Tag Archives: prayer

When winds turn turbulent the One who calms storms is still Lord! Wave after wave buffeted the hull of Noah’s ark, yet all mankind still descends from his sons. Joseph, though tormented in dungeons, still brought to bear his ministry of deliverance for Israel. Persecuted and scattered, Christ’s own disciples wondered if they’d come so far for nothing, yet they sit as fathers of the Church. “In his heart a man plots his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV 1984). Special waypoints confirm themselves, but the steps in between call for faith in the One who set the stars.

When winds turn turbulent the One who calms storms is still Lord!

In July, I reported a miracle of God’s providence when He landed me an unimaginable job ("Nurse Todd takes a Job"). The Lord planted me in an intensive care unit when I had never dreamed of asking for such a distinction. Since then, I have toiled, wrestled, grieved, and strived, only to find myself involuntarily moved to another assignment less demanding. I grieve the loss of the work family I developed in the ICU, and the blow to my pride since I can no longer say, “I am an ICU nurse.” I would be remiss, however, to think that such was never His will. Any one of the patients I’ve served, the families I’ve comforted, the coworkers I’ve encouraged, the complex health issues I’ve studied, the severe situations I’ve experienced, or even this recent lesson in humility I’ve been dealt could be reason enough for me to have been brought through this season.

I can no longer say, “I am an ICU nurse.”

I well remember that a missionary is not called to do what is easy, but what is necessary. That very notion has helped me to make a decision about where to plant my next footfall. Given the option of a sparklingly attractive job in predictable, routine orthopedics or a more clinically demanding medical-surgical unit, I have opted for the latter and have already joined the ranks of my new work family. They seem to be happy to receive me and, only two days in, I’ve already had an opportunity to make an impact on patients and coworkers alike.

a missionary is not called to do what is easy, but what is necessary

I am learning that the key to living through loss with grace is gratitude. I am grateful for the knowledge that God is sovereign over my circumstances and has a plan for me. I am grateful that my end destination is not God’s only plan, but that every stepping stone en route is no less carefully designed and appointed. I am grateful for relationships built, experiences had, and ministry opportunities capitalized. Today, I honestly thanked God for the lesson in humility represented by my reassignment. I don’t need to know what lies ahead to trust the Navigator.

the key to living through loss with grace is gratitude

Whether you are experiencing turmoil in your life or not, I hope you will remember that the Master of the waves and wind is also the Architect of your soul, sinews, and senses, and He will plant your every step if you surrender your course to His will. That said, I cannot overstate the value of faithful encouragement. The words of my friends through this have really propped me up when I needed it. My hope is that every child of Christ has a family of encouragement to prop them up. The entire purpose of the Church is to glorify God by caring for one another in the manner Christ taught us.

the Master of the waves and wind is also the Architect of your soul, sinews, and senses

Where the Lord guides the Lord provides. The battles to which He brings us are His to win, while the orders of a spiritual warrior are to “pray without ceasing,” “be still and know,” and “after all, to stand.” When those battles have to do with health, we are further instructed:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14, NIV)

It is in response to these orders that I write this update, which may err on the side of overshare since my recent prayer concerns are of a physical nature. You may remember I alluded to some of this in September's post.

For the last couple years I have endured minor pain and stiffness in my back, but dismissed it as merely part of nearing fifty. It turns out that aging is not supposed to hurt and pain really is an alarm for something amiss. After many sessions with my doctors and an MRI machine, it has been revealed that I have a lower spine issue that requires intervention. I have had two lumbar epidural steroid injections and have been going to physical therapy in hopes that surgical spinal fusion can be avoided. At the same time, another pain symptom in my groin, which green-flagged my start to the doctor after all this ignored pain, has proven to be an inguinal hernia, for which I have been referred to a surgeon. Each of these issues has brought warnings not to lift heavy objects, difficult orders to obey when one is a new nurse on an intensive care unit.

A good military commander will not attack merely one front, but will overwhelm an enemy with flanking maneuvers from all sides possible, and Satan is a crafty destroyer. So it is with my family recently. My physical concerns come at a time when I am also under the pressure of an extended orientation at work. Having failed to achieve satisfactory progress in critical decision-making necessary to remain in the ICU, I risk being reassigned to another new unit where I may have to learn everything anew. On other fronts, someone very dear to me faces the news of a cancer diagnosis, my parents are addressing their own health problems, and so on and etcetera.

