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The Ultimate Decision

it-is-in-your-momentsI have found in recent times that I have begun speaking of Bethany and Katie, in the present tense.

It just feels right.

And the Bible tells us that we are all eternal creatures.

One day, sitting in the sanctuary of our home church, Pastor Wes George said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “We all spend eternity somewhere.”

This was before Bethany and Katie died.

And you know, he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but the way he framed it, just seemed to boil it down to a profoundly powerful succinct message of truth.

We all spend eternity somewhere.

And let me tell you—that somewhere—that somewhere is absolutely the most important thing to a bereaved parent—spouse—child—friend.

All the things—every deed—goal—hope—expectation—ideal—every single thing that draws our attention in this life is reduced to one primary concern when you stare death in the face. Where will eternity be spent?

The body dies but life goes on; even for the deceased.

And what the bereaved believes about the afterlife is all of the sudden of utmost importance.

And frankly, it’s all about the bereaved at this point in time.

The deceased has lost the opportunity to figure out and act upon what they believe about eternity. The choice they made, or chose not to make, in this life is now their eternal destiny.

notmakingadecisionBut for the bereaved those beliefs have the power to extend hope or destroy the heart.
And that’s why the cultural belief that all roads lead to Heaven, that we all worship the same God regardless of what name by which we call Him, is so deceptively destructive.

It allows us to make light of the most vital question and decision every human must address. And the failure to make a decision is a decision in and of itself. The decision to postpone making a choice, and the decision not to choose, result in eternal consequences, just as making a conscious choice does. And that is why the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:2,

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting (or in some translations, the house of mirth): for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”

The loss of a loved one—the natural end of all men—forces those with hearts not already harden to seriously consider exactly what they believe about the afterlife and hopefully leads them to make a conscious choice—for the sake of their own eternal future.

Everyone spends eternity somewhere.

I have made my choice.

I have no question and no fear about where I will spent all of eternity.

It’s not a decision I’ve made lightly.

I didn’t just drink the Kool-aid, so to speak.

Twenty-four years ago, I took my first real trip to the house of mourning. As a result, I reexamined everything I believed about eternity—who got to Heaven and how. Then I reaffirmed the choice I made many years before when the need to make a decision seemed far less critical.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the priority of that choice, and that fact was never more evident than when I knelt by the side of the road frantically trying to determine if my oldest daughter was alive or dead. She was 20. Twenty years old, far younger than the average lifespan in our current day. And then I repeated that same assessment, dead or alive, for my 18 and 16 year old daughters.

That day, my 20 and 16 year old daughters lost the opportunity to make a decision regarding their eternal futures. The choices they made, or failed to make, prior to that day had already begun to be played out for the entirety of their days without end.

Consequences good or bad . . .

On that day, I wasn’t confident that my 20 year old had chosen the way I desperately desired for her to choose. Even in a state of shock, I knew . . . I knew the time for deciding was lost. My opportunity to influence—over. And ironically, just an hour before the accident that stole her life, we’d debated the issue of evolution and creation theory.

One short hour before her death.

And as I knelt at her side in stunned disbelief, my heart fractured in a way it had never done before. In my shock, during which I’ve been told my mind entered a state of disassociation, I stumble from her side in order to find my two other children. Now, when I rewind the tape of that moment, I literally see myself sitting back on my heals and keening out a desperate and despairing cry of, ‘Noooooooo!’ to the heavens, and collapsing on her still form. ‘Noooooooo, Noooooooo!, Please, God, Noooooo! There is no more disturbing and heartbreaking sound on earth than that of a mother keening out her sorrow over the body of her dead child. And there is no greater fear than being unsure of your loved one’s eternal destiny—unless you feel assured that their eternity will be spent in Hell instead of Heaven—and that’s nothing short of terrifying.

It was three long months later when I discovered a journal with only two entries that had been written four years prior to her death, that gave me any hope, any peace, that she might be spending her days dining with the Savior of her soul in paradise forevermore.

Three utterly agonizing months.

And, I won’t really rest easy until I see her again; face to face.

If you’ve not decided what you believe about the afterlife; I urge you not to delay.

My greatest frustration in regards to the topic of the existence of God and the afterlife is that our culture seems to endorse the concept that every resource, aside from the Bible itself, is a legitimate source with which to make such an all-important decision.

lifeisshortThose who encourage you to disregard the Bible are doing you a grave disservice along with manipulating you toward the decision they want you to make. I encourage you to choose the Bible in addition to any other resources you desire. And frankly, I can say that because God is not at all concerned with how His word stands up against any other source.

