Posts tagged ‘pain’

October 22, 2012

It Hurts

by pastortimfowler

You are Joy, Luisa!

It would be great to live in a world where there was no pain; physical, mental, or emotional. But if that were the case, would we learn anything about how precious life is? I write today from the point of view of a person who has lived with constant back pain for years. I have mentioned it from time to time before, mainly because I like the pity, but it has yet to yield someone to cut my grass for me. Life stinks, huh? And I am grateful to have a yard to cut.
To be honest, life does not stink and I think pain helps us to know this. I think if we will let our pain remind us of how precious it is not to have pain, we will be more grateful of those things that are void of pain. This past weekend I took my grandson camping and really enjoyed the time spent with him. But I found myself telling everyone how much pain I was in rather than how much fun I had. I should have been encouraging others to spend time with the ones they love instead of giving them excuses as to not do something that may cause pain. For that, I apologize.
Pain is a part of life. It is a teacher of what not to do. It is a motivator to push harder to accomplish a task. And it is a tool to remind us what is really important. You see this morning I was sitting at my house, in pain, and did not go into my office. There are other reasons that kept me home, but it started with pain. As I struggle to get my socks on, the pain reminded me of how grateful I was of slip on shoes. But as I sat there planning a pity party, I was reminded of a time when I could do about any physical activity and it did not hurt. As I reminisced about those days, I was nudged, I think by God, to think, “When was the last time you said thanks for all of those days of no pain?” As I thought about this, I realized that I had far more days in this life without pain than with it. I had been able to do more than many would ever hope to do. It wasn’t until recently that even the pain had put a limit on my activities. So I said thanks and took some Advil.
Here are some times in my life that pain made me remember the good and then I will sum thing up and quit bothering you today.
My mom died of cancer many years ago. It was a long battle and if you know anything about cancer, it is painful. But mom had a unique way of taking my mind off of her physical pain and mine emotional pain. She would break out old pictures of the kids growing up and we would laugh and remember the good times. I can’t remember ever sitting with my mom and hearing her complain about the pain. I could see it in her face and eyes and the way she moved, but never in her heart. She always saw the opportunity to remember the good stuff. So when she died, my last years with her were not filled with dread and sorrow, but of joyful memories and laughter. Her pain was beautifully used by God to show His grace in the toughest of times.
My dad died of heart failure. We did not have a good relationship and it was hard to get that phone call about his death when I had not talked to him in months. But, we did what all families do, we gathered to say good-bye and some began to argue over what stuff of dad’s they wanted. As this was happening, I looked on the wall over my dad’s chair and there was a picture of him and me. I had it bronzed and gave it too him when I was in the Navy. I was 4 years old and we were standing together with golf clubs in our hands and under it I had an inscription that said, “worlds greatest golfer and his dad.” It took me back to all the great things my dad was and I forgot all about the bad things that made me have so much emotional pain. In this moment of grief, God showed me that years ago He was preparing me to be the type of dad and granddad that I had become. He was giving me joy to over-ride the pain and memories that over-rode bitterness.
Recently, and I blogged about this, my dog died. It seems a bit unmanly to say that it really hurt and I cried when she died in my arms. But she was very special. I got her when I was going through a tough time in my life. I had never had a dog that I raised, it was always the family dog and I was never much of an animal lover. But she stole my heart and in the days after her death, I began to look for pictures of her. Every time I found one it was a moment of joy and happiness. I began to laugh and smile, even through the pain.
So this morning I was reminded to look for joy while the pain is there. Pain does not end joy nor does it take away good memories. Pain is not evil, it is a part of life. And life is a gift from God. This life has so many wonderful things to offer. Camping with my grandson is one of those and I was just looking at all the pictures I took this weekend to remind me. No, the pain in my back did not go away, but it was not bad enough to stop the smiles.
Jesus knows what pain is. He took a lot of pain to save humanity from our sins. His pain was physical, mental, and emotional. But through it all He never forgot the love that drove Him through the pain and to the cross. It was through that pain that we are forgiven if we believe. It is through that pain that we have hope of a life to come where pain is no longer a part of it all. But that hope and that future joy should only be a part of our focus because in this life, we have so much to bring us joy and share love with.

