Category Archives: Christian
The Woman in Room Number Three by Karen Brown
Jesus I asked, would You please make me well, so I can find a new place to dwell,
Could You please heal my body, show me the way, I’m willing to do whatever You say.
Jesus I asked, could I just use one arm, this alone would work like a charm
To give me a life with so much less strife.
Oh Jesus, I asked, could You help me today to realize Your power in a whole new way?
Then Jesus responded, He answered me sure, showing me something I’d not seen before…
“My child I love you more than you know, and I’ve called you to be where no one will go,
In a place where I want My presence to show;
You see when you gave Me your life on that wonderful day,
I already had you walking the way that would reach those people who I wanted to touch;
How else will they know that I love them so much?
So smile your smile,
let them see My Life,
shown glowing in the midst of your strife;
And Oh My Child, you will very soon see, that you’ll be dancing with Me… for eternity.”
Thank you so much for giving your permission to share, author Karen Brown, and a special thank you to Nancy Belz.
ROCK OF AGES
Father, I am sinking.
Would you throw to me a rope?
Would you please confirm the scripture
That I’m never without hope?
Would you strengthen me in spirit
As I trod this rocky road?
Would you bear for me the burden
That is such a heavy load?
Would you wipe away the tears
That keep falling from my eyes?
Would you lovingly send mercy
When you hear my anguished cries?
Would you not let pain consume me
Taking focus out of prayer?
Would you be my rock of ages
Greater than my worldly care?
-Copyright Mary Jane Gonzales
(PSALM 91:1,14 Inspiration verses)
Today we honor author, poet, and chronic pain advocate Mary Jane Gonzales by reading her poetry, as her family and friends gather to pay tribute to her at her Celebration of Life service. Her poetry was actually her prayers, as she began praying in verse after her illness struck nearly 30 years ago. Jane became a Christian later in her life, and her faith was her rock and guiding light throughout her battle with the severe neurological disease Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which kept her confined to a bed through the final years. Though her body fought her daily, she used what energy she had to be a source of encouragement to others living in pain. If you would like to read one of her inspiring books, you can find her author page here where several of her books are available for download as ebooks.
To be thankful while you are suffering is one thing, but to be thankful for suffering….
Once in a while in the support group I administrate, there is someone who makes a statement that is so powerful, it catches me off guard and it sets my soul on fire. In truth, this isn’t a rare occurrence. I guess you could say that those suffering so deeply every single moment of the day have some profound insights to share. One thing that inspires me the most is when people say they are thankful for their illness. That is a bold statement that I believe one would never come to lightly- and no one would EVER openly say something so provocative in a support group setting among a band of individuals with severe chronic diseases, unless they truly meant it. That’s why it always gives me pause whenever I hear such powerful expressions.
It’s not unusual for those who go through a near death experience or a serious short term illness to find deeper meaning and purpose. It’s no less real, but it is more common when the storms have an end, and suffering can be left behind. While it’s not rare for those with ongoing illness to eventually find new ways to appreciate life again, to say they are grateful for their illness, it is so much more rare in cases of chronic disease. Why? Because an illness that is daily, constant, and does not see an end- is far easier to hate than to get excited about. A condition which may be degenerative, becoming more painful and physically or mentally compromising over time, isn’t easily beloved…as you can imagine. To me, it’s almost a miracle hearing that anyone would be happy or thankful that they became so sick. Others with chronic illness can find statements like these offensive, even. These ideas of “illness gratitude” certainly border on the extreme, but make one wonder where their personal journeys have lead them to truly embrace their infirmities.
I’ve heard people claim to be thankful they are in pain and chronically ill because it transformed their lives. It made them see the world in a different light. Their conditions allowed them to shake off the clutter and stress of a life that they realized didn’t have substance, and focus on a life of greater meaning and value. They once believed losing their career meant losing their purpose, but I’ve spoken to those who say that they are so thankful they became ill because now they found their true calling. Some have said that their new life of chronic illness has enabled them to be there for people in ways they never could have in their “healthy” life, so they are forever thankful for their new sick bodies, and how useful they can be to others through deeper compassion and connection. Sometimes people are grateful they are in pain because it has brought them closer to their faith, and they cherish a higher spiritual connection they never could have had without constantly being pushed to the edge of what they can endure. They are forced to cling to God instead of their own strength, and in that comfort, they find gratitude for suffering that brought them more enrichment spiritually.
Again, these are extreme statements, but thought provoking and inspiring nonetheless!