By encouraging you to research other sources including the Bible, it should be plainly evident that I’m not trying to manipulate your decision. Instead, I want you to compare and contrast what God’s self-proclaimed word says with what any other source you choose has to say. You will probably discover that every other source tells you what the Bible says. You may think that means reading the Bible yourself is unnecessary but that’s not the case because verses will be quoted, but taken out of context, and thereby the true meaning is warped or lost altogether. The Bible is the only inspired source revealing God’s character and His own declaration on every moral choice presented to man. So it’s important that you include the Bible in your choice of resources in order to make a non-biased decision.

Research and choose.

Don’t forfeit your chance to consciously decide where you will spend all of eternity; because . . .

Everybody spends eternity somewhere.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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How to Help a Breaking Heart Because You Have One & So Does Everyone Else

This post was written by Ann Voskamp. I copied it from her blog, A Holy Experience, as it seems readers don’t like following links within a blog post and I really want you to read this – to soak it in. The formatting is a bit different here. My blog doesn’t have as many bells and whistles. You can click on the link in red above if you’d like to read the post with its original formatting.

Ann Voskamp has mastered the art of capturing important truths in a single sentence and this article is chock full of them. It’s not an easy read for the deeply wounded — primarily because your heart might chafe at the hard truths it reveals. But those truths, when the time is right, might help a broken believer get back on their feet again. I hope you will read it, and maybe save it and return to it on occasion, in order that it might take root in your heart and ground you in truths that will sustain you when you need someone to get the saw. So buckle up; here goes. . .

 

Someday,

they say this is true like coming taxes and the grave —

Your heart will break.

You may not feel the the crack of it, but you may feel the bleed.

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Your chest may pain to the touch and you may want someone to break your chest wall down, to get to you, to not leave you alone in the ache pressing, the way it’s hard to breathe.

So, this is hard but true: you will need someone to get a saw.

You will need a fine, sharp blade and an oscillating saw and you will need to let them saw through the sternum of you, crack open your chest wall.

Sit with that a moment: Your skeletal armour will have to break if anyone is ever to get to your heart.

This is a hard thing:

You must surrender to a breaking that must happen if you want any of your brokenness to heal.

I hadn’t known this or felt this — but I have now and I cannot forget. 

You may need to let your right pulmonary artery be cut away and sutured directly to your superior vena cava. At least, that’s what the surgeon told us, told us what would have to happen to her little broken heart.

And this is a harder thing —  You have to trust that the breaking of your heart will heal you into a kind of stronger. 

The greatest strength can grow straight out of the greatest weakness. The universe is a beautiful place, made in the strangest ways. I AM knows who we are and what we need.

And the people who love you, right in the midst of the aching? They will need to be brave. (Sometimes the greatest courage is to trust enough to let go.)

They will need to hope that miracles can make a home right inside of broken peopleThey will need to believe that broken things can become new things.

(Sometimes your people may have to pace in waiting rooms, 8 hours, more, because broken hearts need time. When you’re busted and bruised… people around you may have to kill the clock. Because — broken hearts don’t heal on anyone’s timelines.)

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Please be gentle with yourself; grant yourself grace and time. Any kind of heart break will land you in a kind of ICU. It’s true: A heart has to be monitored if you’re ever going to survive. This too will take patient time, a quiet suffering of its own.

Listen to the beat of your own heart. Listen to what it’s telling you, to the rhythm it wants you to keep. Listen to the bravery of your beats — believe that your heart is pounding together something new. This is how He made a heart to work. Listen to this and rest.The way to recover is to cover everything with grace.

Take all the time you need to find out for yourself how this is the most proven kind of true:  

The best kind of intensive care for a broken heart is to let the words of Christ intensively care for you. 

This can be hard to swallow—- when we want easy serum for our veins, cheap comfort bought with plastic, quick fixes that cost little and let us be fine without refining anything. But if you let His Word wash your wounds, let His grace caress your pain, let His Truth touch your bruises, let His hope heal your ache, you can feel a kind of resurrection on earth. His promises are more than true — they are your resuscitation. 

Turn to the window and wait for the sun to rise, to keep always rising. Never stop being surprised that it does, never get over the miracle that you get to see it. 

