A Look Into Hell


The realization that the blackness was no longer consuming me was slow in coming. My eyes slowly opened and took in the bedroom, but my mind was still trapped in the screaming I had heard, and the coma was still trying to pull me back into it. I had been close to a huge arena of darkness, and although I could see shadows of heads on thousands of people, they were all screaming without stopping. Cold sweat dripped off my body, and I was so afraid. My eyes could move around the small bedroom now, but I wasn’t able to move my body yet. The screaming was starting to get fainter, and I rolled onto my right side slowly, and let myself fall off the mattress to the floor. Crawling on my stomach to the next bedroom, where the phone was, took all the strength I had, and I didn’t think I’d make it before the tiny light inside me went back out. I reached a hand up and pulled the phone to the floor. My hand shook so badly, but finally I hit the “O” and an operator came on the line. I had no breath, and my speech was so slurred. “Hos—pit—al.” She recognized honesty when she heard it, and had an ambulance on the way in seconds. “Stay on the line!” she instructed. “Where are you?” “Will–they–pump–my–sto–mach?” I stuttered.

Soon I heard a crashing as the paramedics broke the door in and ran down the hall. As the coma started closing in again I heard one EMT tell another, “Get her an IV as fast as possible!” I struggled. “I—can’t.”  They stopped. “Why??” they asked fiercely. “That’s–an–In–ter–Con–tin–ent–al–Bal–lis–tics–Mis–sile.” (ICBM, for military language.) It was over, and I was gone.

The next morning I opened my eyes. Hooked to numerous tubes, laying in a room full of beds with patients, I must have made a machine go off, for a nurse was at my bed instantly. “Oh my! How glad I am to see you! We lost you so many times last night, we almost gave up. It is a miracle you are alive this morning!”

So it wasn’t over. It was even worse than before; at least prior to overdosing, there was hope of getting out of Life. Now, even that hope was gone. I couldn’t even kill myself. If I just hadn’t dialed that operator! But having seen hell, heard the screaming going on and on and on, had apparently sparked a tiny ember that said it wasn’t the right time. Don’t ever think suicide is the easy way out–it takes tons of courage, tons of grief, and a loss of hope that things will ever be better, to go through with it. To mess it up was the ultimate loss. After that I referred to myself as the “Walking Dead,” long before any movie, book, or tv show ever used the term.

That picture will never leave me. Now we’ve just come through another tragedy in America. “Orlando/2016” happened yesterday and I had to relive the scene above, knowing many of those people may have been going into that dark, screaming hell where there are no parties. Blame is being cast as I type, and threats are being made, fingers are pointing, and division in America is rampant. Who is ultimately to blame?

Do you ever have a moment when a verse of Scripture comes alive? Oh, by the way, yes, I lived. And yes, I got my life right with the Lord. Yes, He had been with me all the time, and had never left my side. No, it wasn’t my time. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know there were more children I might have, a husband who would love me, and a church that would make me welcome. Most of all, I didn’t know that God had hung all the sins I had committed, would ever commit, and was committing, on His Son, Jesus Christ as He hung on the Cross at Calvary. And yes, I have found Him loving me all these years.

As I meditated this morning on 2 Chronicles 7:14, I read, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” Wait. Whoa. What happened to the “God Bless America”?? This verse didn’t mention that if the lost in America get saved, He will heal our land. Nothing is mentioned in that verse about saving the lost! It’s talking about “those who are called by His Name!”  If CHRISTIANS in America will humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face…. Those who are sitting in the pew on Sunday, then turning on their R-rated movies (“I will put no evil thing before my eyes”), pornography after the kids go to bed; who think it’s okay to do things behind closed doors; who have an abuse percentage greater than the world; who gossip, covet, lose self control, who live so that the community doesn’t want to be like the church–those people? Ouch. That makes me frantic. Are we talking about everyone? Certainly not! But over and over in Scripture, Christ likens the church to a body, and if one part hurts–or sins–it affects the whole body.

