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President Obama:

Today I read of your administrations’ plan to re-define September 11 as a National Service Day.  Sir, it’s time we had a talk.

During your campaign, Americans watched as you  made mockery of our tradition of standing and crossing your heart when the Pledge of Allegiance was spoken. You, out of four people on the stage, were the only one not honoring our tradition.

YES, “We noticed.”

During one of your many speeches, Americans heard you say that you intended to visit all 57 states. Islam, not America, has 57 states.

YES, “We noticed.”

When President Bush leaned over at Ground Zero and gently placed a flower on the memorial,  you nonchalantly  tossed your flower onto the pile without leaning over.

YES, “We noticed.”

Every time you apologized to other countries for America ‘s position on an issue we have wondered why you don’t share our pride in this great country.  When you have heard foreign leaders  berate our country and our beliefs, you have not defended us. In  fact, you insulted the British Crown beyond belief.

YES, “We noticed.”

When your pastor of 20 years, “God-damned” America and said  that 9/11 was ” America ‘s chickens coming home to roost,” and you denied having heard recriminations of that nature, we  wondered how that could be. You later disassociated yourself  from that church and Pastor Wright because it was politically expedient to do so.

YES, “We noticed.”

When you announced that you would transform America, we wondered why. With all her faults, America is the  greatest country on earth.

Sir, KEEP THIS IN MIND, “if not for  America and the people who built her, you wouldn’t be sitting in  the White House now.” Prior to your election to the highest office in this Country, you were a senator from Illinois and  from what we can glean from the records available, not a very remarkable one.

YES, “We noticed.”

All through your campaign and even now, you have surrounded yourself with individuals who are basically unqualified for the positions for which you appointed them. Worse than that, the  majority of them are people who, like you, bear no special allegiance, respect, or affection for this country and her traditions.

YES, “We noticed.”

You are 14 months into your term and every morning millions of Americans wake up to a new horror heaped on us by you. You seek to saddle working Americans with a health care/insurance  reform package that, along with cap and trade, will bankrupt this nation.

YES, “We noticed.”

We seek, by protesting, to let our representatives know that we are not in favor of these crippling expenditures and we are labeled “un-American”, “racist”, “mob”.  We wonder how we are supposed  to let you know how frustrated we are. You have attempted to make our protests seem isolated and insignificant. Until your appointment, Americans had the right to speak out.

YES, “We noticed.”

On September 11, 2001 there were no Republicans or Democrats, only Americans. And we all grieved together and  helped each other in whatever way we could. The attack on 9/11 was carried out because we are Americans.

And YES, “We noticed.”

There were many of us who prayed that as a black president you could help unite this nation. In six months you have done  more to destroy this nation than the attack on 9/11. You have failed us.

YES, “We noticed.”

September 11 is a day of remembrance for all  Americans. You propose to make 9/11 a “National Service Day”.  While we know that you don’t share our reverence for 9/11, we  pray that history will report your proposal as what it is, a disgrace.

YES, “We noticed.”

You have made a mockery of  our Constitution and the office that you hold. You have  embarrassed and slighted us in foreign visits and policy.

 
YES, “We noticed.”

We have noticed all these things. We will deal with you. When Americans come together again, it will be to remove you from office. Take notice.

Faye Parrish
Bunnell, Florida
August 2009

Heavenly Father, You are the real foundation of nations, raising them up to serve and care for the people dwelling in their boundaries. I thank You for making me a citizen of this land of freedom
and unlimited opportunity—which are the result of its Christian base. Send forth your Spirit to this country and make it a source of wisdom and strength, order and integrity throughout the world.

Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe, look with mercy on those who rule over us. Grant to our President and his administration the grace to know and do your will. Let them serve all their subjects in truth and righteousness. Inspire our Congressmen with the courage to make laws for the good of all rather than the few. Give our Judges your Spirit of wisdom and understanding that they may discern the truth and impartially administer the law. And let all the people pitch in to make our way of government  continue to work.  Amen.

