It began with my name.
Wednesday, 4:03 AM: NANCY!!!
I bounce out of bed. It’s only my husband Bobby and I and he doesn’t call me, normally, by my name but Honey. I hear my name in a way I’ve never heard it before.
I run to the bathroom and find him whiter than a sheet, cold but clammy, nauseous and cannot catch his breath. I take his pressure. I can’t get a reading. (I think, “it must be the battery...”) I take his sugar level and it’s not a sugar low. I ask him, do you want me to call 911…a moment later, a feeble “yes…”
Off to the ER we go. They check his heart. Nothing wrong. They check other issues. Nothing. By then, my Pastor had shown up. The ER doctor asks my husband if he wants to stay for observation. He wants to go home. I’m shaking my head to stay and pastor says, “Nancy wants you to stay.”
Good thing. By noon Bobby was having other issues but the staff and doctor believed it could be a super-bug going around our state. Pastor came back with the Lord’s Supper and encouraged us in prayer and absolution and then we partook of the True Body and Blood, while still at Elmore, I could feel my faith being strengthened by Christ Himself. At that time did not know how much that would be needed. Bobby encouraged me to get to Bible Study and I did. Afterwards, I stopped by and the nurse informs me that they’re running tests but so far nothing definitive. At this point they were thinking an infection and find that antibiotics is what would be needed. So I went home to what I thought would be uninterrupted sleep. I could not have been more wrong…and I would soon find out where my source of strength really is.
4:08AM the next day: Mrs. Almodovar, your husband took a turn for the worst. You need to come here, get his things and then follow us up to Boise. We don’t have the equipment here to figure out what is going on.
I get dressed and run to the hospital and when I arrived Bobby is not doing good at all. He looks worse than the night before and they are talking about Life-Flighting him up to Boise. I get a bag of his things and the nurse informs me how bad it has gotten. My husband is bleeding profusely and they cannot stop it.
I get into my truck and begin to cry…and cry out to my God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ. “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this without Bobby. Please God, give me strength, help me trust you. I just don’t want to do this and I can’t. I have no strength at all.” I call my sister, who prays with me and gives me words of encouragement, asks if she needs to fly out, which I decline. I then call my dearest friend Debby, who converted to Lutheranism soon after we did, and she immediately says she’s coming down to get me. I drive home praying the entire way.
In the drive up to the hospital I say to Debby, “I don’t know how I would be handling this if I still had the Calvinist teaching.” (it can be a very fatalistic view…and honestly, why pray if everything has been planned out already to the smallest detail.) Pastor’s wife lets me know he is on his way too.
When we arrive we find that Bobby is in MICU. The doctor informs me that they believe there is a bleeder either in his stomach or small intestines. Wow! were they wrong on that…it would be so much worse.
Pastor arrives and counsels me in a way I’d never been counseled before; with Truth and a true view of what was happening.
See, in Pentecostalism and Charismatica you would be told to “simply trust” and “have faith” and “don’t doubt” and “come on Nancy, you’re faith is strong…” blah blah blah. You would get a “word from the Lord” and someone else would tell you another thing and it would all be good and happy and self-egrandizing how fantastic and strong your faith is. You would be told to claim the healing “in Jesus Name” and to “bind the Devil” and other such enthusiastic talk.
In Calvinism, I’m not sure how they would deal with the reality. They would probably tell me that God’s will is going to be done so accept whatever it is…a fatalistic view for sure. I often found it hard to pray even before trials because God’s will is set in stone. So, in asking why pray I was told two things: it was commanded of God and two, it was commanded of God. As a Lutheran, with a clearer Scriptural understanding, I would learn through this exactly why we pray. And YES, God’s will is going to be done, but He invites us to pray, to petition, to ask for mercy and He works through those prayers.
So, here was my Pastor (Kellerman) saying to me, “Let’s have a prayer” and then asking God to be merciful but to strengthen me if it is God’s will to bring Bobby Home.” In his counsel he said to me, “Nancy, this may not end the way we want it to end but know this, Christ is near, He will give you what you need to walk through this. It will be different but He won’t leave you.” BEST WORDS I could have ever asked for. It made me face the reality that I may go home without my husband…and I cried and cried.
