Posts Tagged ‘Christs Return’

Her hands had hurt as she had pulled bark from the trees, stuffing it into her pockets and looking around for anything else that might be edible. There was some grass in clumps beneath a tree, so she grabbed that too, and brought that home. Her children were starving to death, as was her mother and husband, to think of it, she was so weak she could barely walk herself, but they sat and ate the grass she had pulled up. It had come down to this; they were eating grass and bark, anything to keep alive.

During the summer, they had been able to catch rats, frogs, and even snakes, but still barely enough to stay alive. There had once been corn to eat, how wonderful that had been, but now that was just a distant memory. Before it was over, they had ground the cobs and husks down and made tasteless cakes out of even that. She still remembered when she had found the handful of baby mice under a rock, she brought them back home, one of her daughters was near death and needed to eat. She had boiled them, but no matter how long, they stayed together and doughy. Even her husband Jo asked her if she would eat that, but her daughter had been brave and eaten it anyway, and it had saved her life.

Jo had a nephew across the river in China, and there was food there, they knew it was a huge risk, but they had to try, or the whole family would die. They set out and snuck across the border, fording the Tumen River to China. They made it and were stunned at the abundance of food, they had never before seen a rice steamer, and there was so much food they didn’t know what to do. One week later they returned home with many bags of bulging rice for their family, they would make two more trips for provisions.

A few days after returning from their third trip, Jo was arrested, she suspects a neighbor informant told the authorities on them. The following day Han was arrested also, she never saw her husband Jo again. They kicked and beat Han with wooden rods and crushed part of her skull, then placed her hands on the hard concrete floor and stomped on them. Then, without further explanation she was released, she was three months pregnant.

She would later be told Jo died on a train after having his wrists tied above his head without food or water for ten days. She returned home to find all of the rice they had hidden had been taken by the police. The kids were hungry, and her mom had been watching them.

Han gave birth to a boy, but he starved to death two months after he was born. In desperation, her oldest daughter left to find food and never returned, they believe she was caught up in human trafficking and taken to China, and then her mother died. In less than a year, her family of eight was reduced to four. In North Korea, if someone has been arrested then the neighbors no longer trust you and they suspect you of something. One night in July 1998, two policemen came to their door, and told them to leave, and if they didn’t they would burn the house down.

On July 18th, Han, with her two daughters JinHye, then 11, EunHye, 7, and  son BoKum, 5 set out on a 100 mile walk for the Chinese border. Weak from malnutrition, Han could barely walk, and the first night they stopped at a friend’s house to lodge for the evening. She looked at Han with wide eyes, how can you do it, two high mountain crossings and the river still lay ahead? Everyone was too weak to carry BoKum and he was too small and malnourished to walk. But how could a mother leave her son behind? But if they stayed, they would all be caught. She took a night to think things over, she didn’t know what to do. The next morning, her friend said “leave him, I will take care of him”. Han agreed, and planned to return for him in five days after getting the girls safely into China, she promised to bring back food for her friend. “Why aren’t you taking me too” BoKum asked, and she explained that she was going to go get some food and bring it back, and then she would take him, then she gave him a ground corn cake, she wishes she had given him more. They walked for two nights, then crossed into china, hid in fields and stole squash to eat. Then heavy rains came and they could not cross back over, Han didn’t know how to swim, and the river was at flood stage.

Then Han heard Kim Jong Il was executing anyone who hadn’t voted for him in the election, Han hadn’t because she had been in China at the time. She got jobs in China, and earned money to get BoKum back, but it took her two months before she earned enough to hire a man to go get him. Sadly, he returned empty handed. The woman had abandoned the boy, and he was seen wandering aimlessly in a field singing “when is my mother coming”. A neighbor gave him a bowl of porridge out of pity, he died immediately afterward, common when people who are malnourished eat too fast. When she heard about BoKum, her heart was ripping out of her chest.

They spent 10 years in China, and were deported several times back to North Korea, but were always able to bribe their way back into China. The last time a Korean-American pastor paid $10,000.00 to North Korean guards to sneak them back. They went to the United Nations in Beijing and asked to live in the U.S.

