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Are you looking forward to going to heaven?

Randy Alcorn relates in his book Heaven that a pastor once confessed to him, ”Whenever I think about Heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die. I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp … it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than Hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.”

How did a Bible-believing, seminary-educated pastor get such a depressing view of Heaven? Certainly not from Scripture, where Paul said in Philippians 1:23 “to depart and be with Christ was far better than staying on a sin-cursed Earth.”

John Eldridge, in his book The Journey of Desire, says “Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an un-ending church service . . .  a never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after another, forever.” How boring!

An overwhelming majority of Americans continue to believe that there is life after death and heaven and hell exist, but usually have confused perceptions of what heaven is like.

Three people die every second; 180 every minute, and nearly 11,000 every hour. That means that more than 250,000 every day go to their final reward. What do the saved think heaven is like?

First, I think they believe it is the paradise that Jesus spoke of with the pearly gates, streets of gold, walls covered with precious stones, a mansion for each of us, continuous worship of God, our Father. But, what else? What will we do? What will our lives be like? 

Isaiah and the prophets make clear the destiny of God’s people. They will live in peace and prosperity, as free people in their promised land. The “country of their own” spoken of in Hebrews 11 is a real country, with a real capital city, the New Jerusalem. It is an actual place where these “aliens and strangers on earth” will ultimately live in actual bodies.

It’s commonly taught that the Old Testament concept of Heaven is limited. Though it’s certainly true that very  little is said about the intermediate Heaven, where believers go when they die, the Old Testament actually says a great deal about the eternal, or New, Heaven.

“But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy …. The earth will give birth to her dead” (Isaiah 26:19).

Just as Adam was made from the dust of the earth, we will be remade from the dust to which we return at death. God’s people are not looking for deliverance from Earth, but deliverance on Earth. That’s exactly what we will find after our bodily resurrection.

When our Lord returns and the old Earth ends, the New Earth will begin. The Bible is clear that God’s ultimate Kingdom and our final home will not be on the old Earth but on the New Earth, where at last God’s original design will be fulfilled and enjoyed forever.

God promises to make not only a New Earth but also “new heavens” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). The Greek and Hebrew words translated “heavens” include the stars and planets and what we call outer space.

Will the New Earth Be a new Eden?

If we take literally the earthly depictions of life on the New Earth, it allows us to make a direct connection with our current lives.  Whenever we see beauty in water, wind, flower, deer, man, woman, or child, we catch a glimpse of Heaven. Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.

God himself prepared mankind’s first home on Earth. “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9).

In the same way that God paid attention to the details of the home he prepared for Adam and Eve in Eden, Christ is paying attention to the details as he prepares for us an eternal home in Heaven.

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3).
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What Is the New Jerusalem?  

Scripture describes Heaven as both a country (Luke 19:12; Hebrews 11:14- 16) and a city (Hebrews 12:22; 13:14; Revelation 21:2). Fifteen times in Revelation 21 and 22 the place in which God and his people will live together is called a city. The repetition of the word and the detailed description of the architecture, walls, streets, and other features of the city suggest that the term city isn’t merely a figure of speech but a literal geographical location.

The city at the center of the future Heaven is called the New Jerusalem. The city is portrayed as a walled city; its security beyond question. It is perched on the peak of a hill that no invading army could ascend. The city’s walls are so thick that they couldn’t be breached by any siege engine and so high that no human could hope to scale them. (Of course, the city won’t ever be under attack, but its structure will remind us of God’s might and commitment to protect his people.)
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What Will the Great City Be Like?

It will be the largest city that has ever existed-the capital city of the New Earth. The New Jerusalem will be a place of extravagant beauty and natural wonders. It will be a vast Eden, integrated with the best of human culture, under the reign of Christ. More wealth than has been accumulated in all human history will be spread freely across this immense city.

Presumably many other cities will be on the New Earth, such as those Jesus mentioned in the stewardship parables.

‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’  “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ (Luke 19:17-19).

The kings of nations who bring their treasures into the New Jerusalem must come from and return to somewhere, presumably countryside and cities lying beyond the New Jerusalem. But no city will be like this one, for it will be called home by the King of kings.

Heaven’s capital city will be filled with visual magnificence. “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11).

John goes onto describe the opulence: “The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.” (Revelation 21:18-19)

John describes a natural wonder in the center of the New Jerusalem: “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city” (Revelation 22:1- 2).

Ghosts don’t need water, but human bodies do. The original readers, who lived in a bone-dry climate, readily grasped the wonder of constantly available fresh water, pure and uncontaminated, able to satisfy the deepest thirst.

Will we be ourselves  in Heaven?

Jesus called people in Heaven by name, including Lazarus in the intermediate Heaven and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the New Heaven:

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11).

A name denotes a distinct identity, an individual. The fact that people in Heaven can be called by the same name they had on Earth demonstrates they remain the same people.

When Moses and Elijah appeared out of Heaven to stand with Christ at his transfiguration, the disciples with Christ recognized Moses and Elijah as the distinct individuals they were, the same men they were on Earth, infused with holiness.

When we’re told we’ll sit at a banquet and eat with Abraham and Isaac and others, we will be sitting, eating beside, talking with, and laughing with not a general assembly, but particular individuals .

What will our bodies be like?

Our resurrected bodies will be real physical bodies, just as Christ’s was and is. Our resurrection bodies will be free of the curse of sin, redeemed, and restored to their original beauty and purpose that goes back to Eden. Heaven’s delights will stretch our glorified senses to their limits.

To be restored to the sensory abilities of Adam and Eve would be thrilling enough, but it seems likely our resurrected bodies will surpass theirs. What God remakes, he improves. He could add new senses to our old ones. He always surpasses our expectations. It won’t be a lot different in the New Jerusalem.

Will we eat and drink in Heaven?

Words describing eating, meals, and food appear over a thousand times in Scripture, with the English translation “feast” occurring another 187 times. Jesus said to his disciples, “I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Luke 22:29-30).

When angels, and God himself, took on human form, they ate human food: The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. (Genesis 18:1-2, 5-8).

What will we know and learn?

It’s common to hear people say, “We don’t understand now, but in Heaven we’ll know everything.” God alone is omniscient. When we die, we’ll see things far more clearly, and we’ll know much more than we do now, but we’ll never know everything.

The apostle Paul wrote: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

In Heaven we’ll be flawless, but not knowing everything isn’t a flaw. It’s part of being finite. Righteous angels don’t know everything, and they long to know more.

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12).

Angels, too, are flawless . . . but finite. We should expect to long for greater knowledge, as angels do. And we’ll spend eternity gaining the greater knowledge we’ll seek.

What Will Our Daily Lives Be Like? Will we work?

The idea of working in Heaven is foreign to many people. Yet Scripture clearly teaches it. Work was part of the original Eden. It was part of a perfect human life on Earth. When God created Adam, he “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it ” (Genesis 2:15).

Work wasn’t part of the Curse. On the New Earth work will be redeemed and transformed into what God intended: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3).

Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).

Jesus found great satisfaction in his work. “‘My food,’ Jesus said, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'” (John 4:34).
 
Will We Have Our Own Homes?

