Friday, November 2, 2012

A Thanksgiving Story

Bob Rakestraw
“The Benediction Project”

When I started “The Benediction Project” in the spring of 2007, I had two purposes in mind. First, the blog would serve to inform people of my health condition, because so many were asking how I was doing since my heart transplant of November, 2003. Many were praying for me and wanted updates. And I very much needed their prayers.

Second, I desired to write materials that would be encouraging, concerning matters that I thought (and hoped and prayed) would bless and strengthen readers all over the world.

When I decided to call this new endeavor “The Benediction Project,” I realized that the underlying  project would have to be me—a project under construction, a work in progress. The focus would be, however, on the magnificent and compassionate Trinitarian God I love and serve: Father, Son and Spirit.

I was well aware that if the blog was ever to be a blessing to others I myself would need to ask God continually to make me into a living benediction. I wanted to be, as I responded in faith and obedience to God’s ongoing construction work, a benediction project in the flesh, while the blog, flowing from God through me, would be a benediction project in writing.

The decision to start a blog was not a casual one. I felt an urgency because I had just been told by two doctors that I probably had no more than six months to live. Since my immune system had been fighting so hard to reject this foreign object (my new heart) I now had a condition known as chronic (permanent) transplant vasculopathy. The 18 or so arteries that surround my heart and bring oxygenated blood to the heart tissue (it needs fresh blood too) were being silently and steadily squeezed shut by the disease.

This, of course, would block all blood—and therefore all oxygen—flowing to my heart. I would then have either one big heart attack or several smaller ones, or both, and my heart and I would then die. There was (and is) no medical means to overcome this disease other than a second heart transplant, which I declined.

I was now in hospice care, but able to live at home. My new sense of urgency to serve God arose out of the probable shortness of time I had to live and out of my personal desire and need to keep busy with some worthwhile project that would be an outlet for loving God and loving neighbor. As it turned out God gave me two projects and two valuable assistants—one for each project—to help Judy and me in these new tasks. Within a few weeks of being placed in hospice care both projects were up and running.

Abigail Miller (now Sengendo) encouraged me to start a blog and offered to set it up and manage it. Thus began “The Benediction Project,” now completing five-and-a-half years.

Jane Spriggs then encouraged me to write the book on prayer I had been considering but knew that I could not do without additional help. Jane offered to provide the editorial assistance and by the end of 2007 we had nearly completed Praying by the Spirit. The book was published in 2008 by Christian Growth Ministries in the Philippines. Jane and some very loyal friends revised it slightly and re-formatted it and in 2010 we self-published it in the United States as Heart Cries. This is the book whose cover appears at the top of this blog.

God has been pleased to bless others through both editions of the book as well as “The Benediction Project.” Judy and I are very grateful to God, and to Abigail, Jane and numerous others who have been, and continue to be, valuable co-workers and supporters in my modest writing ministry. I literally could not have this ministry without their encouragement, knowledge, skills and desire to join me in advancing the reign of Jesus Christ over the earth. Every day I struggle with health issues and the burden of life, and I so greatly value the assistance of friends.

If the original supposition of the doctors had become reality I would have gone home around the end of September, 2007. The doctors, however, released me from hospice that November—five years ago—and this month I celebrate my ninth transplant anniversary. I attribute my ongoing earthly life to God’s sovereign power and wisdom, Judy’s consistently helpful and understanding character, the prayers of very many (including some of you), the knowledge and skills of several excellent doctors, the medications and nutritional supplements I take, the personal encouragement and faithful labor of family and friends, and the sense of purpose God gives me in writing.

I am now writing my life story—a spiritual autobiography tentatively titled Grace Quest: A Theologian’s Search for Salvation, Spirituality and the Strength to Suffer Well. Since last year about this time I have been ably assisted in this new project by Kim Olstad and her daughter Jessie. I thank God very much for their encouragement and abilities. The book is approximately half finished and our tentative target date for completion is November, 2013. I have no idea whether I will live to finish the book, but I believe God wants me to continue working on it. I am also planning other projects for the years ahead, as God gives me the strength and the will.

Thank you for reading this piece of my personal history. Somehow, somewhere, for some of you this brief essay will, I trust, be a benediction—a blessing that will encourage you to move forward toward the celestial city John Bunyan wrote about in Pilgrim’s Progress.

Review some part of your personal history to create your own thanksgiving story. At some point in the future—perhaps soon—you may have the opportunity to bless someone with your account. You may not only encourage others, but also encourage yourself. Rich blessings always to you from the One through whom all blessings flow.


Scott Volltrauer said...


It's you -- your story & others with s similar story -- that inspires me to persevere.

Your "benediction" helps me to see that approaching 50 -- with the inevitable aging processes -- is not the end of the story about another chapter.

Thank you for writing.
Thank you for fighting.
Thank you for your faithfulness.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing. I read a lot of books so I enjoyed your book reviews of books that impacted ypour life.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bob, for walking us through the last nine years of your life. You have persevered, God has been faithful, and we've all benifitted!

Looking forward to reading your newest book next year...thankful for Kim and Jessie, Judy, Abigail and others, and thankful for you. It was a labor of love to write 'Heart Cries' with you!!

God's peace;


Robert V. Rakestraw said...

This is a test.