Thanksgiving 2013 will be especially gratitude-to-God filled and overflowing in our family. We read in James 1:17,
“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no
variation or shadow of shifting.”
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! It has been a very good year, though at the beginning it had all the markings of anything but good.
Everything we have is a gift from God, and the very nature of a gift is that it is freely given and not owed. More exactly, when it comes to God’s gifts to sinners:
It is all better known as GRACE and MERCY. I heard a preacher state and it has stuck deep in me ever since:
“GRACE GIVES US EVERY GOOD THING WE DO NOT DESERVE, AND MERCY
PREVENTS EVERY BAD THING WE DO DESERVE.”
In short, God has graciously and mercifully blessed us coming and going, up and down, and all the way around.
Every day, 365 days a year, we are receivers and God is THE GREAT GIVER; we are blessed and God is THE GREAT BLESSER; we are favored, and God is THE GREAT FAVORER. Fact is, God gives a zillion favors every day to us who are the ill-favored. We have a claim to nothing but the bad, and God keeps on pouring out upon us the good.
This past year for the Klingenberg family has been a very, very, very good year. Let me explain in this Thanksgiving tribute to our most gracious and merciful Lord.
RICKIE THE ROCK
Her name is JACKIE DAWN. I call her RICKIE THE ROCK. I have given nicknames to all of our children, and hers has special meaning. The name RICKIE admittedly is mostly there for rhyme reasons, because JACKIE THE ROCK just doesn’t have the rhythm that RICKIE THE ROCK does.
RICKIE THE ROCK has great significance to me. She has been solid as a rock in her faith through some very deep valleys and extremely hard trials. Unwavering! I also call her ROCKY THE ROCK. Strong in the Lord! Solid as a rock for sure! She has taught me so much in her 47 years of life.
She is a wife and mother of 4 wonderful children (our awesome grandchildren) – Samuel, Megan, Tyler, and Elise Mae. She and her dear husband Craig, our beloved son-in-law, wanted more children. She became pregnant with Shannon, their unborn baby daughter. An ultra sound early on showed that their precious baby girl was what is termed an anencephaly baby. That means there is no brain, only a brain stem. This condition is thought to be a result of a lack of folic acid in the body of the mother.
The doctors told Craig and Jackie that if the child wasn’t born dead, she would die minutes after birth. They strongly advised them to have an abortion as is most commonly done in such instances.
RICKIE THE ROCK and her husband Craig would have none of this abortion recommendation. As Jackie told her doctor:
“WE ARE BELIEVING GOD TO HEAL OUR DAUGHTER, AND WE WANT TO GIVE THE
LORD EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO DO WHAT HE ALONE CAN DO. ABORTION
IS OUT OF THE QUESTION.”
You talk about RICKIE THE ROCK’S AND HUSBAND CRAIG’S ROCK SOLID example of FAITH, as we read in Hebrews 11:1,
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen.”
Not easy! The doctors showed them the pictures of Shannon’s missing brain. It was there, or should we say that it wasn’t there, right before their eyes. Indisputable evidence that tiny Shannon was terminally afflicted! But faith in God operates upon a totally different basis, and surmounts all of the visible difficulties – total trust in the unseen God. In the Christian life:
“THE UNSEEN GOD INFINITELY OUTWEIGHS ALL SEEN AND
But more than this, we read in Mark 12:27,
“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
“LIFE IS GOD’S CALLING CARD, HIS ESSENCE, HIS MO, HIS SIGNATURE.”
Satan always signs with DEATH. Abortion is Satan’s calling card, his signature, not God’s. That is why:
“THE TRUE CHRISTIAN’S FAITH MUST NOT ONLY BE LIVING, BUT LIVELY.
ABORTION IS DEADLY.”
The day of Shannon’s birth finally arrived. We with RICKIE THE ROCK’S family were in the hospital that incredible morning. Needless to say, no matter how ROCK SOLID THE FAITH, there still was the human elements of apprehension and angst.
