Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The Hatrack

      Way, way back when our oldest daughter, Carissa, was a mere toddler, I played a game with her. On cold days following worship, I would sit her on the top of the hat rack in the lobby of the church I pastored in Beaver, PA to bundle her up. It was easier. Because she was up high she wouldn’t squirm as much while I wrestled her into hat, coat, and mittens. (If you are thinking I was a negligent father, putting my daughter at risk, relax. She was safe. Otherwise Sheila would have killed me!) After she looked like Charlie Brown ready to play in the snow, I would step back. She would hold out her arms and stare at me. “Do you trust me?” I would ask. “Yes” came the little toddler voice. “Then jump! I promise I will catch you.” Since I was a step away, she could not bring herself to do it. She said she trusted me… but there was a limit to that trust.
      “C'mon,” I would coax her. “I’m your dad. I would never let you fall. I'm strong and you can trust me. Now, jump!” From that distance, she would not do it. So I moved a little closer and she would lean toward me, expecting me to reach up to grab her. Realizing I was not coming quite close enough, she would pull back, fear in her little eyes. Again, “Do you trust me? Then jump! I promise I will catch you. You have nothing to be afraid of.” She would try to reach me, to touch me, but could not quite make the stretch. And she’d pull back. She could not leave the “safety” of the hat rack, not realizing she was safer in my arms than up there.
      Finally, I would move close enough that she could lean to within a few inches. “Do you trust me?” I would ask again. “Then jump into my arms!” And she would. She could trust her dad with those few inches. I would pull her tight, hug her and tell her, “You can trust me. I would never, ever, ever, ever let you fall.” As time went on, she overcame her fear to jump from greater and greater distances. Sometimes trust takes time and experience to kick in.
Do you trust me??
      One of my favorite scenes in moviedom is when Indiana Jones comes to a seemingly impassable chasm while attempting to retrieve the Holy Grail to save his father. He looks down in terror, knowing he has only a few minutes to reach the other side before his father dies. The only clue he has to work with is, “The man of God will walk by faith.” He recognizes the implication: he must step out into thin air and trust that something good will happen. Indiana closes his eyes, lifts one foot and steps into the cavern. Instead of tumbling to the bottom, his foot lands on solid ground. The bridge is disguised to look like the ravine. He throws dirt onto the bridge so he can see it and quickly crosses over. A moment of faith changed everything.
Do you trust me??
      That was the question facing Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew that only a few hours separated Him from a Roman cross. He knew the agony of the physical pain because He had watched men hang exposed for days. He also knew the agony of shouldering the pain of all of mankind’s sin was awaiting Him -- being cut off from the Father. Crying out to His Dad, He begged for another plan. “Do you trust me?” were the words God seemed to be saying. “Do you trust me in My plan? Do you trust me in your pain? Do you trust me that it will be better on the other side? Do you trust me to raise you to life?” He did, and it changed everything! For Him. For you. For me. For the world now and forever.
Do you trust me??
      It’s pretty easy to trust God when He is within inches as we sit on the hat racks of life. When leaping into His arms is a fairly guaranteed deal. When there's not much chance He can or will pull away. It’s a much different proposition when He’s across the room, we’re stuck on the hat rack, no one else is around and there is not a ladder in the building. Then He says, “Jump!” from twenty feet away. In those times it seems that God is just not making sense. And there’s no possible way He can catch us. And He’s not answering our pleas for explanations. And we’re in pain. And the janitors are turning out the lights. And no one else appears to have to sit on the hat rack or jump. And we’ve got lots of reasons, facts and proven studies of why it is not healthy to jump. And God doesn’t seem to want to hear any of it; He just wants us to jump.
Do you trust me??
      It isn’t trust if Carissa can grab me before she leaves the hat rack. It isn’t trust if Indiana can see the bridge before he steps. It isn’t trust for Jesus if there is no cross, no pain, no death, no separation from the Father and no resurrection. And it isn’t trust for us if we don’t obey even when it doesn’t make sense. But in every case, it is better after making the leap of trust than it was before. Carissa’s safely in my arms, Indiana’s healing of his father, Jesus’ glory. And for you -- intimacy with God and experiencing His work in our lives in ways we cannot see.
Do you trust me??
      Whatever you’re facing, trust God. Listen carefully for His voice. (Don't you dare jump until you hear His instructions -- there's a difference between obedient trust and stupidity). But once you hear His voice, jump! God wants to, longs to catch you. Refuse to give into the human desire to be in control, to trust yourself. Just jump. Close your eyes if you have to, but leap! It is always better on the other side. It may take a while to get there, but you’ll be glad you did when you feel the strong, loving arms of your Heavenly Dad envelop you. Hold you. Protect you. Reassure you. Love you. Otherwise you may be sitting on a hat rack for the rest of your life. 

