Living With Adversity: The 12 Step Process. Step 3: Don’t Give Up On God

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”–Deuteronomy 31:6

“And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20

He never gave up on me. I should never give up on Him. There were times when I thought that my diagnosis was so horrible that God had forsaken me and what was worse, punishing me for past and present sins. It is a horrible feeling to feel forsaken. The fear and terror that you are all alone in the world can be overwhelming. No one there to take care or watch over you.

When we were living down in Texas as a boy we traveled to Mexico for a little vacation. We went to Monterrey and were on our way back. We were about to cross over the border and there were a line of cars about a mile long from the shops on the Mexico side of the border to the border. My little mind started to wonder (I was 12 at the time and a persistent little brat), I wanted to buy a souvenir so I could show it off to my friends back home so I begged and begged and begged my mom and dad to just let me look and buy something really quickly, in one the shops across the street and I would run back as fast as I could before the line got to the border. Now before you blame my parents for anything, remember that they could see me cross the street and I could wave from inside the shop. And back in those days, Mexico was very safe tourist place, and I was the kind of boy who could not sit still even at home. I would go out and ride my bike around the block or go off with friends for hours at a time. We could be kids back then. Today, everyone is afraid to out to the neighborhood and wonder around because you just don’t know what is going to happen.

So I went to the shop and found a pretty cool souvenir (a replica of a bull’s head on a small mount that I could nail to the wall), and when I came out I did not see the car. So I didn’t panic, I just started walking pretty fast so I could make sure I could see the car. I walked and walked and walked and didn’t see them and I got the border and still didn’t see them. So I started running back again to make sure I didn’t miss them. Still no car. I run back up to the border and look for the car and still no car. Now I begin to panic, “Oh, Oh! Now what am I going to do?” I started to imagine every bad thing that possibly happen to me: I am going to become this beggar boy for the rest of my life! It’s a horrible feeling of overwhelming helplessness! What am I going to do? “God. Help me.”

Then I hear my name being called from a distance. “Vance! Vance” and my heart starts to beat fast! I start looking around, where is that coming from? “Vance, Vance.” I look carefully all the way down the line of cars. Still nothing. “Vance. Vance.” I start running towards the border again and as I get closer I hear it louder and louder. Now I could tell it was my mother’s voice. “Vance! Vance!” As I look across the border I can see her arms waving wildly back and forth, “Vance! Vance!” All of sudden my heart jumped for joy, “Mom!!” I ran as fast I could and the agent let me through, because I was on my mother’s passport and could not speak a word of Spanish. I ran and hugged my mom so hard!

Somehow the line began to speed up right after I went into the store and she kept looking back to make sure I was still there. I thought less time had gone by, and had wondered around the store longer then she had anticipated but when they got out and waited and waited to see me and nothing. When she finally saw me running closer to the border she started to yelling and screaming at the top of her lungs until she caught my attention.

The one thing I could be sure of was no matter what happened, my mother was going to find me one way or another. I could rest assured that she would leave no stone unturned until we reunited. And that was an incredible feeling of relief when I did happen. Our Father in Heaven is never going to leave me nor forsake me no matter how bad I feel! We sometimes think that our sins are so bad or our life is so terrible that He cannot possibly love us. But that is what the devil wants us to think so that we give up on God, Who is always looking out for us and wants to connect with us again. But we have hear His voice and let Him came back into our lives. Jesus says,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with Me.” — Revelation 3:20

Jesus was standing at the door of my heart and mind but I was not letting Him come in. Anybody else would have given up and left. But He didn’t. He kept knocking and knocking and knocking. When I finally let Him back in we communed together and it was absolutely marvelous reunion!! I am sure that in the New Earth, He will probably share all the times He called for me and that I would not listen. He’ll show me that no matter how many times I was ready to give up on Him, He never gave up on me!

No matter what adversities you may be going through in your life, don’t give up on God! Satan will to to tell you that your being punished for sins, past or present, and you are not worthy of His love, mercy or compassion. Reject those thoughts and remember that He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you, He will be with always even to the end of ages. He is knocking at your door. Let Him so He can eat with you and You with Him.

Prayer

Thank you Father, for never leaving me nor forsaking me even when I thought You did. Thank You for knocking at my door until I opened. I ask that whenever Satan tries to tell me that I am not worthy of You, let me remember that Jesus died for all my sins, past, present and future and His love and mercy cover me, now and everyday. In Jesus name, Amen.

