Wednesday, August 21, 2013

God Raises The Dead Even On Your Off Days.

Chauncey Crandall wasn't having a great day. Not horrible. Not great. Work was piling up, people were demanding, and then a guy died on him.

You know. That kind of a day.

Less than an hour later, however, the dead guy would come back to life. So, in retrospect, maybe it wasn't that bad of a day after all.

When Jeff Markin walked into the Palm Beach Gardens Hospital on September 20, 2006, he had no idea he'd be playing the role of Lazarus. Right there on the emergency room floor his life took a very sharp turn, or, better stated, made a blunt stop.

And after 43 minutes of working to bring him back, Dr. Chauncey Crandall, the supervising cardiologist, (who still wasn't having all that great of a day) declared Jeff dead.

Although Jeff and Chauncey were both having days not going according to plan, God wasn't having the same frustration. He had His agenda right in front of Him, spread out on his larger-than-life mahogany desk. And right in the slot that said "raise Jeff Markin from the dead," God was right on time.

(God, unlike Jeff and Chauncey, was having a great day.)

Here's the part of the story that interested me when I heard about it yesterday. Not that men coming back to life isn't a real headline maker, but here's where I started to relate to Chauncey Crandall and his bad day.

Chauncey had a God-appointed task to perform. He may not have started his day thinking he would participate in one of God's God-appointed tasks, but, just like God is wont to do, God decided he'd keep it to Himself until the time of His choosing.


As Chauncey left the room, a voice told him to go back and pray for that man. The one back there getting prepped by a nurse for the morgue. The one with the appointment with a toe tag. Yeah. That guy. The dead one. Pray for him.

He argued, of course. But God, isn't that just like God, was persistent.

So Chauncey returned. He put his hands on Jeff's chest, the one with no heartbeat, and prayed. And he did so with very little faith. He prayed not really believing it would make any difference. He prayed - not because he felt compelled by a fiery burning of spiritual awakeness in the pit of his stomach that was only completed with a sudden glory light of holiness ringing his head like a halo while the Hallelujah Chorus sang in four-part harmony in his ears - because God asked him to pray. He prayed out of obedience.

"This day that I prayed for Jeff," said Chauncey, "was a day of very little faith. It wasn't one of my big God days."

Think typical daily grind. That's what Chauncey was experiencing.

"And when I walked into that emergency room, to tell you the truth, I didn't want to stay and pray because I was so much in a rush with my work. But I prayed. And I didn't have a lot of faith backing that prayer up that day, but the Lord asked me to do it so I honored the Lord and prayed."

The rest of the story is: Dr. Chauncey Crandall asked the indulgence of one of the attending doctors to shock Jeff Markin one more time. Remember, he had been dead for 43 minutes. His time of death had been called. He was what Miracle Max would call "all dead" not "mostly dead."

Yet he came back to life, anyway.

Jeff came back from a place he described as completely dark. Isolated. And hopeless. A place he knew would be his to live, for all eternity, alone.

What's amazing to me is that, in that moment, Jeff Markin needed an Abraham. Or an Elijah. A Moses. Or a Paul, first name Apostle. He needed men who had big God days everyday.

Instead he got a Chauncey on an off day. And God still raised him from the dead.

I'm not sure what that says about your day. Or your tomorrow. I'm not even sure how to completely equate that to the grind of clocking in every day, not to a job, but to a life that, before we even live it, we've diagnosed as ripe with little God days.

Maybe, like me, most of your days feel like little God days. These are the days that hold no overpowering zeal, no walk-on-water actions, no surprises, not of the good variety anyway. Outside of traffic flow and slight temperature adjustments, these days are so much alike you need a calendar and a muscular alarm to differentiate the passing of one and the beginning of another.

God never shows up on these kinds of days. We know this because we've lived thousands before today and we'll live thousands after. Maybe. And what we discover is that everyday, except for brief stints of vacation periods and times of extreme trauma, are little God days.

Or so we think. 

Here's the problem with little God days: it takes a little god to live inside them. And God, last time I looked at a sunrise, a mountain, or the complexity of my fingernail, is what you would call the antonym of "little." 

