Archive for My Faith Journey

Our Testimony of God’s Faithfulness and Victory in the Fight.

 

 

Over the Thanksgiving season, our Pastor asked three couples to share their testimonies: Thankfulness in the Ordinary, Thankfulness in the Fight and Thankfulness in the Victory. We were asked to share about the lost of our two children for the later. Here it is, written as we shared it or you may listen to it on the church web site.  http://www.pmchurch.net/multimedia-archive/testimony-thankfulness-victory/  (Note it takes 24 seconds for the tape to start playing).

Gene:

40 years ago, we were in the midst of starting our family. We wanted four children and God blessed us with four. Two, Keith and Jill, are living and here today with their spouses and children (our grandchildren). Two other children, Karla and Greg, died at the tender age of 5 and 7 months from a genetic disease (SMA or at that time was called Werdnig Hoffman Disease). SMA is a cruel disease. The nerves that join the spinal cord die and whatever movement they control the muscle deteriorates. Their arms and legs are limp and it affects their swallowing and breathing. Because we carried the most acute stage, the symptoms appear at or shortly after birth and their lifespan is one year.

Pat:

Our first child, a son, was born kicking and making his presence known in the world with gusto. Keith was a very energetic young fellow with unlimited energy. Fifteen months later Karla was born. She was a very contented, thumb sucking, little angel who would lie in her bassinet or sit in an infant seat for hours just sucking her thumb and watching me work. She rarely cried.

 

When Karla was about 3 months old, we started becoming concerned about the lack of development and movement. We shared it with the pediatrician and he monitored her for the next several weeks. He decided we needed to go see a neurologist. A week before the appointment to the specialist, we ran into a medical crisis when Karla developed pneumonia and a lung collapsed at home. I well remember that drive to St. Mary’s Hospital. We decided it was quicker to just go than wait on an ambulance. Gene drove very fast and we ran red lights (of course the traffic was different then) and got to the hospital in record time. Gene dropped me off at the emergency room door as he parked and when I blurted to the receptionist that Karla was having breathing problems things happened NOW. Amazingly, the specialist on call that night was the same specialist from MCV that we had an appointment with the following week-Mr. Myers. Before the evening was over our world was rocked. We were dealing with a fatal, no-survivor, no-cure disease with a life sentence of less than a year. They transferred her to MCV where she was in intensive care for the next three weeks before passing away.

 

Gene:

We were taught and believed that God does not allow more in our life than we can handle. At the age of 27 that belief was tested with Karla’s diagnosis and the difficult journey we faced was full of unknowns. But as our families, friends and church family learned the shocking news, they offered comfort and support.

I remember Art and Phoebe Ranck were especially dear to us. They too had buried an infant daughter under difficult circumstances. They understood and cared for us with love. We remember one verse that they shared with us during that time from Deuteronomy 33:27, “And underneath are the everlasting arms.” Even in the midst of deep testing and difficulty, God’s arms were there to hold us tight.

At that time PMC was still a young church-12 years old. There was no cemetery. The church came together to build a cemetery knowing that the first to be buried would be their youngest, a baby.

During this time my prayer was simple, I asked for grace, God’s grace to make it through each day. God provided. I believed in healing but I also wanted to be able to accept the outcome whatever it might be. Our difficulty would not magically disappear, we had to walk the dark path of sorrow and grief, but God was with us just as the Psalmist exclaimed, “Yea, though I walk through the valley, you are with me.” (Psalms 23:4)

Pat:

Looking back it is so beautiful to us how God provided the people we needed at the time we needed. Doris Ranck was especially dear to me with daily phone calls. Sheila Schaefer and Janis Ranck babysat many hours.

At one point during Karla’s illness, MCV was doing what medical facilities do, prepare the family for taking their loved one home. This was a big deal. Karla literally needed round the clock care; suctioning equipment, heart monitor, oxygen, and feeding tube. I am not a nurse, but they started teaching me to do all those things. It was overwhelming. Doris helped us work through what all that meant and what it was going to look like. I had an energetic little boy that needed a mommy. This was a time of almost overwhelming pressure and hopelessness. In the midst of this, our local family doctor here in Powhatan, Dr. Bradley called. You have to know that Powhatan was very different in those days. People in the community knew each other. There was one doctor and we all knew him as a friend. He was not Karla’s doctor, she had a pediatrician, but he was ours and he had heard about what we were going through and one evening called to chat and offer his comfort and encouragement. I poured (actually, cried out my heart) to him. He listened and then he said, “Karla needs a nurse, Keith needs a mommy. You and Gene must take care of yourselves and Keith.” That call was God sent. It was words of hope and care and offered the wisdom we needed. The next day we informed the hospital that we could not bring her home. The weight that lifted from our shoulders was huge. We were so grateful for God’s care.

