A Thanksgiving Tribute

a friend Wanda

What animates your life? What gets you up in the morning? What are you giving your life’s energies to doing? I know the answers to these questions for my dear friend Wanda. She was a woman who had a zest for life. She loved Jesus and she loved people and that‘s why she spent her life telling people about Jesus. I will always remember my dear friend Wanda for her gift of gab and superb listening skills, for her enjoyment of life and her ability to make everyone she knew feel special, and for her boldness to speak about Jesus with gentleness to anyone who crossed her path. Wanda cared about people. Wanda’s witness was authentic, genuine and sincere.

I first met Wanda in 1975, in a sociology class, at Holyoke Community College. The professor was talking about how all religions were basically the same and came from barbaric roots. He gave the example of the Christian “ritual” of Communion which, according to him, stemmed from earlier man and their tribal practice of cannibalism. I was a new Christian and was thinking along the lines, “Oh no! What do I do now? I don’t agree with this guy. What should I say Lord?” Of course, before I could say anything, Wanda raised her hand and identified herself as a Christian and said she totally disagreed with what the professor was saying. I thought, “Oh good! Somebody else stood up for You Jesus. I’m off the hook.” I also thought I wanted to meet this Christian classmate of mine. Wanda told me later, as I approached her after class, she was saying, “Oh no! What do I do? How do I respond to this disabled person? I bet she’s a Christian. What do I do if I can’t understand her speech?” Of course, the rest is history.

Wanda and I became good friends. She helped me so much with my early Christian walk. She would bring me to her house in West Springfield, Massachusetts, for supper. After supper, we would go to a Christian fellowship meeting in West Springfield. Then she would take me home to Easthampton [about 45 minutes away]. We also went to a retreat together, at a place called “Pilgrim Pines” where I had so much fun in Bible studies and listening to worship songs and praying in a group.

A Cru MinistryA Cru Ministry 2

In 1977, Wanda became a full-time missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ [now called Cru] and devoted 37 years of her life for the purpose of reaching all sorts of people groups for Christ. She first worked at the world headquarters in San Bernardino, California; then onto Budapest, Hungary, for five years; followed by 17 years with The JESUS Film Project at Cru’s relocated headquarters in Orlando, Florida. Throughout the years Wanda and I kept in touch, through her one-page prayer letters [I envied her ability to write everything that was important on one page!] and our emails. I like to think that my cerebral palsied speech helped her to talk with people from many nations who also had “accents”. I know Wanda helped me with her lasting friendship and genuine concern for me, just as she did with all her friends and even strangers she would meet at airports, restaurants, grocery stores and anywhere people congregated.

Jesus and children 2Magdenlena
Her passion was to give The Jesus Film to people from other countries in their own “heart language.” She also gave away other films from The JESUS Film project. She gave a children’s film about Jesus to parents. She told me the story of meeting a woman from a country where women were not treated well. She sent the woman a film about Mary Magdalene and Jesus. She sent me The JESUS Film in Polish to watch with my father. Wanda was convinced that once people realized who Jesus is [the Son of God] and what He did for them [He died on the cross for their sins and rose from the dead, so that they could have a relationship with His Father now and forever] they could not help but love Him as much as she did.

Wanda started her journey with cancer around 2005. During that time, she went through chemo and radiation treatments. During that same time, she also cared for her mother who was in poor health. The news of her cancer hit me like a ton of bricks. I asked my church to pray for her with me. A friend of mine made two pillows; one for Wanda and one for me. On the pillows Romans 10:11b [N.A.S.] was beautifully written in calligraphy: “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” I mailed one pillow to Wanda and kept one for myself. Somehow, the pillow made me feel a special connection with Wanda. It was a comfort to me. Wanda said her pillow was also a comfort to her, while she took care of her mother and was going through cancer treatment herself.

holy spirit over water

I also shared another Scripture that I used in praying for Wanda: Psalm 18:28-30 [E.S.V.]: “For it is You Who light my lamp; the LORD God lightens my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God – His way is perfect; the Word of the LORD is true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” After I sent Psalm 18:28-30 to her, Wanda sometimes ended her prayer letters: “With His Shield, Wanda.” I am pretty sure she did this not only because she believed it, but she was comforting me by showing that the verses I sent her meant so much to her.

After her first bout with cancer and the death of her mother, Wanda went into remission, during which time she came to Massachusetts twice to visit her financial and prayer supporters and friends. In 2008, she and I paid a visit to my friend who made the pillows and she visited the Missions Prayer Meeting, held at my church, to thank them all for praying for her and helping her with some of her medical expenses. We saw the Wanda in the photo above – so full of life and the joy of the Lord. It was good to see her so vibrant.

