Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Dancing With The Healer’

Lowell’s World!

I’ve been working on “Lowell’s World” – a web site that tells more of my story.  It has photos of trips and events, a brief bio, a link to the Vicki-Dancing With the Healer site, and some fun stuff.  I hope you’ll visit it.

This weekend I’m speaking at a church … actually preaching … for the first time in a long while.  Last November my pastor asked Becky and me to share our story at a special Thanksgiving day service.  That was fun!  But the last time I preached was last June – so it’s been almost a year.  Please pray for me tomorrow – April 20th.  All I want to do is “deliver the mail,” not pursue my own agenda or satisfy my ego but deliver the message God wishes to communicate to the congregation I’m visiting.

As far as my future as a pastor … that’s on indefinite hold.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be the lead pastor of a congregation again.  Most likely I’ll be an associate, serving alongside a lead pastor.  I’d love to be someone’s go-to guy, or “man Friday” (see Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe), but I’m waiting.  Who knows what I’ll be doing a month or a year from now.  Hopefully I’ll be finished with the creative side of Dancing With The Healer!!

Love to all!

April 2008 Update – Dancing With The Healer

Vicki QuallsFor all those who have been following the progress of my writing “The Vicki Book,” I have some news.  I’m really close to finishing the “creative stage” of the process.  Soon I’ll be entering the dreaded “editing stage,” where everything I’ve written is on the block.

I’d like to ask my blog readers for some input.  Please comment on the process I’m going to outline below – one that I believe I’ll follow in order to bring the book-writing to its proper conclusion.

Before I share that process I want to thank Caroline Eitzen-Cocciardi AGAIN for her encouragement to “stay in your creative mind, Lowell,” and not give in to the temptation to constantly go back to what I had already written and edit it (which I had done, time and again until she gave me her wise counsel).

I shared last month that my goal was to have the manuscript done before I went on vacation to Maui.  I didn’t make it.  Plain and simple.  But the goal helped push me like never before.  Now, I’ve set another goal – one that I think I will make.  I’m working on the last 75 pages of Vicki’s journal.  I’ve been able to do about 10 a day (on a good day).  Given that, I’m inside two weeks of coming to the end of the creative stage.  Then, I’ll read the manuscript from start to finish, trying to find any grammar/spelling mistakes, typos, and breakdowns in the flow of the story.  That’s probably another week or two.  Then, the gutsy part.

My intention is to share the manuscript with several close friends who have a writer’s background.  Some are published authors.  Others are journalism majors and masters.  One or two of my pastor-buddies will be asked to look over the theological content, and a few readers will be people who lived through much of what Vicki wrote about – family and friends.  I’ll be asking all these folks if they would evaluate my style, the flow of the story/book, and its content.

Whew!

Like I said at the start, anyone out there in the internet world is welcome to comment on the process I’ve outlined above.

And for those who have been praying for me and the book … please continue to do so.  I’ve seen that when I’VE been in prayer and close communion with the Lord, the process of writing the book becomes mystical and supernatural, and in turn, I’m able to produce much more than normally possible.

I could use some encouragement right now.  I’m tired.  I feel emotionally spent at the end of every day.  Thank God for Becky!  She’s been such a supporter and helper.  I can’t think of a day when she hasn’t been there for me.  But most of the time she’s been a single (lone) voice.  Is there anyone out there who could join her?

Well, back to writing the book.

By the way, the blogging has rarely (I can’t say never) interrupted my writing the book.  Actually, blogging has served to break tension, relieve emotions, and strangely – rest my mind.  Blogging has been like having a conversation with a friend who’s only purpose has been to listen as I vent or wade through issues that distract me.

Love to all.

“Pain Can Be My Friend” (an excerpt from Dancing With The Healer)

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Pain takes a mighty toll on our spirit.  Pain is more than a physical phenomenon, but is somehow tied to every part of our being.  Having done carpentry (not well) many times, I believe I’m an expert of sorts.  Instead of driving a 16 penny nail into the wood, I’ve pounded my thumb nail with the hammer.  My thumb nail was physically damaged, but the pain went from my head to my toes, disabling my mind.  Time stood still.

The great English philosopher C. S. Lewis wrote a book entitled The Problem Of Pain.  Lewis poses the following argument from the beginning of the book:  “‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.’  This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.”

Pain will make you question whether or not God is good.  Pain will cause you to question His love for mankind.

Lewis tackles the problem of pain by pointing out that because God is good and powerful, He gave mankind the gift of choice – and man’s choices open the door to pain.  Only a Being that is almighty can GIVE such a gift, and only a loving Being would think to give the gift of choice – that is, freedom to act on one’s perceived best interests in one’s own way.