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It is hard to believe that we are already ¼ through our deployment.  I took last week’s letter off if you will since there was absolutely nothing to write about during “Operation Ash Tray.”  The decision to keep us on the ground that early morning essentially took us out of play for 8 days so needless to say we were eager to get back in the air. 

You would think with more than 7 years of experience at this I would know that you should always watch what ask for.  We were teed up for a Balad – Ali Al Salem – Ramstein run on a C-17.  Since I would end up with calluses on my fingertips if I thoroughly described all of the events of that mission let’s just say that if there was a theoretical possibility of something going wrong it did. 

What was scheduled to be a 17 hour day took almost 25 and by the time we reached our rooms at 4 pm in the afternoon most of us opted to just stay up.  It was one of the longest and most aggravating days I can remember.

Kevin and I were finally moved into the same building area as the rest of our crew.  Since I feel compelled to only say nice things in these letters I am afraid I will have nothing to say about Ramstein Lodging.   That’s kind of humorous; I didn’t have anything to say about them during my last trip here as well. 

The rooms are not much bigger if any however they are much more functional.  Before we were forced to put our food items such as snacks and cereals on our television stand or tucked away in a night stand.  We now have a little cupboard space along with a counter, a full desk and television and microwave that do not look to be from the 1980’s. 

Best of all, we now have our own bathroom!  How I will miss the early morning wake-ups of my neighbor taking a shower.  Of course it is hard is to complain too much when there are a lot of people who have it much worse that I do. 

The highlight of the past week was finally a trip to Andrews and the opportunity to see Amanda and Cam while in D.C.  Of course with my luck it couldn’t go off without a hitch.  We were originally slated for the mission early in the week and Amanda, Cam and Robin, Kevin’s girlfriend made their travel arrangements. 

Late Thursday evening we were notified that the mission had been extended and that we were scheduled to fly onto San Antonio after dropping our patients off in Andrews.  Once again, hours before leaving I had to make the dreaded phone call to Amanda to tell her that we would not be coming once again.  Like a true champion, she took the news well and went along with her day at work.

Friday morning we were alerted for the mission on time, did our normal pre-mission routine and ended up at the Detachment 15 minutes early.  Three of took the time to take our personal luggage out and an undisclosed amount of German beverages out to the plane. 

As the loading of the above mentioned items was occurring I mentioned that I planned on escorting the medical equipment back from San Antonio as the remainder of crew would normally fly back to Germany on a commercial carrier.  One of the individuals on the plane informed us that SA leg had been dropped and we were only flying to Andrews.  It was a mad dash back to the Detachment.  This time as the phone rang at 4 am back in the States with the good news.

After an hour and a half delay that seemed like forever we were finally on our way and shortly before 8 pm EST we made it to the hotel.  Amanda had found a small flag for Cameron to carry and he was easy to make as we drove across the parking lot. 

Kevin was first out of the truck and immediately caught Cameron’s attention.  The look on his face was that of utter disappointment, I know you have the same green suit but you are not who I thought you were.  Then after a few seconds he looked around Kevin, said “Da-Da” and ran over.  After demanding “Up” and a quick kiss it was on to assaulting the Velcro patches as he always does.  It was truly awesome to see him and Amanda.

The downside of the trip was that we only had 24 hours off before we had to fly back to Germany.  After a mid-morning breakfast it was off to Arlington.  I can’t count the number of times I have been there but there is always something special about taking someone there for the first time.  Perhaps it is the sheer magnitude of the size, the precisely laid out grave markers or the peaceful quiet. 

We made it just in time for a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown.  Amanda had never seen it before so as Cam got a little restless he and I went for a short walk.  From there we made our way Section 60.  Called by many the “Saddest acre in America,” it is the final resting place for many of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Walking there with Amanda and Cam I realized that you can never rationalize with an almost two year old why his Dad has to leave, but you are reminded why do it.

