Tag Archives: Prayer

And Then He Was Gone…

24 Sep
Depression

Depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had another dream about him last night.  Even after all these years he still haunts me.  Not that I mind, it reminds me that I cared about him and care about those he left behind.

Keith-My Cousin

Keith was my cousin, but I didn’t meet him until his early teens when his Dad married my Aunt.   It was my first experience with a blended family.  Two sisters and three brothers now occupied my Aunt’s hallways when before there had only been the girls.  Those early years of visiting my Aunt’s (and new Uncle) home was filled with a ton of activity and excitement.  Of the three new cousins, Keith was outgoing, but not overly so like his younger brother.  But he could also be shy and sensitive, but not as introverted and awkward as his older brother.  He was like the perfect blend of my other two cousins; he was well liked and very talented.

The first time I ever envied him was after he was chosen to appear in a local TV ad for a very popular candy company.  In the ad, Keith was shown walking with a pretty blond-haired girl, walking and talking as the shared a tasty treat.  The ad aired during the broadcast of a local sporting event, and I was instantly jealous that my new cousin was on TV.  I grew even more envious when I learned he had been paid hundreds of dollars to appear in the commercial.  He was so lucky….I was so boring and broke.

As we grew older and went to college, I only ever saw Keith at the holidays when we would gather to feast on my Uncle’s cooking.  At these events, I’d catch up with Keith about college and other small talk.  But I sort of lost touch with him other than these few family get-togethers.  One year, he was trying to earn some extra cash by selling Ginsu knives.  I remember my family being gracious and even a few sales were made.  Keith was always so good natured and humble.  I thought he had the world at his feet.  But I was wrong….

Personal Demons

I really was unaware of Keith’s inner struggles.  I had just seen him at my cousin’s wedding.  He was handsome and looked sharp in his suit.  He was quiet, but spoke of his job and plans for a hiking trip with his brothers.  We laughed across the table at the wedding reception and had a generally good time in each other’s company.  I had no idea he was struggling.

Later that summer, my folks called to ask me to keep Keith in my prayers.  He had lost or quit his job (we never really found out) and moved back to my Aunt’s to live, at age 34.  My folks also said that Keith was struggling with depression and that my Aunt and Uncle were very worried for him.

I immediately began to pray for Keith.  I prayed that he would come to know Jesus and that the demons of depression would be bound from his life.  I prayed for him every day and even considered going over to visit him now that he was back in the area.  But I never got the chance.

Darkness

A few weeks later, my Aunt was home early from work and decided to check on Keith.  He had been staying in their basement converted apartment, while he tried to find new work and sort out his struggle with depression.

She called out for Keith at the top of the stairs…but no answer.  She decided to go down and check on him.  Opening the door to his room, she saw what no earthly mother should ever have to see.  She saw Keith hanging from the ceiling; lifeless, dead, gone.  The darkness of depression had won.  My prayers had failed.

Keith had taken his own life by hanging himself in my Aunt’s basement.

Why?

It’s been almost 20 years since my cousin’s death, and I still can’t tell you why he chose suicide over life.

Was it the loss of identity because of his job?  Was it because he was gay (something I didn’t know until after his death)?  Did he have AIDS?  Did he get fired for being gay?  Was he just a mentally depressed person by genetics? Why didn’t my prayers of protection and binding work?  Why would God allow this?  Why did God allow my Aunt to find him?  Why didn’t God do something?  Why, Why, Why!!!!????

The Dream

In the dream, we were all sitting around my Aunt’s kitchen table.  I think we were playing cards at the beach house, like we used to when we were all kids.  But this time we were all grown up.

We all seemed to be having a good time when Keith’s face appeared around the corner of the kitchen doorway.  It startled me a bit, because I remembered that Keith was dead.  But for a brief moment, he appeared around the corner and was being pushed towards the door in a wheelchair, by a man no one knew.  As he was wheeled through the kitchen, Keith turned his head slightly and acknowledged us with a slight nod.  A nod that was knowing, knowing that this might be our last goodbye.  We all nodded back in deathly silence, acknowledging his injury and his movement towards the door.

Maybe there was nothing that could have been said to stop him.  Maybe he felt like a cripple with no hope of ever rising to walk again.  Maybe the mystery man was death, a welcome friend at this point in Keith’s life….I just don’t know.

He then turned his head, the mystery man escorted him out of the house…and then he was gone.

And I awoke.

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Vaccines-A Video

23 Sep

The Powerlessness of Prayer

24 Aug
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t believe in the power of prayer.  The reason why…because of God’s lack of answer to prayer.  In all honesty, God really does not answer prayer in the way it’s promised in the Bible.  The Bible claims that God cares for you and me and wants to answer our prayers.

