An Intimate Conversation with Jesus

Our “green pastures”

 I was praying this morning and had some very intimate time with the Lord.

I have been home for 3 days now, and typical of my reactions to working in trauma is that my emotions peak about day 3 of my return. Last night I watched, “A Walk to Remember” thinking it may be good to cry. I was wrong – it would have been better to laugh. I woke up very fatigued and in the midst of some self- pity. I was in need of some genuine Jesus time to renew my strength. If Dave had been here, I most likely would have turned to him. God has worked this situation to my good, even in my reluctance to accept His will in Dave’s absence.

I was praying for others and meditating on His word, when I looked out the window admiring the amazing beauty of God’s creation – the mountain views, the ponds and animals, the green grass and trees – the PEACEFUL setting – all the many blessings Dave and I enjoy in our property.

My prayer shifted to the rare but occasionally real presence of God that seems as easy as chatting over coffee – (something I long for on a daily basis and have found more since Dave is not here to have coffee with me) something like this:

Me – “My Lord, you ask too much of me. My family will be scattered and I won’t have the beauty of the mountains to bring me peace. My whole life I longed for the life I have now. How can you take this away? What of Dave? He loves this life even more than I do. “

Jesus – “My child, I think this conversation you need to call me Jesus, and see me as Your friend, and not your Lord or God.”  (John 15:15)

Me – “My Lord, I cannot obey you in this move if I do not see you as my Lord. Would a friend ask another to make such a painful sacrifice?”   (John 15:13)

Our creek and waterfall

Jesus – “Jamie, What you see as a sacrifice, I see as a promotion – a door to open, an opportunity to be grasped. Don’t you wish for your friends that they grab a hold of all that I have for them?”  (Prov. 3:5; Jer.29:11)

Me – “It does not feel like an opportunity, but another possible trial. A loss, a  lonely and fearful readjustment to all things new. [Our 19th move] The loss of church family, our friends. More loss for my children. I am afraid that if I live in the suburbs, I won’t be able to find You. You will be as lost to me as the mountain views. I find YOU in the peace of country life. I have always know the glory of God through the heavens at night – even as child. I longed for what you have given me – a glimpse of heaven in my life. I leave pain and destruction to find peace here.  Jesus, YOU know this. You ask too much. ”  (I Cor. 2:9)

Jesus – “Jamie, I have never asked you to do anything that you can’t handle. Even when you believed I asked too much, you were both able to bear it. You have endured all things by My strength – you both have. You will handle this too – together- and glorify me. Together, you and Dave will grow through this. He will love me more.” (I Pet. 3:6b -7; James 1:2-4)

Me – “Lord, you think too much of me – too highly of me. Ask what You will, but I may not glorify You through it all. I am afraid that my old ways will rise up and I will be angry with You. That I will only see you as Lord, and not my Friend. I will need Your help – your grace, and your strength. We both will.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

Jesus – “Jamie, when you look at the stars, you see the glory of God and find peace there. But when I look at you I see the face of God. I see the beauty of my creation and my own likeness, I see LOVE. When you minister to others – you do it because you love me. You see me in them. Will you let me minister to you because you believe I love you? That in you I see the image of my Father? You are my friend, because I chose you.”(Gen 1:27; I John 4:7; 5:1; Matt. 25:40; John 15:16)

Me – ” I believe Jesus. Help me with my unbelief.  Help me to see myself through Your eyes. Will you hold me Jesus, like Dave does?” (Matt. 9:23-24)

“My child, I already am.  My embrace encircles you both, you just need to lean back and rest in my arms. Trust me Jamie. Have I let you down before?” (I Cor. 10:13; John 14:27)

Me – “I trust you Jesus, but you better not let go, the fall from a horse hurts way more now at 52.”

I felt His smile and the warmth of His embrace. 

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 
Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;

The Holy Bible : Today’s New International Version. 2005 (Ps 37:3–7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Jesus, Joplin, Justification

Truck – chassis wrapped completely around the tree.

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

Hospital in Joplin – completely destroye

I cried during worship today. I turned and saw my son-in-law Matt holding our 3 year old daughter Keira and thoughts of Alabama and Joplin flooded in. The unwanted image of a 3 year old child being sucked out of her mothers arms assaulted me as I sang about how awesome our God is. I can still feel the tears that fell on my arm as I prayed for the individual who told me the story – and the helplessness that was in his eyes.  I vividly recalled the young women who found the remains of her grandfather – complete with all the horribly gory details that I never imagined I would choose to hear in this lifetime. There was the young women who spoke of climbing over bodies of her friends after her apartment was leveled; or the story of the mom with her 3 children climbing over bodies and twisted metal to flee a destroyed  building – she is terrified to leave her children now for the traumatic responses it causes. The man who ran with his newborn infant in his arms and the screams of his wife became distant. He turned and realized – she was gone – sucked up into the whirlwind. The multitudes of children who now look daily at once green yards and trees that they climbed,  turned into a barren wasteland of debris, and stripped, dead, trees – many are now afraid of the storms.

