Love surrounding.

From Michelle.  October 20, 2010.

Dear friends and family,

How I have longed to write following last Friday’s benefit concert!  Steve and I are still basking in the afterglow, and will be for many months.  Walking into that room full of people, friends old and new, and some that I had never met, all looking at us with such love and encouragement and hope, it was all I could do not to weep.  The air was thick with every good and perfect thing, church redeemed and redeeming, all of us walking together, all of them carrying us to the feet of Jesus.  Each song was some reflection of the spiritual truth that while suffering is inevitable, faith carries us through.  Each lyric, each poem, each prayer and proclamation was a variant on that theme: God is strong in our weakness, victory was won through suffering, Christ shares our yoke, and on and on.  The beauty of the event was that I think we all brought our suffering to Christ’s feet that night.  Not just Steve and mine.  And when Steve stood up out of his wheelchair and received a standing ovation, we were not just applauding him, but living the hope, the wonder of God’s goodness breaking through.  For all of us.

That night hundreds of people gathered to cheer us on.  As people gathered around us to pray, a web of prayer and support spread throughout the room, beginning in the hidden depression where Steve sat in his lowly wheelchair and then spreading out, hand upon shoulder upon hand upon shoulder, a physical reflection of the web of prayer that has spread throughout the world.  It was a beautiful tapestry of young and old, male and female, rich and poor united in hope and faith and love.  It was magnificent.

In my early twenties I struggled mightily with church.  Like so many, the curtain parted and I saw the human frailty behind the haloed institution.  I wrestled with the hypocrisy and the history and the division and the judgment.  I wrestled with the gossip and the pride and the abuses.  Until I remembered that the Christ whom I so loved asked us to love EVERYONE, yes, even fallen christians and broken churches, and that no darkness was too dark for him to penetrate.  After all, he had chosen to love ME.

What I am trying to say is that last Friday night, and through this entire journey beginning on June 17th, the church has shone so brightly I’ve had to squint to look into the light.  We have experienced more generosity, more encouragement, more humble service, more prayer than any two human beings could rightly absorb.  I could tell you tale after tale after tale.  Some of that generosity and support has come from people who know and love us.  Some has come from complete strangers who know us only through the faith we share or the church we attend.  Most of those people would not want to be named.  They take joy in doing their good deed in secret, for the love of God.    But Steve and I get to witness it and take it in.  And what we get to see is the church redeemed.  And it heals us and carries us and fills us with hope.  And we will never forget it.  For all of its scars, for all of the hurts past and future, right now and last Friday night the church is beautiful beyond measure.

One of my many favorite moments was when Steve spoke.  Until now, Steve has remained largely silent.  While his actions have spoken powerfully to us all, I have missed his voice, which has taught and ministered to me as much as to any congregation member all of these years.  But there he was, and instantly I knew that he was not just going to talk to all of us.  Steve was going to preach.  And he was going to bless me again with his teaching.  Steve talked about the paralytic healed by the faith of his friends, and I will not do it justice if I try to replicate it here.  But what he said got to the heart of the matter.  What he said is essentially that you all are healing us by your faith, carrying us closer to the God who heals.  And Friday night was a magnificent demonstration of just that.

We have said it again and again, but love truly carries us, yours and Christ’s.  Your presence surrounding us that night, and in the prayers and hopes and thoughts and verses quoted on this blog, have been as St. Patrick’s prayer, which I printed up and carried with me to Manila five years ago:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
 Christ behind me, Christ before me,
 Christ beside me, Christ to win me, 
Christ to comfort and restore me.
  Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
 Christ in hearts of all that love me,
 Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Thank you to all of you, who surround us with this amazing love!

With gratitude overflowing,

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  • Fred Davis

    Friday was a powerful moment – we felt we were standing on holy ground as God’s people gathered in one accord and lifted up a dear, precious family. Judy and I count it a privilege to walk a portion of this path with you )and I use the word walk in its most sacred sense believing that God can once again make the lame to walk and the blind to see). We continue to pray that the God of all peace will fill you with his love and cause you to stand firm even in the midst of trial. We love you in Christ
    Fred and Judy

  • Hruetschle

    Oh how we wish we could have been with you, Steve and Michelle. But knowing that God is your sanctuary, and that He has surrounded you with so much love in Seattle, keeps us at peace. This week’s BSF lesson was from Isaiah 7 & 8 and talked about God being a sanctuary to believers. The SANCTUARY photograph above really spoke to me and affirmed that teaching for me. May you always rest in your true sanctuary of Jesus. Isaiah 8:14 Love, Heather

  • Einar and Jody

    What a beautiful account of a beautiful event for a beautiful child of God. We miss Pastor Steve’s preaching and hope that one day we will witness it again. It is with much love, encouragement and hope that we look forward to that day. We continue to pray for all of you. Blessings

  • Ashley Z.

