Organ Donation

Holding onto Manna

Exodos 16:18b-20a

“Everyone had gathered just as much [manna] as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”

Proverbs 3:9-10

“Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

So, at my most recent checkup, I learned that my blood work was all out of whack. Namely, my white blood cell count was up and my iron was low (and getting lower with every passing month, I guess). Follow-up labs showed elevated double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). The first thought—Lupus. I was devastated at the possibility. Not because it is debilitating and incurable, although it is. And not because the number one cause of death among sufferers is kidney failure, although it is. To be sure, those thoughts were disappointing and discouraging. But the thought that most often brought me to tears was that such a diagnosis would constitute a permanent medical deferral from donating a kidney, which as many of you know has long been on my heart as one of God’s calls on my life.

And in my layman’s understanding of the disease, I reasoned (rightly or wrongly, I still don’t know) that, had I only donated soon enough—before Lupus attacked or infected my kidneys—someone might be alive today as a result. Meanwhile, delaying my donation might well cost someone else their life, along with my own. Two kidneys wasted, when at least one might have been salvaged. My mind kept going back to the story of the Israelites in Exodus 16, where God supplied their daily needs through the provision of manna. You see, God gave each person and each family enough for one day, and if they tried to save any for the next, it would rot overnight—and in a very unpleasant way according to Scripture. This was done to teach the Israelites to trust and depend upon the Lord.

And I believe He wants the same from us. No, God doesn’t provide physical manna nowadays. But He provides, and He calls us to trust Him. This concept is found throughout the Bible, namely that we aren’t to honor God out of what is left, but out of our first fruits (Proverbs 3:9-10). But it seems like many of us are waiting until…or saving for…some point in the future.

  • We’re called to serve, but we’re waiting until we have more time.
  • We’re called to give, but we’re saving just in case.
  • We’re called to trust God, but we rely on ourselves.
  • We’re called to step out in faith, but we choose to remain where it’s safe.

We’re holding onto our stuff—our comfort, our convenience, our control. But God is more concerned about our character than any of these. And that’s why, when we refuse to let go of our stuff willingly, God may very well pry it out of our cold dead fingers (consider Lot’s wife, and Ananias and Sapphira, and several others). Whatever God is calling you to, don’t wait. Don’t waste the gifts and talents and resources that God has blessed you with. Honor Him with them TODAY, lest you wake up tomorrow to find them gone.

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Good Things, God Things, and GO Things

You’ve probably heard that there is a difference between “good things” and “God things.” That is, we may find ourselves very busy with sports, clubs, volunteer activities, civic duties, Bible studies, church services, and so on and so forth. But not all of these activities turn out to be God-honoring or God-glorifying, at least not for all of us. On the other hand, there are activities and commitments that do honor and glorify God, when situated within the context of our lives and our responsibilities.

But it seems to me that there is another distinction that bears mentioning—namely, there are some things that I would call GO things. For each of us, there are likely some hopes, dreams, and inclinations that we have considered. There may be some that we are deeply drawn to and feel called toward. That list looks different for each of us, and may include everything from becoming a mentor to becoming a missionary. My list has changed a bit over time, but has included things like adoption, foster to adopt, and living kidney donation.

I think that we tend to have one of two reactions to these leanings: 1) We put them on a bucket list and figure that maybe someday, we’ll have the opportunity to pursue them; or 2) We rush off to pursue them now, figuring that “if God didn’t want this for me, he wouldn’t have placed the desire in my heart.” But God may be telling us something different. You may be making someday plans when God wants you to act today. Maybe he’s trying to tell you that you’ve thought about it long enough, prayed about it long enough, put it off long enough. And he’s telling you to GO and to GO now. On the flipside, you may be anxious to get on with what you’ve determined to be God’s call on your life, and God is actually telling you something else. He may be saying, “Not now, not you, or not at all.” He may say that through Scripture, trusted sources of wise counsel, or the closed and open doors of opportunity that you come to.