The intended meaning seems to be that we’ll have separate dwelling places on a single estate or even separate rooms within the same house. The New International Version rendering of John 14:2 is this: “In my Father’s house are many rooms …. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

The New Earth’s citizens will build, plant, and eat, as human beings on Earth always have. Like Adam and Eve in Eden, we’ll inherit a place that God has prepared for us. But we’ll be free to build on it and develop it as we see fit, to God’s glory.

Will there be marriage, families and relationships?

One group of religious leaders, the Sadducees, tried to trick Jesus with a question about marriage in Heaven. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. Attempting to make him look foolish, they told Jesus of a woman who had seven husbands who all died.

They asked him, “Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:28). Christ replied, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

There’s every reason to believe we’ll pick right up in Heaven with relationships from Earth. We’ll gain many new ones but will continue to deepen the old ones. The notion that relationships with family and friends will be lost in Heaven, though common, is not biblical. It denies the clear doctrine of continuity between this life and the next and suggests our earthly lives and relationships have no eternal consequence. It completely contradicts Paul’s intense anticipation of being with the Thessalonians and his encouraging them to look forward to rejoining their loved ones in Heaven.

The famous book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, is the account of a fatal automobile accident that took the life of a Baptist pastor, Don Piper. He was pronounced dead only to be prayed back to life by another Baptist pastor ninety minutes later. In those ninety minutes, Piper went to heaven, and much of what he reported he saw is described and promised in Scripture.

The pastor states that he saw the pearly gates and the golden streets; heard heavenly music and the swoosh of angel wings; and literally felt the glory of God.

He said, “I was home; I was where I belonged.” “I wanted to be there more than I had ever wanted to be anywhere on earth. Time had slipped away, and I was simply present in heaven. All worries, anxieties and concerns vanished. I had no needs, and I felt perfect.”

Piper’s account reminds us that heaven is more than a hope and a dream. It’s a real place. As Christians, we believe by faith what the Bible says about heaven, but Piper believes because of what his faith has shown him.

I thought it might be interesting to compare some of Piper’s account against what scripture says.

1. “We are confident, yes, well pleased, rather, to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Piper says, “Simultaneous with my last recollection of seeing the bridge and the rain, a light enveloped me…In my next moment, I was standing in heaven.”

2. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Piper says, “I wasn’t conscious of anything I’d left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions. It was as if God had removed anything negative or worrisome from my consciousness, and I could only rejoice.”

3. “No one has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18)

Piper says, “I did not see God. Although I knew God was there, I never saw any kind of image or luminous glow to indicate his divine presence.”

4. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem…The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:10, 21)

Piper says, “The gate…was pearlescent…To me, it looked like someone had spread pearl icing on a cake…I paused just outside the gate, and I could see inside, it was like a city with paved streets. To my amazement, they had been constructed of literal gold.”

5. “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne.” (Revelation 5:11)

Piper says, “My most vivid memory of heaven is what I heard. I can only describe it as a holy swoosh of angel wings…It was the most beautiful and pleasant sound I’ve ever heard and it didn’t’ stop. It was like a song that goes on forever.”

6. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Piper says, “I became aware of a large crowd of people…As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see people I had known…More and more people reached for me and called me by name.”

7. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Piper recounted his last experience just before he came back to life: “The only way I’ve made sense out of this experience is to think that if I had actually seen God, I would never have wanted to return. My feeling has been that once we’re actually in God’s presence, we will never return to earth again, because it will be empty and meaningless by comparison.”

We need to believe Jesus, not just believe in Jesus. He told us that heaven was a real place. “If it were not so,” he said, “I would have told you.” (John 14:2).  Jesus told us the truth. Heaven is a real place and what the Bible says about heaven – how we get there, what we will see, here and feel – is also true. And, its going to be a better place than we can imagine.

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Self-employment continues to be of great interest as a career alternative for individuals from all walks of life, fueled, perhaps, by the lingering recession. The businesses operated by entrepreneurs are viewed as critically important to our society, since small businesses represent the majority of businesses. Yet, entrepreneurship is often difficult and tricky, filled with opportunities to misstep.

In my 20+ years of small business consulting, I have personally engaged in a variety of businesses, often having multiple businesses at the same time. I pray daily for heavenly guidance, that I might be granted wisdom to make sound decisions. I have lost some battles, won a few, and learned many lessons along the way. One skill I acquired is unrelentingly thorough business research, and market trends. I greatly enjoy sharing these insights and research results with clients during my weekly entrepreneurial webinars, a line of business now in its 10th year.

WHAT’S INVOLVED?
One of the most common stumbling blocks to getting started is understanding what industries are growing and what is involved in getting started. When you start your own business, you have to wear many hats, of course, and perform tasks unfamiliar to you. You may also have some great ideas, but not the administrative skills self-employment requires. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and get help overcoming your shortcomings.

Lack of management experience and failure to plan strategically accounts for a large portion of  small business failures. Entrepreneurs often think that they can do it all and may not ask for help when they need it. Don’t be hesitant to use the advice of experts, networking with other entrepreneurs and hiring or outsourcing to manage the tasks in which you have little skill. 

Networking in your business community is available where business people gather. Chambers of Commerce are excellent resources, as are Retail Merchants groups, and service clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, and others. The membership of service clubs are largely business people who are working together to improve the community through charitable programs.

Seek out professional advisors, such as an attorney and accountant, etc., to provide you guidance. Ask other business people who they use for these services, and then strive to meet these professionals. Carefully determine who is going to be a good fit for you and your business, because there are going to be hard choices to make along the way, and you will have to be able to trust and accept their counsel. 
 
KNOW YOUR MARKET
Desire and persistence alone will not make you successful. You need to be sure that there is a market for what you plan to offer and that the competition isn’t already too strong. Market research is essential, and must begin with identifying who your potential customers are, and what features and benefits are important to them.

Using the results of interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other resources, you can develop a good marketing and business plan that takes into account customer needs, competition, pricing and promotional strategies. Make sure you are offering a product that is unique and competitive or at a lower cost than that of your competitors. Make sure you have the training, expertise and talent to run your business.

Twenty percent, or more, of all small businesses are started in the home. Home based businesses can be very successful, and statistics indicate that about 70% of these businesses survive the all-important first two years. If you are undecided about whether this is the right time for you to seriously consider self-employment, we recommend that you take the free on line  entrepreneurial self-assessment (Canada: http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/125/) or,
(United States: http://web.sba.gov/sbtn/sbat/index.cfm?Tool=4).

The Small Business Administration provides extensive free services to those in the U.S., while the Canada Business Centers assist startups in their service area. The SBA provides free computer-based-training modules in a wide variety of topics that you can take from the comfort of your home office. The courses, located at http://sba.gov/training/index.html, include topics such as Business Planning, Finance, Marketing and Advertising, Franchising, Strategic Planning, and Business Management.

Canada’s resource, Canada Business, http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/, provides an extensive listing of resources for the entrepreneur, including an Entrepreneurial Assessment and “Starting a Business” as a main topic. Articles, recommended links and checklists are provided to help with planning.

HOME BASED BUSINESS
Over half of all the small businesses in North America are home based. The IRS specifies that a home-based business must have its own location (away from the family living space) that is devoted exclusively to the business. The business must be in regular operation, profits must exceed expenses in order to claim deductions, the business must be conducted almost exclusively in the home and the motive must be profit.

