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Yesterday, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Phil Olson. Phil is the pastor at Church on the Mall which meets at the Plymouth Meeting Mall. Phil was also a partner in ministry with my dad in Mt. Holly, NJ while my dad served at a church there. I happen to work ten minutes away from this mall, so it was convenient to hook-up for lunch. (I don’t know why we don’t do that more often.)
Phil and I caught up about friends from our NJ hometown. We shared about our families. And we prayed together. It was truly a blessing to be with this friend (even though he’s a big New York Mets fan).
Recently, Phil has been working as a chaplain at Cancer Treatment Centers of America one day a week. At first, this doesn’t sound all that strange, but Phil will tell you that this wasn’t something he had considered before this opportunity came along. Phil admitted that he didn’t have the training of most hospital chaplains. One thing that sets Phil apart from the other chaplains is that he is a cancer survivor. When patients learn this fact, they are more receptive to Phil. They relate to Phil, because he knows their pain. Obviously, Phil wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone – including himself, but he has realized that God can use his cancer along with his other “junk” to help others.
As our discussion continued, I was reminded that I have “junk” in my own life that allows me to relate to people on a different level. For example, the struggles that we have dealt with through my wife’s illness have given me (and our family) a deeper understanding and compassion for families that are impacted by mental illness. God can use my “junk” to help others and to draw me closer to Him.
As we concluded our discussion, Phil prayed for me using the following scripture from Isaiah 40:
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
I am thankful for Phil’s encouragement and the reminder that God can use our “junk” for His glory.
We’ve all got “junk” in our lives. How is God using you through your “junk”?