Easter Joy

Hi Readers
As we celebrate the time when world history tilted heavenward and God revealed His salvation plan, I thought it would be good to meditate on that amazing verse found in Hebrews 12:2 “(Jesus), for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, scorning its shame…”

Heart cries to a silent heaven,
Spirit icily alone;
Blood sweat, staining gnarled old olives
Angels witness to the groans.

Faith’s surrender to the Father,
Looking to the joy ahead
Aching at the kiss of Judas
Abandoned by the ones that fled.

—- o —-

I’ll focus on the joy, my Father
See the gladness in Your heart
When John and Mary, Sue and Arthur
Come back home, have a brand new start.

I’ll face the cursing, feel them strip me
Sense the joy beyond the Cross.
I’ll lead the sheep to greener pasture
I’ll be the gate through which they pass.

My face contorts, my back’s on fire
But still I’ll focus on the joy
Though thorns crush through my scalp and forehead
I’ll think of Judy, Mike and Troy

This cross-beam’s heavy and I stagger
“See the joy, the prize above”
I’m trailing blood, the crowd is yelling
Yet they’re the prize, the ones I love.

My head grows faint, I go no further
Falling ‘neath the cross-beam’s weight,
But now a helping hand comes forward,
Respite from the jeers of hate.

I feel the evil deep inside me,
Rape and murder, filth and sludge.
I feel its shame, disgust and anger;
What joy to take it to the Judge.

I’ll let them spit, endure their hatred
And then the anger of our God
To see the joy when they’re forgiven
And receive the Father’s nod

The thud of nails, the spurt of blood
Electric shocks tear through my arms.
I’ll love them, God, unwitting agents
Of Your pure salvation plan.

My God, my God, I feel so lonely
Full of shame and so alone.
Yet for their joy I’ll breathe forgiveness
Sigh my last, their sins atone.

—- o —-

The depth of love that makes it joyful
To take the curse of every man
What human mind can fully fathom?
What heart can fully understand?

If, at a million hits per second
I googled “love” for eternity
Never would I find an equal
To my Saviour’s love at Calvary.

“Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, scorning its shame.” (Heb. 12:2)

Easter blog post 1

God Responds to Prayer in Amazing Ways

Never underestimate what God can do through prayer, even in a brief encounter. One of the great things about writing my book is the feedback I’ve received from patients with whom I prayed.
I’m sharing this with humility, because I want to shout about the faithfulness of God, even when we do something apparently small. I have described, in God in the ICU, dramatic encounters with Him when we pray. Sometimes, however, we are unaware of just how God is using our prayers.

I remember Cheryl, who wrote the email below, but I was unaware of her experience as recorded here. In this edited extract, please get a glimpse of how God can turn something which may not seem a big deal to you into a changed life which is then lived for His glory.

Dear Dr Walker, it’s been many years since you prayed for me, touched my life, and brought me into a new place of hope. You see, I had a kidney removed in 1980, and, at the time, I believe I caused some concern in theatre when I suddenly became seriously allergic to an anaesthetic drug. You literally prayed me back to life, and ever since, you have never been far from my thoughts and prayers.

What I never told you at the time, is that I met Jesus during that anaesthetic….He held me in His arms, and spoke to me without using words. Yes, I had the whole tunnel experience and the bright white Light, but the best was being held by the King of Kings, and then put back into my body. As He did so, He wrapped my feet in soft gold cloth. I shared this experience with the dear friend I made in the hospital room next door, her name was Faye Pooler. (Faye was a beautiful young lady who witnessed with radiant joy in the midst of a terminal illness – Dave)

I just wanted to write to you and say thank you for journeying with me and playing such an important valuable part in our lives. Without your prayers and care, we would no longer be here.
I left SA to live in the UK in 2004 to answer a call to minister to the homeless. I ran a big homeless project near London for three and a half years before my own health started failing. I took a less responsible job in the community and then met my husband Derek. We married in 2008 in the UK. Together we serve the Lord in the community, near Bedford. Our focus remains with the homeless. I counsel most days, as I believe the Lord has called me to share the knowledge and gifts He gave me, then in the evenings I minister together with my pastor. It is humbling to realise how great God’s love really is. The evenings with my pastor are spent ministering one on one, to those who have been ritually abused. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in my life before….