(Jesus said) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”   John 14:1

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.   Romans 8:28 (TLB)

(This blog entry is chapter 37 of my book, "From Where God Sits," available at

Thursday, March 07, 2019


Can You See It?
      “Dad, Dad! Look at this!” said my oldest son, Andrew, as he walked into the living room with an open book in his hand. “This is so cool!” he said, pointing to a multi-colored graphic of…nothing. To me, it was a bunch of colored shapes. Nice colors, mind you, but I didn’t get his excitement. Ordinarily, this middle-schooler was impressed with nothing short of shaking hands with a professional baseball player or landing on the moon. I felt his forehead for the fever that would explain enthusiasm for a book of colored shapes.
      “There’s nothing there,” I said confidently. He smiled. I know that smile. So do you. It’s the one that communicates with a simple facial expression that he knows something that his dad doesn’t, therefore he is highly intelligent and his dad is a cave man (with all due respect to cave men).
      “Yes, there is, Dad. The picture is hidden.”
      I looked again. More closely. Stared and searched, grasping to regain my “dad is smart” standing. Not. A. Thing. And the boy once again smiled that condescending smile.
      “There is nothing there,” I said, with what I hoped was confidence. “You’re just trying to fool me.”
      “No, really, Dad. Look at the picture. There are dinosaurs.”
      “Sheila, what is the doctor’s number? We need to take this boy there quick. He’s hallucinating.”
      “Daaaad!” he said, using the universal pronunciation children use when frustrated and disgusted. Especially when the man who sired them tells “dad” jokes.
      “You have to look through the picture to see the hidden picture. It’s a ‘Magic Eye’[i] picture.”
      I made for the car keys thinking we should go to straight to the ER and bypass the doctor.
      “Just try it, Dad.” I tried it. Nothing. Except the mish-mash of colors as before.
      The smile turned to delighted, patronizing laughter.
      “I can see it,” a voice sounded. I glanced up to see my daughter peering over my shoulder. “There are four dinosaurs. Two in the back, one there and a baby in the front. Aww, isn’t he cute?!”
      “You guys are just messing with me. How long have you been concocting this? You’re all grounded.”
      “I don’t go anywhere, Dad. How can you ground me?” said the little female at my side.
      “Here, Dad. Let me show you,” Andrew said, appearing to be helpful. I couldn’t help but wonder what the next act in the humiliation play would be.
      “Hold the book up to your nose, keep your eyes the way they are now and slowly move the picture away from you.”
      But I dutifully did it expecting raucous laughter at any moment as these hooligans pulled something on me.
      “OH! Right. RIGHT!” I exclaimed in amazement, the dinosaurs coming more and more clearly into focus.
      “See! SEE! I told you!”
      “You were right, I conceded. I saw it all along. I was just pulling your leg.”
      But he was right. I didn’t see the dinosaurs at first, though they were always there. Not until I learned a new way of seeing could I make out the depth of what was there, the real beauty in the picture.