 We enjoyed the remainder of our time that afternoon and evening however despite all of the prayers of the aircraft breaking or the mission being cancelled, we made our way back to Germany.  We have a few flights this week that will keep us busy and before too long we will be talking about the ½ mark.

 That is it for this letter.  I hope you are all well and Happy Mother’s Day if happens to apply.  Talk to you soon.  Chris.

Week 2,

     Well “Operation Ash Tray” has brought everything here to a screeching halt.  In my 7 years of flying AE I have never seen anything like this.  We were the alert crew Thursday night when the phone rang around 10pm, first we were going to a base in the desert, next we were going to Andrews, then back to the desert and finally told to just pack tan and green flight suits.  It was rather comical looking back on it.  At the time however, with all of 25 minutes to get packed, repack, repack again and then be ready to be picked up I didn’t find it was all that humorous at the time.  Finally a few hours later we were mere minutes away from flying to Andrews Friday morning and even got as far a closing up the ramp on the C-17 before the mission was scrubbed.  No comment. 

For Kevin and me it was a huge disappointment since Amanda and his girlfriend Robin had already made plans to drive down to D.C. later that morning to stay with us for the anticipated 4 to 6 days we would be there.  I know it has only been two weeks but I will take any opportunity I can to see Amanda and Cam that I can get and I returned to my room 12 hours after I originally left with no flight hours logged and a heavy heart.  Mission first I always say and when you compare with some of those I have the privilege to help on their journey home my temporary disappointment is trivial when you see what they are going through. 

     Day two of “Operation Ash Tray” we found ourselves off for the entire day.  The day started with a quick morning swim and then came an urgent mission to assault two vineyards located the Phalz region near the Rhine river.  Our two targets, Dr. Burklen-Wolf and Rudy Ruttger were successfully visited without incident and numerous prisoners were taken into custody.   Anything I can do to maintain international relations.   As for today I did find some humor when last night we were put into crew rest so we could sit in Bravo “Stand-by” today.  Here is my disclaimer.  To avoid any potential “Operational Security” issues I won’t discuss our current situation.  However if you Google “Stars Stripes Ramstein,” Stars and Stripes will and you will find the following article: http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=69398 .  Not much has changed but I am sure once we can start flying again I think it will get pretty busy.  Until then I will enjoy the down knowing there is a price for everything. 

     Down time has continued to be filled with running, swimming and biking.  Running here is fantastic and I try to set 2 days a week.  I am already back up to 12 miles and if I can keep up this pace might even entertain running the entire Hartford Marathon this coming October.  I am still split on what to run for.  Honor Flight is a great charity and the debt we owe WWII Veterans will never be repaid.  However my first flight we flew back some CT Guard members, two of whom were seriously injured.  It would be nice to do something for them as well.  Luckily I have a few more months to make up my mind. 

     In my previous update I totally forgot to mention and thank the support staff from our home unit in Westover.  Our full-time staff, recently thinned by staff reductions did a superb job in getting Kevin and I out the door.  While it may not have always been pretty we arrived to our deployed location with all equipment (maybe a little more than we needed), our paperwork was in line and we were ready to go.  It speaks volumes that 36 hours after our arrival we were mission ready and flying our first mission down-range the other night we were prepared to redeploy anywhere in the World.   Thanks to Lt Cols Z & D, Wayne, Rich and Vikki for all of their help.

That is it for this installment.  Hopefully this quagmire ends soon and we can resume our mission.  Talk to you soon, Chris.

Chris, the flight nurse that we came to appreciate so much while Lea was hospitalized in Hartford, is currently deployed to Germany, where his team is making flights into Afganistan and Iraq to treat and transport injured military personnel. Below is the first note from this deployment.

     Well I guess you can say here we go again, beginning my final tour, 120 days at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.   Kevin (from my Westover unit) and I were placed on the same crew which we appreciated.  It is hard to believe we are already through Day 7; time at least for me is flying.  Our first week was fairly hectic.  We flew from Dulles in Washington D.C. to Frankfurt on United.  I would like to personally thank that wonderful airline for charging me $250 in excessive baggage fees.  They somehow thought I could pack 4 months of supplies, 8 uniforms with boots and some other military gear in 3 bags.  I had to laugh at first since I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.  While I will be reimbursed when I file my first travel voucher, it is the point of it all.  Didn’t the government bailout United not too terribly long ago?

