“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” Ephesians 4:25
In my first church ministry, I pastored a small, newly planted congregation, which meant that I shouldered many of the week-to-week office responsibilities. So, when the Sunday school curriculum needed to be ordered, our volunteer superintendent came to me with a gentle reminder: “Hey, Pastor, don’t forget to order the curriculum for the next quarter.”
“No problem!” I confidently replied. And then I promptly forgot.
The following Sunday, I bumped into him and his wife. “Hey, Pastor, did you remember to order the curriculum?”
I’m ashamed to say that my response was spontaneous and devastatingly deceitful. Without missing a beat, the urge for self-protection and preservation of personal pride emerged, and I straight out lied, “Yep!” and promptly walked to my office.
As I pulled my sermon notes out of my briefcase, God’s conviction in my spirit was brutal.
It was as though God were saying, “So you’re the preacher are you? The truth-teller from the pulpit today?” The Spirit’s probing was penetrating. I knew I was in deep weeds with God. The Bible tells us that He is truth and He cannot lie. Lying makes the “big-ten” list of sins in the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. So I was stuck! I had two alternatives. FedEx overnight. They’d never know! But I would, and so would God. The other option was to bring them into my office, admit my sin, and plead their forgiveness.
I knew that I needed to do what our text today commands us to do, to “put off falsehood” and speak truthfully to our neighbors. The church is to be a place marked by a commitment to truth, because our God is a God who is true. Genuine, loving relationships are always anchored in truth. When we veer from that, even a little, the consequences are disastrous—damaged relationships, compromised leadership, and most sadly, a loss of mutual trust, integrity, and effectiveness in our witness for Jesus Christ.
That Sunday morning I learned how strong our desire for self-preservation and self-glory can be. Lies offer the opportunity to keep people thinking well of us, and they are great for getting ourselves out of a tight jam. I also learned how hard it is to admit this kind of a failure. Admitting the truth about my lie would expose how flawed I really am. And, after all, I was the pastor. Pastors don’t make mistakes. I feared that revealing the real pastor who lived under the navy blue preaching suit could put my ministry at risk.
But ultimately, and thankfully, God’s Spirit gently prodded me to value the truth more than my own reputation, and I found myself calling the superintendent and his wife into my office.
“As your pastor, I am committed to the truth,” I said. “I failed to tell you the truth this morning. I not only forgot to order the curriculum this week, but then lied to you about it just now. I am deeply sorry and need to ask for your forgiveness.”
With grace and love, this dear couple instantly replied, “Oh, Pastor, that’s alright. We forgive you.” And I was able to continue my ministry that morning with a renewed sense of humility and wonder at the grace of God, and with a relationship restored.
I know it can be difficult to tell the truth sometimes. But the consequences of unchecked deception are lethal. Make the right choice: Tell the truth. Take it from me; you’ll be glad you did!
Expect A Miracle
Wherever I go, I carry a small gray stone. It’s in my purse all day, tucked under my pillow each night. And on it are painted three simple words: Expect a miracle. I did expect one, and against all odds, that’s exactly what I was given.
A year ago, when I first had bloating and pains in my pelvis and lower abdomen, I passed it off as side effects from the estrogen I was taking for menopause. But driving home one day, the pains got so wrenching I nearly crashed my car.
This can’t be normal! I thought in fear. I’m a nurse, so I raced to my medical books as soon a I got home. Almost as if I were directed, I picked one from the shelf and opened straight to the page on ovarian cancer. A chill raced down my spine as I read the symptoms, bloating, pain, frequent urination…I had every one.
“We’ll have to run some tests,” my doctor said after examining me. “But it could be ovarian cancer.” Driving home, I felt so scared I could barely breathe. And when I walked in the door, my husband, Rich, took one look at me, and hugged me close. “We just need to pray,” he told me.
But my test results were terrifying: I had a large tumor, and a blood test that indicated the possible presence of ovarian cancer read 462, normal is 30. I’m going to die! I wept.
That night, I forced myself to stay calm as I told our two teenage daughters that I had cancer. But when I saw the fear in their eyes, my heart nearly broke in two. So I wouldn’t burden them with my fear, I said I had to run to the store and slipped out to my car, tears coursing down my cheeks.
In my mind, I pictured all the faces I loved: Rich, the girls, our five other children through previous marriages, parents, friends…
Oh, God, please don’t take my life, I pleaded. I still have so much to live for.
