This is coming from a guy who just paid a guy to cut a hole in his head, so take it for what it's worth. I may not be the most accurate source of information. Yesterday was a wonderful day. Oh, it was filled with pain and a few tears (don't ever think you can't cry), but it was also filled with friends and family.
I think of myself as a pretty independent person. I am usually stubborn enough to think I can get through things on my own, but it turns out that brain surgery is just one example of something I could not get through on my own.
Over the past few days I limited the people who would be with me, wisely, i think, because just my wife, parents and in-laws coming into a room in 2's and 3's was overwhelming at times. Yesterday, though, something happened I suddenly had visitors all throughout the day: Brooke Gulledge (my father's cousin) and her son, Beau; Greg Weeks, the Senior Pastor at Manchester United Methodist Church; my District Superintendent, Leah Pogemiller; and, of course, Rev. Ray and Mrs. Susan Owens.
Each visit wore me out in its own way. Who would have known that lying in bed while people sat in a room could be an exhausting task? I didn't! I thought I could handle it, and, really I did, I guess, but by the time Ray and Susan came late last night I was still, somehow, glad for this last visit. Carrie asked if I wanted her to turn them away because she could tell I was exhausted, but it was Ray and Susan! I so wanted to speak with them.
My wife, Carrie, wheeled me down to a lounge (my roommate was sound asleep and we didn't want to wake him) and down the hall in the lounge we were able to have a lovely conversation with Ray and Susan. When I gave them an occasional word-in-edge-wise: apparently that tumor didn't affect my ability to talk people to death! They told me of the outpouring of prayers, fasting and support that has been widespread across the church. At the 10:45 am worship service I have spoken of "signs of hope" for our church and this is one of them!
How incredible it has been to be surrounded by such prayer and support and I'm very proud of this church and it's response, but I was thinking. (And that usually gets me into trouble...)
As your pastor, my medical condition has been very public, but how many people do we have in our midst who are suffering without feeling as though they have been thoroughly and overwhelmingly surrounded in prayer? Don't worry, though, as your pastor I have some suggestions: (Would you not except me to give you advice?)
- We must talk with one another about concerns that we know of: our own and others of which we are aware. We should never do this in a gossipy or negative way, but ask people who have trouble before them,asking, "Can I share this with a caring community of faith!"
- We must be willing to be people of fervent prayer. That prayer list in our bulletin is not just a list of names, but list of people who don't just need a cognitive list of things said about them, but who need to be surrounded emotionally and spiritually.
- And, I've said this often before, but we need to actually surround one another. We need to pick up the phone, we need to stop by, and we need to make sure that we have cared physically for one another.
I know I am putting a large task before you, but I believe this church is up to it! I've watched as new friends have walked through the doors of Aflame Worship and been welcomed affectionately and invited to Bible studies and Sunday Schools. I've watched as other members of the church have been cared for in crisis and new ministries have started for visitation services and grieving. I have watched as this church has taken the initiative to begin a new "Fruitful Congregations" Initiative. That means we are leaders in our conference stepping out in faith! There are signs of hope at this church: Prayer and compelling care for others will be at the center of our success. Let us step out in prayer, care and ministry!