Making New Memories
John and Donna Bishop recount God's goodness even after John's memory was erased.
About the Guest
John and Donna Bishop recount God's goodness even after John's memory was erased.
John and Donna Bishop recount God’s goodness even after John’s memory was erased.
Making New Memories
Bob: The Bible teaches us a very different way of thinking about trials—that we are to count it all joy when we experience various trials. That can be easy to read but difficult to do. Almost two decades 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. 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 are good. If I never get better, I still going to believe You are good because that what Your Word says."
I said, "Lord, this must be what faith means—is believing You, even when I don't feel like it." 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 Friday, December 23rd. 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”? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I don’t know if you’ve had this tradition at your house; but every since I was a boy, on Christmas Eve, we’ve had the tradition of being able to pick out one present that you can open as your night-before-Christmas present. Did you guys do that at your house?
Dennis: I actually snuck upstairs where Mom had the presents hidden and opened several. (Laughter)
Bob: But did you get to officially do anything?
Dennis: No, no. (Laughter)
Bob: See, my parents let us open a night-before-Christmas present but they never put the really good presents under the tree until after we’d gone to bed. We always got socks, or pajamas, or something on Christmas Eve.
Dennis: There you go.
Bob: Well, we have been allowing our listeners to hear a special week-before-Christmas present this week.
Dennis: And this is not a second-rate present. In fact, this is one of the best interviews ever, and you and I have been doing a lot of interviews since 1992; right, Bob. This is just a great love story.
Bob: It is. In fact, when we first aired this, many of our listeners contacted us to order, not just a copy for themselves, of the CD, which includes the entire interview. We’ve had to edit it for broadcast purposes.
Dennis: I went down to the warehouse and I said, “Hey, guys. Let’s find a way to make these things en masse so we can make them available to listeners who would like to give these out en masse to their friends.
Now, our warehouse is shut down and orders are not going to be able to be filled until after the first of the year. They will be filled on a first-come, first-order basis because last time we did this—wasn’t it over 5,000 copies, Bob?
Bob: Over the course of the next several weeks, we did have thousands of these CDs go out to listeners. So we just want to give you a heads up if you’d like to receive a single CD or multiple CDs—just know that it may take us a little bit to get them to you, but we’ll get them to you.
Bob: And you can go to our website, which is FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information you need is right there on how you can order the CDs.
Dennis: And, of course, the story we are talking about is John and Donna Bishop. John has been an evangelist, a leader in a church, worked with youth—just a great couple—a couple here from central Arkansas.
You passed the story on to me, Bob; and Barbara and I listened to it and just wept our way through this story. It really is a great love story of how one wife so served her husband. She brought him back, not from the dead, but brought him back from a grave illness that he had been through.
Bob: Back in l995, John was diagnosed with aseptic meningitis. A month later, he returned to the hospital and this time—and doctors still aren’t sure why—he had lost all of his memory. As we pick up their story, here in Part Three of our conversation with them, we’re beginning to get a picture of how John’s memory loss—
Bob: —impacted a marriage and a family.
Donna: [recorded message] It was hard on the boys. I think it's probably hardest, maybe, on my youngest son because he was 10 years old. 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." 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." 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.
Dennis: 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. 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," I struggled. That was one of my struggles—the Lord—just saying, "Okay, Lord, it's okay." It was easier for him to say it than for me to say it. I just had a hard time. 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 to just take the leadership and go on, and just the energy just to go on, and keep going into things.
Dennis: He was the leader. He was leading you, the family, and the church---and taking you in a direction.
Donna: Yes, sir. He was, you know, just never stopped—just keep going.
Bob: 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. One day I listening one of my messages. I was pretty harsh, and I was listening. I thought, "I don't like that guy;" and I took tape out and threw it out window. (Laughter)
I like the new me better. But, you know, my Donna puts it this way—she said, “Before my illness I sort of knock them over the head, but now I grab them by the heart.” I think the Lord just decided, “If I going to use John, I going to break him all the way down and start over.” What I know of me before, and what she telling me and so forth, I like the new me. Things don't bother me, maybe, like bother other people because I've been through just so much. 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. (Laughter)
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?" 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?” 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.” 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. It's closer, and God is able to use us. 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. 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. We'll take away 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.
Bob: —blessed be the name of the Lord; right?
Dennis: Yes. Even though it's not been easy, you've begun to experience some of the benefit—
Donna: Yes, sir.
Dennis: —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. Everything always gets paid; we are 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.
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. You know, God does—He never leaves us or forsakes us, regardless.
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. 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! 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 is enjoyment. I get to travel. 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 is 20 what?
John: I don't know the number. I can—one eye, I can just make out 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. (Laughter) I just able to make it through, and I called her. I was there at the place; and I said, "Donna, nobody speaking English here. Where am I?" (Laughter)
Dennis: You were in California! (Laughter)
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 wasn’t with me. 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. I'm sitting there thinking, "Oh, mercy! If I knew somebody like that, I'd tell on them," you know? “Who would do that?” You know, and, “What skeleton is it?” I got home, and I said, "Donna, that man knew people there with skeletons, and he wouldn't tell on them." She then had to explain to me. (Laughter)
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. I'm not always laughing, but I love hearing you because you all laugh a lot. 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. 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 alway," and I'd lost my joy over this. "Oh, God," I said, "I'm so sorry.” It was just like I raised the knife. 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." 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. 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. 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. I have two big goals in my life. Number one, make the Lord happy; number two, make my wife happy. 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. 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.” If people could just stop—and even if they've been through hard times, difficult times—God, in His goodness, gave His 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." Boy, how 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 His 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. That's a good God, and I just beg people not turn Him 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 is good.” He said, “I finally—one day I realize, “Why have I turned down such a good God all these years?" He gave his life to Christ. I would love to know somebody give their life to Christ. He's a good God.
Dennis: 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.
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 is just an honor to be in the studio with you. Thank you.
John: It's been an honor for us, too.
Bob: [studio] You know, Christmas will be a different day if you acknowledge today that the One Who came to earth and took on human flesh, the God-man, is your Lord and your Master. He is the one you will follow. Dennis, there is a book that we send out to folks throughout the year called Pursuing God—that helps them see exactly what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, what it means to have a personal relationship with God through Christ. You need to bow your knee to Jesus and to trust Him as your Savior, as your Lord, as your Master.
You can call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. When you call, just say you want to be a Christian and, “I’d like that book that I heard them talking about on the radio.” Again, we’ll be happy to send you a copy of the book, Pursuing God, to help you understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The number again is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
You can also call that number if you’re interested in getting copies of the CD that features our interview with John and Donna Bishop. There is part of the conversation on the CD that we were not able to include on air because of our time restrictions. We’d love to send you the complete interview on CD.
You can request a copy when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY, or you can order copies online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got a number of folks who’ve called and ordered multiple copies to share with others. All the information about how to order the CD in qualities is available online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can ask for information when you contact us by phone. Again, the number is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
And with that, we want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. Hope you’re able to be with family and friends this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about preparing for the New Year and getting your marriage ready for what’s ahead. A little marital tune-up—we’ll talk about on Monday. Hope you can be here 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. Hope you have a Merry Christmas. We’ll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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