After 16 months, they were given a home of freedom in the U.S., one that came at a very high cost. There are only 130 refugees from North Korea who have settled in the United States, but you never hear from them because they have families. If a defector speaks out, it will be taken out on the family they left behind, Han has no one left, they are all dead. That is why they are speaking.

Crosses adorn the walls of their home, they carry bibles with them everywhere, they are on a mission to educate the world about what goes on in North Korea. You see the polished military parades, but you don’t see the people disappearing, the Christians dying. Please take a moment to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, for all those suffering in that poor country. And tell Han’s story over and over to everyone you know. God Bless-Jim

This Story is True

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I looked into his eyes and saw my friend. 22 years of history played before my eyes as I remembered him as a junior chemist when I first came here, then after his boss retired a couple of decades ago he became the senior. We had first discovered that we had the same faith, and that had been a tie, one of many to come. He had a great love for the outdoors as did I, and we had yet another. Danny, or Dan was fond of hiking the Grand Canyon, and also Humphrey’s peak, the highest mountain in Arizona at 12,633 feet, we had both reached the summit several times. He would go on to do power hikes, rim to rim on the Grand Canyon in a day, starting at 8,000 ft in snow and dropping to under 1000 ft, temps near 90, then back to 7,500 feet in snow again before sunset, Dan is a mans man.

My favorite memory of course was in 1998 when we got a group together and went to the mountains outside Telluride Colorado to climb our first 14er’. We reached the summit of Wilson Peak somewhere around 14,250 and stood enjoying the rare air as a huge thunderstorm formed and grew below us. I guess the reason I am telling you all of this is I want you to know a few things, Dan is my friend, Dan is my brother and we have many fond memories together. But although our bond is strong, yesterday will not be one of those memories that we remember fondly. Dan was spilling his heart to me, you see his wife of 41 years, mother of their two boys, his best friend. She has lost her battle with brain cancer; Danny has brought her home from the hospital to die. The doctor has given her a few weeks at best.

I sat and listened to him tell how he is caring for Robbi (Roberta) with love, and how she is facing her short future bravely. Dan is just being a rock, he talks about how they have resolved that it is okay, she is just going to beat him to Heaven by a short time, then he looks down for a moment and says “man, I don’t know how people do this without God though”. I know what he is talking about, I wonder too.

Last week, I attended the funeral of another old friend from work who fought and lost his battle with cancer. Then just Wednesday, it was announced that another close friend at work has inoperable cancer and they will attempt to treat it with radiation.

I know God has a plan, and I know that this kind of thing just happens, but it has just been rather overwhelming lately. The class I am taking at school is “Foundations of Pastoral Care”, and it deals mostly with counseling people who are in crisis or trauma, and I have to tell you, I am really ill equipped to help anyone in that state.

After I left Dan the other day, I thought about our conversation. He told me that his wife has really for the most part lost the ability to converse, so she mostly just nods or says uh-huh. He said that sometimes, she will surprise everyone and throw out a perfectly formed sentence, and it is just like a gift from God, for a moment he forgets she is sick and thinks his Robbi is back. I couldn’t forget that as I drove home, I thought about all of those taken for granted conversations with loved ones we have where we will half tune the other out. I thought of my own wife, and how she will talk about how she has had to prepare for a board meeting and the things she has had to do. Or even if she were to talk about something like accounts receivable, which is something I could really care less about, but if the gift of speech were taken from her sweet lips because she were dying, it would tear my heart out not to hear about it.

I guess these past couple of weeks have caused me to think a lot. Besides the fact that I have had to work a ton and am overtired, the message of loss seems to be recurring. The good part of this all is that they have God, but besides that the lesson I got is that it is really easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of life. There is always a danger then that voices of those we love will be lost to the white noise that comes with a life in the fast lane. I hope as long as I live I am able to hear the voices of my wife and each and every one of my daughters, and that I will always take the time to listen to them and what it is that they are saying.

God Bless-JFT

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Authors note: Hello, I don’t do reposts often, but I originally wrote and posted this last July. For some reason, this post, which of course is fiction based on fact has taken on a life of its own. It has by far been the most popular post I have ever written, itself getting 700 hits a week on average even now. I don’t know what makes it as popular as it is, other than it is a possible insight into Jesus and His disciples, but I decided I would repost it since people seem to like it so much. As always, God bless you all!

