Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jesus Is Alive

My good friend Clinton Tuck shared his journey of faith today with fifteen people who attended the Support Group meeting in Clarksville, Tennessee. The Support Group is a group of people who believe in Jesus Christ as their everything. Group participants are active missionaries who participate in Jesus' love, compassion and mercy for humanity. This group meets to pray for those who are hurting. Attendees are encouraged to share the love of Christ by using their own pain as training and to consider serving those who are struggling with similar hardships.

Here is what Clinton had to say to us: “I had two strokes,” he said. “I lay in the bed at the nursing home with my grandchildren sitting around me. I couldn’t talk to them. I wasn’t able to speak. I had a tube in my chest because I had double pneumonia. I had another tube in my stomach, a feeding tube. I asked God why did you keep me alive? God has a reason for everything. He put this on my heart,” referring to encouraging those who have ended up like him and have given up hope.

“Have you ever been to a nursing home? he asked. People in a nursing home can’t do anything for themselves. All they do is lie in bed. Many of them are just dropped off there. The people that bring them to the nursing home sometimes leave them there to die without ever coming to visit them, as he paused to take a deep breath, his voice somewhat broken. “If you visit a nursing home, you will be more thankful for what you have. You will stop complaining. I said I had two strokes. After the first one, my doctor said I needed to quit drinking and smoking pot, but I didn’t listen. I recovered and ignored what he said to me. I had all these friends and everyone loved me. It felt good to feel loved. They would say to me, ‘Oh Clinton, I love you,’ then when I got sick, they forgot all about me. I never heard from them again. Then I had a second stroke. It was massive. I thought I had an asthma attack. I said to God, ‘If you give me my voice back, I will praise you, no more filth will come from my lips.’ It took sixteen years to get where I am today. I am so thankful. I can get out of the nursing home now. I won’t let this stop me,” he looked down at his partially paralyzed body, his right leg is in a brace and his right arm is supported with a device to keep his fingers from curling up. “I want to tell everyone what God has done for me. Jesus is alive. He is a true friend. Friends are a dime a dozen, but a true friend is someone I want to hold on to.” He glanced around at various people as he spoke.

“God brought me back. I didn’t do anything. So many times I wish I could get on my knees and pray. When I was able to get on my knees to pray, I never did and now I can’t. But I can still thank him and praise him. We come to church to give him thanks and praise not to criticize one another. Be thankful. We have so much to be thankful for. Be thankful for Jesus. Do you think what you are complaining about can compare to what Jesus went through? He didn’t have to do it, but he did it for us. We’re never to good to help another person. When you see me, you see Jesus. He is alive and he is your true friend and my true friend.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Camp TAG 2011, Lasso Your Grief

I was privileged to attend Camp TAG (Teaching About Grief) for the third year in a row. Camp TAG was started to help grieving youth. The whole idea of grieving youth really disturbs me. Yet it is a reality of the world in which we live. A world in which sickness takes the lives of so many without regard to age, gender, or race. Some of the kids who attend camp have lost their moms or dads to illness, some have parents who have an addiction and others have no parents at all.

The highlight of Camp TAG is the memorial service, which this year was held on Friday July 22. During this service, we gathered in a large outdoor pavilion. There was a table set up with candles and photos of loved ones. Young campers and older campers got up to light a candle in remembrance of their loved one. There were many tears and some huddled together to comfort one another.

After the memorial service, the young campers gathered on the basketball court outside the pavilion. Each camper received a miniature hot air balloon made out of fabric. On the outside of the balloon, the camper had written a note to their loved one that they were remembering. We opened up the balloon and lit the inside fabric. Soon the balloon expanded and launched into the sky. It was exciting to see the young campers as they watched their prayers and letters ascend into the heavens.

I learned that day that the young campers weren't the only ones grieving. In fact I met a man whose son committed suicide and a woman whose son was murdered. I think everyone who attended camp was grieving in some way.

When God stepped into humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, he didn't come to be exalted. He came to suffer and share our deepest pain. He experienced it first hand when he was crucified for all our sins. Just like the miniature balloons that we sent off into the sky, Jesus Himself ascended to the Father in Heaven (Luke 24:51). However, now that He is glorified He isn't limited to any particular location. The King of the Kingdom is alive living in all those who yield to Him.  As noted by the apostle Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20 NKJV first part).

People often ask, "Where was God?" when something bad happens. But I prefer to say, "God is present wherever and whenever something good happens."  I do believe He showed up at Camp TAG living in those who yield to Christ and working through the Holy Spirit even in those who may not know it.

I look forward to the time in which children will no longer grieve. A time when children will be happy and never suffer. A time when the King and His Kingdom will reign throughout a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1-3).

The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets’ (Zechariah 8:5 NKJV).

Lord Jesus come.