How can I say, “Church, WE have let America down! It’s not the unbelievers–it’s us! We are not doing fellowship well together, serving and loving the community as we should! WE are not standing on the Word of God, under the Authority of God, and on a Mission to change the world for God! WE have become comfortable, and now our children are becoming complacent! WE don’t stand up when we should, be quiet when we should.” I myself buckled under this morning to a daughter, just to keep peace. All day long it’s haunted me. Why didn’t I tell her to stop being angry at God because He let someone make a bad choice? It’s the price of peace. Lousy reason.

Church, let’s humble ourselves! Let’s pray!! Do you know most Christians pray–if at all–only if they’re desperate? What about praying so that we are thankful, grateful for blessings, for life, for everything He does for us? Let’s seek His face! How do we do that? If you seek the face of someone you love, you spend time with them. How much time to you spend with Jesus? Let’s turn from our wicked ways! That’s those movies, tv shows with blatant sex, cursing, immorality, —you know what you’re doing wrong, and don’t need me to point it out.  If we do these things, we have a promise: THEN I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their SIN, and I will HEAL THEIR LAND! Does our land need the healing touch of God? You bet.

Then it has to start at the house of God. Today is a good time.

© Andre Klopper | Dreamstime Stock Photos


dreamstimefree_65987Barney. If you’re not around horses, the word probably does not mean much. Maybe you think it means an idiot. Wrong (at least here). BUT… if you’re on a horse farm, if you ride the huge animals, or interact with them, it has (or did have, at one time!) a whole different meaning: it means a horse that senses his rider is a novice, is fearful, and decides, on the spur of the moment, he’s had enough of this greenhorn and is going back to the barn–with or without the rider. That was me.

Riding for the first time, this “sweet-spirited, gentle” (quote, my sister) horse would be just the one that I could ride without falling off the saddle from shaking with fear. We got in a line, about six riders, ambling down a path through woods near the farm. The rural countryside in Wake County, NC, was (at that time) beautiful, sparsely populated, and serene.

The horse probably knew the instant I was helped onto his back (believe me, I did not mount correctly) that he had a total newbie on him. It is said that an animal can smell fear. I’m certain his large nostrils were filled with it, and if he could have, he would have asked for a breathing mask.

Halfway through the ride he decided he had had enough walking, decided running might be more fun, and if he were going to run, he might as well head back to the barn. His speed rivaled any horse in the Preakness, Kentucky Derby or on any race track. At least it felt that way to me. I had enough awareness of my situation to know that if I let one of the hairs of his mane slip through my fingers, I would fall, probably to my death. It’s a wonder his mane did not come out. I have no memory of the halter, or anything leather in my hands. Just hair.

I’m sure the screaming in his ears didn’t help any, but after miles and weeks of running at the speed of light, he rounded the corner into the barn. I laid on his back and bawled until several hours later when my sister, family and friends arrived back at the farm. Okay, maybe it wasn’t weeks and hours. Life should not be measured in hours, days and weeks, but in experience. This was one of the “thousand year” times.

All that to say, this morning when I staggered into the kitchen for my first two cups of coffee, which are in one mug (when news came out several years ago that more than two cups of coffee weren’t good for you, I increased my cup to one that holds 20 ounces. So I still drink two “cups,” it just happens to be 40 ounces), I saw an unusual sight: two box fans, on the floor, blowing on high speed, the mop standing there, a shiny, clean floor, and the frig (by the standards of a housewife) not straight. About that time my husband came up from the lower level–a shock, since he sleeps a full two hours longer than I do. The ice maker had poured water out of the ice section (not the gadget side for water), somehow missing the connection of flowing in to refill the ice tray. For who knows how long? Long enough to flood the kitchen. Great. At least he had risen to get a drink of water and found the situation before it leaked through the floor to the lower level. The maintenance agreement ran out in March. Is that predetermined or not? By the time I got around to chugging down my coffee, if I remember correctly two hours (or ages) ago, we were having a “negative fellowship,” since I wasn’t moving the frig correctly, wiping the floor right, and all those other things that might be said when two people are under duress, and one doesn’t even want to be spoken to until coffee has gone from mouth to stomach, stomach to brain.