Karla spent three weeks in intensive care at MCV. The bill was $5000.00 total and we did not have insurance. It looked overwhelming to us. Someone “mysterious” paid our funeral expenses and Crippled Children’s Hospital wrote off the bill. I had a friend in Harrisonburg who during revival meeting at her church during this time felt God impress on her heart to give us her quarter collection. It weighed 8 lbs.  It was almost more than we could bear to accept even in our time of need. You see, she was a “widow” living alone because her husband had deserted her on the mission field for another woman and had also turned her four children against her. God taught us humility in receiving in a most precious way.  Before I was married, I had helped her in her move back to the states.

 Gene:

The Sunday Karla died, Pat and I were at the hospital all day and needed to come home to do some chores and touch base with Keith. He had been at the Rancks all day. Art and Phoebe decided to take us back into MCV. We knew Karla was quickly going downhill but when we saw her several hours later we realized Karla was in big trouble and the end was near. We debated and wrestled with whether to stay the night. I needed to be home to milk in the morning and we had a young toddler at home. The hospital insisted we go home that she probably would not die that night. When we got home and walked in the house, Doris, who was here with Keith, was on the phone with MCV and they were telling us to come back. We headed back to Richmond. Just as we passed Flatrock a car came racing up behind us with lights flashing. It was Art. He pulled alongside and flagged us over. As we were going out the lane, MCV had called again. Art brought us the news. Our Karla was gone.

After Karla’s death, we were faced with the difficult decision about future children, remember we wanted four children. There was a 1 in 4 chance on each pregnancy that this could show up again. We decided to take the risk and leave it in God’s hands. We had found His grace to be sufficient and trusted Him with our future. A year later God blessed us with a healthy baby girl, Jill.

Pat:

I dealt with a lot of fear during the pregnancy, at times almost more than I could bear. You see, I analyzed every movement in the womb  and compared to the previous pregnancies even though the movements felt strong. We didn’t know to have that worry with Karla. We didn’t know we had a genetic issue. When Jill was born and the nurse lifted her onto the scales, Gene pronounced her healthy. He said, “There is nothing wrong with this baby.” She was healthy, and we never worried after that.

After a healthy daughter, we decided to try again. Again, it was so hard not to worry, analyze and fear the unknown. When Greg was born, Gene was silent. I noticed. The doctor pronounced him healthy but the next few days I was consumed with fear. I watched and analyzed Greg’s every movement. We just didn’t think there was enough strength in his legs and by the time we left the hospital we were very concerned even though the doctor assured us differently. We struggled…..Was God preparing us for what was ahead or the devil binding us to fear. In the midst of the battle, you can’t tell. Stress and fear became boulders in our path. It was a real battle we were fighting. I put verses in the kitchen window and played uplifting hymns. We prayed. We knew God’s love, experienced His care and trusted His faithfulness.  We had to go through it and no one could walk it for us. But we pulled into ourselves. We could not bring ourselves to share with the church what we were fearing we knew.  The Rancks, Pastor Steve and our families knew but beyond that we chose to suffer in silence.

I remember one Sunday standing in the library doorway out in the hallway with Greg and listening to the lively chatter of visiting people. A feeling of overwhelming loneliness swept over me. Pastor Steve began worked with us on how to share it with you, our church family. When Greg was six weeks old we dedicated him to the Lord and then Pastor Steve shared with you, the church. I remember the church gathering around, laying hands and praying for us. I cannot begin to tell you the relief we felt that morning. I cried buckets-all day. My family was also here that Sunday. Now, you knew. The burden was shared. The overwhelming load that crushed us was gone. We had brothers and sisters who loved us and were now standing in the gap for us. Even though the road ahead would be extremely difficult, and it was going to be our personal journey to walk, we had supporters, encouragers to help carry the load.

Gene:

Once again, I found myself asking for grace to survive this journey. We knew what was ahead, but we didn’t know how it would all play out. There were many doctors’ visits and medical decisions. This ordeal was very different from Karla. From the time we knew she was ill it was three weeks and she then was in the hospital. But with Greg, it was nine months of pregnancy plus seven months of living, most of which was at home under our care.

He became very attached to Pat and if someone else tried to hold him or he became stressed, he instantly developed respiratory distress. Four times he stopped breathing and we thought he was gone and too many times to count he went into serious respiratory distress.

Pat:

One time he stopped breathing while I was in the house alone with Keith and Jill. He would get mucus plugs. I yelled out the door for Gene (this was before the time of cell phones) and fortunately Gene was nearby. He immediately came to the house. Greg’s breathing had stopped, his eyes had glassed over and set. There was no pulse. Gene went to the phone to make the call and Greg started spluttering and breathing again. Another time Gene was combining on Rocky Ford Rd. at Watt Flippo’s. Again, I thought I had lost him. I called Doris and said, “He’s gone. I need Ed to go get Gene.” Ed quickly brought Doris over and went to find Gene. Again, he revived.

