“I Don’t Have The Right To Pray”

Praying hands

Prayer is the most powerful privilege given to man and unfortunately the least understood Biblical mandate given to both believers and non-believers by our sovereign God. It is through the prayer of faith that God redeems a lost sinner by His grace. It is through prayer and obedience a believer matures and becomes conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through believing prayer the windows of heaven are opened according to His will. As children of God, we are commanded by God to “call upon me and I will answer and show you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Despite the unbelievable and eternal riches available to everyone there are those who still refuse the offer. Such was the case of a surgical patient of mine whom I will call Robert, who was approximately sixty-eight years old.

Robert was referred by another physician who had done a colonoscopy with polyp biopsy and had encountered sudden and uncontrolled bleeding of some magnitude. I immediately left my clinic filled with patients and met Robert in the emergency room. His vital signs were stable, but he was quite anxious because his treating physician had correctly told him he needed an immediate operation. Within the hour all preliminary testing was completed including typing and cross-matching for two units of blood, and he was taken to the operating room. The operation involved the surgical opening of the distal colon (large intestine), location of the bleeding polyp, removal of the polyp and suturing the actively bleeding area. The blood loss although large did not require transfusion, and his post-operative recovery was free from complications.

During his initial post-operative office visit we had a conversation on how quickly his physician recognized the extent of his problem and immediately sent him to the emergency room for surgical care. I said he should be prayerfully thanking God for his doctor and for his rapid recovery when he said the following; “I don’t ever pray.” “Do you mind me asking why?” I replied. “I don’t believe I have the right to pray because of what I did during World War II. I took things away from men which I was not able to return. I ruthlessly and deliberately killed many men.” This was forty-five years earlier, and the shame he still carried as he told his story broke my heart.

He had been selected along with at least one hundred men to be part of a special combat unit which today might be the equivalent of a Special Forces unit. They were trained separately under cover from the rest of the combat units, and during this intense training time were informed of some of their assignments. They were not to wear uniforms indicating their ranks, and each man would be given specific orders for their assignments going forward. Robert said they would be given photographs and information concerning men in various cities who were enemies of the Allied Forces. They were supposed to locate those men and use whatever methods necessary to kill them. According to Robert most of their targets were civilians rather than military.

I’m not certain how long Robert remained on active duty in the unit, but when the war was declared over the men remaining alive were placed on a ship in the North Sea and remained on board for the next several months. Also on the ship were doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers whose responsibilities were to de-program the men and rehabilitate them back into civilian life. The emotional wounds from their war experiences were very deep. In effect these brave men had been trained as military assassins.

When Robert relived some of those experiences which he had buried long ago he was visibly moved to tears. He reiterated his belief he was unworthy to pray and could not pray. My response to him was, “Robert, I want to tell you some wonderful news about our loving God.” I emphasized we are all sinners and because of our sins none of us are worthy to pray. God sent His only Son to take our sins on Himself and die on a cross two thousand years ago. He fully paid our sin debt, and with His resurrection made it possible for us to pray, because we had been pardoned from the penalty of our sins. “Robert, the Lord Jesus not only set you free, but He wants you to pray and invite Him into your heart for Him to live there forever. Don’t you want to accept His invitation?”

I wish I could report Robert repented and received the free gift of salvation from God, but he did not. I told him I respected his decision but would be praying he would consider what I had said. I gave him a copy of the Gospel of John after showing him several passages where the Bible affirms the things I had told him. He said he would read the tract and “think about it.”

There are millions of people living in darkness with their eyes blinded to the wonderful promises of God regarding eternal life. Many of them are like Robert believing they have no right to pray, or if they happened to pray nothing of consequence would happen. I have no idea what became of Robert, but I believe someone later watered the field of his life where a seed had been planted, and before he departed this life he became a follower of The Way (I Cor. 3:6).

Dr. John

A Special Letter From God

 Letter From Cathy's Mom

Envelope From Cathy’s Mom

Cathy and I were saved and born again on August 6, 1977 at a Bill Gothard seminar in Dallas, Texas. I wrote about the experience in a post entitled “A Shopping Trip To Dallas,” and both Cathy and I have told the account to numerous people in various situations since. The transformation of our hearts and in our home was immediate, and although we looked the same we didn’t act the same. There are some who have an emotional experience at such a Christian conference and following are left with the nagging question, “Was my experience with the Lord Jesus really real?”