It’s okay to let the tears come, to weep over all this pain, all this love, all this beauty, all this brokenness and the hard roads that we somehow find ourselves walking, forcing one step in front of the other.

It’s okay to let someone trace the scar down the middle of you and to touch your holy brave and bear witness that your fight is hard and sacred.

It’s okay for you to feel along your wounds wired closed and wonder why you have had to warrior through all of this.

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And it can happen that they find out in recovery, that when they broke open your chest walls to get to you, when they broke your broken heart in different ways so healing could happen in new ways, that somehow your lung’s collapsed —- and that’s why each breath hurts.

Even though you’re in recovery, you’re still in pain.This can happen. And somehow you still have to keep breathing through the ache. 

Sometimes you can’t experience full recovery until you let your pain be fully uncovered.

You have to be a willing brave, if you want more. 

And when you don’t know how? 

When you don’t feel brave? 

When it all feels too hard?

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Turn and look up into someone eye’s and let yourself be seen and touched and known.

Let yourself hear it, and let it reverberate through the hurting chambers of you and let yourself never forget:

Pieces of your broken heart mend when you make peace with what He gives. 

The healing has begun.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Faith, Links

 

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How Much Does God Intervene In the Lives of Men?

devineinterventionNow that’s a weighty question, isn’t it?

There are many who believe that God creates us and then stands back and lets life happen. I don’t currently count myself among those. I may later in life but I fear that might be because new wounds have been inflicted and I really don’t want to go there . . . But today, today, I think the Bible supports the conclusion that God is very active in the lives of His creation.

Hagar, a pagan (not to be mean-spirited here, just a factual description) declared God to be, the God who sees me, after her desert encounter with what many believe to be the pre-incarnate Christ in the wilderness when she fled from Sarah. In fact, Hagar had two separate encounters with God and He intervened in her life twice but also in Ishmael’s future promising in Genesis 17:20 that he would have a great number of descendants of which would come 12 princes. Take a look at Hagar’s first meeting with the Lord – I love the meaning of Ishmael- that was a new discovery for me!

Genesis 16:7-14

Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” 10 Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord said to her further,

“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael [I.e. God hears]
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of [Lit before the face of; or in defiance ofall his brothers.”

13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees” [Or You, God, see me] for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi [I.e. the well of the living one who sees me]; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

redseaAdditional examples of God’s intervention into the lives of men include:

A poor shepherd boy, David, who was elevated to warrior, hero and eventually king.

Let’s not forget Joseph, who, by most accounts was a spoiled brat before he was elevated to Pharaoh’s right hand man.

And for goodness sakes, the poor prophets. God intervened repeatedly in their lives in order to fulfill His purposes.

It should be noted God’s plans for Ishmael, David, Joseph and the prophets didn’t rescue them from difficult circumstances. In fact, His intervention resulted in a host of problems in every instance. Ishmael and his descendants fought with everyone and everyone with him. David may have been anointed King, but his path to the throne included being hunted by King Saul who sought to kill him. David was forced to run for his life! Joseph, prior to stepping into his pre-ordained role to save the people from starvation, was cast into a pit, sold into slavery, escaped a lecherous queen only to be falsely accused and thrown in prison, all before he was elevated to Pharaoh’s right hand man. And the prophets were sent hither and yon to issue verbal slap downs to kings and communities, and for their trouble they were hated and killed.

emptytombNeed a New Testament example?

God intervened in the life of a young Jewish girl making her the mother of His son, Jesus Christ.

Paul a zealous pursuer of Christians was met on the road to Damascus, made blind, later had his sight restored, and then became an evangelist.

Jesus intervened and changed a bunch of fishermen into church leaders.

And all suffered for their service. Every single one. Mary watched as her son was hung on a cross. Paul was beaten, chased out of town, imprisoned, and shipwreck in service to the Lord.

timesandseasonsAnd those fishermen who established the Christian church were martyred often dying horrifying deaths.

I can’t tell you exactly how often God intervenes in the lives of common men, but I do think the Bible clearly shows that he doesn’t simply create humans and cut them loose to fend for themselves in this world. He also doesn’t hide the fact that following Him doesn’t ensure easy passage through this life either. Keep in mind that, like those named in the faith hall of fame found in the book of Hebrews, many will die without seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises.