     Our schedule is much different than it was two years ago.  We are in Bravo (Stand-by) for 24 hours, off for a day and then assigned a mission after 12 hours of pre-departure crew rest.  Our first two missions have both been to Afghanistan.  If everything goes to plan it makes for a 22 hour day, if something goes wrong it only gets longer.  So far, so good and I would like to keep it that way.   One of our missions had a few fellow Nutmegers aboard which made for a very sad beginning of this deployment.  Ironic that I traveled ½ way around the world and was blessed with the opportunity help some of my neighbor’s home on their long journeys.  So far in the first week we have racked up over 27 flight hours.  If you add in our trip from the States last Friday we have been in the air over 35 hours this past week.  I can’t wait to cash in my frequent flyer miles on this one. 

     Tomorrow is our first true down day since we got here and in true German fashion I feel obligated to uphold international relations and visit some of the local retailers especially those specializing in wine production.  While I have two vineyards I really like and have visited for years some of those on our crew suggested another vineyard that overlooks the Rhine river.  The owner is American and loves service members so it should be interesting.  Any request?  Kevin and I hope visit Rudy Ruttgar and my personal favorite MD, Dr. Burklen-wolf in the next few weeks. 

     My quarters are much like they were two years ago, just a little nicer (no mold and carpet).  The room is humble, has a fridge and microwave and while be it painfully slow, we finally have internet in our rooms. Welcome 2010 AF lodging! All in all I can’t complain too much, it could always be worse.   As for the food here…um….uh… No comment.  A salad alone the other day cost me $2.75 and that was with a discount from the lunch lady.  We are currently working on our Per Diem issue. 

     With our time in between missions Kevin and I have been keeping busy running (not Kevin), biking and swimming.  I found a very nice 6 mile long running path not too far from my room.  Some of the Westover folks deployed to Andrews were nice enough to take my bike with them and placed it on a mission over here to Germany.  They were also nice enough to decorate it with a bright pink Easter basket, tassels, a horn and completed it off with a personalized California license plate with my name on it and playing cards in front and rear spokes.  At least they were nice enough to fill the Easter basket with Girl Scout cookies to help with the humility.  Kevin purchased a bike later that same day and we have pretty much rode everywhere since.  It is nice to not have to rely on a vehicle shared by 7 people if you want to go somewhere and with hundreds of kilometers of trails around the base we will put them to good use. 

     Many people have asked if they can send me a package.  The simple answer is no.  I am blessed with living on one of the largest U.S. bases in Europe.  I have access to a grocery store, a mall, a movie theater, a gym and a pool.  While we pay for these amenities in very long flights down range many people have it much worse than I.  With that said, they would love packages and support from home.  While I am touched by all of the kind thoughts there are many more deserving service members than I.  I will however be more than happy to deliver any packages anyone may want to send and I will ensure they get out to those who need it most.  Coffee, canned fruits, non-perishable sweets and of course baby-wipes are always fan favorites. 

      That is all for this weekly installment.  Please tune in next week for another thrilling episode.  I hope everyone is well and I will talk to you soon.  Chris.

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.

This topic is one you may not have expected to find here, but so many of our Christian friends and acquaintences are seeking their next career position, I thought this article, which I recently wrote for my professional weblog, may be of help to our extended church family. In my professional walk I counsel dozens of people each week who are desperately seeking jobs to obtain security for themselves and their families. I hear the pain, and I get great satisfaction out of helping others. Please feel free to share the following article. 

Job hunting during difficult economic times is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are a few important steps to incorporate into your search methodology to help you conduct a more orderly and structured search.