20111126-084750.jpg

Living With Adversity: The 12 Step Process: Step 2. Read, Read, Read.

Step 2: Read, Read, Read.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” — John 17:17

This important passage is taken from a prayer that Jesus is praying to the Father. He is asking Him to keep His disciples safe; to protect from the world and the attacks of the devil. What I love about this passage is the fact that Jesus is teaching me that the only way I can be sanctified and protected is through reading God’s Word and keeping it in my heart. His Word purifies and sanctifies me. Every time I lose my way or stray from God, I can guarantee it has something to do with not reading His Word. I start doing other things that I think are important and before you know I am not reading the Word. And it always takes trials and adversities to bring me back. But the truth I should have never departed from the Word of God and His promises!

I love to read but I was reading all the wrong things or I was watching TV to get my news everyday. I am a news junkie and once I get started I can’t stop. But this was only depressing me. That and the fact that I was not eating or sleeping well, which I will touch upon as well later. Now I have limited my news time to just a few minutes a day and I start and end my day reading God’s Word along with inspirational books. It makes a huge difference!

Here are a list of a few authors who have inspired me through the years, along with God’s Word: Philip Yancey, Henri Nouwen, Randy Alcorn,  Ellen White, Norman Vincent Peale, and James Allen.

I have been reading a couple of intellectual books because I enjoy keeping my mind sharp but they don’t take the majority of time. I have several books on Creationism and worldviews and the only subscriptions I have are to Creationist Journals like: Journal of Creation, Answers in Genesis, and Creation. All of these are scientific literal six-day creationists and they help me to remember that I serve a Creator God. If you are Christian and your not starting and ending your day with God’s Word, then before you know you will give in here and compromise there, and finally fall. If no other reason do it to maintain a uplifting spirit.

Prayer:

“Father, forgive me for not reading Your Word on a daily basis like I should have. Now that I am, sanctify me through it and may it keep me pure. Use me to help others learn about it as well. In Your name. Amen.”

 

 

Living With Adversity: The 12 Step Process. Step 1: Pray, Pray, Pray.

Step 1: Pray, pray, pray.

“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He had finished, one of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’.” —  Luke 11:1

Here is a passage where Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray the Lord’s prayer. However, I really believe it should be called the Disciples’ Prayer because it is more about how we, his students, his disciples should pray. It teaches us in a very simple way that: God is Our Father, Our Provider, Our Protector, Our Sustainer, and Our Deliverer.

This is a very significant lesson for me because some I didn’t have much to say in prayer after my diagnosis. Everything is too foggy to be able to think  clearly in time of need. But this fantastic prayer has it all. As soon as I start praying it brings me peace, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, Our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil because thine is the Kingdom and the Glory, forever and ever. Amen”

Until the fog had cleared and the weight had been lifted that was the only prayer I could pray. I had to ask others to pray for me because I knew I could not do it by myself. Many times I didn’t have much to say but I tried saying something. I figured that something is better than nothing.

I know realize that it is vital to ask everyone who is a Christian to keep me in their prayers. Before I didn’t really think that much about it, know I realize that it’s my spiritual breath. I am especially aware of how important it is when I don’t feel like praying.

Prayer

“Father in Heaven, thank You for being my Father, my Provider, my Protector, my Sustainer, and my Deliverer. In You I trust. Amen.”

Grieving But with Hope

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” — I Thessalonians 4:13

Yesterday I had the opportunity and the blessing to be a part of one of our memorial services for VITAS. It gave everyone, including the staff, the opportunity to talk about their losses and about some of the fond memories they had about their father, brother, or husband or wife. And for the VITAS staff, especially those who have been there forever, it was the opportunity they had to be able to share what they were going through losing their patients. Everybody talked about the good and bad memories. One family member shared that her mom was “sassy” and had an “attitude” and when she said “yes” it was “yes” and when she said “no” it was “no”.

Our guest speaker at the service was a woman who had been a chaplain and head of the Bereavement Dept before I was working there. She had lost here husband just last year to pancreatic cancer and he happened to be on our team so I was able to get to know her a little while he was on the program. Her message was the first one she gave as a chaplain and as a bereaved widow. It was open and honest about the ups and downs of her loss. As a chaplain, she had the head knowledge and training to deal with death and dying throughout all those years she worked there. But as a person, she was having to face the same emotions her patients and their families had faced through their illness and the bereavement and loss after they died. Know she was having to practice what she preached, so to speak. And she was very open her journey. It was refreshing to hear her say that her husband was still there but off to the side where she could get to him if she needed to talk to him. One story she shared was about the taxes. He had always done the taxes. And she had begged him to teach her how to do them so that when he was gone, she could do them without worrying. This year dreading having to do them, she went to the file, opened it up and there was a piece of cardboard box with a step-by-step process of how to do them! How wonderful!