I am reminded that the Lord has crafted His handiwork, and the maintenance of our bodies is a shared stewardship. While I should care for His temple with the diligence of one loaned an antique car, I also have to remember that He is the Chief Mechanic and Great Physician. We are called to pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, because the will of God is not the rule on this dirt world. God gave authority over this world to Adam, and man has been running the way of sin, decay, and death ever since. The Son of God and Son of Adam, Yeshua (Jesus), was born to combine the power of Heaven with the authority of Earth, and we as heirs were given permission to wield that powerful authority with prayer. It is precisely this miraculous combination that we celebrate at Christmas and, as Christians, every day in prayer. Thank you for fortifying my position with your prayers. My hope is for full remission after my loved one's treatments are complete, that I may be spared spinal surgery, and that a hernia repair will not interfere with my new job.

I am an ICU nurse by the will and design of God - the Lord of Heaven’s armies, and He will resource my development. For where the Lord guides, He provides!

Copyright © 2015 HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

I confess I am much like the Israelites delivered from Egyptian slavery. A few days in the wilderness with Moses, and they seemed to forget the mountains of water between which they walked across the Red Sea on dry land, and instead began whining about where their next meal might come from. Here I am, a new graduate from nursing school, draped in honor cords, after repeatedly begging for deliverance from what seemed like countless narrow brushes with disastrous failure. My feet are dry and the fish are watching my onward march from the confines of their heaping habitat. No sooner have I heard the crashing of the waves behind me before I’ve turned my eyes to peer past the pillar of fire and smoke to what lies ahead.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced... (1 Chronicles 16:12, NIV)

How will I pass the nursing boards? Where will I work? Who will hire a middle-aged man when there are so many young kids graduating with me? Why did my first-choice hospital pass me over? Why haven’t I heard back from the other recruiters? How did s/he land a job ahead of me?

What is this manna? Did you lead us out here to die? When will we get some meat? Surely we were better off as Egypt’s slaves than being stuck in this wilderness!

“…remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability…” (Deuteronomy 8:18a, NIV)

As it turns out, God is already doing new and wonderful things. Allow me to share a miraculous demonstration of His undeserved goodness:

I was invited to apply for a nursing job about which I was eager but mysteriously uneasy. It seemed perfectly tailored to me with elements of corrections, addiction, and youth all rolled into a low-stress environment which was even conducive to continuing education. It tempted me with its apparent answer to my ongoing question: “Why would God make a nurse out of a retired police officer?” The drawbacks were that it would not give me much clinical nursing experience and it seemed like a step back toward law enforcement rather than forward into nursing. I prayed with friends at church about it, that God would make the right decision obvious, and that a clear “Gideon’s fleece” would be if the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. The next day, I woke up horribly dizzy (a condition that passed in about 6 hours and was likely related to a recent sinus surgery). When I contacted my friend to postpone our meeting about the job, she informed me that there was no rush to meet because the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. Soaked fleece identified! The job is not for me. Out of respect for my friend and her invitation, I proceeded a few days later to meet at the rehabilitation facility where she affirmed in several ways that, while this was a good paying job and a wonderful ministry, it was not a place to build the experiential nursing skills I will need to be a productive missionary nurse.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

The very next day, at precisely 3:06pm, my friend and pastor sent me a text inquiring about my health. I shared with him the details of my progress and the soaked fleece story. He responded prayerfully, “Ok God, send Todd the next test on your agenda.”

At 3:24, only eighteen minutes later, I received a call from a recruiter who represents my first-choice hospital, one I had been informed had passed me over. She informed me that, if I was still interested and not turned off by the prospect of night shift, she had a spot open for me. We scheduled an interview for later this week, and I am over the moon with excitement about the prospect. Other options continue to become available, and I am reminded that, whether I get the whole picture of the destination on the horizon or am blinded by the blazing cloud in front of me, the One in the pillar is directing my steps and I have nothing to fear.

I do believe, Lord Jesus! Help me overcome my unbelief. *

"And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.”  - Florence Nightingale

“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. …How quickly they turned away from the path of their ancestors, who had walked in obedience to the Lord’s commands.” Judges 2:10, 17b NLT

I am ashamed to confess that my faith is like multiple generations of the Israelites who, even after deliverance from Egyptian slavery, began to doubt that God would do the next good thing. Just like those who walked across the Red Sea on dry land, I have come out of a bondage and through terrors all my own, only to stand in my current wilderness wondering what's next. I have no doubt that He can do a new, good thing or that He is sovereign over my every circumstance and condition, but I still find myself doubting that I would be the recipient of any more of His wonders. I know it is the religious prejudice in me that judges myself as unworthy of God's delight, but it is a profoundly deafening voice. I need to constantly recall that, through Jesus Christ, God's answer to me is not "If, then," "either, or," or even "maybe," but "yes and amen!"

