Who’s Holding Whom?

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I have a two-year old daughter whom I love with my whole heart. At this age, she is learning and growing so fast, especially in her speech.

Lately, every day she looks up at me and says, “Can I hold you?”

That’s her way of asking me to pick her up. Last night I was holding her, and she asked me, “Can I hold mommy?”

When we pick her up, she holds on tight. I’m not sure if she’s just mixing up her words, and really means to say, “Can you hold me?”, or if she really thinks of it as her holding us when we pick her up. Certainly she is holding on, but at the end of the day, our grip on her is much stronger than her grip on us.

I can’t help but think of this in regard to a believer’s relationship with God.

We are told by the writer of Hebrews that we are to “hold fast” to the gospel (Hebrews 3:14, 4:14, 10:23). We should love Him, seek Him, and cling to Him.

But here’s the good news: if and when you fail to do so, if and when you feel weak, confused and exhausted to the point where you are struggling to hold onto Him – He will still be holding on to you.

My daughter thinks she is holding onto me. But the truth is: I’m holding onto her much more firmly than she’s holding onto me, and I’m much stronger than she is.

2 Timothy 2:13, most likely quoting from an early Christian creed or song, says: if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

At the church where I served my first few years in Hungary, the pastor would read this passage at the end of every service:

Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Find security in knowing this today: If you are His child, then as much as you might be clinging to Him (and you should be), He is clinging to you much more tightly, and He is infinitely stronger!

Advent Meditations: 13 – The Reason the Son of God Appeared

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. – 1 John 3:8

I have been away for a few days from this because my wife gave birth to our baby girl this past weekend! We feel very blessed.

With every new life comes the promise of hope and joy and the light that this new life will bring into the world, but over every life there looms the shadow of a cloud on the horizon… a debt which will one day come due: the inevitability of death.

Every child is born into a world that is cracked and broken, with remnants of what it was originally intended and designed to be and we live with a lingering memory – an ancestral notion of how things were meant to be.

The message of Christmas is that the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil – to restore things to the way they were meant to be. This is the hope of the Gospel and the hope that we celebrate at Advent: that the day is coming, and is ever nearer, when this hope of ours will be realized. The meaning of Christmas is that there is a new inevitability: that that day is coming, and will be here before we realize it.

The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil: in the world, and also in each of us. He came to make the world what it was meant to be, and to make each of us what we were meant to be.

Joy to the world – the Lord has come!  The Savior reigns!

 

I Believe in Miracles; Here’s Why.

I believe in miracles because I have one walking around in my house. Here’s our story:

In January of 2010, my wife Rosemary was in her final month of pregnancy with our second child, a girl whom we had decided to name Felicia, which means “happy”. Up until the morning of January 22nd, when Rosemary went into labor, it was an ideal pregnancy; everything was great – no problems, no complications. Rosemary went into labor naturally, and was quietly getting ready to go to the hospital, but at one point her contractions suddenly went from being 9 minutes apart to being 2 minutes apart. She had a sense that something was wrong with the baby, so she told me that we needed to leave immediately, and left our 2 year old son with our neighbors and we rushed to the hospital.

We arrived at Markhót Ferenc Megyei Kórház, the hospital in Eger, Hungary which was about a 10 minute car ride from our home, just a minute or two after 8 o’clock that morning. The nurses took Rosemary into the room to measure her vital signs, while I waited outside in the hallway. At this point I assumed that everything was fine, and that I would be welcomed into the birthing room shortly, as I had been with our first child who was born in that same hospital. I started emailing my parents on my phone, letting them know that the baby was on her way.

Only a few minutes later, the door to the birthing ward was flung open, not by a nurse inviting me in as I had expected, but by the doctor, who came running into the hallway, nervously yelling to others down the hall to come immediately. He then turned to me and said, “There’s a problem with the baby”, and disappeared back behind the door of the birthing unit.

Over the next few minutes, 20 or so doctors and nurses ran past me into the room where my wife was. I didn’t know anything, and when I asked the nurses what was going on, they told me they couldn’t tell me anything — only the doctor was allowed to do that, but they privately said that it was bad and the baby may not survive. At one point a nurse ran into the birthing ward carrying a plastic tube of some kind, and a few minutes later 3 nurses ran out holding a little body wrapped in towels, while one of them pumped frantically on that same plastic device as they transported her to another area of the hospital.  After about an hour of nervously waiting for any news, I saw our doctor, who knew I was a pastor, and as he ran past me in the hall, simply said: “Pray!”.

Three hours passed as I waited for the doctor to call me in and tell me what had happened. I was called into the office of Dr. Kovács Krisztina, the head of the neonatal department. She explained that when they had first called Rosemary in for examination, they were not able to find the baby’s heartbeat, and they had to do an emergency caesarian. She explained that they didn’t know why, but that our daughter had gone without oxygen for quite a long period of time. At this point I asked the question which had been on my mind for hours: “Is my baby alive?” “Yes, she’s alive, but there is a good chance she will not live through the next 24 hours. And if she does, then you can be sure that she will have life-long serious disabilities, because she went so long without oxygen, that she has suffered serious brain damage.” Her APGAR score was a 1, the lowest score possible. She was not breathing at all, and the only reason she got an APGAR of 1 was because she did have a faint heartbeat.