Bill Gothard spoke to that question on the last day of the conference and challenged all who prayed for salvation to ask the Lord to give them a sign of the reality of their life change. Both Cathy and I prayed that very  prayer. This type of praying was a new and different experience for us, because we never prayed together for specific requests despite being married 12 years. My brother Berry Lee (Bubba) and his wife LaNell along with most of their children were present at the conference, and they were the first in our family to know about our prayer of surrender. This was significant because Bubba was the one who urged us from the beginning to attend the conference. He had promised if we “didn’t love the conference and were blessed by it he would reimburse us for all of our expenses.” This was enough of a challenge for me since I would have enjoyed having Bubba pay our expenses.

Following the close of the conference on Saturday we left Dallas to return to our home in El Dorado, Arkansas eager to share what had occurred. Our children; John Aaron age ten, Mary Kay age seven, and Ginny age four were the first to hear. They couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened, because we looked and sounded the same. They would soon know we were definitely different.

We had not given much thought to our prayer for confirmation from the Lord until the mail arrived the following week. Within a few days of our return home Cathy received a letter from her Mom who lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mom Young wrote letters and notes to us on a regular basis, so this letter itself caused no immediate excitement. When Cathy opened the letter there was a folded envelope inside along with an explanation for the addressed and stamped empty envelope. Mom was always in search of commemorative stamps and coins, and this particular stamp was a special one concerning the Young family. It had been issued to honor General Herkimer.

General Nicholas Herkimer was a brigadier general in the New York state militia during the War for Independence in the 1770’s. He was a distant relative of the Young family, and we had been told by her of this relationship years before. What we were not aware was the fact on August 6, 1777 General Herkimer along with his troops were ambushed by British regulars assisted by Mohawk Indians in what was known as The Battle of Oriskany. General Herkimer was mortally wounded in the leg and died 10 days later. The stamp on her empty envelope was commemorative of the 200th anniversary of the general’s brave sacrifice to free our nation. He has been memorialized in the state of New by naming a town and a county in his honor.

What caught Cathy’s and my attention was what was imprinted on the envelope. On the stamp was a painting of General Herkimer leaning against a tree encouraging his troops to continue fighting at Oriskany. The post mark was from Herkimer, New York dated August 6, 1977, two hundred years from the date of the heroic battle. The date corresponded to the day of our spiritual conversion in Dallas. Cathy’s name as a Herkimer family member and her address were written by her Mom. Under the stamp were the words, “First Day of Issue.” After studying the envelope for a few moments Cathy exclaimed, “This is our confirmation from the Lord of what took place on that very day in Dallas. This is our letter from God!”

Was the envelope a mere coincidence or did it have a divine purpose? Both Cathy and I are confident God answered our prayers by transforming us in Dallas and was responsible for her Mom sending us a confirming letter of the event. Cathy had the envelope framed, and it hangs on our bedroom wall opposite our bed. It is a daily reminder of God’s love for us and his power to transform and encourage us in our prayer life and faith walk.

Dr. John

PS: We did not ask Bubba to pay our expenses for the Dallas trip. In thinking now about it, we should have paid his!

“Arkansas Relaxing Incisions”

New Combat Boots

New Combat Boots 1969

I was excited to serve our country in the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam War. All physicians in those days under the age of thirty years were mandated to serve for at least two years on active duty unless they were physically unfit. I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant during medical school and was gradually promoted to the rank of Captain upon graduation from medical school and completion of a one year internship. Most young doctors went on active duty with the rank of Captain, so the pay and benefits were higher than most other commissioned officers with no active duty experience. I was accepted into the Berry Plan which deferred me for an additional four years to allow me to complete my surgical training. When I entered active duty in August 1969, I had been promoted to Major.

At this stage in our life Cathy and I had a son, John Aaron, and she was pregnant with our first daughter Mary Kay. Our permanent duty station was Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia, and we made plans to move there into a home off-base which her brother George had found for us. I had to first report to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas for a three weeks temporary duty assignment prior to our move to Georgia. Cathy was in the first trimester of her pregnancy, and the base which was in Wichita Falls would have been hot and very uncomfortable for her and for John. We decided it best for them to spend the time with her parents in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The three weeks assignment was a Basic Training Duty for doctors to prepare all of us for military service and some for their permanent assignment in Viet Nam. I was shocked I was not sent to Viet Nam, because I was a fully trained battle field surgeon based on my four years of training at the famous New Orleans Charity Hospital.