    When life is painfully hard, there is hidden hope in the cracks of the pavement. The hardest things bring forth the most beauty… even the bitter can be turned into something of rarity. Thank you for letting your light shine even in the hardest of circumstances, it is a true testimony.

  • Druetschle

    Michelle, your beautiful description of Friday night filled my heart with so much joy. How we would
    have loved to have been in the midst of such love. I can only imagine how Steve blessed everyone with his preaching. God is using both of you to touch many hearts around the world. I seem to be drawn to the word HOPE as I read God’s word. Psalm 33:20-22 “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Love and blessings.

  • Roger and Jerri Oliver

    Praise God from whom all joy and blessings flow.

  • Anonymous

    How beautifully anointed are your words Michelles with God’s overflowing love and grace. May the Lord bless you and keep you and SHINE His face upon you each day! Your family picture is up on my fridge – a visible reminder to my housemates and me to PRAY for you consistently and fervently each day. Today I send you and Steve Psalm 63:

    7 Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.

    8 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

    May we keep singing and clinging because He is our help!

    With Love,

  • Lulu_ongkiko

    Christ never fails to show up when the human spirit is about to give up. He is love. His love in your lives. His love in my life. Amazing!

  • Yiayiasu

    You inspire us all and we are continuing our prayers for you and Michelle and your boys AND for your dear, dear extended family! This journey you have taken us on is amazing and we are forever changed………….bless you. sue and jim economides

  • Deb Meske Thompson

    Thank you, Michelle, for faithfully keeping us all in touch with you and your family during this journey, this marathon, this blessed race. I find myself waiting for the next update, the next chapter of your story. It means so much to me and to my own battered faith to follow along watching and experiencing the miraculous faithfulness of your Christian community in this circumstance. That is the most amazing and unexpected miracle in all of this for me – not God’s faithfulness, not the steadily progressive physical healing, but the faithfulness of the people of God as they continue to come forward to buoy and support you all in a variety of ways. Some part of that healing power touches me, just in witnessing from a certain distance. God has blessed and is blessing you, and you are and will continue to be a blessing to me and to many, many others. Amen!

  • Kandplamb

    “Healed by the faith of his friends.” You and Steve should be the healthiest people around!

    A paraphrase:
    Love be with me, Love within me, Love behind me, Love before me,
    Love beside me, Love to win me, Love to comfort and restore me.
    Love beneath me, Love above me, Love in quiet, Love in danger,
    Love in hearts of all that love me, Love in mouth of friend and stranger.

    You are loved.

  • Mariaelenabartholomew1

    Your testimony makes me cry once again. . . I am jealous not to be there, but we shall have our concert for Pastor Steve this Monday too. I am sure the place is going to be filled with so much love overflowing.
    Yes, indeed, God’s amazing love manifests through his children — like you and Pastor Steve, praising HIM alone for HIS greatness and power. Pastor Steve will rise up from the wheelchair and will make us all weep with joy! I have no doubt in my heart. . . and I am looking forward to that day!

  • Peter Emmett

    My biggest joy was reading that Steve preached :-) how we miss his voice, his words of encouragement and his total in loveness with Jesus. We miss you all very much and pray with the girls for Steve every night. Be blessed.

    Peter, Christine, Abigail & Janelle
    (Shanghai, China)

  • Joriemat2237

    YES! Indeed God is most worthy to be praised! When His love surrounds us all, we see light after light, hope after hope and yes, rejoicing! You said it well about the church, and we salute you all! Pastor Steve’s countenance is so beautiful in the photo. His face reflects the Holy Spirit’s love in him! I can almost feel your “basking in the afterglow” after the concert. What a faithful God we have!
    Love and prayers always,
    Sam, Jorie, Caleb

  • Jodi Durr

    We saw you that night, and Jeremy and I both commented on how we didn’t say anything that was on our hearts. We didn’t thank you, Michelle, for loving Steve so deeply and being his angel. We didn’t say how your journals and words have inspired faith and hope in our own lives. We didn’t comment to Steve about how tears have been wept and prayers have been thrown up to heaven and joys have been celebrated by your friends. The number of people following this blog is just a reflection of the impacts you have made in this world. I am taken to new heighths in my own faith knowing that no matter what the circumstances, one can find ways to glorify God. Keep that focus throughout this marathon. He mentioned the 23 hours 55 minutes of suffering and we see the 5 minute mountain top moments. I promise to continue to pray for you during the 23+ hours of pain, struggle, little answers, and navigating a new universe for you. It was a beatiful tribute to your family, and I just regret getting out more meaningful words that shows our heart for what you have ahead and what you have demonstrated already. Love You!

  • Greggfarah

    Thanks for the awesome update. What a night! What a God!
    Michelle, any chance Steve’s talk was recorded? If so, can it be posted?