Lewis spends much of the book addresses choice, goodness, love, power and ultimately pain.  In speaking about God’s goodness he states, “Any consideration of the goodness of God at once threatens us with the following dilemma.  On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil.  What seems to us good many therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to be evil may not be evil.”

That is an arresting idea.  The Bible puts it this way:  “His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.”  He and we are “other.”  Contrary to the ancient Eastern mystics, Joseph Smith, and more modern New Age thinkers, what He is we are not, nor can we become what He is … if God is the God that is revealed in the Bible.  If you have come to believe that the Bible’s God is not God, then you may wish to read another book besides this one, because Vicki and I firmly believe that THE God is the God of the Old and New Testaments.

And so we believe that this biblical God is wiser than we are, more loving than we are, and “other” than we are.  He is transcendent – beyond us.

C. S. Lewis arrives at this conclusion after examining the nature of THE God, and taking the reader logically through the arguments that He is good and almighty:  Pain rouses us to understand that “all is not well,” but there is One who invades our painful existence will “healing in His wings,” and rescues us from the consequences of our unwise choices, and the fact that because of choice, the planet on which we live is fallen.  The conclusion of Lewis, and the concluding statements of the Bible lead us to this truth:  Pain will not be done away with on Earth, but in Heaven.  So Paul writes, “ … the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” when we cross the threshold of Heaven, and come, literally into the presence of the Almighty.

Here, and now, we have pain.  Then, and there, we will not be in pain – not in His presence.  That is a Christian belief, and is so because it is Christ-centered.  Jesus said, “‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.’

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?’  [And] Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”[1]

The “Father’s House” and “the place” that is being prepared for us is Heaven, and there is no sickness, disease, pain, sin, or evil there.

Pain will make you forget about the promise of Heaven.  Pain reveals weakness, and shows us gaps in our faith.  As I’ve said before, anyone can have “faith” when everything is going great.  It’s when the going gets tough that our faith, weak or strong, is revealed to US.  We come to know where we are on the faith scale.  God already knows, and He’ll allow pain to inform us of what He already knows.

Pain is also a tool, or weapon, that God’s enemy – Satan – uses to serve his purpose, and that is, to separate us from God.  He hopes that we will turn our pain into anger, and our anger into distance from God.  Satan’s greatest tactic for building a wall of separation between us and God is the lie that God withholds good things from us.  Satan used that ploy in the garden, when it came to “the knowledge of good and evil” that could be acquired by eating God-forbidden fruit, and he uses pain to convince us that God is still holding out on us – this time, comfort and healing.

It’s important, then, to note that Vicki did something brilliant, and different than most, when she turned her pain-filled anger toward the cancer and Satan.  In Vicki’s case, Satan’s ploy backfired.  Vicki didn’t turn away from God, but toward Him.  As she said on different occasions, “Pain can be my friend.”

 


[1] John 14:1-6

Why I’m Writing DWTH

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I have been a pastor, or engaged in some form of specialized ministry since 1971, so when I let everyone know I was going to resign from Trinity Assembly of God in 2005, it caught my family and friends off guard.

“What will you do, and where will you do it?” were the questions I heard most often, and my answer was, “I’m going to sell my home, move to Hawaii, write a very special book, and find time to write some articles for pastoral trade journals.”

Not many had a problem with the idea of me moving to Hawaii, and several put in the common request when someone announces their intention to move to paradise: “Need any help?” When I said to one guy, “Yeah, you can help me get my house in shape so I can put it on the market,” he smiled and walked away laughing. “Qualls, you’re such a tease.” But I wasn’t kiddin’.

My plan after leaving TAG was to use my savings and the proceeds from the sale of my house to cover what minimal expenses I would encounter. I didn’t know how long my cache would last, but I figured that when my funds decreased to a certain level I’d seek employment, somewhere. By that time I hoped to have the bulk of the book finished.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Minimal expenses! On Maui? Is he nuts? He’s moving to Maui for crying out loud!” Then I’d explain that my sister Claudette, and her husband Gene, had graciously invited me to come live – rent free – with them for a while. They had a lovely home on the island, overlooking Kahana and Napili bays. When you looked north from their lanai you could see the fairways and greens of Kapalua. Looking south you could make out the high rise condos of the Kaanapali resort village. Their home was also a stone’s throw from where my oldest son, Brandon, lived … and seven thousand miles closer to my other son, Chris, who was living in China. I could walk to the beach, or drive a short distance to play some of the best golf courses on the planet. Not bad, eh?

Now I ask you, who couldn’t write in a setting like that?

After nodding in approval (and trying to veil their jealousy), next I was asked, “Why are you writing this book?” Knowing that I had never been published, and being polite, my kith and kin were concerned about it’s “emotional nature,” and that I’d have no regular salary.

