Sunday, February 12, 2012
Did I get your attention with that title? However, no reflections on menopause. This week I went on a pilgrimage – one I take every year to the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. This venerable institution sits on a pricey piece of real estate on LaSalle in Chicago – the heart of the Gold Coast. However, it predates those wealthy landowners hoping for a glimpse of Lake Michigan who purchase surrounding properties. It was established by portly and passionate evangelist Dwight Moody in the 1880s. His heart for the city and the world established a presence which has sent waves of young people, generations of missionaries, pastors, preachers, teachers, musicians, authors, broadcasters and even pilots into the world, offering hope for revival in the name of Christ.
I never stop feeling a sense of reverence as I first step foot on the campus – the feeling that I am on holy ground. The students look like those on any campus in the United States, though perhaps a bit more clean-cut, and clear-eyed. However, they have chosen a unique educational focus, for ministry intent of some kind is a prerequisite of admission. For five days every February they welcome visitors – pilgrims – from around the world to join them as we sit together under the best Christian teaching available and worship together, singing a blend of the old music of the faith, and the latest in melodic biblical hymnody.
Every message – two in the morning and two in the afternoon on the Moody campus, and a rousing evening revival at the Moody Church – is delivered with clarity, to instruct and inspire. This year, among many lessons, I learned from Ravi Zacharias that surprisingly, Truth is not enough. There is a second need if we are to have impact – relevance. From Eric Moore, I was reminded that we focus so much on a busy life that we forget simply to be. He said we become human “doings,” instead of human beings. From David Papillion, a current student and powerful evangelist of the future, I learned about Jephthah in the Old Testament, who was confident in his own abilities to the point that he didn’t trust his faithful God, and in the end, suffered the terrible personal loss of his beloved daughter.
There were other wonderful moments, too many to tell – as well as the brief foreknowledge of what heaven is like in the singing together with other pilgrims and students, this year from the vantage point of the front row of the balcony. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also share the delightful human joys of sharing the trip with Carolyn, my boon companion, as we delighted in the comfort of the Hotel Indigo, which offers their rooms to Moody pilgrims for a paltry $89, when they generally run $250 and up; the special 3rd Coast, three buildings away, which is part diner, part neighborhood bar, and all welcoming, nurturing and delicious, whether breakfast, lunch, dinner or a bedtime cab after a shivery, snowy walk back from the Church along Chicago streets.
The blessing of attending Founder’s Week at the Moody Bible Institute never grows old – and neither does the challenge to take such a time into the year, not simply being fed, but feeding others – offering God’s love as students have been doing for generations on the Chicago streets and in far-flung corners of the world. What a privilege, what a call.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Tiptoeing into the dark room, I thought Helen would be asleep. To my surprise, when I reached her bedside she was staring at the wall. When I called her name quietly, she turned and looked at me. "Hi, Helen. How nice to see you again. Since you are awake, I'd like to visit for awhile." Helen has end stage Alzheimer's. I began singing in my softest voice, "Abide With Me."
Dorothy was awake in her wheel chair in the t.v. room. But her head was down as if she were staring at the floor. She wasn't alone. There were many others either asleep, or looking distantly around them. Some were watching t.v. The aid told me that I could take Dorothy to her room. I did. Speaking ever so softly to the top of her head, I said, "Hi, Dorothy. I've come to sing some of your favorite hymns. Perhaps you'd like to sing with me." Dorothy also has end stage Alzheimer's.
These dear, precious women appear to be trapped inside their bodies and perhaps they are, but maybe not. I don't know how Jesus reaches in and grabs their hearts, minds, and souls, but I must do what I can to encourage and comfort them. Singing to them comforts them like singing a lullaby to a baby comforts it. They listen. When the singing stops they grow fitful and restless until it starts again, or they fall asleep.
There are stories in the Bible about those who were trapped. One is the story of the Healing of the Boy With the Evil Spirit. Though the disciples tried they could not drive out the the spirit. This boy could not hear words of comfort when possessed. He could not express himself. Frustrated with His disciples, Jesus rebukes them and then turns to the boy's father. The Father is unsure Jesus can help. Jesus tells him everything is possible for him who believes. And then the famous outcry, "I do believe. I do believe. Help me with my unbelief!" Immediately, Jesus heals the boy. What happened? Faith happened. And Jesus said, "This kind come out only by prayer." The disciples did not understand. The evil spirit understood and left the boy.
The other is Acts 19:13-16 when some went around driving out evil spirits invoking the name of Jesus when they were actually pretenders who knew nothing about Jesus at all. The evil spirits did. One even said so. When called to come out by these counterfeiters the spirit said, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"
While personal to me in my situation this may be applicable to those of you who face similar situations. Disease is evil. But all evil is under God's control and can be used for His good purposes. I may presume on God's grace, or doubt His power, but fresh grace and power are just a prayer away. I do not have the power to comfort these women. All I can do is pray that Jesus will give me what we need each time I am with them. I never, ever have God's power in my control. I need Him anew every day. I must never, ever forget to pray before I try to help.