The storm of nursing school has swirled to a single funneling cloud and it looms over this week, slurping up hope and spitting out turbulence that obscures my vision of deliverance. I remember Peter, who began to sink when he "saw the wind and waves" (Matthew 14:30), and I'm trying to keep my eyes on the Savior rather than my carnal condition, but the stinging surf laps at my ankles and the blistering winds blast my face. 

Plotting a course through my obstacles feels like naming the winds and waves I see, but trusting God to get me past them requires I let go of my illusion of control and perfection concerning them. It also counts as prayer requests when I meter and chart them for you my prayer supporter. So know that this week is a torrential beast. On Tuesday I see a dermatologist to have several precancerous (actinic keratosis) lesions removed from my face. On Wednesday I take our unit exam. Then Thursday I will sit for the standardized nursing school exit (Hesi) exam, which determines whether I graduate and am eligible to sit for the national licensure (NCLEX) exam in about four weeks. Following that, we have our final exam next Wednesday, and the celebratory proceedings including the nurses' pinning ceremony on May 8th and college commencement on the 11th. 

...through Jesus Christ, God's answer to me is not "If, then," "either, or," or even "maybe," but "yes and amen!"

I am surrounded by classmates, some of whom face this week without the advantage of knowing a Savior who has their future in His hands, some who do, and others like me who do but have a hard time keeping Him in view amid the thick, dark, cloudy demands of nursing school. I pray for them faithfully, even when I am too overwhelmed to pray for myself. I do so hope to encourage and inspire them rather than capsize anyone's already unsteady vessel!

This spiritual swamping is why I need friends like you on stable footing to throw out lifelines and prayer from dry land. I covet your intercession and thank you for your support. God bless you as you read, as you pray, and as you go into your own mission field of life, spilling out grace that overflows.

God has been correcting my attitude of trepidation that keeps His joy from being complete in me and limits my effect on others while I trudge through Nursing School. Since the last of four terms in the Associate Degree program starts tomorrow, it is a good time to address this.

I have addressed many in crisis, often in the wake of trauma, and one of the pearls I share in such times is that trauma, whether physical or emotional, causes the human body and mind to focus on self as a preservation mechanism. We need to expect it, address it, let it do its job of preserving our lives, then overcome it so interpersonal relationships aren’t overwhelmed and capsized by the experience. An example of this is the warrior shot in battle who loses peripheral sensation, manual dexterity, complex reasoning, and many other functions as the body focuses all its resources on the wound and survival from it. An emotional example is the grief shared by a family when a central member is lost. While each party recoils from the bereavement, their interpersonal sensitivity and capacity for consideration is shunted in a preserving mechanism of self-interest. Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds. Any who attempt to settle a relative’s estate while empathy is in such an impaired condition soon witness the self-serving effects of this biophysical reaction as an attitude of “every man for himself” prevails in such proceedings, often destroying family relationships.

Even as blood flow is redirected from extremities to a bullet wound, thought energy is redirected at surviving emotional wounds.

I am discovering it is similar for those in the tumultuous realm of Nursing School, where fear of failure makes every experience one of perceived trauma. It is something like teetering on a high balance beam when you’ve stumbled once already. Every muscle quakes with the trembling awareness that another slip may send you crashing. Every communique from the faculty seems to impale a student’s spirit with the same advice: “Try not to worry, but if you screw this up you’re out!” It is about as helpful as the dubious advice, “Don’t look down!” to one scraping for their lives on a rock face. I’m tired of looking down and worrying about what happens if the unknown ahead of me is unfavorable. The immutable truth is that God will still be on His throne, and I will still be His no matter what happens. So what is there to worry about? Nothing! (Someone please remind me this in twenty minutes.) God is fashioning me into a nurse. It is not an overnight process. He might be done in four terms and He might take longer. Either way, I will be answering His call to “become a nurse” so I’m fulfilling my part. The rest is to be diligent and live out my calling as a missionary while I’m at it, rather than waiting for some far off day when I am somehow magically transfigured into something I haven’t been.

To grow into tomorrow’s version of me, I have to be today’s best version. That may mean letting go of a lot of yesterdays worth of dysfunctional living, but it most certainly means letting God do the whittling and plastering instead of insisting that I get to be art, artist, and architect. His ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts, and neither is His timing mine. That’s the tough part of servanthood: doing what the Master says instead of what I want; letting the results be His design and not mine; allowing Him to fret over the details instead of me. I don’t have a dog in this hunt; I am the dog in this hunt!

