Unexpected Gifts

      If you are a card-carrying Christian (especially Pentecostal) who believes in the power of prayer, this little essay may be of interest. If you lean more toward the atheistic, agnostic, or “who cares?” approach, there are other articles on this blog which may be more appealing. However, as for me and my house (to quote scripture), we choose to believe that there is a God, whose name is Jesus Christ, who does, in fact, take a personal interest in our well being. Not that we are promised a bed of roses or instant prosperity…the scriptures do not insinuate that, but rather at the moments when we least expect it sometimes, God somehow interjects an outcome, pushes a button, touches a soul, or something and the issues which we have been agonizing over somehow vanish. Jesus talks about a father giving gifts to his children, and so it is with those Christians who have become (according to scripture) children of God. At moments when it is least expected, we receive gifts from Him, and we can only marvel about his concern, love, and help.
      I believe in God’s healing and the power of prayer (See my blog “Is Healing Outdated?”) In the last few days I have experienced a couple of events which left me shaking my head and simply muttering, “Thank you, Lord.” One event is nearly inconsequential, unless it has happened to you, whereas the second had a much greater effect on my outlook and plans. It happened like this……
      About ten days ago, right in the middle of Houston’s first real heat spell, my home air conditioner decided to begin malfunctioning. During the middle of the night, the AC would quit cooling, the house would heat up to the point we began to awaken to an uncomfortably stuffy room. I know a little about air conditioning (not much), but I determined that the evaporator upstairs was freezing up and blocking the flow of air. I shut the AC off, left the fan blower running, and in about an hour the ice had melted, and I was able to switch the AC back on and survive the night. To an AC tech, these symptoms usually point to low freon in the cooling system. Same thing happened the next night.
      Since I have a maintenance warranty (now of questionable value) on our home we have lived in for a couple of years, I contacted our friendly representative who promised to send a man out…in three days. Well, I monitored the system during the nights and we survived, and the service tech eventually showed up. He was friendly enough, and as he went up in our attic to look at the system, I went to my office to fiddle with my computer. Fifteen minutes later I hadn’t heard a sound, so I went downstairs, and he was already sitting in his truck preparing an invoice. “Everything checks out fine,” he said. I asked about the nighttime freezing up and he said simply he didn’t know but everything was OK. I asked about the freon and he said it was full, and then said, “That’ll be sixty dollars.” Well, I reluctantly paid him, and off he went.
      I decided after he left that there had to be a problem which caused the AC to freeze, and in addition when the AC was running it would not lower the inside temperature down to a comfortable level. I decided to check the attic myself. Attics in homes in Houston during summer months are really not very good places to be, but when I climbed up into ours, it was as cool as the rooms in my house. I looked at the AC system and instantly saw that some of the ducting had come unsealed and loose and a good portion of my cool air was going into my ceiling. A quick trip to Home Depot for heavy duty duct tape and an hour in the attic and all was properly sealed. I felt pretty good. That night, however, I had another freezing episode, though not as severe, and I decided I needed someone to confirm that my AC system was working properly, while at the same time I knew it wasn’t. The question was who to call? I asked around, but no one could offer a name. I knew no one in the AC business, and I have this psychological aversion to offering blank checks to unknown service techs. I have this phobia concerning any kind of service personnel, be it auto mechanic, plumber, electrician, or whatever. You never know what you’re getting.
      Finally, in desperation, I got the Yellow Pages out and decided I needed to call someone. I was due for surgery in less than a week, and I didn’t want my family to have to battle with an AC system while I was out of pocket. With a sudden impulse, I placed the Yellow pages on the kitchen table, placed my hand on the cover and prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, I really need an honest, dependable service man at this time. Help me locate such a person.” I opened the book, located the AC service companies, slid my finger down to an ad which caught my eye, and called. The lady said she would contact their tech and have him call me. Two minutes later Jeff, the AC Tech, called. I explained my problem, told him where I lived, and he said, “I’m less than a mile away. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
      Jeff arrived and was friendly, professional, and extremely informative. He suggested I watch and walked me through every test he performed, explaining each one. In thirty minutes my AC was happily humming along, this time with a new dose of freon and sparkling clean. His fee was very reasonable. I was happy as a clam. I asked him about the first technician who came, and he said the guy probably looked at my relatively new system, decided he couldn’t sell me anything major, and took off to the next more profitable customer. In closing he asked me why I had called his company. Was it the newspaper ad? Yellow Pages? A reference? I told him I had put my hand on the Yellow Pages and prayed for a good tech. He said, “Well, you did good…you got one.” I have already referred two other homeowners to his company. And if my AC sneezes again in the future, I know whom I’m calling. Was this a mighty miracle that will make news in the religious circles? Not hardly. But for me, it was a touch of His hand for which I am very grateful.