The hoopla and fanfare was all over now, it was now just a waiting game, and he was alone with his thoughts. He couldn’t lie, he was terrified as he was arrested and brought before Nero, who had publicly announced that he was the enemy of God. But he knew that it was all going to be fine, he knew the ending.

He thought back to the time when the Man he loved had been arrested. Prior to the arrest, The Master had foretold of Peter’s denial, and Peter had been offended, no way, there is just no way that will ever happen. Yet when that stupid rooster crowed, Peter realized what he had done. The hurt on Jesus face as those he had given so much to forsook him; it was almost more than he could bear.

Peter then realized he had begun to drool, and it had gotten in his eyes. He opened his eyes wider and looked around, there was blood pooling on the ground from the nails in his wrists, and he could see the legs of a few soldiers around, everyone else had gone.

He remembered the kindness the master had shown everyone, loving to a fault. Healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead. He came bearing a message of salvation and grace, freedom from the old law, preaching a gospel of love. He had never hurt anyone, he had only loved, healed, and instructed, yet they killed Him. Not only killed, but humiliated Him first. He remembered the Savior hanging there on the cross, the Son of God, the Messiah. Sin and evil had ruled that day as the only perfect Man ever to walk the earth was nailed to the cross.

Peter hung there in anguish, remembering the suffering the Rabbi was made to endure, and the pain on his face. What made matters worse, Peter was always a hothead, and when Jesus had tried to explain that the prophesies needed to be fulfilled through His death, Peter has stood up proudly and said “never Lord, this shall never happen to you”. Peter was implying that Jesus would be crucified over his dead body, he would be Jesus’ defender. Jesus had then called Peter Satan, and said get behind me, clearly annoyed at Peters macho blustering. As Peter thought of this, Tears welled in to his eyes, and then rolled down his forehead into his hair.

He thought of his last huge failure, when they came to arrest Jesus, and he drew his sword and lopped off that soldier’s ear. Again, Peter saw the disappointment in Jesus as he turned and told him to sheath his sword. Then, in a way only Jesus had about him, He actually picked up the guards ear and placed it back where it had come from, He healed the guard. Even during His arrest, He had still found a way to do another miracle, He had healed the very one who was persecuting Him.

He reflected on the cross, the agony that Jesus went through, bearing not only His own weight, but also the burden of sin for all those who would choose to become His followers for thousands of years. He bore the burden of murder, adultery, hate, lust, cheating, lying and the list goes on. His perfect soul, cluttered with all that filth he was bearing for us. Jesus had known and understood, but Peter hadn’t. He remembered Jesus battered body hanging there, after he had committed His Spirit into His Fathers hands. What a horrible final mental picture in his mind. But, it didn’t end there, He rose from that tomb.

He spent time with His disciples after he had risen from the dead, they talked about a great many things. But Peter still carried the anguish of letting Jesus down so many times. Jesus had known about Peter’s anguish, and the pain it caused Peter from the guilt. But Jesus knew, and now so did Peter, that the anguish and guilt were needed to complete Peter into being the “Rock” that Jesus knew Peter was destined to be. The mental picture Peter had of Jesus that meant the most was of that time Jesus had prepared breakfast for them on the beach, after he had returned from the dead. He cooked them a meal of fresh fish over a fire, and then talked quietly to Peter.  “do you love me” he had asked, when Peter said yes, Jesus responded “then feed my lambs”. . Jesus asked Peter two more times the same question, and Peter answered the same, to which Jesus responded “then feed and take care of my sheep”, a reference to Peters future ministry. He then foretold Peter that he would face the cross also, and that his death would glorify God.

He knew the end was nearing, the pain was terrible at first, but he was becoming numb now. He could hear the soldiers laughing and making jokes as he and the others hung on the crosses up on this hill, how could anyone be jovial while surrounded by such suffering and death. Anyway, it now all made sense, when He had asked Peter three times “do you love me”, it had at first hurt Peter’s feelings, but now he understood. Jesus was letting Peter know that He knew how much Peter loved Him. Peter affirmed his love for Jesus three times, Jesus was telling Peter it was okay to forgive himself for denying his Master three times, He was telling Peter to cut himself some slack, he was forgiven. The love on His face that day on the beach is how Peter would forever remember Jesus.  More than sixty years had passed since that day.