One of the ways I plan to accomplish this revolution of attitude is a new way of thinking. When I start my morning reading Scripture and praying, it is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance (especially when reading Old Testament Scripture). God is showing me that I have no business remaining on the floor of repentance once it has done its work. He longs to lift me into His lap if I will but stand in His grace and allow Him access to lift me. Still, we worms have great difficulty standing with no feet to stand on. That is why I plan to limit my morbid reflection to that which is necessary to lead me to Holy Papa’s throne of repentance then, without delay, move into a receptive attitude to receive His grace, declare my royal priesthood, and don His heavenly character with the authority and confidence of one purchased at high price.

It is easy to get stuck in the “such a worm as I” soundtrack that so often accompanies repentance...

This morning, I invited my bride to join me in such a celebration as we took the Lord’s Supper together. The sacraments do have significant power to change spirit, emotion, and attitude! Even as the elements were blessed, those words of affirmation began to have effect.
Furthermore, I was reminded that, since we will be called to account for every idle word, I need to be more careful of the words I say, the thoughts I think, and the postures I assume. Each has a bearing on my faith, and I refuse to be hung by the tongue.

I am. I can. I have. I will!

  • I am a child of God, dearly loved, highly prized, and purchased at great price; a warrior, prince, and priest by Jesus’ declaration and Holy Spirit power.
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can say to that mountain, “Be moved,” and watch it march into the sea.
  • I have the dominion of Adam, the blood of Jesus Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the favor of Holy Father who supplies my every need.
  • I will seek God’s will for me and follow it with all I am, have, and do. I will cease to give evil a foothold in my life by doubting, worrying, or fearing those things over which I know God is already sovereign.

I am. I can. I have. I will!

What about you?

OverwhelmSo much has happened! In the blur, I have not written much while school was in session. If anyone wants to recover from perfectionism, just go to Nursing School!

This last session was a snarling grizzly bear from which I only narrowly escaped by the grace of God. I am reminded that while God said, “Become a nurse,” He didn’t call me to get straight As or maintain my place on the President’s List. It’s a good thing! After failing three of the six written tests of the past seven weeks, I will scrape by with what I calculate to be the lowest passing grade plus two and a fraction points. God is capitalizing even the scary moments of overwhelm to His glory, and refining my  character by and in the process. He reminded me that He, and He alone, can only be as consistent as perfection, and that my part is to get out of my own way and lean into trust. Every obstacle ends with His sovereignty - every one!

“Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalms 131:2 NLT

Let me share some highlights of my recent clinical rotations that I found affirming. Those I served were highly complimentary, many remarking that I was the most caring healthcare worker they had ever met. I silently hoped no one told them how new I was, and I met each instance with the prayer that I would always maintain the focus to make each person I deal with the most important thing to me at that moment. In the operating room from behind a surgical mask, I learned the power of touch and the communication of the eyes, as I watched sheer terror on the face of an 80 year-old man melt away with just a smile, a reassuring word, and a hand held. Rather than just observing, I made myself a part of the surgical team that day, and each member expressed what I believe was genuine regret at seeing me go and commended my compassionate fitness for Nursing. My medical-surgical patients bonded with me, and often saw me as their point of contact, even though I was shadowing a supervising nurse at all times. It was a strange and wonderful feeling when, even in a room full of more qualified healthcare professionals, a patient sought me for support and comfort while the others addressed her care. I was permitted to pray with some patients, and readily capitalized the opportunity. A nursing assistant who observed my work on the medical-surgical block asked me if I was also a missionary, then said the reason for her question was, “You just seem like someone who would be a missionary.” I can’t tell you what a pat on the shoulder from Holy Father that was!

Mental Health ChecklistWith all the struggling in the classroom and the affirmation of the clinical practice, the biggest changes over the last seven week session have actually been in my personal growth. God is teaching me how better to pray: to take the dominion He gave Adam (Mankind), combine it with the authority of Jesus’ name, and call for God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it. Furthermore, I am reminded that I cannot expect to treat everyone as the most important thing to me in their moment without treating my precious bride with the same priority at least daily. So much gets brushed aside in preference of the business at hand, what is important gets neglected. I need to make the priority of marital unity an intentional part of my day. Last, and perhaps most altering, is the recognition that the sinister voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough or I won’t measure up, is a mental foothold of Satan that has no business in the mind of a blood-bought child of God. Man’s dominion of Earth begins in the individual mind.

I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it.