We all shared about our losses including myself. I talked about how blessed I had been that VITAS had been there for my father in his last moments when he passed away. He was in the Inpatient Unit and died with dignity and without suffering. When I first saw him, he was trying to get up out of bed and it seemed like he was saying “I love you” but it was to hard to understand because at this time all he could do was grumble and moan. It was impossible to understand him. It broke my heart to see him like that. He had always been a strong and vibrant man with a very clear mind. But he was lying in this bed unable to tell us what was bothering him. All he could do was moan. This is the horrible end of HD. It robs that person of any dignity at all. The person still has a mind but they can’t communicate. Alzheimer’s patients lose their memories of their loved ones and don’t remember who their are. HD patients know how their loved on is but after a while they can’t communicate. They also have a hard time chewing and swallowing their food. And usually they die from lung infection or pneumonia because water keeps getting into their lungs. In fact, my father had seen this in his family and he insisted on not putting any feeding tube at all or any other kind of artificial tubing because he did not want to prolong his  suffering, and I thank him for that because that was one decision we didn’t have to make.

He died peacefully on May 13th, 2001 at about 5 am. I remember the fact that it was Mother’s day. Not a very good Mother’s day for my mother at all. I had the privilege to officiate his memorial service where we remembered all the good this about him. I insisted that we put up pictures of his youth. Since he had been an architect we put drawings and pictures of projects he had designed. He was a big jazz fan and could tell us which song from which album was playing in the first few seconds of the song. He was a big fan of the movies as well and could tell you if a movie had won a Oscar and how many and who played in it. And of course he loved his family and was very proud of everyone of us. He was at my graduation from college when I got my Bachellor’s degree but was not able to make to my graduation for my Master’s degree because his health was already declining where he could not be present. But every time I would see him he would introduce me as “his son the pastor.”

Even though it was a difficult journey from the moment he had been diagnosed to the final moments of his death, I would not change one moment. At first I was very angry at God for allowing this to happen to one of the purest souls in the universe. Eventually I accepted the fact that he had HD and even thanked God for it because it would allow us to spend quality time and make some powerful memories together in the years to come. We knew he was declining but we treated him with respect and dignity as if he were still a part of our family. If he had died suddenly we would not have been able to build those memories together and we might have had some regrets about something we did or did not do. This way we intentionally focused on the relationship and we had plenty of time to say, “I love you” and make things right in the relationship that needed to be made right. One of the most remarkable demonstration of that was when, even though my parents had been separated for years, my mother felt it was her calling as a Christian and wife to take care of him until his death! And she did that with all the love a person could give to another human being. She selflessly gave of herself when she could have remarried and lived with someone else and enjoy the last years of her retirement traveling around the world like she deserved. But instead she sacrificed those eight long years by his side and for that we will always respect her and love her.

Now I have the opportunity to be blessed as well. I will be able to spend quality time building those wonderful memories with my family and friends as well. One of the sayings that has special meaning for me know is, “Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today.” The quality time I can spend with my loved ones is now. This is a principle we should all put to practice. Don’t wait for the doctor to show up with that horrible news that you have cancer or whatever it may be before you make things right with God and your family, do it now so that if moment does come you already have a relationship with your God and are creating wonderful memories with your loved ones.

I thank God for the time I had to spend with my father and the memories we were able to build after he was diagnosed with HD. And since I have the hope of Christ, I don’t grieve like those don’t because I know I will see him again and we will continue to build new memories in a New Earth without the Curse of pain and suffering, and death and dying!

Prayer

Thank You Father for giving me the gift of my earthly father who always loved me and encouraged me and who always taught me never to give up. Thank You for allowing this illness to come our way so that we could build some wonderful memories together and make amends in our relationship. I especially want to thank you for touching his heart and for him being open to listen to the gospel. Thank You for giving me this hope and knowing I will see him again in a new body on a New Earth, without pain or suffering; without death and dying and to build new memories with him forevermore.  In Your name, Amen.