Most often, people I encounter long for a cure or pray to be healed. That’s normal, and that’s not at all unhealthy. Research in psychology equates the loss of health or a limb to losing a family member or spouse passing away. It’s earth-shattering. The losses just keep coming. With chronic illness, the grief starts over again and again. It’s cavernous, and there’s no end to the emotional roller coaster or the physical fight. Hoping for a cure, for healing, or for remission is what we all are desperate for, and that focus can at times become crucial for survival. But for some of us, restoration of health becomes a worship in itself, and begins to supersede everything else. Seeking a cure or healing can become such a focus that illness becomes nothing but a betrayal of God, of government, of doctors, and family. Nothing feels real except wellness and full restoration.
Obviously these are 2 opposite sides of the spectrum, and balance is always the goal.
When I was diagnosed at 22, I spent the first years asking God WHY? Staying up every night in excruciating pain, my leg felt as though it was breaking, nerves like being electrocuted and burning pain like nothing I could have ever imagined before. Full body spasms, tremors, the room spinning, my heart racing and palpitating, wondering how I had planned and worked so hard for everything that had lead me here, just to lose it to this “incurable degenerative” condition that no one seemed to be taking very seriously to help me try recover from. It didn’t make any sense. As much as I tried to analyze it, I couldn’t crack the code. It only made sense for me to get better, so I searched for my panacea, and prayed (demanding) that God must heal me. At the time, I wasn’t a big prayer person, but illness has a way of connecting you to your higher power. In the Bible, yes, there is healing, but there is also so much pain. The importance of learning through pain, finding ways to share strength or comfort inside of infirmities, these are scriptures that have been so encouraging to me.
I eventually felt lead to make a decision. I believed God would heal me, and I still do believe that is true. But, I decided that if I was going to spend any period of time living a “sick life” I was going to explore it. As much as I was desperate to go back in time, moving forward is all I could do, it’s all any of us can do- Even if it’s slowly, frightened, and with tears in our eyes.
I cannot go as far as saying that I am thankful I am chronically ill. I can say that at almost 12 years, I’m so grateful I made that decision to press forward and try to find myself inside of this life. If I had stayed so distracted by my past, or so focused on what I might be losing in the future, I would have missed every bit of the beauty, the miracles, the blessings, the generosity of others, the opportunities to be of use, and purpose found inside of this pain.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:19
Do you remember that old children’s Sunday school story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? I hadn’t really thought about it much myself over the years, but the type of pain CRPS causes- brings up the idea of fire so often… these guys popped into my mind recently.
So, the story goes that King Nebuchadnezzar was way jealous of God and created a big sparkling golden statue. He was super proud of it and forced people to bow down to it. If not, he would chuck them into a pit of flames, historically called “the fiery furnace.” Every Sunday school kid learns that 3 guys go and stand up to the king. When they get thrown into the furnace, an angel appears and they aren’t harmed at all in the fire.
I was checking this story out in Daniel recently to see if there was something I might have missed when I was…ya know…five?
So, the king was forcing all of his top political officials to bow down and worship his big new statue. They were the typical “yes men” that we are used to today- politicians, eh? It was no big whoop for them to bow down, but some tattle tale told King Nebuchadnezzar there were 3 Jewish men working in Babylon… Snitch.
Do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego heard about “Furnace-Gate” ahead of time and the 3 friends were discussing or even arguing how to handle it? I wonder if they prayed asking for strength or guidance. Maybe Meshach got cold feet and his friends had to give him a pep talk. Who knows…
What we do know is that they were dragged in front of the king while officers of the courts and politicians were all around to witness what the 3 Jewish clerks would do. Bow or burn? They didn’t JUST say “No.” These guys had major guts! They told the hotshot king that they wouldn’t even defend their reasons because having faith in their God was reason enough: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Boom goes the dynamite! Oh no you didn’t! And the king was so enraged, the furnace was turned up 7x hotter than normal. The flames were so intense, a few of the king’s servants were killed just opening the door! Imagine how scary that must have been to watch other men incinerated right in front of you… These 3 guys have so much faith that God can and WILL deliver them that they just double-dog-dared the wild king Nebuchadnezzar in front of all of his most loyal men to throw them into the pit of flames. As they were being tossed into the fire like lowly criminals, hands and feet bound, a room of satisfied eyes watching… do you think they wondered why God hadn’t delivered them already? As they felt the heat and flames blinding them, they might have thought, any time would be good, Lord!