Define your personal brand

Your personal brand is what differentiates you and makes you stand out from your competitors. It’s the unique edge that you’ll need to compete for jobs in today’s marketplace. Ask two or three trusted professionals you know to write a paragraph describing you, so you don’t overlook traits important to a potential employer. You could also use recommendations others have written for you and posted on networking sites. 

Compose a detailed list of the skills and knowledge you possess. Don’t limit your skills to what you have learned in your career. Think about what you have learned in other venues as well. Skills are often acquired through participation in community activities where you may have worked in capacities outside your career path. These skills are also important in defining who you are.

Consider online assessments that may help you get a broader understanding of what makes you who you are. Your personality traits help define you as a person and an employee. Gaining clarity about these can help you do a much better job of marketing yourself in a time when it is important to find that perfect job opportunity.

The granddaddy of all personality assessment tools, the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter is now available online at www.keirsey.com. Upon completion of the assessment you will have immediate access to your results, and a trained counselor to help you interpret the results. Over 40 million people have used the assessment to gain insight into what makes them tick and what hampers their career advancement.

CareerFit is another excellent resource to help you uncover what would be a best fit for you and what wouldn’t. An online assessment tool located at www.careerfit-test.com, it helps test-takers identify their career interests and career personalities.

Assessments can be an excellent investment of time and money. They can help you discover your strengths and weaknesses and recognize where and how you add value and what makes you stand out from others. When you have completed this step, begin developing your unique brand with all of your networking contacts.

Define Your Job Ideals

Start by identifying what is important to you in a job. Think about jobs you’ve held, and what you liked and disliked about each of them. List those characteristics or environments that helped you grow and feel productive, and also list those that didn’t. Review your completed lists and analyze why you liked or disliked each item. This step will help you identify the internalized values and beliefs that cause you to react in certain ways to situations you encounter.

Then list your needs. What do you need for compensation? You can research what a typical salary range for your occupation is in you community at www.salary.com (www.salaryexpert.com in Canada). Are you willing to relocate? How much vacation do you require? Are you willing to commute? Do you need day care? What about flextime or telecommuting?

Naturally you want to understand the health benefits that are provided, but you may also have other needs, such as relocation or travel reimbursement, maternity/family leave, personal days and sick days, bonus and profit sharing, signing bonuses, and any other items that are important to you. These are necessary for you to consider, rate in importance, and then use as a way to measure whether an occupation or position you are considering will be a good fit.

Consider Shifting Your Career Path

Let’s face it. This is a tough job market. Perhaps the toughest we’ve seen in decades. Many folks are finding few opportunities in their chosen fields, and the interviewing process may include dozens of qualified candidates. If you are struggling to find openings in your chosen field, perhaps its time to consider other occupations that might be a good fit for your interests and skills.

It is often surprising how many different occupations use the same skill sets while offering the quality of life and job satisfaction that are so important in making a career rewarding and fulfilling. Career counselors routinely test their clients for occupational fit and then help them make informed decisions about which paths to pursue.

A reliable Internet resource to help you do this research on your own is the Self Directed Search assessment located at www.self-directed-search.com. The SDS can help you make informed career decisions, and has been used by more than 29 million people worldwide. SDS results have been supported by more than 500 research studies.

The results provide an extensive list of the occupations and fields of study that most closely match your interests. You can then explore the careers you are most likely to find satisfying based upon your interests and skills. Research occupations that interest you in the Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/OCO/. This site will help you discover what it is like to work in that occupation, including details on work environment, what training is required, how promotion occurs, and many other details to help you visualize whether that kind of job is a good fit for you.

Next, you need to determine whether you are a good fit for the occupations you wish to consider. Go to www.online.onetcenter.org to get an understanding of the skills required for the occupations you are researching, to determine whether you have the required career assets to be successful in that field. If there are gaps, you may want to consider how you can acquire the needed skills. Explore every industry or job function that initially appeals to you. The broader your search, the better your chances of locating the perfect fit.