Another time Dorcas Schaefer took me to the pediatrician’s as it was not safe for me to take Greg by myself. Doris also went along as she had an appointment for Jon Michael who was sick. As we were walking out the door of the doctors after his appointment, Greg coded again. The entire office rushed to my aid and this time the doctors got to see the reality of what we were dealing with.

Several weeks later he ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. At the time, Ed and Doris were going through a lot of medical issues with their baby and they ended up in the same hospital several days before Greg. We had the same pediatrician and he knew we were close friends. When Greg was admitted, we were put on the same floor two doors from the Rancks. Dr. Abernathy went to Doris and said, I was going to let you go home today but can we just keep you here another day? I want you here for Pat. We knew we had a good doctor, but God showed us he had also provided us with a doctor with compassion. While in the hospital he coded again.

I had to learn to tube feed and suction. Remember, I was not a nurse and it is not much fun learning on your own child. When I got home and had to stand in front of my child and actually stick the tube I was holding up his nose and guide it into his stomach and not his lungs was daunting. I could not do it. Betty Hertzler came and help me change his tube. After a few times I did learn to do what I thought I could not do. God gave me strength.

Gene:

I lived with a huge knot in my stomach. There were times when I was physically sick because of the mental stress. There were many times when we put Greg to bed not knowing if he would be alive in the morning. We didn’t know when a mucus plug would be the one that would cause his death.

People cared for us in so many ways. Rosalie came one day just to be with Pat. Many babysat Keith and Jill. One day Bob Hertzler came over when I was plowing and said, “When you can’t go anymore, call me. I know someone who will come and finish. At 11 a.m. Bobbie came.

Another time Ron Moyer, Dave Moyer, Bill Schaefer and Ed Ranck showed up with their tractors and helped me do some field work. Pat’s folks came numerous times to help on the farm and with the children.

Pat:

One day when Greg was about three months old, Six-year old Keith was watching as I dressed Greg. Keith said, “Why does Greg’s chest look like that? Is that why he doesn’t breathe right?” I realized the time had come, Keith had to be told. We were waiting on him to ask questions. I explained that Greg was sick and couldn’t breathe right. Keith asked a lot of questions; would he get better, couldn’t we just push his chest back out with our hands, would he get to be a big man and still not be able to move? I quietly and honestly answered each question. Then he said, “that makes me so sad I could cry”. I told him it made me sad also and hugged him tight as he sobbed and sobbed. Then he had many more questions: Couldn’t the doctors give him a shot to make him better, when will he die, does he have the same thing as Karla, will he (Keith) die, how will Greg get to heaven, will Jesus take him to heaven, can he move in heaven. It was a teachable moment and God gave me the words.

Another time I overheard Keith and Jill playing. Keith made comment of someplace he wanted to go and three-year old Jill said, “we can’t, not until Greg dies.”

Our children were also suffering, hurting and observing. They learned at a tender age that life is not fair. They learned about the fragility of life and the reality of heaven.

 I had a friend who kept pushing God can heal-if we just have enough faith. This is a difficult thing to discern. It became a test of my faith in God. I knew that Greg’s disease was fatal and there were no survivors. I also believed that God can and does heal. It is a difficult spiritual quandary.

One day I laid Greg on the kitchen table and took Keith and Jill with me to the barn to get a gallon of milk. I was gone maybe 5 mins. Now what you need to understand is, Greg was four months old and he could not move. He could not turn his head from side to side when laying on his back. He had never lifted his head or even attempted to roll over. He could not kick his feet. He was basically a floppy rag doll. The table had a vinyl tablecloth on it, so it was not slippery. When I got back to the kitchen, Greg was on the floor, crying and gasping for breath. The chair was pulled out in an angle from the table as if he fell onto the chair first. I picked him up. There were no cuts, bruises or broken bones. The tablecloth us undisturbed. There was no humanly way possible for what just happened to have happened. In that instant, I felt God say to my heart. “Now, can you have that kind of faith in me?” I did. I knew that God could heal and I began praying for a miracle for him to heal my baby, if it was his will. I did not know if God would choose to heal Greg. The important thing was that I had knew he COULD. I do not know how Greg got on the floor, but you will never convince me it was by earthly means.

Gene:

Greg died on a Sunday morning. We knew when we got him up that he was in serious trouble. This time was different. Pat called Dr. Abernathy and asked what we should do. He said, “If you bring him in to the office, I will have to admit him to the hospital. If you want to keep at home, I have calls I need to make at the hospital, but I am available to the phone if you need to talk.” He told us what to expect and talked to us about heaven. We called Pastor Steve and he came over on his way to church. When he saw our situation, he made a quick call to Sam Powell Sr. who was church council chairman and told him to make other arrangements for the service. Sam nabbed Louie Burkholder as he came in the church. Louie was to teach the men’ s class so Wally Schaefer took his place. Louie went into the pastor’s study and by the end of Sunday School came out with a sermon on prophecy and it was said he even went 10 minutes overtime! Around 9:30 a.m. I was holding Greg in the rocking chair when he stopped breathing in my arms.

