Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Born Again 12: My Husband Thinks I'm Weird

Previous:  Born Again 11:  The Jesus Who Lives in Me
Navigate:  Born Again:  The Complete Works

I was recently accused by some very fine military personnel of being a "dork", by which they meant I use words and phrases that are ... well, dorky.  Frankly, I prefer "poetic", but be that as it may ...

Sharon also struggled somewhat with my, er ... poetry.
When you write, it takes me a while to fully understand what you are saying because your emails to me are very profound. In fact, all of your writings in your blogs are very profound that it takes a few readings for me to “truly” understand them. I guess you’re just a “profound guy” :). Or that, I’m slow to understand things! :) I’m surprised that you didn’t change your career choice to become a minister. You have a calling for it. Although I know that you do not have to have such title to minister to others, but you do have the calling for it!
See?  It's profundity!  Which is waaaaay better than dorkiness.  You go girl.
I absolutely love reading your responses to my emails. You have a special way of using God’s words to relay them to current situations. Please know that I am learning a lot from you and I do take it to heart all that you share with me in your letters. I also am continuously reading my Bible whenever I can, whether that is at work during my breaks or at home (hiding in the closet, most of the time). You mentioned about being “born again” and I have to tell you, that’s a word that I am still struggling with for several reasons. First, I don’t really know what it means. Second, I have met quite a few “born again Christians” in my lifetime and, frankly, some of them have scared me. I don’t know what “born again” is like. When I met you, I knew that you were “one of those people”, because you told me. Why that didn’t scare me away from you then, I don’t know.  But all memories aside, “born again” has always had a negative connotation, for me. But if that is what I’m going to go thru or will be going thru, I guess it’s really not so bad. I’m still not sure what I’m going thru, to be honest. I’m scared to think that it is only a phase ...
This is not the first time I have heard of this complaint about the effect of the so-called "born-agains".  I've never heard any Christian describe themselves using "born-again" as a noun, and Sharon wasn't using it this way here.  But I have heard it so used in other places, generally as a perjorative.  Like this for example:

The problem with this, of course, is that being born again actually is a crucial, biblical event, and it was critical that Sharon grasp its true meaning.  I would need to walk her through that, but we'll save that for the next installment.
My husband just told me that he thinks I’m "weird". I have been contemplating sharing with him all the e-mails we have exchanged so that maybe it can explain what I am “going through” but I do not know if he will respond to it the way that I’d like him to respond to it. I’ve tried to explain to him why I have suddenly felt the need to explore my faith, but whenever I talk to him, I just get so emotional that nothing seems to come out right.
All emerging Christians struggle with the question of how to relate to their friends and families, and especially spouses!  Those early days may be filled with reckless enthusiasm, sheer terror, or some weird mixture of both.  How to feed the enthusiasm, overcome the terror, and mold the recklessness into purposeful boldness ... well honestly I still struggle with that!  Another huge issue to deal with in my response.  But Sharon had more to say:
But like I said in my last email, I think I became more curious about my Christian faith while I spent some mornings just meditating in my daughter’s school coffee shop. There are lots of Christian books there to read and again, the music is soothing. (I have to say though that Starbucks latte is better, but I’m not really there for the coffee, am I?).
Editor's note:  She's already more spiritual than I am ... I'm always there for the coffee.  Just sayin'.  She continued:
There was a small book of quotes in there on a man named John Wesley. All I know of John Wesley is that he is the founder of the denomination that my family practices, Methodism. Unfortunately, I do not know anything else about him. I just picked up the book and started reading and one of his quotes struck a chord:
“In my return to England, Jan. 1738, being in imminent danger of death and very uneasy on that account, I was strongly convinced that the cause of that uneasiness was unbelief and that gaining a true, living faith was the one thing needful of me.”
There was something about that sentence that started to make me think about my own “uneasiness” about death.  And then, this is one of the things you said to me in one of your emails:
“I have come to understand over the years that what we all seek is assurance of our salvation and our relationship to God.”
One more quote: The last chapter of “Jesus Without Religion” says:
“Having read through the Gospel, you should have seen a clear message and mission emerging from the ministry of Jesus: redemption”
I don’t think I need to say more. They’re all pointing to the same thing. I need to do THIS. I want to do this. Otherwise, I will never be at peace.
Sharon was still searching for peace, but she now understood that true peace is more than an inner, emotional cease-fire.  Sharon sought the only kind of peace that matters:  eternal, saving, redeeming peace offered to all who believe by the Lord God Almighty.  Despite her hangup with the phrase, she was experiencing her spiritual rebirth ... and was willing to risk a little "weirdness" for it.   