They were thrown inside of the fire to die. The door was closed behind them. I can only imagine that there were smug celebrations from the peanut gallery. Colleagues, now toasting to their own survival by placating the king. Can’t you just hear the laughter from Nebuchadnezzar’s lips? He had won. He was stronger than the God he was so tired of competing against for attention.
But wait…the king looks inside of the furnace to find no suffering, no screaming, no pain, no death. “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” the king asked. “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
That’s right, not only were they completely unharmed in the fire, they were hanging out with a messenger of Heaven! Right in front of the King and everyone to see. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were removed from the furnace, their clothing, skin and hair inspected for any sign of burns or injury by the king and the officials. The king was completely amazed. For the first time in his life, the king praised God. He was so impressed by the faith of the 3 men so willing to give up their own lives than serve any other false idol. And the king was so overwhelmed by the magnificent miracle he had just witnessed- it changed the hearts of so many in the land.
Imagine how much courage it took for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to hold to their guns. These guys were just every day men. They weren’t prepping for a day like this. They were yanked out of work. What an act of bravery and faith! They had to have been so petrified. Choosing between their lives, their families, unsure of what would happen after they are gone, and knowing they might be burned alive… but it was all worth it for what they believed in. Their faith and passion was so strong. They boldly waited on an unknown miracle to save them. They believed it. Yet, they were still willing to die for their faith. Willing to risk it all because their beliefs were too important.
I keep thinking of the moments going into the furnace; they must have been wondering when the miracle was coming. God could have intervened at any point in the day to spare the guys from such a terrifying and humiliating ordeal. But, God waited until Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in front of a room filled with top level politicians and a king, AFTER they were thrown into a pit of fire… then an angel appeared. Because of the courageous choices of 3 men, God was able to use their lives to create a domino effect in all of the land.
Sometimes life feels like being thrown into a pit of fire. We start out with full faith, completely sure there is plan for us, but then, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the flames increase by 7 and we don’t understand where God is. It’s very scary- horrifying! The scripture doesn’t say whether or not they were frightened or worried. They were just people, so I’m thinking this was absolutely the scariest day of their lives! In the most difficult time of your own life, remember that God’s intervention and timing is perfect. You might be in the fire with the flames rising all around you, but He will be with you. At times, you might have people watching you, scoffing, but He can help you use your story to change lives and hearts. It might not be the life you planned for, but He has something even bigger in mind for you. Who knows, you might end up being a legend too!
If you have ever been to a church where they still sing occasional hymns, then your heart has been uplifted by the works of Fanny Crosby. She was a blind woman, an activist, a writer, poet, teacher, humanitarian, and possibly, a chronic illness and depression survivor. Even though she made history by writing nearly 10,000 hymns- more praise songs than any other person, many don’t know the story behind this incredible woman and survivor.
Shortly after her birth in 1820, fever from a common cold caused swelling in Fanny’s eyes. The treatment the doctors used trying to bring down the swelling caused permanent, irreversible blindness. Fanny never resented that doctor, and later, wrote a poem about her blindness being her gift.
Growing up, Fanny was a spirited happy child, despite living in darkness. Her family had roots in the Puritan religion and her grandmother put an emphasis on her Bible education. Young Fanny took an interest in music and creative writing, and she wrote her first poem at age 8. You can already see her early knack for rhyme and rhythm:
Oh what a happy soul I am!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t!
After she graduated college, Fanny spoke at multiple campaigns to raise awareness for blindness education, she was a speaker in front of Congress for political legislation, and she even befriended Grover Cleveland! Even though she had gained popularity in her political writing, was a noted speaker, and was becoming a recognized poet (lovingly called “the blind poet”), in time, she said that she felt an emptiness in this work. This is when Fanny Crosby began focusing more on her spiritual path and writing hymns and praise poems which have touched so many hearts.
She shifted her focus to helping others as she sought a more meaningful life serving the Lord. Just like when she was younger and volunteered teaching blind prison inmates, Fanny set out to help at homeless shelters and was a regular patron at missions all over New York City. Her heart was with those less fortunate; she gained a new type of prominence among a different class of people for being a compassionate, caring soul during a harsh time in America. When Cholera broke out in New York City, she turned her focus to caring for the sick and worked tirelessly at the hospital near her home in Brooklyn. She was very passionate about this effort and many of her songs are inspired by this period in her life.
