December 15, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

An Advent story about a summertime healing

Shirley Vogler MeisterAs though frozen in a touch-the-floor exercise, the young man bent forward with his legs apart and his head and arms down.

Muscles taut, his body glistened. Perspiration dropped from his ears and forehead, yet his skin was icy to the touch. He was bare from the waist up. Sweat-soaked fleece pants looked the color of dark blood.

Through shallow breaths, he whispered, “Ma’am, I think I’m going to pass out.”

My sister, Beverley, and I encountered this emergency situation when we stopped at her son and daughter-in-law’s apartment as they packed for a move. It was a fiercely hot day.

“This man needs a doctor,” Bev said.

Her son ran across the hall to use a neighbor’s telephone because his phone was already disconnected.

Wanting to help the young man relieve his locked muscles, Bev and I gently massaged the man’s back and arms to no avail. We wiped his brow and wet his lips. He could take no liquid in that position, and he was nauseous.

Curious as to why my nephew was gone so long, I went to the neighbor’s apartment and learned that 911 did not answer so Jim called an ambulance service. I thanked the neighbor for the use of her phone then explained what was wrong.

“I’m going over,” she said, heading for her door.

“Are you a nurse?” I asked with hope.

“No, but I’m a believer,” she remarked quietly. Seeing skepticism in my face, she smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to do anything weird.”

She left and I waited for Jim. When we returned to his apartment, the neighbor’s arms were wrapped around the stricken man’s torso.

She moved one hand to his forehead and prayed, “Lord, help this man breathe. Loosen his muscles. Be with him now … in Jesus’ name. …”

Her prayers tumbled forth repeatedly with calm authority.

The man, still bent over, breathed easier then slowly relaxed his fingers. There was a sense of relief about him—and us.

Bev and I and the neighbor cautiously coaxed his knotted body onto a chair, placing his rigid legs on another. He was still in serious trouble when the paramedics arrived.

All we knew about him was his name, Harold, and that he was working for the two main movers who seemed more concerned about “getting this load on the road” than about their co-worker. However, one man did press a roll of bills into my hand—Harold’s pay as a “day worker.”

Following the ambulance to the hospital, we wondered, “Was that faith healing?”

Impressed, we knew it was more than stress-easing technique. We felt the power of love and witnessed the truth of James 5:16—“The prayer of a righteous person has great power. …”

The rest of Harold’s story will be published in this column in the Christmas issue next week.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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