A Nightmare of a Blessing (Old Post from 2009)

The day started out normally, posting on others’ Facebook pages, going to church, stopping by Piggly Wiggly after church for groceries, blah, blah, blah.
And then we arrived home to hear the chirp of my cell phone on the ottoman in the family room. It was my sister. When I answered she was crying hysterically, “Something’s wrong with Dad! The ambulance is here! They’re doing CPR!”
Even though my dad is 72 years old now and I knew a day would possibly come when I would receive such a phone call, I wasn’t ready to receive one today.  As I listened to her sobbing into the phone, instantly I fell apart. I wasn’t ready to let go of my dad. Not now. Not yet.
I heard the ambulance blaring in the background, and suddenly I didn’t even remember how to use my own phone. “We’ll be right there, okay? Okay? We’re coming! Chantel? Okay?”
I hit what must have been the speaker phone because things got louder before suddenly she was gone.
Chuck was saying, “What? What’s wrong? WHAT??!!”I could barely talk but finally got out the words, “My DAD!!!!!! Something’s wrong with my dad!!! We gotta go. We have to go NOW!!!”
We pulled out of the driveway while I was frantically trying to dial our pastor’s number for prayer. Then Chuck did almost a U-turn and said, “We have to put away the groceries!!!” So we put everything in the fridge that needed to be kept cold and left everything else in bags on the table.

Chelsea and Cameron were eating lunch at McDonald’s, so Chuck called to tell them we were leaving and that something was wrong with Grandpa. Chelsea and Cameron immediately wanted to come up, too, but Chuck told them to stay put for now. The kids were upset and knew even less than we did. Finally as other people started showing up at the hospital, Chelsea called again and asked if they could come up. After I gave them brief directions on how to get to the hospital and after Cameron cancelled his basketball plans for later, they were on their way.

The hospital staff decided to airlift Dad to Centerpoint where his cardiologist was so I called Chelsea back and told her to have Cameron turn around and go back home. The helicopter was supposed to be there in seventeen minutes and then we would pick them up on our way to Independence. It took longer than we thought it would, though, and it was probably closer to half an hour or forty-five minutes by the time we were able to leave.

As we were walking down the halls of Ray County Memorial, out to the parking lot, Pastor Jeremy called and said he was already at Centerpoint. He was there to meet us when we arrived and already knew where Dad’s room was so he walked us up.

Dad looked awful, but slightly better than he had at Ray County where he had vomited a few times. They had him hooked up to a heart monitor and he was having severe chest pains still. He said he was very hot, and the nurse said he would try to get Dad a fan. We didn’t have a power of attorney paper with us (actually we had none at all–even though it was stated in Dad’s will). The nurse tried to get Dad to sign consent forms, but my brother had put Dad’s glasses in one of Dad’s shoes and Geoff hadn’t even made it to the hospital, yet. The nurse took off his reading glasses and put them on Dad, but Dad was having more and more trouble and, by this time, couldn’t even hold a pen in his hand. The doctor told us Dad appeared to be having another heart attack and they were going to have to wheel him out so they could correct the problem.

All the way to the hospital and then in the hall as I watched the erratic lines of the heart monitor I didn’t know how to pray. I just kept pleading over and over, “Please, God. Please, God. Please, God, take care of my dad. Please, God, I’m not ready to let him go. Please, God.”

I know my dad is a believer. I know my dad will be in heaven when he dies. But I guess I’m selfish. I would miss all my heart-to-heart talks with my dad, and I’m not ready to see them end. If something happens to my dad, what would I do? What? And then I started thinking of all the people he prays for, and I started wondering who would stand in the gap for all those family members. Could I pray as faithfully as my Dad does everyday? Would I get all his prayer list covered? In addition to my own? He couldn’t die, yet. Lots of people still need his prayers.

Today was a nightmare, really and truly, but, in hind sight, I can see God’s hand all the way through it. Today was, in fact, a blessing:

#1 If Chantel and Danny’s bathroom hadn’t been under renovation, they would not have been staying with my dad, and he would have been alone when this happened. There had been no warning. No words were even spoken. He started breathing heavily, his lips turned blue, his bottom teeth fell out, and his eyes got red. When she saw that Dad was unresponsive, Chantel yelled at Danny, “Something’s wrong with Dad!” Danny called 911 and began CPR. Chantel took her two little boys outside to flag down the ambulance and to call the rest of us. (The ambulance was there in under five minutes.)

#2 Danny has had, I think, nine CPR classes because of his position with the last company for which he worked. Had anyone else BUT Danny been there, Dad probably would not have survived. In fact, one of the paramedics said Danny’s actions may have saved his life.

#3 The heart attack happened at exactly the right moment. Chantel and Danny had been talking about heading home to work on the bathroom for fifteen minutes or so when Dad’s breathing became labored. In fact, Chantel was looking at her shoes and thinking of putting them on so they could leave. If Dad had had his heart attack ten minutes later, Chantel and Danny may have already been on their way home.