Next:  Born Again 13:  God's in the Heart-Changing Business

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jailbreaker Breaks Out

It was bound to happen.  Our old friend the Jailbreaker, a former missionary to Japan who thrives on challenging our assumptions about the gospel and culture, has slipped his bonds and made for open country with his new blog, For the Sake of the Gospel, for which his stated purpose is to create "An Online Learning Community Seeking to Cultivate & Sustain a Movement of the Gospel within Everyday Relational Networks."

Longtime readers of this blog will recognize some of the posts from years gone by, when the Jailbreaker stoked our creative juices and started more than one spirited debate with challenges such as these:
When crossing cultures with the Gospel just how difficult of a task is it to bring “the message” to a particular people without entangling that message in the “cultural trappings” of the messenger? Does it even matter?

If by “culture” we mean eating with silverware instead of chopsticks, or shaking hands instead of bowing, it’s probably not very difficult at all to leave culture out of the message.

However, if by culture we mean "church culture," that is, the forms, practices, and deeply rooted assumptions of the "western church system," it’s another matter entirely.
I urge you to stop by often ... if you dare!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Relinquish Command

On Tuesday July 12th, I relinquished command of The United States Air Force Honor Guard, closing a remarkable 2-year odyssey.

Command of a squadron is a unique experience in the Air Force. It's said you'll never love--or hate--any job more, because from the day he takes the flag a squadron commander accepts the burden of responsibility for everything that happens on his watch ... the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Commanding the Honor Guard provided me more than my share of all three. The Airmen assigned are very young--over 80% come directly from Basic Training--and they work in a fishbowl. Most of them rise wonderfully to the occasion, conduct themselves with extraordinary skill and dedication, and reward your faith in them through superb performance and conduct.  A few, however, will not, and those few will take up far too much of your time.

The "good" ... where to start?

The phenomenal experience of taking command with my friend, counselor and spiritual father and his wife in attendance.  I love and respect them so very much.
Maj. Tyson Willis, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard director of operations, leads Col. Elizabeth Borelli, 11th Operation Group commander, and Lt. Col. Raymond M. Powell, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard commander, during an inspection of the troops as part of the Air Force Honor Guard change-of-command ceremony June 23 on the U.S. Air Force Ceremonial Lawn, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. These ceremonies represent the formal passing of responsibility, authority and accountability of command from one officer to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alex Montes)

The thrill of returning to my Sacramento middle school together with the Drill Team ... and my mom!

The challenge of staging a huge sight-and-sound Twilight Tattoo for the 50th Anniversary of the Conference of American Air Chiefs on the US Air Force Ceremonial Lawn.

The somber responsibility of presiding over the funeral of US Senator Ted Stevens.
Military personnel carry the casket during the burial service of longtime Alaska Senator Ted Stevens at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, September 28, 2010.  Olivier Douliery / MCT

The opportunity to returning to my beloved Santa Cruz with the Drill Team and meeting up with so many dear family members and old friends.  I also met up with my friend "Sharon" again on that trip after 24 years.  Sharon came to place her trust in Christ as a result (thus launching the Born Again series ... which I promise will resume shortly)!

The tremendous honor of participating in the 2010 Christmas Parade in my current hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia as the Grand Marshall.