As I calmed down, I could not help but reflect that nearly every day brings a crisis of one type or another. Some days it might be a small one, other days it’s a big one. I start my day with quiet, coffee and my Bible. Today didn’t start like that. I was frustrated, irritated that the frig wasn’t doing its job, and antagonistic because I was having to “hit the ground running,” rather than having a peaceful quiet time. The Scripture hit me between the eyes, “If you can’t run with the horsemen, how are you going to make it when you have to run with the horses?” (That’s a very loose paraphrase of Jeremiah 12:5).  In other words, if I can’t wake up to a flooded kitchen, how am I going to react when I wake up and something has happened to one of my children or grandchildren? Or news of a terminal illness comes our way? I was not running well with the “horsemen” this morning, so how am I to keep up when I have to run with horses?

Sunday’s sermon came to mind. (You knew it would come to this, right??) Matt Willmington, at Thomas Road, preached on what a Christian really is. That means in the midst of trials, persecutions, hardships, etc., we don’t forget Who we’re following.  We act like a Christian, talk like a Christian (no profanity, sorry folks, but that’s what the Bible says), no saying “Oh, my god” and taking His name in vain (sorry, folks, but that’s what the commandments say), but we realize this trial is momentary, a “light affliction,” and developing patience in us (James, chapter one. Read it, he’s terrific).

Matt laid out some facts that were humbling: if you made more than $5o,000 last year, you’re in the 1% bracket for the world’s wealthiest people. So all those “rich” folks you’ve been frustrated with now includes you; if you made $25,000, you’re in the top 2% wealthiest people in the world. At just $12,500, you’re in the top 13%. That’s $6 per hour, if that helps. Does that put things in perspective for you? It did for me. I was complaining and whining about my frig (“do all things without grumbling and complaining.” Sorry, folks, it’s in the Bible), when really, I have a refrigerator and most of the world does not. I want days without crises (plural), but it’s not going to happen. I need to exercise my spiritual life so that I can keep up with the horses, even when they’re barney.

I need to take the crises of life, turn them into reasons to be grateful, and thank my heavenly Father for His daily care, His daily love, (He gives me daily bread–and since HE is the Bread of Life, He feeds me with Himself daily), and remember to be grateful that I have a frig. Car. Gasoline in it. Breath. Fresh air. Good health. “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”

Thank you, Father, for life!

Sunday sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church:

© Raoul Nijst | Dreamstime Stock Photos



WORRY2 Don’t get me wrong–I love my son dearly. I’m just saying… sometimes there are lessons we miss that illustrate how to live the life of a Christian, and sometimes we actually get them. This time I got it. I don’t always connect the dots, do you?

You see, it started when he decided to take his wife on a surprise trip to Europe. The first thing he did was to make certain that we would be looking at an empty calendar that week, so that the children would be cared for. Brownie point–or, in this case, Scout point. Then all the arrangements started being put into place, passports, luggage, hotels, cities… the whole “nine yards.” She realized he was planning some type of trip, so the question was “Where???” “Colorado,” he replied. (Off the top of his head. Who goes to Colorado when they can’t ski?) She didn’t believe it, but figured, like Delilah, she could wear him down. Thirteen years of marriage hasn’t taught her she can’t. She didn’t.

The weeks have gone by and the time was arriving. He meanwhile gave us tons of instructions for the kids: when they had this practice, that test, did their homework, had their showers–a whole list. Scout point 2. Great dad.

By the time the day before leaving arrived, he had gone over every list conceivable to raising children. They are not babies, but 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. And we raised him. But the details were written down, talked about; food for the week was bought (would grandparents let them starve? Ok, so he doesn’t feed them junk food, but we eat reasonably healthy). I was amazed that their mom, his wife, had said nothing–and I mean NOTHING–to me about the kids!

The morning we picked them up to take them to the airport, I asked her, “Why haven’t you given us any instructions for the kids?” She just looked at me. “I’m leaving the kids with you two. It didn’t occur to me to worry about anything.”