#4 I called our church before we even pulled out of the driveway, and not everyone was gone,yet. The ones who were still there began praying immediately.

#5 One of the paramedics on the ambulance with Dad (who said he also served as a chaplain for the firefighters) came by to pray with us shortly after we arrived at Ray County. He had a T-shirt on that said “Evangelists for Sports” or something like that. He recognized Chuck and Chuck recognized him, but neither knew from where.

One of the paramedics was actually one of my brother’s best friends in high school, and he didn’t even realize it was Dad until he saw our senior pictures all lined up on Dad’s living room wall. Dad went into full cardiac arrest. They had to use the defibrillators. Karl said it was the only case he had ever been on when they had to use the paddles that they were able to bring the person back.

We were shaken for quite a while today. When we arrived at Ray County, Chantel and I held each other for a long time and just sobbed together. A little later she told us that she had dreamed last night that Dad had a heart attack.

As I had sobbed and prayed in the car on the way to Ray County Memorial, Chuck had turned to me and said, “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.” And it was. I was sure my dad would be gone by the time we got there, but God preserved him. Even now, I almost can’t believe he’s still alive.

And as much as I have prayed that my sister and brother-in-law would start taking their little boys to church, today I am truly thankful that they were not in church, but instead they were at Dad’s. I will always be grateful to God for all Danny did for Dad today. I’m thankful for his skill and for his cool head. When my sister (and my dad!!) needed him, he was there, and he did what none of the rest of us would have been able to do.

Dad had two stents put in today (did I already say that?), and he may have to have more surgery. But I’m even thankful for this heart attack–because if it hadn’t happened, and if the disease in his heart had gone unchecked for longer, his first heart attack may have killed him. There may have been no coming back.

Thank You, God, for my dad. Thank You for preserving him, for guiding the doctors, for the chaplain who came in to pray for my dad and to check on his status, for Pastor Jeremy coming to the hospital to pray with us, for all our church family who prayed, for Aunt Belle’s prayers and Uncle Bob and Aunt Wanda’s prayers, for the rest of our family who prayed, for Danny and all he did. Thank you for keeping us all safe on the highway today as we drove to the hospital in our emotional state. Thank You for loving us and for hearing us when we pray. Even when we don’t know how. Thank you, God, for letting me keep my dad for a little while longer.

Sometimes God Sends a Big Fish (Old post from 2009)

You may remember the biblical account of Jonah, the man who set his jaw and decided not to do what God had asked him. Instead of preaching repentance to those wretched Ninevites, Jonah hopped aboard the next boat to Tarshish, trying to escape the presence of the LORD. But the Bible says you can’t hide from God (Psalm 139:7-12).

The Bible says, “the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” The mariners traveling with Jonah were terrified. What in the world was going on? Jonah confessed that he was the cause of the storm.

“Cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you,” Jonah said (Jonah 1:12.)

That ended his shipmates’ problems, but Jonah plummeted to the depths of the sea, facing certain death. God was there to catch him when he fell. The Bible says, “the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

Was it happenstance that strong winds rocked the ship bound for Tarshish and nearly destroyed it? No. God sent that storm. Was it mere fate that caused a huge fish to happen along to catch Jonah when he fell? No. God sent that fish. The lesson wasn’t wasted on Jonah, either. He knew exactly what was going on. God had a plan for Jonah’s life, and God’s plans can’t be thwarted.

There was a time when I wasn’t walking with the Lord. I received Christ when I was eleven, but my parents stopped taking us to church not long after that. I didn’t have the love and support of encouraging youth group leaders, and I wasn’t sitting under the teaching of a good Bible-believing pastor. I was just kind of out twisting in the wind. But the wind was in God’s hand, and so was I. I wasn’t hidden from His sight. One day He sent a big fish. The fish’s name was spina bifida. When my first child was born with this birth defect, it caused me to get my priorities straight in a big hurry, to return to the God who loves me and died for me. I wanted to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, as the Bible tells us to do.

I want our family in church. I don’t want my children out twisting in the wind because they have no direction. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I made. I want them to walk with God always and never turn away from His will for their lives.

We have to understand that God loves us and cares for us. We may get lost in the storms of life, but sometimes those storms are our own doing—as in Jonah’s case. Praise be to God, on the wings of the storm sometimes God sends a big fish. While it’s no fun to be trapped in the belly of a big fish, sometimes that fish turns out to be our deliverance from an even greater catastrophe: sudden death, or, worse yet, imminent eternal death.

Jonah cried out to God and God had His ear bent toward Jonah to receive his pleas for mercy and forgiveness. Had it not been for the great fish God sent, Jonah would have perished in the depths of the sea. God spared Jonah and supernaturally kept him alive—in a fish’s belly. Then, after three days, the fish vomited Jonah up on dry ground (Jonah 2:10). For the sake of all the people in Nineveh who were headed for hell and needed to hear about God’s love and mercy, Jonah needed an attitude adjustment.