A New Body and A New Mind

“Behold I tell you a mystery, ‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body put on immortality.” — I Corinthians 15:50-53

One of my biggest fears with HD is that I will not be able to use my mind as much as I would like to.  I love to read and write (well except all that handwritten paperwork for my job that looks more like chicken scratch than handwriting!). I have kept journals over the years sharing any experience that might have affected me that day. And I love to read and read and read, so much that I bought a kindle to download books in less than 60 seconds and be able to carry them with me where ever I want. As much as I like the kindle for being handy, it’s not like having one of those books in my hand. I have to confess that I am still ordering the printed versions. I love seeing those brown packages when I get home and being able to open it up and peruse through the entire book! That is definitely one of my weaknesses!

It gives me a lot of peace to know that when I do go to my rest in Lord, that the next thing I will see is the face of my Redeemer as Job said, in a glorified resurrected body with no more sin and no more problems. I don’t think I appreciated that fact when I was younger because we don’t think we will ever age or get sick. It’s only when we get older and got some end-stage illness like HD that we appreciate the fact we will not always be this way. My eyes will be able to see from one corner of the earth to another, I will be able to run and not run out of breath, I will be able climb any mountain without getting tired. My body won’t hurt or ache!! My mind will be so clear that I will be able to read whatever I want without forgetting anything. My mind will be able to create for the glory of God!

Being involved with church was giving me that wonderful mental boast that I needed so much because I am teaching a Sabbath School class and I have been able to preach one sermon since I have offered to help. The sermon I was able to share was called, “Living with Adversity: the 12 Step Process.” which I will share in the blogs to come. I was so blessed and I had so many people say, “please share that message in my church. I was so blessed that others need to hear it as well.” And I am definitely planning on it for the future.

I have decided for now to take a Sabbatical from teaching or preaching at this time so I can continue to write in my bio and put together a devotional dedicated to those going through difficult times. I want to write in this blog and that be turned in a 30 day or 365 day devotional that people could turn to for strength, specifically for those going through HD, as well as those going through any kind of end stage illness or trials and tribulations. The bio is a big project but I want to share those experiences with the world, especially those which made me the person I am today. To God be the glory!!

For now, my greatest fear is losing the capabilities of my mind and that will be the biggest prayer I have.

Prayer

Father, You know how fearful I am of not being able to use my mind. I ask that You keep it sharp for as long as I can read and write for You glory. After that let me have peace that I can be laid to rest knowing that one day, I will be raised up again but with a glorious sinless body and that glorious sinless mind. In Your Name, Amen.

In The Beginning….

“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” — Genesis 1:1

Here we are with the New Year and everyone has already made out their New Year’s resolutions and this time we are swearing by whatever means that we are going to change all those things that are wrong with ourselves. This year we are going to stop smoking, lose weight, stop drinking, change our attitudes, and finish all those projects we started last year or the year before.

This year my New Year’s resolution include things like exercising more, eating right,  and losing weight, especially because I got for Christmas, the Tower 200 (which I can hangs on my door), shadow boxing special belt, a step, and a pair of skechers shape up shoes (which apparently are so good that all I have to do is put them on and I lose weight!!). And more than likely I will do like most people do with all these things for maybe a month or two or three and stick with them but finally I’ll say, “I start tomorrow,” and then procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate.

One of my resolutions this year is to finish my bio and write a book drawing from this journal. Every year I say the same thing and every year I start well but I don’t get very far. This year I have more inspiration than ever to write.  I had written an email thanking Philip Yancey for all his writing during the years that have inspired me before and after receiving the news about HD. I knew the chances for him to respond were very slim because writers have people who screen their emails and letters so that their time can be managed well. But lo and behold I opened my email and found this:

“Your letter was a “grace note” of encouragement to me.  We writers work in isolation, with little idea of the impact of our work.  Responses like yours keep me going, and I thank you for taking the time and effort to write me.  I know some friends with Huntington’s Disease, and know the challenge you face.  May God give you the grace to do so, even as you continue to minister to others in the hospice.  My wife Janet worked as a hospice chaplain, and I have the utmost respect for what you’re doing.  Your words of encouragement move me deeply. Your ideas for a book sound great.   I don’t pretend to guess what may interest publishers, but I would recommend… For a small fee they analyze the publishability of a manuscript.  Some of these services are scams; this one is excellent.  I hope one day we both see your book in print.” — Philip Yancey

I couldn’t believe what I was reading!! Philip Yancey one of the greatest Christian writers of our time, took the time to thank me for my words of encouragement and share his hope that he would like to see my book in print!!! I looked and looked again to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I pinched myself, slapped myself. Yeah, I am awake and yes, this is the real deal. Even though I should be always be looking toward Heaven for all my inspiration and encouragement, God uses others to minister and encourage us.