We were worried that death would be a frantic and scary experience. But as we together held Greg and each other, it was a holy moment. It is a moment when heaven touches earth.

The day after the funeral, the huge knot in my stomach went way.

Pat:

When Pastor Bill asked us to share several weeks ago, our first thought was, this happened 40+ years ago. This past week I pulled out my journal-I had written in it every day. I became totally absorbed in our story almost as if it was a new story. I could not lay it down. Each day I had written of the struggle, questions, fears, and stress. But each day woven like gold threads on a tapestry were verses and testimony of God’s provision, love and care through people.  There was so much I had forgotten but it all came flooding back.  This was our story and it deeply affects who we are today.

There is so much more we could share. So many more stories we could tell.  And although 40 years old, it is a part of our present story. We have never forgotten the faithfulness of God, we still walk in it. We have never forgotten the peace that passes all understanding. We have never forgotten the meaning of “love, support and care” from others. We have never forgotten what it means to stand on our faith in God even when we didn’t know the answers, the going was tough, the next day looked insurmountable and we didn’t know the future. And yet we could trust that it would be ok even if it did not work out like we dreamed or desired. Jude challenges us “to contend earnestly for the faith”. (Jude 3) An enduring faith comes through challenge and severe testing.

Sometimes it pays to look around. Look at what others are dealing with. We discovered we were so grateful we didn’t have to walk some other paths. We found God’s grace was sufficient for what we needed, every day. We found great comfort in knowing our children could only live a year. If we had stage 4 of the disease instead of stage 1 we could have two wheelchairs sitting here in the sanctuary today with two severely handicapped children. Our lives would have been so different. We are so grateful that is not the case.

Through the years God has brought numerous people into our lives that were ours to help, ours to love, ours to stand with in difficult circumstances and ours to comfort through the deaths of their children.

The Worship Team lead a song, “Victory in Jesus”. I love that song. Our victory is in Jesus. It doesn’t matter what you are going through; sickness, marriage tensions, job lost, financial difficulties, depression, disappointments, or infertility. These are all earthly trials and they are real. The struggle and fight are the same. Our earthly struggle is ongoing. We want to close with the words of a song that passionately proclaims the victory in the midst of the fight. I pray that each of you will experience that God is faithful, that Jesus heals our broken spirits, and there is victory in the fight.

 

Does Jesus Care

By Frank E. Graeff

Pat:

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained, too deeply for mirth and song.

As the burdens press, and the cares distress and the way grows weary and long.

Gene:

Does Jesus care when my way is dark with a nameless dread and fear?

As the daylight fades into deep night shades, does He care enough to be near?

Pat:

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed to resist some temptation strong;

When for my deep grief, I find not relief, tho’ my tears flow all the night long?

Gene:

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “good-bye” to the dearest on earth to me,

And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks-Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Pat:

Oh, yes, He cares, we know He cares! His heart was touched with our grief.

Gene:

When the days were weary, the long nights dreary,

Together:

We knew our Savior cared.

 

Today…..we are so blessed and grateful for His loving kindness to our family.

 

The Ark

 

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God….. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence……so make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.  This is how you are to build it….. Noah did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

Genesis 6: 10-14, 22 (NIV

 

This past weekend we went to see a replica of Noah’s ark in Williamstown, Kentucky.  Words almost can’t describe this amazing, spectacular,  awesome, massive structure and the impact it has on a person as you walk up and enter the ark. It is the largest free-standing timber-framed structure in the world and can hold up to 10,000 people at one time, although I would not want to be there on that day. It felt ironic that we were heading to the ark and it was very rainy, Houston is dealing with a massive flood, the largest recorded in US history except for the Genesis flood, and big, bad hurricane Irma is snorting, stomping, blowing and flexing her muscles into a major Category 5 storm in the Atlantic, heading for the eastern shores of the US.

I believe the Biblical stories are truth.  I believe the story of Noah building the boat, saving his family (wife, 3 sons and their wives), and two of every animal kind coming to Noah and entering the ark at God’s command. I believe the world-wide flood literally happened, creating the Grand Canyon and many other national wonders. I believe they lived on the ark for over a year before God gave the command to open the door and leave. I believe this catastrophic event was God’s judgment on a very sinful world. Seeing and experiencing the “Ark Encounter”  made the story come alive and the incredible miracle of God saving a righteous man and his family and ensuring that a world of humans and animals would thrive and multiple afterwards. Thanks to Noah and his faith in God and his obedience to God’s instruction, everyone of us is here today.

