Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"My Breath is in Your Hand"

On Sunday my Dad preached at Big Valley .

My Dad has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It means his lungs don't work as well as they should, and as a result he has been suffering for over a year from a lack of oxygen.

In the summer he had to go for some sort of cardio testing, which he managed to complete and to produce acceptable levels. When it was over, he was exhausted and winded.

"How did you manage to get through it?" we asked him curiously. 

I told God, 'My breath is in Your hands,' ... " he replied. 
Amy the nurse getting Dad's history ...

On February 7 he had an appointment with one of the world's truly compassionate doctors, Dr. Lohmann. "Are you sure you want to go to India?" she asked him three times. 

"Very sure," he responded.

She wrote out various prescriptions, and Deb booked another appointment.

Dr Lohmann, exuding kindness, with practical tips
and encouragement to have a great trip ...

Last Friday my Dad was put on oxygen therapy.

Lovely Beatta, the RT who worked us in ...

Two days later he preached one of the most encouraging sermons I have ever heard. 

He started off by reading Matthew chapter 14, verses 22 through 27, the story of the disciples who were heading off across the lake in a boat. A storm whipped up and then Jesus appeared, walking on the water. The already terrified guys thought he was a ghost. 

Then Jesus spoke. "Be of good cheer," He said. "It is I. Be not afraid."

There's both a situation and a principle contained in verse 26, Dad said, that is often faced in life, and it is this: Jesus comes to us, and we don't recognize Him.

Think of the assembly of Jesus' people after He had been crucified, Dad went on. We find His disciples huddled together in a locked room with uncertainty, confusion and fear. And the fear was from external forces.

"Then came Jesus" (John 20:19).

There are two aspects to His coming to which Dad drew our attention.

  • Jesus came to them right where they were - not where they should be, but where they were.
  • Jesus did not scold them. He was just with them. How often we jump on a person who's done something foolish! They already know they've done something dumb - our stepping on their face when they're already down on the ground, as it were, just makes it worse.
Jesus in fact said PEACE. "Peace be unto you." It's a wonderful thing, Dad marvelled, when God comes and reassures us that we are not forgotten.

Then he led us to the story of the days right after the Great Flood of Genesis chapter 8 and verses 9-11. Noah had sent the dove out, and she returned to the ark very quickly. A few days later he sent her out again; this time she returned bearing an olive leaf in her mouth. The third time Noah sent her out, she never came back.

Such a small thing, a leaf! Yet it was a message for Noah that he was not forgotten.

Chapter 18 of the first book of the Kings tells us of Elijah, who had taken a stand against the prophets of the Baalim idols. Israel had had no rain for three years and Elijah promised the king that there would be rain imminently.

Then he went away to the top of Mount Carmel and beseeched God to bring the rain. He anxiously sent his servant up to scan the sky for something, anything. Finally, on the seventh time the servant reported sighting a tiny cloud on the horizon, a cloud the size of a man's hand.  

The little cloud conveyed a message from God to Elijah, Dad observed. "You're not forgotten; I hear you. I am with you. I'm coming."

Look at what Joseph went through! Sold by his own brothers into slavery, he was taken into Potiphar's house. Mrs Potiphar soon had her eye on him and tried to seduce him. When that failed, she lied and said that he had attacked her. Joseph got thrown into jail, where he was forgotten for at least two years. Then he interpreted the Pharaoh's dream; and in gratitude the Pharaoh raised him up to be second only to himself in the land. 

Through all of these circumstances, we read that "The Lord was with Joseph."

It was a few years after Joseph's meteoric rise from jailbird to second in command that the mighty famine struck the whole area and in due course Joseph's own brothers came looking to buy food.

Just suppose Joseph's brothers hadn't sold him, Dad asked, or if Potiphar's wife hadn't lied about him? He would have had a pretty good life ... but when the famine struck, what would have happened to his family and people?

God used the brush strokes of envy from the brothers' paintbrush to paint the picture of His purposes. Mrs Potiphar's lies, the languishing in jail? God was in it all. 

Then Dad told of a time, back in the 1950s, where he had been preaching intensely and he was emotionally exhausted and deeply depressed. He returned back to his family's farm and helped his Dad out around the place. He felt that his ministry and maybe his life were finished. The book of Isaiah, chapter 38 and verses 11 through 14 were the only words that seemed to sum up exactly what he was feeling:

11 I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
12 Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
13 I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
14 Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

One day he was working with his dad when a car drove into the farmyard. Out stepped the president of the College from which my Dad had graduated. Cyril Hutchinson spoke for a little while with Bapa, as all his grandchildren would call him years later; and then Cyril turned to Dad. He told Dad that he had been in Edmonton and was heading to Calgary, but he had wanted to invite Dad personally to be the speaker at the college's conference. He had come an enormous distance out of his way to see Dad face to face.

