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Making New Memories
Guest: John and Donna Bishop
From the series: God is So Good
Bob: The Bible teaches us a different way of thinking about trials, to count it all joy when we experience various trials. That can be easy to read but very difficult to do. Fifteen years ago, John Bishop lost his memory completely as a result of meningitis. In the years that followed, there were many difficulties the Bishop family faced.
John: That night I hurting so bad, and I'd listen to Psalm, and it said, "O taste and see that the Lord is good," Psalm 34a – "Blessed is the man trusteth in Him," and I said, "God, I going to believe you're good. If I never get better I still going to believe you're good because that what Your Word says." And I said, "Lord, this must be what faith means is believing You even when I don't feel like it." So I'm going to believe God good whether I feel good or not. I'm going to believe God good whether I get better or not just because the Bible say it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 6th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. No matter what happens in your life, can you say God is so good, and all His ways are good?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. This past weekend we had a wedding. My daughter, Katy, became Mrs. Katy Walker, and …
Dennis: How did you do?
Bob: I was fine. I was thinking back to how all marriages start, and they all start with hopes and dreams and the expectation of a storybook romance and they all live happily ever after – that kind of a fairy tale scenario.
Dennis: At least that's what we think is going to happen. But when we start out a marriage relationship, we have no idea what God has in store for our spouse or for us, as a couple.
Bob: Yes, and as we've been hearing this week, John and Donna Bishop experienced a unique circumstance in their marriage 13 years ago when he lost all memory, and the story had to begin again with a whole new set of circumstances; that the love story had to start up again from scratch. And yet it's been remarkable to hear how God has sustained this couple and to hear them testify to His goodness in the midst of this kind of adversity.
Dennis: And, you know, I want to turn to the listener at this point before you hear the rest of the story, and I want to encourage you to order a bunch of CDs and pass them out to your buddies.
Bob: I've already done that. I took …
Dennis: I have, too, Bob, I'm telling you, I'm going to talk to the folks down at the warehouse, and I'm going to see if we can't make a deal so that you can order these – this story in quantity and pass it out at church, pass it out in your neighborhood. This is going to be a story that I think is going to touch, literally, millions of people's lives around the nation.
Bob: And as we hear part 3 of this story, we're beginning to get a picture of the tremendous impact John's illness had on a marriage and on a family. I mean, here were John and Donna raising three sons.
Donna: It was hard on the boys. I think it's probably hardest maybe on my youngest son, because he was 10 years old, and I remember one day Luke came to me, and he said, "Mom, it's not fair, because my brothers had a daddy that got to play ball with them and go hunting with them and do fun things with him," and he caught me on an up day there, so I said, "I know, but you know the Lord's going to let him be special in a different way than he was with your brothers." And so I thank the Lord – my youngest son, he's a good boy, and I thank the Lord, and I think him and his dad are close.
Bob: That had to break your heart, though, for your son to say, "It's not fair. I want a daddy like my brothers had."
Donna: I know. It was – I struggle with the things – I was going to tell you that when – I remember one night John was laying on the couch there, and he said, "It's okay, God, that you let me be sick." Well, when he said that, you know, I said, "Oh, no, it's not okay." Because I just kept saying, "You know, Lord, you know, I married that other man back there, and I just would like to go back to that," and I struggled. That was one of my struggles – the Lord just saying, "Okay, Lord, it's okay." And it was easier for him to say it than for me to say it. I just had a hard time.
And so the Lord and I have had many discussions over this.
Bob: Do you feel like you've had two husbands?
Donna: Yes, sir, I sure do.
Dennis: What's the part of John before the illness that you miss the most?
Donna: Probably the part just take the leadership and go on and just the energy just to go on and keep going into things.
Dennis: So he was the leader, he was leading you and the family and the church and taking you in a direction.
Donna: Yes, sir. And he was, you know, just never stopped, just keep going.
Dennis: What's the part of the new John that you like the best?
Donna: I like the best part is he's very loving, very kind. I guess the Lord slowed him down, and he slows down, and he appreciates things and is just – you know, when we slow down, it's amazing how many things we've learned to miss, you know, that we have missed along the way until we slow down.
Dennis: John, as you hear your wife describe John prior to 1995, prior to the illness, as a man, and you are a man, I mean, you have to be like all the rest of us who want to say, "I want to be that man now."
