Monday, August 10, 2015


Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there. – Old English Proverb

Big Jay Atton is my softball teammate and very good friend. Bill MacDonald was my stepfather. This is their story, and also the story of how faith sustains some of us who love them.

Big Jay is a gentle giant of a man. In his mid-thirties, he stands 6’ 7” and - until recently, at least - weighed in at well over 300 pounds. While in Houston visiting family, he suffered a massive heart attack. Concurrent with that, his kidneys failed. Brain damage was feared and the consensus was he would need a kidney transplant to avoid lifelong dialysis. Odds of surviving, period, were about 50/50.

The outpouring of love Jay received, via expressions of prayer and caring, was amazing. Hundreds of people asked their God for healing to occur. And it did. His kidneys regained full function following eight or nine rounds of initial dialysis. Scans revealed no brain damage. He was released from the hospital last week, after three months, and he will be returning home within a week or two.

Bill MacDonald was a World War II vet, a recipient of a bronze star for valor, a gentleman in every sense of the word, and a pillar of his church. Aside from being my stepdad, he was a loving father and grandfather to a large family. He passed away on Saturday after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Big Jay’s recovery borders on the miraculous and has brought great joy to many. Bill, for whom as many fervent prayers were said, did not have a miraculous recovery and died. In my humble opinion, though, the rewards of faith have been exemplified in both cases.

It is not the recovery of Jay that proves my faith, nor does the physical decline, and death, of Bill disproves it. What the unfaithful do not accept, or do not see, is that faith is a gift, not a contractual obligation. Rules for what we will receive from our prayer are not strict and unwavering. The reward may be those for whom we have prayed receiving precisely that for which we asked, but sometimes it is we who pray that receive the gift – a strength to bear the seemingly unbearable. Sometimes the gift is healing, sometimes the gift is release, sometimes the gift is strength. The truly blessed receive an understanding that all three may be present if only we search with a diligent spirit.

Some will see contradictory answers to my similar prayers for these two men and they will say I have decided to deceive myself. These people see prayer as a crutch, a sham, a weakness engaged in by those who harbor an unwillingness to view cold reality in the light of day. They have every right to believe whatever they wish, but I know that when fear knocked, my faith answered. And no one was there.

Soon, with more better stuff.



Suza said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jim. I always enjoy your perspective on life and your fresh, no-nonsense, yet very empathetic writing. I know John-Michael did too.
Suza here... Suzanne Vanstone on Facebook

Suldog said...

Thank you, Suza. John-Michael was a beautiful soul. I miss him.

Jackie said...

I pray for continued strength for Jay. I am happy to hear the good news regarding his recovery.
Please, give your Mother my sincerest condolences regarding the passing of Mr. MacDonald. His absence from your lives will be a great loss. His positive impact on those he loved and those who loved him will be everlasting.
Thank you for sharing this about both of these men who have made a difference in your life. Beautifully written, Jim.

Shammickite said...

This post is a little different from your usual offering. The news about your baseball buddy Jay is wonderful. A young man still in his 30s, certainly with a lot of life yet to live. I'm so happy for him and his family. And I'm saddened to hear of the loss of your stepfather. It seems he had a long life well lived, dying in his later years, as it should be. Faith and prayer? I'm never quite sure how it works, does it help the prayee or the prayer? Perhaps a bit of both.

OldAFSarge said...

Well said Suldog.

Excellent that Jay is recovering, sad that Bill has passed on.

Both are in God's hands, as are we all.

Bless you for sharing this my friend.

May you be comforted.

Karen said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your step-dad, Jim.

Great news about Jay's recovery! xoxo

messymimi said...

Please accept my condolences for the loss of your stepfather.

Big Jay will continue to be in my prayers, as are you.

juvat said...

"Soon, with more better stuff."

Gonna be hard to beat this one. Well Said.

Condolences also.

Absolut Ruiness said...

I have tried to reason similarly with many people who, after their prayers are "denied", go into full retribution mode with the almighty. You have put my beliefs down in words so beautifully. I'm so glad for Big Jay! And I hope you and your family receive all the strength and love you need to bear the loss of Bill. He seems to have been a really good man.

Daryl said...

i am sorry for your loss, but i think in a way Bill's passing was a blessing .. he is now free of the confusion/pain of what Alzheimers does to a person and their family

i am happy that Big Jay is on the mend ..

all of life is a crap shoot .. and honestly it seems to me that when fear knocked, your faith answered and peace was there

Craig said...

Thanks for this, Jim.

You remind me of one of my favorite movie lines, from 'Rudy': "Two things I know for sure - there is a God, and I'm not Him."

Having first-hand experience with Alzheimer's, I know that the final passing, sad as it is, can be merciful nonetheless. . .

And you can tell Big Jay that I am whooping and hollering and jumping up and down on his behalf. God is good. I'm guessing he's not quite all the way back to 300+ (and his docs most likely want him not to ever be). But, life is good, and from your accounts, the world remains a better place with him in it.

Mich said...

So glad to hear Jay is doing well. And I hope y'all are doing ok after your loss. <3

Joanna Jenkins said...

So Jim, this one put a lump in my throat...

I am terribly sorry your step-dad-- and family-- had to endure Alzheimer's disease. It's a nasty one and a heartbreaking one. My thought and prayers are with you and your family for your loss.

And, so very happy for Big Jay's recovery. WOW! I can only imagine how life-changing this has been and will continue to keep him in my prayers.


Maggie May said...

I'm really glad about Jay and sorry about your step dad.
That is the way it is....... prayer always gets answered but not always in the way we want. We cannot dictate to God.
He helps us to bear things when our requests don't go where we want them to.
I thought your post was very good and hope it will be helpful to many.
Maggie x