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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Come Sing in the Midst of the Darkness

"I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places so that you will know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3

It has been four weeks today since my knee surgery (Monday, June 29th). Though I wanted to put up a post sooner, sitting at my computer desk has been difficult to say the least. Even now, I am in a recliner with Robert's laptop on a lap tray.

This has been a very challenging recovery. The hospital stay was easy until two days after the surgery when I developed a nasty fungal (yeast) stomach infection. Since then, the course of events has gone as follows:

July 1st - Treated with drug for stomach infection; infection improving.

July 2nd - Home from the hospital; infection still improving, but intense nausea.

July 3rd - Home health nurse and physical therapist visit; changed the course of pain medication, lessening the amount. Off of stomach medication because it was causing nausea.

July 4th - Intense knee pain all day, especially when exercising.

July 5th - Spent 6 hours in the emergency room because of intense pain; was released with new pain medication; returned home and took new medication only to have a severe reaction to it. Switched back to old medication, but increased the amount. Pain is more manageable.

July 6th - Developed thrush (fungal yeast mouth infection).

July 7th - Began treating thrush with a probiotic supplement, probiotic foods and prescribed drug.

July 8th - Thrush is better.

July 9th - Since coming home, I am spending 4-6 hours a day on a "continuous passive motion" machine, which bends my knee to regain range of motion. Also, have been attempting to do physical therapy exercises though intense pain often cuts this short.

July 10th - I am learning how to manage snacks, meals and medication as meds taken on an empty stomach cause much stomach distress.

July 11th - Exercising is still very difficult and I am discouraged, knowing that my range of motion depends on this.

July 13th - Began to cut back on narcotic pain meds; thrush still present.

July 14th - Cutting back more on pain meds.

July 15th - A most difficult day - spent all day crying with no control. I think I'd become addicted to the pain meds and was coming down from them.

July 16th - A much better day. I went for physical therapy as an outpatient. The session was very painful but overall productive. The therapist told me to take more pain medication (oh no!) so I'd be able to do the exercises.

July 17th - Went back to the old pain medication schedule. I am able to exercise more freely now.

July 18th - In the morning I noticed a little red spot the size of a pea at the very top of my incision (incision is about 10 inches long). Called Kaiser and they said it sounded like nothing.

July 20th - Today, three weeks after surgery, I reached the four-week goal of bending my knee 90 degrees. Yippee! The physical therapist noticed a red spot, now the size of a quarter, and says we should keep an eye on it.

July 21st - The red spot is now the size of a 50 cent piece. After dinner, I notice that the spot is slightly opened and draining a small amount of yucky discharge. Time to go to the doctor.

July 22nd - I had an appointment with an orthopedic doctor, who says I have a "stitch abscess". He opens and drains it, clips off the bad part of the stitch, swabs the wound to be sent to the lab and dresses it. Prescription for Keflex (antibiotic) given. I am to return on July 24th (two days later).

July 23rd - The infection site is larger today - now the size of a medium peach. Antibiotic is not touching it. If it gets into my knee joint the surgery will be destroyed.

July 24th - I visited the doctor who tells us that the infection is MRSA (pronounced "mersa") - the worst possible news. This is the antibiotic-resistant strain of staph bacteria that has the medical world in a panic. The doctor warns of the dangers of this infection and prescribes Bactrim. I am told to stop exercising and using the CPM machine until the infection is under control. (There goes all my hard work and range of motion!)

At home this past Friday (after getting the bad news), I called a naturopathic doctor and she made certain recommendations. I am on antibiotics and am also following the course of treatment given by the naturopath. One thing she told me to do was to apply tea tree and lavender essential oils directly to the wound as these destroy the bacteria without creating any resistance. Something is helping because the infection site is shrinking.

Now for the point of all this...
Now, for what is really important and why I shared my struggle with you. Through all of this, the Lord has been so kind and near. On some nights I would just lay weeping because of the pain. Robert took it upon himself, at those times, to sing to me. He began with "Gentle Shepherd" and has since added in many more songs.

This has been so precious. For one thing, I had never heard Robert sing all on his own before (in over 32 years of marriage!). He's only ever sung with music. So perhaps you can imagine how sweet it was to hear him next to me soothing me in song with thoughts of my kind shepherd. This has now become something we look forward to every evening at bedtime.