When Peter was led to the top of the hill, before the soldiers began their grim work, they asked if Peter had any last requests. Peter then said “I do”, I would like you to crucify me upside down. The soldier’s jaws dropped, and they asked why anyone would wish for that. “Because I am unworthy to die in the same manner of my Lord”. They looked at one another, then said “whatever” and began their work.

As his vision began to blur at the edges, he realized there was no more pain, looking to the right, the left, he realized the blood puddles were large now, he was bleeding out. No longer distracted by the pain, he began to wonder how it would happen, would he go to Heaven immediately, would he have to face judgment first, would he be met and guided for the final leg of the journey, he didn’t know. For a moment, his vision cleared, and he noticed a pair of feet in sandals standing before his face. He strained to look up, it was so hard at this point, but he did, and then he knew. It was Him, He had come, Jesus stood before him, tears streaming down his cheeks. In the blink of an eye, they were embracing one another as they both cried. It was then that Peter realized it was finished, the cross was gone, and Jesus smiled and said, “well done Peter, well done”.

God Bless-JFT

This Story is fiction, but is based on facts.

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My God, I’m Yours

Take me and use me

Lead me through the quagmires of life

Dress me for battle, put armor on my chest

A helmet on my head, gauntlets on my arms,

And armor on my legs “Oh God”

Reach into my chest, fill my heart with courage

Make me into a valiant warrior,

Fearing nothing that the adversary can bring.

Make me your champion “Oh Lord”,

Teach me to lead and to follow

Make me bold and humble                                                                

Help me to lead the charge

And to bring up the rear also.

Help me to know what it is that you want of me “Oh Lord”

Help me to wake daily to serve you,

Help me to know that the answer in that lies in others.

Help me to die to myself every day “Oh Lord”

Help me to “always” put others first

Help me to know that through You,

All things are possible “Oh Lord”

I cry out to you now in thankfulness

Thank You “Oh Lord”, for the beauty of golden leaves                                    

Thank You “Oh Lord”, for the smell of fresh cut grass

Thank You “Oh Lord”, for the smell of a newborn baby

Thank You “Oh Lord”, for the gift of Your Son

Your faithfulness is undeniable, Your love unquestionable

This life was never mine to give to You “Oh Lord”

Even our free will was a gift from You

But that gift I now return, “My Lord”

I’m Yours, Take me, use me, and do as You wish

That I might have the lowest place in the Kingdom, “My Lord”

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I did my best to sit upright in the class, wishing I wore glasses, thinking that a reflection might allow me to close my eyes a bit. Oh my gosh, this stuff was so dry, they poked through the book of Acts like crash scene investigators piecing together what happened. I listened with twenty-five percent of my brain, just enough to answer a question if they called on me, but this was like shoving bamboo shoots under my fingernails.

This was how I used to feel when I was in Sunday school years ago, when we would study the Bible, I could never connect with the characters as actual people, it was more a study in forensics. Now before I go any further, I want to be clear, this site is not nor will it ever be a platform to rant against anyone or anything. I was raised up in a very legalistic background, and I believe with all of my heart that those folks think they are serving God right. But sometimes we need to step back from our comfort zone and look around, do a self check, check the pulse of our faith, etc. We get an annual physical; there is no reason why we shouldn’t do the same thing with our faith.

One of the things that I remember about church when I grew up is that everyone sat in the same place every week.  Several of the old timers positioned themselves either next to or directly behind the large support pillars, depending on if they cared whether the pastor saw them sleeping or not. The ones next to the pillars would lean their heads against it and snore, while the ones behind it would nod expertly in line with the pastor. I remember one week the poor pastor saw so many sleepers that he commented that it made him feel good to know he put so many people at ease. I used to nod off then too, because there wasn’t anything to be too excited about.

Those years were so sad for me, legalistic as could be and nary a clue. If you would have asked me, I would have told you all about how bad legalism was, never for a moment suspecting that I was part and parcel. We were trained to know the bible, so we could show everyone how messed up they were, missing the part about love and Grace, and it is capitalized for a reason, because it is so amazing.