So here's my challenge. For you and for me.

I want to wake up tomorrow and have a BIG God day. I want to look for Him. Even more than that, I want to expect Him. I want to stumble out of bed, stub my toe, drop the shampoo bottle at least three times in the shower, have my hairdryer short circuit, melt my XCVI pants with a too hot iron, break the yoke on my morning eggs, run my car until it sputters out of gas, have my first appointment of the day waiting impatiently for me when I get to work, and still have a big God Day.

Or, if I could skip the part about ruining my XCVI pants, that'd be okay, too.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary Jon and Kristin!

Late but oh so sincere, Happy 1st Anniversary Jon and Kristin! My friends; my family. May you enjoy 75 more. Or, heck, go for 80. Much love to you both! In honor, I present my maid of honor speech from that infamous weekend.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Wednesday Everything Changed. Even You.

Photo Courtesy of National Park Service
I'm going to tell you a story, one you'll recognize. Because you were there.

You'll know it without my prompting. You'll feel it like a second skin. You'll recognize its sharpness like you recognize Wasabi when you get a mouthful of it.

That's the power of this story. Because it's your story, too.

Here goes.

The day was a Wednesday. The heat was high; the humidity bulbous. Sweat was your faithful companion, whether you wanted loyal sweat or not. Everyone on the surface of the sun was nearing their boiling point. Give them two more minutes and you could add pasta.

On this Wednesday, nothing was more celebrated than cups of ice covered in flavored sugar of various rainbow shades and even the air-conditioning units drooped under the burden of the temperature war.

It was hot. You get it. 

This Wednesday was in August. August 1, 2012, in fact, and today I'm one year old.

This Wednesday was nothing like any other Wednesday. It was the last Wednesday of the last week before my best friend's last moments of singleness. She was getting married on Saturday. It was arriving posthaste. The wedding was a train, time the engine, and us the rails. So we did what everyone does pre-wedding, we pulled out all our nerves and frayed them.

Wednesday was the last day to finish errands. The next day was the bachelorette party, the day after the rehearsal dinner, and the day after that the wedding. 

Our dance card was full. So life struck up another band and opened a second dance floor.

After nearly six months of fighting a pain in my left hip and leg that would not relent, I had self-medicated with a continuous mixture of chiropractic appointments, massages, and using a friend's private pool for my personal therapy.

I have great friends. Some have beautiful pools.

Wednesday would be my last hour to myself for days, my last chance for a solitary swim and a little therapy - physically and mentally - before my best friend moved out of the house we had shared for five years and into the home of her husband. By Monday, she'd be a Mrs. and I'd be heading to my first day on a new job in a new city.

Yes, I was moving, too.

Change, it seems, likes to happen in clumps, just like gum likes to happen in your hair. Sometimes you can salvage the surroundings. Sometimes you get a new 'do.

So I went for my morning swim. And that was the last moments of my last life.

When I arrived, I gathered my towel, stepped out of my vehicle, and felt a pain shoot up my left leg into my hip or down my left leg into my hip, it didn't really matter the direction to me. The point here is: I felt pain.

Initially, I thought it was a charlie horse. The mother of all charlie horses. A charlie horse that had invited all his other charlie horse friends over for a hoedown on my sciatic. 

Baffled, confused, I'll admit slightly panicked, I stood in my friend's front yard and said some of the most enlightened words of my existence, "Oh no. Oh, God, no. Please, no." I may have repeated that, in a different order, a few times over the last year.

I tried to walk it off, but I couldn't really walk. I tried to swim it out and nearly drown. I tried to stretch it out and, instead, started losing consciousness. No matter what I tried, nothing could reverse what had happened. Nothing could back this event up.

X marked the spot.

I'll spare you the details of the days after. Truthfully, it's a long story and unless I can add voices, a few accents, and a joke I've used often about my butt, it just comes out sounding whiny. So, sorry. I don't do podcasts.

Here's the shorter version, minus the butt joke.