Once Robert starts singing, it isn't long before my heart is also compelled to worship. And in that worship, the presence of Christ completely transcends the physical pain and I find myself falling asleep. Oh, how precious He is! This indeed has been a priceless treasure wrought out of the darkness.
In no way am I out of the woods with this MRSA infection. And I am still struggling with the stomach and mouth infections. Robert just got over a week-long bout with the stomach flu. He is feeling much better but has so much on his plate right now. Please pray for us, that:

1. We might keep our eyes on our kind and gentle shepherd.
2. We might not waste this trial, but cooperate with God's sovereign purposes and bring Him glory.
3. Our God might restore my health and mobility.

When this "day of trouble" began with the stomach infection, I asked the Lord to draw very near to me and also give me a poem to honor Him. That prayer was answered last night. May you be encouraged in your struggle to seek Him, thank Him, praise Him and sing to Him (even, or rather, especially in the darkness of your trial).

Come Sing in the Midst of the Darkness

When it seems that the night will o'erwhelm you,
And the gloom has you close to despair, 
Come sing in the midst of the darkness,
Rich treasure God hath for you there. 

Cease mourning - His arms are about you; 
But the midnight of pain hides His face; 
Rejoice and give thanks midst your weeping, 
And you'll know His sweet presence and grace.

The darkness will flee when you praise Him;
The night will shine forth as the day; 
Great billows of Christ's healing comfort 
Will sooth and give peace all the way. 

Christ is your rich treasure in darkness.
His presence will transcend the pain. 
Tears of anguish will turn to rejoicing.
Christ is all that you need - bless His Name!

"I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places so that you will know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:3

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Come Sing in the Midst of the Darkness

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Cloud of Witnesses - Daughters of the King: The Martyrdom of the Margarets

A Picture of Radical Christian Womanhood
Here in America we are just seeing the beginnings of what it means to be hated for Christ's sake. Although we still retain our freedom to worship, with all the current effort to carve out a "politically correct" society, it is not difficult to see on the horizon a day when those freedoms could be limited or even removed altogether. Serious Christians can envision, I believe, the making of a government in our country which prescribes certain forms of "worship" and condemns others - really only one - fervent Christianity. Even now, it is alright to attend church, if that church conforms to the politically correct agenda. (The situation with the abortionist who was murdered comes to mind. He was loved and accepted in what could be termed a "politically correct" church.) I think this type of censorship must be how religious freedoms were seized in the past from other peoples and cultures.

One of those societies was Scotland in the 17th century. There were numerous atrocities committed there toward Christians during a period that became known as "The Killing Times" (beginning in 1600). People were imprisoned, tortured, banished, hanged, beheaded or shot on sight for worshiping according to the dictates of their redeemed and Biblically informed consciences.

At the same time, parish preachers were required by law to conform to state church hierarchy or be expelled from their congregations during "The Great Ejection" in 1662. These faithful men, who simply desired to love, worship and preach the crucified, risen and glorious Christ were branded, like animals, on the cheek with either a "C" (for Covenanter) or "P" (for Puritan) and driven from their churches and even their homes.

With no safe haven in any village to flee to, they, along with their families were forced to make their homes in the hills, dwelling in caves or crude huts. Stripped of their annual salary, these preachers and their loved ones lived without so much as a roof over their heads. Having no income, they depended on their compassionate sisters and brothers in Christ for basic needs.

But this cruel banishment did not silence them. They continued to preach Christ whenever an opportunity arose and of course, they encouraged one another with Scripture. They knew too well the fugitive-life that David experienced when he was forced to escape from King Saul. The Psalms must have been especially comforting to their weary hearts in the cold, austere hills and caves of Scotland.

Standing out as one of the most ruthless acts of violence during the Killing Times was the murder of two women, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Though an inexcusable atrocity, this case serves as a poignant witness of the loyalty and courage manifested by so many who have been persecuted for the sake of the Name. The two women, Margaret Lauchlison and Margaret Wilson, were martyred by heartless men for their love for Christ and refusal to adhere to the prescribed worship of the state.