Matthew 21:22 plainly states

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

But this does not seem to be true.  Millions of Christians have believed that God has the power to save and heal, have begged God to do so, and he has not done it.  Babies have died, beloved parents and relatives have wasted unto death, while God ignores the prayers of those who have asked him to heal those whom they love.

I know many will object that maybe God had a different idea, or maybe we just didn’t believe enough.  But I think, that deep down, even the most earnest Christian does not really believe in prayer as described in the Bible.  They might think God will tip the scales a little more in their favor, maybe send a specialist doctor to save the day.  But most have asked God to heal cancers, only to see the cancer prevail.  Lord knows I’ve pleaded for babies that still went to the grave and left their parents in dismal grief, despite my many prayers.

Most Christians have lived long enough to know that prayer will not save the day…it may bring a little relief, kind of like meditation or silent centering, but it will not result in God’s miraculous intervention in the Biblical sense.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

We’ve all heard of the Christian parents that withhold life saving medical treatment for their children.  They trust God will heal, so they pray, wait, and watch as their children die or are seriously sickened from a condition that could have been prevented by human intervention.  Instead, they obey the Bible’s teaching to seek God for all their needs.  And in the end, many end up at a graveside, a court room, and some will even see the inside of a jail cell.

Why?

Because they took the Bible at it’s word about prayer.

But most Christians see this as extreme and would never do this to their children.  When the rubber hits the road, we say a prayer, but we pay a visit to the doctor.

Worst Case Scenario

Imagine an even more agonizing situation.

Imagine you are a middle aged mom whose elementary schooler has not returned home on time.  After ten minutes past the normal time your child arrives home, you wander next door to confirm that the bus is late.  When the neighbor’s child answers the door, you begin to worry.

Your neighbor confirms that the bus arrived on time, but your child was not seen exiting the bus.  A quick call to the school sends you into a panic. Your child was not seen at school all day.  In fact, the voice mail you ignored this morning was your child’s school calling to confirm that your child was sick and at home.

You slump to the floor sobbing as your neighbor dials 911….

Freeze Frame

Pausing this imaginary nightmare, ask your self this question.  Do you believe in the power of prayer to locate your child safely?

In other words, would you just call the prayer chain at church and trust God that he would lead you to your child?  What if the detective at the police station said they weren’t going to send out a description of your child, instead the officers were going to pray and wait on God to lead them to your child…would you really be ok with that response?

Of course you wouldn’t…you would be doing everything in your power to bring your child home again.  You would want to know that every stone in the county was being turned over in search of your child.  You would talk to anyone willing to listen and get the word out that something more precious than gold is lost and needs to be found.

This scenario reveals that when it matters most, prayer does little to no good when facing real world problems.  It doesn’t heal children who are sick.  It doesn’t save relatives that are dying.  It doesn’t bring children home who have been kidnapped or run away.

In short, prayer has no real power to change reality.

Stand Over There…And I’ll Throw Rocks Over Your Head

9 Jul
shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame

shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame (Photo credit: sillydog)

I was five years old and my friend Nate, who was only four, came over to my house to play.  It was summer time, and we found ourselves bored, with nothing much to do in my front yard.

We were hanging out around a recently planted tree that was surrounded by mulch and a ring of medium to large rocks.

An Idea is Born

As I looked down at the rocks, an idea was  born for our next round of fun.  I picked up a  heavy rock and surmised that if Nate stood about ten feet away, I should still be able to throw the rock over his head.

“Hey Nate!” I yelled over.

“Yes” Nate shouted back.

“Go stand over there, ” I pointed to about 10 feet away.  He dutifully moved to right where I pointed.

“I’m going to throw this rock over your head!” I shouted across the yard.

“Ok” said Nate, without any hesitation or doubt in his voice.

As Nate stood his ground, I picked up a large rock and heaved it with all my might.  I distinctly remember that I was 100% sure that the rock would simply sail far over his head, and that my superior rock throwing ability was about to be confirmed.

As the rock flew through the air I stood in awe…but then something happened.  The rock begun to descend sooner than planned and  it hit Nate square upon his mouth.

Shock, just utter shock descended upon my five-year old mind.

Shock, just utter shock is what I saw on Nate’s face, as he stared back at me.  It seemed like time stood still as we stared at each other, both shocked at what had just transpired.

Then…blood begun gushing down Nate’s face from his lip. It had been gashed open by my misfired rock and he was now bleeding all over his shirt and white shorts.  As the pain of his injury overtook him, he screamed and cried as he ran into my house to seek assistance from his mother.