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September 11, 2012

Never Forget

by pastortimfowler

Honoring Victims of 9/11

THANK YOU!!! This goes out to all who serve the public. Military, police, firefighters, medical first responders and anyone else who puts their own well-being on the back burner in times of others needs. This has been happening for years, well before the attacks on 9-11, 11 years ago. People have been serving the public and sacrificing long before this happened and sadly, it took a tragedy like this to have our eyes opened to these daily heroes.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center building. I was backing out of my driveway when the radio broke the news that an unknown explosion had taken place in NYC and that early reports from witnesses said it was a plane that had crashed into the building. I immediately pulled back into my drive and went in to watch the news, only to turn on the TV in time to see the second plane crash into the second building. It was then that everyone realized that this was not a terrible accident, but was probably something deliberate. As I watched in horror, the third and forth planes crashed and even more lives were lost and I began to pray for my wife who was in Charlotte. I did not know if this was something that was going to happen all across the country or was confined to a region. All I knew is that my wife was in a city with tall buildings and I was scared.
The news continued and I saw the first tower fall. Something inside of me knew that thousands of people were now dead. I began to pray and to cry and as I did, it was not long before the second tower fell and the pain inside grew worse. My only comfort was that I had heard from my wife and that she was okay. But meanwhile, I could only think of those who had died and those who were going to mourn for their loss.
Prior to the towers collapse, I saw footage of police and firefighters and EMS workers running into the burning buildings. I was overwhelmed with pride for their heroic actions. I thought about how many times they must have done that and how many times the lives of those in peril were saved because of their actions. This time, although there were some who made it out and the heroics were not for nothing, many never made out, including those who were going in to rescue the perishing.
Since that tragic day, as often as I can, I say thanks to everyone who serves the public as a first responder or military. If I have the money, I buy their lunch. If I have the time I tell them how much I appreciate everything they do on a daily basis and I shake their hands. I pray for their safety as often I they come to mind in my daily prayer time. I still weep when I hear of one of them loosing their life while trying to save someone else. I get really angry when I hear people who unfairly criticize police, firefighters and EMS as well as the military. Like in every other walk of life, there are those who don’t deserve the honor of the job because of abuse or corruption, but over all, those who work in these jobs are amazing people who deserve nothing but praise and prayers.
So again I say thanks to all who serve in the unselfish and sacrificial ways as public servants and military. Your sacrifices are known by many and appreciated and never forgotten. I pray for your safety and your families and for God’s grace on your lives. 9-11 is a constant reminder of the fact that there is evil in the world, but it is an even greater reminder that Christ’s words are forever true. Matthew 23:11-12
11 The person who is greatest among you will be your servant.
12 Whoever honors himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be honored.

August 28, 2012

Just A Footnote

by pastortimfowler

I can’t remember feeling as crappy, emotionally, as I did yesterday and even some today, since Abby died. I keep thinking, but she was just a dog. But, I loved her and wanted the best for her and spent 12 years of my life taking care of her. Before I forget, thanks to all those who said kind words, I at least know I am not crazy (no wise cracks needed).
I told my neighbor about Abby and he said that he knew how I must feel, because He had said goodbye to several dogs in his 80 years. That really made me think.
Dogs lives are much shorter than ours. It is not uncommon to own several dogs in our lifetime and each one of them we can love and get very attached too. Because I still have another dog, I don’t think I will get another one for a while. But one day, I think I would like too. So why do we put ourselves through this if we know the hurt that comes from losing something we love and know that chances are we will feel that hurt again?
As I was driving to the church this morning I was thinking about this and God gave me a wonderful thought. If I can love a dog as much as I did, how much more do you think I (God) love you? I was a bit overwhelming. But think of the similarities. God knows that we are going to die before He does; He is eternal. God knows that we are totally dependent on Him and His provision. God knows that we are going to get into the trash and occasionally make other messes. But He continually lets others be born and born again and loves us despite us being “just humans”.
He loves us so much that He accepts us and makes a way for us to know Him and His love and expects very little from us. I believe that He knows that pain of death, after all, Jesus died a real physical death for us. And, let’s not forget that Jesus wept at the death of His friend Lazarus. So I am thinking that it is okay feel so sucky about Abby dying. But I get a lifetime of memories and 12 years of experience of loving something who only loved me because I first loved her.
Love is a wonderful thing to experience, especially when it is unconditional. God’s love is unconditional and He knows our pain. But better yet, He knows that death is not the end. As for dogs, I don’t what happens after they die. Something tells me I don’t have to worry, God has that in control too. So I will lean toward thinking Abby is looking out the window of heaven waiting for me to come home, just as she did everyday while she was here.
I am very grateful for God’s love and that He let me in on this little secret; If you give love away, you will never be sorry that you didn’t.