Back then, the Apostles were yellowed text, cracked with age and not pertinent to me today, Jesus was God on earth, a perfect God-Man that I know never had anything in common with the guy who back then ran a forklift in a freezer dock. But it was what my folks did, it was what my wife did, I believed in God, so I needed to just roll with things, and that is what I did. But then the most wonderful thing happened.

The yellow pages began to turn black and white, and they weren’t cracked and broken anymore, the pages became whole. The two thousand year old Apostles were no longer men from other cultures that spoke different languages, that I couldn’t possibly have anything in common with, they became what they were, a bunch of average at best guys. I felt the Saul (the Apostle Paul) trying to swallow the lump in his throat when he encountered the burning speaking bush. I felt the wretched shame tear through Peter’s soul when he heard the Rooster crow, knowing he had let the Lord down, after he had assured him that he was solid, that it wouldn’t happen. The surprise on Thomas face when he “did” find the holes in his Master’s wrists, and he would forever wear the moniker “doubting Thomas”. The funny thing is, it took me being rocked out of that environment painfully, in what would eventually prove to be the biggest blessing of my life.

Yes, these people were no longer “forensic” they were people, but the people who were at the forefront, they were there, they walked with the Master.

That brings me to the best news of all, that guy who drove the forklift in the freezer many years ago, who thought more about making a better life for his family than his everlasting soul, yeah well. Guess what, that God-Man, as hard as this may be to believe, He became a Man, and He knew my name, He had always known my name. When He came down here, He had in fact been a man, He could have left anytime, but He didn’t.  Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross, He looked at that future and said “whoa, is there any other way”, but in the end, He said Father, Your will be done. The thing that is really hard to wrap my mind around, always has been, always will be, is that that God-Man cares about me, but oh man, he does.

He snatched me up and I was blessed with a knowledge that managed to escape me for thirty two years of my life. Grace, last night I sat down with my two teen-aged girls to make sure that they understood grace, the blood of Christ and that we can’t work our way to heaven. Yeah, they knew, but my dad and step mom managed to make it eighty years without knowing, just saying. Jesus knows us, every one of us, I don’t know how, but He does. Maybe when Your blood atones for someone’s sin, You just know them, but He does. If church is legalistic and forensic, if you can’t feel the indecision in the Apostle’s, the lump in Paul’s throat, then it is time to do a self check. I am not a fan of church hopping, but the church is us, and I use two criteria. If you are serving, and serving the Lord well, meeting the need well, and you and your family are being fed then you are probably where you should be. Only you can answer that. God Bless-JFT

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Please God one more evening

          I am  just having fun

                        You made me playful and happy,

                                        Only wanting to run


                                                                  You know I love you

                                                  And I will do what’s right

                                  So give me this evening

                    And I will serve you come morning’s light.


          I have always obeyed You                                                         

   I found myself reasoning away

        Everyone deserves an occasional

                 Night on the town to play


                                                   So I pretended You weren’t there

                                                                   And I painted the town

                                          Once I looked to the “Man in the Moon”

                                                           All I saw was Your frown


                                                          By the mornings first light

                                                       All my innocence was lost

                                                    As I began to scrape

                                            From my windshield the frost


                        As I drove down the frosty lane

        Into the rising sun

                         I reflected shamefully

                                                      On my night of  fun.


                                                       The tears streaked my face

                                                  As I drove into the dawn

                                              Crying and exhausted at the same time

                                       Stifling a yawn


                            Please God, one more evening

                                        And I’ll make things right

                                               I’ll make the moon smile again

                                                      Yes God, it’ll be a sight


                                                                    Please God, One more evening

                                                                         With my innocence back

                                                              Our intimate relationship

                                                Is now what we lack


                              So I begged and I prayed

             As I drove into the sun

        No longer reflecting fondly

             On my night of fun.