I’d explain my strategy for dealing with the financial issues, and then tackle the trickiness of the book question. I was as honest as I could be, in hindsight. I gave several reasons for writing it in the order that I was feeling at the time.

My first response early on was, “I made a promise to Vic, and I’m going to keep it.” That is still my first reason for writing. It is a book born out of the deepest kind of love between a man and a woman. It is truly a labor of love, and mirrors the commitments to Vicki I kept throughout our marriage.

Next I’d say that I want to provide our sons and progeny a record of a wonderful life. I want my sons to know their mother in a more intimate way, to better under-stand her earthly priorities, and to read about her dreams for and about them. I want my sons’ wives to “know” their mother-in-law. I also want her grandchildren to have something to hold that was “hers.”

These first two reasons for writing have not changed.

The first two objectives are personal and familial. The last intention can be distilled to this: I hope to inspire.

I know there will be people picking up a copy of this book who are looking for answers to serious questions about the immaterial part of battling a terminal illness. I’ll share what I’ve learned while observing an extraordinary woman dance her way through tumultuous times. I have some strong opinions. I’ll be candid. And I hope Vicki’s sincerity and frankness will inspire you to dance with The Healer, too, understanding there are treatments even the most skilled surgeons can’t provide unless they understand the spiritual dynamics of dealing with disease.

I hope to inspire couples with dysfunctional marriages to find healing in their home. After reading our story, I believe couples headed toward marital breakup will be encouraged to seek out a solution. Marital discord is so much like cancer. Such discord eats away at the core of a relationship until something dies in the soul of one or both partners. Depression soon robs the relationship of its vitality. But there’s hope!

I hope to inspire the spiritually curious to investigate the life and teachings of Jesus, maybe for

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 a second time. If you haven’t taken a good look at Him lately, I think you’ll see Him activity at work in our life-story. Then I hope you’ll become fascinated.

I hope to inspire pastors, who most often live lives of quiet desperation, to develop meaningful collegial relationships. My father used to say, “The banana that gets separated from the bunch gets skinned!” That was his way to saying, “There is no way we, especially in the ministry, can go it alone.” I feel very strongly that “going it alone” in ministry is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for trouble. And because I’m one of you, I think I get most (at least many) of concerns pastors and ministers have. I think I understand the fear of betrayal that develops in our hearts in proportion to the closeness of the relationship, whether it be peer or professional. I think I understand the root of many pastoral stressors that causes our occasional depressions to look Goliath-like. For the most part I get the nature of ministry, with its blindsides, hostilities, and threats. Been there. So, I’m writing for pastors.

I also hope to help and then inspire, coincidentally, those who have been spiritually abused by a few popular pastors and Christian “teachers.” Religious abuse happens. It can be sexual or psychological. Every kind of abuse certainly is spiritual.

Not everything that comes our way through Christian media outlets or from Christian bookstores is from the throne room of God. Some of the stuff desperate people are exposed to in times of unbelievable difficulty is whimsical, faddish, or heretical. There’s a lot of confused and anxious people in the Church of Jesus Christ buying in to some really goofy teachings that further muddle innocent minds.

I’m sharing our story so that vulnerable believers will have another point of view because many Christ-followers are told they are sick, diseased, going through trials, or financially wanting because they lack faith, that there’s sin in their life, they let some stray thought become a confession, or God is hacked off at them for only-He-knows why. So I’m writing for those who need to hear something biblical that doesn’t need to be dug out of the Scriptures by a prophet who has a special revelation, but can be discovered by any truth seeker.

I’m writing to inspire hope.

May God help me.

A Time To Dance, by Joan Rhoden

hp_scands_672419202815.jpgThis article appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel magazine on Mother’s Day, May of 2001 (http://pe.ag.org/Articles2001/4540_rhoden.cfm).  Joan Rhoden lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is the wife of former District Superintendent, Dr. H. Robert (“Bob”) Rhoden.   Joan and Bob have been my friends from 25 years, and Joan wrote this article shortly after Vicki, my wife, was dramatically healed of ovarian cancer.

Come on, Vicki, dance with Me.

These were strange words for a Pentecostal pastor’s wife to hear. Born and reared in a traditional Assemblies of God family, Vicki Qualls was not exactly savvy to ballroom etiquette. She laughed out loud as she sensed in her spirit that God was speaking and wanted to take the lead.

But I’m getting a little ahead of my story.

In October 1998, after what was supposed to be a routine surgical procedure, it was discovered that Vicki had cancer. The type of cancer was determined to be uterine and ovarian and very aggressive. A complete hysterectomy was performed, followed by six months of precautionary chemotherapy. By all appearances it was successful. Vicki was pronounced cancer-free.