Upon arranging for the Air Force to move our furniture and belongings from our duplex apartment in New Orleans to our new address in Valdosta, Georgia, I put Cathy and John Aaron on a flight to Fort Lauderdale, and I began my new adventure in the military. I drove my Fiat Spyder convertible from Valdosta to Wichita Falls, Texas. They had very nice accommodations for all the doctors in our class, and I was assigned one of the better rooms in the Officer’s Quarters since I was a major amongst mostly captains!

One of our first jobs was to go to the Quartermaster Office to receive our uniforms with our brass, 2 pair of shoes and one very good pair of combat boots. Not many of the new medical officers knew how to properly place the brass on their uniforms and had to sheepishly ask one of the enlisted men to help. Fortunately for me I had taken ROTC in college and knew where to place them, but checked with the Master Sergeant  just to be sure I had them correctly positioned. We were told when the boots were issued, we should wear them each morning  during marching drill in order to break them in for the three day field bivouac which was scheduled near the end of our training period. We were scheduled for one hour of close order marching each morning at 8 AM before our class room assignments began.

The majority of our basic training was spent in the class room learning military protocol and all the new and somewhat strange military language. Classes began at 9 AM and lasted until 4 PM with a two hour break for lunch at the Officer’s Mess (dining hall). The early morning drill exercise was quite an experience with the three hundred physicians, most of whom had never been taught how to march in close order. I posted an earlier blog on our drill experience entitled, “The US Air Force Medical Corps Boot Camp.”

In the first few days of our class room work I met Bob Parkhurst from Michigan who was assigned to Moody AFB as the base pediatrician. We were excited to get to know each other so soon, because we were to spend the next two years working very closely together providing medical care at our base hospital. Bob was the only pediatrician, and I was the only surgeon on the base.

I noticed an interesting thing at the drill each morning; not all of the men wore their boots for the one hour marching exercise. The weather was very hot in Texas in August, and the boots made the marching more uncomfortable. Many of those who didn’t comply with the Master Sergeant’s recommendation to break in the boots later had regrets.

In the latter part of the last week we were ordered to be on the bus at 8 AM for transport to the field training area which was a one hour bus ride away. Upon getting on the bus Bob Parkhurst sat next to me and said, “These boots are killing my feet!” He said he was one of those who didn’t break in his boots, but they were too tight anyway. He also said, “If I have to wear these for three days, I think I’ll be crippled for life.” It was too late to go back and get a new pair. I told him I thought I could help if he would allow me. He pulled off both boots and gladly handed them to me. I said I had seen patients in New Orleans who were very poor, and the only shoes they owned were too small. They used their pocket knives to make some extra room. I had a very sharp knife, and I made very long cuts down the side of each boot. When he put the boots back on, there was a distinct look of relief on his face and he said, “That makes a huge difference, and I believe I can make it now!” I said I called those cuts “Arkansas Relaxing Incisions.” His feet did look funny with his pinkie toes protruding out the side of his brand new combat boot, but at least he could walk without pain.

A problem concerning the boots occurred very shortly when we had our first and only inspection of the men in our six man tent. The Inspecting Officer Colonel Johnson came to each one of us who were standing at attention and made sure we were dressed properly for the bivouac. He saw Parkhurst’s boots and asked, “Captain Parkhurst, what in the world is going on with your boots?” He told the Colonel, “Sir, when I got on the bus this morning and discovered my boots were way too tight Major Moore graciously put Arkansas relaxing incisions in them, and I can now walk without pain.” The Colonel turned to me and asked, “Major Moore, have you ever done that before?” My reply was, “No sir, This was my first case, and I believe he will live.” The colonel smiled, shook his head and said, “Carry on!” Captain Parkhurst did survive but on returning to the base, he threw those boots with my relaxing incisions into the trash. I should have kept them as a souvenir, because I have never since seen a funnier looking pair of combat boots. I am happy to report Captain Parkhurst sustained no damage to his feet from his bivouac experience, and completed his Air Force duty assignment with no permanent disability.

Dr. John