The miracle of God wasn’t quite what we expected. In the hospital delivery room that day in Pontiac, Michigan, there was no standing room left. Why? Because it was filled with doctors and nurses who came to see a miracle that they never otherwise would ever see:
“AN ANENCEPHALY BABY BORN, FOR ALL SUCH BABIES ARE ABORTED,
The testimony of faith in Jesus Christ by Craig and Jackie was palpable all over that delivery room.
Precious little Shannon our granddaughter, after birth lived for just a little over 30 minutes. In those beyond-precious moments, we all were given by RICKIE THE ROCK a few priceless seconds to hold Shannon to our hearts. For all of us it was both an all-to-quick loving hello and a heartrending. breathless goodbye. Time stood still and yet raced, and that fleeting, holy life named Shannon will forever be etched in our minds and our hearts.
Baby daughter Shannon breathed her last in the arms of her mother – this MATRIARCH OF FAITH who I still call to this day RICKIE THE ROCK. Shannon has been in Heaven now going on 18 earth years, but in fact she has already had and always will have an eternity of perfect love and joy in the arms of Jesus who once said in Matthew 19:14,
“Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
MANY ARE THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE RIGHTEOUS
CRAIG AND RICKIE THE ROCK lost another baby prematurely – son Casey. As they say, he miscarried, but with God there are no misses. Casey joined his sister Shannon in the glorious light of Heaven without ever seeing the dim light of earth. They both await their parents and their brothers and sisters. What a day of rejoicing that will be, when we with them will all see Jesus, and sing and shout the victory.
Trials! Some of God’s children seemed to be tried more than others. Some, much more! But then, the Lord of the Word told us that this is the way it would be. We read in Psalm 34:19,
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers
him out of them all.”
However the Lord takes His children out of their afflictions, or takes their afflictions out of them, the truth is, the righteous, those who walk in obedience to God, will have lots of afflictions in their lives. Multiply afflicted! We have the Lord’s Word on that.
I have known the words of Romans 8:28 since I was a child. It goes like this:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for
good to those who love God, to those who are called
according to His purpose.”
There it is in plain words, namely, that God is at work in all things, happy and sad, easy and hard, good and bad, peaceful and painful – ALL THINGS.
Not only that:
“BUT HE CAUSES ALL THINGS TO WORK FOR THE GOOD OF THOSE WHO
LOVE HIM – NOT SOME THINGS BUT ALL THINGS.”
Much more easily stated than understood! Truly:
“IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO DO ANYTHING BUT WHAT IS RIGHT, BUT
IT IS VERY POSSIBLE FOR US WHO ARE WEAK AND FALLIBLE,
NOT TO DISCERN THE GOOD THAT HE IS UP TO IN THE
MIDST OF THE BAD.”
All that I can say after 73 years of life and 47 years of ministry is this:
“WHEN WE HAVE THOSE TIMES WHEN WE THINK THAT GOD’S WAYS ARE
FAR FROM PERFECT, WE MUST REMEMBER THAT THE IMPERFECTION
IS NOT IN GOD BUT IN OUR UNDERSTANDING.”
So it was in February 2013 that we were told that RICKIE THE ROCK had come down with STAGE FOUR OVARIAN CANCER. Ovarian cancer is called the SILENT KILLER, because in its stealthy, sinister nature it does not let you know for some time that it is there and doing its evil work.
“Stage Four” means that it is has spread above and below the diaphragm. Our dear Jackie had cancer throughout her female organs, her abdominal wall, her gall bladder, her stomach apron, her chest, with cancer-filled fluid in her lung. She had a large cancerous tumor mass all intertwined with her female organs. So advanced was it, that her cancer blood marker was 2,224. That marker when normal and non-cancerous is 35 or lower.
Needless to say, it always happens to others, not to us. But when it happens to us, the reactions are major shock and disbelief. Suddenly the sun goes under thick, dark clouds. As a matter of fact, the sun suddenly and totally sinks out of sight on a far and distance horizon, so far away that it seems that the sun will never rise and shine again. The long, dark night of great affliction had only just begun.