Christian heelping anotherThe Lyd

During her second visit in 2012, I was going through a bout with clinical depression. As always, Wanda listened with caring concern and without judgment. Wanda did not have a judgmental bone in her body. She encouraged me to get help from a professional counselor. She shared a time when she needed counseling. It was so good to talk with my compassionate friend. I did get the help and treatment I needed, though it took three hospital stays “to find the Lydia everyone knew“. I am sure that Wanda’s prayers and the prayers of family and friends got me through the most difficult time in my life. [The candles around Wanda’s photo and the leaf-shaped candle holders are gifts from Wanda that were waiting for me when I came home from the hospital.]

The cancer returned in Wanda’s body before her second visit to Massachusetts. She decided she had enough of the chemo and radiation treatments and used alternative methods to fight her cancer, which included drinking a special water and other dietary changes and sleeping in a special device. On her 2012 visit, she told me about her neighbor telling her that all she needed to do was BELIEVE in her healing and she would be healed. In typical Wanda-fashion, she told her neighbor, “Well [name], I guess you’re going to have to believe for me in those times when I‘m weak.” She said to me, “Peter didn’t have enough faith to keep walking on water to Jesus, but Jesus didn’t let him drown when he began sinking.” Wanda knew that she and I were in the Lord’s hands, no matter what. She lived over two more years after she last visited me.

 

encouragement 2

 

This past April [2014], she went back to Budapest to see friends she had made 17 years ago, during her five years in Hungary. She did not know whether or not her health would allow her to go, but she made it. Terri, her roommate, wrote in her letter to Wanda’s supporters and friends, about reading a devotional about a man with a terminal illness who prayed “that he would have the courage to live and not to die. That was what I saw in Wanda – the courage to live and not to isolate herself from people.” Wanda’s health declined after her trip. Terri wrote about Wanda’s answer to the question of whether she regretted taking the trip to Budapest. Wanda replied, “Are you kidding me, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

gratitude

In her last prayer letter [September 30, 2014], Wanda wrote: “I was hospitalized again in the middle of July and have been on hospice care ever since…I’ve been confined to my home with oxygen since mid July. Confined, yet still remaining in ministry, though in a different way. For example, while in the hospital, I had the opportunity to give the JESUS film to my Haitian, Filipino and Jamaican nurses in their heart languages by using the JESUS Film app and emailing a link to them. I do have to say that the Russian surgeon didn’t want a copy, but I realize he was on a busy schedule and didn’t have time to even think about it…My time is short now, but I want you to know how very, very grateful I am for your love, gifts and spiritual support over the past 37 years (and before)…Please pray that the Lord gives me a very peaceful passing. Thank you.”

banana split love

Wanda loved people and people could not help but love her back. Wanda’s roommate Terri wrote to Wanda’s friends and supporters on October 23, 2014:

“From that afternoon on the 1st, Wanda was very peaceful and needed only the morphine and anti-anxiety medicine every six hours…She was able to answer when we said her name, and when we told her we were going to give her medicine for pain, she always answered, ‘OK.’ When we asked her if she was having any pain at that time, she always answered, ‘No.’…The pastor who led her memorial service came that night and prayed with her and for her friends who were not yet believers in Christ. Wanda was able to respond with an ‘uh-huh’ as he was praying their names. But by next morning (Oct. 2), when I woke at 6:00 a.m., she was no longer able to respond. The nurse told Mary and me that Wanda had been very peaceful through the night…She was feeling very warm, so the nurse gave her a sponge bath to help cool her off. The rest of the day was quiet for her. There were at least two others, and sometimes more, in the house with the nurse through the day. Then, at 6:00 p.m., Wanda’s breathing very quietly just stopped…One of her big worries was that she would be alone when she died, but from the time of her stay in the hospital in May on through the remaining weeks of her life, she had many friends who were able to be with her.”

give thanks

During this Thanksgiving [Nov. 27, 2014], I thank the Lord for the precious gift of knowing my wonderful friend and sister in the Lord Wanda. She has enriched my life and the lives of so many others with her undying love for the Lord Jesus, her unconditional love for people and her love of life which she lived to the fullest. With Jesus by her side, she was able to keep her “Shield of Faith” high, “run against a troop” [all odds] and “leap over a wall” called “cancer” and continue loving others in Jesus’ Name. The last thing she did was pray for her friends to give their hearts to Jesus. I am thankful that she was not “disappointed” when she saw her Savior’s face for real. I am also thankful that Wanda is finally free from cancer and is at peace for all eternity. However, knowing Wanda, she is not RESTING. She is enjoying Jesus taking her to meet all the people she helped to make the decision to turn to Him and experience His “abundant life” (See John 10:10b) He gives freely to all who believe in Him.

glasses on Bible

If I were to pick Scripture verses which would depict Wanda’s life most succinctly, they are in Ephesians 4:32-5:2, from “The Message”:

“Be gentle to one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly as God in Christ forgave you. Watch what God does, and then do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.”