Lauchlison, a 63 year-old widow of a carpenter from the parish of Kirkinner, was known for her devotion to her Savior and for her good deeds toward all. Wilson, a farmer's daughter and only 18 years of age from Glenvenrock Farm in Peinninghame parish had been mentored by the older Margaret. She had dissented from the state-run Presbyterian church, complacent as it was and which her parents attended, to join ranks with those who were were known as "Covenanters".

For their loyalty to Chirst and faithful obedience to His word, the women were tied to posts in Wigtown Bay and drowned as the tide rose over their heads. Lauchlison's stake was driven into the sands the furthest out in the tide so that she would drown first. This was done in hopes that Miss Wilson would recant and swear allegiance to the king as she saw her spiritual mother struggling with death.

As this horrific scene opened, Margaret Lauchlison's final moments actually served to embolden the younger woman's love for Christ so that she was all the more resolved to remain faithful. What her tormentors had hoped would motivate her to recant, instead, insured that she would not.

What did Margaret Wilson see that flamed her passion for her Lord as the waves swept time and again over Mrs. Lauchlison? She saw her faithful mentor fix her gaze upward, and heard her reciting Romans 8 and praying, even as she breathed her last. In the midst of this struggle, Wilson was asked by her captors what she thought of her widow companion now. She replied, "Ah, what do I see but Christ wrestling there!" She saw in her mentor, the same sufferings she knew to be true of her Savior and considered her friend blessed for having experienced Christ's degradation.

Once the water had risen to threaten Wilson's own physical life, the soldiers withdrew her from her stake to safety and attempted to convince her that she should recant. They told her that her life would be spared if she would only say, "God save the King". Of course the King's salvation was something she had long prayed for so she answered, "God save him if He will, for it is his salvation that I desire."

This was not the answer Miss Wilson's tormentors were looking for. So they bound her once again to the stake and just as she was nigh to entering her eternity, they removed her again to higher ground, this time to be implored by her desperate and unbelieving father and mother to deny her Lord. After many entreaties by her parents and the soldiers, she gave her resolute answer once more, "No, because I love the Lord."

She was lashed again to her stake, the instrument by which she would enter heaven and see the One she so loved, along with her friend, Margaret Lauchlison. As she waited for the inevitable, she too, like her mentor, recited Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

So on that cold day in January, 1681, both Margarets entered into eternity with their kind Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Their martyrdom did not accomplish what was intended, rather it simply ushered them into an eternity with the Lord. They had not been separated from His love. They had been united in His love and His presence, where there is fullness of joy.

What an example of radical Christian womanhood! Paul commanded Titus, pastor of the church on the Island of Crete, to teach the older women to be reverent in their behavior, so that they could train the younger women in godliness (Titus 2:3-6). As Miss Wilson's mentor, the older Margaret had done just that. She not only trained her by her life, but Margaret Lauchlison stood firm and faithful as the younger Margaret's example in death also - the example Miss Wilson, herself, followed not many moments later.

I wonder how many of today's Christian women (I include myself) are so resolute in their love for the Savior and so committed to nurture the younger generation of women for God's glory?

The Martyrs of Scotland by Horatius Bonar (1808 - 1889)

There was gladness in Zion, her standard was flying,
Free o'er her battlements glorious and gay.
All fair as the morning shone forth her adorning,
And fearful to foes was her godly array.

There is mourning in Zion, her standard is lying
Defiled in the dust, to the spoiler a prey;
And now there is wailing, and sorrow prevailing,
For the best of her children are weeded away.

The good have been taken, their place is forsaken -
The man and the maiden, the green and the gray;
The voice of the weepers wails over the sleepers -
The martyrs of Scotland that now are away.

The hue of her waters is crimsoned with slaughters,
And the blood of the martyrs has reddened the clay;
And dark desolation broods over the nation,
For the faithful are perished, the good are away.

On the mountains of heather they slumber together.
On the wastes of the moorland their bodies decay.
How sound is their sleeping, how safe is their keeping
Though far from their kindred they molder away.

Their blessing shall hover, their children to cover,
Like the cloud of the desert, by night and by day.
Oh, never to perish, their names let us cherish,
The martyrs of Scotland that now are away.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

A Cloud of Witnesses - Daughters of the King: The Martyrdom of the Margarets