But a peculiar pain surfaced in April 2000, gnawing away at her side and back. This time a CT scan revealed a mass attached to a muscle in her back and wrapped around her aorta. It was deemed inoperable because of its location and hemorrhaging potential. The news wasn’t as shocking as the first time, but it was certainly more devastating. So much so that it literally bowled Vicki over — she fainted. “I didn’t know that happened in real life,” says Vicki. “I thought that only happened in Southern novels.”

The joking quickly vanished as Vicki and her husband, Lowell, went home to wrestle with God over what action to pursue. What does faith require? Doing nothing and expecting God to take over? Or exhausting all human options and then watching God step in? After much prayer and research, the Quallses opted for an extreme nutritional plan as well as a new, mild form of chemo with fewer side effects.

At this point, Vicki became enveloped in an unexplainable blanket of joy and peace. She talked to her church family at Trinity Assembly of God in Richmond, Va., explaining what was happening to her. Then, again, at the Potomac District Ministers Institute, she addressed her colleagues with a message of hope that whether she was healed or not, God would be glorified and people drawn to Him. She thanked her peers for passionately praying for her healing. “But whether I live or die,” she assured them, “I win. My future is secure in heaven.” She urged them to pray with equal passion for unsaved friends whose eternal destinies weren’t secure.

As she suffered during lonely days and nights, a new friendship with Jesus emerged. It was while Vicki walked and talked with her Friend that the “dance with Me” invitation came. It also dawned on her that God had prepared her for this trial.

Seven years earlier, in 1991, she had penned a curious journal entry. She was attending a Women’s Ministries Getaway and heard Marigold Cheshier’s vibrant testimony of her healing from cancer. The atmosphere was charged with faith. When she returned to her room, Vicki wrote: “I’m tired of being ordinary … I long for God’s power to work in me and through me to touch others.” Then she wrote about a strange foreboding that swept over her. She felt that God was going to allow her to deal with a personal tragedy — maybe even cancer. Whatever happened, it would be all right. “Pain could be my friend,” she wrote.

The seven years between the journal entry and her illness were laden with other challenges. Her sons, Brandon and Chris, went through some teen-age prodigal years. But they both returned to the Lord, are filled with the Spirit and alive with faith today. Her husband battled a debilitating siege of depression for 18 months.

So God had been at work, time and again proving himself trustworthy. Vicki let God take the lead.

Then more bad news. The nutritional plan and chemotherapy were not working. The tumor continued to grow. Ultimately, it grew to the size of a football, pressing on her back and protruding from her right side. She decided to stop all treatment, placing her future in God’s hands.

In January 2001, a new scan got her doctor’s immediate attention. With guarded excitement he told her, “I don’t understand what has happened, but your tumor is now positioned differently. It no longer appears to be attached to your aorta, and it seems to have a clear margin almost all the way around it.” It had encased itself in what he described as a thick, leathery shell and looked like it was operable.

4540_quallsdoctor.jpgSurgery was scheduled for January 26. A vascular transplant surgeon was called in to help Charles Jones, her gynecologic oncologist. Two units of blood were on standby in preparation for a potential transfusion. The operating room at Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond, Va., was reserved for a four-hour surgery. Dr. Jones was confident for he knew the divine Surgeon.

(Lowell, Dr. Charles Jones III, Vicki) 

After just two hours he appeared in the waiting lounge, grinning from ear to ear. “Pastor Lowell,” he said to Vicki’s husband, “I’ve never seen anything like this. It came out!” He hardly had to cut — removing it mostly with his hands. No transfusion was needed.

Two days later the pathology report revealed the healthy tissue around the perimeter of the tumor was cancer-free, but the most amazing thing of all was the tumor itself. Its blood supply had been cut off. The cancer cells inside were either dead or in the process of dying — an “abortive state,” the doctors called it. God had destroyed all the cells, and because of that no follow-up treatment was recommended. “I’ve never seen this before in all my years of practice,” says Dr. Jones. “As physicians God has provided us with tools and gifts to treat our patients, but these gifts have limitations that only God can overcome with miracles. God has blessed all of us with His miraculous intervention in this healing.”

How does she feel about what has happened? “I’m awestruck,” Vicki says. “It’s been a very serious, awesome, holy thing. It is just God’s grace — no merit of mine.”

Questions still face the players in this medical drama: What does God want us to do with this experience? What do we say to people who are still praying for healing? “We’re all going to die,” Vicki has told some of her friends who struggle with cancer. “Some of us just die sooner than others. The most important thing is our relationship with God and how we live out whatever days He gives us.”

Vicki Qualls will never be the same again. She is healed — and is dancing with her Healer.