A New Way of Seeing and Knowing God
      The problem was not that the dinosaurs were missing, or that the design of the picture was wrong, or that I wasn’t trying, or even that my eyes were not working. The problem was with the way I was looking. To see the Magic Eye picture for what it really was necessitated a new way of seeing; the ability to look past the superficial to see the real picture. I couldn’t do it by myself, though. This new way of seeing required a guide who had experienced it to show me the way. As a result and to my delight, I saw what had been there all along.
      I believe that many people are looking for God, but not seeing Him. The problem is not that God is hiding from us, but that we need a new ways of seeing. Ever since the Garden of Eden debacle, men and women have struggled to see God as He really is. Sometimes hidden, sometimes distorted, sometimes defaced, the true picture of God calls to us just beyond the superficial. As a result, we are hindered from experiencing a true relationship with God. A relationship that satisfies the longing in our hearts, fills the hole in our souls, makes sense out of life, provides us purpose and gives us hope.
      My hope is that this book will lead you to a new way of seeing and thus a new way of experiencing the relationship with God you have always longed for. That it will guide you to see past the superficial to what is really real with God. That, through this book, you will allow me to be your guide to a relationship with God of intimacy and awe. Not because I have it all figured out, but because I might be a few steps farther down the path.
‘You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord,     -- Jeremiah 29:13–14a

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’                                    -- Isaiah 55:8–9

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’      -- Jeremiah 33:3

(This blog entry is the introduction of my book, "Intimacy and Awe," available at

[i] Magic Eye® images are a product of Magic Eye Inc., PO Box 1986, Provincetown, MA 02657

Friday, December 30, 2016

Just Say “Yes!” in 2017

There was nothing about her to suggest she would be “the one.” Ordinary, run of the mill, common, regular are words to describe her. Aspirations were about the upcoming wedding, starting a home with her soon-to-be husband and having a slew of kids. Yet... she lived an extraordinary life. One that would be remembered for all time. And it all comes down to this: she said, “Yes!” with her words and her feet. And kept saying, “Yes!” That’s it. She did nothing that you or I could not do.

There was nothing about him to suggest he would be tapped on the shoulder with such privilege and responsibility. Ordinary, run of the mill, common, regular are words to describe him. Aspirations were about the upcoming wedding, providing for his bride and raising a slew of kids. Yet... he lived an extraordinary life. One that would be remembered for all time. It all comes down to this: he said, “Yes!” with his words and his feet. And kept saying, “Yes!” That’s it. He did nothing you or I could not do.

There was CERTAINLY nothing about them to suggest they would receive one of history’s most amazing invitations. Ordinary (very), run of the mill, less than common, regular are words to describe them. Aspirations were for a good business year, provide for their families and pass something on to their kids. Yet... they had the most extraordinary encounter. One that would be remembered for all time. And it all comes down to this: they said, “Yes!” with their words and their feet. And kept saying, “Yes!” They did nothing you or I could not do.

My best guess is that there is nothing about YOU to suggest you will experience the incredible. Ordinary, run of the mill, common, regular are probably words to describe you. Aspirations are likely about your family, career, health, church, and making a difference in some small way. Yet... you are offered an incredible life. One that will be remembered by people for some time and that will send ripples unseen into many generations to come. And it all comes down to this: say, “Yes!” with your words and your feet. And keep saying, “Yes!” It is something every person can do. If you want to. If you decide it is worth it. If you are willing choose a way that is beyond you.

God WANTS to do and invites us to experience the incredible. Read His words:

20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20–21 (ESV)

12“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:12–14 (ESV)

Reflecting on 2016 I realize I said, “No,” to God multiple times this year. Oh, I didn’t actually SAY the word, “No.” In fact, I said, “Yes!” ... with my words. Problem is, as my lips were moving my feet were not. I was not rebelliously heading in the opposite direction. It’s just that my feet were stuck in the quicksand of procrastination, good intentions, spiritual thoughts. High on commitment and low on action. I fully intended to do those things, but they ended up on the back burner, on the bottom of the pile, on the to do list that was too long. It lands in the same pile as if I had looked God in the eye and firmly said, “No.”

It is humbling (terribly so) and sobering (kick my heart in the teeth wakeup call) to realize I’ve been saying, “No,” to God. Arghh! A thousand times ARGHH! Not defiantly but by irresponsibly failing to act. Not every time, but often enough to know I’ve hurt the heart of my Heavenly Dad and robbed myself of some of the incredible He wanted to do.

Mary, an ordinary teen, just kept saying, “Yes!” to God. Still ordinary but walking with the extraordinary God.
Joseph, an ordinary young man, kept saying, “Yes!” to God. Still ordinary but walking with the extraordinary God.
Bethlehem shepherds, ordinary (some would say less than), said “Yes!” all the way to the stable. Still ordinary, but walking with the extraordinary God.
And you and me. Ordinary people invited by the extraordinary God to walk with Him into the incredible.