      Turning to a more significant event, in February of this year I began experiencing gradually more severe left hip pain. Before, on days that I was strenuously active, my hip would hurt, but a little Tylenol would do the trick. But with the new year, the pain no longer went away after a time of rest. Shirley had experienced a knee replacement a year or so ago, so I decided to contact her orthopedic surgeon for an examination. At first, the doctor diagnosed a pulled muscle and treated it with a cortisone shot and pain medication. For a few weeks it seemed to help, but the pain eventually returned more severe than ever. In early May, he suggested an MRI, and, upon examining the results, declared that I was in dire need of a hip replacement. The surgery was scheduled for June 7, and for nearly a month I was in such severe pain that even heavy doses of hydrocodone would not completely knock it out. I used a cane for support when I walked. During this time I was prayed for several times at church.
      The Tuesday before the Thursday surgery, I received the shocking news that my surgeon, in his fifties, tall, slim, the picture of health, with no prior problems, had unexpectedly passed away from a fatal heart attack that morning. His office was in shock. They gave me the name of another surgeon and I made an appointment to visit him the following Tuesday. That morning I entered the clinic fearing that I would have to go back to square one with new tests, etc., and my surgery would be delayed for another month, and I would have more pain to look forward to. Sure enough, the doctor wanted new tests and x-rays since my old ones were now three months old. Within an hour all the tests were completed, and we sat in his office awaiting the verdict.
      I can tell you he floored me when he said, “Mr. Downing, in my opinion you do not need hip replacement surgery. There is some wear there, but you are a long way away from a hip replacement. You are experiencing pain from an inflammation of bursitis on the surface of the pelvic bone and arthritis in the hip joint. These things we can treat with medication and therapy.” He prescribed a cortisone shot to the hip surface and a steroid shot to the joint, and was surprised that I had not been prescribed an anti-inflammation medication previously. I received the cortisone shot and began to feel better instantly…not pain-free, but better, and was scheduled for the steroid shot the next day, Wednesday. I was a little concerned about that one, because it is administered with the doctor using x-ray to guide the needle to the right spot in the joint, and it is a long needle.
      But the steroid shot was amazingly painless, albeit scary looking. As I talked with the administering doctor, I told him what had brought me to that point and that I had previously been scheduled for surgery. He looked at my hip x-rays and stated, “Well, I think I agree with Doctor Cuellar, your hip joint’s not so bad as to require surgery. At last, a corroborating witness. When I rose up off the table, I could tell the difference. He said a steroid shot takes 24-48 hours to take full effect, but I was feeling pretty good already. We went downstairs to set up a schedule for therapy, and eventually made our way back home. Wednesday night, we went to church, and I walked in cane-free and feeling pretty good. I slept like a baby that evening and the next morning I felt no pain for the first time in several weeks. My doctor made no promises and said simply that the medication and therapy should alleviate the situation. Hip replacement may be in the future, but for now, it’s on hold. I am very grateful.
      Did God protect me from a misdiagnosis from the first doctor by taking him out of the picture? I think that would be a harsh judgment and would rather be of the opinion that He just guided the events to a point which allowed me to receive the treatment I needed. Could he have touched my hip and improved it to the point that surgery was no longer needed? Sure, it’s possible, but one would have to compare the tests taken three months apart. I prefer to think it was just another unexpected gift from my Heavenly Father… given not because it was deserved, but simply a token of His love and affection.