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Anointed With Oil For Healing

Every Sunday, my father, who was a minister, got up early to shine his shoes and iron his shirt. He put on his best suit and always let me pick out his tie. Without fail, he’d tuck a tiny antique bottle full of olive oil inside his coat pocket.

Once I asked him why he always carried it because he rarely anointed anyone. But, that was just my father. He was always ready, especially when it came to prayer.

Jesus Weeping

Jesus Wept | Photo by Jennifer


Anointed With Oil For Healing

Last Sunday, for the first time in all the many years I’ve attended my church our pastor announced that someone in the congregation had requested he anoint* him with oil and pray for his healing. He extended the invitation to everyone. He encouraged anyone in need of healing or wanting to be anointed on behalf of someone else who needed healing to come to the altar. I was surprised as a few dozen people in the sea of 2,000+ went forward. Most of them were elderly.

I immediately felt that dreadful nudging in my spirit to be anointed with oil on behalf of my father who has Alzheimer’s. I say dreadful because I really hate stepping out even though I seem to do it quite often on this blog.

While at the altar, a pastor anointed me. I asked him to pray for healing for my father along with my brother-in-law who suffered a stroke in June, and my brother who lost a kidney to cancer last fall.

That same afternoon, I took the kids by to see my dad at the nursing home. When I walked in the room he asked who the little guy was and I told him Sullivan, and then asked if this was Sully. When I told him I was Jenni, he looked at me like I was an impostor. I’ve come to hate that look.

Pain and Magical Potions

I wasn’t anointed with oil on Sunday because I thought it might serve as some magical potion that would put my father in full remembrance of me. I was anointed as an act of faith and obedience. My father is in pain, and only God knows the difference these prayers have made, because, as you know, my father still looks at me like a lying fool, and he’s too weak to take me on and confront the awful trick I am playing on him claiming to be Jenni and all.

I’ve said it before. It bears repeating. I’ve read all those books about why bad things happen to good people. I’ve read The Shack. I’ve read Kushner. I’ve read the Bible. I probably have as many college hours in theology and religion as I do in journalism and history. I understand how suffering came to be part of life. I understand how God can work pain out for our own good. We need only look to lepers to understand how disastrous it can be to take no agony in walking on shards of glass. I understand we are all dying, some of us faster than others, but we are all still dying.

Why Do We Get Sick and Suffer?

And, still I wonder on occasion, why did my Dad have to get sick? Why couldn’t he be pulling on his bright blue cardigan every morning and taking my son for a walk? It would have brought him so much joy in these later years, and instead, we all missed it, and I miss it still, and my father spends most of his days staring up at the ceiling. I have no idea the concoction of thoughts swirling in his mind.

And, then. Last week. We all had the dreadful wonder of who killed Annie Le. Despite everything I know, that flawed question flashed across my mind like an electrical storm on 8mm film. The top edge of my thoughts perforated as spools of faith and doubt were flipped and swapped. Why do I expose myself to the pain of others? I might as well channel surf away to something more pleasant like football or HGTV.

But, tell me. Did you wonder, too? About Annie.

Sometimes, it feels like we must suspend reality for the heritage of faith to endure. But, that’s just it, our faith must be greater than our heritage.

There is no amount of pain my father would not have tried to save me from if he could have, but there were limitations on what he could do. He could not save me from a tumble at age 6 that dislocated my elbow. He could not save me from an accident that same year that nearly cut my Achilles tendon in two, and he couldn’t prevent the motorcycle accident that nearly took my brother’s life more than 20 years ago. He wept uncontrollably.

Why – why – why could Annie Le just not have gone to the lab that day?

Why Bother Praying?

I understand the theology of why God put limitations on himself. When people are healed from cancer, we say, we prayed and God has answered prayer. But, when we lose someone to a dreadful disease do we tell ourselves we prayed and God just said no?

I can’t explain the mystery of prayer, only that I believe we pray to know God, and when we know Him the answers to everything else become more obvious.

But, where was God when Annie was dying? I resent myself for asking these questions. We can be annoyed with me together. I know myself well, and that it is better if I ask myself where Love was when she left this life. Then, the answer comes easy.

Love was weeping uncontrollably.

Oklahoma Bombing Memorial Statue

There is a statue situated between St. Joseph’s Catheral and the National Memorial in Oklahoma City. It is Jesus and he is covering his face and the Scripture below it is the one I learned in 1977 in Vacation Bible School, Kermit, Texas. The shortest verse in the Bible: Jesus wept.

If you’re ever passing through Oklahoma City you must stop and see this statue. And, if you live here, well then, you know.

*Scripture reference for use of oils can be found in Exodus 30:22-25 and James 5:14

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. David Kirk

    Hello from Kermit!

  2. Friar

    You’re very welcome; to have been of service was unexpected but pleasing nonetheless.

  3. jenX

    @FRIAR – Such a beautiful comment. It was my devotional for the day. Thank you. And, I agree, if Christ is depicted as turning away, it’s not Biblically accurate. I like the parallel you’ve made to Good Friday very much. I was thinking he was facing the granite posts for each of the children who died, but there is that element in the art of him turning away from the site. This is so poetic: “…and the hand which has strewn stars through space will also wipe every tear from the eyes of those who weep…” Thank you…

  4. Friar

    I have an ambivalent relationship with that statue.

    On the one hand, I completely understand the symbolism of the Lord of Life weeping at so much death and evil.

    On the other hand, the idea that Christ turns away from human suffering opposes everything I think Good Friday stands for. I think we can’t really push ourselves far enough outside our own perspective to actually understand suffering, even if God were to spell out for us in detail.

    So rather than give us an explanation that would be inadequate or might mystify us even more, Christ simply shared human suffering so that even if we can’t know why it happens, we may always know Who is with us when it does.