God used prayer, and an allergic reaction to an anaesthetic, to reveal Himself and bring healing, not only to Cheryl but, through her, to untold homeless and abused people. Such is the power of simple prayers in the hands of a faithful, loving God.

Killing babies, Searing consciences

Yesterday I stood outside Marie Stopes abortion clinic (abortuary) for an hour, praying. I was filling a slot for the 40 Days for Life initiative whereby people pray outside these places round the clock for 40 days. So far it takes place in 522 cities, in 21 countries. To date 8,245 babies’ lives have been saved, 88 workers have quit and 44 clinics closed. God answers prayer.

The experience was both exhilarating and heartbreaking.

Exhilarating in that I sensed the Lord’s pleasure as I walked up and down past the doors and then knelt before the clinic, standing for justice for the babies, calling alternately for mercy for the workers and judgement on that place with it’s despicable, misleading pictures of happy, smiling young girls.

Heart-breaking as I saw the steady stream of girls — sometimes with their boyfriends — who wandered in, or who emerged as if nothing had happened — and yet, for many, their whole world had changed. One girl wore a cross; another had a Muslim headdress. How was their action tearing at their consciences?

I felt the presence of God so strongly that I’m convinced if there was someone praying outside that building every hour that it was open, every day of the year, it would be closed in less than a year.
I’ll be going as often as I can.

Ugly People

There are few who get the short end of the stick in a worse way than those with severe facial deformities.

As the anaesthesiologist for the Pietermaritzburg Craniofacial Unit, I saw these patients a month before their surgery, when they came for assessment and planning of their operations.

Some had arrested growth of their mid-face. Their noses were squashed against their faces and their lower teeth protruded as much as two centimetres beyond their uppers. Their eyeballs bulged, from shallow undeveloped sockets, like a bullfrog’s. Their profiles — with a small mid-face wedged between normally developed foreheads and lower jaws — were C-shaped punctuated by bulging eyes near the top and protruding teeth at the bottom.

Others had eyes as much as eight centimetres apart, giving their faces a peculiar triangular shape, while others had sharp pointed noses, almost no cheekbones and a receding chin, making them look like strange birds.

One child had a huge cleft that extended through his palate, along his nose and beside his eye. His mother had named him Goodenough.

Many of these unfortunate people were kept holed up in a back room out of society’s sight.

What do you do when you have a face that makes people recoil when they see you? Characteristically, when I saw them at the Clinic, they looked down, first to the right then to the left, trying vainly to hide their faces, the source of their ugliness, too ashamed to look up, or look me in the eye. In spite of my caring, and being there to help, they endeavoured to hide.

How like them we sometimes are with God — trying to hide because of who we are, unwilling to see that He is loving and caring, looking beyond our ugliness to what we can become in Him.

For, indeed, in a physical sense that’s what we did in the Clinic. We looked beyond what they were, to what they could become. The Surgeons took photographs, measurements and 3D CT scans, and devised the operations together. Later, they used the CT scans for computer simulations of what they planned to do. I evaluated the patients for the anaesthetic risk, how best to produce optimal operating conditions, and what postoperative ICU management they would need.

Can you imagine what it must be like to spend most of your young life locked up or hidden away? Imagine having people shudder and look away when you walk down the street.

Now, picture looking at yourself in the mirror. Your eyes no longer bulge, but gaze back clear and straight, you smile and your teeth are in line, in fact for the very first time you can feel your upper and lower teeth meet when you chew your food. You walk down the street and no-one stares. You are free. You were dealt the short end of the stick, but that is behind you now. You can dream and plan.