August 27, 2012

She Was A Mutt

by pastortimfowler

 

 

People always ask you what breed your dog is and for many, the only answer is mutt. That is the mixed breed that usually gets rescued from a shelter or given to you because someone got them for free and couldn’t keep them. Abby was a mutt, given to me by my daughter when she was first living on her own and obviously did not realize that raising animals cost money. Abby was a mix breed of beagle, basenji, and human. I threw in the human part because I believe she really thought she was a human.
I got her when she was big enough to fit in my hand. At that time I was in between churches, a rough time for a pastor, and she was a convenient thing to occupy my mind and my time. During that year, we did everything together. I taught her how to do tricks, she went fishing with me, and she even road the motorcycle with me. I had never had an inside dog, and to be honest, never intended to have one, but, she worked her way in.
I have a habit of giving people and I guess pets too, nicknames. She had two. G-dog, that stands for girl dog. She would respond to that and as the years went by, she even knew that I was talking to her when I just called her G. Her other nickname was Babygirl. That was what I called her when it was just me and her and we were chilling together, either kicked back in the recliner together or laid out on the couch. If I called her that, she expected some lovin’. I heard that you really only give nicknames to people and things that you are really fond of. I guess that’s true.
Abby was 12 years old. She got sick Friday night, nothing to be alarmed about, just some pukin’. For a mutt, she was very expensive. She had a sensitive stomach, she had incontinence and had been on meds for that forever. I think I spent more on her than anyone could spend on the most elaborate pure breed. But this time, I guess it was worse than an upset stomach like it had been so often before. By Sunday morning she had not eaten in two days. She loved eating, so I knew that to be a problem, but she was still walking around and looked okay. I was going to take her to the vet first thing Monday morning, and even cancelled going fishing with a friend because of it. Sunday night she was sleeping in my recliner, then got up and went to lay under the AC vent. About 3am she had her first seizure. It was bad and I pick her up to comfort her, and knew that she would not be here much longer. After several more seizures and an hour later, she died in my arms.
Someone once told me if it hurts really bad, it must be love. It was just a dog though. But God gives us opportunities to experience love in some crazy ways. Some might question why God would let us love something so much then take it from us. I look at it differently. He could let us never love at all. Everything on this earth is His and He loves us enough to let us experience loving His creation.
Job 12:10 –The life of every living creature and the spirit in every human body are in his hands. God does not have to let us love things that He owns. The years of pleasure and joy and yes, love I experience with G-dog was worth the hurt I feel right now.
I don’t know if dogs go to heaven. I told people that she would because I helped her accept Jesus. But I do know that every creature on this earth is precious to God. Matthew 10:29 –Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. So God knew when Abby was taking her last breath. It was His plan. God knows our pain and knows our sorrow when people and things close to us die. Death does have a sting, because it is the enemy. It takes the things we love. But what if we never knew that love?
But death can’t take the memories and the joy. It can’t take away the love. Love lasts forever. Time will ease the pain, but the pain is a reflection of the love, now with no recipient.
I am really gonna miss my dog, even if she was a mutt. Thanks be to God for letting me take care of her for 12 years. It was worth every minute, even the last few painful ones.