“Don’t do this alone,” my priest told me when I cried to him. “Let others help you.” And the next day, all those faces I pictured the night before were in my home, surrounding me with their love.
Their love carried me through my surgery to remove the tumor, along with my fallopian tubes and ovaries. But I was far from out of danger. “You still have only a 15 percent chance of making it,” once doctor told me. “Your only hope is chemotherapy.”
Half crazed with fear, I began making frantic bargains: if you heal me, God, I’ll be a better wife, a better mom, a better person. Just give me a second chance.
I had six chemo treatments, one every three weeks. Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t make it through them, they made me so weak and sick. But when I most needed a boost, a friend would show up with dinner or drop by to take the girls out.
Folks even organized fund-raisers to help us pay my medical bills!
Bouyed by so much love, I knew I owed it to others, and to myself, to stay optimistic. So I read books on healing and listened to tapes that helped me visualize getting well. I’m not giving in, I’d think. Rich was my strength whenever I felt afraid, praying with me and holding me. My daughters stayed positive, too. Lindsay, 14, and Sarah, 16, refused to believe I would die. “You’re going to be all right, Mom,” they’d say.
But after my last treatment, I faced a terrifying moment of truth. Doctors were going to take 100 biopsies, one in ever place they feared the cancer might have spread.
“To be honest, we don’t expect to find you’re cancer-free,” they warned. And if the chemo hadn’t destroyed the cancer cells, my chances for survival were slim.
I could feel terror creeping into every fiber of my being. I can’t give up hope now, I thought fiercely. So before leaving for the hospital, I opened the drawer where I kept a good-luck symbol a friend had given me, a small, hand-painted rock.
Expect a miracle, I read, then slipped the stone in my purse. The stone was still in my purse the next day, when I opened my eyes after surgery to find a pretty woman with dark hair and a white dress leaning over my hospital bed.
She must be a nurse, I thought. But she had no pills in her hand, no blood pressure monitor to hook up. Instead, she looked at me kindly and asked, “Are you the one who’s looking for a miracle?”
Confused, I stammered, “Yes.” But how did she know? I wondered. Then, before the question left my lips, she’d vanished.
The next morning, the woman in white was beside me once again. In her hand was a plaque that read: Miracles Happen Every Day. “Is this what you’re looking for?” she asked gently.
Tears sprang to my eyes, but before I could say a word, once again she was gone. As I gazed at the plaque she’d given me, I felt a funny tingly sensation throughout my body…
“Dawn,” Rich said as I groggily opened my eyes, “the results of the biopsies are in. They were negative, each and every one!” I’ll never know whether the woman was a nurse, or an angel. but it doesn’t matter. She came to let me know that hopes are never foolish, prayers never wasted.
Today I’m 49 and cancer-free. And each time I hug my daughters, share a quiet moment with Rich or just watch autumn leaves scuttle across the sidewalk, I remember again that every new day is a blessing, a new chance to expect a miracle.
Is it possible?
Is it possible in times of great stress for a telepathic message to pass between loved ones even though they are a great distance apart? Can a person somehow let us know they have crossed over even though we are far from them when they die? Is it possible for someone to foretell his or her own death?
Recently I was reminded of a story I hadn’t heard for years. My cousin was seriously wounded while serving as a rear gunner in a plane during World War II. The pilot of the plane would have ditched the craft if it had not been for the serious injuries of my cousin. The pilot nursed the plane back to the base because my cousin could not bail out. My aunt told everyone that at the moment her son suffered this serious injury she heard a loud bang in the bedroom next to the room where she was seated and that she knew immediately that something had happened to him.
Years later, when the son died long before his mother, relatives went to his mother’s house to tell her. She met them at the door and told them she already knew he was gone.
Another story, often repeated in my family, is a about a relative who “saw the death angel” sitting on a fence one night when she went to the outhouse. She told her family someone was going to die and within a couple of days, she was the one who passed away.
It is said that prior to his death Abraham Lincoln dreamed about himself lying in state in the White House.
So at the moment when we are seriously injured or when we pass away, can we find some connection with those we love, some means of communication that transcends ordinary methods. There have been far more documented cases of this than the minor ones I mention here.
I believe that God made us a human family with a broad network of universal feelings shared by all. Can this network transcend the bounds of time and space to deliver important messages? Does it include both the living and those who have already gone across the veil? I would not be surprised if this were so.