In all my years of practice, I can think of few things that gave me more satisfaction than having one of these patients, now normal in appearance — sometimes frankly beautiful — look me in the eyes and smile.

Yet many of the patients had skills to learn and habits to unlearn. Early on, the Craniofacial Unit incorporated psychological counselling as part of the treatment. The stigmata of past rejection lingered; many didn’t know how to deal wisely with their newfound freedom, trusting all and sundry in the fresh joy of being accepted.

Again there are parallels with our spiritual walk. As Jesus sets us free from the terrible ugliness of sin, there are bad habits to unlearn, and new wisdom to be gained. We need discipleship and wise counsel.

In a sense, each of us is like a craniofacial patient, though many do not realise it. We have been dealt the short end of the stick, being born into sin. Deep down, we know we have an ugly side, which we try desperately to hide, though God, of course sees it all. He has all the means to transform us, but we need to come and ask.

When we do ask, and allow Him to transform us, nothing gives Him greater pleasure than to see us smiling confidently, able to look Him in the eyes. Because of what He has done at Calvary, as we come to Him in faith, we’re sure of our beauty as His new creation, ready to plan and dream.

New Year on Scarborough Beach

2014 started with a perfect day in Cape Town. A gentle breeze teased the leaves playfully and a fresh blue sky announced the new year’s birth.
We were on Scarborough Beach by 8 o’clock and, while there was lively activity, it was well before the crush of holidaymakers.
It was neap tide and I have never seen the sea so far out. The usual steep dip of the sand, just beyond the shoreline, today formed part of the beach. The sea started below that on a gentle slope that allowed bathers to frolic knee deep 150 metres offshore in whipped cream waves tumbling in on a bed of powder blue. Near the shore, the sea lost its blue and swirled transparently in glassy eddies before slapping the shore. Beyond the breakers, it deepened to blended shades of aquamarine and towards the horizon it was burnished steel. The beach was enveloped in a fine mist which bathed everything in a surreal light.

Thus was the glory of God displayed in spectacular fashion, but what brought it to life was the people. A mother and her two small children sat gilt-edged and haloed by the sun shining through the mist; an elderly couple walked stiffly, but comfortably in one another’s presence, along the shoreline; a five-year-old in a red, full body bathing suit ran helter skelter along the reflective sand chasing his small dog; a middle aged couple conversed easily as they strolled along the shore; further on, young lovers touched and occasionally caressed as they stood on rocks, usually submerged, but now exposed and draped in emerald seaweed. Passers-by greeted one another with a cheerful, “Hello.” “Good morning.” and often “Happy New Year.”

Everywhere the mood was one of lightness and celebration, as though God had decided to shower His love on a community entering a time of uncertainty; to assure them He was there ready to cocoon them in His goodness and delight.

A picture of Eden came to mind, and I saw, with new eyes, why, after creating man, God saw that it was VERY good. All the rest, as it was on Scarborough beach, was just a backdrop to the real beauty of man living joyously in relationship with Him and with one another — merely a magnificent setting for the jewel of His image in created form.

Come what may in 2014, God assures us, by His very nature and by what He has created, (which includes, supremely, you and me) that He is good; He desires, for us, joy in the morning, though weeping may endure for a night and He WILL make everything beautiful in its time.

Mandela’s Universal Appeal

I ask myself why there is such a universal admiration for Madiba, which in many places, has become idolisation, and have come to this conclusion:

1. He preached and practiced forgiveness and reconciliation. While most of us respond to mistreatment and abuse with anger and revenge, deep inside we know the right thing to do and we admire someone who goes against so-called “human nature” (though it should really be called “fallen nature” — to be truly human is to be Christ-like) and does what we inherently know we should do.

2. He was a humble man. To be truly humble is to show honour and respect for all others, regardless of their colour, status or any other qualities we use to judge them. Everyone who has spoken of their meeting with Madiba has told of the way he honoured them.

