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Monday, June 2, 2014

Patty's four friends 5/25/14
Patty Kurtz surrounded and supported by her four caring friends
: Ed &  June Ebersole aka Mom & Pop, Nancy, and Joanie

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"Four Friends"

"Some men came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven'" (Mark 2:3-5).

On March 9th of this year our daughter, Ester, chose to be baptized on her 25th birthday. We posted photos here at Daily Encouragement and I (Brooksyne) also printed a few to show interested friends. One of those friends who was especially interested was Patty Kurtz (above) who is very fond of Ester. In fact they share the same birthday so they have a special bond.

When Patty saw the photos she, without hesitation, looked directly in my eyes and with her finger pointed right at me insisted, "I want to be baptized." Patty has attended my monthly hymn sings and our Sunday afternoon services at Longwood for ten years or more. It was during one of the Friday hymn sings that God gave her the vision of an angel appearing in our midst and tapping her on the shoulder. After the hymn sing, as I was shaking hands with each resident, I saw Patty's face was aglow. I knew something had happened, but I also knew it would take time and patience to learn about what it was due to her challenging communication skills.

Patty was born with Cerebral Palsy. It encompasses a set of neurological conditions that affect the brain and nervous system. ("Cerebral" refers to the area in the brain that's affected while "palsy" means complete or partial muscle paralysis, frequently accompanied by loss of sensation and uncontrollable body movements or tremors.)
Not only are her body movements affected but her speech as well. Communication for her is difficult at best, but she doesn't back down when she wants to tell you something. She knows if you're pretending to understand, which I have been guilty of on more than one occasion. As you might guess it can be awkward for those seeking to understand and frustrating for her when she seeks to communicate. She is very expressive and often it becomes a "game" of Charades. Some people, friendly by nature, don't talk with her just to avoid the timely and awkward situation it creates.

When Patty told me she wanted to be baptized she said over and over, "Don't you forget it!" So, we fulfilled her request Memorial Day weekend, and last Sunday, Stephen baptized her. It was a blessed event and Patty was surrounded not only by the residents of Longwood but also supported by her four close friends who help to meet her essential and everyday needs.

Patty's friends made me think about the brief account recorded in our daily Scripture reading. It describes a roofing job (or should I say de-roofing job) and a colorful description of caring friends; the kind of friends we would like and indeed so many of us do have. For the sake of our opening illustration we'll say these four friends also had a "roofing ministry". Let's examine several characteristics of roofing ministry:

1) They had a friend with a need – These men were determined to do something about it. He was a paralytic and, although the degree of his paralysis is not specified, he was immobile and was carried from place to place. Consider today those you know who may be in need due to their immobility or otherwise. How can you help them?

2) They had a plan - They wanted to get their friend to Jesus. Word was spreading concerning Jesus' ability to heal the sick. These men had a plan to get their friend to Jesus where they believed he would receive healing. That should be our goal as well, to get people to Jesus.

3) They sacrificed – The healing service was likely in the daytime since they didn't travel in vehicles and nighttime would be very difficult. They sacrificed personal time as well as  income as they very well may have taken time off from their jobs. After carrying their friend to the healing service they met up with a big crowd and a house with limited access. There are always obstacles of some sort in any type of ministry. Genuine, lasting ministry is characterized by overcoming obstacles, one by one.

4) They had innovative determination – In spite of the obstacles they made a way. I can just see these daring men each presumably holding a corner of the mat. Surely they were throwing out wild ideas as to how they could get their friend through the mass so that he could be within the touch of the Master's hand. Perhaps one threw out the idea just for a joke, "Let's just cut a hole through the roof!" Of course we don't know the circumstance but we do know that's just what they did. They lowered their friend down in the middle of the crowd right smack in front of Jesus (see Luke's account in Luke 5:18-20). I wonder what the other people thought who had arrived earlier and been waiting a long while to see Jesus. Did they feel like we do when a person crowds in front of us in a grocery or customer service line?

5) They had roofing skills - Now I presume it was some type of thatch roof. They had to know where to make the opening so as not to impact the structural integrity of the entire roof. I also assume, although it's not specified, that they repaired the roof afterwards! What skills do you have that you can devote to our Lord?

6) They had faith - But onto a more important and essential detail here: "When Jesus saw their faith." Note the plural pronoun, "their faith". These men had faith that their friend would receive help from Jesus and he did! We are so thankful for those people of faith who have instructed and encouraged us in our journey, and expressed faith on our behalf.