2017 is going to be different. There. I’ve said it. I will make the effort, change the habits, rearrange some priorities, trust God in new ways. I am committing to say, “Yes!” every time.

Would you like to come along? I invite you to commit with your words and your feet to say, “Yes!” every time you feel the nudge, hear the voice or see the invitation to join God in what He is doing. When we will do, we join the ranks of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds – ordinary people who walk into the incredible with the extraordinary God.

Boldly, Herb

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Was It Worth It? Perspective on the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Season

It is a sad day in Pittsburgh. A summer that seemed so promising has ended in an autumn “failure.”

Was it worth it?

The Pittsburgh Pirates had the second best record in all of major league baseball. Better than any division winner but their own. They played so well the entire season and now, in ONE GAME, it is all over.

Was it worth it?

There are many mourning, others complaining, others blaming, others accusing, others taking it out on people who had nothing to do with it, others dulling their sorrows in the comfort of choice. Is it fair? Moot question. The playoff system is in place, whether fair or not.

Was it worth it?

Was it? Was it all worth it? All the months and effort? To win almost 100 games during the season and then losing in, what some would consider, an embarrassing way?

Let’s take a think. The obvious: from someone who lived through twenty losing seasons, three winning seasons is a thrill. You have no idea the number of times I was asked “What’s wrong with the Pirates?” as I traveled the country. Twenty years of embarrassing futility for fans as well as players. The city was infamous.

But now, it is not just winning seasons, but three playoff seasons in a row. And this season was a phenomenal year. Each game was something to look forward to. The team worked hard, enjoyed great camaraderie, never gave up and genuinely appreciated their fans.

The excitement brought a city, no... an entire region, no... a Pirate nation from all over the world together. The season brought a group of men together in friendship and encouragement, in facing ups and downs together, in overcoming adversity, sadness and pain together.

The winning provided a forum for coach and players to make a difference in the lives of people in the hospital, people who came to the ballpark, people who met the team in various venues. It provided a platform for Christ following coaches and players to share their faith in Jesus Christ.

Was it worth it?

I say an enthusiastic “YES!” It was worth it because it highlights that the true value of life is in the journey not the trophy, ring or money. The friendships in the clubhouse, in homes where people came together to watch, the connections dads and kids made during trips to the ballpark, the conversations started among strangers or acquaintances, and so much more.

It is the together journey that matters in life. Long after the disappointment is gone and the champion forgotten, the relationships will remain. And THAT is what really matters.

Was it worth it?

Hear the words of the Apostle Paul inspired by God:

3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Philippians 1:3–7 (ESV)

So, though we are disappointed, let’s focus on what we gained, not what we wished for.  Sure, it would have been nice to celebrate a World Series champion. But what we have right in front of us is of such greater value – sharing the journey of life together.

Boldly, Herb

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

You Might Be Selfish If...

Jesus offers us abundant life. Life to the full. Life that is satisfying.

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10b (The Message)

But the world is upside down.

You see, experiencing satisfying life is in direct proportion to being other-focused... to giving up selfishness for a selfless life... to giving more than getting. But the messages we hear are to grab, get, push, climb, win. Upside down.

That’s why, when we see the runner at a Special Olympics event stop to help another runner instead of winning, it touches something deep inside us. Causing even hardened reporters to tear up.

To turn life right side up we must identify where self-focus still rules and allow God to transform us into other-focused people.

Most people would say they are not selfish. It’s hard to blame them. We want to be more giving than getting, but that old nature keeps rearing it’s very ugly head. And it is so subtle. In fact we can serve other people and still be selfish. So I came up with a checklist for us. See how you do.