Dr. Kovács explained to me that there is only one treatment for babies in this condition, but it is very experimental, and so I would need to sign a consent form. The treatment involved putting the newborn baby into a morphine induced coma and then subjecting them to hypothermia to try to salvage what was left of their brain and other vital organs which had started to die due to the lack of oxygen. I signed the papers, and then was taken into a room, where Felicia—whose body was completely grey and lifeless except for the fact that a respirator violently caused her chest to rise and fall—was in an incubator, and she was wheeled in to where Rosemary was. Rosemary had been put under during the emergency surgery and was just coming to—and they made her reach in the incubator and touch Felicia. Basically, they were making sure she got the chance to meet her baby and say goodbye.

Right after that, Felicia was wheeled outside, where she was taken by a special ambulance from the Peter Cerny foundation, which helps babies get to the Semmelweis university hospital neonatal intensive care unit in Budapest. Semmelweis is the best equipped hospital in the country for neonatal ICU, but they have limited space—room for 10 or so babies at a time, so they only take the worst of the worst. When Felicia arrived, we were told that she was in the worst condition of any of the babies in that unit.

I went home and packed up my son to go to Budapest to be with Felicia—and I quickly wrote a blog post asking people to pray for a miracle. I would continue writing posts about Felicia, which were then shared on social media and sent around the world. Thousands upon thousands of people began praying for Felicia’s healing from every corner of the globe, and messages began filling my inbox from places like India and Africa, from people I had never met, telling me they were praying for God to heal our little girl for His glory.

For the next 2 weeks, Felicia was unconscious. She had wires and tubes sicking out of every part of her little body and she was on a respirator, because she was not able to breathe on her own. During that time the doctors conducted a blood test and found an enzyme in her blood that indicated brain damage. A normal level of this enzyme would be 25 count – Felicia’s level was 1500 count; very disheartening news. The doctors told us to prepare for the worst. They were unsure if she would ever wake up from the coma, and even if she did, it was unsure if she would ever breathe on her own, not to mention whether her nervous system or vital organs would function properly. Not only had she gone without oxygen, but she had inhaled meconium, which filled her lungs and throat, which had developed into pneumonia. She had also inhaled meconium, which had then infected her digestive tract. We were told there was a good chance she would be in a vegetative state for her whole life.

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In the NICU during the coma

All we could do was pray. And so we asked everyone we possibly could to pray for her – churches around Hungary and throughout the world began praying for her. People I had never met began approaching me and telling me, “I’ve been praying for your daughter!” Our church in Eger came together to support our family; the community of Calvary Chapels in Hungary rallied around us, praying for us and encouraging us constantly.

After 7 days of being in the coma, Felicia woke up. Rosemary got to see her that day for the first time, but it was bittersweet. Although Felicia was alive and awake, she showed signs of being handicapped. Her eyes were crossed, she could not focus on anything, she could not swallow, and did not move. We left that night with a sense of heaviness, but once again wrote a blog post asking people to pray for Felicia to be fully healed.

The next day we walked into the ICU to find a different baby in Felicia’s bed; it was her, but she was so different than the night before, that we hardly recognized her! That night, her condition had changed completely. She made eye contact, was moving, had started swallowing milk and making noises!

After another week in that unit, Felicia was transferred to intermediate care, and then to Developmental Neurology at a different hospital in Budapest. She had suffered brain damage; even though seemed to be doing better, she was still very sick; she basically had no reflexes. Rosemary spent a week in the Developmental Neurology department being trained by doctors to do reflex therapy with Felicia at home in order to create new pathways in her brain, taking advantage of the abundance of stem cells that babies have. During this time we continued to pray for her healing.

For 8 months, we spent 6 hours a day doing therapy with Felicia. At times we had people come live with us to help cook and clean, so we would be free to care for our little girl. At one of our regular visits to the neurology department, after 8 months of therapy, we were told that Felicia was healed. She now had all the normal reflexes that a baby her age should have; reflexes being a key indicator of healthy brain function.

All the doctors and the nurses who witnessed Felicia’s recovery told us that it was a true miracle—that they had never seen a baby who was in that bad of a condition – the worst in the entire country when she arrived – get better, and not just get better, but to the point of having no symptoms!  Felicia had 5 different doctors who treated her, and each of them told us that surely God must have healed her.

On Felicia’s first birthday we had a party. To this 1 year old girl’s party, people came from all over Hungary and even from the United States. Most notably, the head doctor of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Semmelweis, who had personally attended to Felicia during her time there, Dr. Szabó Miklós, as well as Dr. Kovács Krisztina came to the party, and Dr. Szabó spoke, and told everyone that as a doctor, he can attest to them, that Felicia’s healing was a genuine miracle. He said that he never accepts invitations from the families of his former patients, but he drove up to Eger from Budapest for Felicia, because her story was so special and remarkable to him.

God healed Felicia. When Felicia was 18 months old, we were told that she would no longer need a neurologist. She was given a completely clean bill of health!

In 1 Chronicles 16, David says:
[8] Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
[9] Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
[10] Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
[11] Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
[12] Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
[23] Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.
[24] Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
[25a] For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
[28] Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
[29] Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
[31] Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”

Again and again in this song of David – he says “tell” of his wondrous works. Remember the miracles he has done, and bring glory to God by declaring those things to the nations, so that all will see that He indeed is Lord of heaven and Earth!

Today Felicia turned 4 years old, and she is completely healthy in every way!  She is a true miracle.

We will never forget, and we will continue to faithfully tell our story for His glory.

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