The maturation of the baby boomer generation, born 1946-1964, is going to have a huge affect on business. As baby boomers begin to retire the demand for leisure travel is increasing. As of January 2010 boomers were retiring at the rate of one every eight seconds in the U.S. , and that rate is going to escalate and continue growing for the next several years.

WHAT BUSINESS SECTORS ARE GROWING?
An economic collapse means disaster for some businesses while others tend to grow. For every retailer in trouble, there’s a movie-theater experiencing an all-time high in attendance. For every industry that got gob-smacked by the recession there is a college bursting at the seams with adults seeking degrees for new careers. For those on the job hunt or considering self-employment, focus on the industries that are growing. Here is a listing of ten business segments that are poised to experience high demand in the years ahead.

MOVIES
Box-office grosses for January were up 20% since last year, for a whopping $1.028 billion intake. Attendance is up 16.78%. Watching movies at home is also popular.  Movie Gallery’s reported plan to shutter 1,000 underperforming stores, including Hollywood Video locations, could make $200 million in annual rental revenue available to competitors including local mom and pop rental shops. (http://boxoffice.com/)

PHARMACY AND RELATED SERVICES
Not only are pharmaceuticals necessary, but the companies that produce them are growing as the baby boomers age. These companies have matured to the point they can do deals with their own cash and their own stock without having to go to the capital markets and ask for money. (http://www.csustan.edu/manage/harris/industry1.html)

HOME CARE AIDE AND MANAGED CARE
Health care services of all types will continue to grow for the next several years in response to the maturation of the baby boomer generation. Home healthcare services of all types, including fitness programs, transportation, in-home care and home delivery services are likely to be in high demand. (http://www.nahc.org/HCA/home.html)

BOTTLED WATER
Bottled water is huge. It’s the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry and shows no signs of slowing. At this growth rate, it will be the #1 beverage worldwide by 2013.  Bottled water companies offer a wide array of bottled waters at prices that can provide healthy margins. http://www.bottledwater.org/

VIDEO GAMES
Sales of U.S. video games experienced a 22% rise in over the previous year, jumping 11% in 2008, to 409.9 million units, and rose 13% again the following January, presenting more evidence that even in the middle of a brutal economic downturn, U.S. consumers are willing to spend on video games. There will also be increasing demand for video game testers as the industry continues to grow. (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/video-game-tester.htm)

INTERNET SERVICES AND RETAILING
Internet Service Providers continue to improve services available to their customers, and ultimately to the final consumer, as technology costs drop and competition matures. Retailing via the Internet is now a huge business as more and more people turn to this easy to use resource for everything from soups to nuts. Even in the recession eBay posted revenues of over $2 billion. (http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3816826/Revenues+Fall+but+eBay+Still+Tops+Expectations.htm)

PERSONAL CHEF
Just as the need for childcare grew significantly as baby boomers entered the work place, other personal services have experienced similar growth. Today, personal chef services are also in great demand. According to Entrepreneur.com, the personal chef business is among the fastest-growing in the country and one of the best home-businesses to start this year. Personal chefs typically earn $35-$50 an hour. Annual revenue from personal chef businesses is expected to hit $1.2 billion in 2010. (http://www.entrepreneur.com/businessideas/674.html)

LEISURE TRAVEL
According to some sources, the only industry that actually grew globally during the current recession was travel. Work from home opportunities in the online travel industry are already beginning to replace the mom and pop travel agencies of days gone by. One innovative company taking the lead in leisure travel consulting is World Ventures, a four-year old multi-level marketing company based in Plano Texas that will treat you like a preferred customer and waive airline booking fees.(http://www.leavontime.worldventures.biz).

PERSONAL CONCIERGE
A personal concierge service is based on the most basic of premises. People want things done but don’t have the time to do them, and are willing to pay someone to take care of it for them.  Although personal concierge services are a fairly recent development, the number of companies that serve time-starved clients is mushrooming, right along with customer demand for such businesses. Membership in the National Concierge Association, provides networking and educational opportunities to help you get started. (http://www.nationalconciergeassociation.com/)

BIG-BOX RETAILERS
Where do you shop for all those discounted home staples? If you’re like most Americans the answer is Costco or Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. These large volume retailers are positioned to under price other stores and can pick up all the demand that’s lost at higher-end stores which are suffering the results of high unemployment. They’re going to need staff to respond to increased demand. (http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Costco_Wholesale_%28COST%29)

If you feel that the proper conditions are in place for you to go forward with starting your own business, here is a checklist of the basic areas you need to cover before opening:

Decide on the Legal Form for the Business (partnership, corporation, etc)
Choose & Register a Business Name  
Choose & Purchase your Internet Domain Name 
Research & Write a Business Plan, Operations Plan  and a Marketing Plan 
Set Up a Relationship with professional advisors, i.e., banker, attorney and accountant 
Set Up Other Professional Relationships, consultants, suppliers, etc 
Get Licenses and Permits, and meet other Legal Requirements for Operating a Business 
Set the Price for Your Product or Service  
Determine the Financing You Will Need and How You Will Get It  
Obtain Office Space, Equipment and Suppliers  
Plan for Risk Protection, Intellectual Capital Protection, Business Insurance  
Set up a Financial Management System  

Ready to set sail toward a new life as an entrepreneur? Be sure to do your research to determine whether the business opportunity you’re considering is real . . . there are plenty of scams out there . . . and then make decisions about how to go forward. Check information sites like Inc .com, Entrepreneur.com, allbusiness.com, and similar information silos to get as well informed as you can. Remember, the more widely you read, the better the decisions you’ll be enabled to make.

“Tragedy at Ft Hood”  By Allen West | 11/08/09 | 08:57 AM EDT |

This past Thursday (5 November 2009) 13 American Soldiers were killed and another 30 wounded at a horrific mass shooting at US Army installation, Ft Hood Texas. As I watched in horror and then anger I recalled my two years of final service in the Army as a Battalion Commander at Ft Hood, 2002-2004.

My wife and two daughters were stunned at the incident having lived on the post in family housing.
A military installation, whether it is Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, or Coast Guard, is supposed to be a safe sanctuary for our Warriors and their families. It is intended to provide a home whereby our “Band of Brothers and Sisters” can find solace and bond beyond just the foxhole but as family units.

A military installation is supposed to be a place where our Warriors train for war, to serve and protect our Nation.
On Thursday, 5 November 2009 Ft Hood became a part of the battlefield in the war against Islamic totalitarianism and state sponsored terrorism.

There may be those who feel threatened by my words and would even recommend they not be uttered. To those individuals I say step aside because now is not the time for cowardice. Our Country has become so paralyzed by political correctness that we have allowed a vile and determined enemy to breach what should be the safest place in America, an Army post.

We have become so politically correct that our media is more concerned about the stress of the shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. The misplaced benevolence intending to portray him as a victim is despicable. The fact that there are some who have now created an entire new classification called; “pre-virtual vicarious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)” is unconscionable.

This is not a “man caused disaster”. It is what it is, an Islamic jihadist attack.

We have seen this before in 2003 when a SGT Hasan of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) threw hand grenades and opened fire into his Commanding Officer’s tent in Kuwait. We have seen the foiled attempt of Albanian Muslims who sought to attack Ft Dix, NJ. Recently we saw a young convert to Islam named Carlos Bledsoe travel to Yemen, receive terrorist training, and return to gun down two US Soldiers at a Little Rock, Arkansas Army recruiting station. We thwarted another Islamic terrorist plot in North Carolina which had US Marine Corps Base, Quantico as a target.