You might be selfish if you get angry when someone cuts you off.
You might be selfish if you refuse to forgive.
You might be selfish if you don’t allow yourself to be inconvenienced.
You might be selfish if you don’t give back to God what is His.
You might be selfish if you are not generous with other people.
You might be selfish if you are unhappy, (because selfless people are content).
You might be selfish if you refuse to help certain people.
You might be selfish if you are lazy.
You might be selfish if you think that what you are doing is more important than what others are doing.
You might be selfish if you insist on having your way.
You might be selfish if you always have to win or always be right.
You might be selfish if you refuse to sincerely apologize.
You might be selfish if you like being in control and find it hard to compromise.
You might be selfish if you hear constructive criticism as a personal attack.
You might be selfish if you find it difficult for someone else to be the focus of attention.
You might be selfish if you don’t want to work with others on a team.
You might be selfish if you choose events only for your benefit rather than how you can help others.
You might be selfish if you usually give negative feedback first.
You might be selfish if you are irritated when others ask you for help.
You might be selfish if you hear a message and think “______ (fill in a name)” should hear it.
You might be selfish if you think, “someone should do something about this” when you could do it.
You might be selfish if you are self-conscious about helping strangers in public.
You might be selfish if you are grumpy, sour and complaining.
You might be selfish if you only help others when it makes you feel good.

I’m not pointing fingers or trying to guilt you. It’s just that I WANT you to experience JOY that comes from the other-focused abundant life. And you will only experience satisfying life in direct proportion to being other-focused.

Or as Jesus puts it...
... remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35b (NIV84)

Boldly, Herb

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

All Because I Said Thanks

    Below is a Thanksgiving story I wrote in 1982 and recently revised. My hope is that you will use it with family and friends to pause, then give thanks. It is an attempt to get under the obvious of the incident of Jesus and the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. 
    WARNING: this is much longer than a normal blog post. Just so you know.
    Why did this happen to me? I’d seen it so many times, but now it is ME! As a doctor I know the prognosis of this all too well. Leprosy is a death sentence, but a very slow death sentence.
     Yellow, red and purple patches appeared on my skin. Eventually I will lose feeling wherever they appear. It will probably move to the inside of my nose, throat and eyes. Eventually my extremities will be completely numb. If I don’t die from injury due to my inability to feel, I will eventually become paralyzed and my muscles will waste away.
     As I said, I may die of injury. Often, because the skin loses the ability to feel anything, a person will cut or burn himself severely and not even realize it. As a result he will lose part of the limb or even his life, bleeding to death or from infection of the untreated wound.
     It’s not a pretty way to live or die. But now it IS ME! ME! Dreaded leprosy has invaded and attacked my body.

     Why God, why? Had I not dedicated my life to treating lepers in need of medical attention? Perhaps my boldness in the face of this dreaded disease was my downfall. But, I thought, surely, if there is a God in Heaven, He will protect me. I had dedicated myself to helping the sick and diseased, to relieve human suffering. Not for the money... God in Heaven knows there was little of that in treating the lowest of the low. I didn’t do it for position or for anything selfish. But now, what use am I? Only 5 years as a doctor and now I am banished from society as a LEPER! It’s not right! It’s not fair! Where, oh, where is God now?

     At first I tried to hide the blotches, tried to deny what was obvious to me but unnoticed by anyone else. I was doing humanitarian work so it must just be a rash, right? It couldn’t, it shouldn’t happen to me. But I knew, oh, I knew I couldn’t stay. In the deafening quiet of those long nights I grappled with what was ahead. I knew I could not risk infecting those I loved, but do you have any idea how hard it is to say good-bye for FOREVER??? FOREVER!! Early one morning I covered my body for one last hug and said good-bye. I couldn’t even touch them one last time, to give my wife a tender kiss, to caress the soft skin of my children. I said goodbye Forever.
     Good-bye to my wonderful, lovely, wife Rachel. The best wife a man could have.
     Good-bye to my 3 year old son, Levi
     Good-bye to my beautiful baby girl, Elizabeth.

     The tears were unstoppable that day. I still weep when I think of my little Jacob calling to me, impossible for him to understand why his daddy had to leave. Tears for the loss of my family and all I knew. Tears because I knew the hopelessness of the life ahead. Tears for the coming struggles of my family without me to provide. No one to support them financially, to love them, protect them, to guide them. Tears because I knew my children would not remember me. Tears because, short of a miracle, I would never see them again. Tears because as with all lepers, no matter how good they are, they are society’s pariahs, outcasts FOR LIFE!!