As I pondered her reply, the spiritual aspect hit me between the eyes. What an example of the way we should trust God! Our daughter-in-law knew we would have the kids, and whatever happened–even a crisis–they and their safety would be our first priority. When we give our greatest possessions or worry to God, we should have complete confidence that He will place a priority sticker on it. We don’t have to fret about it any more. Our son, on the other hand, did what we usually do with God: he made sure that we understood how their schedules ran, what they ate, when they slept. That’s fine–and good that he was so concerned, because ultimately he was trying to make it as easy on us as possible. But still, I believe we do that with God: we give Him the details of how we want Him to take care of a situation, and make sure (in our hearts) that He understands this is how is usually works.

Did we follow his schedule? Well, we tried to. Sometimes we did, and sometimes we wanted to build a memory, not just a regular week. Ok, maybe a little bit more pizza, or fun, but we’re the grandparents, so there’s a latitude that is unwritten. I’m sure God does the same thing. There’s our schedule–then there’s HIS schedule. His takes precedence when we’re turning it over to Him.

The thing is, we need to let Him do what we’ve asked, with complete confidence that He will do it His way. And it will be right–and maybe fun.

Just like our week has been!


© Lisa James | Dreamstime Stock Photos



Supper was explosive. Pinto beans dripped from the ceiling in big blobs onto the ceramic tile floor. They slid in congregation down the cabinet doors, and sizzled on the kitchen light fixture. They flooded the range hood, clogged the motor and it ground to a halt. Somewhere–maybe on the other side of the kitchen–the pressure cooker lid was resting, and who knew where the little gizmo that regulates the pressure was? Hiding out behind the frig, probably. Silence reigned except for the “drip, drip, drip” of slushy beans.

Two ashen-faced twin boys stood with eyes as big as saucers, waiting for Dad’s reaction. They needed an indication of the direction his emotions were going to go. Five-year old Wendy, living her life in a wheelchair, sat in shock watching her eight-year old brothers. No one moved.

Rotund Bob M. surveyed the scene, wishing he had looked at the pressure cooker directions. In one twinkling second he realized his wife had given him the special unction of watching their three precious children while she went on a ladies’ retreat for the weekend. He wasn’t young and immature; she trusted him with her heart, with her children, and with her home. What if she walked in now?

Supper was to have been pinto beans, green onions, corn bread, and macaroni and cheese. Dessert was a store-bought chocolate cake. Bob looked at the disaster. How can one bag of beans cover a beautiful kitchen? In two seconds flat it had turned the trendy appliances, the granite counter-tops, the glass-front cabinets and ceramic tile into a cleaning service’s nightmare. And he couldn’t hold it in any longer. Laughter came out in great waves, tears rolling down his cheeks. The slap-stick comedy of the whole scene was too much. The children, in relief, were allowed to let go with the belly laughs they, too, had been holding back.

Bob always swore for the next eight years they found beans in strange places.

This experience has been one of the memories I love the most. Not because it was the funniest thing that ever happened, but because it had so many lessons for me, and the way it was handled. We have an instant choice we can make in the midst of a gigantic, colossal, accident that will be remembered by our children for the rest of their lives. I guarantee if you saw Pete, Gil, or Wendy today, the pinto bean supper would be a memory they cherish–and their father laughing hysterically, rather than cursing.

Bob died not too many years after that. Yet the laughter he always shared was felt by friends, family, co-w0rkers and church. In the midst of heavy emotions we carry daily, like the state of our country, the deconomy (doesn’t “de- mean going downhill? Like de-scend, de-feat?) of the nation, the lack of values, the political rivalry that transcends the country’s needs being replaced with the candidate who can sling mud the longest distance, we need things that make good memories. We need to laugh, to enjoy funny experiences that will outweigh the heaviness of life. Old Johnny Appleseed knew “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but King Solomon knew “laughter does good, like a medicine.” Everyone is on medicine. Maybe everyone just needs a good memory to make them laugh once a day.

Someone recently told the story of being in NYC, and leaving her suitcase on the back of the cab’s trunk, accidentally. It blew off, broke open, and her “unmentionables” went blowing in the wind. The cab driver…..


© Light Habersetzer | Dreamstime Stock Photos