And at that moment Dad knew that  Cyril was God's face for Dad that day. Cyril was God's voice to Dad saying, "You are not forgotten."

Dad recounted a story, found in the devotional book Streams in the Desert, of a missionary woman who was sent boxes of oatmeal from a Scottish man. She had no other food except for some cans of condensed milk. She had no money. Her health started to fail and she begged God to let her receive mail with some monetary gift in order for her to get the medical attention she needed and some fresh fruit and vegetables to make her better and stronger.

But no mail came. For four weeks, nothing. All she had was the oatmeal and milk, and so every day for a month she ate oatmeal gruel. On about the third week she started to feel better and by the end of the fourth week she was healed. And at the end of the fourth week, she received mail with some money enclosed and she was able to buy sustaining food.

When she came back to the States she was sharing this story in a meeting. A doctor in the audience quizzed her more closely on her symptoms and then responded that the cure for that particular disease was four weeks of nothing but oatmeal gruel. Any other food would have made her worse.

God had given her the cure. He was in the oatmeal, even though at the time she could not possibly have known it!

Dad mentioned one more incident from the Bible. and this one stood out for me more than any other. In the first book of the Kings, chapter 19 and verses 10-12 we see the great prophet Elijah once again. He had taken a stand against the people turning away from God and had spoken up; now he was in fear of losing his life. He felt alone and forsaken by all, and he cried out to God for some word that he was not forgotten.

God told him to go to the mountain and stand before Him. Elijah did so, and it says, "The Lord passed by." Suddenly there was a terrific wind so strong that the mountain split and rocks shattered into pieces; but, it says, "but the Lord was not in the wind." Following this there was an earthquake; but "the Lord was not in the earthquake." Next there was a fire; but "the Lord was not in the fire." All are displays of power and majesty and what we might think of as typical God-like judgment - but God was not present in any of these things!

And then he heard it - "a still, small voice," and he knew that he was not forgotten He knew that God had not forsaken him.

To change tracks a little bit, I had forgotten to bring my Bible to church on Sunday morning. I was debating whether to turn back as we were barely away from the TH; but we were running a little bit behind and the wind was whipping the snow into a frenzy so I decided to take my chances on finding one at the church.

I had been "running a little bit behind" since Dad had been issued oxygen on Friday.

When we arrived there was a left-behind Gideon Bible in a pew and I gratefully took that to use for the service, following along as I always do whenever he reads out a text.

But when it came to the "still, small voice" part, the words in the Gideon Bible were slightly different. The words in the Gideon Bible said, "a sound of a gentle blowing."

Exactly the sound of the oxygen giving Dad a reprieve from coughing and sleeplessness.

I looked to the left of where I was sitting, where my Dad's oxygen canister was waiting as he preached with such power and authority and love ten feet away. Then I glanced around the little church, filled with the golden glow of old wood, natural light and something more this morning: People were visibly moved as Dad gently suggested that God is showing His face, is making His presence felt, whether we recognize it or not.

Dad is very thankful for the oxygen, because it will enable him to go back to the land of his heart and preach to the people of his heart again this year. 

An olive leaf.

A cloud the size of a hand.

The jealousy of brothers.

A detoured car trip.


An oxygen canister.

God has not forgotten us. He is with us.

Dad's breath is in His hand.


  1. thank you for this wonderful reminder.. God is Good.

  2. Beautiful words of encouragement!

  3. Thank you, Karyn, for your love and faith, and for sharing all these wonderful stories of God at work in human situations.

  4. Thank you so much for your blog. This week I needed to hear exactly what you wrote. So often I am touched by what you write. Thank you for allowing God to work through you so He can bless others. I just want you to know I really appreciate you, your love for your family and close friends, your willingness to be open and share from your heart, your beautiful smile and especially your love for God. It always amazes me how there can be such a connection with someone simply because of Jesus and His work in our lives. We may not spend a lot of time with someone but yet there's a connection on a heart and soul level and its an amazing and wonderful thing. I just wanted you to know you are loved and appreciated by others "outside" your circle of family and close friends.

  5. Karyn, Thank you for the phone call and the link to your site. 'My Breath in Your Hand' was great! You took wonderful notes - and I can tell part of them were written in your heart.

    It is hard to imagine that you were here just 4 months ago - and we stayed up most of the night working on the Statement of Faith. Thank you for so much help - it was a gift of your time / life. A memory to cherish -

    Your Dad still looks good - even with a little tube from ear to ear. We will pray for your big event in March. I know Dr. Mincy and PD are looking forward to it.

    I texted Phil and will tell everyone Sunday - to join you in prayer. It will be our privilege.

    Hope to see you all in 2014. Dave & Trina


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