Here’s the best part. In my trip to Strasbourgh I met several Lutheran ministers and each of them said similarly. The reminded me, just as my Pastor did, to look to the Cross and Christ and He will be with me. I learned that prayer is how God invites us to ask of Him, as our Heavenly Father, for the things we need…and I needed a lot during this time and so did Bobby (even more than me). I finally understood that God works through the prayers of His People. I learned to no longer have a fatalistic view but one of hope and assurance, of joy in the midst of trials because God answers the prayers of His people. They may not be answered in the way we think but He would answer them for our good. I learned to pray…really petition God with joy, sorrow, gratitude, desperation and hope.
Then the the hymns I’ve learned in the Lutheran Liturgy and Service Book began to go through my mind and heart. First was,
God’s Own Child, I gladly say it (listen here )
Then, The Lamb, The Lamb rang in my heart and then later that night
Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me
(From The Lamb https://youtu.be/yumDfevULAs)
He takes my sin and wretchedness, He lives, forgives, He gives me His own righteousness
Worthy is the Lamb whose death makes me His own!
The Lamb is reigning on His throne!
Later that morning the doctors informed me that Bobby would have an endoscopy to find the bleeder. It should take 40 minutes and we’ll have a better idea what we’re dealing with. That is when it all just broke. A little while later the doctor comes to me, in scrubs and all, and tells me that they had to do “emergency procedures to save your husband’s life and I didn’t want to come out here to ask your permission so I just did what had to be done…”
Ever watch Charlie Brown and how the voices of the adults sound? Wah wah wah wah wah….That’s what his voice became. Thankfully, Pastor and Debby were there to pick up on what he was saying. God spared Bobby. When they began to scope him the veracies in his esophagus hemoragged, he aspirated blood and they had to do everything possible to stop the bleeding including 5 units of blood and one of fresh platelets…but he was not out of the woods. They would consider him “stable-y critical” and had to stop the procedure and place him on a ventilator.
The prayers and support just poured in. What I learned was that we are more loved than I realized in our little town and at our little church. Neighbors, friends, family and our family of faith rallied around me and around Bobby. Many came and visited and more texted, facebooked, messaged and tweeted me that Bobby was being lifted to the throne of grace…and that’s where I fell, at the foot of the cross knowing Christ would bring me through no matter what happened.
There were those who tried to “claim healing” and “demand God…” and tell me that God always heals, but I’ve learned the Scriptures enough to know God does not always answer prayer the way we would want.
Here was the source of my strength: The Word of God, the Sacraments and prayer. Christ is the source of any strength we have and He delivers it through the Word and Sacraments.
It is not something we have in ourselves. It is not something we pump up. It is not something we gather from the recesses of our being. It is not something we look to angels to give, nor the universe, nor the well-wishes of our friends and family.
Jesus is the source to look to for all we need.
Over and over, hopes were lifted and then came down crashing. Yet, over and over, my Lutheran family would remind me they were praying and to continue to look to the Cross of Christ, He would not leave me no matter how it ended. Each minister was consistent with their counsel and I found comfort in a biblical view where all the Lutheran ministers were telling me the same thing because it’s what the Bible tells us. Not only did my own pastor come but Debby’s did as well and he too (Pastor Pauls) gave me the same exact counsel, “Look to the Cross. Look to Christ.” Never had I seen biblical consistency like this and I am grateful for it because in 48 hours my life and Bobby’s was anything but constant…we did not know if he would make it.
That night I went home with Debby and her husband Dave. Just as I was laying my head on my pillow, having been praying constantly in my head and heart, this hymn began to run through my mind
Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve me?
(you can listen here: https://youtu.be/DoZQbQd3_sU)
Why should cross and trial grieve me
Christ is near
With His cheer;
Never will He leave me.
Who can rob me of the heaven
That God’s Son
For me won
When His life was given?
When life’s troubles rise to meet me,
Though their weight
May be great,
They will not defeat me.