July 27, 2012

So Long My Friend

by pastortimfowler

I asked you guys to pray for my friends the other day and I am grateful to all who did. I have to give you an update, and at first it seems sad. James died of complications of his illness last night. Because of this, I ask you to continue to praying for his wife and kids. As much as this sucks for them right now, I know that time and God’s grace will allow for things to get better.

James was a Christian. That means now he is better. No more sickness or pain, for him. That sounds great and is true according to what the Bible teaches and in that case I am jealous. But on the other hand, family and friends are left to deal with the sorrow and heart-break of his death. Nothing but time will help that and it is easy to begin to doubt God. That is okay though; God can handle that. He knows what it is like to have someone close die.

God knows that death is an enemy and we are told that the last enemy to be defeated is death. It is a momentary hiccup in the fabric of time that separates what we know and what God knows. Eternity is that close, and wow, in times like this, it is closer than I ever thought. But we are not left to guess what happens after someone dies. For those who believe in this stuff, God says if you have asked Jesus to take your sin penalty for you, you go to heaven. James made that decision several years ago and handed death over to God and accepted the gift of life.

James and I were really getting to know each other in the last year. I thought I knew him, but didn’t. He was really an intense guy who had a wacky past like me. He was funny, while at the same time kept it real. I found out that his faith was stronger than I thought and that was so refreshing.

While we didn’t have enough time with James for my satisfaction, God has promised us an eternity when this life is over. Now, his faith is no longer about what he believes. He has seen it for himself that God is real. He understands what we don’t; the answer to the question, why? He is laughing at our doubts and if I know James, laughing at me and some of the ways I struggled giving answers to things in the Bible that make no sense to us, but now make perfect sense to him. He has seen the beginning of life and knows that there is now no end. He is probably not worried about whether the chairs in the worship center are lined up straight or not. He knows the words to songs that Wanda tries to get us to sing louder and knows the words to songs that only those in heaven can sing. He even knows why that stupid video system doesn’t always work that drives me and Sheila crazy. Somehow I don’t think we will let it bother us as much anymore. (Hey James. Could you at least ask God to let it all work together just once for us?)

There is still a need for prayer. There is still a need for time and for sure, a need for God’s grace. I thank you all for your part. I thank God for the grace and for the time we had with James. I will straighten the chairs this week James, I am sure you have more important things to do.
So long my friend.

June 8, 2012

What’s New?

