Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Visit From St. Nick

*Dear Readers,
       I must ask your indulgence for a few weeks. Hearing other people's surgery stories can get monotonous. As many of you know my life changed in the fall of 2016- unexplained  illness, prayers,cancer diagnosis, surgeries, prayers, loss of 2\3 of liver, prayers, no cancer but auto immune disease. I was in and out of the hospital all fall with the surgery, fluid weight gain to 295 lbs, loss back now to 238 lbs and then a hematoma. My body is tired. 
       But God is here and He has something to say in all this. If He is doing something I want to share it. Finding the right words is difficult. Miracle is one of them as the mass, the tumor that killed my bile duct and caused ruination of my right side liver was gone when the pathologist went to work it. The doctor had no explanation. God, working through the prayers of His people is my working theory. Yet complications followed and how is God also in the hard part as well as the good? In all I want Him to receive His glory. The out pouring of love, support, prayers, resources, encouragement, and care for Pam and I has been overwhelming and I have no words to express the depth of our gratitude and how humbled and blessed we are to serve the congregation of White Bluff Chapel. 
       I will write a series of blogs on these themes and hopefully add a Christmas twist to them--tis the season you know. I will try to explore in various little stories some of what happened as I seek for myself the words to express the inexpressible love of God as I saw it these past few months. This I know: to God be the Glory, Great Things He Has Done!

                                                           A Visit From St. Nick

    And He has made them a to be a kingdom and priests to our God.    Rev. 5:10
     But your are a chosen people, a Holy nation, a royal priesthood, God's special                                      possession that you may declare the praises of God......   I Peter 2:9

      I am lying in a hospital bed. People are looking down on my body poking, picking, and prodding.  I do not like this side of the bed, I usually look down and smile, visit, read a verse, and pray. So this is what it looks like from here. I feel strange, an alien.

    Not more than a 2-3 miles from the hospital lives Pam's sister Sue and husband Nick. Nick, my funny, story-telling, loud, generous,Italian- Catholic brother-in-law is one of a kind. He has also had many, many illnesses in his life. We couldn't be any different. He is city, I am country. I am comfortable around cows. He prefers Dallas Cowboys. I'm a old Texas Baptist. His Catholic roots go back to Sicily, Italy. Somehow being in this brother-in-law business works for us.
  Whenever we lived close enough when he was ill and having his gut surgeries, I'd try to go see him and pray  with him at the hospital. These last 10 years have had us close enough we have probably been to 5 or 6 of his ongoing surgeries. But now it my turn.
    Right on cue in walks Nick. His smile is large but his eyes show something else, as do mine. This is awkward. We talked a bit. He offered encouragement on getting through this stuff. And then he did it. I was not prepared in any way for what happened next. This man did what he had seen and had done with him. He said, "Let's pray!."  He reached out that hand and touched my head and began to pray. That hand that had rather run a computer mouse, adeptly find a auto part number in a four inch catalog that he already knew and now in retirement would rather click a remote was on my forehead.
He prayed and we said the "Our Father..." and then he prayed the Rosary and in a few minutes he was gone.

   In that moment, Nick was a priest. No official church would recognize his priesthood. I understand. But I also know that from Exodus to Matthew to Ephesians, to Peter to Revelation that this priesthood of all believers is the calling and we are to be a kingdom of priests to each other. We offer the comfort, love, encouragement, even sometimes rebuke to one another from a loving God. At other times we take the burdens, cares, pain, and grief to the living God on behalf of other believers. We are indeed a kingdom of priests.

     So a few weeks before Christmas, I was visited by St .Nick. As Jesus is the Good News of salvation through the incarnation, St. Nick visited me in the hospital and God was incarnate. No, no official church will recognized his priesthood but I believe Jesus did in that moment of flowing grace.

   And so did I,