AN UNSPEAKABLE JOURNEY OF UNBEARABLE LOVE
One never really knows how much he or she loves someone, until that loved one’s life is eminently threatened, or until that dearly beloved has to go through unspeakable suffering. That is because, even in the strongest love, we take each other for granted. Life and love are presumed upon, and therefore the lives of our loved ones are not highly treasured as they should be each and every moment.
We have heard the phrase more as poetry than hard prose:
“LIFE HANGS UPON A SLENDER THREAD.”
Yet, as often as we have heard it, we still treat the slender thread as a strong rope. That is until the distance between life and death suddenly is very narrow, and we feel the cold breath of death breathing down our necks.
Then it is that the strong love that has always been there overwhelms. As our RICKIE THE ROCK began her unspeakably torturous six month journey of chemotherapy, not only did the awful sense of helplessness set in, but even more, the desire to take our daughter’s place.
Every day, every minute! Her unceasing nausea and vomiting! Just the smell of food would make her heave. She told us to think of the worst case of stomach flu we ever had, and multiply it by ten. “Please Lord,” I would pray, “take if from her and give it to me.”
Six of the strongest chemo applications available! One application per month for six months. Alternating between painful constipation and extreme diarrhea! Nothing seemed to be able to be regulated! Too much of this, and too little of that! The terribly hurtful removals of fluid from her lung, for ovarian cancer produces fluid there! Battling blood clots with blood thinners! On and on and on the unspeakable journey went! God, take it from her and give it to me!
There is a statement in the Bible that has all sorts of powerful implications. We read in Psalm 63:3,
“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, My lips
shall praise Thee.”
Where God’s unbearable love fills our hearts for someone, and we are made to experience its incredible power, then:
“WHERE GOD’S LOVE TAKES OVER YOUR HEART, YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND
THAT YOU LOVE THAT BELOVED ONE MORE THAN YOUR OWN LIFE.”
And you see:
“THAT IS WHEN YOU DISCOVER THAT LOVE WHICH IS BETTER THAN LIFE,
AND THAT LIFE ITSELF MUST BE GIVEN FOR THE LOVED
ONE OF YOUR DEEPEST HEART.”
It is hard to put into words. It is unspeakable! Love not only then has your tongue, but your entire life too. Then it is that a father and mother discover that they would rather be stripped of their entire earthly estate with all of its belongings, than to be bereaved of their daughter. If you will:
“IF WE COULD NOT HAVE HER, THEN NOTHING ELSE
IS WORTH HAVING.”
GOD’S MIRACLE MERCY AND MIGHT
2013 has been a blinding blur! The only way that we were able to face each new day was on our knees. Not only daily, but in reality, minute by minute we cried out for help and healing from Heaven. For the first time in my life, I must admit, I not only understood but actually lived the reality of I Thessalonians 5:17,
“Pray without ceasing.”
The doctors told us the gravity of the illness, and that nothing less than the Heavenly interposing of a miracle could save our RICKIE. Her oncologist prayed with me on the telephone, and told me that he believed in the miracle Jesus, and that he would prayerfully trust Him with us for His miracle mercy and might. That reassurance was like liquid peace being poured over my spirit – it wasn’t in the hands of Dr. Chris by his own admission, but in the hands of Dr. Christ.
Churches all over Michigan prayed with us. Christians across America and Canada joined the praying warriors on behalf of Jackie Dawn.
Praying warriors you say? Yes indeed, this was and is a battle against the enemy. If ever a disease reminds me of Satan himself, it is this wretched cancer. Working under cover, giving at first no evidence of its killing power, and having such tenacity, that nothing less than literally second-by-second prayer can even begin to phase it. And even if it takes a hit, like Satan, its MO is to return with a vengeance at a more opportune time. Just like Satan in Luke 4:13,
“And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed
from Him until an opportune time.”
Satan is an adept opportunist! So is ovarian cancer!