The next few minutes are a blur, as I was vacillating between the shock of learning that my rock throwing abilities were not up to snuff and the thought that my injured friend my was probably going to get me in trouble.

My Mom stormed out of the house with a mild scolding, along with the unanswerable question of  “What were you thinking when you threw that rock?” coupled with “Were you trying to hit Nate with that rock?”.

The truth is, I had no intention of hitting him and I was having a hard time explaining what I was thinking, because I was still in shock over my poor estimation of my arm strength.

Unfortunately for Nate, our rock throwing adventure ended our play date prematurely, as he got a trip to the Doctor for seven stitches and I got a trip to my bedroom for a grounding.

It wouldn’t be the last time in my childhood that I had a hair-brained idea involving rocks…but that’s for another day.

And the Point of all of this?

Besides being a perfect example of why children should be taught to think about their actions before running headlong into adventure, it’s also an example of what happens when we believe ourselves to be infallible.

You see, the same mindset of my five-year old mind, is very similar to the many ministry leaders and pastors I have known in my life.  They are similar in that often times, they overestimate their abilities and in doing so put others at risk.

An infallible mindset never considers the question of  “what happens if I am wrong?”.  And this is dangerous.

Some Examples

“You have marriage trouble, no problem, set up an appointment I’ll explain to you the Biblical way to save your marriage.  Never mind that I’m only 28 years old and have only been married for 15 months.  Not to worry,  I’m a pastor and I graduated with a degree in Biblical counseling.”

“What do you mean your husband is ignoring you?  It may mean that you’re not submitting enough.  He hit you?  Well he wouldn’t have just hit you unless he was very frustrated with you and your behavior.  Here’s a book on submission.  We’ll read it together and I’ll meet with you weekly so that you can begin to have a Biblical marriage again.”

“You’re having financial troubles?  Can I ask you a question?  Do you tithe?  Have you considered that maybe you’re having financial troubles because you’re not tithing to God’s House?”

“What do you mean you’re having suicidal thoughts?  That’s demonic…think of your children and family and the sort of testimony that would be.  You need to commit to reading your Bible and praying every day.  Then the Joy of the Lord will be your strength.  You don’t need counseling, you need the Holy Spirit.”

I could go on with more examples, but I think it suffices to say, that many a Christian leader has overestimated their ability to help counsel people who are in serious trouble.  Often times with disastrous results.

Pastoral Disaster

I witnessed this first hand, as a pastor (who was also my neighbor) counseled a couple who’s twin babies were facing almost certain death.  As their health deteriorated in the hospital, my pastor friend encouraged the couple and their church to pray harder for healing.  One church member had even prophesied that the twins would live (which would have been a medical miracle) and the church encouraged the couple to blog, so that God’s goodness could be shared with the world (since they were 100% sure the babies would be healed).

Rock to the face…the babies died, the church was in shock, and the pastor was unprepared to deal with the crushing disappointment that his counsel had caused.  The couple left the church and was understandably angry.  Other members left the church.  Some of the elders remained but told me that they didn’t think that God answered prayers.  The whole church was bleeding like Nate’s gashed lip.  All because they had adopted an infallible mindset at the behest of the pastor in my neighborhood.

A couple of times during this episode, I had actually tried to convince this pastor to consider, if what he was doing was wise.  I even asked him, what he would do if he was wrong.  He didn’t seem to know, but he also seemed pretty sure that he wasn’t going to have to worry about being wrong.

After the deaths and funeral,what surprised me most, was how this pastor was more in shock that his counsel had not worked, than he was in grief over the loss of these dear children.  He was just like me at 5 years old, completely confounded that he wasn’t as good at this as he had thought.

So the next time someone tells you to “just do this” or “just pray that” to solve your problems.  Remember, people aren’t always as good as they think they are…

Just stand over there and I’ll throw a rock over your head, if you don’t believe me.

Nobody Expects An Inquisition!

26 Jun

It was almost closing time and I was out on the sales floor straightening up my department.  When all of the sudden…..

Jesus Tweaker

I was approached by a young man in his twenties who began to barrage me with questions about my beliefs and the Lord.

The following is my best recollection of that conversation…

The Inquisition

Jesus Tweaker:  “Do you know the Lord?”

Me: “Uh….that’s a complicated question.”

JT: “Well, I’m here to tell you that the Lord loves you..I’m a messenger of love.”

Me: “Well, I won’t fault anyone who wants to share love.”

JT: “Do you believe there’s evil in the world?”

Me: “Yes, but I don’t believe in thought crimes.”

