The other couple was Vance & Judy. They became my “spiritual parents”. Their story is such an integral part of my life that I will write about it in it’s very own post.

Harp’s Crossing’s pastor, Dennis Watson, became one of my regular visitors & dearest friends. He came almost daily at first &, later, at least weekly. He prayed with me, listened to me, talked to me, encouraged me, laughed with me & even cried with me. My dad told me Dennis mentioned me in nearly every service for all the months I was at Shepherd, reminding everyone to continue praying. He was the first person to have a dream about my healing. There have been several by now, but his was the first. He dreamed that I walked into the church pushing my wheelchair in front of me. If he didn’t truly have faith for my healing, he did a great job of faking it! Dennis was even the first Elder to “officially” pray for my healing from a biblical perspective:
James 5:14 – 16 (NIV) “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Several years ago, the Lord gave me the verse Psalm 27:13 as what I call my “rock scripture” – the scripture that He wants me to always stand on & put faith in no matter what. It says:
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (NIV)
I believe in God’s provision for healing & I KNOW that I will be whole someday. I can’t wait to walk up to Dennis, thank him & show him the fruit of his “prayer of faith”!

Harp’s Crossing was by no means the only church to offer my family care, prayer & love. I know there were MANY. My sister’s priest, Joel, brought me Communion on Christmas Day. My grandmother’s church in California prayed, sent cards, etc. I received visits from the church in which I’d grown up. The list goes on. I’m certain that there are many other stories of the wonderful acts of kindness given to my family by various churches that I will not know until I’m Home with the Lord. I am grateful to them all & to the countless others who were not affiliated with any particular church, but allowed God to use them as well.

God knew & provided for our need before it even existed. That is the heart of a good father. More on the “good father” later.
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