Fanny and her husband had one child, a daughter, who tragically died in infancy from Typhoid Fever. One of her most popular hymns, Safe in the Arms of Jesus was written just after the passing of her daughter:
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul doth rest.
After losing their only child, her husband became a recluse. Fanny began spending most of her time in the church and wrote the majority of her hymns and Christian poems with her minister and often, her co-writer. Over and over, there are records of Fanny not feeling well, being “depressed,” worn down, and having to take time away for health matters. It seems as though this was a regular occurrence over the course of her career. Saying she had a Chronic Illness or a depressive disorder is just conjecture, but it does appear that she dealt with ongoing health and emotional struggles throughout her life. Nevertheless, she held tight to her faith and was a constant source of inspiration to those in her life. Through her encouragement in helping others less fortunate and sharing her very personal poems about her spiritual walk with the Lord, Fanny was always willing to give of herself. She STILL is a source of encouragement and hope to anyone who sings or reads one of her writings.
Fanny Crosby’s blindness did not hold her back from pursuing her passions and using the gifts she was given. She once said that she was happy to be blind so that the first sight she would ever see would be the face of her Savior in Heaven [para]. She had so many hurdles in life beyond her impaired vision, but she continued her writing and always sought out new ways she could be a blessing to others in need of help. She made history with her words. Through her music, she continues to open hearts, and through her lyrics, souls come alive. She is an inspiration to me as a woman, as a writer, and as a disabled person. Fanny Crosby made history with her works of praise songs, but through her actions, she left behind a legacy of love.
Blessed Assurance (Chorus)
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior
Father, this is private.
I could never tell a soul
Of my heart’s fragmentation
And the need to be made whole;
How the theft of affirmation
And the absence of support
Is transmitted to my mind
As a negative report,
How rejection from the people
That were closest in my life
Could so deeply pierce my heart
And create a lot of strife.
Were it not for words of value
That are spoken in your book
That translate into the blessing
If through spirit eyes I look,
Could I even go on living
With a spirit that’s been crushed,
And the cries within my heart
That despair has served to hush.
Were it not for living presence
Of your Spirit within me,
Through your grace and lovingkindness,
Could I ‘ere begin to see
That I’m loved beyond all measure
And although I can’t conceive
There’s a plan and greater purpose
For the trials, I believe.
I believe because you’ve told me
And I know you cannot lie,
And therein lies my sustenance,
My comfort and my high.
-by Mary Jane Gonzales
Inspiration Scripture: “Let us hold fast to the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful who promised).” HEBREWS 10:23 (TMB)
Guest Contributor, Mary Jane Gonzales began writing poetry, music, and crafting over 20 years ago when her harrowing journey with a chronic neuropathic pain disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome / RSD began. Now, she is a published author of several books, pillar in the chronic pain community, and continues to share her story, struggles, and faith journey to shine a light to help others. Her book In the Blink of an Eye is quite popular in the pain community, and her newest book, Poetic Devotions for those in Pain is a personal favorite of mine. Today, I am so honored to feature Mary Jane Gonzales’s “Fragmentation” from her heartfelt book of poetry.
Find her bio and book collection at: PoetMaryJaneGonzales.tateauthor.com
Remembering “Heaven is for later” helps this writer through her journey. I deeply relate to the below piece and I hope you are also touched by this powerful survival story.
Jan 2003, Meningitis. The virus had taken itself up in my spine and lining of the brain. Journal:
At every turn of the neck, the world exploded out of stereos on max – inside my head. I could do nothing but weep driving home. Never have I known such blinding pain. I really did not want to live like this anymore.
That night, I plumbed depths of rock bottom I didn’t know were there. The pain was so great nothing mattered anymore. Not finding a job, making ends meet. I just wanted to drop everything and die.
An email from a cancer survivor:
Been processing resentment in my life. God is showing me how I’ve been building…
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Woke up with this song weighing heavy on my heart and in my head. Just because I cannot listen doesn’t keep music from playing inside of me. If you are like me and have trouble listening to music, the video includes the lyrics.
The second verse: “When I awoke today suddenly nothing happened.
But in my dreams I slew the DRAGON” plays into living with chronic illness and life now from a bed. But just as Colin Hay’s “love” keeps telling him to let the sun shine in and keeps reminding him there is already a plan; this is the same knowledge I have that God has a plan for me also. Not just in the future, but right now… I’m living it. My real life has already begun- even when it’s hard to feel it.
Sometimes we keep waiting for everything good to start up, and our purpose is right there in front of us. God bless you.