The Bible gives many details about the size, and details for building the structure and the ensuing flood. The story can be read in Genesis 6-9. There are many details not recorded about the daily care of the animals, cages, disposal of waste, and family life aboard the ark but we do know that God told Noah everything he needed to know to build and prepare. Noah believed God, and God counted him righteous.

In building this replica ark, much thought and prayer was given to present the interior in a way that was biblical and historical accurate. This story has now taken on new meaning for me.  The pictures below are an attempt to show the unique, magnificent structure and stir a desire in you to visit the site and spend a day with Noah and his family on the ark.

Viewing the ark from a distance. All you could say was “wow”!

 

Noah

Noah praying with his family.

“The door”. The Bible says God closed the door before the storm began.  Our grandson, Ryan, was so disappointed that we didn’t enter the ark through the door.

Grain storage.

Water storage.

Food storage.

More storage.

Cages.

More cages showing automatic feeders and waterers. They are not that much different from today! See the slanted floor under the cage? Most of the cages had slated floors and the manure sifted through to the slanted floor onto the slide so that it would fall to an area where it could be retrieved. The eight people on the ark had a maximum of 7,000 animals to care for. The Bible says he took animal “kinds” into the ark. There are 1,398 known animal “kinds”.

The task would have been enormous. It is almost impossible to totally visualize the daily logistics of care. But if God cared enough about preserving the life of the animals and Noah and his family, I know he gave him wisdom and insight and probably direct instructions on how to make life manageable.  After all, they had to have food and water for a year, plus waste management! If Noah had a water collection system on the roof of the ark, one inch a week would have supplied all his water needs for the year.  The ark shows how all that is possible and it is amazing!

Because the ark would have been dark (they had no electricity in those days) except for the use of lanterns, torches and the natural light from the windows on top, quite a few of the animals would have been in a semi-state of hibernation.

A probable automatic feeding system.

Managing the work.

A water system for two cages made from pottery.

A possible work area to do repairs and maintenance.

Storage area for scrolls and other artifacts they would have been taken on board. After all, God told Noah very specifically that EVERYTHING would be destroyed. Noah would have wanted to preserve his personal possessions, tools, etc.

The families would have had their living areas. God would have carefully  cared for Noah’s family. After all, they had to eat, sleep, and rest so that they could stay healthy and strong to do the work. This was a new thought to me.

 

Kitchen area.

With the living quarters on the top deck they could have taken advantage of window ventilation.

By using reflective light from the windows they could have grown fresh green vegetables.

 

The modern idea of raised beds could have been used thousands of years ago!  It is a thought!

Noah releasing a dove to check to see if the water had receded.

The Hostetters (our daughter and her family) bought a peg during the building of the ark process for $100. It was a neat fundraising idea. Each peg was numbered and they were told which area their peg was in but we weren’t able to tell which peg was theirs. Jill decided to claim that one as theirs!

It was a wonderful day and our time spent at the ark was probably the highlight of our trip. However, the visit to the Creation Museum (about 30 miles away) the day before was tremendous. We heard a speaker on evolution versus creation and even Karla was enthralled with the information.

 

We ate lunch in the restaurant on site. The all-you-could-eat buffet was delicious and the surroundings were spectacular.

 

The bow of the ark.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you–the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground-so that they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it. So Noah came out….

The Noah built an altar to the Lord…. and the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said, “I will never again curse the ground because of man…never again will I destroy all living creatures….as long as the earth remains.”

Then God blessed Noah….and God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come. I have set my rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant…..”

Genesis 8: 15-22, 9:1-17

Some interesting facts:

  • Size of Ark: The building of the original ark was an engineering feat. It was built without modern equipment. The Ark had a ratio (length x width x height) of 30 x 5 x 3. According to ship-builders, this ratio represents an advanced knowledge of ship-building since it is the optimum design for stability in rough seas. The Ark, as designed by God, was virtually impossible to capsize! It would have to have been tilted over 90 degrees in order to capsize. The size in the Bible is given in cubits as being 300 cubits long (510′) by 50 cubits wide (85′) and 30 cubits high (51′). A cubit in the OT was generally about 17.5 inches. However, an Egyptian royal cubit measured about 20.5 inches. Since Moses was educated in Egypt we must allow for the possibility that the longer measurement was meant here. The Ark, therefore, could have measured from 437 feet to 512 feet in length! It was not until the late 19th century that a ship anywhere near this size was built.(taken from website: http://www.ldolphin.org/cisflood.html). The titanic was 883 ‘ long or 3 times this size.
  • Date of flood: Utilizing the genealogies in the Bible we know the flood was close to 4,400 years ago, roughly 1,650 years after the creation. Noah was 600 when the Flood came (Genesis 7:6). From Scripture we know the date of the start of the Flood (Genesis 7:11) and when they left the Ark (Genesis 8:14–15), so we know they were on the Ark for a little over a year. (taken from website: https://answersingenesis.org/noahs-ark/what-we-know-of-noah/).
  • Animals in the ark: a pair (male and female) of each “kind” of “unclean” animals, 7 pairs of every bird and 7 pairs of each “clean” animal.  “Clean” animals were used for eating and sacrifice. No fish were taken into the ark. (Genesis 7:2-3)
  • Noah’s family history: Methuselah, the oldest known man,  lived 969 years and was Noah’s grandfather. He died about 5 years before the flood. Lamech was his father and he also died shortly before the flood. (Genesis 5:26-32).
  • Noah had 3 sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32) and was 500 years old when they were born.
  • Noah’s age: at the time of the flood: Noah was 600 years old, 2 months and 17 days when the flood came. (Genesis 7:11).
  • Death of Noah: Noah live 350 years after the flood and died when he was 950 years old.
  • Length of rain/storm: 40 days and 40 nights.
  • Depth of flood: the highest mountain peaks in the world were covered by 15 cubits.
  • Construction of ark: had 1 door (which God closed) and a row of windows on top for light and ventilation. There was no steering mechanism as the ark just floated on the water and God directed where it would go and that it was to stop on the Mountains of Ararat. (Genesis 8:4)
  • Amount of water and food needed for twelve months: 322,400 gallons of water and 400 tons of various grains, seeds, nuts, preserved fruits, vegetables and possibly insects. The water could have been stored in storage vessels and cisterns. (Taken from info posted in the ark).
  • Size of animals: 85% were 22 lbs or under. 7% 22.1 lbs to 220 lbs. and 8% over 220 lbs. They probably took young stock of the larger animals. (Taken from info posted in the ark).
  • Cages needed: 22 extra large, 186 large, 293 medium, 308 bird, 174 small and 415 amphibian. (Taken from info posted in the ark).
  • Daily work requirements: With an eight person crew it would have taken 3 to do the cleaning, 1 to water, 1 to feed, 1 to deal with human food and special animal diets, .5 to shovel waste from pit to pump and 1.5 to do laundry, human waste removal, maintenance, animal care and miscellaneous. No one was allow to be lazy! (Taken from info posted in the ark).

 

Does Jesus Care?

Saturday, our county mourned the senseless killing of one of our police officers.  On Sunday, I attended a memorial service of a friend who died suddenly from an illness and on the way home received news of a tragic car accident killing a twenty year old of an acquaintance and son of a local business owner on his way home from church and injuring his brother.  Add to that the news of horrible tragedies around the world of senseless, hate-filled terror attacks. This is just one weekend in my small sphere of planet earth!

It makes me stop and think about the brevity and uncertainty of life. None of us are immune from hardships, trials, sickness, injury, death, grief, sadness, despair, injustice, depression, or tragedy. In fact, we are guaranteed to suffer because of them. We do not have the promise of tomorrow or even the next minute but we do have the promise of eternity with Jesus if we have prepared ourselves and serve him as Lord of our lives. Christians know about the love and compassion of a Heavenly Father who cares.

I reflected on the beloved old hymn, “Does Jesus Care?” penned by Frank E. Graeff in 1901. Hymntime.com records….”Graeff went through some very difficult trials. The period before writing this song was one of great despondency, doubt and physical pain. When he turned to God’s Word, I Peter 5:7 gave wonderful comfort: “He cares for you.” After meditating on that truth, Graeff wrote these lyrics with the resounding affirmation in the chorus, ‘O yes, He cares.'”

There is something about difficult times that makes us acutely aware of an ache in our hearts for God. Somehow, deep in our spirits we know that God is the only answer and we reach out for His help, protect and care.  God cares. He cares for me and He cares for you.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song, As the burdens press,
And the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long?

Refrain: O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

 Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear? 
As the daylight fades Into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?

 Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
 When for my deep grief
There is no relief, Though my tears flow all the night long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,  And my sad heart aches
Till it nearly breaks, Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

“I Will Remember”

Dark, stormy clouds, driving rain from the east, and a brilliant sun setting in the west made perfect conditions for a rainbow. I kept watching and suddenly, there it was….the sun reflected on tiny droplets of water creating a beautiful arch of seven colors with one end touching down between the woods and silo right behind our house. The spectrum of colors are always the same and in the same order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

I have never seen the end of the bow touch down so close.  I tried to get a picture but the rain was blowing in the door and I had to snap fast.

Ancient “folklore” says there is a pot of gold at the end of the bow if you can find it.  But Genesis records “ancient fact”, the real story of the “great flood” that covered the whole earth, covering the highest mountain tops.  Only Noah and his family were spared because they were righteous. The Bible says that God was so grieved at the sinfulness of man that he was sorry that he had created him. When the flood was over and Noah, his family, and all the animals emerged from the ark, they offered a burnt offering to God. God was pleased and blessed Noah and all his future descendants (which includes every living person on the earth) with a promise.

God said, “The rainbow shall be in the cloud and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and  every living creature on the earth.”