God, my loving Savior, sends them;
He who knows
All my woes
Knows how best to end them.
God gives me my days of gladness,
And I will
Trust Him still
When He sends me sadness.
God is good: His love attends me
Day by day,
Come what may,
Guides me and defends me.
From God’s joy can nothing sever,
For I am
His dear lamb,
He, my Shepherd ever.
I am His because He gave me
His own blood
For my good,
By His death to save me.
Over and over the words, Never will He leave me…” and “he who knows all my woes, knows how best to end them” would ring in my heart.
And then the Te Deum (We Praise You, O God) You can listen here: https://youtu.be/UW889psVIJ4
I. Praise to the Trinity
We praise thee, O God: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord. All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting. To Thee all Angels cry aloud: the Heavens and all the powers therein. To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry, Holy, Holy, Holy: Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy Glory. The glorious company of the Apostles praise Thee. The godly fellowship of the Prophets praise Thee. The noble army of Martyrs praise Thee. The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee; The Father of an infinite Majesty; Thine honourable, true, and only Son; Also the Holy Ghost: the Comforter.
II. Praise of Christ
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ. Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father. When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man: Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb. When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. Thou sittest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father. We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge. We therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood. Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save Thy people: and bless Thine heritage. Govern them and lift them up for ever. Day by day we magnify Thee; and we worship Thy Name, ever world without end. Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. O Lord, have mercy upon us. O Lord, let Thy mercy lighten upon us: as our trust is in Thee. O Lord, in Thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded.
God’s Word through the readings of the Treasury of Daily Prayer also sustained me:
Psalm 48: Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress…
Psalm 17: I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words…
Psalm 29: The LORD sits enthrone over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace.
And on Saturday when the ventilator was removed and Bobby began to recover quickly, the reading from the Psalms was:
Our God is a God of salvation and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death (Psalm 68:20)
The hymns from the daily readings also directed my heart and mind to the Cross, to Christ:
Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty
Gracious God, I come before Thee;
Come Thou also unto me.
Where we find Thee and adore Thee,
There a heav’n on earth must be.
To my heart, O enter Thou;
Let it be Thy temple now!
Then is our comfort this alone
That we may meet before Your throne;
To You, O faithful God, we cry
For rescue in our misery.
(from When in the Hour of Deepest Need)
This event would be a roller-coaster ride on a whirlwind in a tornado. One moment there was good news and the next bad. At one point I was informed that should he bleed again there would be nothing they could do so I should go over to him, even though already under anesthesia, and tell him I love him and kiss him. That’s when I crumbled into my best friends arms, handed her my phone and asked her to tell Pastor and our friends. They did not know if he would make it through the 2nd endoscopy. He did…
Fast forward another 36 hours and Bobby had turned a corner and was improving at a speed that made the doctors marvel. One told me that I was lucky that they were doing the procedure when he hemorrhaged. I said to her, “Actually, that was God’s timing, not luck.”
By Saturday morning they had removed the ventilator and the medicines began to be removed from his IV. His blood tests were coming back normal and in good ranges and they moved him, the next morning, up to a regular room where he continued to amaze the doctors and nurses with a quick recovery. He came home Tuesday.
It was a whirlwind of a week from that 4am call of my name and one in which I learned the benefit of belonging to a church (Church of the Augsburg Confession) which has maintained not only fidelity to God’s Word but consistency in applying it.
No one wants a 4am call. No one wants a 4am call two mornings in a row, either. But, the question I would ask you is this:
At 4am where is your source of strength?
Many consider themselves “spiritual and not religious”. Well, Scripture says that Christianity is the One True Religion. Christ founded the Church Himself and to deny attending is to disobey Jesus’ own admonitions. It is also to deny His promise that hell itself will never defeat it.
Your source of strength is not your faith either. Faith is a gift from God through the Word and Sacraments and Christ strengthens and feeds it through serving us with His Own True Body and True Blood. You will never find a more solid and sure source than Christ Himself.
When that 4AM call comes, look to the Cross and Christ.
Where does our help come from?
Our help comes from the LORD. Maker of Heaven and earth