Our job is to truly listen to what God is saying to us. When he says to go, GO. When he says to wait, WAIT. And when he says, “No,” accept that with all of the grace that God has given you through Christ Jesus. These responses are easier said than done, but we can find rest in the knowledge and promise that we can do and endure all things through Christ, in whom we find our strength (Philippians 4:13).

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Life Wish

John 10:10b
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

You know those people who seem to always be living on the edge? They scale the most treacherous cliffs. They summit the highest mountains. They run the wildest rivers. They jump out of perfectly good airplanes, or off of perfectly good bridges. They donate their kidneys to people in need—sometimes perfect strangers. I came across a guy like this recently. He mentioned first descents on wild rivers and how friends always asked if he had a death wish. They asked the same question when he became a nondirected kidney donor—meaning he donated to a stranger.

His answer to the question, in both instances, was, “No, I don’t have a death wish. I have a life wish.”* He craved excitement and adventure, and challenge, but also PURPOSE and MEANING. He wanted to GIVE life as much as he wanted to experience it himself. So when he learned that he could save someone’s life by donating one of his kidneys, of course he said, “Sure, sign me up.”

How about you? Do you have a life wish? Yours may not involve donating an organ, or climbing Mt. Everest. But there are a lot of ways to experience and to give life:

  • Is there a skill you’ve always wanted to learn or an activity you’ve always wanted to try?
  • Is there a gift you can give that would brighten someone’s day?
  • Is there a relationship that needs mending, or forgiveness that needs to be given?
  • Is there a blessing in your life that you need to show gratitude for?

I’d bet you could think of some others, too. Feel free to share them via social media using #LifeWish. Best wishes on your adventure!

*I should mention that life wishes often come with risks, and perhaps even sacrifices. But isn’t that most often the case with the very best of gifts?

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Jesus…DOES

James 2:15-17

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
If one of you tells him, ‘Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,’
but does not provide for his physical needs,
what good is that? So too, faith by itself,
if it is not complemented by action, is dead.”

I have a brother in need. He’s not my brother because we share the same parents, or the same last name, or the same political ideology, or the same faith. He’s my brother because the same God who created and loves me created and loves him. Now his name could be Tim, or Bob, or Joe, and his need could be for a place to sleep, a job, a car, or a hot meal. But today, his name is Steve, and he happens to need a kidney transplant.

His story found me through social media, but one thing that stood out to me most was the outpouring of sentiment that his story elicited. In response to his need, his friends sent him good thoughts, positive energy, prayers, and cyber-hugs. But no offers to actually help him, or to tangibly meet his need. Now, to be fair, I don’t know these people. Perhaps they’ve been disqualified from donation. Maybe they are kidney recipients themselves, or are also waiting on transplants of their own. But these comments reflect a common occurrence in our society, namely, that many of us would rather send someone a heartfelt emoji than take action on another’s behalf.

This tendency is not limited to our day and age. Even back in the Bible times, people were keen to offer well wishes to those suffering, rather than to recognize their own ability to help and to accept that responsibility. Think about the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). While a priest and a Levite passed by a man in need, a Samaritan (of no relation whatsoever) stopped to help—even going above and beyond that which common decency would have dictated. Jesus commended this third stranger, and instructed his listeners to do likewise. Also consider James 2:15-17, wherein we see that well wishes are likened to faith without action, and therefore dead.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Prayer is a crucial component in our relationship with God and in our relationships with others. But sometimes—I dare say often—God chooses to answer prayers through the ACTIONS of His people. We will, of course, not always be in a position to meet the needs we observe in the world. But maybe the next time we feel compelled to send someone good vibes, we could at least consider the possibility that God wants us to ACT on those intentions, and to be Jesus’s hands and feet to a world (or a friend or a neighbor or a stranger) in need. And in this particular case, it just so happens that I have a spare kidney—perhaps for just such a time as this.