JT: “Did you know that Jesus talked about our thoughts and said if we even look at a women lustfully we have committed adultery?”

Me: “Well, that’s what I’m talking about.  I think that Jesus is teaching a form of thought crimes.  I personally think morality is based on consent.  If you harm or do something to someone without their consent, you’re immoral in my opinion.  Demonizing, natural sexual attractions is a form of thought crime and I think it’s only purpose is to make people feel guilty, even though they haven’t done anything wrong.”

At this point Jesus Tweaker seems confused and begins to talk about right and wrong.  He’s talking so loud and with a huge smile…that it reminds me of when I’ve talked to people who were massively drunk.  After skirting some more on morality, the inquisition continues.

JT “Do you believe in a higher power?”

Me “No”

JT “No…why not?”

Me: “Because, I don’t have any evidence that sems to indicate a higher power exists…”

JT “But do you have a wife or kids?

Me: “Yes”

JT “You love them don’t you…well, how can you explain your love for them?”

Me “I’m not sure how that’s relevant.”

Again, my answer seems to have thrown Jesus Tweaker a bit off track and he changes course.

JT “Well, I’m just here to tell you that God wants a relationship with you.”

Me: “And how do you know this?”

JT: “Because the Bible is God’s word and it tells us about God’s love.”

Me “OK…but why am I speaking to you and not God himself?  Doesn’t he have the ability of making that clear to me.”

JT “Well…I’m a messenger of the Lord, a messenger of his love.  I don’t believe it’s an accident that we’re speaking right now.  I didn’t come here on my own.”

Me “Hmmmm…..but you did walk in on your own 2 legs?  You did come in here by your own choice, didn’t you?

JT ” I just want to tell you God loves you and sent his Son, Jesus to die for you.  I’ve seen demons cast out and I believe that I will see the dead raised.”

He then proceeds to tell me about how he prayed for a woman with one leg shorter than the other.  She asked for him to pray for her back, but he refused and they prayed for her leg and it grew out 2 inches.

Me “So it grew out 2 inches?  What about an amputee, have you ever seen one healed by having their leg grow back?

JT “No…I did ask a couple of amputees in the city if I could pray for God to heal them.  But they seemed offended and wouldn’t let us pray.”

At this point, a concerned shift leader stops by to make sure I’m ok.  I indicate that I am and I begin to try and wrap up the conversation.

Me “Well…it’s been nice chatting but I need to close up my department.”

JT “Can I just pray for you?”

Me “No..I don’t think that’s appropriate since I’m on the clock.  You can feel free to pray on your own time.”

JT ignores me and prays loudly “I just bless you in JESUS name. THANK YOU FATHER! I bless you”

At this point he walks away to a cash register, where he loudly proclaims his love for the Abba Father, and begins asking employees and customers if they beleive in God.

I turn away and wonder if I was ever that “crazy” for the Lord.

Staring into the Abyss-Part 1

22 May

I can recall almost every detail that occurred after my youngest was born.  I can still recall the delivery room, the feel, the smell, the lighting.  I remember how relieved we were when my youngest son was finally born.  He was beautiful, tiny…yet fully formed.  His face looked just like mine, only smaller and with a full head of blazing red hair.  The nurses went gaga over him and his hair and they quickly extracted him from my wife’s arms to do his APGAR testing.

As they did their few tests, the nurses were amazed…I heard the one nurse comment that she’d never scored a baby a perfect ten on their APGAR tests, but if she did, it would be my son.  Whew…he really was a beautiful, healthy baby.

At this point, the nurses took him to the nursery to finish up some final tests, clean him, and dress him to bring him back to his mom and myself.  They assured us that he would be brought back in twenty minutes.  We kissed him goodbye and waited anxiously for him to return.

He never did make it back to the delivery room.

Emergency

After 20 minutes, a concerned looking nurse stopped back to let us know that they were a “little” concerned because his oxygen count was well below normal.  She said not to worry, his skin looked healthy and they were getting a new machine to test him on.  They assumed the machine was malfunctioning.  But the second round of tests confirmed that my son’s lungs were malfunctioning, not the machine.

He was only getting about half the oxygen he needed to survive and they immediately put him on breathing treatments.

At this point, we still weren’t sure if we should be concerned or not.  We were told that sometimes this can happen, as there is a valve blocking the lungs in the womb, that should open up after birth.  But in my son’s case, it hadn’t fully opened up.  In most cases, oxygen treatments would allow the body to correct itself, the valve would open, and normal breathing would ensue.

I was told to go home and get some sleep, so I did.