Genesis 9:16

When God sees the bow in the sky, He remembers His promise.

Do you know what that promise is?

“I establish My covenant with you; Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Genesis 9:11

When I see the bow, I remember that it is a reminder of God’s promise.

It was neat to see the rainbow and remember God’s special promise this evening. I always, always, always, remember the meaning of the rainbow when I see one. I was also reminded again that God sees the rainbow.  He saw it touching our farm. God’s gaze was close at hand and He remembered.  This evening on our farm, God was reminded of a promise he made long ago: a promise that He is and will keep until the end of time.

Footwashing, Finger Pointing and Shadows

“I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes on me will not abide in darkness.”

Jesus

(John 12:14)

You may wonder at the combination of words in this title but in a strange sort of way they all fit together.  Each year at our special faith celebrations,  different thoughts hit me in a way that make the observance new, fresh and meaningful. Resurrection Sunday climaxed the most holy and meaningful time of year for Christians world-wide. It is the rock foundation that our faith is firmly built on:  Lent, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Palm Sunday, Communion, Footwashing, Maudy Thursday, Tenebrae, Good Friday, Easter Sunrise, Easter and Resurrection Sunday.

Footwashing. Yes, our church still observes this very meaningful service.  It is not weird, uncomfortable, out-of-date, or embarrassing.  Once a year on Maudy Thursday (Thursday before Easter), we observe footwashing with our communion service. It is a special time of reflection as Jesus spent his last hours with the disciples, his closest friends, before his arrest, trial and crucifixion.

Jesus and his disciples were reclining at the table. I suspect the atmosphere was heavy with a darkness that only Jesus understood and dreaded. Perhaps, they ate in silence, each one lost in his own thoughts and reflection. After all, Jesus had told the disciples that they needed to go to Jerusalem where he would be killed.  What did that mean? They didn’t understand and yet each had vehemently declared that they would go and die with him. Confusing thoughts swirled in their brains as they had just participated in the joyous, crowd shouting, triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem where the crowds had shouted, “Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord.” (John 12:13).  The fact that it was a donkey and not a horse, as ridden by political kings, was noticed but did not seem to matter. But now, hours later and alone with Jesus, the disciples could sense an ominous foreboding they couldn’t explain.  Flickering candles cast lengthening shadows in the darkness.

As supper ended, Jesus quietly stood, wrapped a towel around his waist, picked up the untouched prepared basin of water and to the horror of his disciples began washing each of their feet. Peter’s heart pounded in his chest. He could not bear that his friend, teacher and Messiah would take on the role of a servant and wash his feet. No, no, NO!  It had to be stopped.  But Jesus did just that and in the process showed and taught his disciples and us a valuable lesson on servanthood.

“If I then, your Master and Lord, have washed your feet; you ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, you should do, as I have done to you.”

John 13:14-15

In our church, women wash feet with women and men with men. I sat and watched. A lady in her nineties washed the feet of a 50 year old. A mother and daughter lovingly knelt before each other.  Friend washed friend. Three little girls about 8 years old figured out how to do a threesome. I observed how feet bare the stress and hardships of a life time of walking and living. No one seemed to care about varicose veins, bunions, or bent toes but tenderly lifted her partner’s foot, cupped a hand full of water and let it lovingly flow over a foot,  before taking a towel and gently wipe it dry. When the task was completed, each stood and embraced, whispering words of encouragement and appreciation.

No longer is it necessary to wash the feet of a guest when they arrive at your home, nor do we have servants to do our menial tasks.  But the task of washing feet still has deep spiritual meaning when we do as Jesus’ requested.

After Jesus had broken the bread and shared the cup, he told his disciples some gut-wretching and disturbing news. One of them was going to betray him. It was a bombshell to the already unsettling evening.  How could that be?  They loved him and just hours before had proclaimed their willingness to die for him.  But betrayal-this just couldn’t be. Instead of  pointing fingers at another,  sorrow and fear gripped their hearts as each became aware of his own vulnerability.  “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19).

Is it I, Lord? Would I really do such a thing?

Judas’ dark heart was exposed when Jesus answered his question; “Go and do as you have planned”.   A few hours later the other disciples fled into the night in fear and Peter cursed and swore he never knew him.

This horrible night of Jesus’ suffering and death is remembered in the most solemn and somber of services, Tenebrae. Tenebrae is a Latin word meaning “shadows”.  As the light is quenched, darkness descends and shadows cast their hue.

Shadows.

In a moment of time “Hosanna” became shadowed by “crucify him”, a donkey shadowed a cross, the Messiah shadowed a criminal, the cross shadowed a tomb,  life shadowed death.

Satan thought he won.  The “Light of the World” was blown out.

Darkness.

“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”

Mark 15:33

Fear. Hopelessness. Betrayal. Death.

Jesus said, “It is finished,”  bowed his head and died.

