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Dec 2017

What is Unseen is Eternal

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What is Unseen is Eternal

“Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen, but what is seen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

I read these words one night before I went to work, as it is one of my favorite verses. I work in one of the top 3 busiest emergency rooms in the United States as a registered nurse. We see between 400-500 patients in one day with a total of 171,390 patients in 2016. It is an intense environment that is fast paced.  No, it is nothing like Grey's Anatomy on television. We see everything and everyone, ranging from someone who has had toe pain for 5 years to someone who is in cardiac arrest to someone who needs to be rushed to surgery to someone who is having a psychiatric emergency. There is never a mainstream night at work. I never know what to expect when I walk through the hospital doors since each night is completely different. While I love where I work and what I do, the environment is not somewhere I would expect to experience one of the greatest “sermons” I have heard with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 being the key text. 

I walked into my patient’s room that night and observed she was laying completely still on the stretcher with a small machine at the end of her bed. Her husband was pacing around her bed with a concerned look on his face, typical of someone who has come into the emergency room. Nothing special stood out to me upon first glance of these two strangers in the room. They were probably in their mid 40’s.

I introduced myself and as I began my assessment. I soon learned my patient suffered from a disease named amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or…. ALS (yes, that disease that went viral across all of your social media). The small machine on her bed was her home ventilator (a machine that breathes for you). She had been diagnosed within the past couple of years and her whole life had completely changed with this diagnosis.

ALS is a disease that progressively effects the brain and spinal cord furthermore paralyzing the body. All of sudden this ice bucket challenge I had seen all over social media had become too real, it was more than just a silly Instagram post, more than a like, thumbs up, or a share, it was this dreadful disease that had destroyed my patient’s life.

As I began to take my patients history I learned she had become paralyzed from the neck down and required a machine to breathe for her. The only movements she could make were to raise her eyebrows and give a smile every now and then. This meant that her husband was her complete and total caregiver, from feeding her, taking her to the bathroom. To any activity of daily living, he was her guy, he was her world and she was his.

While I spoke to the husband I gathered more of their story and how they were married a couple years before she was diagnosed with ALS. He had been with her through all the attempts at regaining strength during physical therapy, at attempts to walk again, but the disease had progressed quickly. He was able to give me every detail about her care, disease process, medications, and any other question I had. He had brought her in because he had seen the tiniest change in her, he just had a feeling something was not right. We ran some tests on her and found out she had a urinary tract infection. While it was something small, it can cause many complications in patients with extensive disease like she had.

As the test results came back, I went to inform the husband of the findings. To my surprise he was knowledgeable of the tests we did, he would finish my sentences as I would explain to him the interpretation of the results. He told me as soon as she was diagnosed he vowed to become knowledgeable of her condition and how to best take care of her, rarely do you find a caregiver so involved in someone’s care as he was.

As I walked in to her room and began to give her some antibiotics for her infection he asked me a simple question that caught me off guard. He asked me, “I don’t mean to intrude, but are you a Christian?”

I answered, “Yes, I am a Christian, are you?”.His response was the beginning to one of the most powerful sermons I have ever experienced, something completely unexpected.

He told me slowly, “Yes, yes we are…you know…our situation doesn’t look too great, but have you read this verse in 2nd Corinthians?”

WHAT, no way!

My spine tingled and the hairs on the back of my neck went up, it was no longer just us in the room. God was there and His presence was known. No longer was my patient's husband speaking to me, it was Him through my patient’s husband. He began to loosely quote 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 as she smiled. This verse had become so alive now, I could imagine the room filled with angels snapping their fingers and yelling out “amen!”

It is amazing how God aligns the stars for us to understand something at a deeper level. My patient was living this verse out. While she was outwardly wasting away, inwardly she and her husband were being renewed daily. Their momentary troubles were not going to outweigh the glory that awaits them.

Interesting that often at times of outwardly wasting away such as in disease process, is when we are being renewed inside the most. 

Many times we fall into habit on what we see daily, especially this past year. Daily we see our world changing and not for the better. We have seen so many travesties this year such as shootings, injustices, suffering of refugees, families torn apart, but we mustn’t forget that what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is ETERNAL. What a beautiful promise to confide in and put our hope in.

 

Mauricio Negrete is a registered nurse at Parkland Hospital In Dallas, TX. He has worked at summer camps for over 5 years and loves Enspire. 

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Don't Worry, Be Grateful

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Don't Worry, Be Grateful

In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom shares of when she realized God was working even in the worst of situations. She and her sister, Betsie, were taken to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home. All around they were faced with adversity and horrible living conditions and treatment, yet they found comfort in the Bible studies that they would have in their barracks. At some point, they were moved to a different barrack that was filled with fleas.

Corrie could not stand the fleas, but Betsie reminded her of several verses:

Ephesians 5:20 – “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

And she encouraged Corrie to thank God for the good that they had. They thanked God for being together, for having a Bible, and for all the other women that were there who could learn more about the Bible. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas. 

Corrie refused: "The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'" 

But Betsie reminded her of the verse, “Give thanks in all circumstances…” not just in pleasant circumstances. Fleas were a part of the things to be thankful for. And so, they thanked God for the fleas.

As time went on, many attended the “bunk” Bible studies and many believed in Jesus. It was odd that no one came to check on them but they soon realized that they were never bothered by the soldiers or supervisors because the barrack was filled with fleas. The very thing that bothered them so much and had been a great nuisance turned out to be a blessing in disguise. God allowed the fleas to be there so that others could hear His word through the two sisters.