Phone Calls in the Night

I had been asleep for a few hours when the hospital called. My son had caught a deadly virus (probably from the IV inserts) and was now fighting to even maintain 10% of his oxygen level….he was fighting to stay alive, he was maybe dying.  They didn’t know, but they were about to transfer him to the local Children’s Hospital so that he could receive the best care possible.  So without his mother or I, he was whisked away at 3 in the morning, by ambulance, to the new hospital.

This is when darkness falls.  I am bleary eyed for lack of sleep.  I am alone, driving at night through the city.  When I arrive, there is a huge institutional sized building and parking garage.  I quickly park and run to the front desk.  I am informed my son is a few floors up.  I jump in an elevator to be with my dying son.  Is he really going to die?  Am I still dreaming or is this now my life?  I snap out of it as the elevator door opens and I’m met by a caring doctor and nursing staff.  They warn me that I am about to enter the NICU and that there are dozens of babies with all sorts of conditions.  They ask me if I will be ok to witness these things?  Yes, I answer.  Good, they explain that they’ve had many fainting spells of parents who are overwhelmed at the sight.  I brace myself and prepare for the worst.

I enter the NICU….to my left a young baby is having heart surgery.  I walk to the next room where there are incubators full of premature babies fighting to grow and to live.  I breathe deep, I want to cry, and I don’t really want to see….but I must. He is mine and I want him to know that he is not alone.  That I love him and want nothing more than for him to live….please live, please just live.

It’s an awful and beautiful sight at the same time.  Awful, because he has over 10 different IV’s and monitors hooked up into his body.  Beautiful because he is still alive.

As I enter they are switching an IV that is infected and now putting an IV into his toe.  I cringe, I fight back the tears.  And I look over into his crib.

There he is.

Small, fragile, beautiful.

Heaving his little chest, struggling to breathe.  The nurses tell me he’s the most beautiful baby they’ve ever seen.  And he is…light pink skin and that bushy red hair.  I reach out and stroke his hair and begin to sing him a lullaby.  I stay the night until his breathing stabilizes and go back to visit my wife.

As I exit the hospital it is now early morning.  The city is alive with activity.  And it hits me how normal it all seems.  But life has become anything but normal.  I’m only a few hundred yards from where my child is struggling to stay alive, but nobody seems to notice it.  The radio is reporting on a Space Shuttle that has blown apart on re-entry.  A tragedy to be sure.  But my tragedy is not yet resolved, and only friends and family even know about it.  Strangeness surrounds my over caffeinated mind.

I arrive to the hospital where my wife is to be released.   I help her to the car.  But though we arrived to deliver our son, he is not with us.  We walk out silent, empty armed, and heavy-hearted.

We make it home before we weep in front of our apartment.   The frailty of life has found us and we are staring into the abyss.  These are the days that you wished God actually answered prayers a little more clearly.  But no answers come, no healing occurs, and we resolve ourselves that this might not end the way we want….and we cry some more.

Alcoholism and Unanswered Prayer

8 Apr

Prayer simply does not work.  It just doesn’t.  I know this to be true…let me tell you how I know.

My sister is an alcoholic.  She has been abusing for over 25 years.  Frankly, I’m amazed that she is still alive.  The sad thing, is that she is incredibly smart and clever.  Unfortunately, her alcoholism has just about ripped my family of origin to shreds.  Her disease has stolen countless holidays away from my family.  I have spent hundreds of hours on the phone, praying with her, listening to her, only to discover that she has been lying to me.  It’s hard to describe the absolute alternate reality that invades your world when an addict chooses to target you for daring to call a spade a spade.  Truth and addictions do not mix well…

As the old joke goes, “When can you tell when an addict is lying?  Anytime their lips are moving…!”  Except, it’s not really funny.  In fact, it’s heartbreaking.

When I was in college, I would pray for hours for my sister’s recovery from drugs and alcohol.  Literally for hours upon end, interceding on her behalf.  Asking, seeking, knocking, crying, begging, ….I was exhausted from the effort of trying to hope and pray my sister out of the devils grip.  And this is how I know prayer doesn’t work.  It didn’t matter how many people I asked to pray, or how many times I prayed….it didn’t help.

Looking back , I realize that either God had the power to do something, but chose not to….or He isn’t there.  If He is there, but has chosen not to help, than He is a cosmic jerk.  If He’s not there (which is what I suspect), than I was just wasting my time.  Either way, it was a waste of time.

I have many more thoughts on the subject, but I’m too tired and emotional to continue…but I will.  I must, because although the truth sucks rotten eggs sometimes, it’s better than living a lie. Whether I like it or not, this is my truth.