Research Potential Employers

One of the biggest shortcoming of job candidates is that they don’t know enough about the companies to which they’re applying, and, consequently don’t know how they can contribute to the company’s success. To stand out from your competition, it’s crucial to be extremely knowledgeable about any company for which you would like to work. Learn what is happening in the industry. You want to know what challenges they are facing in today’s market and new initiatives are being undertaken to develop emerging demand for new services or products.

Set up news alerts at http://alerts.google.com for companies
on your target list. Search for blogs by industry leaders and read or watch the national and business news to keep up on challenges and new initiatives in the industry. Consider professional societies or associations in your area that might provide networking opportunities that can lead to learning more about what is happening at that local employer in which you are interested.

Network, Network, Network

Networking taps into the “hidden job market,” where openings exist long before they are advertised. Most of these slots are filled by someone identifying a need and asking their contacts if they know someone who would fit. The Internet is a great research resource, but it still accounts for a very small minority of job filled. We constantly hear that 70 to 80 percent of all jobs are found through networking referrals, not through newspaper listings or Internet job boards.

The best place to start networking is one-on-one with the people who already know you: your family, friends and other close contacts. Social scientists tell us that everyone has well over 100 people in their immediate circle of influence. Think about those folks who know you best, and start networking with them. Make a list of these contacts, and then prioritize it, putting who you want to talk to first at the top.

Then plan your networking strategy. Call or email these contacts and set up informal chats to discuss the occupations you have investigated and to seek their advice on how to improve your search strategy. Never ask if they know of a job opening. That puts your friends in a defensive position and makes them uncomfortable. Instead, ask if they know anyone else you should talk to for more insight and guidance. People want to help, and asking for contacts is something almost everyone can easily do to help you out.

Prepare a list of companies you are researching and share that with your networking contacts as you are explaining the steps you are taking to research opportunities for career advancement. Ask if they know anyone who works at any of those companies who might be able to provide some advice. Try to get three or more names from every contact you make. Then, set up networking meetings with those to whom you have been referred, and continue your research.

Be Prepared for the Interview

Very frequently when you are in a networking meeting with someone to whom you’ve been referred, and that person is looking over your resume, they may recall that as associate mentioned a while back that they need someone to fill a particular need. Sometimes they pick up the phone and call that person to see if they are still looking, and might take you down the hall to meet. Suddenly your networking meeting turned into an interview. You need to be prepared.

Develop a marketing plan for yourself, including your portfolio materials, examples of your work, your statement of objectives, and any other materials that help you demonstrate what you have to offer a potential employer. You must also directly tie yourself to your accomplishments in a public, linkable format for all the world to see if a professional image is important in your field.

The Future Buzz (http://thefuturebuzz.com/2009/02/18/personal-marketing-plan/) states that there is no power in remaining silent. In today’s world a professional is all but invisible unless they are blogging, talking shop with peers, and taking charge of their own personal PR. 

I have discussed in my online webinars that you may need to have more than one resume with you, so you can present the one that is appropriate for the person you have been taken to meet. You may need to create two or three functional style resumes that reflect your various skills as they relate to a variety of fields. The functional resume reflects your skills rather than a chronological listing of your previous employers, and helps the viewer quickly view a list of your transferrable skills. For more information on this style resume visit www.quintcareers.com/functional_resume.html.

Be Visible to the right people

Networking is not just about who you know, but also about who knows
you. So, it is important to get out in the community and meet new people. Expand you network. Attend industry association conferences, seminars, community networking sessions, workshops and any event where professionals are gathering. Use www.LinkedIn.com to join industry group discussions and increase your list of contacts.

Consider a membership in the Chamber of Commerce in your area. The Chamber is made up of business professionals in your community who are working together to promote the economic health of the area. Service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, etc., are made up mostly of business people who are volunteering their time to provide grants and activities to help those in need. They are a great place to meet business people in a social setting.

There are many nonprofit, community and religious organizations that constantly need volunteers, and this may be a good time to learn new skills. Giving back is rewarding, plus your service has many tangible benefits: you’ll meet new people who may be able to refer you; you’ll build skills and experience that can enhance your resume; and you may come across paid openings at an organization where you’re donating your time.

