Monday, September 15, 2008

Do You Know the Secret?

"The Holy Spirit's working there," Gary Cheney told me as Andy Anderson and I prepared to go visit a couple whose home was being repaired as part of last weekend's ShareFest event. Not sure what to expect, we arrived at the tiny white ranch house and were invited in by owner Tom Green. He led us to the living room where a volunteer was at work adding insulation around an exterior door which had been installed the year before.

"In the winter, our door used to breathe," Kathleen giggled, describing how the plastic they used to block drafts would move in and out as the cold wind blew. I smiled, responding immediately to Kathleen's sparkling brown eyes, rosy cheeks, melodic voice and tinkling laugh. Such humor in such a humorless situation.

As I interviewed and Andy filmed, we learned that Kathleen had discovered ShareFest through a friend on the Prayer Line at St. Jude Church. She said that she was just filled with gratitude at the way God was providing for her and her husband in their time of need, a time that would make all of my problems seem petty and insignificant. It turns out that Kathleen used to be a nurse and worked fulltime from her late teens on. Yet 7 or so years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and had to quit work. Shortly after that, her husband lost his lifelong job when his plant shut down. Somewhere in there they had to put their now-24-year-old daughter in a nursing home in Joliet due to mental illness. "It's not very nice there," Kathleen confided, "but what choice do we have? We can't take care of her here." And not too long after that, her husband Tom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Their home, like their bodies, began to fall into a state of disrepair, and with neither the finances nor the physical ability to fix the problems, life (on the surface) went from bad to worse.

But then, things began falling into place. A friend mentioned ShareFest. Connections started being made. Contractor Doug Slusarski walked into the picture with an engaging smile and a servant's heart. "We're just so blessed," Kathleen beamed. "Only God could orchestrate all these people coming together this way." One need after another began to be taken care of, and Tom and Kathleen's insurmountable To Do list began to shrink.

"The Holy Spirit's definitely at work," added Tom. "You gotta trust that Jesus did not leave us alone. You just have to be thankful for the glorious gift of life, appreciate everything that he's (God) placed here for you and marvel at all he's given you."

In that moment, I had no doubt that I was seeing the reflection of God in this sweet, suffering couple. And, as we left, God's voice followed, whispering in my ear: "Are you paying attention, daughter of mine? Do you know the secret yet?"

I hope I do. I pray I do. I'm greatly encouraged by Paul's words in Philippians 4:12..."I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who makes me strong." Yet every now and then, I need a little reminder that God is good, all the time, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as I should live in him. How about you?

Do you know the secret yet?

Mission:Possible Challenge. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to live out Goal 2 of New Life Church's mission to connect people to God and to one another for their "New Life in Christ"...Goal 2 requires relying on the Bible as our foundation for life. So open your Bible to the New Testament and read more on the secret in Philippians 4:4-13. Take some time to reflect on how God has helped you or can help you with the struggles in your life. Spend time with God in prayer, asking for his wisdom to understand his will for your life and the courage to act on that will and live a life worthy of the one to which God has called you. Amen!

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