3. He spoke the truth, even when it was unpopular. Irrespective of whom it was directed against, he called injustice by its name and stood against it.

4. He was a man of compassion. He mingled pragmatism with compassion and did not see them as contradictory. Indeed, if the good of others is the end in mind, then compassion is always the way to achieve it. This is why the way of reconciliation, to him, seemed such an obvious — though not an easy — route to go.

5. He was a man of joy. He seemed to radiate an inner strength and quiet joy that is so characteristic of people who are aligning themselves with the way that we were originally designed to function by our Creator.

6. God has put in each one of us a longing to return to our original state, which is sinless perfection, made in His image. The qualities of God, as portrayed by Jesus — forgiveness and reconciliation, humility, truthfulness, compassion and joy — are as much an inherent part of our spiritual DNA as they are unattainable.(Hence Paul’s frustration expressed in Romans 7:14-24) We therefore derive a vicarious pleasure in seeing them displayed in a fellow human. We can identify with him and say “He is one of us” and, in showing our appreciation of him we are also saying, “We belong with him.”

However, for those who are not sure of their identity in Christ, it is easy to idolise a man with these Christ-like qualities. Beware. We must never forget that he was a fallen individual and had his faults as each of us has. We have been privileged to have a window into the attitudes and actions of a giant of a man, but it is only a window. Were we privy to the whole picture, we would see a man as much in need of the Blood of Christ to cleanse him as anyone.
Let us celebrate the life of an individual who showed us, in many ways, God’s way. Let us honour him for the colossus that he was, but let us not substitute the light-bearer for the Light.

Christmas

Shadows dance on the stable wall, leaping and receding with the flickering flame. The man, candle held high, draws his wife close. Together they gaze adoringly at the soft new face, the puzzled eyes blinking slowly, uncomprehendingly, at the first perception of light. Banished are the memories of the frantic, fruitless search; the desperate plea, “Even your stable will do.”; the hastily spread blanket to soften the straw; the contractions, the rush of water and blood; the first cry; trembling, unfamiliar masculine fingers tying the cord, severing the afterbirth, wrapping the child. For now, there is wonder. Wonder at the miracle of that first breath, at perfect little fingers and toes bending, straightening, trying out this new world.

Humanity at its most poignant, most vulnerable, most heart-warming.

Yet hardly earth-shattering. Not to the passer-by.

So much to overwhelm, with the census. So much to engage the crowded dusty streets for: Accommodation, provisions, registration. No time for a second glance at the new family. History is made at Caesar’s census booths, not in a stable.

Yet heaven holds its breath, angels gaze in awe, the scene reverberates through the cosmos and history tilts upward as He, who once hurled galaxies, lies helpless in a mother’s arms. The extraordinary wrapped in the ordinary.

How often God wraps the extraordinary in the ordinary:

The leader of God’s nation hidden in a stammering old refugee. (Moses)

A king clothed as a shepherd boy. (David)

The very Word of God enclosed in personal letters from prison. (Paul)

Angels entertained as strangers. (Hebrews 13:2)

A carpenter’s son packaging the Creator of all He spoke to; of all that shone upon them from the heavens; of all that nourished and preserved them.

And now, ordinary citizens wrapping recreated beings; Creator’s children; God-bearing vessels; channels of His very Spirit. Mingling unnoticed with the ordinary. Yet extraordinary. (2 Cor 5:17, 1Cor 3:16)

God, give me eyes that look beyond the wrapping.

Beyond the cantankerous old woman to the bearer of Your word to me for today.

Beyond the brash young boy to Your sonnet, scripted exclusively at the dawn of time. (Eph. 2:10)

Beyond the criminal, the patient, the hungry beggar to an entrance to Your heart — treasures hiding in the world’s trash. (Matt. 25:37-40)

And beyond the stumbling, imperfect church to a glowing, resplendent Bride treasured and transformed by her majestic Groom of Glory. (Eph.5:25-27)