Dennis: Do you feel that?
John: Yes, I do, and yet they had some tapes of me preaching before my illness, but one day I listening one of my messages, and I was pretty harsh, and I was listening and "I don't like that guy," and I took tape out and threw it out window.
And I like the new me better. But, you know, my Donna puts it this way, said, before my illness I sort of knock them over the head but now I grab them by the heart. But, you know, I think the Lord just decided if I going to use John, I going to break him all the way down and start over. But what I know of me before, and what she telling me and so forth, I like the new me, and things don't bother me maybe like bother other people, because I've been through just so much, and not a whole lot more I could lose, you know? So, okay, that part of it, let's go on, and I have a good time. I tell people I'm a few fries short of a Happy Meal, but I'm happy.
Bob: You know, in circumstances like this, it's not unusual for people to say "Lord, why me? Why is this the path You put me on?" And it's not just the person who goes through the meningitis who asks that, but it's the person who is caring for the person who goes through the meningitis. How have you wrestled with the "Why me?" question, Donna?
Donna: I have wrestled with it, that's, you know, why – you know, I kept telling the Lord, "Lord, we were fine," you know, "we were fine," but the Lord has just showed me, "Donna, I have something special for you," and I have learned so many things through this, and I thank the Lord that He's brought us through this because I love him more, and I love him in a different way, and it's closer, and God is able to use us. And if we're just willing to say, "Okay, Lord, it's all right. Whatever you bring to my life, I know it's for my good."
Every day when I surrender the new thing that, "Okay, Lord, you can have that," and I was just – struggled. I hung onto the back things, I guess, because I could remember them. I hung onto the things in my past, and so – but every time I'd surrender, it was just so much better, and the Lord just eased and gave me so much comfort in knowing that the Lord has a reason for it.
Bob: This is almost an impossible question for you to answer, but if the Lord came to you today and said, "Okay, I'll give you the old John, and we'll start from here with things the way they were, and we'll take everything of the last 15 years."
Dennis: That's a hard question.
Bob: You can have your choice, what do you want? If you could go back and undo the last 15 years and just kind of be on the path you were on, which is what you longed for at some point, would you pick that, do you think?
Donna: No, sir. I'd take what the Lord has given us, I really would.
Bob: You'd say, "This path has been the right one for me."
Donna: Yes, sir. I think if you'd asked me that a few years ago, I'd probably have said no. But I know that God – this is God's plan for my life, and it's okay.
Dennis: It's back to what John said earlier – "God is good, and He's right."
Donna: Yes, sir.
Dennis: And …
Bob: … blessed be the name of the Lord, right?
Dennis: Yeah, even though it's not been easy, you've begun to experience some of the benefit of the pain that you've been through. Can you share some of those benefits, what they would be?
Donna: It's a closer relationship with the Lord. Also faith – just knowing that God's going to take care of us, regardless of what we go through.
Dennis: Give us an illustration of that. How has He provided for you?
Donna: Oh, He's taken care of everything. I mean, we have more than we need. As far as the physical things, God supplies everything. Every time he goes to the hospital, I think, "Oh, here we go again," you know, but the Lord always takes care of everything, and everything always gets paid, we never late on bills. God takes care of everything, and also our spiritual – God takes care of us spiritually, too, and gives us courage and strength and I think one thing that really touches my heart, too, is, you know, when John was in the hospital, you know, he'd just say the name of God, I knew he was praying to the Lord. And, you know, God does – He never leaves us or forsakes us regardless.
And so, you know, John might have forgot everything, and John with that hard – I couldn't go through those things at the time with him, but the Lord was with him all the way through it. It doesn't matter how hard it gets, he's there. And so how hard it gets on me or whoever, God is there, and we've just got to trust Him.
Dennis: John, do you have anything to add to that?
John: Well, the Lord gives us grace not just endure but enjoy, and, you know, he doesn't just say, "Okay, I'll give you enough grace endure this," there are times of endurance, but most time it's enjoyment. And I get to travel, and I really cannot get to all the places people have invited me. It's just incredible. That's how I met one of your staff. I took my first trip California by myself, and on airplane. I told my Donna, "I can do it."
Dennis: What's your vision? What is it again?
