Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Surgery and prayer

Well, we made it through surgery and all is well. They had me up and walking within a couple of hours of the operation and I was completely free of the pain and numbness that I've been dealing with for the last nine months or so. I can't tell you how good it feels to walk again.

Of course I'm still restricted in what I can do for now. I'm not allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds and I can't bend at the waist while standing for the first week. You'd be amazed at how much bending you normally do in a day. Just like anything else, I'm so unaware of what I have until it gets taken from me. I think I'm so abundantly blessed that I don't have a clue of the scope of God's favor and generosity until something like this happens.

Another thing I've been made aware of is the power of prayer. When I've been asked to pray for something someone else is going through, I think in the back of my mind I've always minimized the importance of those prayers, as if they really had no significance. But it's a completely different world when you're on the receiving end. I deeply appreciate every prayer that anyone has offered for me. It's been as if I could feel them. I'll never say another prayer for someone else in the future without knowing it can make a difference.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Paul, the Call and the Calendar

This term in VLI (Vineyard Leadership Institute, a two-year college level study in theologhy and leadership) we're studying the writings of the apostle Paul. As a result, I've had to read all of Paul's letters in a short time period and I'm getting a ton of background information about both Paul and the culture of the times in which he lived.

One of the things that makes reading the Bible at any level difficult is that ancient writers had a different style of writing than we have today, and as a result they leave out things that we would think are very important. One of the things they tend to leave out is dates (not to mention that they sometimes don't write in chronological order, either!). So sometimes it's really hard to figure out what the timeline is of the story that is being told.

There's a pretty good example of this surrounding Paul's story in the book of Acts. Paul's famous encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus occurs in chapter 9. Immediately after that, Paul begins preaching around Damascus that Jesus is the Son of God, but nobody trusts him. In case you're wondering why not, he was attempting to imprison and kill the followers of Jesus just a couple of paragraphs earler. In any case, as a result of Paul's conversion the tables are turned and certain Jews in Damascus decide they want to kill Paul. Even though they don't trust him yet, his new "Christian" buddies (they weren't really called Christians yet) get him out of town safely and send him to Jerusalem from whence he is sent back to his hometown of Tarsus.

Now, here's where the timing gets tricky. It only says next that the fledgling church "enjoyed a time of peace" and "it grew in numbers." The next thing we know the story turns to Peter and recounts two significant stories that center around him before returning to Paul at the end of chapter 11. Still in Tarsus, Paul is sought out by Barnabas who wants his help in pastoring a new church in Antioch, which is not all that far from Taursus.

So, two chapters, a couple of stories about Peter...how much time has elapsed? I think in my head, the answer was always, "A few months, maybe." Do you want to know the real answer? About 10 years!!

Now why is this important to me? Well for one, I always had the impression Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, heard Jesus' calling for him to "carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings" and- boom!- sent him on his way. Two out of three ain't bad I guess. The first two things are true- he encountered Jesus and through another disciple named Ananias heard his calling from Jesus. But then there's this 10 year gap.

Now we don't have any idea what Paul was doing during those 10 years, but my guess is at times he must have questioned what happened at Damascus. Did he really hear from God? Is He really going to use him to carry the gospel to the Gentiles? Even if Paul spent a lot of that decade honing his preaching skills and carrying the gospel as best he could to non-believers in Tarsus, don't you think that would have appeared to Paul to be a dismal disappointment compared to his grand calling to carry the gospel to the Gentiles "and their kings"?

We see this kind of story repeated throughout the Bible. Abraham, Moses and David all experienced this kind of "delayed fulfillment" of God's purpose for them. But God uses that time to develop character, to develop skills, to develop obedience, to develop relationship with him. He hasn't fogotten us. Steve Robbins, the primary teacher of VLI puts it this way: differentiate the call from the calendar. In other words, God's will for me is not dependent on my timing.

That's important to me. There are things I believe God has called me to do that haven't happened yet. Maybe there are for you, too. If so, at least it's good to know he's not done with us yet!

Surgery

I'm scheduled for surgery on my back on Monday at 11:00am. They are going to go in and clean out the ruptured disc material and hopefully be able to re-create a nice passageway for the nerve that's being pinched. It seems like a big deal to me, but it's actually outpatient surgery. That still blows me away. If all goes well, I'll be home by dinner time.

After the surgery, I'll more than likely be off an additional four weeks. For the first two weeks I won't be allowed to do much at all. After that I'll start doing physical therapy and will be able to drive again. At the end of four weeks I should be able to return to work doing a half-schedule for a couple of weeks and then be able to return full time. So if the timetable holds true, I'll be back to work full time the week of Easter. How's that for timing?!?

I've been able to do some work from home over the past couple of weeks, so I've been able to conserve at least some of my extended illness benefits. My VLI classes resumed two weeks ago and since all I have to do during class is sit and listen to a lecture I've been able to go in for those. I'll miss class this coming Thursday for sure and possibly the next week as well.

More than anything else, though, I'm just really looking forward to getting on the recovery side of this thing. I have been more than covered in prayer, so I'm not really nervous about the surgery. I'm sure it's going to go well as will my recovery. I'm just very ready to be able to walk again for more than a few feet at a time or stand again for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

If you are reading this and you are one of those who have been praying for me, thank you so much!! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your prayers and I'm very much at peace going into this thanks to you.