Still, I think my favorite memory will be of seeing my father (who blogs here in these pages as "Presbyter") honored by the Air Force, as he was previously by me, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and some lady named Oprah.  He came to see me relinquish command almost exactly 50 years after his 1961 Freedom Ride.
Lt. Col. Raymond Powell and his father Michael Powell discuss Michael's experience during the Freedom Rides of 1961 at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington D.C. July 11, 2011. The freedom rides sought to end segregation in the Southern states with non-violent protest. Raymond relinquished command of The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard on July 12, 2011, nearly 50 years after his fathers arrest in Jackson, Miss. (USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Raymond Mills)

As amazing as this has been, the experience has not been without trial, some "bad", some "ugly".  Leaders in this environment often emerge bloodied and bruised, while some do not make it to the end. The bright lights show every flaw, and patience can be in very short supply. Frankly, after watching three of my superiors and one of my peers get relieved early, I was grateful for every day my key still fit the lock.

The most difficult period of my command centered around the discovery of a "Spice" ring in our midst.  Spice is the name of a new and particularly nasty synthetic cannabis popular among young people, and it has been making the rounds in the military.  It took us by storm, and although we acted swiftly to punish and purge the offenders, we received a lot of negative attention and were forced to battle through some very difficult days.

On a personal level, God turned up the heat on His refiner's fire through this trial, and taught me the value of perseverance and setting my face like flint through adversity.   Frankly, there was no way to go but forward, and there was no one to lead them but the man to whom God had assigned the mission.  I also discovered that in such adversity lies opportunity for those who are not too busy feeling sorry for themselves to see it.  By remaining alert and purposeful, we were able to leverage the attention generated by the crisis to gain support for some important initiatives which should bless future generations of Ceremonial Guardsmen for some years to come.

God also taught me a new humility.  As you can see from the photos and video above, there was much opportunity for arrogance, yet I found myself at times fighting for my job and my reputation, the latter being a particular favorite idol of mine.  While my carnal desire was to go out "on top", God's desire for me was to glorify Him, for that is all that has any enduring value whatsoever.

Through the peaks and valleys, I was deeply blessed to have been supported by many fine Airmen--superiors, peers and subordinates alike--and of course by my sweetheart of almost 21 years, Mrs Jailer.  We have a pocketful of incredible memories.

Together we look forward to our next challenge, as we prepare to go to Hanoi, Vietnam (following a couple years of training), where I am to be the Air Attache. We covet your prayers.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Born Again 11: The Jesus Who Lives in Me

Previous:  Born Again 10:  What do You Want?
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My sense of excitement over Sharon's growing enthusiasm and revelations was matched by a sense of loss.  Everything was here sitting in a pile.  Conviction of sin, comprehension of Christ, yearning for salvation ... I couldn't escape the sense that a gifted evangelist would have brought this all together for her 2 weeks ago--or even 2 decades ago!  But in His wisdom God had not sent a gifted evangelist, and it would be foolish to stand around waiting for one to show up.

I was the one He had sent, and all I could do was tell her what He had laid on my heart.
Nothing at all about your e-mail strikes me as "silly" or "odd".  In fact, what really strikes me about your e-mail is how very wonderful it is. Truly. I'm actually a little awestruck by the whole thing. To think that God had this plan in mind ... it's just amazing to me!

What you have just described is everything that the gospel is supposed to accomplish!  Why doesn't everyone respond to it as you have? Or, as you asked: "What is wrong with me?" Well, I suppose the Apostle Paul described it best: "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." (1 Corinthians 2:14)
So what did Sharon need to see at this moment?  She needed to see what God was doing in her so that she could respond to it ...
The fact is that our basic problem is that, in our natural (sinful) state, we are spiritually dead! We don't hear what God is saying because we frankly don't want to. We are seeking for peace, but not really for God Himself, because our hearts are in rebellion against Him. Instead, we would rather invent a god in our own image, one whom we would rather deal with than the one true, holy God!

