Last week, we said good-bye to some new, near and dear friends who were driving across the country and wanted to stop by on their way through Texas and give us five days of respite care. The husband is an anesthesiologist and the wife was an occupational therapist before she took time out to rear and homeschool their six children. So they were perfectly outfitted to care for Peter. The interesting thing is that we’d never laid eyes on them before they showed up at our front door.
Their 17-year-old son had come across the Pray for Peter facebook group as a result of their mutual affiliation with a national homeschool speech and debate organization. Though we had never met, we prayed and were inclined to take them up on their offer. On their arrival, it seemed like we had known them all along, and they definitely bore the “family resemblance,” (to Christ, that is). We spent some good time together as a family and Doug was able to put in some extra time on some pastoral duties.
Peter continues to make small improvements–in holding up his head for longer, in some object and family recognition, in more cooperative muscle efforts when we are on the mat, and so on.
1. That Peter will continue to make progress in understanding language, in recognition, and in muscle control.
2. That we will have wisdom as we care for him at home, to be able to “catch” anything that needs a doctor’s attention.
3. That we will be patient with the back and forth progress of a brain injury. One doctor told us that recovery from a brain injury was like a graph of the stock market–a lot of ups and downs, highs and lows, but overall trending upward.
4. That the Lord will continue to provide the family with strength and health as we care for Peter, as well as to provide other help through the Body of Christ.
While rummaging through Peter’s closet the other day, looking for something else, I stumbled across these, Peter’s Goals for 2006. He was 13:
I think that some of my highlights of 2005 are
. . . I am glad that my parents put me in more classes than usual this year so that I might have trust in them more, as a result. I am glad of the numerous books that God has used to strengthen my [doctrine] and my joy in fearing God–The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I have become, I think, a little less sensitive and a little more teachable. The Holy Spirit has taught me that by thinking I know better what’s good for me than others who see my character with its vices every day, I prove that “the heart is deceitful above all things.” Also, I think I may be growing into a better relationship with my siblings by trying to be benevolent in all things no matter what they do or how hurt I feel. I think this growth was triggered specifically by a conversation I had months ago about having a Christ-like attitude. . . .
Some defeats of 2005 are . . . I have neglected to be on the watch many times. I have done things that I would not want to be exposed on Judgment Day. I need to have a reinforcement of the fact that God sees all, but more than that, I hope I will shun evil and desire to glorify God in what I say, do and think, even if I am alone. . . . Sometimes I don’t take pleasure in spiritual subjects and do not wish to partake in them. I think a product of this attitude is being too silly and trying to avoid being serious at the right times. . . . I hope that by the Spirit’s work in me, I can avoid this tendency and be diligent and eager in sharing spiritual thoughts with believers and non-believers.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This coming year, by God’s grace, I hope that I can strive with zeal and vigor to proclaim God’s worthiness and show my joy in Him to the world. I hope I can learn more about His sovereignty and love so that I will pour forth in praise to the Lord Jesus. I hope that I will this year, glorify God in everything and in every way, and avoid any excuses for not glorifying God. . . .
1. I hope I can improve and strengthen my prayer life. I resolve not to make prayer something I only do on evenings or at church. I also resolve to pray earnestly and without holding anything back. As an overshadow or summary, I resolve to pray to God, and not to ceremony or to myself.
2. . . .I hope I can have an earnest and serious demeanor when I pray and read my Bible. Time-wise, I hope I can be diligent enough in my reading of the Bible to finish it all by the end of 2006. But more importantly, I hope that the Holy Spirit will use what I read to strengthen me spiritually.
3. I also resolve to be a minister spiritually to everyone I come into contact with. With the body of believers, I hope I can be diligent in encouraging them spiritually, even if they do not return it. With non-believers, I hope I can minister to them with compassion and boldness, not telling them what they want to hear, or what I feel is as much as I have the courage to say, but rather what the Bible says. . . .
4. Vices to kill: Pride–Confess with humility to God specific instances of pride, rather than just saying “Please forgive me for all the pride I exhibited today.” Also, make it a practice to ask forgiveness of the fellow men that I offended by my proud attitudes.
Anger–Consider that if God had justly carried out his righteousness anger against mankind, I would languish in Hell. Seek to emulate God’s mercy. Also, there is an infinitely greater distance between Christ and sinners than between me and the person that has wronged me.
5. Virtues to strengthen:
Obedience to parents–realize that they know more than I do and that they love me. Also, realize that as I am obeying them I am obeying God, Exodus 20.
Holiness–Realize that no thought is neutral. Either it is glorifying to God or dishonoring to Him. Strive to have praiseworthy and true thoughts. Destroy anything in me that would promote unholiness.
Meekness–Consider Christ’s meek example in suffering for sinners. Also, James 3:17 says that meekness is a characteristic of wisdom.
Resolved to (selections from):
–Read the Bible through with humbleness and a pure attitude . . .
–Strive to bring specific sins into light and to destroy them.
–Make it a regular practice to talk to my peers about spiritual things. Lead, don’t just follow.
–Keep fellow believers accountable. Confront when I have to. Also, listen when they confront me.
–Minister to believers of all ages. Don’t hold back if they are a lot different than me. Galatians 3:28.
–If possible, continue “Christ in the Classics” sculpture series.
–Maintain friendships with Joe, Nathan and Reuben and develop good friendships with the Hughes boys. Don’t close doors to other friendships just because I have good ones right now.
–Write edifying emails to brothers during 2006 (Andrew and Caleb were both at college in Tennessee that year).
–Improve in friendliness, etiquette and good “hostmanship.”