2014_08-god-intervenes-to-keep-israel-safeI’m pretty sure that since the Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and always, that He continues to intercede in the lives of men today. We should take that to heart as the presidential election bears down upon us. We should keep that in mind as we see more and more signs of the end of the age revealed. God is God. Always has been. Always will be. His word will not return void.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in Faith

 

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Impulsive Decisions

dsc_0078I did something I probably shouldn’t have today.

It was impulsive.

I certainly didn’t consult the Lord before I acted. People rarely do when they make impulsive decisions . . . But maybe, maybe, I just wanted what I wanted and didn’t want to be told no—even if it was in my best interest.

 

I’ve seen a lot of doors closed in my lifetime and sometimes I just want to bust in, take what I want and live with the consequences. It’s not as if I deceive myself into believing I won’t suffer any consequences. Oh no, my eyes are wide open.

What’s one more set of consequences in this life of mine? At least the consequences I face will be of my own making instead of suffering consequences for the choices of others.

My impulsive actions weren’t sinful, but just because something is lawful doesn’t mean you should do it.

I thought I made peace with this last year, but today it just rose up and I executed a short internal debate then bit the bullet and placed the call.

Right from the get go things didn’t go smoothly. I encountered a determined gatekeeper. I should have just hung up but by this point, I was all in.

And there was no getting past this gatekeeper without explaining the full nature of my call.

And so I spilled it. . .

In frustration I rambled off something that went like this: ‘I want to talk to Roger Wilson because he was involved in a car accident on December 26, 2013, in which two of my daughters were killed. I’m not calling to place blame, I just want him to answer a question or two.”

And there it was . . .

And the gatekeeper?

His wife—who was also in the truck that day.

So I asked her my question.

‘At what point on the road that day did you realize the red truck had moved into your lane? It’s a hill. Did you see the truck before or after you topped the hill?’

I’m not really sure I got the answer I wanted because I’m still not sure I know exactly where they were.

dsc_0062What I got instead was a recitation of the driver of the red truck’s actions. I gather they had been aware, even concerned, about the other drivers actions before he pulled in front of their vehicle, into the passing or fast lane if you will, moving at a rate of speed significantly below the speed limit and slowing further has he applied the brakes to gain access to the turn lane he was so hellbent on getting to.

She told me she hated what happened.

Hated what happened to us.

Had prayed for us.

dsc_0079After I reiterated the question, I was told that there was no possible way they could have stopped, could have avoided the collision. That the officer who took their statement had said as much. She said the other driver was traveling about 35 miles and hour and people were passing him and that there was no way to stop when you are traveling at “65 miles an hour or whatever” and someone pulls in front of you going 35 miles per hour and braking.

She went on to say that the accident turned their lives upside down and more so for us.

She kept saying I hate it. What exactly does she hate? That it happened. That they were involved. That my daughters were killed.

I thanked her for speaking with me. Even thanked her for her prayers. Told her I appreciated it and said a hasty and awkward goodbye.

During the course of the call, a few things became apparent to me. Things that bothered me. Things which precipitated that awkward ending to the call.

She never acknowledged the fact that her husband was speeding at the time of the accident. It’s right there in the accident report and verified by the vehicle’s computer chip. In effect, she refused to accept any responsibility whatsoever, on her husband’s behalf, for the collision.

I’m not sure why.

There is no possibility of any further legal action against her husband, so it can’t be excused as an action to protect her husband or their assets.

Is she living in denial?

Maybe she’s actively trying to convince herself that her husband is in no way responsible for the deaths of my daughters. Maybe that allows her to sleep at night.

And because there was no admission of wrong doing, and because it became apparent that her goal was to advocate for her husband’s innocence, there was no offer of condolences. I never heard the words, “I’m sorry for your loss” let alone “I’m sorry for the role my husband played in the accident.”

Instead what I heard loud and clear was, ‘We were not at fault.’ That’s pretty much what I got out of her comments, but the unspoken message was, ‘We were victims too.’

dsc_0056All I really wanted was to know when the driver of the red truck pulled into the fast lane. The best I could hope for was an apology for the law he broke that inadvertently put him in the path of the reckless driver who cut into his lane. An acknowledgment of his wrongdoing. Remorse over the consequences his individual choice made in our lives. An expression of sympathy. I guess it’s just too much to ask to have people take responsibility for their actions in this day and age.