Often those job goes to the person who is in the right place at the right time, and are never advertised. Stay in touch with everyone you know and everyone you meet. Keep notes about their interests and associations. Send an article he or she might enjoy when you run across it, and comment on a person’s status update on Facebook or Twitter when appropriate. Just be careful to remain polite and professional. You want to nurture a positive impression, not pester and irritate!

Keep Your Chin Up

It’s easy to become frustrated while job hunting any time, but in a tough economy it can be much worse. Stay active. This is not a time to sit around and hope something comes your way. Pay attention to personal hygiene. This is not the time to let yourself go. Don’t spend all your time on the Internet looking at job postings. Get out of the home office and mix it up with friends, family, and new interests.

Look for inexpensive ways to have fun and stay relaxed. Put together a neighborhood pot luck dinner party, or get yourself to the library, museums, join a gym or just start taking regular walks. Spend quality time with the people you love and take care of yourself. This can be a time to learn new disciplines as you follow up contacts on a regular basis, acquire new interests and skills, and may even help you to counsel someone else you know who will someday need help getting through what you are experiencing today.

Larry E Vaughn is a certified eLearning career counselor for Drake Beam Morin (www.dbm.com), has operated a private consulting practice for over twenty years, and appears daily on proprietary counseling webinars.

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

The Life at Conception Bill – A Frontal Assault on Roe v. Wade

For more than thirty years, nine unelected men and women on the Supreme Court have played God with innocent human life. The result has been a brutal holocaust that has claimed the lives of more than 45 million innocent and helpless unborn children in America.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling forced abortion-on-demand down our nation’s throat.  As a result, many pro-lifers resigned themselves to protecting a life here and there — passing laws which slightly control abortion in the most outrageous cases. And other pro-life organizations always tiptoed around the Supreme Court, hoping they wouldn’t be offended.

The proposed Life at Conception Act Follows the High Court’s Instructions To Define When Life Begins . Working from what the Supreme Court ruled in Roe, pro-life lawmakers can pass a Life at Conception Act and end abortion by using the Constitution instead of amending it. A simple majority vote is all that is needed to pass a Life at Conception Act as opposed to the two-thirds required to add a Constitutional amendment.

When the Supreme Court handed down its now-infamous Roe v. Wade decision, it did so based on a new, previously undefined “right of privacy” which it “discovered” in so-called “emanations” of “penumbrae” of the Constitution.  Of course, as constitutional law it was a disaster. But never once did the Supreme Court declare abortion itself to be a Constitutional right.

Instead the Supreme Court said:  “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins . . . the judiciary at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

Then the High Court made a key admission: “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case [i.e. “Roe” who sought the abortion], of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.” That’s exactly what a Life at Conception Act would do.

A Life at Conception Act changes the focus of the abortion debate. It takes the Supreme Court out of the equation and places responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the elected representatives who, unlike life term judges, must respond to grass-roots pressure.

National Pro-Life Alliance members have led the fight to end abortion-on-demand by passing a Life at Conception Act. They have generated over 1.5 million petitions to Congress to date urging lawmakers to cosponsor and fight for passage of a Life at Conception Act.

Those continued efforts have led to ever-increasing support for a Life at Conception Act in Congress. In the 111th Session of Congress, Pro-life Members of Congress introduced three almost identical Life at Conception Acts – two in the House of Representatives and one in the U.S. Senate.

The lobbying of National Pro-Life Alliance members led to the Life at Conception Act being introduced with the highest number of cosponsors, ever. And NPLA members will continue to hold the politicians accountable, pushing for an up or down vote on a Life at Conception Act.

In the U.S. Senate, pro-life floor leader Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) has introduced the Life at Conception Act, S.3346, in this session of Congress. Behind the Life at Conception Act bills in the House are Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) and Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA). By introducing H.R.881, Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, the son of former Life at Conception Act sponsor Duncan L. Hunter, is following in his retired father’s footsteps.