                      The sun was blinding

                               As I drove into the light

                                          I began to doze

                                                   As my car pulled to the right


                                                  Just before the impact 

                                           My eyes flew opened wide

                                      I would not miss the old oak tree

                                No matter how hard I tried


                                       The impact was quiet, painless and quick

                                 Time just stood still as I flew through the air

                             I threw out my hands as I went through the glass

                       And I actually said a prayer


            Please God, one more evening

     In service to You

You’re so good to me

     You’ve always been true


           So if I die today

                     Lord please take me in

                                 Then the prayer was drowned out

                                     By the sound of breaking glass and twisting tin


                   And so I survived

                           To live another day

                                     To live and to work

                                                To love and to pray


                                               God forgot that night

                           Washed my soul white as snow

                 Made my dirty nature

  Have a beautiful Glow


                                                                                                                      So I happily die

                                                                                          To myself every day

                                              Just serving my Lord

Living life in “The Way”

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Steve Nash blasts around the massive forward and makes the lay-up, effortlessly hooking the ball in that unique way he does it. The ball hovers for a second above the rim, then drops through the basket. The giant forward has a look of pent up frustration on his face as the small and nimble Nash throws a “got ya” smirk over his shoulder and trots back toward mid court. This has been going on for most of the game, Nash is going to have a high scoring game, and if the Suns don’t screw it up, they are going to beat the Celtics.

She comes into the living room pulling on one pump while hopping on the other, and I am so ensconced in the game I hardly notice. She is calling to Hayley telling her that they need to be gone in ten minutes. I am hoping she doesn’t even ask, I’m obviously planning on watching the game, but she can’t help herself, she asks anyway. Doug, won’t you come with me tonight, please?

I act like I didn’t hear her, a good play is going on and I am on the edge of my seat acting as though I am so focused I don’t hear her. Doug, Honey, she says and picks up the remote, pausing the game. Why don’t you change your shirt and come with us tonight, then afterward we will go out to dinner, she says. She begins rubbing my neck and purrs “pulleesseee, for me”. I enjoy the rub for the moment then say “I’m sorry honey, but this is a really important game, they are playing the Celtics, I really don’t want to miss it. How about next week?

She stops rubbing my neck, and I can feel her whole body droop into a collective sigh of disappointment, then she says  to Hayley, come on. I stand and wrap my arms around her, come on now, I’ll go next time, this is just a really good game, please understand. She says “alright Doug, but I am going to hold you to it”. I hold up my right hand and say, I promise. I actually said the same thing to her two weeks ago, yet she shows restraint by not reminding me of it. She smiles slightly and kisses me on the cheek, “see you when we get back, love you, Hayley, let’s go. Hayley gives me a hug, then says bye daddy, and they go out into the garage and start the car. A minute later, I hear the garage door go closed, as I fast forward through a commercial to get back to the game.

The following morning, I am taking Hayley to school on my way to work. She is seven and in the second grade. “Dad, how’s come you don’t come to church with me and mommy, don’t you love God” she asks in her sweet little voice? I look over at her, and as always the freckles on her nose, and her missing front top left tooth combined just melt my heart. Of course I do honey, I answer, why would you ask me that? Because you never come with us daddy she says, and when you love God, you want to go to church, that’s what mommy says. Well honey, you can love God and not go all the time I respond, loving God is something you do in your heart, people can love God in their own way, I say, making it up as I go.

Hayley looks at me and I can see the wheels in her mind turning, then she says “Daddy, Misses Edabaum says when we are guilty of something we make excuses, are you making excuses because you feel guilty”? Exasperated, I am grateful we are pulling up in front of the school, because I have no answer for her. Sorry honey, I have to get to work, we can talk later I say as she takes off her seat belt and I give her a big hug and kiss. I love you daddy, she says as she hops out and pulls her backpack on, then picks up her little lunchbox. I tell her I love her as she turns away and scampers off to class. I stay for a moment longer, just watching her and taking in the sight of her. I watch her until she disappears through the front door of the school. I sigh wistfully, hoping she will always be so sweet and innocent. I then snap out of it and pull out of the drop-off zone and merge with the flow of traffic, savoring the tender moment with my girl, no matter how old she gets, she will always be my little………..