Every year for many of the past 27, Doug and I get away in early January for a mini-retreat and planning session. We evaluate our own souls; we do a “marriage review”; we scrutinize our ministry; and we discuss the life of each child that year–all the while looking over each category for strengths that we need to shore up and weaknesses we need to hone the rough edges from as we begin the new year. We pray and ask the Lord to guide us and give us wisdom on past and future.
After we “review” the year with each other, our tradition included meeting individually with each child as a a threesome, commending them for the character we’ve seen in them, listening to their own desires and goals for the year, and challenging them in areas regarding their own spiritual growth. We took pains to do this all very thoroughly. Then we would all go out to eat to their favorite restaurant and celebrate the New Year together.
As they grew older, we turned more and more of the evaluation and initiative over to them and just listened, giving feedback and encouragement. Then we would with each child ask the Lord’s blessing and direction on his/her coming year.
The other day, I found Peter’s list of goals for 2009, the year he was sixteen. (We didn’t go on our customary retreat in 2010 because we were maxed out preparing for Caleb and Hope’s January wedding and caring for my ailing mom). I thought his facebook prayer warriors might appreciate reading what he wrote. I am willing to risk that I may “catch it” from Peter one day for posting this, though I’m pretty sure his goodnatured acceptance will kick in once his teen embarrassment factors subside. My comments are in parentheses.
“Peter Helms 2009 New Years Resolutions
1. Spiritual–allot at least 60 minutes each day for prayer and Bible reading. Set alarm clock at 7:30. Keep a journal.
2. Ministry–Keep myself available to help Dad with ministry and evangelism opportunities.
3. Family–Ask advice from Andrew and Caleb about Scouts, debate, girls, and life in general. Keep asking Mom and Dad too.
4. Vocation–Start writing a book about the Four Revolutions. (Peter has been fascinated for a long time with the modern revolutionary age, and as a senior, age 17, gave a lengthy presentation in a Western Civ class on the British, American, French, Russian, Chinese revolutions, the worldviews behind them, and the effects they produced in each culture).
5. Church–Keep friends like ______ and ______ accountable (he named two of his best buddies here). Cultivate friendships with older people in the church.
6. Physical–Go to the RAC (fitness center) with Dad three days a week. Run, lift weights, do basketball, etc. Also do pushups and run every day at home.
7. Friends–Build friendships with people in debate.
8. Miscellaneous–Achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. Complete three merit badges. Have Eagle project ‘mulled over’ and discussed with relevant parties by April. (Peter actually completed his Eagle project the day before his accident and his Scoutmaster and several Scout buddies saw the paperwork through all the channels that he was unable to finish himself. He was awarded the rank of Eagle in November).
9. Work one hour a day on debate.” Now, Peter would want me to make clear that he didn’t meet all these goals, but we go by the proverb that if you aim for the sky, you may get as high as the lamp post, but that aiming for the lamp post will only get you a couple feet off the ground. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom~Psalm 90:12
“Is it ever hard?” and “Do you ever cry?”–questions directed to me by two caring friends we fellowshipped with over the Christmas holidays. “Yes” and “yes,” I’d have to admit.
On the outing we were given last week, Doug and I enjoyed so much the opportunity to get away and Christmas shop and go to “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” and eat out and such. Yet we had our moments. We spent a lot of time in the Fort Worth cultural district, inadvertently passing by Steinway Hall, where Peter performed many times for piano recitals and where his teacher dedicated the evening to Peter a few nights earlier. That was hard. We accidentally parked by the exact spot we remember parking when Peter won an award at the Fort Worth Stock Show Art Contest. We had a picnic in the Botanic Gardens . . . which brought back memories of Concerts in the Gardens we had attended when Peter was a toddler, including how he used to bury his head in Doug’s shoulder when the fireworks went off. Sure, we cried.
And amazingly enough, the other stresses, strains and sorrows of life don’t politely stand aside while we deal with Peter’s recovery process. Sometimes life can just be burdensome.
I’m so glad the Lord put 2 Corinthians 1 in the Bible . . . because the other Corinthians passage had said he won’t give us more than we can bear. In the 2 Corinthians 1 passage, when it speaks of God’s comfort during affliction, Paul informed the church that in Asia, he had experienced a burden “beyond our strength,” so that “we despaired of life itself” (vs. 8). Even “we felt that we had received the sentence of death.” Apparently he felt it WAS more than he could bear. Now this was more like I had been feeling. Then Paul told what followed: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. . . . ” Now the part that includes you prayer warriors: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
When I read this, it made me so grateful for all the faithful prayers of the Lord’s people granted to us this year. You truly can’t imagine. Surely your prayers have delivered us from deadly perils of the soul. No doubt as well, your prayers have battled Satan for the life and recovery of a young man Peter Helms .
On Christmas Eve, some old friends we had not seen in some time dropped by with a festive tin of cookies, a card, and a great deal of love. They gave us healing words. They said that praying for Peter this year had taught them the meaning of intercessory prayer. “For me,” the husband related to us, “it [Peter’s injury] was a situation where I thought God was through this, strengthening my own walk with the Lord and challenging me to pray without ceasing. Never have I had a situation before where God has just compelled me to pray continually over a period of time [like this with Peter].” He told us he prayed intensely for Peter every night before he went to bed. His wife echoed his sentiments; she woke up every morning with Peter on her heart.
This dear couple was, of course, to us, the hands and the mouth sent to us that day by the “Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” to convey His mercy to struggling and sometimes crying pilgrims.
So on this last day of our challenging year, I want to extend warmest thanks for all the Helms family for your diligent and fervent prayers. They are availing much in the Helms family. Whatever the Lord makes of Peter’s future life, I know the debt he owes will make him belong twice over to the Body of Christ. He will be wholly yours by virtue of the faithful prayers you have offered on his behalf.