     That was three years ago. The longest 24 months of my life. I suppose I’m better off than most of the nine men I live with have had the disease much longer. I try to help them as much as I can but I have limited supplies. I’m afraid I don’t have much time left – the disease has covered most of my body and I have little feeling left. Perhaps dying would be a blessing. That’s about all we live for anyway. Just living to die. I’ve thought about taking my own life but it just isn’t in me to do it. No family, no health, no meaningful work, no hope – not much of a life.
     We’ve often discussed what we would do for the man who would heal us. Some say they would bow down and worship him. Others that they would give him half of all they earn the rest of their lives. Still others claim they would be his slave for life. Ah, such dreams and discussions. It doesn’t really matter because it will never happen. But dreaming is something to do and it keeps us from throwing a never ending pity party.

     We’ve heard some talk of a Jewish Messiah traveling around the countryside. People say He performs miracles; you know, things like calming a stormy sea, feeding thousands of people, healing all sorts of diseases, and even raising the dead. CRAZY TALK as far as I’m concerned. Such rumors float around every few years and it always turns out to be bogus hope for people who have nothing. Some of the fellows have latched on to hope in this man – anything to hope for! But it’s empty hope. And besides, since he is a Jew there is no way he would heal a Samaritan like me. Years ago my people and the Jews had a falling out and it’s been brutal hatred ever since. Except with these guys. When you have leprosy it levels things out. All that separate us loses its importance when you’re slowly dying together. But THIS man, I think His Name is Jesus, is NOT a leper and He IS a Jew. If He helps anyone it will be the Jews among us, not a Samaritan.
     Some of the guys heard that this Jesus is coming our way and want to at least get a glimpse of Him. I told them I would tag along, not because I think there’s hope, but because some of the older men need a hand to get around and, frankly, I don’t like to be alone. So we are going. At least it gives us something to do and keeps us from arguing and sulking.
     The trip seems long, even though it isn’t far. The slow pace of the elderly and ill drags it out but we finally arrive outside of the village where Jesus is supposed to pass through. We can’t go in, so we sit 50 yards outside the town, along the road, waiting to see Him when He walks by.
     After a few hours, a small band of people appear in the distance. As they move closer we can see some 10 to 15 men and a few women. Not much of a following for a Messiah if you ask me. One by one the guys get to their feet. Old Hezekiah in the back begins to shout, “Jesus! Have pity on us!” It is only a moment until the others joined in, “Jesus! Have pity on us!” Okay, this is embarrassing – they DID NOT tell me they were going to do this! Don’t they know it is useless? No they don’t.
     I look toward the band of travelers to see how badly this is going to go. I catch only a glimpse of His profile, but I swear I see care mixed with surprise and delight where I expect disdain. And the slightest hint of a mischevious smile breaks across His face. Maybe... Just maybe... You think? Could the guys be on to something? So I join in. What do I have to lose? I’m a dying leper. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! Lord, please help us! Jesus, please heal us! Have pity!”
     When Jesus faces us and lifts His head, all yelling suddenly stops. As one we fall silent. Never have we seen such compassion on the face of any man. It is almost as if He is suffering with us, feeling the physical and emotional pain we live with.

     Then He says the strangest thing. “Go show yourselves to the priest.”
     What? You HAVE GOT to be joking. That’s not what He’s supposed to say. It’s supposed to be, “Behold! I will indeed heal you! Be clean!” But, “Go show yourselves to the priest!?” Even a Samaritan knows you only do that AFTER you are healed.
     I stand looking at Him in shock, but the others turn to walk toward the synagogue. Weird, is all I can say. Truthfully, I’m disgusted and dismayed. All this traveling, yelling, pleading, and Jesus skyrocketing my hopes. Then nothing. NOTHING! Go to the priest, my foot. This was the big bust I expected. But I’m with this sorry troop so I go along to help the old and ill fellows. But my mind doesn’t stop whining, “this is crazy. The most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. The people in this town are going to stone us before we ever make it to the priests. What a way to die.”