What have we done with all these prevalent trends? Nothing.
What we see are recalcitrant leaders who are refusing to confront the issue, Islamic terrorist infiltration into America, and possibly further into our Armed Services. Instead we have a multiculturalism and diversity syndrome on steroids.

Major Hasan should have never been transferred to Ft Hood, matter of fact he should have been Chaptered from the Army. His previous statements, poor evaluation reports, and the fact that the FBI had him under investigation for jihadist website posting should have been proof positive.

However, what we have is a typical liberal approach to find a victim, not the 13 and 30 Soldiers and Civilian, but rather the poor shooter. A shooter who we are told was a great American, who loved the Army and serving his Nation and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) stating that his actions had nothing to do with religious belief.

We know that Major Hasan deliberately planned this episode; he did give away his possessions. He stood atop a table in the confined space of the Soldier Readiness Center shouting “Allahu Akhbar”, same chant as the 9-11 terrorists and those we fight against overseas in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of operation.

No one in leadership seems willing to sound the alarm for the American people; they are therefore complicit in any future attacks. Our Congress should suspend the insidious action to vote on a preposterous and unconstitutional healthcare bill and resolve the issue of “protecting the American people”.

The recent incidents in Dearborn Michigan, Boston Massachusetts, Dallas Texas, and Chicago Illinois should bear witness to the fact that we have an Islamic terrorism issue in America. And don’t have CAIR call me and try to issue a vanilla press statement; they are an illegitimate terrorist associated organization which should be disbanded.

We have Saudi Arabia funding close to 80% of the mosques in the United States, one right here in South Florida, Pompano Beach. Are we building churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia? Are “Kaffirs” and “Infidels” allowed travel to Mecca?

So much for peaceful coexistence.

Saudi Arabia is sponsoring radical Imams who enter into our prisons and convert young men into a virulent Wahabbist ideology….one resulting in four individuals wanting to destroy synagogues in New York with plastic explosives. Thank God the explosives were dummy. They are sponsoring textbooks which present Islamic centric revisionist history in our schools.

We must recognize that there is an urgent need to separate the theo-political radical Islamic ideology out of our American society. We must begin to demand surveillance of suspected Imams and mosques that are spreading hate and preaching the overthrow of our Constitutional Republic……that speech is not protected under First Amendment, it is sedition and if done by an American treason.

There should not be some 30 Islamic terrorist training camps in America that has nothing to do with First Amendment, Freedom of Religion. The Saudis are not our friends and any American political figure who believes such is delusional.

When tolerance becomes a one way street it certainly leads to cultural suicide. We are on that street. Liberals cannot be trusted to defend our Republic, because their sympathies obviously lie with their perceived victim, Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

I make no apologies for these words, and anyone angered by them, please, go to Ft Hood and look into the eyes of the real victims. The tragedy at Ft Hood Texas did not have to happen. Consider now the feelings of those there and on every military installation in the world. Consider the feelings of the Warriors deployed into combat zones who now are concerned that their loved ones at home are in a combat zone.
Ft Hood suffered an Islamic jihadist attack, stop the denial, and realize a simple point.

The reality of your enemy must become your own.

A CALL TO COMMON COURTESY
by Max Lucado

Perhaps you’ve never placed the word courteous next to Christ. I hadn’t until I wrote this chapter.

But you know how you never notice double-cab red trucks until your friend says he wants one-then you see a dozen of them? I had never thought much about the courtesy of Christ before, but as I began looking, I realized that Jesus makes Emily Post look like Archie Bunker.

He always knocks before entering. He doesn’t have to. He owns your heart. If anyone has the right to barge in, Christ does. But he doesn’t. That gentle tap you hear? It’s Christ. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20 NASB). And when you answer, he awaits your invitation to cross the threshold.

And when he enters, he always brings a gift. Some bring Chianti and daisies. Christ brings “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). And, as he stays, he serves. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45 NIV). If you’re missing your apron, you’ll find it on him. He’s serving the guests as they sit (John 13:4-5). He won’t eat until he’s offered thanks, and he won’t leave until the leftovers are put away (Matt. 14:19-20).

He is courteous enough to tell you his name (Exod. 3:15) and to call you by yours (John 10:3). And when you talk, he never interrupts. He listens.

He is even on time. Never late. Never early. If you’re checking your watch, it’s because you’re on a different itinerary. “There is a time for everything” (Eccles. 3:1). And Christ stays on schedule.

He even opens doors for you. Paul could preach at Troas because “the Lord had opened a door” (2 Cor. 2:12 NIV). When I asked my dad why men should open doors for women, his answer was one word: “respect.” Christ must have abundant respect for you.

He knocks before he enters. He always brings a gift. Food is served. The table is cleared. Thanks are offered. He knows your name and tells you his, and here is one more.

He pulls out the chair for you. “He raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens” (Eph. 2:6).

My wife has a heart for single moms. She loves to include a widow or divorcée at the table when we go to a restaurant. Through the years I’ve noticed a common appreciation from them. They love it when I pull out their chair. More than once they have specifically thanked me. One mom in particular comes to mind. “My,” she blushed, brushing the sudden moisture from her eye, “it’s been a while since anyone did that.”

Has it been a while for you as well? People can be so rude. We snatch parking places. We forget names. We interrupt. We fail to show up. Could you use some courtesy? Has it been a while since someone pulled out your chair?

Then let Jesus. Don’t hurry through this thought. Receive the courtesy of Christ. He’s your groom. Does not the groom cherish the bride? Respect the bride? Honor the bride? Let Christ do what he longs to do.

For as you receive his love, you’ll find it easier to give yours. As you reflect on his courtesy to you, you’ll be likely to offer the same.

_______________________________
From A Love Worth Giving
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2002) Max Lucado
http://www.maxlucado.net/_product_30305/A_Love_Worth_Giving_(Paperback)

Lea and I are high school sweethearts, and have been married 45 years. We have been blessed with successful careers, fun and adventure, wonderful sons and daughters-in-law, and grandchildren in whom we delight. And, God has always been a part of our lives.

The account of a man’s relationship with God is the story of how God calls him out, takes him on a journey, and gives him his true purpose. Many of us have thought it was the story of our acceptance of Jesus, and then avoiding doing bad things until we appear for judgment. Not so.

God created us to be Christ-like, and to carry the word of salvation to all parts of the world. If we aren’t serving Him in that manner, we are not fulfilling our mission, and He will, like any good father, try to nudge us in the right direction. If that gentle nudge doesn’t work, He will try a new strategy . . . perhaps a little more forceful. If those attempts don’t work, He may have to take even more drastic action to bring us back into line.

I am one of those believers God had to severely discipline.

Lost and Saved
I don’t remember not being saved. My childhood was mostly about church activities, Royal Ambassadors, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I was taught to be independent and self reliant. I was raised Southern Baptist with a generations-long line of bible thumping fire-and-brimstone preachers who pastored churches and taught in summertime revival tents. God was always present in my life, although He was hardly the main focus of my life. I was a Christian on cruise control.

Danville Baptist Temple
The bible teaches that even though Satan cannot possess the Christian, he can oppress him. 1 Peter 5:8 says: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Satan is our enemy; an adversary who is out to throw us off track. He is out to drive a wedge between us and God! He was successful in my case.