All that is left standing – the cross

Jesus wept. Quite possibly my favorite scripture.

Our God is awesome, and Jesus is our wounded healer. As we sang praises about how great and wonderful our God is, I know I sing more loudly, more passionately and with more conviction than ever before. For the last 4 years, every death call, every intervention, every prayer offered on behalf of hurting humanity – only brings me closer to the suffering Savior and his redemptive work on the cross. The people who didn’t think they needed a ‘god’ find themselves thanking Him, or tell the tale of crying out to Him for mercy during the storm and feeling the presence of an ‘unseen power’ in their midst. The multitude who lived through the unlivable, praise the God they did not know for the things that He did in preserving their lives. As my WWII, Normandy Beach, D-Day, Dad used to say, “You don’t find athiests in a foxhole.” There were a lot of foxholes in Alabama and Joplin.

The number of deaths in Joplin do not measure the total destruction to large areas of the city. F5’s are without partiality or mercy in their devastation. Many survivors know this, and praise Him.  There are death stories – but there are a multitude of life stories – thousands of them in several states. God causes the sun to rise on the just and un-just alike. Why do some live while others die? Only God knows – we are here to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.(Rom. 12:15) To comfort others with the comfort we have ourselves been comforted with. (II Cor. 1:3) We are chaplains, “for such a time as this.” (Es. 4:14)

I was given permission to share Richie’s story. I am partial to Richie since he shares the same name as my favorite songwriter. Richie lived through Katrina and Rita, and moved north to Joplin 3 years ago. Richie’s house was moved about 10 feet from it’s foundation while he and his wife and two grandchildren huddled in the hallway. The house is destroyed and will be bulldozed. They are now living in a pop-up trailer. I met Richie as I walked an area looking for families to help. Richie was being helped by a church group cutting down trees when I met him. As we spoke, he mentioned he hadn’t had a chance to really share his story yet – he had been so busy with taking care of the necessary, he had not had time for the truly necessary – his emotional and spiritual state. Richie teared up when I told him I had all day if he needed, and he began to pour out his heart. Katrina was tough, but he was a seaman – he was ready and they evacuated. He knew how to handle hurricanes. But they have moved up here to get away from the storms – going through two was enough. There had been enough losses in his life already. He was agitated, nervous, having trouble sleeping – to name a few. We covered a lot of critical incident stress information and I left him with handouts. He was thankful to learn he was not going crazy, but his reactions were normal, for the event.

Notice foundation to the right – destroyed house is to the left of the trailer.

I prayed with Richie and he teared up again – he then spoke about his faith having been increased by the storm, and knowing God was real. It was an opportunity for me to talk about Jesus and His presence and Richie listened attentively. He knew that God was with him, but he needed to know that he was with God – a son of God – loved by God. We prayed again, and Richie understood that his relationship with God was sealed by Jesus – his covenant was sure – he was justified by his faith in Jesus.

“Suffering produces endurance…” What a blessing it is to come alongside the suffering and help them to endure the race set before them. God’s love has and is being poured into the hearts of the suffering – believers and unbelievers alike. What a privilege to be a minister of the hope of Jesus to others, by being a living, breathing presence of the hope of Jesus Christ in action. Thank you Lord for an opportunity to serve the ones you suffered for.

We need trained team members. If you are anyone you know is CISM trained and wants to serve with us, please pass this one. If you are ready to begin CISM training and working with us,  you know where to find us. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. We are praying diligently for workers to join us in the harvest.

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 5:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Steel Convictions

Luciana is my compassion stress therapy.

     ” Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.
      5–6      You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.”

If I was to base what we have done (Hesed Hope), based on donations received, team size, or doors thrown open, I would not consider us very successful so far. But we do not measure what we have done, or will do as man does. Yes, there is a “business side” to operating a ministry, but true success is not measured by the same scale as the world, but by the spirit of God. ‘

I told Dr. George Wood (AG Superintendent) when I met him one year ago, that our ministry was very small, and that I really did not know what our future held, but that my conviction came from knowing that each day, I am in God’s will – one day at a time. Today, yesterday, and in Joplin, I know I have been in God’s will. In the midst of trials (Alabama had plenty) I have been diligent to be exceedingly prayerful in the ministry for God’s will and purposes. Even today, I told my son Elijah, that if someday this ministry fell by the way side, shrunk and disappeared, I would not have felt that I missed God’s call, or His will in it. To me, it will never be measured in the size of our pocket book, or in the size of our mobilized teams, but in the lives we touch – one life at a time.

