Archive | February 2015

SHE DIDN’T FEEL A THING…

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The cops were gentle with the victim’s family, assuring them over and over that their daughter had not realized the impact was coming, and had, in fact, felt nothing. I listened, but could not comprehend. How could they know this was true? How did the girl not feel that moment of death? And how can they equate it to a “twinkling of an eye”?

Well, yesterday I found out that their words are actually true. No, that isn’t my car–for those of you who know me. And I’m not dead, by the grace of God. Apparently He isn’t finished with me yet. But what I didn’t know yesterday, I know today. And what “the twinkling of an eye” meant to me two days ago, has a different meaning now. And if it’s any comfort to you and to anyone you know who has been told that someone “did not feel anything,” they are right. And that should bring great comfort.

I was walking on a treadmill, something I’ve done hundreds of times before. And yes, plenty of times I’ve lost a second where I have to double-step in order to be sure I haven’t gone back too far. Nothing you haven’t done, if you’ve ever been on a treadmill. This is no horror story–it’s just how quickly life can change.

I was at 3.5 mph, finishing the first mile when the person next to me spoke to me, breaking my concentration. I was on the treadmill, walking, one nanno-second, and the next I was on my back, several feet away. I was told that my head impacting the concrete floor was so loud that almost everyone in the gym heard it, as it sounded like a bowling ball had hit the floor. And because I didn’t die, I felt pain. But the result could have been so different, and has been for so many people. Yet the incomprehensible thing to me was that there was no time factor between being on the treadmill and laying on the ground.

Later, in the hospital, I realized what the people who try to give comfort to families of victims actually mean: that the victim really didn’t feel anything, Had I died on impact, I wouldn’t have had any realization of doing so–I just would have been in the next life. One breath in this life, normal, the next breath no longer in this life. That was an amazing truth. And how long did it take? For sure, the “twinkling of an eye.” I don’t ever remember anything in my life happening with such “speed”–and no pun is intended. One breath I’m in one place, the next breath I’m in another. That’s how death will be.

This isn’t meant to be gory, depressing, or yukky. This is a piece of comfort that I can now offer to others who have had a loved one killed instantly, and who have carried a weight that their family member suffered. No, don’t add that weight to your shoulders, you already have enough hurt just from having lost them. But if the cops tell you they didn’t suffer, believe them. They didn’t.

For me, today, there is much suffering. I have a concussion that feels like my head is a beach ball, and turning my eyes hurts. The impact was so hard that rather than a gash, there were “explosions” where the skin erupted in several places, all bleeding with that uncanny way the head has of doing it so much worse than almost any other part of your body. The sound of the staple gun is something that may take a while to forget, but eventually it will fade! My head feels like I’m on a merry-go-round, going 100 mph if I change positions. But I’m alive, and will be fine. That’s a blessing I can’t ignore.

But there’s another lesson as well, of course, and that is that life can end that quickly. What if I hadn’t made my peace with God? When someone stands before Him, will anger, bitterness, unfairness, unbelief be a reason for God to excuse them? No, and you know it full well. And if you don’t believe, will that change things? No, of course not. Because what if you’re wrong? What if there is a God? What if He is holding you responsible? As I’ve said before, there are no parties in hell.

Don’t wait for a nanno-second to separate you from this world before you get things right, ok?

Father, thank You for sparing me yesterday. Thank You for the lesson learned so that others can be comforted about loved ones who were unaware of their transition. Help me make my days useful, please Lord, and not waste my time here. Amen

WIDENING MY PATH…

ROADMOUNTAINThe road was against the mountain on the left, but on the right it went down hundreds and hundreds of feet, with nothing to hold a car back from going over the edge. There was only room for one car, but Daddy still hugged the right hand side–more to scare me than because he had to. I sat as close to the door on the side toward the mountain as was possible, hoping to balance the car toward the mountain–just in case. I just knew that any second we would go over the edge, down those hundreds of feet to the ravine at the bottom, and never be heard from again.

Coming back was no less frightening. When Daddy’s business was finished, we would come down much faster than we had gone up. The turns were called “hairpin,” named after the quaint bent piece of thin metal that kept a woman’s hair in place. Daddy used to say it was because you could see the back of your car as your front was going around the curve. Like childbirth pains, you hardly were out of one curve before heading into the next one. Once he saw tire tracks going straight. He stopped the car and we got out, and–huddled together–looked over the edge. There, caught in trees way down the mountain, lay a large truck. Was the driver still alive? Could he have gotten out? We had no way of knowing. Telephones were just being invented, and one had to go into a town to send help.woodenfootbridge

Daddy wanted to teach me courage, I guess. It didn’t work. To this day West Virginia mountain roads scare me to death. They all had names: Dovel Holler, Piney Ridge, Boone’s Trail. But the narrow, winding roads were nothing compared to the footbridge that connected my Grandma’s house with Daddy’s sister. He would go across, then stand at the end, holding on to the (excuse for) sides. “Come on,” he would say; “you can make it!” I couldn’t. Fear took up residence inside me that made me break out into sweat. It was horrible. I could feel the bridge sway, and trying to stay away from the broken boards as I took a step was a challenge. Without a doubt he thought he was teaching me to trust him. I don’t know why the lessons didn’t take, but when I got older, I transferred the same lack of trust to God. I could have the faith that He had gone to a cross for me, but I didn’t know that He would have my back all the days of my life–even those that I messed up worse than anyone in my family had ever done before.