7) They had a caring Savior - Jesus did not let them down. A wonderful verse states, "Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). What a powerful assurance that we always have a caring Savior in Jesus!

Now your roofing ministry may not be as literal as this but most of these points will apply to any type of ministry that expresses personal care to another. We can see a parallel to those who have ministered to Patty. Aren't you glad that we can enlist Christian friends to pray for us when we're in the midst of the "blues" of a difficult circumstance. Their faith is a source of encouragement to us and it strengthens us when we are weak, whether emotionally, physically, spiritually or financially. In extreme cases it might include all those mentioned!

May God bless you richly with friends and help us to be a friend!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, we are grateful that Jesus hears our prayers, knows of our troubles and intercedes on our behalf. But there are times when we are in need of the compassion of a caring "in the flesh" friend; one who will pray, listen, lend support, and interject thoughts, experiences or suggestions that help us to bear our troublesome burdens. Instead of casting judgment they lend a thought or hand in addition to their personal time to meet our need(s).  Thank you for caring friends who bear with us, lift us up out of despair, and help us discover solutions that we, by ourselves, cannot find.  Help me to be that kind of friend, in the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

For a contrasting message regarding friendship click here for a message written in 2005 regarding a man who "wasted away", forsaken by his friends and family.

The rest of the story:  Following Patty's baptism I (Brooksyne) joined Patty and her four friends at Hoss' Restaurant in Elizabethtown (Stephen had another commitment). I struggled with taking the time as I had a lot of "irons in the fire" but God spoke to my heart, "People, Brooksyne, that's your priority today, not the list of things that will be there to do later." I'm so glad when I listen to God because it's at those times that we are especially blessed. I was probably more an observer than participant in this friendly gathering of longtime friends. Joanie was a neighbor of Patty's since early childhood and she continues to visit with Patty and converse over the phone. She spoke fondly of their times when they played together. Nancy, Patty's
, medical POA, drove me past Patty's one room schoolhouse and the home she grew up in pointing out things about Patty I was learning for the first time. The Ebersoles, Mom and Pop, patiently chatted with Patty around the table. I was so impressed with the natural state of which the friends listened patiently while Patty sought to communicate with animation accompanied by a staccato type speech with very loud volume as she belted out each word. When they didn't understand her they would work it out until they did. When Patty talks she uses her hands alot for expression and due to the CP the joint of her little finger is bent sideways. In the midst of her very serious conversation she was waving her hand high in the air when "Pop" took his little finger and interlocked it with hers. It threw her off and she looked at him with a look of consternation but then broke into loud, uproarious laughter. He then offered to get her dessert at the dessert bar. I intervened as I had observed how he walks with a cane, his back hunched over and once again my heart was melted by such loving, tender, and giving friends.

The rest of the rest of the story: I was unaware that others were observing our "rowdy" round table of six friends visiting over dinner. As we were leaving the restaurant a young man in his twenties caught up with me. He tapped me on the shoulder, and with a warm expression on his face said, "You tell that woman that all I could see was love on her face. She is one special person!" At that point I was already moved by the past hour of observing genuine, sacrificial friendship but when he boldly approached me as a stranger with this message I quietly wiped away the tears (and am doing so even as I recall this event). I was reminded that we never know who's watching and how it will be implemented into their lives. I caught up with Patty and gave her the message. She looked at me quizzically as though she had no idea of what I was talking about. Perhaps the message was more for me than Patty.

Patty's baptism 5/25/14
Patty's Baptism
It was Stephen's first time to officiate an non-immersion baptism, as is our custom. I participated several years ago in a similar baptism when Mary Lou, a bedridden hospice patient, chose to be baptized. She had given her heart to Jesus months earlier and wanted to obey God in this important sacrament.

With Patty at her baptism 5/25/14
We count it a privilege to be friends with Patty over the past ten years or so. Notice the wrist corsage her childhood friend, Joanie, provided for her on this special day.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"No, Not One"  Video  Lenny LeBlanc

"What a Friend We Have In Jesus"  Video  Guy Penrod

"God Gave Me You"  Video  Dave Barnes

"I'll Be Your Friend" Video  Michael W. Smith

"Prayer For A Friend "  Video  Casting Crowns
(This is a prayer for a friend who has lost the way.)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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