John: I'm blind, legally blind.
Dennis: But it's 20 what?
John: I don't know the number. I can – one eye I can just make figures. Like, I can tell you're there, but I wouldn't be able to recognize you. Now, with these goggles that I have under here, I can read if I'm up close, and …
Dennis: So how do you negotiate steps to get on a plane and to travel to California?
John: You know, people are so nice to blind people. If you've got that cane, they get out of your way.
And I just able to make it through, and I called her, and I was there at the place, and I said, "Donna, nobody speaking English here, where am I?"
Dennis: You were in California.
John: She teasing – I was teasing her like I ended up another country or something. But, you know, it's been fun. One time I went and heard a speaker, she went with me, and this man said, "I know some of you out there got skeletons in your closet." Well, I not been taught that yet, and I'm thinking real, and I'm sitting there thinking, "Oh, mercy, if I knew somebody like that, I'd tell on them," you know? And who would do that? You know, and what skeleton is it? And I got home, and I said, "Donna, that man knew people there with skeletons, and he wouldn't tell on them." And she then had to explain to me.
So I am learning all those things, but I do have fun, I do, and the Lord has been – just give me joy as well through the trials and I'm not always laughing, but I love hearing you, because you all laugh a lot, and I love be around happy people.
Bob: John, when you started losing your eyesight eight months ago …
John: Mm-hm, yes.
Bob: You had to think, you know, "Lord, haven't I had enough? I mean, couldn't we just keep the eyes? That would sure be helpful."
John: Yes. Oh, Bob, that was one of the biggest struggles. I should have been able to ace that one after what I've been through, but, I tell you, I struggled. At first I couldn't believe it happening. I thought, "Surely not." Then I thought, "Oh, this just be two or three week, and the Lord say, 'Okay, I just testing you.'" But it went on and on and on. I almost felt like when Abraham was asked to give his son, and I thought of my sight, oh, I remember, I'd tell God, "Okay, Lord, not my will, thine be done," and then I had to tell Him, "I sorry, Lord, I didn't mean it," like I needed to tell him, but, I mean, I knew I was just saying the words.
Because my ministry been built around telling people that we can trust the Lord with anything, and we can go on. He said, "Rejoice in the Lord always," and I'd lost my joy over this. "Oh, God," I said, "I'm so sorry," and it was just like I raised the knife, and I believe Abraham, when God told him offer son, I think probably at the time God knew he really would do it. He stopped him and said, "Okay," and I finally got a point, "Okay, God, if you want the eyes, too, that is okay. I really do mean it."
But that really was a big struggle for me. I should have been stronger, but I wasn't.
Dennis: John, I was told when you were going to come down here that just from an illness standpoint and battling all that you're battling, you might not have the stamina. You've done remarkable.
John: Thank you.
Dennis: I mean, you're hanging in there with Bob's tough questions, and …
Bob: Any headaches? You feeling okay?
John: Yes, I do have headache, and my pain level each day, Bob, is around 5 or 6, between 1 and 10. When it get to 7, I have to medicate it a little bit; 8 and 9 I can live with. If it gets 10, I have to go emergency room. I getting stronger, but I not quite able handle 10.
Bob: So where are you today right now?
John: I about a 7.
Dennis: Wow, wow.
Bob: I don't know many people with a 7 …
Dennis: Who would be doing radio.
Bob: Or smiling or laughing or talking about how good God is.
Dennis: And I think what our listeners don't see is, really, the smile on both their faces.
Donna: That's what I appreciate about him, is he can be hurting so bad, but he still keeps going, and he complains some, yes, but, no, not like I would. I know why the Lord didn't give me the headaches.
Dennis: Not like he could, because of what he's going through.
John: I try to be good to her. She's been so good to me, and I love her.
Donna: He's very good.
John: I want to make her happy. There are two big goals in my life. Number one, make the Lord happy, number two, make my wife happy, and I love to be able to do that and get her things. When I learned I supposed to love her as much as Christ loved church and gave Himself for – I remember when I heard that, "Wow, that a lot of love. I got to work a whole bunch on this." There is nothing world I wouldn't do for her, and she wouldn't ask me to do something wrong or bad, but I think how good the Lord been to me. He's given me so many things.
Dennis: I know there is one other thing you love to do, too, though.