That is where it ends. I don’t remember anything past that. It is dark and cold where I am. I hear sounds, voices echoing through the darkness, but none I recognize. The voices are just an unintelligible, reverberating series of echoes, but nothing beyond that. I still have no recollection of what happened, wait, hold on, I think it is starting to come back a bit. I was driving, I had just dropped Hayley off, I merged with traffic, no problems. I remember thinking about her, my little girl always, and then I turned my head to the left. I know, I was looking both ways as I went through the intersection, I remember it now, as I looked to my left, I remember seeing two headlights and a huge grille right outside my window, why was it there? It was a semi, a tractor-trailer rig, and it had run a red light, I don’t know why I know this, but the driver was looking at his phone, he was reading a text, and I also know he was racked with guilt because of the wreck. I don’t remember anything else. I remember no impact, nothing. It is probably a good thing because I think it would have hurt. There is no other explanation. I must be in a coma.

I wander in a sleepy land for some time with no sense of space or time, just darkness and hearing voices far off, like train whistles echoing across a prairie night in dead of winter. One day though, or night for that matter, I hear a voice that is close in, it is a clear voice, and it is speaking to me. Doug, open your eyes, the voice says. I struggle to open them, and then to my surprise, they open. Everything comes into focus instantly, and I am surprised and happy because I had figured that I was probably blind, after having spent so much time in the dark.

I am lying prone, and the Doctor looks down at me, concern on his face. Are Melissa and Haley here Doctor, I ask as I focus on his eyes? No Doug, they are not here, he says. How bad am I Doc, I ask as I look around the room a bit, can I still walk? He looks down at me and says “yes Doug, you can walk as well as you ever could” then he tells me that he is not a doctor. “Where am I, I ask, is this a rehab center”? He just looks back at me and then extends his hand to help me up. I am surprised, I feel no pain as I stand, testing my weight on each foot. The man turns around, and I am blown away to see great wings coming out of his back, with beautiful white feathers cascading down past his knees. Although shocked at the implications of my death, I smile inside and say “are you what I think you are”, thinking that if I was with an angel, I was in the right place. Reading my mind, he said Doug, you haven’t been judged yet, the decision is yet to be made. Anxiety instantly floods my soul, “oh man, oh man, dear God” I find myself saying, He turns and says “Doug, the time for prayers is over, come with me”.

His name is Silas, and He is an angel of The Lord, charged with bringing people to judgment. We exit the room and ender a huge hallway, I look to the left and right, the walls are made with cut stones bigger than any I have ever seen. Looking at it from a distance, it would look like a  block wall, but the stones are each the size of a semi trailer. The walls disappear up into the clouds, and there is no ceiling in this hallway, I look up and the ceiling is a moving mosaic of clouds, the sheer immensity of it stuns me. At the end of the hallway, we encounter a room with huge doors made of olive wood, I don’t know how I know that, but I do. The olive wood doors have engraving across them of a huge bird like creature with broad wings spread wide. There is one on each of the two doors, and their wings touch in the middle. I look to Silas and he nods to them saying, Cherubim and Seraphim, The design is from The Lord’s temple in Jeruslaem. He then places his hand on my shoulder, and kisses me once on each cheek. Doug, this is as far as I can go with you, then he opens the door for me, and I enter.

Before me is a huge desk, the size of a house. And on each side of the desk is another figure like each one on the door. Cherubim and Seraphim as Silas called them, but these two are instead gold statues. Each one is at least fifteen feet tall, with a wingspan of thirty feet, their wingtips meeting in the middle, touching just below the top of the huge desk before me. Behind the desk sits an ominous figure. His face is aged with experience, His beard long and white, matching His long and white hair. His eyes a bright and luminous blue, beautiful and yet piercing and His entire body glows white so much so that there are no shadows near Him. I know instantly that it is not possible for darkness to be in company with Him, His brightness would prevent it. I know without doubt who He is from the moment I first looked in through the door. I knew he had created me. I knew that He had knitted me into existence in my mother’s womb. I knew He was God, and I knew He was my Judge.

The Judge opens the book and turns to the page that has my entire life recorded on it. Doug, how do you plead, He asks? Innocent I say quickly. The Wise Judge reads the book intently, studying one page, then another, turning pages as He goes. Finally, He pulls a feather from and ink well and writes with its tip on one of the pages. “You are guilty my beloved”, as he looks up at me, and closes the book. “Wait please, I shout! I was always a good man wasn’t I, I was always honest wasn’t I”? Yes, the Wise Judge said, that you were. I was always kind wasn’t I? Yes, he agreed, you were. I came to church every Christmas, Easter, I worshipped You then, and sometimes I even came on a whim when Melissa asked me, certainly You can’t boot me when I was so faithful to you, can You?

