Praising The Lord In All Things

This article was originally featured in Reflections magazine a publication of the United Pentecostal Church International.

We sat holding our newborn baby, watching as the doctor drew a diagram. It was a heart. He drew what it should look like. Then he drew it with the four abnormalities of the congenital defect known as tetralogy, the condition with which our first son, Ryan, was born. At first, my untrained eyes didn’t even recognize the blueness around his little eyes and lips. We found ourselves in the midst of a journey for which we were so unprepared, a long walk of faith. But in those first few moments that day with the heart specialist, our world changed forever, and I was about to join the ranks of the “hospital moms!”

As home missionaries to a western Chicago suburb, we expected sacrifices and hardships, financial and personal. But we never expected anything like this. In fact, over the next six years Ryan underwent four complex open heart surgeries, at three months, eighteen months, four years and five years of age.  And, each time, the surgeon was working only millimeters from Ryan’s coronary artery. Thankfully, the Lord understands when we question our circumstances, knowing that we see “through a glass darkly.” These were certainly the “desert of our days,” and our faith, like never before, would have to stand the test of fire. Like the three Hebrew children, we came to realize that faith is not merely knowing “God is able to deliver us.” We too prayed, “but if not,” as the operating room doors closed before us, only to find that same God standing with us in the midst of the fire.

Each was supposed to be the last, yet we came to the day we had to tell Ryan that he needed a fourth surgery. I will never forget the difficulty of explaining that to a five-year-old with vivid memories of his hospital experiences. For two years he was the poster child for the Chicago Metropolitan Heart Association. At the news of the surgery his blue eyes filled with tears. “What did I do wrong?” he asked. Quickly, we reassured him that he’d done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, the test of faith had come yet again. But, at age eight, when a previously inserted patch began to leak, and surgery was inevitable, the miracle came! My husband was preaching a camp on the east coast when, in the middle of the service, the Lord spoke to him that He had just healed Ryan! The doctor soon confirmed it, the leak had, indeed, sealed off. This time God had chosen to deliver from the fire.

Our hospital journey, though, was not ended. We had now been blessed with two more sons, Jonathan, two, and six-month-old Nathan. The very week of Ryan’s miracle, Jonathan, began limping and could barely walk. The doctor, after blood work and scheduling orthopedics, reassured us – lightning rarely “strikes twice in the same place.” Still, we felt something was very wrong. His fever spiked and he became lethargic. Then, suddenly, I had a sense of “knowing” exactly what was wrong. I shared it with my husband. With news now about the second of our sons, we received the call from our concerned family doctor, “I hate to have to tell you this, Reverend and Mrs. French.” Then, he said the very words I had spoken to my husband earlier, “Jonathan has leukemia!” We were to leave immediately for Chicago’s Children’s Memorial.

In the early morning hours, though dazed, the first miracle in this fiery trial became clear. As Jonathan was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia, God had given me a word from Him. Then, the Lord said to me, “I spoke to you to assure you that I am here. I know all about it. My face is turned in your direction.” As battle-weary as we were, I desperately needed extra grace, so the Lord prepared the way, a peace beyond understanding. Nevertheless, the seemingly endless chemo, the needles, the non-sedated bone marrow aspirations, the spinals – were all incredibly difficult. But, early into treatment, I was blessed to hear Sis. Nona Freeman minister on the subject: “Praising the Lord in All Things!” God used it mightily. God was reminding me of the source of my strength amidst the trial – the power of praise!

Praise God for his mighty power! Twice God delivered Jon as he went into life-threatening septic shock, as doctors worked feverishly over him to save him. One day a newly purchased minivan suddenly appeared in our driveway, keys and all! Later, at a particularly low point, Jon could barely eat, yet the doctors allowed us to take him to his great grandfather’s funeral near St. Jude hospital. So we took him, as well, to a special service nearby for prayer. My husband’s unsaved step-father joined us and wanted to hold his grandson as they anointed him. The Lord’s touch was instantaneous, with Jon immediately asking his grandpa for something to eat! Powerfully moved, grandpa returned the next week and received the Holy Ghost!

The mountain of medical bills was miraculously wiped out, with one especially huge sum forgiven in total because they inexplicably lost the account! The trials left no hint of smoke, only the sweet aroma of the presence of the One Who stood with us in the midst of the fire. Both Ryan and Jon are well and active in the church we pastor in Atlanta, Ryan serving as Assistant and Jon as a vital part of our youth and music ministry. To God be the glory.

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Rebecca French, alongside her husband, Dr. Talmadge French, has faithfully served the members of Apostolic Tabernacle in Jonesboro, Georgia, for five years. They have been married and leading in numerous ministry capacities for thirty-eight years. Rebecca’s greatest joy is that her three sons, their wives, and her three grandchildren serve the Lord.

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Robin Williams, Suicide & Hope

Robin Williams, Suicide & Hope

I have really hesitated to weigh in on the sad passing of actor Robin Williams, because I do not want to appear insensitive.  But I am concerned that the national media and the Hollywood machine is contributing to a pervasive societal problem that goes largely unreported: suicide.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention nearly 40,000 people commit suicide in the US each year making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.  Roughly speaking, someone commits suicide in the US every 14 minutes.

o-DEPRESSION-facebookSo here’s my concern; the media seems to be carefully glossing over the tragedy of the suicide.  For the most part I understand why, suicide is depressing and difficult to talk about.  No one wants to appear disrespectful or insensitive (I include myself in this number), but by rushing past the sadness in order to celebrate the past we might be unintentionally promoting suicide.

Consider the fact that Robin Williams has been largely out of the limelight for many years now, however, after this tragedy we are seeing 24-hour coverage, celebrations, and honorariums of his career.  On the surface this seems like a nice thing to do, but are we inadvertently sending a signal to the overlooked teen that suicide will be a sweet release and 15 minutes of much-desired fame?  Could we be accidentally signaling to the overworked, depressed, businessman who is struggling with a waning career and a broken family life that self-harm just might be a valid solution?

Before you call me crazy, remember that studies have already shown that copy-cat suicides are a genuine phenomenon.  Suicide contagion is real and it is dangerous.  There is a thriving subculture that promotes suicide as an honorable and worthy way to gently leave this harsh world. Therefore, we must be extremely careful how we discuss the suicide of Robin Williams or anyone else for that matter.

And what about the thousands of individuals who take their own lives in utter obscurity?  Isn’t it time for our culture to wake up and realize that we desperately need the peace that only God can give?  What about the false images of happiness that Hollywood promotes every single day?  What about the endless quest for fame and fortune that proves to be unfulfilling time and time again?  How many have been led to believe that godlessness, promiscuity, and substance abuse are valid pathways to happiness only to find themselves standing on the edge of a deadly precipice?  What happens when the beautiful who worship beauty lose their beauty?  What happens when the rich man who worships riches loses his wealth?  What happens when the superstar loses his stardom?  There has to be more to life for lasting happiness to be achieved.

There are thousands contemplating suicide right at this very moment.  They desperately need someone to tell them that suicide is not the answer.  They are hungry for someone to convince them that life is worth living.  They need something that transcends the darkness pressing in on them.  They need you to show them the light of Jesus.  They need you to demonstrate the joy of abundant life.  They need hope!