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrentunnicliff/3717968862/

Change is a natural part of life and yet so many people fear and even loath change. If change never happened, we would spend much of our lives beating on vending machines…get it? Change? Vending Machines? I kill me. But seriously, change gives us butterflies, frogs, ice, and a new diaper.
Recently my wife has been feeling like it is time to change. No, not husbands. No need to lower her standards. Her job has been a real pain in the neck and even a few months before the recent stretch of difficult times in her office, we have been talking about how perhaps God was leading her to go elsewhere.
Changing jobs can be quite nerve-racking in the best of times, but throw into the mix a bad job market and it gets even more difficult. But when my wife told me that she had turned in her two weeks notice, she said that she felt peace about it. I knew then that she was hearing from God. The Bible tells us that God gives us peace in difficult times as a way of knowing that we can trust Him. I know my wife is a woman who prays about things and listens to God for direction. This is no different.
There have been many times through the years that we have had to make tough decisions about jobs that did not make the most sense to some at the time it happened. Early in my ministry I also ran my own VCR repair business. Yep, I said VCR. It was during the time in my ministry when I was only getting part-time pay as a youth pastor and was feeling like I was not being effective in my ministry. At the same time I had an opportunity to expand my business to become a part of a national company and the money part of it was quite awesome. In the same week I learned that the church was cutting my part-time salary and that God, through my prayer life was telling me to close my business; you know, the one that just showed promise of a national account. But I had been asking God to make something happen and that I would trust Him when he did. I had peace about my decision and my wife supported me, so I closed the business and within a week was called to interview for my first full-time pastorate.
I had never thought about moving from the town we lived in. It was home and it was where my church was and all was fine. I had been at my church for almost 4 years and it was growing. But in my prayer time I felt like God was telling me that another change was coming. Within a few months there were things that happened that caused me to resign from my church and spend almost a year not being a pastor of any church. It was one of the toughest things I had ever done, but I knew it was right. One day I got a call from a church in the town I currently live in wanting to interview me for the pastor of their church. I had no intention of moving to another town and neither did my wife,but after the interview I had a peace about it that I couldn’t understand and within a month the move was on.
My wife was an executive at a major cellular company. It was a job that most people only dream of and the financial part of it was incredible. But shortly after taking the church, she began to feel like she needed to leave the company. Although we both knew that this meant dramatic financial cuts, we also knew that God was behind it because we both felt a peace about it. So she took early retirement and resigned. Because of that, she was able to work with me at the struggling church that hired me. We were leading it through bold changes and I needed her management skills like never before. Because she listened to God, we were able to lead the church through a change that resulted in the church that I currently pastor. This is a church where we are seeing people’s lives changed on a daily basis. It has grown from a church of barely 30 people who worshiped on Sunday morning to a place where over 150 people worship on Sunday morning. Not only that, but the amount of people who have gotten saved here is incredible. This all happened because of making tough decisions about changing jobs at weird times and trusting God instead of what logic says.
So I am excited to see what God has in store next for My wife and I. She has so many skills and gifts that can be used in so many ways that I am having a hard time imagining the awesome experience that is coming. Sure, there may be a few challenges along the way, but that is why God gives us the skills that we have and the peace that comes from His promise to provide all of our needs according to His riches in Glory!
Something new is on the way. I like new! I am made new by the power of God and what Christ did for me on the cross. In heaven, everything will be new all the time and that is hard to understand. So, new is good and new can only come with change. God says that He will change us into new creatures in Christ and lead us through the change every day. How can we go wrong. I am excited about what’s new!

April 25, 2012

Personal Suffering

by pastortimfowler

Wow. I asked for some blog ideas yesterday and got quite a few suggestions. One of the questions has to do with personal suffering. This is something that most of us can relate to and there is much controversy over its place in the Christian community. The reason that I am responding to this one first is because I have had several people ask questions about this in the last week.
First place to start is why do we suffer stuff like sickness and disease? The simple answer is easy; sin. When God created Adam and Eve He intended for them to live forever. He told them that if they disobeyed that it would bring on death, and in that, pain and suffering. As we all know, they disobeyed and God kept His word. From that time on, pain and suffering were a part of our lives. As humanity reproduced, the sin nature is passed from generation to generation and therefore, we have and always will have pain and suffering.
This does not mean that God does not care about our physical well-being. However many churches make their claim to fame as one of healing the physical ailments of believers. Jesus was very compassionate when it came to those who were sick and lame. He healed them and committed much of His earthly time to this. But He healed more people who did not believe than those who already believed because He was dealing mainly with the Jews, they required miraculous signs to believe. (1Cor 1:22) Even in the early church when the Apostles performed miracles, most often it was to the unbeliever.
But God has never promised that we would always be healed of our physical ailments. In fact, even the Apostle Paul had physical ailments and wrote to the church about ways to help when they were physically sick. Not even Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead, was given permanent physical healing. One of the reasons for physical ailments in believers is so that we learn to depend on God’s grace to be sufficient. That is what God told Paul about his “thorn is the side”.
Jesus was asked why a boy was physically impaired and whether or not it  was because of his mother’s or father’s sin. Jesus told them that it was neither, but rather it was for God’s glory. Of course Jesus healed the boy and God was glorified, but still, the point was not that the ailment was a curse, just a fact of life. God wants us to ask Him for anything that we are concerned about. He does still heal today, but not everyone. Not even Jesus healed everyone that He came in contact with. So there is no promise of physical healing.
Many quote, and wrongly so, this verse from Isaiah, that says, by his stripes we are healed. They forget the rest of it. Isaiah 53:5 … But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. It was for our spiritual healing that He bled and died, not our physical. Way too many Christians become disappointed with God when they believe otherwise. We have the promise of eternal life, not this physical life.
Sadly, our society teaches us that if we don’t look like someone on a magazine cover that we are flawed. If we weigh more than this or don’t have muscles that show every detail, or our breasts are not the right size, or our hair is not bald, (I added that for me), them we are not right. But God made us unique and special to Him. The beauty that He sees is not on the outside, He looks on the inside. He sees the intent of the heart and loves us unconditionally.
Jesus said it best: John 16:33 …These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