One of the things that bothers me most about the collision is that because both drivers were at fault to varying degrees, they can each point a finger at the other and excuse their own behavior. The driver most at fault (95% at least) points his finger at the other driver and says, ‘I would not have hit that van, those girls would not have died, if the other driver wasn’t speeding which caused him to rear-end my truck’. And the driver least at fault says, ‘This accident wouldn’t have happened if the other guy wasn’t on the road because he had no legal right to be since he didn’t have a drivers license. It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t pulled out in front of my truck.’ And neither one has to look themselves in the mirror and admit that their actions contributed to the deaths of my daughters.

And that’s precisely why I probably shouldn’t have made that call.

I’m a floor mat.

I wanted so badly to say, ‘Your husband is not blameless. He was breaking the law too. He made fewer mistakes, but he is not innocent of the deaths of my daughters.’

But what would be the point?

Aside from saying it out loud, confronting her with the truth, I would have just initiated a defensive and defiant response further abdicating her husband’s responsibility and guilt.

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The Honorable Judge John LePage – McDonald County Missouri Circuit Court

I wonder if she realizes that because her husband was speeding there was no way to prosecute the other driver for the crime he was clearly guilty of: vehicular manslaughter.

I wonder if she realizes the rate of speed at which their vehicle was traveling determined the force and speed at which the red truck was pushed into oncoming traffic. Less speed equals less force.

I wonder if she realizes that because he was speeding justice was denied my daughters.

I wonder if she realizes that even the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor offense of careless driving was cut in half by the judge who excused the paltry $500 fine and six month suspended jail sentence because “the other driver was speeding”?

That in and of itself is all kinds of wrong as the defendant was being prosecuted for reckless driving. He should have been sentenced based upon his actions alone.

Her husband is responsible for much more than exceeding the speed limit. His actions resulted in the perversion of justice. His actions served to excuse everyone at fault.

Had he not been speeding the impact of the two trucks would have taken place seconds later and our van would have passed by that point of intersection unscathed. But no, this was the result of one unlicensed and reckless driver meeting up with one speeding driver . . .

 

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My daughters died but in spite of the fact that two drivers broke multiple laws that day, no one, not one person is held responsible? Say it isn’t so! But it is . . . because it’s the other guys fault.

And Wow, just wow! Am I suppose to feel badly because the speeding driver’s life was upended? Am I suppose to consider him an innocent victim? Did his wife expect me to pardon his behavior?

Before I made that call I could have convinced myself that at least this one driver accepted responsibility for his actions, but now, I will pay the piper. I will have to live with the knowledge that both drivers consider themselves guilt free.

Is anyone else nauseated by that fact?

We sing about the day the music died, but who really cares? The day integrity died is far more disturbing. The drivers, the prosecutor and the judge each demonstrated an appalling lack of integrity.

And because I so desperately wanted every single piece of the accident puzzle, I will have to cycle through the process of forgiveness one more time. I will have to make peace with more anger. I will have swallow another serving of resignation. I will have to surrender my right to see justice meted out yet again. And that’s all on me. I didn’t consult the Lord. I didn’t want Him to tell me to let it lie, that He’d take care of it, that knowing would only hurt me more. I just wanted answers in spite of the fact that it would change nothing. Nothing. So I’ll suck it up and shoulder the consequences my insatiable need to know demanded. I’ll suck it up because those pictured below are worth it.

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But this I know—of this I am confident—denial and excuses will not protect the guilty from the wrath of God. Grace is their only escape if their hearts aren’t already too hardened to receive it. Justice will be served; in God’s time, but it will be served.

And what I heard today can only be described as a deceptive half-truth. A sin of omission. It’s just one more sin to add to the cup of iniquity. One more sin adding to the cup of the wrath of God. One sin filling those cups drawing us ever closer to Christ’s return when God will proclaim the cup of iniquity full and the cup of the wrath of God will be poured out upon the wicked. It will be judgement day.

I’m in no way saying that the two drivers, the wife of this driver, the prosecutor or the judge are not saved. Only God knows the heart of man, but woe to the man who knows to do good and does it not, for that is sin. (James 4:17 paraphrased

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief

 

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How well did I understand grace before I understood grace? – Escape to Reality

magic-eye-3dHave you ever seen those Magic Eye 3D pictures that look random at first glance but then reveal a hidden picture? Maybe there’s a group of you looking and someone says, “Wow – look at that! It’s a …

(Clink on the link highlighted in red below to read the full article.)  

Source: How well did I understand grace before I understood grace? – Escape to Reality

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in Faith, Links

 

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