Damien the Leper

I read a lot of books. As a book addict, I take them from any place I can get them. Goodwill stores are a good, inexpensive source. So I picked up a few books there a couple of weeks ago. 

Damien the Leper I couldn't resist just because of the summary on the back of the book. 

     "For the Sandwich Islands- Damien de Veuster." So began,        
      nearly a century ago in a quiet, low-ceilinged library, the
      great adventure of Damien the Leper - the magnificent
      story of courage, devotion and sacrifice that has become a
      living legend throughout the world. 

I read that and thought, "Living legend throughout the world? Why haven't I read this?" So I scooped it up. 

I took it up a couple of days later and, after not too many chapters, put it aside again. It is a very Catholic book - not that there's anything wrong with that - but it moves a little slowly in the beginning and covers a lot of things not terribly interesting to Protestant me. 

Now here comes the crazy part. 

About a week later I am in Flagstaff, AZ touring an historic mansion, and we step into the library. Obviously my favorite room in the house, I stooped down to look at some of the titles. Noticing my interest, the tour guide mentioned that there was one book in the collection she really wants to read. 

Wait for it. . . . . Damien the Leper

No joke. I was startled, and let her know that I had just been reading that book after having purchased it in a Goodwill store some 450 miles away. Unbelievable. 

So, knowing that my God is a God of detail, I decided to take it back up as soon as we got back home. 

And I'm sooooooo glad that I did. 

God addressed two of my ugliest sins through this book: self pity and being critical. 

Father Damien devoted his life to living on an island caring for lepers. The Hawaiian Islands were hit hard by leprosy, and not knowing a better solution, they used quarantine. They shipped all lepers to an isolated island, where the conditions were deplorable. I will spare you the details, but when one of the lepers escaped and made the horrors more widely known, the Catholic church leaders in the area decided to do something. God bless them for it. 

Father Damien, who was serving in a parish on another island in Hawaii,  30 years of age and in excellent physical condition, volunteered to remain on the island for the rest of his life, and undoubtedly die of the disease. 

What a hero. He was an incredibly brave, amazing man. 

I was so inspired. His selfless sacrifice, all in the name of duty and wishing to share the love of God with these poor, suffering people, left me awestruck. 

Putting others first does not come easily for me. I never knew how selfish I am until I became a stay at home Mom. Being at someone else's beck and call takes a toll. 

And I get to care for healthy people that I love and am related to, unlike Father Damien.

No more whining. No more self-pity parties. I am not my own. It is a privilege to care for the ones I love most in the world. And a joy to be able to. 

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." I Corinthians 6:19-20

Next week, I'll share with you from the letter written by Robert Louis Stevenson in defense of Father Damien that changed my perspective on being critical. It is powerful. 


Living Between the Cross and the Resurrection

Cross at Taos Pueblo

Sometimes when I'm confused - especially about something tragic I hear about on the news, or in a friend's life - I remind myself that I am suffering from a lack of information. 

It could be a horrible child abuse case - an unexplainable natural disaster - the inexplicable murder of an innocent person - a life threatening disease that targets a young mother - a marriage in shambles. 

It all hurts and none of it makes sense. 

I think about the followers of Jesus mourning their loss, confused, dejected and in hiding. Afraid for their very lives, thinking of all they had given up to follow Him, wondering how they could have been so wrong.  

It all hurt and none of it made sense.  

It was that time between the Cross and the Resurrection. 

Their information was not complete. Even though Jesus had told them in advance what to expect, and what was going to happen. Even though they had spent so much time with him. 

Some argue that it was their preconceived notions about the "Warrior Savior" that clouded their understanding of the "Suffering Savior." 

But whatever it was that led to their lack of understanding, they were suffering. All of them. 

It all hurt and none of it made sense. 

Until that Resurrection Day. Until they saw HIM. Until they knew.

Knew he was ALIVE. 
Knew all He had said was TRUE. 
Knew He IS God. 
And ALWAYS would be. 

So the next time you hear of a tragedy or circumstance that makes you wonder "Why would God allow that?" 

Know that you don't know. Your information is incomplete. 

Then remember what you DO know. 

Know that He is ALIVE. 
Know that all He said is TRUE. 
Know He IS God. 
And ALWAYS will be. 

And then wait for the sunrise of that Resurrection Day. 

Yours. Not His. 

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." I Corinthians 13:12


My Christian Band of Brothers

Since my husband has been so good as to watch Downton Abbey with me this season, I've been doing a little payback by watching some Band of Brothers with him. 

I'm pretty sure my target audience and the Band of Brothers target audience doesn't overlap much, so let me just tell you that it is a story of the 101st Airborne during WWII. 

These guys are heroes. Without any doubt.  It's really inspiring. 

The series starts off with them being trained, which lasts the first few episodes, then they get sent to England and then on to their first jump - to help out with the Normandy invasion. 

They all prepare to jump, but something goes horribly wrong. Their planes are attacked as they are trying to jump, some are even shot down.  So to try to avoid being shot, the planes are flying much faster than they should be, but really the only option is to jump or die trying, so they jump anyway. 

No one really ends up where they should be and a lot of their equipment gets literally ripped off their bodies at those high speeds. It's a mess. 

The main character, Lieutenant Winters lands with only his knife as a weapon. No one from the unit he's in charge of lands near him. 

He lands and a couple moments later another soldier from an entirely different company lands near him. At least that guy still has a gun. 

The decision Winters makes is the same decision I'm going to embrace in my Christian walk. He decides to move towards the original objective. 

You see, things go wrong. We get off track. The enemy attacks us and we end up scattered. Separated from people who matter and thrown in with others we barely know. 

But if we will just keep moving in the right direction, things will come together. 

As Winters progresses toward the objective, he meets up with some of the guys from his unit, and then, a little farther on,  some more. It is a happy reunion when they reach the destination. 

Eventually more and more survivors straggle in. Everyone who keeps moving in the right direction ends up back together. 

Sometimes in our lives as Christians, something hits and we go in a different direction from all we know and feel secure about. Maybe we lose a relative or a close friend to death. Maybe they move away. Maybe our church splits. 

But the thing is to keep pressing on.  Head towards God, and your fellow believers will too. Eventually you'll all reach the objective and be together again. 

"Not that I have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Phillipians 3:12-14