Jesua, heart, sand

Wanda did “love like that.”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

One of Wanda’s many friends,
Lydia

a friend Wanda

If you would like to honor Wanda’s memory, go to the website, http://www.JESUSfilm.org and check it out. Wanda would have liked that you did. If you would like to give a financial gift to “The JESUS Film Project” in Wanda‘s memory, write a check payable to “The JESUS Film Project“ and write “In memory of Wanda MacLean” in the memo and mail it to the following address:

The JESUS Film Project
PO BOX 628222
ORLANDO, FLORIDA 32862-8222

The Ministry’s Tax Identification Number is 95-6006173

What’s the Matter with Jesus? (Part II)

(All Scripture references are in the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)

becket pics2bridge of flowers back2

Have you ever had to get away from the hustle and bustle and chaos of the world around you in order to regroup and recharge your batteries? Maybe you went on retreat with other like-minded people or you went to your “happy place” alone, where you always go to get refreshed and energized. It could be at a secluded beach or a cabin in the woods or the “Bridge of Flowers” (Shelburne, Mass.) or it could be just taking a walk along a mountain stream or spending time in “your room” with the door shut, doing something you like to do – reading, writing, listening to music, watching a movie or sporting event. When you have gone away and had time to think and pray and read and enjoy nature and practice the art of having free time, have you ever had a “mountaintop experience” when God spoke to you right where you needed encouragement and healing?

troubled waters

Sometimes, this “mountain high” may last for a long time and sometimes, when you get back into the “real world”, it’s like opening a door of a hot oven or being doused with a bucket-full of ice water (We all know about the “Water Bucket Challenge” for A.L.S.). The “mountaintop experience” vanishes into thin air and it’s back to the old grind of real life and all it‘s demands and responsibilities. Hopefully, sometimes, the “mountaintop experience” stays with you and you are able to use what you have learned from your time away with a new and better perspective on how to handle life‘s challenges.

Christ's TransfigurationIn a unique way, a “mountaintop experience” happened to Jesus just before He walked into the chaotic situation of the large crowd watching the disciples and the scribes [religious elite] arguing about a distraught father begging the disciples to heal his only son from having life-threatening convulsions (See Mark 9:14-18 and Luke 9:40). Just prior to this scene, “The Transfiguration” happened:

“And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with Him. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If You wish, I can make three tents here, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him’ ” (Matthew 17:1-5). [Also see Mark 9:1-7 and Luke 9:28-35.]

Needless to say Peter, James and John were terrified at this point. Jesus told them not to be afraid and revealed what was going to happen to Him in a short time and that John the Baptist was His forerunner (Elijah) to “the Son of Man”(Jesus Himself, the Messiah) and He told them to keep this to themselves for now. (See Matthew 17:6-13, Mark 9:8-13 and Luke 9:36)

(View from Summit House on top of Skinner Mt., S. Hadley, Massachusetts)

At Summit House3

Throughout the Gospels we read about Jesus going to a secluded place to pray to His Heavenly Father. For example, Jesus went up a mountain alone to pray all night before He picked His twelve disciples (See Luke 6:12-16) and Mark 3:13-19). Jesus went alone to a secluded place to pray when He heard that John the Baptist was beheaded (See Matthew 14:1-13). Mark 1:35 tells us, “And rising early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed.” After He prayed, He told His disciples, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for this is why I came” (Mark 1:38b ). Jesus left town before more people who needed healing could get to Him in time (See Mark 1:36-37). Can you imagine how these people felt? I can, having cerebral palsy from birth and have never been healed from it.

Be STILL

BUT GOD has given me the gift of faith to believe in Jesus, Who has healed me in so many other ways. I also know, by faith, that Jesus always prayed to His Heavenly Father for the strength to do His will and that is what I want to do. I may not understand God‘s will sometimes, but I don‘t have to understand it to believe God is working for my ultimate good. He uses my trials to bring me closer to Him.

Jesus' Baptismchrist in desertJesus in the Garden

At critical times during Jesus’ ministry, His Heavenly Father both encouraged and strengthened His Son’s resolve to finish God’s plan of salvation for all those “who believed in [Jesus’] Name” (See John 1:12). When Jesus first made Himself known, He was baptized by John: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17 ). [Also see Mark 1:10-11 and Luke 3:21-22.] Right after Jesus was baptized, He was tempted by the devil in the desert for forty days and forty nights, while fasting. At the end of that time, God the Father sent angels to minister to Jesus (See Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:9-13). The most crucial time of Jesus’ ministry, when He needed His Heavenly Father’s strength more than ever before, was in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus was arrested, tried and condemned to be crucified. Three times Jesus asked, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (See Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-36, Luke 22:39-42). Luke 22:43-44 reads: “And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” After Jesus’ time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was strengthened and was able to “drink the cup” of crucifixion. Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead, so that we might die to sin and live for Him now and for all eternity! If the Son of God needed to make time for alone time with His Heavenly Father to pray, how much more do we need to do the same?