And so, I close with this prayer I prayed for a hurting sister recently. It stirred my spirit so much, I wept over it and her; and as I reread it discovered it was exactly what I would pray for myself or any of my siblings in Heaven’s family, including you just now:

May the Master of the universe calm your storms. May you see past your wind and waves, to visualize His face guiding your path. May the water at your ankles serve to remind you that the Creator of their molecules also ordered yours to have dominion over this dark world; that you are highly esteemed by Him, betrothed to be delivered from the veil that now obscures your true reality: you are vibrantly alive in a world dusty with the ashes of death - you are destined for a royalty that will never tarnish, corrode, or decay. May the sufferings of this dirt world remind you that you have died to it and are merely preparing to be at home in holiness. May every moment of pain be capitalized as motivation for compassion when, in future moments, you discover another weary soul feebly crossing through their shadowy valleys of fear, anxiety, and despair. May your kindness and gentleness be evidences of God's grace working through you, for His purposes and by His providence. May you live to see this dark day as one in which you turned another revolution of renewal. As seasons ring the pulp of a tree, so may your experiences leave their mark on your spiritual growth. May God grant you, now and always, knowledge of His will for you, resource to carry it out, and faith to see His hand at work for His purposes in Christ Jesus our Redeemer-King, amen!

20140728-132653-48413388.jpg
Photo credit: Samaritan's Purse

As I prepare for service as a minister of health on the African continent I am particularly disturbed by news of the Ebola virus epidemic that has gripped much of West Africa. Dr. Kent Bradley, an American physician working with Samaritan's Purse to fight the Ebola outbreak, has contracted the disease. Please pray for him, for all the workers, the lives to which they minister, the lives to which they might not have the opportunity, the continent of Africa, and for the abundant life of Christ to come to all people. Hundreds have already died from this outbreak, including about fifty healthcare workers.

Please pray against this microscopic protein, but pray against spiritual forces that are using it to steal, kill, and destroy. The Name of Jesus is bigger than the African continent, bigger than the globe this disease threatens, and bigger than evil itself.

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." (Colossians 4:2, ESV)

While we wrestle in prayer, let us not become so distracted even by our God-given passions that we fail to come against the powers that threaten Israel at this very hour also.

Read more about Dr. Kent Bradley at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/samaritans-purse-doctor-serving-in-liberia-west-africa-tests-positive-for-ebola/

20140727-020945-7785155.jpgGod gave Man dominion, but Man passed on it.

In Genesis 1:28, as God was giving Adam his basic operating instructions, He declared that mankind was to rule over the earth, to subdue it, to master all the wildlife and produce of the entire planet. The next time we hear from Adam, he's ducking responsibility, pointing blame at Eve and at God Himself, saying (and I paraphrase Genesis 3:12), "That woman You gave me - she did it!"

From that point on, Man was separated from God, but Man's job was still the same: exercise mastery over all the earth. I've been thinking about this with regard to prayer.

I know that praying brings no news to an omniscient God. He knows what we need, want, and think before we do, even interceding on our behalf when we don't know what to pray (Romans 8:26). I also understand that there is significant power in calling things that are not as though they are (Romans 4:17), in the exercise of faith, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews11:1). Jesus cautioned His followers not to be "like the babbling pagans" (Matthew 6:7), but still taught them to persist as the relentless petitioner appealing to a judge (Luke 18:1). His instruction was for private, but repeated prayer.

So I have this dilemma: if God doesn't need me to tell Him what to do, and my prayers don't constitute His laundry list anyway, why does He want me to pray at all? There is something about me bringing my will under His that is hugely significant, but that just is not enough of an answer for me anymore. I am growing to believe that there is a link between prayer and our original mandate of dominion.

God's will is done in Heaven but not on earth unless it is called for as in Jesus' example (Matthew 6:10). We are promised that when we ask anything according to the Father's will He hears us and we have what we ask (1 John 5:14-15). When things are awry on Earth then, who is at fault? God, who said there was going to be trouble as long as we inhabit Earth (John 16:33); or Man, who was given dominion but keeps handing it over in preference for convenience, time management, other priorities, entertainment, and just plain apathy?

Even Jesus declared that the devil is a temporary "prince" of this world (John 14:30), but God gave mastery of Earth to us. We have a responsibility to assert our dominion, and, since Eden's fall, prayer is our only remaining connection with God, whose power we utilize for that purpose.

The condition of the world is evidence enough that Mankind is derelict in his duty of prayerful dominion. I have decided that prayer must be a priority, and not just the kind that realigns my spirit with God's, but intercessory, reach out and grab the globe by its horns and shake the devil off his strongholds kind of prayer.

Who's with me?

Caveat: one way I know I'm on to something is the spiritual attacks on me and my household have been intense lately. Be prepared. If you assume this role of prayer warrior and Heaven ambassador, then get ready for the smear campaign.