October 11, 2011

Is It Fair?

by pastortimfowler

Sometimes it is impossible to understand God. If you are simply a human, it would be easy to think that God is cruel. This is especially true when things happen in our lives that really suck, and we think it should happen differently. A friend was telling me last night about a tragedy that happened where a young husband and dad died unexpectedly and that he couldn’t help but feel like it was not fair. It stinks, hurts, sucks, and a whole lot of other things, but I am not sure that fair is the right way to look at it. Don’t misunderstand, it is a legitimate question and the feelings are normal, but what is fair?
Here are the first two definitions in the dictionary for fair:
1. free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge.
2. legitimately sought, pursued, done, given, etc.; proper under the rules: a fair fight.
If we use these definitions, then God is fair. God said to Adam and Eve, the day you disobey me, you die. He clearly stated in the law of Moses that some sins were punishable by physical death, and, we are all told that what we deserve for sin is death. We are told that it is inevitable that humans die and after that we are judged. So in death, God is fair. Does that mean we understand it? No. Does it mean we agree? No. Does it mean that God is cruel? No. He is fair, free from bias, dishonesty or injustice. He is a fair judge. What He does is proper under the rules. In every definition of fairness God stands the test of fairness.
We want fair to be, pleasing. We want fair to mean nobody wins and nobody loses and nobody gets hurt. That is not fair. Jesus told us that in this world we will have troubles. He did not tell us to follow Him and He will never allow pain to come our way. He did say that He would never leave us alone in our pain and that He would make everything that we go through on this world worth it if we trust Him.
Where would we be if there were no pain in the world? What would it be like if we never had to hurt again? Would it be fair? Maybe, but I don’t think it would be that great either. We learn more from pain than we ever do from pleasure. When we place our hand on a hot surface, even after we have been told that it is hot, it is the pain that finally teaches us to listen. But if pleasure was such a good teacher we would have fewer people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Think about all the things that you learned from pain and then see if the pain was a good teacher now that you can look back on it. Most people would never want to suffer the pain again, but would definitely value the lesson learned.
Not much can be done to take away the hurt and feelings that come with someone close to you losing their life. Even Jesus wept when His good friend Lazarus died. But the fairness of God offers hope to those who mourn those losses. It is a hope that is hard to understand because it goes against what we want to feel at such times. It is a hope that does not come from ourselves, but from God and His promise of fairness. He promises that ANYONE who trusts Him and asks for the forgiveness of their sin will receive full pardon and not be given what we deserve, but instead be given eternal life. We can pass from this life of pain and suffering to a life free of all pain and suffering.
You see this life is but a vapor, but there is an eternity and you will be there in one way or another. Eternal death, is the eternal separation from God in what we hear of as Hell. Eternal life is when we pass from this life to forever with God in a place where death and pain and what we call unfairness will never happen again. God is so fair that He offers this to ANYONE who will ask. No matter what you have done, no matter how bad you think you may be, God’s love is fair to all and His forgiveness is complete to all. Don’t be fooled, His judgement is just as fair to all who refuse is forgiveness, no matter how good you have been or how good you think you are. God is holy, we are not, and without His forgiveness we stay unholy. It is that simple, because God is that fair.