Jesus at Lazareth's tomb

When Jesus, Peter, James and John came down from the rarefied air of the “Mount of Transfiguration” into air that was so thick with tension one could cut it with a knife, Jesus became angry at the people‘s callousness and lack of compassion. The people involved in this chaotic scene wanted to be right more than they wanted to help a desperate father and his needy son. I don’t think it’s out of character for Jesus to say what He did: “O you unbelieving (warped, wayward, rebellious) and thoroughly perverse generation! How long am I to remain with you? How long am I to bear with you?” (Matthew 17:17b [Amplified Bible]). On the “Mount of Transfiguration” Jesus was reminded of what He left behind; the sweet fellowship He enjoyed in heaven, for the conflict and chaos of the world ruled by sin. But, there is more to Jesus’ anger and frustration than this. To fully grasp where Jesus was coming from, one needs to understand why Jesus went to the mountaintop with Peter, James and John. What happened to cause Jesus to want to get away and go up to the mountaintop? When we find the answer(s) to this question, we will find out who the “unbelieving and thoroughly perverse generation” are and whether or not there was any hope for them.

We will continue this topic after Thanksgiving.

casting crowns 1

(By the way, the difference between Jesus and a modern-day guru is: Jesus did not stay up on the mountaintop, but always came down to be with the people who needed Him. Jesus continues to “stoop down” to our level to meet our needs and make us great. Jesus is truly “the Friend of sinners”.)

Christ heals boy

“You give me Your shield of victory, and Your right hand sustains me; You stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn” (Psalm 18:35-36 [N.I.V.]).

What’s the Matter with Jesus? (Part I)

Jesus turning tables

So often we make Jesus into this “spiritual guru” who is unfazed by what is happening around Him, but calmly teaches a parable and quietly waits for the “light bulb” to come on in His disciples. We don’t expect Jesus to become angry or, even less, to show frustration. But, the Jesus that we make up is not the real Jesus Who was filled with passion and zeal for His Father’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (See Matthew 6:10), while He walked the earth He created. We read about Jesus’ righteous indignation when He makes a whip and forcibly cleanses His Father’s House from the money changers because His Father’s House “is called a house of prayer”, but they “made it a den of robbers” (See Malachi 1:1-3, Matthew 21:12-14, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, and John 2:14-17).

beast of burden

We also read about Jesus being angry at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day. According to Jesus, it was very wrong for the religious aristocracy to, among other things, insist “you must obey them and do everything they tell you” and Jesus cautions, “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (See Matthew 23:3-4ff). Another example of Jesus’ anger is recorded before He heals the boy with “an unclean spirit”. We can almost hear the anger and frustration in His voice:

Jesus at Lazareth's tomb

“And when they [Jesus, Peter, James and John] came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes [religious elite] arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw [Jesus], were greatly amazed and ran up to Him and greeted Him. And He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ And someone from the crowd answered Him, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to You, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’ And He answered them, ‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to Me.’ And they brought the boy to Him. And when the spirit saw Him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell to the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘IF You can! All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out [with tears] and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ And when Jesus saw that the crowd came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He entered the house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?” And He said to them, ‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer [and fasting]’” (Mark 9:14-29 [E.S.V.]).

Christ heals boy

As we read in the previous post, Jesus healing this boy is also recorded in Matthew 17:14-20 and Luke 9:37-43. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it fascinating that the shortest Gospel [Mark] has the most information about this event. Who Is Jesus talking to when He says, ‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” (v. 19)? First, let’s establish who Jesus is NOT talking to. Jesus is not talking to the father of the boy who needs to be healed. When Jesus talks to the father I hear concern and compassion for both the father and his son. Jesus is concerned about how long the boy has been suffering (v. 21). I also hear compassion in Jesus’ voice when He encourages the father to grow in his faith in Him (v. 23).

Peter Saved by Jesus

Jesus always lifts up (v. 27) those who are downcast and heavy laden [Peter should have known this from personal experience (See Matthew 14:22-33)]. Isaiah 42:3 testifies of Jesus, God’s Chosen Servant: “a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring justice.”

 

Christ's Easy Yoke

Jesus Himself urges everyone who needs help: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

So who was Jesus angry at? Who belonged to the “faithless generation” who frustrated God Himself? To answer this, we need to look at what happened prior to the healing of this boy. We will look at the prior events that led up to Jesus healing this boy next time. HINT: Think of those who should have known better.

The LydcHRISTIAN BLOGGER WOMAN

Lydia