John: What's that?
Dennis: You love to introduce people to the King of the Universe.
Dennis: Undoubtedly, there have been those who have heard your story, who don't know Him and who need to. Would you like to take their hand in yours and place it in God's hand, explain to them how they can come into relationship with Jesus Christ and with the Lord God Almighty?"
John: Yes, yes, thank you so much. The Bible says the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance, and if people could just stop, and even if they've been through hard times, difficult times, God in His goodness gave us Son, Jesus, for us, that we might be saved and forgiven and be with Him one day. You see, when I die, all my suffering over. I read in Book of Revelation where John said, "in that city no more pain." And, boy, howdy, am I looking forward to that – no more pain.
The God that wants to give us that place of no more pain is Jesus Christ. He gave us life, He shed His blood. It took a good God to give His Son. It took a good Savior to give His life so that if a person realizes they're a sinner, puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, He'll save them the moment they turn to Him. And that's a good God, and I just beg people not turning away. I have had atheists saved, Dennis. I had one atheist get saved, and he said to me, he said, "John, I couldn't argue with you. You just kept saying God good, and he said I finally one day I realize why have I turned down such a good God all these years?" And he gave his life to Christ. I would love to know somebody give their life to Christ. He's a good God.
Dennis: And I would say to that person right now who is listening, why don't you take the offer that God is making on behalf of you? The good God we've talked about who gave His Son, Jesus Christ. You don't have to get down on your knees. You can do it right where you are, driving in a car, listening on an iPod or computer. But if you want to, it would be a good idea to get down on your knees and just surrender your life to Christ. It is the greatest decision you'll ever make.
And, John, I just want to thank you and Donna for telling your story and for allowing us the privilege of – and, Bob, I know you and I have worked together long enough, I know you feel the same – it's just an honor to be in the studio with you. Thank you.
John: It's been an honor for us, too.
Bob: We want to make sure that those listeners who are interested in establishing a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and we want to invite you to get in touch with us. There's a book we'd love to send you that's call "Pursuing God," that explains what it means to have a right relationship with God through Christ, and this book is available to you at no cost. All you have to do is call 1-800-FLTODAY, and when someone answers the phone just say, I am interested in becoming a Christian, and I'd like a copy of that book, and it will be our privilege to send it out to you, and we trust God will use it to help you begin to establish an ongoing relationship with God through Christ.
Again, the title of the book is "Pursuing God," and you can request it when you call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can also request a copy of the CD of our conversation with John and Donna Bishop. We have that in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and when you contact us, we'll let you know how you can receive that CD. You can either order it online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and we'll make arrangements to send a copy or to send multiple copies to you, if you'd like.
Again, the details of how you can order the CD are found online at FamilyLife.com or simply call 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will let you know how you can get the CD sent to you.
I don't know how many times, Dennis, I have seen you turn in your Bible to Matthew 7 where Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount by talking about two different builders. One builder who built his house on the rock and the other who built his house on the sand, and you have reminded us that when storms come in life, the kinds of storms like John and Donna Bishop have experienced, it's really a test of our foundation on what is our life and our marriage built?
And each day we have an opportunity to strengthen the foundation of our marriage as we spend time with God together as a couple. A few months ago, you and your wife Barbara wrote a book called "Moments With You," a daily devotional book for couples to encourage them to spend time praying together, looking at the Scriptures together and talking about their marriage relationship and about their family.
And this week we are making that hardback book available to listeners who support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. We are listener-supported, so your donations are critical, they're vital, to keeping us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country, and when you make a donation either online or by phone this week, we want you to feel free to request a copy of the book, "Moments With You," as a way of saying thank you for your financial support of this ministry.
If you're donating online, there will be a keycode box you'll come to on your donation form, and we just need you to type the word "You," y-o-u, in that keycode box, and we'll know to send a copy of the book, "Moments With You" out to you, or call 1-800-FLTODAY. You can make a donation right over the phone and just mention that you'd like a copy of the daily devotional, "Moments With You." Again, we're happy to send it out to you as our way of saying thanks for your financial support and for your partnership with us.
Well, tomorrow we're going to meet another very remarkable couple. A couple that has weathered a significant storm in their marriage. We'll introduce you to Charlie and Lucy Wedemeyer tomorrow, and I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.
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