What I ask my team members, is that they be in God’s will as well. That they seek God for each deployment and know that God would have them be here. In that way, if we minister to 1, or 100, or 1,000, there will be no questions as to the will of God and His purposes for them.

Tomorrow I meet with a family, and obviously for the sake of confidentiality I would not give details.  I will do all I can to help them, and help them help their kids. I will give them tools for helping each other, and tools to re-assess in the future. I will see where God directs for the weekend, and follow Him where He leads. And when it is all over, if I can know I touched one life with the comfort of Christ – brothers and sisters in Christ, or unbelievers, then the toil is not in vain. The toil is never ending – my daughter in law will tell you that after witnessing my ever ringing phone and emails; and the toil is never, ever in vain.

I have been one hurting individual more than once  in my the past –  and I can only hope that the people who ministered to me would never measure thier successes by financial gain or ministry size, but by the comfort of Christ. Jesus ended up at the cross with just one, but to that one, He was life itself, and the life was glorified and multiplied.

God has put steel in my convictions; and no matter what trouble may accompany the word, I will take great joy in the Holy Spirit.

Peterson, E. H. (2002). The Message : The Bible in contemporary language (1 Th 1:2–6). Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress.

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." AGAIN

Dickens is perfect for crisis and disaster response. The emotions can be overwhelming, the work exhausting, and the rewards priceless.

Having my own trauma history and “triggers” have to be ever conscious of what is going on in my life – mindful of my physical emotional reactions. Thus far, those reactions have had nothing to do with the trauma work I do, but with the personality conflicts that arise, or the personal trials at home and away.

Last week, I lost my keys – TWICE. In 36 years of driving I have never lost my keys. The first time truly was not my fault, as I KNOW someone picked them up off my table. Some traumatized individual probably thought they were theirs, and when they got home they may have been confused with the last 20 years worth of random keys on a key hook.

The problem is – rental cars do not give you duplicate keys for security purposes, but instead force you to have the vehicle towed back to the original location and exchanged. With the tires locked, the one car sustained damage to the vehicle when it was bounced off the flatbed truck. Of course, I did not have any insurance coverage because the sheet that I was given for risk and liability had the WRONG fax number on it, and it didn’t go through.

The second set of keys…Long story, but I was shopping for a hip pouch to put them in when I lost them. This was hours and hours of “push 3 for….push 1 for….” and a very long drive in a flat bed truck to the airport almost 2 hours away.My ‘partner’ Jen always came with me, she stated once, “You kiddin’ me, I’m not going to leave you alone!” Jen is 21, and is employed as a caseworker for the Salvation Army in MA. Thanks for taking care of me Jen. Your mom would be proud.

While all these car hassles are going on, the internal battery on my computer has died, the fan has died, I am having problems, and praying it makes it till I can purchase a new one. Then I get the news that our second car – Dave’s commuter car engine is gone, just 2 weeks after putting over $400 into fixing it.  Joy is home driving our one and only Honda Pilot now – 100k and climbing.

Myra and Angela – my emotional and spiritual care providers!

Since I teach we all have our own grief, I was able to cry – A LOT – in the last two weeks, which really were tears for children, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmothers etc. who had buried loved ones, and witnessed death and destruction that God before sin, never intended any human to endure. It keeps my own trials and losses and perspective and keeps me knowing I can give it all up for Him, and His will for my life. Oh Lord, help us to endure this fallen world with the glimpse of eternity before us.

Working with FEMA has been wonderful and it is obvious there is a real need for a constant chaplain presence to these dedicated individuals. They spend 12 hours a day without any days off (tomorrow is the first day since this began in April) hearing the stories of all the hurting. I am looking into a future presence for the FEMA personnel. I could not do what they do, and I believe our government is going to see negative health impacts of disaster personnel, and probably already have.

I apologize if there are many typos. I am weary and it is really hot (heat index of 105 and such). Just remember that there are people who need trained crisis responders all over the world, and we need you to fulfill that call to ministry. Springfield, MA, Joplin, Alabama, Oklahoma, Haiti, Japan, etc. etc. etc is prophecy coming to pass. The harvest is plentiful and our field workers are very few.