I was beginning to wonder  whether this project of my book was going anywhere, especially with an extremely heavy case load of patients at work. VITAS is a great company to work for but the paperwork is a nightmare and can keep me up till the wee hours of the night. But that is just how the devil works: as long as he keeps us busy doing busywork even though it may be good things, he has accomplished his goal.

Well, why did I chose this passage for the New Year and does it have any relevance with my journey with HD? Does it matter what I believe concerning creation when it comes to my inherited gene from my dad?

I like the way Randy Alcorn presents the stories and how they relate to us personally today:

Either,

“(I  am) a descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm washed up on an empty beach three and half billion years ago and the blind and arbitrary product of time, chance, and natural forces. And a mere grab bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. And (I) exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe, and a purely biological entity, different only in degree but not in kind from microbe, virus, or amoeba. And have no essence beyond (my) body, and at death (I) will cease to exist entirely. In short, (I) came from nothing and am going nowhere.”

Or

“(I am) the special creation of a good and all-powerful God. I am created in His image, with capacities to think, feel and worship that set me above all other life forms. I differ from the animals not simply in degree but in kind. Not only in my kind unique, but I am unique among my kind. My Creator loves me so much and so intensely desires my companionship and affection that He has a perfect plan for my life. In addition, God has gave me His only Son that I might spend eternity with Him.  If I am willing to accept the gift of salvation, I can become a child of God.”

Which one of these stories of origins is more encouraging and hopeful to me in my journey with HD? Does the first story give me any hope that I am loved and that my life has a purpose? NO!! Does the second story encourage me and give hope as well as show me that Someone very special loves me and cares for me and wants me to know that my life has purpose and meaning, even with HD? Yes!!!

Which story do you prefer?

Prayer

“Father in Heaven, Thank for this New Year that You have given to me.  Help me to share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ. Please give me a blessed year, filled with faith, hope and love. Continue to use me to minister to my family, friends and hospice patients. Help me to start, and finish my bio so that others may encouraged and inspired by my story so that Your name will be honored.”

A New Heavens and a New Earth – Part 1

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband….He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. ” — Revelation 21: 1-2, 4.

Are there others who believe as we do in the concept of “a new heaven and a new earth” or we the only ones? Here are a few quotes that might convince you that we are not alone!

“The place (Heaven) is not an ethereal realm of disembodied spirits, because human beings are not suited for such a realm. A place is by nature physical, just as human beings are by nature physical. What we are suited for–what we are specifically designed for–is a place like the one God made for us: Earth.” — Randy Alcorn, Heaven, page xx.

“…God never gave up on His original plan for human beings to dwell on earth. In fact, the climax of history will be the creation of new heavens and a New Earth, a resurrected universe inhabited by resurrected people living with the resurrected Jesus (Revelation 21:1-4” — Randy Alcorn, Heaven, page xx.

Randy Alcorn is a best-selling author of the book called “Heaven,” who has reached thousands and thousands of people. His has done great Biblical research on this subject and has laid down a great foundation on it. I do not agree with all of his theology, which I will discuss that on later blogs. One of his greatest contributions on this subject is the fact that Creation itself is part of Christ’s redemption. Everything that has been affected by sin will be redeemed to it’s original status.

He has not been afraid to tackle some topics that have been tabu to talk about in theological circles. He pushes us to use our imagination without speculating.

Here is another one of his quotes:

“Satan hates the New Heaven and the New Earth as much as a deposed dictator hates the new nation and new government that replaces his. Satan cannot stop Christ’s redemptive work, but he can keep us from seeing the breadth and depth of redemption that extends to the earth and beyond. He cannot keep Christ from defeating him, but he can persuade us that Christ’s victory is only partial, that God will abandon his original plan for mankind and the earth.” — Heaven, pg. 11.

Doesn’t that sound just like a quote out of the Great Controversy? Here is another one:

“Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist. He need only convince us that Heaven is place of boring, unearthly existence. If we believe that lie, we’ll be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we’ll set our mind on this life and not the next, and we won’t be motivated to share our faith. Why should we share “the good news” that people can spend eternity in a boring, ghostly place that even we’re not looking forward to?” — Heaven, pg. 11

Prayer: I thank You Father for Christ’s atoning sacrifice for all mankind and beyond. Thank You for restoring us and redeeming us through Christ, to our original home: the New Earth. I look forward with great joy and anticipation our redeemed and resurrected home!