     As we near the edge of town my feet start feeling funny. Not as in “ha, ha,” but as in odd. It’s a sensation like I’ve never felt. It starts at the bottom of my feet and slowly works up my body. It feels, I know you’re not going to believe this, but it feels like someone is scratching the INSIDE of my skin. The rest of the guys stop too. The looks on their faces say all I need to know. Everyone feels it. We must be a sight – a bunch of smelly lepers gawking at one another in the middle of the road with peculiar expressions. After the odd sensation passes, Old Hezekiah looks at me in the oddest way. His eyes go wide and his mouth gapes as he mutters, “Uh... uh... er... I mean...”
     “What’s wrong Hezzy? Spit it out man! You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
     “Your... I mean your... er, your... your ARM!” He finally rasps. You should probably know that the arm he was pointing at was the most infected, ugliest part of my disease. He continues to point and shout,  “The leprosy! It’s gone! You’re healed!”
     I look down and he’s right! I stand staring as the hard drive in my mind cannot process it. Ugly, stinky, deformed one moment and completely perfect the next. Even the rancid smell is gone. When I can finally move I quickly check my feet, legs, stomach. EVERY PLACE I had been infected is healed. EVERY SINGLE PLACE. I didn’t think we could have looked any weirder, but I was wrong. Ten men with ragged clothes standing in the middle of the road lifting sleeves, tunics, under robes to check the places where leprosy had damaged. CLEAN! Every person and every spot. CLEAN! But there’s more: those who were crippled are walking. Those who were deaf, hear. Those who were blind, see. Those who lost fingers and toes have new ones. EVERYTHING is healed. Beyond comprehension. The miracle we had prayed for, dreamed of is no longer a dream. It is reality.
     I thought we couldn’t look weirder, I was wrong. Ten grown men in the middle of the street as giddy as school girls, jumping, screaming, hugging, laughing, crying, grabbing people walking by and showing them our clean skin. You wouldn’t believe the looks, but we didn’t care. This is the greatest day of our lives. THE greatest. NOTHING will ever top this!

     One by one, our energy exhausts and we sit heavily to the ground. Catching our breath, one of the guys says, “Well, I guess we should get on to the priests to be declared OFFICIALLY clean. “
     I start to agree and then freeze. “Wait a minute, “ I object. “Aren’t we forgetting something here? First we need to go back to Jesus to thank Him for what He has done. This IS a miracle after all.”
     “But I DESERVED to be healed!” says Amos. “I have been a leper for 3 years. Why should I be grateful. It was God’s fault in the first place that I needed to be healed!”
     All the guys shake their head in agreement with Amos.”But He didn’t HAVE to heal us,” I insist.
     “And besides, don’t you remember what you said you would do for the man who healed you – bow to worship Him, be His slave for life, give half your income for life? What about that?”
     “But what He told us to do was to go show ourselves to the priest,” remarks Isaac, one of the younger men. “He did not tell us to return to thank Him. We need to get to the priest.”
     “Yeah, we’ll thank God at the synagogue,” reasoned Benjamin, obviously anxious to get home.
     I refuse to give in. “But this Jesus fellow is the One we ought to thank. Obviously He is from God, but He is the One who gave us back our lives.”
     “Look, we want to get back to our families and our lives ASAP.” Anger is beginning to show in their voices. “If you want to take the time to go all the way back, track down Jesus, take the time to thank Him for something God should have done for us a long time ago and then come all the way back to the priest, that’s your business. Besides, who are you, a Samaritan, to tell us what to do anyway? C’mon fellas, let’s hit the road.”
     “Hold it! You don’t know what you are doing! You are turning your backs on the very Man to whom you owe your life! Change your minds. Come with me. It won’t take that long! We’ve got the rest of our lives. Don’t do something you will regret. It’s not too late, my friends! Turn back!”
     “We are not your friends, Samaritan!” Shouts Benjamin as they continue to walk.
     I stand there shaking my head. It is no use. They just keep walking. Several pause for a moment as they look back, as if they know I am right, but in the end all nine keep walking away.