When our sons were young boys, Lea and I transferred our membership to a startup Baptist church that was moving mightily in our community. The charismatic young pastor had a vision to create an entire Baptist campus which would include a retirement home and hospital for members of the church, and he was very aggressive in reaching out to young people in the community.

He had asked me several times to become involved full time in the ministry of the church. I had been successful in soliciting donations of cash and real estate for the campus building fund. Support from the community was outstanding, and the membership grew rapidly. It was a wonderful feeling to see God’s favor flowing on our church, and I was really under conviction to take the leap and join the ministry team. Lea and I talked and prayed about it extensively.

Then, overnight, the minister, his family, and the entire church staff, disappeared with all of the church funds! I was totally crushed. I just could not believe that such a thing could happen! I was so confused, and felt God had abandoned us.

I was too embarrassed to return to our previous church, and just could not bring myself to join any other. In fact, I shunned the church from that day. I reasoned that I could minister on my own. I felt that I could set a good example for my sons and for others around me, by professing my faith, and by keeping God in our home. After all, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) This reasoning was how Satan drove that wedge that turned me from the church for many years.

Discipline
Scripture is clear that you cannot accept Christ and then just live any way you please. And, God, our heavenly Father, takes our obligation to serve Him seriously. He will often let us stray a bit to test the boundaries, as children will do. Eventually, though, He will bring us back into line by taking us to the woodshed for a good, corrective, spanking if necessary.

Hebrews 12:11 states, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” To rebel because of discipline is to turn your back on His will for you.

Even when we sense God’s disciplining hand upon us we should be encouraged by this, for it shows that God is at work in our lives. We should not lose heart when being disciplined. God will never go too far. He will never give us a burden larger than we can handle.

Lea’s Illness
I got one of His spankings, and the memories still hurt four years later. God led me through a six month living Hell while Lea was in Hartford Hospital with an illness that, medically, she wasn’t supposed to survive; Necrotizing Pancreatitis. Her pancreas had suddenly ruptured while we were on vacation back East, a thousand miles from home, and had started digesting all her internal organs. Her pain was horrible. The surgeons had placed her in a drug induced coma and said she had a 15% chance of surviving. They told me to call the family.

The Hell I’m talking about is not some storybook or Hollywood contrived representation of Hades. This was Hell; the real one. You can touch Hell. It can touch you. Hell is so palpable you can actually taste it. It is a much worse place than you have imagined. It was the most horrible thing I have ever experienced, and I certainly don’t want to ever have to go back there.

My Hell was a small, musty, dormitory room with carpet I hesitated to walk on barefoot. It had an outdated motel style bed & dresser, flimsy wooden desk with loose-jointed chair, coffee table, and a fold-out couch that made into a bed. And, yet, I was happy to be there, close to Lea.

The room was attached to the hospital by a series of dimly lit underground tunnels with water dripping from cracks in the ceiling. The tunnels led to another room, this one sterile, where the person I most love in the whole world was in a coma, her every bodily function tended to by people I didn’t know. I was only allowed in the room to be with her at various times, which was painful, but she was not able to respond to me in any way.

She may not, really, have known I was there at all. I realized even then, as I looked at her lying helplessly there, this was only her body, kept alive with drugs and machines. She may already be gone. She was in this state for 78 days, and certainly could have been taken away from me at any moment. Nothing I did to comfort or help her appeared to make a difference, because she was unable to respond or react.

Purpose of the Coma
She was in that coma for 78 days. She had 18 IVs going into her, plus hookups for dialysis, because her kidneys had failed, and plasma phoresis to remove fat from her blood. She had cuffs on her legs that would squeeze and release to circulate her blood, and a ventilator to breathe for her. During that coma she had over 30 abdominal surgeries. She died four times. The doctors weren’t even sure her brain was working after the first two weeks. This was truly Hell.

God got my attention. It felt drastic, but He had tried easier, more subtle ways. The previous year my two sons and Lea and I had done a family study of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Praise God! Our youngest son was subsequently convicted and saved, which was an answer to years of prayer. This was clearly God at work, but, still, I continued my selfish, prideful, ways, rather than submitting to His will for my life. I used our lifestyle as an excuse for not getting back to church.

The Floating Vision
Before Lea’s illness, in May of 2005, God gave me a warning in the form of a vision. At the time, I was in the basement, building a number of wooden replacement storm windows for our Victorian bed & breakfast. I had kissed Lea goodnight as she headed upstairs to bed, and I went down to work on one of the storm windows.

Maybe half an hour later as I was brushing on some paint, I heard Lea call softly from the top of the basement stairs, “Larry.” I was a little surprised she wasn’t already asleep, and asked, “What?” She didn’t reply. Sometimes when she was looking for me she wouldn’t realize that I was in the basement, and would go on into the rest of the house looking for me.

But, tonight I had turned all the lights off when I went down to the basement, and had left the door open, which would spill light out into the dark kitchen. “Larry,” she called softly. “I’m in the basement, hon,” I replied a little louder than before. Again, no reply.

I wondered if I should go find her, but I was almost done, and didn’t want to leave the painting unfinished. “Larry,” she called softly again. I put my paint brush down, a little alarmed that she didn’t answer me. I hurried up the stairs and saw her in the doorway in a simple white, floor length, nightgown.

“What is it, honey?” I asked.
She said, “I died!” She sounded surprised.
“What!?” I said, thinking I must have misunderstood her.
“I died,” she repeated, and started to fade away. Just as she vanished, I noticed she was floating above the floor, her feet dangling.

I ran up to our bedroom, where I found her laying on her side toward the center of the bed. I reached out to place my hand on her arm, while praying silently that she was still warm. As I touched her, she turned slowly to me, nearly asleep, and asked, “What’s wrong?” All I could get out, was, “I just wanted to tell you that I love you.” She smiled faintly, turned back, and went to sleep.

I stood there for several minutes, unable to make myself leave her side. How confused I felt! The vision was constantly in my thoughts over the next several days, and I shared it with Lea and other family members.. Although puzzled by it, I didn’t dwell on it. It was just one of those inexplicable things that happen. Later that same week, however, I had another warning.

The Casket Vision
Lea had gone on to bed while I finished up some things downstairs. When I finished and went upstairs. I entered our bedroom and saw Lea asleep on her back, with her hands folded on her chest . . . and for an instant I saw her lying in an open casket.

The sight nearly brought me to my knees. I was really shaken. I didn’t wake Lea, but lay down beside her, and wept silently as I prayed for clarity. I know how final death is. There is no second chance to say the things you wish you had said. There is no “Do over.” If you haven’t said it, it’s just too late. And, you have to live with that regret.

I really understood, for the first time, how horribly I would miss her if I no longer had her at my side. I realized that I was being given a message to spend more quality time with Lea. To make sure that all those things that needed to be said between us were said. We had many warm, loving, friend-to-friend conversations over the next few weeks, and I felt closer to her than ever.

Revelation in Hartford
Six weeks later she was in that coma. I kept thinking about the visions, and how she had slowly faded away into thin air. And, now, I feared, the Lord was actually taking her away from me. I prayed constantly, as I often did . . . doing some task, and silently talking to God as though He was at my side. I prayed first that Lea would be spared, and that she could somehow beat the odds. But I was troubled.  I felt I wasn’t praying for the right thing.