But when that true God intervenes and awakens us to His reality, it all becomes so clear! We look back and wonder what on earth we were thinking before ("What is wrong with me?"), but it's really quite simple in a way ... we were thinking what it was in our nature to think! Again, to quote Paul:  "
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8)"
... and then she needed to know what that response is supposed to look like.
This is why Jesus spoke of being "born again". It is the life-giving touch of the Savior that gives us the ability to finally comprehend the meaning of this "gospel" (good news) we all speak about! "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory." (Romans 8:14-17)

When you knew me before, most of this information was still fairly new to me. I can't tell you exactly when or where I was born again. I believe it was between the ages of 16 and 18, but there were no fireworks ... just a slow realization that this gospel was more than just a "story", as you so aptly described. I will be honest with you, I still occasionally struggle with those thoughts even today. My faith is still a work in progress even this 25+ years later: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see ... And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:1,6)
I was determined not to give her a canned "sinners prayer".  It would have only injected an artificiality into what had been so very authentic.  I simply wanted her to see and know Jesus.  The Jesus of the Bible.  The Jesus who stood at the door and knocked.  The Jesus who lives in me.
Sometimes doubts still crowd my mind. What drives those doubts away? God Himself, of course, for now that His Spirit lives inside me, He is committed to me: "... being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) He does this through the various means He has given me to experience the riches of His grace, as I continually read His Word, fellowship with His people, carry out the works He gave me to do, and worship Him both publicly and privately.

Thank you, Sharon, for giving me the privilege of walking with you along this journey. You are also an encouragement to me!
Next:  Born Again 12:  My Husband Thinks I'm Weird 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Born Again 10: What Do You Want?

Previous:  Born Again 9:  Jesus Without Religion
Navigate:  Born Again:  The Complete Works 

Sharon's next message began with a somewhat unusual Scripture text:
“Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’" (John 1: 38)
There was no further explanation, yet her meaning seemed clear ... she was reaching a decision point.  She was standing there at Bethany next to John the Baptist's disciples, looking at the Savior, knowing now who He was.  Now was the time for choosing.

