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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Get Up!

John 5: 2-9
The Message

Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people – blind, lame or paralyzed – lay on the porches.  One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”  “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up. 
While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me.” 
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!” 
Instantly, the man was healed!  He rolled up the mat and began walking! 

I had a hard time sleeping last night for some reason.  I laid there thinking about how far I’ve come and how far I have to go.  I thought about other people and how I wish I could do something to help them along in their own painful journeys.  I couldn’t put my mind fully at rest because of these thoughts.  This scripture came to mind because it profoundly came alive to me several years back when I was in my darkest moment. 

The man in scripture had been sick for 38 years.  He was a paralytic, from what I can gather in this portion of reading.  I know that this scripture has been used in many sermons over the years and I am by no means a theologian so I won’t attempt to shed deep theological light on it.  I will only relate to you what my thoughts are.  Jesus knew that the man had been ill for 38 years.  He knew.  Jesus had the power and the knowledge to take this man’s affliction from him years ago and yet he remained by the pool waiting for what he thought would be his opportunity to receive his healing.  He thought that he would be healed in the same manner in which the others were being healed; by stepping into the stirred waters.  When Jesus questioned him about his desire to get well, the man was quick to say, “I can’t…no one will help me…someone always gets ahead of me.”  And so the dialogue goes.  I am sure that if we could have been there we would have heard much more conversation than what is noted, but what God wanted at least me to see is that pivotal question, “Do you want to get well?”  I notice here probably more of what Jesus doesn’t say in this passage.  He doesn’t say, “Hey, you guys step aside and let this guy get in the pool”.  He doesn’t say, “Will someone come and help this man to his feet”.  He doesn’t say, “I am Jesus, I will walk for you”.  No.  He says to the broken man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Out of a desire to do anything to receive healing the man did exactly that.  He got up and he “began” walking.  Scripture doesn’t tell us that he went out and climbed mountains or ran marathons.  Maybe the point of it was to know that he simply began.  Maybe when we are desperate for healing or to hear the answer to that illusive question of why, we need to take a step out on our own toward that healing or answer.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that for many years I felt paralyzed; paralyzed by fear, loneliness and depression.  There came a day when I decided to “get up”.  I took one step and then two and eventually the spring was even back in my step. 

Was this the cure all?  No, not really.  Life continues and so do its maladies.  I often return to this portion of scripture and I continue to get up and take forward steps; sometimes very slow steps but deliberate.  There were some who were critical of my healing process because it wasn’t what they wanted for me at the time.  They wanted to see me go to an altar and be instantly healed in my mind of all depression, sadness and anything else that seemed to plague me. If that is what it took to get them to lift up a prayer for me, then I am thankful for their prayers.   It has been the prayers of many and a fierce determination to rise above it all that keeps me walking forward.

I know that God won’t walk for me.  I know that He will walk with me.  I believe that sometimes He just sits back and watches me take each step like a proud parent watches a child. 

I got up and began walking…and I’m so glad I did

Thanks for stopping by,

Amy Lynn Michael

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I'm Provoked

In 2011 my husband was running the “Marathon to Marathon” in my homeland of Iowa.  He ran 26.2 miles from the town of Storm Lake to the little town of Marathon.  He and the other runners wound their way through the beautiful Iowa landscape on county roads passing farm homes, corn fields and an occasional cattle yard.  He saw the best part of Buena Vista County, which by the way, if you don’t pronounce it as “Byoo-na” we will know you’re not a native Iowegian.  When Mike runs marathons I do my best to encourage him.  I drop him off at the start line and watch him take off with the sea of people.  Then I begin to drive ahead on the course finding different intervals, like three miles out, then seven and so on. I do this so that when I see him coming down the street I can slap his hand, tell him I love him and how proud I am.  I do this at different points until it’s time to head for the finish line to watch him cross that line of accomplishment. 

While Mike was running this country race, I was waiting at the 22 mile mark with a small group of spectators. (yes, this is a spectator sport)  One of the spectators was a man who was agitated and pacing.  He was waiting for his wife to come through and kept looking at his watch. I asked him if he was a runner and he said no, I’d rather ride my motorcycle.  Finally a young beautiful woman with a body to be envied, came into sight and as she neared the corner where we were standing, he yelled, “I didn’t pay five thousand dollars to a personal trainer for you to be this far behind”!  Did I mention this was at the TWENTY TWO MILE mark?!  Did I mention that he himself was not a picture of health and fitness?  Needless to say, I was shocked at his outburst and embarrassed for him.  It wouldn't matter to me if it took all day for my beloved to finish the race.  It doesn't really matter if he finishes at all.  What matters is that he is committed and passionate about running.  Even though I’m not a runner, I want to be part of the thing that centers him and helps him to be a better person.  Because the same dedication and passion that he puts into running, he puts into life, friendships, family and our marriage. 

Last night Mike said, "if people really knew the details of your life and how much pain you've been through, they would be amazed at who you are today".  I suppose he’s right.  The painful memories are never far from my thoughts and there are still moments when they stop me in my tracks.  But in those moments I am given a choice: I can allow the anger to move me to revengeful actions or I can feel the pain for a moment and thank God for helping me through it. 

Today as Mike and I listened to the pastor talk about how Christians should “provoke one another to do good”, I smiled inside and out.  I smiled because my husband is the kind of person who provokes me to do good things and to be a better person.  He helps me cry when I need to reminisce and talk about the past.  He listens to me talk about my dreams of becoming a professional photographer and leading seminars to encourage people who have been through what I have been through.  He does all of this humbly and asking nothing in return.  He does it because it is part of who he is. 

Mike is in training mode for his next marathon and I'm already thinking of ways to encourage him as he trains and on race day.  At some point I will look at the race course and plan the stops on the course where I will cheer him and the other runners on.  When I ask my beloved to drive me across the city on a Sunday afternoon, he waits patiently while I try to find that perfect camera angle and encourages my creativity.  We provoke one another to pursue our dreams and passions. We provoke one do good.

Are you provoked?

Thanks for stopping by....

Amy Lynn Michael

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