     Numb, I watch until they are out of sight in the village. How can anyone who has been given so much be so ungrateful? We have been given so much, given so very, very much. It begins to sink in just HOW MUCH. I have been given a new life, a new body, rescued from certain death, a new career, a new chance with my family.
     MY FAMILY! I have my family back! My little Elizabeth, she will be walking now, with teeth, talking. My young Levi. Wow! He’s 6 now. How he must have grown. And my wonderful Rachel. Rachel... Her face fills my mind as the tears stream down my face.
     I laugh out loud and long. Won’t they be surprised! I can’t wait to see the look on Rachel’s face when I walk into our home. To feel her sweet kiss and embrace. To play ball with my Levi. To hold my Elizabeth on my lap. MY FAMILY!

     Literally I HAVE BEEN GIVE A NEW LIFE! A new medical practice. A new home. A new everything. I OWE EVERYTHING TO JESUS. For the first time in 3 years there is hope and life and beauty and wonder. But before I go back to all of that, I have to find Jesus. I HAVE to find Jesus. The most important thing in my life right now is to say THANK YOU.

     With every step a wave of the richness of what Jesus has done washes over me. Stronger and deeper. He didn’t just take away the leprosy, He brought me back to life! HE BROUGHT ME BACK TO LIFE!
     Gratitude wells up from deep within. It grows and grows and grows until I feel like I will come apart. If I try to hold it in I will die, so out it comes...
            “Glory to God!
            Praise the Lord for all His blessings!
            All honor and power be to Jehovah
            He is wonderful, marvelous, loving and kind
            His goodness is from everlasting to everlasting
            His mercy has no beginning and no end!”

     People cross to the other side of the road as I pass by. “Another lunatic,” they mutter but I don’t care. Two Roman soldiers even lift their spears as I skip by, afraid it is a trick. I don’t care. Life is good! I AM HEALED!

     Finally I spot Jesus and dash toward Him with all my strength and speed, shouting praises. Before His disciples can react I fall (it was actually more of a dive) at His feet. “Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so very, very much. You don’t realize what great things you have done for me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

     I feel His hand on my shoulder and I stop babbling my thanks. “Were not all ten cleansed?” I hear Him ask. I start to answer, but, as I look up, I realize He is not expecting an answer. He is pleading with all mankind. Deep sadness is etched into His face. The brokenness of His heart expressed in His words almost break me. Who would have thought ingratitude could affect such a man as this? From each eye slips a tear, gently etching a clean crease down His dusty face.
     “Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” No bitterness as speaks the word “foreigner”. No anger toward me, but it feels like He is hurting as much for a dearly loved Someone as for Himself.
     Jesus reaches down, takes my hands and gently raises me to my feet. His eyes meet mine as He says, “Go, your faith has made you well.” I begin to walk away, then it occurs to me, “What an odd thing to say... your faith has saved you.”
     I look back at the same time He glances in my direction. There is that twinkle in His eye and mischievous grin on His face again. He nods as if to say, “Yeah, you heard me right. Your faith has made you well.”

     Another sensation shoots through my body, different from the first but just as powerful. Instead of physical healing, it is a warmth of joy, peace, love and a strange assurance that I will never again be alone. Made well. Honestly, I don’t understand it, but it is good and I know I have been changed.
     A new lease on life through healing. A new life through salvation.

     I have a new life. He healed my body, returned my family, resumed my career, and instilled hope. All those physical things that were of such importance to me when I was a leper have been returned. Funny thing is, since I have them back, I believe I could do without them... now that I’ve met Jesus
     It is what He did when I went back to say thanks that has truly transformed me in inexplicable ways. It’s like He’s still with me. And you know, I think He is. No, no... I am SURE there is a part of Him still in the depths of my soul.
     And He was right, I will never been alone again.

     And to think... it is all because I simply said, “Thank you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

    There is ALWAYS something to thank God for. Always.

Here’s a prayer to help:
“We thank you, Lord, IN all circumstances...
     for the many blessings you have provided,
     for the hard things we’ve been through,
     for the times we watched You show up,
     for the times we didn’t understand, and still don’t,
     for the good things we see and those we do not,
     for what we haven’t lost but could have
     for the little and big that we take for granted
     for the air we breathe, the food we eat, the shelter over our heads,
     for the people we love, the work we do
     for the days of laughter, the days of tears and the days of ordinary
In all these circumstances and in so many more, we say THANKS!”

© Herb Shaffer 1982, revised 2014