She went on:
I did finally finish, “Jesus Without Religion” (by Rick James). The best part about the book is that it was written in big fonts and it was only 125 pages :). To say that it was “a good book” doesn’t really do it any justice. So here is my feeble attempt to give it my own review:
“Jesus Without Religion” is exactly as its title states. The author described the life of Jesus Christ in a historic sense and cited specific dates when the (true) Gospels were written so to verify the true existence of these events. The author also used simple-to-understand examples relating to today’s lifestyles to explain lessons inscribed in a verse. The book cited several verses in the Old Testament which were again stated in the New Testament, only spoken by someone else hundreds of years later. (I find that amazing, by the way!) The author challenges you to pay attention to these “prophetic features” in the Old Testament and to recognize that they really all lead to Jesus Christ. I also found the author’s style of writing funny in a silly kind of way. If I didn’t know anything about Jesus Christ, I think this book would give me enough overview of who He is and would make any reader think about what their “next step” could be.
As I indicated in my previous post, this was truly God's providence on display.  At the appointed time, God had drawn Sharon and I back into the same orbit, both older and wiser.  I was at last ready to guide, and she to follow.  He then placed this book in her path to show her how.  Once again, my job was to watch and pray.
What I learned about myself as I read through “Jesus Without Religion” while having my Bible as a reference?
How remarkable that she would test what she was reading against Scripture.  A true Berean indeed.
1.) I liked the book because it used references in our world history to set the timing of Jesus’ life. Somehow, I realized that that’s a big deal to me. I have come to understand that one of the reasons I have a difficult time “opening up” to the Bible is that I only see the stories in it as, well ... stories! I’ve known of the story of Christ, as well as the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. etc. but I’ve never placed them in history, because I saw these moments in time as “holy” and no ‘normal’ human lived in these holy times. I don’t know how else to explain this but it is only now that I am “accepting” that Jesus truly walked the same land as, say, the leaders of the Roman empire, whose realism is embedded in our history books. I was thinking of a time in college when I was having a difficult time with one of my classes. I was failing my Astronomy class for one reason: that I didn’t believe that the earth was tilted on it’s axis by 23 or 24 degrees. I had always thought that the earth rotated perpendicular to its axis so when I finally learned that it didn’t, it blew me away. Why that was so important to my brain, I don’t know but all I know is that after I finally got past “the truth” about our planet, the class was not so difficult to understand. You’re probably thinking that I am a very odd person just about now. I am, in many ways! 
I wonder what percentage of today's postmodern church (much less our society) believes the Bible is essentially a fable, useful for moral teaching or spiritual encouragement, but certainly not true in any literal sense?  I'm sure there's a poll out on that somewhere, and I'm sure I'd be distressed to know the answer.  Here Sharon, born and raised in the bosom of that very church, confesses that she herself grew up with precisely that mindset, which proved the primary intellectual obstacle to her own faith.
If you think that’s odd, here’s a doozy for you ...
2.) There’s lots of talk about “grace” in this book, in the Bible and even in your blogs. You’ve cited many lessons on “grace” in your emails to me and I just read them and take them at face value. Ray, I just looked up the definition of GRACE from my dictionary and here is what it says: grace (n) 1: unmerited help given to people by God (as in overcoming temptation) 2: freedom from sin through divine grace. 3: a virtue coming from God. 4: used as a title for a duke, duchess or an archbishop. 5: a short prayer at a meal. And then it goes on. You know what I learned about myself this weekend? That I didn’t know the first three definitions of the word “grace”. I really didn’t! I know it’s a prayer, but that’s about it! How could I not know? I doubt that it’s a language issue as I’ve been singing the song Amazing Grace since I was in kindergarten. Have I been so numbed to the word that I just assumed I knew what it meant? What is wrong with me? Am I the only one who didn’t know that the “Grace of God” is truly a wonderful thing not to be taken for granted?
Now this actually didn't surprise me at all, being one of my favorite topics.  Still, it was exciting to see Sharon really grab on to the exciting truth about grace. She was truly at the doorstep.
3.) And then there’s the word “Heart”. You’ve used it several times in your emails as well as the book I just read. There’s a passage in the book that says the “entrance to the kingdom depends on the heart” that is willing to accept it or to reject it. I have never made the conscious decision to open my heart to “accept” Jesus Christ. I told you before, I was born and raised just knowing it and I thought that was enough. I’m realizing that it’s a lot tougher to actually believe it, or “accept it”. But I am slowly learning that all it is is a decision on my part, to decide that I do want Jesus in my life. The author used a good example when it was time for him to make a decision. He said that it was like “getting married and saying ‘I Do’ to” the question. Or in this case, to say “I do” to Christ.
What do you want?
I would like to think that what I’m going through is “normal”, and that I am not alone in this. I cannot help but ask myself why I never made a decision. But like you told me, I need to not “worry about the past” and to “just press on forward”. I do want to accept Jesus and I want Him to guide the direction of my life. I am looking forward to learning more, so I guess my experience this past week, although a bit frustrating at times, was a good one. I am looking forward to reading the Bible as a whole and looking forward to understanding it better, this time around. Also, another good thing that came out of this is that I have a better appreciation for the song “Amazing Grace”. I love this line: “How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” That’s just so beautiful!
Sharon stood looking at Jesus.  For the first time she was seeing Him as He was ... real, living, loving, calling.  What do you want?  She wanted Him.

Next:  Born Again 11:  The Jesus who Lives in Me

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Trusting that I Will be Able to Survive His Plan