Maybe you’ve been through something horrible. Maybe you’re going through something horrible right now. You know, God has His ear bent toward you, too. Are you ready to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness? He sent His Son that you might have it. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Sincerely trust in the Lord Jesus, and He can and will deliver you from your bondage of sin.

Bats in the House (old post from 2009)

When we lived on 13th Street and had very tall oak trees on all four corners of our house, we had a bat drop in for a visit one summer. Let me tell you, it’s very freaky to have a BAT in your house! It took a day or two to get him out because, of course, he only came out at night, and it was a frightening experience all around, with all his swooping down at our heads while we screamed and chased him around with bed sheets, trying to shoo him out the front door.

The first night no one saw it but me. Chelsea was in her room and Chuck and Cameron were at a Royals game. I told them all about it, and they believed me. All day the next day Cameron walked through the house with his hand shadowing his eyes, lest he catch sight of the horrid winged creature. He did this, even though he had never seen the bat for himself. I had told him that I saw it, though, and he believed me.

After this episode I started thinking about how easily we can apply this experience to the historical account of the beginning of Christianity. I often think of the disciples and wonder how anyone can doubt the truth of the Christian faith, based on their testimonies and the lengths to which they went in spreading that truth, even choosing to die for it rather than recant.

When I think of the type of men Jesus chose for His disciples and apostles, I see that He chose some very credible men. Luke and Paul, for example, were both educated men, certainly no fools. Luke was not only a physician by trade but also a noted historian as well. Paul was educated in matters of the law, an intelligent man. Their lives, and the lives of their brothers in Christ, were spent, poured out for the cause of the Gospel. They poured out their lives for what they—not just believed—but knew to be true.

1 Corinthians 15:3: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Co:15:4: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Co:15:5: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1Co:15:6: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
1Co:15:7: After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
1Co:15:8: And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
1Co:15:9: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Take a look at that last verse. I believe that Paul was an even more credible witness for Christ because of his background. He, in essence, had to admit that he was wrong, that his convictions had been misplaced.

How credible a witness are we? How do we live our lives? Do we live like we actually believe what we preach? Do we live like the Gospel is just something to which we mouth allegiance on Sundays or is it the very essence of our life?

A final Scripture that kind of ties into this is Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

As Christians, truth should always be on our lips. Never should we be caught in a lie, a white lie, a half truth, an unfulfilled (or forgotten) promise. If we tell someone we are going to do something, we better make sure that is the thing we do. I think it’s best not to promise anything in the absolute because as the Bible says we should not boast of tomorrow since we don’t know what tomorrow holds. I think we should pepper our speech with “As far as I know I will be able to do such and such” or “I will try my best to do such and such…”

The only time we can deal in absolutes is when we are dealing with the Gospel of Christ, and then we can be absolutely certain that it is the absolute truth. The disciples died for what they knew to be true. They knew it was true because they were there and they saw the risen Lord firsthand. The people they told believed them then, and I believe them now.

Do Good People Go to Heaven?

When my son was very small, he had somehow picked up (probably from Hollywood) that good people go to heaven and bad guys go to hell. I had to explain to him that the matter of heaven and hell is not a good guy/bad guy scenario. No one is good enough to go to heaven. Compared to our Holy God, we’re all “bad guys.”

The fact is that we all have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Ultimately, it’s not the good we have done or the bad we have done that affects where we spend eternity; the only question that matters is, have we received forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ? What have we done with the gift of God’s only begotten Son? He who trusts in Jesus is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned (John 3:16-18).

The Bible says that our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The only righteousness we are able to claim is the imputed righteousness of the sinless and blameless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Our faith is credited to us as righteousness, not our works (Hebrews, chapter 11).

Except for the favor we have found with God for believing on the name of His only begotten Son for the forgiveness of our sins, not a single one of us would or could make it to heaven. And we can’t even take credit for our faith because the Bible says in Romans 12:3: For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Even our very faith is a gift from our heavenly Father. God has enabled us to believe. He has also enabled us to reject Him by giving us free will. Matthew 23:37 gives us an illustration of this point: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

God has given each person a free will and a measure of faith. It is not that the most hardened atheist can’t believe; it’s that he won’t. The Bible says that man will be without excuse (Romans 1:20). No one will be able to stand before the Father and say, “Well, I just didn’t know.” The evidence is there: in creation, in our own consciences, throughout God’s Word and in the prompting of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin and testifies of the Son.

The Bible makes it clear that no one can get to the Father except through the Son.

The words of an old hymn say it all: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Revelation 1:5 records for us: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood…”

We are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Jesus, not by any work we can accomplish on our own behalf (Romans 3:25, Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). He couldn’t have made it any clearer.

Since salvation comes through the blood of Christ alone, we can be confident that no one is so bad that God’s grace can’t save him, and no one is so good that he doesn’t need to be saved.

Trust solely in Christ today for your salvation and you will secure a home in heaven for eternity. Jesus can wipe your slate clean, and you can start a brand new life today. Won’t you turn to Him now?