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Our Unreasonable King

Joshua 10:12-13

“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel….
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down
about a full day.”

Have you ever read the book, The Little Prince? I first read it in graduate school, and I have finally decided that Tijge is old enough to read it as well. So I’ve been reading it out loud to him over last month or so. There is a point in the book where the little prince is travelling among planets near his own, very small planets, each inhabited by only one person. On the first planet, he meets a benevolent king…

“…the king insisted that his authority be universally respected. He would tolerate no disobedience, being an absolute monarch. But since he was a kindly man, all his commands were reasonable.” And then a bit later, the little prince “ventured to ask a favor of the king: ‘I’d like to see a sunset… Do me a favor, your majesty… Command the sun to set…’” The king replied, “…One must command from each what each can perform….Authority is based first of all upon reason….I am entitled to command obedience because my orders are reasonable….You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But I shall wait, according to my science of government, until conditions are favorable….around seven-forty!”

When I read this section of the book, I couldn’t help but think about how different this king is from ours. Of course, God is benevolent and kindly, but I realize with great joy and peace that He is far from ‘reasonable,’ at least by this king’s definition. You see, God needn’t wait for conditions to be favorable to make a command and have it obeyed. All throughout the Bible, we see accounts that assure us that God’s commands defy the laws of nature, the laws of science, the laws of man, the laws of the universe….and as unreasonable as they may be, they are OBEYED.

God parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) and made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-13); Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25), walked on water (Matthew 14:25), calmed the storm (Mark 4:35-41), brought the dead to life (John 11:43), was crucified under the cover of darkness at midday (Luke 23:44-45), and rose again on the third day (Luke 24:6).

This is how I know that God is with my friend, Russell, who is fighting for his life after a heart attack at age 39. It’s how I know that if there is even one kidney on the face of this earth that is a match for Emily, God knows exactly where it is, whose it is, and how to get it to her. It’s how I know that if God wants us to adopt a child, He is perfectly capable of providing divine intervention, divine revelation, divine wisdom, or divine peace. And whatever you’re facing today, our God—our King—can be trusted to command the absolutely unreasonable on your behalf. And to Him be the glory!

Into Egypt

Genesis 46:2-4a

“God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said,
‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt…’”

Surely I’ve read this passage before, but I guess I never read it closely enough to see the irony of it. God tells Jacob not to be afraid to go down to Egypt, because that is where God will make him a great nation. He also promises to go with Jacob.

Now, this instruction comes during the famine and the time of Joseph’s power directly under Pharaoh. But you may also know that Egypt is where the Israelites are later made slaves. It is from there that Moses is called to “deliver” God’s people from the Egyptians and their tyranny. And yet, knowing that all of that is to come, God tells Jacob not to be afraid, for God himself would go with him.

Do you see what this means? It means that, if we are obeying God’s call and direction in our lives, then we don’t need to be afraid of the outcome, even if it is unfavorable in some ways. It is still God’s will and plan, working all things together for good for those who love him.

Here’s a kind of off-the-wall illustration, but I think it will make this scripture stick. I’ve wanted for some time to donate one of my kidneys. You’re asking why, and honestly, that is a topic for another post. What is important now is a concern that a friend brought up, namely, “what if you donate a kidney now and then someone close to you needs one someday?”

My answer was and is that God knows whether or not someone close to me will need a kidney transplant someday. He also knows whether or not another one will be available at that time. Even if the answers are yes and no, respectively, if God calls me to donate a kidney to someone who needs it NOW, then I don’t need to fear the scenarios that may play out in the future. God is with me now, and He’ll be with me then. And He will fulfill his promises, for He is faithful. Our job is to discern God’s will and obey (easier said than done, I know). It is His job to accompany us into our Egypt, and to supply all of our needs once we get there, according to His riches and glory.

May you, and may we, go where He sends us without fear.