Dear Fellow Children of God,
When Jesus knew that his suffering and death on the cross were imminent he went to the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples to pray. Jesus’ prayer on the night before His crucifixion is well-known. "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42) The human side of Jesus would rather not face the brutality and death that was coming. But, Jesus the son of God and the son of Mary knew His passion was the only way to forgive the sins of the world, so he also prayed, “. . . yet not my will, but yours be done.”
We pray for God’s will to be done in our lives every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer. However, how well do your actions follow the words of the prayer? Do you say those words with all your heart? Do you know what it means when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, but perhaps you also make room for human weakness? Or, do you sometimes just say those words because they are part of the prayer Jesus taught us?
None of us are Jesus, the sinless Savior of the world. But, last week I was touched, encouraged, and inspired by the faithful life of a personal friend and a friend of our congregation.
I have been visiting Barb Woods Nakajo monthly in Anchorage for over two years. Barb grew up in the valley. She is the sister of St. John member Wayne Woods, and the daughter of St. John members and long time valley residents, Noel and Jean Woods. I visit Barb because she suffers with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
When I visit Barb is in her wheel chair with various medical machines hooked up to assist her. Often her family is there. Barb’s son, William, is often home helping his mom when I visit. I’ve also visited when Barb’s sister, or brother, or parents are there. And, Barb’s insurance provides a care giver who can help with her various needs. There is always a care giver present.
Barb has faced various changes and crises to her health over the years because of her ALS. But, invariably, when I visit Barb is positive. She talks about articles she has read. She enjoys having me read the Bible with her and talk and pray with her. We have talked gardening and fishing. And, Barb rejoices in the gift of forgiveness in the body and blood of Jesus as she is always glad to receive God’s grace in the Lord’s Supper.
I’ve read “Tuesdays with Morrrie” by Mitch Albom about the progression of ALS. This is a horrible disease. But when I visit and bring God’s love, in spite of her struggles, Barb has always exhibited her faith in Jesus and a positive attitude.
On January 23 I told Barb that her faith is an encouragement to me. When I visit to bring her God’s help, I feel that instead her trust in God and her positive attitude minister to me. I have said to myself, “If Barb can face this disease with God’s love and strength, I can face my own much smaller problems.”
Barb wanted to respond to my thanks, so she had her Personal Care Assistant clear her throat and adjust the air pressure in her vocal cords so she could speak. Barb told me, “The last days don’t have to be lost days.” In other words, just because she is facing the debilitation of this disease, and ultimately death, does not mean that God no longer has a purpose for her life. Wow!
I read and prayed with Barb. William and Barb received God’s love in the Lord’s Supper, and I said good-bye and left.
The more I thought of what Barb said the more I realized how much faith those words expressed. The only way to face a disease like ALS with such a positive attitude is to know God is still with us in our struggle and provides His purpose. The only way to face a disease like ALS with such a positive attitude is to know that God has eternal life in heaven for us because of Jesus.
None of us are Jesus. He alone is the holy son of God. But I feel like I was listening to the prayer of Jesus, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." No, “The last days don’t have to be lost days!” God’s love is stronger than any trial we face. God’s love gives eternal life through faith in Jesus, and this life in heaven overcomes any death in this world.
Thank you, Barb. Thank you, Jesus!
A Child of God, Blessed by the faith of others,
P.S. I asked Barb if I could share her words and she said “Yes.”
P.P.S. Here are pictures of the baptism of Evan Toms this past Sunday. https://picasaweb.google.com/114993745799525883148/BaptismsWinter2015#6110394541704823458
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . .