03 March 2012

Guest Post: Overcoming Lyme's Disease with God's Help


Finding Magnificence in the Simple Things

by Larry Jones

You can learn a lot from a tick.  Three years ago I was diagnosed with Lyme disease; a bacterial infection passed along by deer ticks.  I failed to detect the bulls-eye rash from the bite, but I knew something was wrong when it became a struggle to climb stairs and get in and out of my car. 

After my diagnosis I searched the Internet for more information and learned some victims of Lyme suffer serious long-term neurological and even psychological damage.  I read about a preacher who was arrested by the police for drunk driving and fired by his church, only to discover later he was suffering from Lyme, not intoxication. 

My lowest moment came in a shopping mall when I dropped some money and wasn’t able to bend my knees and pick it up.  As I shuffled toward an exit resentment welled up inside of me when I saw an elderly man reach down to pick up some trash.  I imagined he was showing off on purpose to torment me in my pain.

The good news is I survived.  Months of antibiotics and the passing of time brought me to a complete recovery, although my family claims the jury is still out on psychological impairment. But even though the disease is history, its memory is not.  That dangerous tick that almost cost me my health also changed my life.  How, you may ask?

With one infectious bite, he put me in a place where I was allowed to suffer for my own good.  As my movements grew slower and the scope of my life smaller, I was forced to pay attention to some of God’s magnificently simple blessings.  Since Thanksgiving Day is upon us, it seems timely to highlight a few.  What did that pesky insect teach me? 

He taught me to be thankful for free blessings in life.  As my disease progressed, the pain in my joints forced me to adapt.  To climb in my car I clung to the door and roof while slowly lowering myself into the driver’s seat.  Then I gingerly lifted my legs into the car, one at a time.  I still remember the day my pain subsided enough for me to lift my legs by themselves, and now, when I slide effortlessly into my car seat I sometimes stop to thank God. 

It is easy to overlook the free things in life.  I have noticed small children are much better than adults at keeping these blessings in perspective.  Children pray for the birds, and the sky, and the neighbor’s cat Binky.  Adults pray for houses and cars and promotions at work.  Granted it is best to have a roof over our heads, but is a car or a better job ultimately more vital to our survival than a bird or the sky?  I guess it depends on whether we mind living in a world overrun with rodents and insects, or one without an atmosphere.  As far as Binky, I will let you make that determination.

Life’s free gifts become more important when we lose them.  Perhaps this is why people facing trials are sometimes the most thankful of all.  They have learned to appreciate everything because they have had to let go of so much. 

He taught me to be thankful for the people around me.  I rarely get sick, so my illness put me in a place I wasn’t prepared to handle.  There were times I was worried about the future, and moments when my frustrations overwhelmed me.  In the beginning I wasn’t sure what was wrong, or if it could be cured.  And as I struggled, my wife, children, church family and neighbors sustained me.

Something happens to us when we are forced to depend on others.  It is no longer possible to live with our illusions of self-sufficiency or our delusions of indispensability.  A good dose of humility opens our hearts and causes us to see God’s grace poured out in the lives of His servants.  And the more we acknowledge our need for others, the greater our sense of responsibility to others in need. 

It is easy to take people for granted when we think we don’t need them.  But when we are driven to our knees and find ourselves unable to tie our own shoes, we learn to put our pride aside and embrace the strength of community. 

He gave me a greater appreciation for those who suffer.  Please don’t misunderstand.  In the whole scheme of life, a temporary disease like Lyme disease, when discovered early, is a manageable crisis.  But as I suffered, and stinging pains shot through my joints with every movement, I experienced a taste of what it must be like for those with lifelong debilitating diseases.

I thought of a two women in the church I serve.  One has rheumatoid arthritis, but in spite of her pain she leads our volunteer office receptionist’s ministry and personally serves one day a week.  The other has multiple sclerosis and she regularly participates in community outreach projects.  I thought of my friend who directs our recovery ministry who takes medication for dementia that is slowly stealing away his mind.  These and many others don’t let their suffering keep them from serving the Lord, and in fact, sometimes they use the lessons they have learned in the midst of their pain to minister to others. 

I will never look at people who find a way to serve God in their suffering the same way again.  They have found strength this world can’t offer, and have a testimony that draws others to the throne of grace. 
   
He reminded me how blessed I am to have access to good medical care.  The talented doctor who diagnosed me and cured me saved me from years of misery.  One prescription and a bottle of antibiotics later I was on the road to recovery. 

Not all diseases are so easily cured, but modern medicine has found an answer for some of the deadliest illnesses in the world.  Medical missionaries in impoverished countries watch people die of diseases that could have been cured if treated in time, and their hearts break for them.     

Millions of people across the globe have no access to modern medicine.  In America we have so many pills we have a name for the cabinet where we store them all.  How can we not be thankful for our circumstances and compelled to help others with theirs?    

He taught me to be thankful for a God who is present in my pain.  Throughout my ministry people with horrific diseases have described a portion of God’s grace that came to them in a time of need.  Let me be clear: Lyme disease, when caught, is nothing compared to the life-altering and sometimes terminal illnesses others face. 

Yet, for a season, I felt debilitating pain.  I was afraid.  And on those mornings when I practically crawled to my office desk and tears ran down my face, I found some of that grace others had experienced.  It didn’t take away my physical pain, but it reminded me in no uncertain terms I had not been abandoned.  It also made me more receptive to God’s leading and the silent prompting of His Spirit within me. 

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, in its various forms and traditions.  And although our celebration is technically a national observance, as believers we view it as a spiritual opportunity to reflect on God’s goodness.  With the Psalmist we say, “It is good to praise the Lord.”  (Psalm 92:1)

It is good to praise God for the big things and the small things.  We thank Him for caring for us in the past, and ask Him to watch over us in the future.  And in this special season we look deeper to find those blessings that are the simplest of all and so easy to take for granted. 

Recently I was thinking about the prayers my grandfather used to offer as we gathered for our Thanksgiving feast.  His thanked God for family, food, His watchful eye, and another year of life.  He didn’t pray for the birds and the sky, or the neighbor’s cat Binky.  But his prayers were childlike and simple.

I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with thanking God for less simple things.  In fact, if He has helped us through some incredibly complex issues in our lives, we should certainly praise Him for it.  It’s just that sometimes, we find our complexities are self-imposed when we worry about the wrong things and neglect what’s most important.    

Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
 (Matthew 6:25-26)

God continues to humble me and strip away what doesn’t matter so I can see what does.  And sometimes He corrects my perspective with the strangest instruction.  Sometimes He even uses ticks.

Bio: Larry Jones is the pastor of Northside Christian Church in Yorktown, Virginia.  He also writes inspirational children's fiction. His essays have been published in various Christian periodicals, including this one, which is from Lookout magazine http://www.lookoutmag.com/articles/articledisplay.asp?id=1055


THANKS, Larry!  And thank you to Brandilyn Collins, our guest this week, and to Marian Baay, who was her hostess and reviewer.  Diana, Teresa, and I are also happy to announce that Marian has joined us as a regular reviewer and team member of OTT-WGH.  Welcome, Marian!!!  

GIVEAWAY:  Check here on Sunday afternoon (after I get through listening to one of Larry's awesome sermon!) and find out who this week's winner is!
 





13 comments:

  1. Thank you, Larry, for this amazing, insightful article. It is VERY humbling to have to rely on others for help during an illness, and it certainly gives one an attitude of appreciation towards people that wasn't there before. Especially as you pointed out, towards those that suffer and still do alot for God. Illness will also let one know who their fair weather friends are (lol) and will certainly strip away the things that don't matter and make one aware of what really matters, I agree. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and for being so open and honest.

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  2. DIANA, LARRY is an amazing minister as well as writer! You are so right about the fair-weather friends. When I was so sick I found out who the faithful few were. On the other hand, some are just not able to bear the loads of others.

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  3. No wonder you are such a generous, loving, Christian lady! You have such a good example to follow in Larry, and excellent teaching. I just know I have seen him on Christian tv before, and he was such a wonderful, humble, Godly man. I seldom forget someone who leaves an impression on me and this man did. Unless there is another preacher named Larry Jones...

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  4. Thank you Pastor Larry for your moving words.
    Thank you for reminding us to praise God in all things. As the wife of a cancer suvivor I know first hand the fear you go through in this situation. But our GOD is faithful and HE is ever present in our time of trouble. My husband was the worship leader at our church and even in the middle of his going through chemotherapy he was in church leading us in worship.
    I praise God with you that you are well.

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  5. This was interesting, Larry. Glad you were healed. I have known of a few that got Tick fever while living in KS, and used to do alot of hunting. I learned if it isn't caught it can get in your brain. They say it is one of a very few infections that can get through the protective skin around the brain. I worried a lot when I'd get a tick bite. Maxie Anderson
    ( mac262@me.com )

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  6. This sounds good, Carrie! Is Larry your pastor?

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  7. MAXIE, Thanks for coming by to visit with us. I had tick bite and Lyme's last summer. You are right, Maxie about it can go to your brain, which causes some people to have lifelong neurological conditions.

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  8. MARIAN, yes, Larry R. Jones is my pastor and I don't think this is who is on Diana's tv! Interestingly, Larry's grandfather lived in the same part of Kentucky that mine lived in.

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  9. TERESA, I saw Larry this morning and he said he came by and read the comments and was glad to see this up. I hope he will come by and leave a comment. This was anniversary week at Northside.

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  10. WINNER this week is PAMELA MEYERS as picked by random.org. Congrats, Pam!!!

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  11. Hello everyone! This was our church family's 113th Anniversary. I just returned from a special dinner with Drs. Alan and Judy Norman who will be leaving us with their four children in July to be medical missionaries in Cambodia.

    Unfortunately, I am not the famous Larry Jones of "Feed the Children", although if I were to be mistaken for a church leader it would be an honor to be associated in any way with his ministry.

    I continue to be amazed at the strength God gives people to overcome their trials. My experience gave me a glimpse into what it must be like to have a long term illness, and I thank the Lord often that this was not the case with me.

    My father, on the other hand, just passed away last year after suffering for 15 years with Parkinson. Through his testimony I experienced the true example of a suffering servant.

    At the time of my illness, I nearly crawled into my doctor's office and my primary physician wasn't in. I had to accept care from a new young doctor whose foreign accept was so strong I had trouble understanding him. Needless to say, I was disappointed and feared I would not get an accurate diagnosis. But I was wrong. The talented young doctor did a test for Lyme that other doctors tell me they might not have ordered since it was January...a time when one might not expect to find ticks. My bite, however, probably occurred much earlier in the year.

    So I was blessed all the way around and continue to sorrow over those I talk with who did not get a good diagnosis early enough to avoid long-term symptoms.

    It is good to hear from all of you and I thank Carrie for giving me the opportunity to share. This is also a great blog! But I know I am not telling any of you anything you don't already know.

    Blessings,

    Larry Jones

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  12. LARRY is an awesome preacher and should be on tv!!! Maybe some day! And he is also a great writer. His children's fiction is excellent.

    Glad you got the proper treatment, Larry.

    Blessings!

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