As she lay there in that coma, God revealed many things to me. One of the most painful, was the realization that her body was there before me, seemingly asleep,  but her spirit was gone. The spirit, or personality, or soul, is what makes us who we are. Hers wasn’t present. I suspect it may have been with Him, but that’s another part of her testimony Lea will have to share.

It was in those first days I realized that all these years I had been in love with her soul, but what I had always seen was her body. Now, here, they were separated! Although I could touch her body, I couldn’t reach her.

I spent countless hours at her bedside reading to her and tending to her body, helping turn her every two hours to avoid bedsores, applying lotion to keep her skin soft, washing her hair, trimming and cutting her nails, so that, if her spirit returned, she would be comfortable in her body.

I talked to God constantly, and as I poured out my emotions to Him, and beseeched Him for healing, I began to listen to my prayers and realized that if I wanted Him to listen, I was going to have to change my heart. I had been praying selfishly. I was praying for Lea to survive because I didn’t want to lose her. I wanted her to recover because losing her would be painful and I didn’t know what I would do without her by my side.

Suddenly, I thought of the glorious heavenly rewards that must surely be hers. That mansion with the flower gardens she loves so much. Friends and family around her forever! What joy she is going to have! And, here I was asking the Lord to delay giving those rewards to her.

That revelation cut me to the quick! It examined the truth of my faith, because it made me answer the question, “Do you truly believe in heavenly rewards, and that she will be better off?”

I prayed earnestly for forgiveness of my self centeredness. I grasped her hand and told her that I wanted her to stay with me, so we could have more years together, but if she wanted to go on home, I would understand. I then began to pray for strength to accept His will, whatever that might be, and the wisdom to accept the challenges He put before me. I also promised God that if He chose to allow her to remain here, I would abandon my self-centered ways and make the next chapter of our lives about her, and our service to Him.

Book of James
As I prayed one night for strength and revelation, I opened my bible randomly to whatever page happened to appear. As I looked at the page, James 1 Verse 3 came into focus, “The testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Over the next several months there were countless emotional ups and downs as Lea would improve and then crash. Four times her body just gave up. Two of those times I was in her room and experienced her relinquishing her life. That is a deafening silence.

I knew that my faith was being tested, but I also knew that God’s will was going to be served, regardless, and that my test of faith could include Lea’s death.  But, once God helped me realize that if Lea died, she was going to be cared for much better than I could ever provide, and that He was going to lead my life from that day forward. And, with that, I was given an inner peace that enabled me to deal with the trials and challenges of each day, knowing that He was in control, and I was doing His work.

James 1:5-8 states,  5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; 8 they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.” I resolved to be single minded, stable, and keep my wpromise.

James 2:18; “Faith without works is dead.” I had not been working for the Lord for a long time, because I let the devil, through my pride, turn me away from the church. God was showing me that He wanted me back in fellowship, and He and I were talking constantly during those days as He strengthened my faith.

James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Pride has always been one of my biggest challenges, and I realized that it was at the root of my separation from the church years ago. I began working hard to let it go and confessed to God that I needed His help in casting that demon out. I continue working on humbling myself every day to bring my pride under control.

I thank the Lord for bringing me back into the fold, and for restoring Lea to a healthful state. I know that each and every day is a very special gift from our Father, God. I try to care for Lea, and look after her needs, as though she is very special to God, because I believe she is.

Lea and I feel that sharing our story is the ministry set before us, and we are blessed through giving you our testimony. Thank you for this opportunity to share with you. God bless!

Hear this testimony as presented during a recent service: http://kacfaustin.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=103&Itemid=116

I am filled with joyous praise of our Heavenly Father today as Lea and I celebrate the miraculous healing He has provided her over the past four years, and the opportunities given us to witness to others of His workings in our lives. Yesterday, almost exactly four years after Lea was stricken with sudden and near fatal necrotizing pancreatitis, her doctor feels she has achieved sufficient medical and mental recovery to assume a more normal lifestyle. He has cleared her to begin driving a car again, and even to accept appointment to jury duty.

These are huge steps in her return from a crippling disease that claimed her life four times, handicapped her physically and mentally, and created major changes in our lives, including a complete uprooting from our comfortable lifestyle and superficial comforts, and a homecoming to the values that are truly important.

Many Chrisitans continue to misunderstand what our relationship to Father God should be. We often believe that it is simply our acceptance that Jesus, lived, died, and rose again, and then avoiding doing bad things until we appear in front of God’s throne to be judged and rewarded according to our deeds. Not so. The real account of a man’s relationship with God is the story of how God calls him out to service, takes him on a journey, and gives him true purpose.

God created us to be Christ-like, and to carry the word of salvation to all parts of the world. If we aren’t serving Him in that manner, He will, like any good father, try to nudge us in the right direction. If that gentle nudge doesn’t work, He will try a new strategy . . . perhaps a little more forceful. If those attempts don’t work, He may have to take even more drastic action to bring us back into line. I am one of those believers God had to severely discipline, and pray for His continual guidance as I try to serve Him to the best of my abilities.

Scripture is clear that you cannot accept Christ and then just live any way you please. And, God  takes our obligation to serve Him seriously. He will often let us stray a bit to test the boundaries, as children will do. Eventually, though, He will bring us back into line by taking us to the woodshed for a good, corrective, spanking if necessary.

I got one of His woodshed spankings that shook my faith to the core. God led me through six months of hell in the form of unrelenting horrors in 2005 while Lea was in the hospital. Her pancreas had suddenly, without warning, ruptured and began dissolving all her internal organs with stomach acid. The surgeons had quickly placed her in a drug induced coma to begin her treatment and said she had a 15% chance of surviving.

She was in that coma for 78 days. She had eighteen IVs delivering medications, plus hookups for Dialysis and Plasma Phoresis. She had cuffs on her legs that would squeeze and release to circulate her blood, and a respirator to breathe for her, because her internal functions has ceased to work normally. During her hospitalization she had over 30 surgeries. Her cardiac and pulmonary systems failed four times, requiring emergency procedures to restore them. The medical team wasn’t even sure her brain was working after the first two weeks, or that she could recover from the trauma caused by the pancreas. This was truly Hell.

I believe this illness was God’s way of getting my attention. I had always been independent,  prideful; self reliant.  I ignored His calls to service, although I recognized that’s what they were. He had tried easier, more subtle ways to being me back into the church I had disregarded so long, but those efforts didn’t work. Lea and I were busy at our careers, and running a bed and breakfast that we used as an excuse to be “too busy” to get back to church. That’s why God had to take more drastic measures.

The Floating Vision
Six weeks before we drove from Indiana to Maine for vacation with some dear friends, God gave me a forewarning in the form of a vision. At the time, I was building a number of wooden replacement storm windows in the basement of our Bed & Breakfast. We had no guests that night, and I had kissed Lea goodnight as she headed upstairs to bed, then went downstairs to work for an hour or two.

Perhaps half an hour later, as I started brushing paint on one of the window frames, I heard Lea call softly from the top of the basement stairs, “Larry.” I was a little surprised she wasn’t already asleep, and responded, “What?” She didn’t reply. Sometimes when she was looking for me she wouldn’t realize that I was in the basement, and would go on into the rest of the house looking for me.

