One of the things I love to do the most is talk to the next generation. Usually that is in a college class setting. Whatever the venue of a presentation, it takes some days to get my body ready, and some days to recover, but I am SO grateful I’m able to! Helping to spark, stimulate or encourage another generation of future missionaries to persevere and go is a use of my limited energy that will last for eternity. What can top that?! I am already getting ready for a road trip into Oregon in September to speak at a Christian university. Fun!
Early last year I found a photo I didn’t know I had. This one.
Whose daddy made parallel bars for his girl to learn to walk again after polio? *This girl!*
Whose mommy dressed her up for her catwalk debut? *This girl!*
Whose siblings lined up to be Miss America’s cheering audience? *This girl!*
Who just had to smile, having survived a disease that tried to kill her, and who knew God was strong and was with her? *This girl!* (I had been in the hospital 7 months, and out just a couple weeks at this photo.)
Dick looks like he is saying, “And here we have…” —
This photo was taken shortly after my seven months in the hospital recovering from Polio. I was learning to walk using parallel bars on a ramp built by my dad off our kitchen porch. I felt as pleased with myself as I look in the picture.
But it’s about more than that.
I am not a parent, but reflecting back over my life, I am blown away by the power of mother and father love. I was just one of five kids, but my mom spent two hours a day doing physical therapy on me, and my dad built for me equipment they could not afford to buy. They were such models of a “can do” attitude that for years it didn’t dawn on me that there was any other kind! How MUCH I admire them – both in Heaven now.
I was wearing shorts, sitting at a picnic table when
2-3/4 yr. old Gracie approached, looking intently at my braces. I rapped the plastic with my knuckles. “See? It’s hard.” Her wide blue eyes asked the same question her voice did – “Why?” “Because my legs are weak, so these help me walk.” Gracie smiled, said “That’s good,” and walked away, satisfied.
Aren’t kids great?! Jesus said, “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Maybe that means people of such curiosity, honesty and trust as Gracie?
I took a tumble off my patio this morning. Wasn’t paying attention to a common law of physics. I was weeding, which would not be remarkable, except that the weeds were by the patio and I was standing about seven inches above them. You gotta understand – because I don’t have any quadriceps, I can’t bend my knees very much, let alone squat. In fact, to stand I have to hyper-extend my knees some so my legs won’t collapse. No quads also means I can’t get up from the ground without crawling up on something. Now you get the picture…
I was standing on the patio, bending at the waist pulling weeds seven inches lower than my feet. One can’t mess with center-of-gravity laws without consequences. Yep. Over I went, a face plant. After doing a mental checklist and finding nothing was hurt, I rolled over, sat up and decided those varmints would be a whole lot easier to pull from ground level, where I was now. When I was done, I put my crutches where I could grab them when I was ready to, crawled up on the patio and used it for leverage to get my legs under me and stand up again.
Metaphorically I’ve done that lots of times. You, too, I’d guess. We do something dumb, like maybe ignore one of God’s laws? and take a tumble. I have found it pays to assess the damage, redeem the experience, file it away in my mental “warning” file, get up and go again. But that’s always with the Lord’s help. He’s the solid thing I crawl up on to stand again. I know it is fashionable these days to “believe in yourself” and do things your way. Yeah, and end up with your face in the dirt and no way up. Like a bent over bruised reed. I prefer to rely on the Solid and Strong One.
I wrote a story that talks about all this, “Bruised Reeds“, about a simple tribal teenager with a big heartache. Check it out! What do you think? Send me a comment.
March 23, 2008 (Easter Sunday)
I’ve been excited for days. Special friends were going to (and did!) join me for church this morning and for lunch afterwards. Not special because we see each other often. In fact, I haven’t seen them for years. Not since I left Papua 17 years ago, except for Barb. The guys of both couples were pilots who flew other missionaries like me across the vast swamps and over the dangerous mountains. There were not many of us non-indigenous folk and we needed each other. Pilots depended on accurate weather reports from us on the ground. More than one died due to bad weather conditions in the mountains. We depended on them to get us safely in and out of the little outposts where we worked.
In a dozen other ways, no matter what our role we had each other’s back; supported each other. That dependency alone is enough to forge deep ties, but there was more. Something even deeper and stronger. We had the same supreme purpose, no matter what our specific task was. Whether pilot, translator (like me), community developer or whatever – we were there in answer to Jesus’ commission to “make disciples of all nations.” (See Matthew 28:18-20) We didn’t speak about it much, but we understood that we all felt the same joy and fulfillment of a purpose that outweighed the risk and what others would call hardship. That is a very, very profound bond indeed.
If you are not a classic Christian as I am, this may sound a little strange. Other-worldly. Doo-doo, doo-doo. Bizarre. Wacky. I happen to believe, though, that far from being wacky, it is as true as it gets. That authentic reality is found is found only in the perspective that relationship with Jesus gives. Here I could launch into my rationale for saying that. I won’t, but I will invite you to contact me (click on “comment” below) if you’d like to talk about it. Doesn’t have to be publicly posted. Or you can read a story I wrote that relates to this. It’s simply called “Life!“. Check it out!
I have a 23-pound, three-way mixed mutt. Gulliver is Jack Russel terrier, Whippet and Sheltie. His high vigor loves to run, jump, chase and pull. Gulliver must be exercised daily for the sanity of us both. Most of the year we take two walks a day; Gulliver on his feet and I on my scooter to which Gulliver is attached by a retractable leash. Usually he is at the far extent of it, pulling to make us go faster.
These days, though, I haven’t been able to take Gulliver for walks. The snow on the road was too deep and now the slush is so bad my scooter would get stuck in a second. In fact, it is so awful today that I didn’t even venture out in my car for fear I would get stuck. Gulliver didn’t understand all that. He just wanted to explore the neighborhood and begged me to the point of distraction. So I phoned a neighbor who has two boys who have helped me with Gulliver before. Would one of them be able to walk here (a quarter-mile of two-feet deep snow) and take Gulliver up the road for some exercise? “Sure!” was the enthusiastic reply. Soon, though, their mother’s four-wheel-drive SUV came slippy-sliding up my driveway with one of the boys inside. He told me, “You know how slushy your roads are? Well, Mom said our roads are better. They were plowed. We can take Gulliver there and walk him on those roads.” Gulliver didn’t even bat an eye as he hopped into their car and left on his adventure. He came back much happier and calmer. Stephanie said to call on them any time. They’d love to do it again.
Walking the dog may seem an insignificant thing, but it isn’t. Proverbs 12:10 in the Bible says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.” It seems to me that the logical opposite would be that a person who doesn’t care about his animal’s needs is not righteous, or is – well, wicked. Don’t we all react with disdain at the stories of cruelty to animals that we see on TV? Why? Maybe because deep in our hearts there is the echo of the memory of God’s command to our first ancestors to take care of His creation. If conscious obedience to God is worship, then something as simple as walking the dog can be worship! That’s an amazing thought. Do you agree? Click on “comments” below to respond.
For another animal interaction tale, see my story, “A Boost Up.“