Just after I posted Rich Mullins' superb monologue about living "on the verge of falling", Petra over at Penned Pebbles comes on line to reflect on the "all things" we can do through Christ.
Our upside down thinking only proves painful. What is it that frightens or hurts us the most when we face a storm, fire, persecution, cancer, prodigals, the unknown, or even death itself? Is it not the grief of doubting because we want what we think best? Oh, that all of our confidence would rest securely in Christ—ALL of it! Yes, sorrow brings us this cure! though we’d rather not have it.
Aptly spoken, yet she drives us deeper--indeed, to the verge of falling--as she walks us over to CaringBridge, where a mother's anguished journal wakes us to the fear none of us wants to face:
I sat filling in the spaces of the application as the kids played nearby, waiting for someone to release us after the CT scan. We were the only ones in the waiting room so I immediately looked up as the door opened. And then I knew, something was terribly wrong. 4 people entered the empty space, someone gently touched my shoulder and asked if they could sit with the kids and if I could follow the others into a private room. I followed them, but don't remember how I made it there. "I'm so sorry" seemed to be the first words I heard. My mind was screaming sorry for what!! She has to be fine. No God! And then the rest of the words ran together. There was talk of a large tumor, a neurosurgeon waiting on the phone and being admitted to the ICU. Somehow Kate was now in the room. I looked at her through tear stained eyes. She was slumped over sobbing into her hands. She was old enough to sense something was wrong, undeniably. I held her and we wept. How do I tell her daddy? He was still living with the false comfort of ignorance. I was about to shatter that. I called him, he wept and said he would have someone drive him up right away. And so began Kate's battle with brain cancer.
So there it is. For most of us, there is almost nothing more terrifying than the thought of learning your child has a life-threatening, debilitating condition. I have often thought to myself that I have promised that I will endure anything for the sake of the gospel. But not that, Jesus ... please God not that. Because I know what that will take ...
So much has happened in the past 2 years. Far too much to summarize on this page. My mind continues to feel clouded by the stressors of the journey. My now poor memory another casualty. And yet, there are certain things I remember with distinct clarity. Too much clarity. The smell after Kate's brain surgery. The feeling of seeing for the first time the tumor on the CT scan. The suffocating feeling meeting the boy in the room next to us on the neuro floor. No signs of brain cancer for 5 years, and then he had a stroke. He was left unable to communicate, move, eat, nothing. He just watched tv. And cried. So did I. The distinct, piercing cry of a mother that arrived on the oncology floor too late. She couldn't get there fast enough to say good bye. Her screams tore at the veil of security I tried to wrap myself in. And the tearful mother who returned the gifts many of you had provided through Kate's Christmas drive. Her daughter didn't even get the chance to open them. She died on her birthday. And then the dream shattering day, we unexpectedly found 2 new tumors had made themselves a home on the other side of Kate's brain. I threatened to throw a chair through the oncology room wall, if no one had done it before me. And the email that said "palliative care" from a Dr we consulted with afterwards. The anger, the emotion, the fear and the deep, deep disappointment. These memories seem unshakable. Unthinkable, and yet all too real.
For this mother it is "all to real". For me it is merely "unthinkable". I believe that I can indeed do even this through Him who gives me strength. Yes, I will ... for His glory, and for the eternal joy of what He promised.

Yet the mere thought of it fills me with terror.  How could I possibly be strong enough for something like this?
Some days I could stop there, with the clear reality of how I feel, of what my emotions seem to be saying so loudly. And then unexpectedly, oftentimes quietly, I am reminded of our real home. Of our hope. It doesn't lie in statistics and prognoses. It doesn't even lie in health and healing. It's the hope that one day this will be the seemingly short life we lived here, as we live out eternity. As much as I love my Kate and would do nearly anything to see her healed, I know Jesus loves her more. Trust. I have struggled immensely with it since her diagnosis. Trusting the doctors know what is best for her. Trusting Jesus period. Trusting He has a plan for sweet Kate. Trusting that I will be able to survive His plan. Trusting that I will find joy amidst circumstance. And yet those very same things I struggle with are the very places I find solace. Knowing He has a plan, and knowing His deep love for Kate. It's painful none the less, but it holds hope. It holds promise. And so 2 years later when life still feels uncertain, unpredictable and painful, we look to the One who can heal, not only Kate's body, but our hearts as well.
Kate McRae
I talk, teach, and write about faith. This woman lives by it in a way I know so little about ... and to be brutally honest, I really don't want to.  Yet this is what it all means ... all the promises, all the challenges, all the hope of eternal glory and redemption.  Or, as Kate's mom put it:   As much as I love my Kate and would do nearly anything to see her healed, I know Jesus loves her more. 

What is left but to implore the Father?  I know this family is one of many who face similar challenges, and I know your eternal, glorious plan is greater than any design I have or can possibly imagine, but God please heal this little girl.  Thank you for the wisdom you have granted her mother thus far ... now please grant her comfort and strength to face each new day with renewed hope.  Amen and amen.