Saturday, November 18, 2006

Faith Insurance

I want you to meet Tim and Nancy Milligan. We fell in love with them five years ago when we moved to Rochester. Nancy was a nurse, Tim a real estate agent. They obviously loved each other and their four children. Years of friendship followed. Nancy shared our love for birds and would often birdsit for us when we were out of the country. Their sons are strong, handsome, faithful young men of great character. Their daughters are young, sweet, and kind.

Almost exactly a year ago Nancy was found wandering around the halls of the hospital where she worked. She was confused. Something was wrong. To make a sad story short, tests revealed a brain tumor. The cancer was malignant and very aggressive. The doctors told her that with surgery and chemo she might live a few months. Stunned, thrown into emotional turmoil, fearful of how her family -- especially her little girls -- would survive her loss, Nancy looked about for a way to deal with this monster that had moved into her head.

Surgery was done. The doctors told her to go home and die; it was that bad. The church gathered outside her home in early December and sang hymns in the dark, each of us holding candles, struggling to keep them lit in the harsh winter wind. She came out, held up by her husband, wrapped in blankets, eyes closed, and soaked up the songs and love in her front yard. We sang carols, too, since she'd been told she wouldn't hear them again; wouldn't see Christmas lights again.

Nancy is still with us. She attends most worship services. She has hard days, but has proven her doctors wrong by staying fairly sharp, keeping her personality. Her husband has been a rock by her side. Even as the real estate market tanked in Michigan (we are 49th among 50 states) and their financial situation became desperate, the family stayed together.

I called Tim and Nancy up in front of the congregation on Wednesday as we did one of our "no catch and release prayer nights." [see last post] Tim is a very quiet man, but I convinced him to take the microphone and talk to us. He told us that there were lots of times that their faith broke. They cursed God, were angry with life and religion and everything. They would have fallen, too, had it not been for something Tim called faith insurance.

Faith Insurance was all the time they had put into their walk with God and all the people they knew at Rochester. The people at Rochester never gave up on them. They stayed right there with them, helping them with money, meals, prayers, friendship, and faithfulness. Even on their worst days, Tim and Nancy said they could draw on the Faith Insurance accounts of the members of this congregation.

Wow. Could this be what Jesus meant when he said, "lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth... but place them in heaven"? Could it be that our faithfulness, our active participation in the spiritual life of a community of faith is a way we make deposits into a Faith Insurance account? I know that, personally, the faith of others around me is a HUGE help on my dark days [if you never have dark days, why are you reading this blog??? Go read one about kittens and rainbows or something. You've wandered out of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood].

Tim and Nancy have given me the determination to be a source of Faith Insurance for those around me so that, when it is my turn to need a withdrawl, it is there for me. Tim and Nancy are sources of strength for us even as we serve as a source of strength for them.

Faith Insurance. It's time to make some more deposits. I'd better get busy and do it. See you.

7 Comments:

At 11/18/2006 11:38:00 PM , Anonymous TinaMarie said...

This blog made me really think< think about where the focus should be. The focus is on how we can help each other develop that faith insurance that we all need. We really need each other, no matter how different we are.

 
At 11/19/2006 09:10:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick,
Thank you for helping me understand "faith insurance". I have been independent for many years, believing that the church had so many problems that I could not solve and could not control. I now know that the Lord blesses us in such different ways. We now have a beautiful christian sister that has had cancer and operations that would have killed a normal person. She has "faith insurance" in our congregation and I am pleased to help her if I can. She cannot even stand for me to hug her she hurts so much. I let her lean on Wendy and myself and do what I can for her. She works for the Cancer foundation and never quits loving people. She is so giving that I feel blessed just to be near her. Thank you again for your blog and I pray for you and yours.
Oh, by the way, I have been sharing your tapes that were made at Grand Strand C. of C.with a fellow Christian at work and he loves them as I do.
In Him,
Lance

 
At 11/19/2006 09:15:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Lance! Great to hear from you. You can hear every Sunday and Wednesday's lessons from Rochester on our website at www.rochestercoc.org. They are free to download, too. Today was my 5th anniversary at Rochester. I still miss Grand Strand, though.

 
At 11/19/2006 11:08:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

Thank you for the "faith boosters" maybe that is the dividends that "faith insurance" pays.

 
At 11/20/2006 12:57:00 PM , Blogger Stoogelover said...

Yes, Patrick, thanks for putting into words some thoughts I've had as a minister. I've wanted to tell people who are marginal in their involvement and commitment to a faith community the benefits of such a community. You expressed it beautifully. There are even more benefits outside the context of suffering and hardship, but those benefits can only be known by those who invest in the community!
I hope you post this over at "Grace Notes."

 
At 11/20/2006 02:11:00 PM , Blogger Brie said...

Faith Insurance- what a good way to put it. The same thing happened to our family when my Dad was dying of cancer. He was a deacon, a songleader, and a well-loved teacher at our church, and when he got sick the people there refused to give up on him. One of the most awesome memories that we all have of Dad's last few months is a Sunday night when the church invaded our house and worshipped with Dad. He had long since passed the point where going to services was physically possible for him, but his eyes lit up as we sang, and sang, and sang. He even led a couple of songs. A lot of people at the church have no idea how much that meant to Dad, but he talked about it for as long as he was with us mentally.

Taking care of people is so important. I think maybe that's a big part of what the church is supposed to be, and we'd do well to remember it.

 
At 11/21/2006 10:59:00 PM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

An acquaintance of mine at church this last Sunday provided me with a moment I've craved for a long time - and will cherish a lot longer. I've longed for a moment during our communion when I could look up from private meditation, and connect with someone in that family of 700-800 souls, eye-to-eye, seeing Jesus in his or her face for that moment and communing together.

David provided that moment. He looked up from his private meditation, smiled broadly; even waved a little wave.

David has a brain tumor. He has become less shy in his battle; more gregarious with friends at church. More faithful. More cheerful. More outgoing. More loving. I don't know how long David will be in this world. But he gave me a great gift Sunday morning.

He made a big payment toward my faith insurance account.

 

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