After weeks without sleep, and days of fun tasks like an emergency room visit, doctors appointments, pain management specialists, acupuncture, more massages, an MRI, and pain medication that did absolutely nothing but lower my IQ, I would be diagnosed with a herniated disk, one my neurosurgeon would call "severe" and then ask me if I was one of those weird people with such high pain tolerances they can hold their hand over an open flame and not flinch.

I assured him I definitely was not that person. Thankfully, he didn't flick a bic and ask for proof. He just asked lots of questions, shook his head a lot, and stared at me in a manner I imagine Bearded Ladies have experienced staring.

Instead of surgery, I went to physical therapy. And the hope I didn't even hope for slowly came back. Those stories I'll save for another day. Or a podcast because that butt joke is really pretty funny. 

What I learned on that Wednesday wasn't much. Wednesdays aren't the days for spiritual growth. These are the moments you simply survive. You struggle. You fight. You bounce around from confusion to sadness, from defeat to faith. You trudge along until you're exhausted, spent, wrung out, beaten down, thinned out to the very fiber of who you are and who you are not, and then built back brick by brick.

Maybe you remember that day now because you've had one of your own. As I retold my story, you didn't have to ask yourself whether you could relate, did you? You knew the answer automatically. You arrived back at your day instantly. Transported. Dematerialized and rematerialized back into that moment in time, as if Scotty himself were at the controls.

Survivors of Wednesdays never forget. 

When your day came, you didn't think you'd survive. But you did. You didn't think life would ever be the same. And it wasn't. You couldn't imagine God could ever redeem the pain. But, and here is the question I ask daily, hasn't He?

God carried me. And continues a year later to bear the load.

When it happened, for months after I honestly thought He didn't care that much for me. Not really. He loved my soul. Sure. I could believe that. But as for my life? Nah. Expendable. A throw away. You can't love a child and allow that kind of anguish. Right?

I find I'm wrong a lot about God.

None of this has been easy. I would never trivialize my day, or yours, with a "God has a plan" pat answer. He does, of course, but there are moments in our lives, days like Wednesdays, when that answer just won't cut it. We need more. And, sometimes, we won't get it. We just won't. Not instantly. Maybe not ever.

I asked myself a lot this year what I believed. Who do I believe God is? No, really. Down deep in the gut. Deeper still. Who?

Once, years ago, I was on a flight to Boston and fighting against a fear of flying with everything I had. Right then, louder than the rush of blood in my ears, God told me to make a decision. "Tara Lynn, I'm either with you or I'm not. I'm either good or I'm not."

He asked me that question a lot over this last year because he needed my answer. I needed my answer, too.

My Wednesday lasted forever. Since the effects of the last year will never go away, I can honestly say that Wednesday will never end, but not in the way you might imagine. I'm no longer haunted by it. I'm enriched. I'm spurred on. I'm anxious and hyper and excited to take that Wednesday with me into the future, whatever that is, because that day is now part of my landscape.

Because of Wednesday, I'm stronger now. Terribly so. I punch myself in the stomach a lot because my physical therapist is a little crazy and encourages self-flagellation. Also, it engages your core muscles, which are keeping the pain at bay and my sanity at present.

Mostly, however, I'm just a girl. Who broke. That God put back together again.

And His strength is the only strength I know. Mine, whatever I had of it, left on a Wednesday and I haven't seen hide nor hair of it since. 

As for your Wednesday, first off, let me say I'm sorry. I cannot imagine. I cannot relate. Your pain is yours, not mine. It is/was a place only you and God know. But I'm in hope with you. I'm praying with you. I'm excited for the end result with you. I'm punching my stomach with you. (Feel free to not participate in that last one.)

These Wednesdays are the great chasms we have in life. They give us a beauty that is quite severe, frighteningly stark, but beautiful nonetheless. Why? Because that's what chasms do. They divide. They separate. They split. They dissect one thing into two, like your past from your future, your fear from your courage, your puny strength from God's magnificent brawn.

They are our Grand Canyon and, even at a glance, the beauty of the Grand Canyon will take your breath away.