Congressman Paul Broun, the author of H.R.227, is a former medical doctor who entered into the political arena in 2007. Congressman Broun has since sought to use his medical expertise to legally establish the scientific fact that conception marks the creation of a genetically unique human being, who should be guaranteed Constitutional protection, under the 14th Amendment.  An up or down vote on a Life at Conception Act will put politicians on record either for or against ending abortion-on-demand.

Pro-lifers are urged to take action and insist that their Congressmen cosponsor H.R.881 and H.R.227, and that their Senators cosponsor S.346 today.

Pray for our country. She needs your help!

For more information on the National Pro-Life Alliance, go to http://www.prolifealliance.com/default.htm

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.

(May 5, 2009 – Baltimore Examiner)

I received this from a friend in Oklahoma. I added the laws after I confirmed them all. Maybe I’ll move to Oklahoma!

 The state law passed today, 37 to 9, had a few liberals in the mix, an amendment to place the Ten Commandments on the front entrance to the state capitol. The feds in D.C., along with the ACLU, said it would be a mistake. Hey this is a conservative state, based on Christian values. Guess what……….We did it anyway!  House Bill 1330

(May 26, 2009 –  The Oklahoman – Not even a popular governor dared stand in the way of the Ten Commandments. Gov. Brad Henry, with some polls showing him having a popularity rating of nearly 70 percent, signed without comment Monday a measure to place a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds.  Had Henry vetoed House Bill 1330, it was likely the GOP-run Legislature would have overridden it, something that has occurred only once in the 61/2 years Henry has been governor. The measure easily passed both chambers: 83-2 in the House and 38-8 in the Senate.)

We recently passed a law in the state to incarcerate all illegal immigrants, and ship them back to where they came from, unless they want to get a green card and/or become an American citizen. They all scattered. Hope we didn’t send any of them to your state. This was against the advice of the Federal Government, and the ACLU, they said it would be a mistake. Guess what……….we did it anyway. House Bill 1804

(Tulsa, Oklahoma (CNN) – “I’m convinced illegal aliens will not come to Oklahoma, or any other state, if there are no jobs waiting for them.” said state Rep. Randy Terrill, a Republican and the law’s author. “They will not stay here if there are not taxpayer subsidies and they certainly won’t stay here if they ever encounter one of our fine state and local law enforcement officials,” he added. “They’ll be physically detained — until they’re deported.”)

Yesterday we passed a law to include DNA samples from any and all illegals to the Oklahoma database, for criminal investigative purposes. Pelosi said it was unconstitutional. Guess what……..We did it anyway. Senate Bill 1102

Several weeks ago, we passed a law, declaring Oklahoma as a Sovereign state, not under the Federal Government directives. That, for your information, makes Oklahoma and Texas the only states to do so. Guess what………More states are likely to follow. Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, both Carolina’s, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, West Virginia, just to name a few. Should Mississippi act, so will Florida. Save your confederate money, it appears the South is about to rise up once again. House Joint Resolution 1003

(World Net Daily – FEB 2009 NEW YORK – Oklahoma’s House of Representatives is the first legislative body to pass a state sovereignty resolution this year under the terms of the Tenth Amendment.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 1003 Feb. 18 by a wide margin, 83 to 13, resolving, “That the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.” The language of HJR 1003 further serves notice to the federal government “to cease and desist, effectively immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.”)

The federal Government has made bold steps to take away our guns. Oklahoma, a week ago, passed a law confirming people in this state have the right to bear arms and transport them in their vehicles. I’m sure that was a set back for the Kennedys and Ms Pelosi. Guess what……….We did it anyway. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling 3-0

By the way, Obama does not like any of this. Guess what….who cares…were doing it anyway.

Author: Al Ritter Baltimore Examiner – http://www.examiner.com/x-3678-Baltimore-Conservative-Examiner~y2009m5d5-Update-from-Oklahoma

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
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