#STORY11 :: Ed Dobson

 Ed Dobson, pastor emeritus of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serves as an advisory editor for Christianity Today and consulting editor for Leadership. He holds an earned doctorate from the University of Virginia, was named “Pastor of the Year” by Moody Bible Institute, and is author of numerous books, including Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness. He moved to the United States in 1964 from Northern Ireland and now lives with his family in Grand Rapids.
  • I am a tad happy to be here. :)
  • It began with twitches in my muscles, and in bed at night my whole back was twitching. My wife said, “you need to go see a doctor.” And me being typically male, I ignored her. For 7 or 8 months I had these twitches in my muscles. Then one day I was writing my sermon notes and I had this strange sensation that my brain and my hand were not connected. So that Sunday at church, there was a neurologist sitting right behind me, so I leaned over to him before I got up to preach and I told him what was going on. I asked what he thought. He said, I think you better come see me tomorrow. It took 15 minutes to examine me. He said these twitches might be benign. But he also says, I may have ALS. It is a disease where the neurons die. So my muscles quit working.
  • They gave me 2 to 5 years to live. There is no known cause, and no known cure. The best I can describe it, in Israel up over the mount of Olives is the ancient town of Bethlehem. There is the tomb of Lazarus. It is an authentic temple burial chamber. It is cold, cholosterphobic, damp, and dark. That is how it feels when you get diagnosed and told your dying.
  • I’ve heard that if you’re ever told you’re dying, you’ll really get serious about reading the Bible. I found the opposite to be true. I was really attached to the people that I’m near.
  • So the question facing me, “How do I climb back up the staircase to the warmth and the sunshine?”
  • I’m sitting on my porch in the winter alone, and I’m thinking this is it. This will be my last Christmas ever on earth. And for some reason I picked up the Bible, and it quote ‘accidentally’ opened to Moses’ last message to Israel, in which he says “I have set before you life and death.” If you keep the Torah you will live, and if you disregard the Torah you will die. He goes on to say “choose life that you may live.”
  • I realized I have a choice to make. I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I could choose to take one step toward the light, or I could give up, lay down in the tomb and die. And I remember sitting there saying “God help me to live.”
  • There are no guarantees of tomorrow. I know it with every fiber of my being. The only day I have is now, and I want to live it to it’s fullest for the glory of God.
  • We live for the glory of God every single day to the fullest.
  • So now that I know I’m dying I decided to make a list of all the people I have offended and call them or go see them to apologize. It was quite a list.
  • James Dobson was on the list. Jerry Falwell was on the list. I had written a book called “Why the Religious Right Cannot Save America” and Jim and Jerry were a tad ticked :)
  • I struggled with calling them because I knew if I called they would assume they were right and I was wrong and I knew all along I was right :) but I decided relationship is way more important than who is right or who is wrong. 
  • I have learned to be quick to listen and very very very slow to judge.
  • The hardest part was quitting my job. I loved teaching. I loved funerals. I loved weddings. I loved counseling. I even liked board meetings.
  • So walking away from what I loved and what God had called me to do was incredibly difficult.
  • The last Sunday we did communion because Iw anted the crouwd to know it was about Jesus, not me. During the second service I was so overcome with emotion I had to leave early. I went down the back stairs, walked quick to my office because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. People would say “how are you doing?” I’m thinking “terrible! I’m leaving the one thing that brings me joy that God has called me to do.” As I walk past the back entrance, a couple walks in, and the guy says, “can I talk to you?” I was still paid to be nice, so I said sure :)
  • He said, “Friday I was diagnosed with ALS and we have been coming to your church for 12 years.” I didn’t even know them. “We have never come to this service, and we have never walked in that door, and on the way I prayed ‘God, help me to talk to Ed.'” And I realized in the worst moment of my life, God showed up.
  • The next day I went down to my study. I had a cell phone that I threatened in the grand river because it rang all the time. The day after I quit, the cell phone never rang. I even called my wife to have her call me to see if it was working. And I sat there surrounded by my books with nothing to do.
  • About a year later I decided to spend a year trying to live like Jesus. So I went to the synagogue. Obersved the feast and festivals. Grew out my beard. Ate kosher. I listened to the Gospel every week.
  • During the year I had a Rabbi, a Catholic Priest, and an Orthodox Priest help me think through Jesus. It was an incredible experience.
  • I have also written a book called “Prayers and Promises”
  • When my son was on his second tour of Iraq compliements of the US army, he read the book, and when he came back he said “You know dad, the stories you tell would make wonderful short films.” So we began a journey led us to Flannel and David C. Cook. We have 5 films done, and 2 more to go.
  • The idea of the films is to give a sense of hope to those who have had the air knocked out of them.
  • When you’re living in the future it is hard to find God. When you’re living in the moment He is right there with you.

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