As the Judge listened to me, a tear actually rolled down His face. I protested for what seemed forever, making a great case for my clemency, and He listened. When I was done, He began to slowly shake His head, as another tear followed the first. Doug, kind you were, generous you were, with everything but me. You never missed a game the Suns played, but you only came to church when your wife wouldn’t take no for an answer, and worship Me you did not. You forget I see all, and I know your thoughts. I know you were lamenting every minute you were in church, I know you thought it was a waste of time. You refused to give Me your heart, you rejected My Son. Remember Doug, I know your heart. Finally, I pleaded “how can you condemn me, didn’t you call me beloved? “Yes, I did call you beloved, because you are my beloved” He said. I loved you so much I gave My Son for you, but you refused Him, you never took Him as your Savior, you were too busy. Yes, I love you, but you are lost. I began to protest, but my upper and lower lips grew together, muting me as the Wise Judge slowly and quietly dropped the gavel, issuing my sentence.

Two scaly gargoyles led me down into a dark cave, my hands behind my back. They placed my hands behind me, and I thought they would handcuff me, but my hands grew together as my lips had. My arms ached in the painful position, skin and bone growing together painfully. They demons walked behind me, pushing me before them into the dark. Horror filled my heart as I was pushed through giant spider webs, and I could feel creatures scurrying across my skin, but my hands were welded together behind my back, so I could do nothing. It was then that I realized I wasn’t wearing shoes either, and the jagged stone floor was hurting my feet. Finally, the deeper I went into the cave, there began to be more light and I could make out scorpions crawling across the floor, the sharp pains I felt weren’t rocks, they were stings.

As the cave opened up, it appeared that we were in the inside of a volcano, rivers of lava surrounded me, and it is so hot, how could I possibly not burn up, but I didn’t. A huge hideous creature with the body of a goat, and the torso and head of a dragon came and greeted us. Two long curved horns protruded from his head. Welcome, he said, I am so glad you could make it. I never doubted that you belonged to me. I tried to refute him, but my lips, and now even my teeth had grown together, so that I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t even make a sound. Circling me, the creature appraised his prize with pure happiness. Yeah, I gocha didn’t I, after all, what God would condemn such a good, honest decent man as you? He then leaned his head back and cackled as loudly as he could. I just love it when you guys buy the lie, no need for commitment; religion is just for the weak. I remember when you read that book by Karl Marx with the quote Religion is the opium of the people“. I remember what you thought, you thought Marx was onto something, I just love guys like you who think worshipping God is a waste of time. I just love guys like you who embrace my greatest virtue, pride. Oh well, welcome to your reality, you will have only one possession that you are allowed to keep while you are here (for eternity). As a matter of fact, that one possession will actually be enhanced, who says I am not generous. Your one possession that you may keep is your memory, and it will be enhanced a thousand times, every memory of the good life you had will now be available to you. Welcome to Hell! He then leaned back and cackled in a loud booming voice that shook my entire body, and caused me to fall to the ground, partially into the lava. My skin burned but would not be consumed, and I screamed, but my mouth would not open.

I hit the floor, landing on my head first, and jarring me from the dream. I started and sat up quickly, terrified to my core at what I had just experienced. I looked around, it was six twenty, Melissa had been gone fifteen minutes. I stood up and shook my head, what a dream, what a horrible dream this had been I thought. The game was still on but I no longer cared about it, so I looked around for the remote control to shut the TV off, I had to think about things. That was when I saw it, sticking out from under the couch. I reached down and picked it up, and my blood ran cold. It was a feather, it was one of Silas’ feathers.

 I bolted to the bedroom, peeling my shirt off as I went and letting it drop to the floor. I grabbed a clean one and ran for the door, picking up my shoes as I went. One thing I knew, as I drove to church, I was going to be going slow, and looking in all directions before entering an intersection.

God Bless-JFT

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