But, that night, since we had no guests, I had turned all the lights off when I went down to the basement, and had even left the door open, which would spill light out into the dark kitchen.

“Larry,” she called softly. “I’m in the basement, hon,” I replied a little louder than before. Again, no reply.

I wondered if I should go find her, but I was almost done, and didn’t want to leave the painting unfinished. “Larry,” she called softly again. I put my paint brush down, a little alarmed, that she didn’t answer me. I hurried up the stairs and saw her standing in the doorway in a simple white nightgown.

“What is it, honey?” I asked.
She said, “I died!” almost as though surprised.
“What!?” I said, thinking I must have misunderstood her.
“I died,” she repeated, and started to fade away. Just as she vanished, I noticed she was floating above the floor, her feet dangling below the gown.

I ran up to our bedroom, where I found her laying on her side toward the center of the bed. I reached out to place my hand on her arm, while praying silently that she was still warm. As I touched her, she turned slowly to me, nearly asleep, and asked, “What’s wrong?” All I could get out, was, “I just wanted to tell you that I love you.” She smiled faintly, turned back, and went to sleep.

I stood there for several minutes, unable to make myself leave her side. How confused I felt! The horror I felt just ran up and down my limbs and my mind raced seeking some logical explanation for what I had seen. Over the next two days, the vision was constantly in my thoughts, and I shared it with Lea and other family members over the next couple of days. Although puzzled by it, I didn’t put enough importance on it. It was just one of those inexplicable things that sometimes happen. Later that same week, however, I had another incident.

The Casket Vision
Lea had again gone on to bed while I finished up some things downstairs. When I entered our bedroom, dimly lit by the nightlight across the room, I saw Lea lying on her back, the covers thrown back, with her hands folded on her chest. And, just for an instant, I thought I saw her lying in an open casket.

The vision nearly brought me to my knees. I was really shaken. I didn’t wake Lea, but lay down beside her, and wept silently as I prayed for clarity. I know how final death is. There is no second chance to say the things you wish you had told them. There is no “Do over.” If you haven’t said it, or shared it before they pass, it’s just too late, and, you have to live with that regret.

I really understood, for the first time, how horribly I would miss Lea if I no longer had her at my side. I knew that I was being given a message to spend more quality time with Lea. To make sure that all those things that needed to be said between us were said. We had many warm, loving, friend-to-friend conversations over the next few weeks, and I felt closer to her than ever.

Less than 2 months later she lay in that coma, practically dead. Certainly her body had given up, and her spirit, the soul that makes her who she is, was not present. The body was being kept alive by machines. I kept thinking about the visions, and now, I feared, the Lord was now taking her away from me. I prayed constantly, silently talking to God as though He were physically at my side.

Over the first few days in the hospital, it was revealed to me that if I wanted God to listen to my prayers for miraculous healing, I was going to have to get right with Him. I had been out of fellowship with the church for decades, and I was going to have to change my heart.  I prayed earnestly for forgiveness, and I promised God that if He allowed her to stay with me, I would make this chapter of our lives about her, and our lives about His service.

But, God knows my pride, and that I struggle with being submissive, so He had to keep working on me to break through my resistance. During one particularly tough day, Lea’s lungs stopped functioning for the second time. She was still in a coma, but the medical team had been trying to wean her off the ventilator. But, fluid buildup in the chest cavity created so much pressure the lungs simply collapsed, and breathing stopped. 

A doctor and a respiratory therapist quickly responded, and had me roll Lea up on her side and hold her while the doctor inserted a large needle through her back into her chest cavity to drain the fluid, and got her lungs started again. As I stood there holding the comatose body of the person I have so dearly loved in this life, I realized that what I loved about her wasn’t there in that bed. Her spirit . . . the essence of who she is . . . was somewhere else . . . maybe already in heaven.

The horrors just kept coming. I was emotionally exhausted, with no relief in sight.
I prostrated myself before Him that night in my bedroom, praying for strength. I knew that my faith was being tested, that I was being disciplined to get me back into the role set out for me. I also knew that God’s will was going to be served, regardless, and that my test of faith could include Lea’s death. Once I recognized and accepted those realities, I began praying a little differently, asking to be given strength to accept His will for my life and bring honor to Him regardless what challenges were placed before me.

As I lay there, He brought the book of James to mind.  James 1:3 – “The testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  I re-read the Book of James the next day while sitting with Lea in the ICU, and the Lord revealed several other things to me. One piece of scripture that really hit home was James 1:5-8  5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; 8 they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.” I resolved to be single minded and stable.

James 4:15 – “If it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that.” I gave myself up to our Father, submitted to His will, and told Him I knew that He had control. If He chose to take Lea home, I prayed that He would grant me the wisdom and depth of faith to deal with my loss in such a way that I could be a sound witness and demonstrate the peace He gives His children.

It’s difficult to think of trouble as being a blessing when you’re going through such a difficult trial, but we know that it is true. We grow much more in faith through dealing with difficulties, than we do just cruising through life. James 5:11 teaches, “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.”

James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Pride has always been one of my biggest challenges, and I realized that pride was at the root of my separation from the church years ago. I began working hard to let it go, and confessed to God that I needed His help in casting that demon out. I continue working on humbling myself every day to bring my pride under control.

James 2:18; “Faith without works is dead.” I had not been working for the Lord for a long time, because I let the devil, through my pride, turn me away from the church. God was showing me that He wanted me back in fellowship, and He and I were talking constantly during those days as He strengthened my faith.

James 5:16 – “Confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed.” I am confessing to you that I am a work in progress, flawed, but with hope eternal through salvation made possible by the blood and resurrection of Jesus.

I thank the Lord for bringing me back into the fold, and for restoring Lea to a healthful state. I know that each and every day is a very special gift from my loving Father. I try to care for Lea as though she is really special to God, because I believe she is. Lea and I feel that sharing our story is the ministry God our Father has set before us, and we are blessed through that testimony to be a blessing to others!

I suppose perhaps the main lesson to be taken from our experience is to recognize that you have a special role to play in God’s plan, and you must guard against Satan turning you from that role. Satan never takes a vacation.  He is always present, always looking for a way to turn us from God.  Be alert! “Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)

Strengthen yourself in the Lord, putting on His full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11). That means, among other things, to remember and believe that as a Christian you have received the righteousness of Jesus. It’s a defense against the ongoing accusations that the enemy tries to speak into your life. Stand confident that the Father loves YOU and in the fact that He does have good plans for you!

Please continue to pray for Lea and me as we continue our walk with God; that we can stand firm against the devil’s wiles and schemes, and that our life’s story can be a blessing to others and bring them into the light of this world, our savior, Jesus Christ.

God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the archangel, found him resting on the seventh day. He inquired, “Where have you been?”
 
God smiled deeply and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, “Look, Michael. Look what I’ve made.” Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, “What is it?”
 
“It’s a planet,” replied God, and I’ve put life on it.. I’m going to call it Earth and it’s going to be a place to test Balance.”  
“Balance?” inquired Michael, “I’m still confused..”
 
God explained, pointing to different parts of earth. “For example, northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe is going to be poor. Over here I’ve placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of black people. Balance in all things.”
 
God continued pointing to different countries. “This one will be extremely hot, while this one will be very cold and covered in ice.”
 