It is amazing that around this time of the year, where we are to realize and express gratitude towards God, we instead get caught up with the unimportant. During this season, so much time is spent on hoping and wishing to receive what we don’t already have, instead of focusing on what God has already given us and done for us. We spend so much energy, time, and money on things that we believe bring us happiness, but only for a short time. We worry for things and situations to the point where we don’t enjoy the time with family and friends that we are gifted.

Christians are to be the ones who are most grateful for what they have in Jesus. But it’s crazy that many times, we honestly are the worst. And yet, we are encouraged to “rejoice always,” multiple times, especially, as Paul adds, because Jesus is coming soon! (Phil 4:4-5).

We are mostly familiar with Philippians because of Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ…” But did you know that Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in a Roman prison? Philippians is known for being a book of Joy, which seems odd since Paul was in a bad situation.

In this letter, Paul encourages the Philippians to trust God and not worry, regardless of their situation.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7).

The verse speaks mightily for itself, but I want to highlight a beautiful point.

We are urged to present our worries with thanksgiving, in the context of gratitude. The mental picture that comes to mind is that of a nicely wrapped Christmas present. In coming to God in prayer, we present our struggles, burdens, and problems all wrapped in gratitude. When opening a present you must first unwrap it - if you’re like my wife you love the wrapping paper so much that you carefully unwrap it which takes forever– then you can see what is inside. In the same way, we need to focus on the good things that God has already done for us, before presenting the things that we need Him to do for us now.

Why do we need to do this?

Because, if we focus on how God has helped us in the past, at times when we had no other way out or option, we will have hope for our present reality. Our present situation will be too small in comparison to God’s ability and mighty potential.

A couple of weeks ago, Chantal (my wife) was taking her boards and was pretty nervous about it. The night before we got together to pray for the next morning. We didn’t spend most of our time praying for the exam, instead, we focused on what God had already done for her. We thanked Him for Chantal’s ability to see, read, study, and concentrate; we thanked Him for His guidance throughout PT school and how He had helped her in all other exams before.

And by the time we came to praying for the actual test the next day, all worry was gone because we KNEW that God was going to help her and be with her. Our God is bigger than anything we face! We had no time to worry because we knew He was in control. And so, our only response was, you guessed it, GRATITUDE.

We were grateful before she had even taken the exam, because we knew God had been faithful and He would continue to be faithful.

Van Wilder, a great philosopher, once said, "Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t take you anywhere.”

So why worry? There’s no reason to worry, God is on your side and loves you (Read Matthew 6:25-34).

And in this time of sparkly lights and Christmas trees, presents and amazing food, may we remember to be grateful for what God has already done for us and for what we already have with Him. May we realize that God is for us and He desires us to be joyful, even if we have to live among the fleas.

So, enjoy your holidays, eat all that you can, but remember to be grateful. Don’t let your gratitude be reserved solely for thanksgiving. Thank God every day, don’t worry and be grateful.

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Junior High Roundabout

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Junior High Roundabout

I wasn’t always the cleanest kid. When I was in sixth grade, I’d smell test my clothing, forget to brush my teeth, walk around with my bushy, curly hair, and wear high water pants while having my shirt tucked in. My glasses were thick, my socks were worn high, and wearing deodorant wasn’t on the top of my to do list in the morning. I’d carry all my books in my backpack and wear it up high. I’d forget to do my homework and come to class unprepared. My braces would show every time I smiled. I was the perfect target for bullying and as luck would have it, I was. 

I was laughed at and called names by my classmates and I heard them talk badly about me. A few even pushed me to the floor when the teachers weren’t looking. I’ll never forget the day I came to class without my homework. My classmates laughed at me while the teacher watched as I cried, and did nothing to stop them. Not once did a teacher come to my aid, and my classmates knew that. I’d come home crying everyday and was stuck in a never ending cycle of abuse. The bullying affected me so much that I developed Shingles, a skin disease that is caused by high levels of stress. The boils itched and were sore and it wasn’t until I showed my mother that she pulled me out of public school and enrolled me in Catholic school for a semester. I despised Junior High.  I wanted nothing to do with anything related to that time in my life.

Years later, I decided to become an elementary school teacher. After a year of searching for work with no luck, I fell to my knees to pray. I prayed earnestly for an opportunity somewhere. Little did I know that God has a sense of humor. The only open door for me was to work as a substitute teacher at a Junior High, in the exact same school district that I attended. As I taught, God shone a light on the opportunity that he presented me with. I understood what these students were going through. The scars I bared were still fresh in my mind and I was able to connect with these students on a totally different level. I’ve been able to share my testimony and give hope and stop verbal abuse multiple times in my presence.

One day, I had a student come up to me after class and thank me for stepping in. He told me that I was the first person to ever do so for him. It was then that I told myself that I would not be like the teachers I had when I was their age. I would stand up for these kids and give them hope, encouraging them to reach out and talk to a counselor or loved one.

In the book of Proverbs 3:5-6 it says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” By completely trusting in God to guide me, he led me back to the place that I had run from for so many years. It has allowed me to heal and to be a witness to these children who desperately need someone to tell them more than “It is just a phase, in a few years you’ll forget.” I acknowledge the emotions and pain the child is facing and tell them that what they feel is very real, and they are loved.

Today, I am proud to say that I’m not only a certified elementary school teacher, but a junior high teacher in not one subject, but in four. My journey isn’t over and although I’m not where I thought I wanted to be, I know in my heart that God placed me exactly where I need to be, and I love him for that.

 

Alejandra Rodriguez Clark has worked with youth at summer camps and schools for over eight years. She's a certified teacher and pastry chef currently working at Sharyland North Junior High. 

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