    For me, the proper stance for such a statue would then be Christ facing the scene of the bombing, weeping indeed at the horror he sees, but stretching out to gather in and comfort the afflicted, both the living and those who died. I believe that is where God was when Annie Le was dying as well.

    That may not be an answer for those who expect God to combine the work of Superman and Santa Claus to thwart every peril and grant every wish, but it seems to be the one God is offering (I’m speaking generally, of course — it’s plain that’s not the point of view you’re taking here).

    If the promise of Revelation is true, either literally or metaphorically, and the hand which has strewn stars through space will also wipe every tear from the eyes of those who weep, I cannot see any other way to think but that God has, in Christ, shared the suffering he could not explain so that we who could not understand could at least know ourselves to be not alone.

  5. jenX

    @GR8TFULG – It’s weird how this never came up at that girls tweetup and we don’t discuss on Twitter, but we are both walking the same journey with our dads, no? I hope to catch up with you at one of these tweetups soon!

    @LOREN – I love how knowledgeable you and every other Catholic I know are about their faith. I loved that part about of course we pray and hope for miracles. You’re always so quick to articulate the real goal – recognizing God’s presence, etc.

    @MOM – I hope God heals his broken heart more than anything. Thanks, mom. xoxo

    @JAZZMASTER – I woke up at 5 a.m. with your comment running through my head. You couldn’t offend me. I appreciate your feedback. So, when I woke up, it was as clear as day – yes, it’s about the journey, not the destination or how the journey ends. Annie Le lived her life, and as such planned for a great celebration – her wedding. There is a lesson here for all of us. Thank you for pointing it out. And, I’ll work on it. =)

  6. jenX

    @KATHLEEN – You can’t imagine how much this means – that our father meant something to someone outside our the original 6 – my mom and siblings. It does my heart good, and you know, this would make him so incredibly happy. I am so grateful to have reconnected after all these years. I have such perfect memories of you, Kathleen, and I know my father does, too, somewhere in his mind.

    @JIM SMITH – I think this comment and the one below it from JAZZMASTER have actually helped me more than anything else has (in regard to these questions) in a long time. Thanks for enduring the journey with me.

    @ADJECTIVE QUEEN – You’ve totally made me an Andrew Sullivan fan. And, he has such a great name. Who could resist??? Ha!

  7. jenX

    @Yogi – Believing, not getting – the important part, I guess. Thanks for always reading my stuff, Yogi!

    @BECK Thank you! I’d hate to bum your readers out, but you can link to anything on my site. Especially my rants about politics. LOL!!! 😉

    @JENNIFER – Thank you!

    @ST – Thank you. I miss seeing films on 8mm. What about you?

  8. Jazzmaster

    Jen… You are SO talented… And SO smart… But…

    Well… Hmmm… Well… I don’t want to be offensive here, so perhaps I should just leave it at that.

    Except to say, the journey is the reason.

    I wish you peace.

  9. Anonymous


    I am at a loss for words. You expressed yourslef so well. I could feel you pain and heaviness of heart.

    If it is any consolation, your dad told me he had seen Sully, that he reminded him so much of Billy. then his thought pattern drifted off. He speaks of his children often, albeit, I am not sure if it is in the present or the past.

    I do not know the “Mind of
    God,” but I know for sure he loves HIS children and cares about them. At times His healing is not just for the body but for the soul, the broken hearted and the lost.

    I love the rain — as a child, I always thought when it was raining, God was crying. When the sun began to shine and a rainbow appeared in the sky — I knew God was smiling. Funny, I haven’t thought of that in years. Thanks for the Gentle reminder.

    Fantastic post.

    Love you Forever– Mom

  10. Loren Christie

    Jen, This post is very moving, and I think your feelings/observations are right on. Jesus wept, I guess that is our only answer for now. We have something similar in our church called the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Although in receiving it we always hope for miracles, the point of the action is to recognize God’s presence with us in the midst of our suffering. Hugs.

  11. gr8fulg

    You made me cry with this one. I hear the words you are speaking, and yet they are in my head and it’s my voice. I don’t know through my journey with my dad if I have allowed myself to ask why. I know God is not afraid of it, maybe I am a little.

    Thanks for sharing your heart. It touched me deeply.


  12. Jim Smith

    I find that peace comes from living with mystery and being able to leave questions unanswered. I’m not good at it…and therefore I often lack peace. But the moments when I don’t feel I have to know is when I feel closest to truth.

    I think religion sometimes does us a disservice by trying to answer too much.

    Your writing is as always very special. You have some very honest thoughts here.

  13. Rebecca


    Daddy knows you in his heart. It’s just he thinks you are still his little bitty girl in his head.

    He could never forget you…


    Beautiful, heartfelt post. My readers would LOVE THIS. Can I link to it? LMK


  14. Yogi♪♪♪

    I don’t get it but I still believe.

  15. Kathleen

    Only the Father knows…and only the Father knows best. I quit trying to figure out why a long time ago. It’s best all left in His hands.

    Every single day of my life for the last 32 years I think about something, or realize something I learned in the tiny little church your dad pastored in Kermit, Texas. It’s always absolutely amazing to me the vast lessons learned and impressions made from such a small place, in such a such small town, in an almost isolated area.

    Some of those Sunday mornings, Sunday school attendance was 13. But what an infinite impact that little church and your dad’s words had on me.

    He still reaches me.

  16. Anonymous

    like an electrical storm on 8mm film. The top edge of my thoughts perforated as spools of faith and doubt were flipped and swapped. Why do I expose myself to the pain of others?

    This is the most original metaphor I have read in ages. Jen you are a literary talent. If Oprah had a blog club you’d win. -ST

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