The Archangel , impressed by God’s work, then pointed to a land area and said, “What’s that one?”
 
“That’s the State of Texas , the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful mountains, rivers and streams, lakes, forests, hills, beaches and plains. The people from the State of Texas are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent, and humorous, and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, carriers of peace, and producers of good things.”
 
Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, “But what about balance, God? You said there would be balance . . .”
 
God smiled, “There’s Washington DC. Wait till you see what I put there!”

Author Unknown

Someone sent to this to me as an email, and although it was incorrectly attributed to a particular writer, the author is actually unknown. However, this letter certainly expresses my personal sentiments and sincere disappointment with the current administration. 
 

April 27, 2009

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington , DC 20500

Mr. Obama:

I have had it with you and your administration, sir. Your conduct on your recent trip overseas has convinced me that you are not an adequate representative of the United States of America collectively or of me personally.

You are so obsessed with appeasing the Europeans and the Muslim world that you have abdicated the responsibilities of the President of the United States of America .  You are responsible to the citizens of the United States .

You are not responsible to the peoples of any other country on earth. I personally resent that you go around the world apologizing for the United States telling Europeans that we are arrogant and do not care about their status in the world. Sir, what do you think the First World War and the Second World War were all about if not the consideration of the peoples of Europe ? Are you brain dead ? What do you think the Marshall Plan was all about?

Do you not understand or know the history of the 20th century? Where do you get off telling a Muslim country that the United States does not consider itself a Christian country? Have you not read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States ? This country was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics and the principles governing this country, at least until you came along, come directly from this heritage. Do you not understand this?

Your bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia is an affront to all Americans. Our President does not bow down to anyone, let alone the king of Saudi Arabia . You don’t show Great Britain , our best and one of our oldest allies, the respect they deserve yet you bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia . How dare you, sir! How dare you!

You can’t find the time to visit the graves of our greatest generation because you don’t want to offend the Germans but make time to visit a mosque in Turkey . You offended our dead and every veteran when you give the Germans more respect than the people who saved the German people from themselves. What’s the matter with you?

I am convinced that you and the members of your administration have the historical and intellectual depth of a mud puddle and should be ashamed of yourselves, all of you. You are so self-righteously offended by the big bankers and the American automobile manufacturers yet do nothing about the real thieves in this situation, Mr. Dodd, Mr. Frank, Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelic, the Fannie Mae bonuses, and the Freddie Mac bonuses. What do you intend to do about them? Anything? I seriously doubt it.

What about the U.S. House members passing out $9.1 million in bonuses to their staff members – on top of the $2.5 million in automatic pay raises that lawmakers gave themselves? I understand the average House aide got a 17% bonus. I took a 5% cut in my pay to save jobs with my employer.

You haven’t said anything about that. Who authorized that? I surely didn’t! Executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be receiving $210 million in bonuses over an eighteen-month period, that’s $45 million more than the AIG bonuses. In fact, Fannie and Freddie executives have already been awarded $51 million – not a bad take. Who authorized that and why haven’t you expressed your outrage at this group who are largely responsible for the economic mess we have right now.

I resent that you take me and my fellow citizens as brain-dead and not caring about what you idiots do. We are watching what you are doing and we are getting increasingly fed up with all of you. I also want you to know that I personally find just about everything you do and say to be offensive to every one of my sensibilities.  I promise you that I will work tirelessly to see that you do not get a chance to spend two terms destroying my beautiful country. 

Sincerely,

Every Real American

Ben Stein is one of those people that can do everything. As an actor, he’s famous for his role as the boring teacher in film “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”, is a trained economist and lawyer, has won Emmys for his television work, is a novelist, columnist, and popular speaker.

He wrote a column for the website E Online and when he decided to step down from that, his last column about who and what is really important in life became an Internet classic. It is a great reminder for all of us in this time of economic and spiritual upheaval in the U.S.

From Ben Stein:

As I begin to write this I “slug” it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is “eonlineFINAL,” and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started.

I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end. Lew Harris, who founded this great site, asked me to do it maybe seven or eight years ago, and I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

But again, all things must pass, and my column for E! Online must pass. In a way, it is actually the perfect time for it to pass. Lew, whom I have known forever, was impressed that I knew so many stars at Morton’s on Monday nights.

He could not get over it, in fact. So, he said I should write a column about the stars I saw at Morton’s and what they had to say.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world’s change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton’s, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars.

I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today’s world, if by a “star” we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model?

Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.

A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton’s is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament. The policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive. The orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery. The teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children. The kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse.

Now you have my idea of a real hero.

Last column, I told you a few of the rules I had learned to keep my sanity. Well, here is a final one to help you keep your sanity and keep you in the running for stardom: We are puny, insignificant creatures.

We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves.

In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin–or Martin Mull or Fred Willard–or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life.

I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

As so many of you know, I am an avid Bush fan and a Republican. But I think the best guidance I ever got was from the inauguration speech of Democrat John F. Kennedy in January of 1961.

On a very cold and bright day in D.C., he said, “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth…asking His blessing and His help but knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must surely be our own.”

And then to paraphrase my favorite president, my boss and friend Richard Nixon, when he left the White House in August 1974, with me standing a few feet away, “This is not goodbye. The French have a word for it–au revoir. We’ll see you again.”

Au revoir, and thank you for reading me for so long. God bless every one of you. We’ll see you again.

Source for this article: www.truthorfiction.com

Our dear friend, Joe, who suffered the heart attack in Connecticut back in 2005, and subsequently received a heat transplant in 2008, is back in the hospital with unknown complications that seem more related to the course of treatment than the transplant itself. His wife writes, “Well we’re going on almost 2 weeks in the hospital and he’s still the same, if not a little worse. He is so week he can’t hardly get out of bed to go to the bathroom, and when he tries to get back in bed, he can’t hardly lift his legs back on to the covers.

He has lost so much muscle, his arms and legs are getting thin and flabby. He’s so sick and his back still hurts so bad, it’s hard to stay and see him like that.  Needless to say he did not come home today, and I’d be very surprised if he gets home before next week. I think he misunderstood the Dr. yesterday when he said he was coming home today. Or else he was just having a pleasant dream. 

The Dr. is cutting back on one of his suppressant drugs to the smallest amount they can give him, because one of the side effects is diarrhea, and they have started giving him an IV drug that he had last Friday. I can’t remember what the drug name was, but it seemed to make Joe start to feel better, but then he started back sliding, and he’s as bad right now, as he has ever been. I know he’ll get through this, and he’ll be back to his smart butt self before long, but this has been a very long 3 weeks.”

We lift Joe up for prayer and recovery. His is a sweet soul, and a blessing to many others. We pray the Lord’s will is for Joe to continue blessing those around him, and that his recovery will be quick and complete. Lord, please grant this healing for Joe. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

ABOUT HARTFORD LETTERS

Experience the Miraculous Healing and Recovery of Lea Vaughn, and the incredible spiritual journey of her husband during 180 days in Hartford Hospital. Read his original daily emails in "Hartford Letters" above. ____________________________

In “Prayer,” above:

For Dave
Praise: Lea
For Bill and Jane
For Megan
For Charlotte
For Marnita
Praise: Gary
Praise: fellowship
For Herb
Praise: Joe
For Lea
For Unnamed

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