Then one day we received the astonishing news that the cancer blood marker had gone down from 2,224 to 45. Then it went down to 17, and then to 12. Could it really be? Thirty five and below is the safe zone. It dazzled our minds and astounded our hearts. It was Heaven’s treasuries of mercy and might poured out upon us.
Oh yes indeed, God used the chemotherapy, and He mercifully and powerfully heard and answered the loving and faithful prayers of His people. But the fact is – HE DID IT! For by the doctor’s own forewarnings, that same chemo- therapy doesn’t always work and is often resisted. Hear what we heard the Spirit of God say to us:
“DO NOT FOCUS UPON THE MEDICAL MEANS SO MUCH, THAT YOU LOSE
SIGHT OF THE GREAT AND ONLY MIRACLE WORKER BEHIND IT ALL.”
The decision was quickly made to proceed to what is referred to as DEBULKING SURGERY, in order to remove whatever was left of the cancer in her abdomen. The surgeon after 2 ½ hours came and told us that all he found was dead tissue clobbered by the chemo. He took out of her everything that had been cancer invaded, and then said that as far as he could tell:
“JACKIE DAWN – RICKIE THE ROCK – WAS NOW CANCER FREE.”
We all joined in a prayer circle with the surgeon, and as we lifted up prayers of gratitude to our merciful and mighty God, he fell to the floor on his knees and with us gave God all the glory. Miracles were following miracles, and God wasn’t done yet.
When is enough, enough? Jackie did not come out of the anesthetic when it was time. The next day, she slipped deeper and deeper into a coma. Eyes partly opened and glazed, but no one was home. Her brain activity sunk to an alarming low. The possibility of hospice was suggested, and our spirits once more were being severely tried. The surgeon told us in all alarming candor, that he did not know why she had become comatose. And he went on to tell us that he had seen instances like this before, and in certain cases the patients never came back.
The call for prayer went out again! We needed Divine mercy extended and deepened. It was on the fifth day of her coma, and I was scheduled to preach in Vassar Assembly of God in Vassar, Michigan on a Sunday morning. I did not want to cancel the appointment. In truth, we needed to be with the people of God.
Before the sermon, I asked the congregation to stand with me, and lift their hearts and hands to God in intercession for my RICKIE THE ROCK. They did so with loud voices and extended arms and hands toward Heaven. Many gave their hearts to Christ that morning, as the Holy Spirit did what only He could do – convict sinners of their sins and their need to give their hearts to Jesus. No matter what, His Kingdom work must go forth.
My dear wife Ruthie and I made our way after the service to the hospital in Grand Blanc, Michigan. We fully expected to see our daughter in her hospital bed lingering in her coma. The doctor had suggested that it could be the result of what he referred to as CHEMO-BRAIN. Brain damage! Those words went deep into our hearts.
But, as we approached the doorway, to our euphoric shock, we saw RICKIE THE ROCK sitting up in a chair by her hospital bed. She looked at me and said two of the most beautiful words that I have ever heard from her lips, “Hi Dad!”
God Almighty!!! This more than ever was too great to be measured by anything finite. As our knees buckled, we realized that the entire room was filled with Divine power and glory, and that the signature of the Lord Jesus Christ was written all over it, and no one else’s. In the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 118:23,
“This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Tomorrow we shall celebrate Thanksgiving Day with our precious RICKIE THE ROCK, her husband and family. It will be a Thanksgiving unlike any other we have ever known. We are meeting at a very fine restaurant, and the weather report is for snow all day. North Pole here we come, and no weather will stop us.
Jackie is fully alive, and it will be a festival of praise and gratitude to our God Who has done wonders. The people shall hear thereof and be glad. No one knows it, but I will stand up in the restaurant dining room and declare the mighty acts of God. May the Lord Jesus Christ be praised!
The Psalmist continues in Psalm 118:28-29,
“THOU ART MY GOD, AND I GIVE THANKS TO THEE, THOU ART MY GOD,
AND I EXTOL THEE.” “GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS
GOOD, FOR HIS LOVINGKINDNESS IS EVERLASTING.”