Somewhere along the line, one has to wrestle with the truth. I am constantly challenged to walk a footbridge with God at the other side saying “Come on, My child, I’m right here.” And I have to decide, if He’s big enough to speak the world into being, out of nothing, and big enough to speak life into existence, is He not big enough to honor His promises to care for me? But look what He let me go through, you say. You’re right. He did not make us puppets on a string, for where would be the quality in a relationship like that? He lets us sin if we choose, even though the consequences will be so big they may choke the life out of us. But He has promised so much more if we try to live as He desires us to. Did you know He will WIDEN THE PATH?

I would have been so much more confident if my daddy had said, “Sit right there while I make this road twice as wide!” Or, “Stay right there while I lay 2x6x8′ boards on this footbridge, so you don’t have to worry!” But he didn’t do that. But God does. II Samuel 22:37 tells me, “You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip!” He is taking care of us, enlarging our paths, so that we don’t have to worry about falling! Awesome thought! The next time I think I cannot walk the path He has for me, like Daddy did, I will try to remember that MY God is capable of widening the path, so that I don’t have to worry about falling off. He just wants my trust, and desires that I know He will be there for me. Recognition of who He really is, and that He still cares for us, is an awesome, amazing, unfathomable concept to process with our finite minds! May we do so with confidence in His promises!

Father, I so often forget to consciously remember that You spoke the world into being, that You healed the sick, released the prisoners, and are still doing so today. Help me to trust You, to remember that You are not a man like us that we can figure out, order around, treat like a genii, but You are the God of the universe Who is trustworthy yet loving, just yet merciful, and waiting for us to call on You. Amen

THE WORTH OF A SMILE

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Chaotic frenzy: that is the best definition that fit the situation we were in! San Francisco, California, the seventh largest airport in the U.S., teemed with people representing nearly every nationality on the face of the globe. In the large passages that led to the hundreds of gates, very few were in a state of calm. It seemed nearly everyone was running for a gate, trying to make a mad dash to board the next flight. Some were running, some merely walking at a fast pace, others were getting on the moving walkway (and still walking fast!). Some were shouting at each other as they expressed impatience, fear of missing a flight, or enduring the final straw caused by a child who saw no need to be in a rush. All were making their way to or from the entrances or exits of their chosen airlines, hurrying to another destination. Only a small percentage were moving at a normal pace.

The yelling, the “trying to be heard” scenario brought a cacophony of voices with so many languages it was overwhelming. Never have I seen so many diverse people in my life! To hear English spoken was to hear a bit of “home” in an area where one felt as though English–not Latin–might be the forgotten language! Few people looked at anyone as they scurried their way: their gazes were locked straight ahead, with a single-minded focus that in itself held many lessons.

We had arrived from our flight across America, from a comfortable size town where friendliness is taken for granted. As we passed the myriad of people, overwhelming is the best word that comes to mind. Not because of the tremendous crowds, but because of the lack of connection between those hurrying to and fro. Eventually I noticed a small, elderly woman of Asian descent sitting on a bench in the passageway. For some reason our eyes connected and I gave her a smile. She smiled back, shy but willing to communicate through language barriers to the heart. It was a good two seconds out of the day. And so I began my trek of seeing how many would meet my eyes, and share a smile. Perhaps the number wasn’t huge, but it was still that thread of crossing lines that divided socially, economically, racially, and nationalities. It was satisfying to know that underneath all the unknowns of someone else’s culture there was a thread that can bind us all together if we let it: a smile.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but there was a lesson here that struck at my heart. We are not a bunch of haphazard, unfeeling “homo sapiens” placed on a planet to endure until the day of our death. We all have common things that matter to each of us, whether it’s a family, children, money worries, food or whatever, but sharing a smile is a moment out of time that brings our lives together. It can create unplanned but gratifying moments in our day of otherwise staying within ourselves.

Perhaps it’s the reason people are willing to go to other countries to serve those whom they don’t know, whether it’s through the churches, government organizations, the Peace Corp, or as individuals. The slight connection of a smile becomes a desire to make the lives of others better–not better as in money, but quality. Quality where they don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from as we teach them to fish, or as we dig water wells so they don’t have to walk miles for a bucket of water, and so much more. When you see how much the elderly women ache in their shoulders and backs from the years of carrying heavy water pots, grain, or food on their heads, you hurt in your own body, as they do in theirs. The small five or six-year old’s who have to carry their little brothers and sisters are not building strength alone–they are creating the beginning of lives who know the burden of work from the time they are little.

So maybe a smile is not something that really matters to you. But you have one deep inside you, and it might–just might–bless some stranger¬† today if you give it away. It costs you nothing but a second of your time, and may be the only smile they get today. Pass it on!

Lord, I know I often go about my business with a single-minded focus, my mind of the list of tasks that need doing, and I miss the opportunities to share a smile. Please forgive me, for I know You did not lose any of those moments of connection, and looked with compassion on all You saw while You walked the earth. Help me to be mindful that my second greatest responsibility is to love my neighbor, and it can start with one smile. Thank You for Your love, Lord. Amen