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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

God Cares

     I want to share a story with you that contains both facts and faith.  It involves two separate incidents that occurred almost 30 years apart, yet are tied together with a knot of love and eternal hope.  Life always is good at throwing us curve balls, or even leading us down dead end roads.  But, there are also those times when God's presence shines upon us, and it all seems to make sense.  Even, in it's randomly disjointed patterns.  I think that this maybe one of those stories that let us take a peak at the grand scheme behind the great patchwork quilt of our lives.
     Answering a heavy knock at the door, and opening it only to see two uniformed police officers is not comforting to a little girl.  Then, comes the overhearing of the heart wrenching inevitability voiced through compassionate tones as the officers make their pronouncement.  They tell your mom that your brother has been fatally injured in a car wreck. 
     The world seems to slow and become a hollow place all around you.  The once festive Christmas holiday trappings that decorate your warm home lose their color, joy, and effect.  Life as you know it can change on a dime.
  You walk through the next few days as if on some kind of unreal conveyor belt.  Just going through the motions, while being hit at times by both the sharp pain of a broken heart, and the empty blackness of unending loss.  Christmas itself, is only days away.  The presents under the tree are still there, ready, waiting to disclose his last gifts of familial love and caring.  It will be one of those extremely few days in a life that will have to be  both endured and cherished.
     That year her brother had bought her a soccer ball.  She played with it all of the time.  So much so, that more than likely it became too much for her mom to handle.  Torn between letting her daughter keep this last treasure and her internal nagging fear that she may have an obsessive attachment to the toy.  It wouldn't be long before the ball simply disappeared.  Allowing time to make it more of a memory, instead of a sports item made of rubber, air, and love.
     I must make a point to stop us here.  So that you will know all of the facts before we begin our leap into the unknown.  First, I am not saying that the soccer ball magically disappeared.  It was more than likely human action that caused it to happen.  Secondly, my wife had told me once before about this story from her childhood long ago.  But, it was never something other than a fleeting story that she had shared from her past.
     Now, lets fast forward the timeline to a period about 30 years later, to a time quite unlike that of the one in the beginning of our tale.  It was when our church was immersed in the gentle, loving, moving of God's Holy Spirit presence upon the congregation as a whole.  It was to the uninitiated, a Holy Spirit revival.  A time where it seems that the very essence of Heaven touches Earth.  A period of weeks, and months, where hearts are changed, bodies are healed, and everything just seems to be right with the world.
     The only way to really relate to you what a revival is like is for you to have to experience it.  No amount of verbal articulation can describe what you see, hear, know, and feel.  Whatever your spiritual temperature is, you will be challenged, convicted, and yes maybe even offended.  But, hopefully when the Spirit moves you will have been changed, and the love of Christ will burn within in you more than it ever did before!  It is a spiritual thing, that's all I can say.
     It was during this move of God that I found myself on the floor.  Laid down gently by the overwhelming presence of God that left me too weak to stand.  In the past this has been called being "thunderstruck", but today it would be referred to as being " slain in the Spirit".  Whatever it may be called, it is a time where He seems to speak directly to our hearts with peace, love, power, affirmation, revelation and change.
     Here now is where faith will become your guide.  In this state, I sensed myself surrounded by white.  Bright, warm, comforting white light; yet it also had a sense of softness to it, dare I say fluffiness?  I also saw people motioning towards me.  I did not see detail, by that I mean everything was soft, not focused to crystal clarity.  I wouldn't say that I was, "in Heaven", as much as I was seeing a vision of heavenly things.
     Two of the people who stood together were my grandparents, Nana and Gran.  they were both Christians, so I assumed that they would be there waiting.  They smiled, and radiated warmth. The third person there I had never met.  He was tall, thin, young and standing just ahead of my grandparents.  At the end of his long lanky arms, pressed between his hip and his hand was a soccer ball.  He brought it up in one hand, holding it out to me, and seemed to say, " tell my sister that I am waiting to give her her present".
     Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, this young man was my wife's brother.  Emotion gripped my reposed body.  I found it hard to grasp and accept all that I was seeing, and how I was feeling.  My reaction pulling out of that state was one of profound tearful emotion.  I stumbled out of the sanctuary to find my wife, and somehow share with her this event.
     Moments later, I found her with an associate Pastors' wife.  Through tears, I shared my experience with her.  She knew something had happened to me, but exactly what she couldn't tell.  Yet, she treasured the comfort and reassurance I was able to share with her about her brother.
     Now, you may think that my tale is now all told, but I must share the most important feature, so that you may know the rest of the story.  You see when my wife's brother died in the car wreck it occurred in a secluded mountain canyon.  The officials said that he could have been there for up to 3 days, and was not killed instantly.
     He was by no means a Christian.  He had had a smattering of church upbringing.  He even had a short stint as an altar boy in the Lutheran church.  But, due to his current lifestyle and religious beliefs, it was assumed that he passed away being lost.
     Yet, we did have the knowledge that he had survived the sudden crash.  So there was some period of time, which could have been just enough for God to share Spirit to spirit, and remind him of what Jesus had done for him.  A glimmer of hope, no matter how small it may have been.
     What we do know, and can see, is that his death changed his family for generations after him.  For you see, in the weeks and months after the funeral, and that sad Christmas day; one by one his siblings all came to know Jesus as their saviour.  Whereas before church and faith were simply part of the of their cultural background as it is with most Americans.  Not living and real, just "church". 
     The first, the next eldest child of the family, went from being a drug using, rebellious young man to a sold out radical disciple of Jesus.  Then another brother, and finally my wife herself, all turning to Christ in the hope of salvation and eternal life.  Eventually, even his parents would be baptized for all of the children and grandchildren to watch.
     It wouldn't be long before the eldest was married to a similarly radical Christian girl.  They would in turn raise their family with that new found faith. My wife and I would round up the last tail end of marriages and our children the third generation to be open to the living Christ.
     So as our nephew just recently observed; Could his death have started the chain reaction that panned out over time?   Was there some kind of divine purpose?  Could the tragic loss of one so dear have been the door that gave three generations of family the opportunity to come into the Kingdom of God?  I don't have any of the answers to those questions.  those are for you to wrestle with in your own quiet times.  What I do know though is that God really, really does care for us in ways large and small much more than we think He does.

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