John 19:30

Grief: raw, emotional, unfathomable, grief.

Miraculously,  on the third day, (Resurrection Sunday) the power of God conquered death. Blinding light forced shadows to flee. Satan lost when Jesus won the victory. He arose!

“For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16

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(On Easter morning I caught the sun just at the right moment as it shoned in the atrium doors at church  and reflected or “shadowed” 3 crosses on the tomb scene.)

A New Morning

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This was the view from my kitchen window this morning. Wow! Doesn’t it make you think of God and what a wonderfully awesome, magnificent Creator we are privileged to serve and worship?

Usually I do not get to see gorgeous sunrises as the tree line blocks the view, leaving me to see only the colorful fringes of the glow.  From the look this morning, it must be falling weather big time! Remember the saying, “Red in the morning, sailors take warning, red at night, sailors delight.” Did you know that is biblical?  When religious leaders came to Jesus demanding a sign in the heavens to test him, he gave them an object lesson using God’s weather forecasting sign that is displayed in the sky each day.

He (Jesus) replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’, and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. (Matthew 16:2-3 NIV)

This morning God quietly splashed across the eastern sky a reminder that it is a new morning, a new day, a new beginning, a new chance, a new opportunity, maybe even a new season. Will I embrace it? What am I going to do with it?

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. (Psalms 143:8, New Living Translation)

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’S name is to be praised. (Psalms 113:3, KJV)

Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. (Psalms 65:8, New Living Translation)

There are mornings when joy does not spring forth from my lips. I face the day with dread and don’t want to face what is before me. There are days when the future looks overwhelming sad, hard or complicated. On those days can I say, “God, I trust you and I praise you. Your love and faithfulness will be as sure as the sun rose this morning.  I know you love and will not fail me even if it doesn’t go like I want it to go.” Will I choose to embrace the day with thankfulness? Will I choose to see the goodness of His day and walk in it?

Today is a new morning and a new day. Like the Psalmist I say, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24

“10,000 Reasons” (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman is one of my favorite praise songs and it expresses my sentiment so elegantly. Enjoy!

A Little Push From Behind

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The snow this past weekend made our driveway very icy and slick. The 7 plus inches of snow was light and fluffy but underneath it soon became a sheet of ice. Gene scraped the driveway but because of the frigid cold and very little sun it did not melt, just developed a hard, slick glaze.  Our store is located down a hill just past the house. We had several tractor trailers in on Monday and they needed a little boost to make it back up the hill as they were leaving.

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I saw it as a good illustration of our journey in life.  How many times have I needed a little “push from behind” to get something accomplished, achieve a goal or survive a difficult challenge?

When I was around six, I became the proud owner of my first bicycle.  The excitement soon was replaced by fear but with a little push from behind I soon accomplished riding on just two wheels!

When I was in the fourth grade, the teacher called me into a conference room for a little talk. She needed to know my version of what I had witnessed in an incident involving another girl. I lied to protect my friend and the teacher knew I was lying. She asked me if I wanted her to call my mother. Absolutely not! That little push from behind made me confess the truth and I have been very careful with truth telling ever since.

When I was a young adolescence, the Sunday School superintendent would ask at the beginning of the year how many had read their Bible all the way through the past year. Two very quiet, older women who had very little education always raised their hand.  I noticed and it so touched me that I wanted to be like them.  That little push from behind has motivated me to have disciplined daily Bible reading as I have read through the Bible 40 plus times.

Back in the early 90’s, I was asked to lead the Sunday School department at our church and to be in charge of children’s worship. There was no way I could see myself doing that especially having to follow the lady who very successfully had done it for a number of years with a big children’s musical. I said, “no” but with a little push from behind finally accepted and the following years were a delightful highlight of ministry for me.

In 1978, we experienced the devastating illness and death of our five-month old daughter. During her time at MCV hospital, we were faced with many decisions and questions. One evening in the midst of a very difficult time, our local family doctor called to just check on “us” and let us know he cared and had heard about what we were going through. I poured/cried out my heart to him and when I was done he said, “Just remember, Keith (1-1/2 year old) needs a mommy, but Karla needs a nurse.” That was the push from behind I needed to say no, we can’t bring Karla home from the hospital with a roomful of medical equipment and round-the-clock care.  Oh, the peace that came from that loving, gentle push from someone who dared to see the bigger picture.

About a year after our second son died from the same genetic illness as our daughter, our Sunday School class at church decided to help a family who had just moved to Powhatan and had two Cystic Fibrous daughters. The “motivator” behind the service/care project decided I needed to go see this couple. I honestly wanted nothing to do with them. I did not want to be involved with more sick and dying children. The “motivator” pushed and pushed and finally I agreed to take a meal.  I fell in love with the couple and we became instant best friends. That big shove from behind led to one of the most endearing, God-sent friendships for my husband and I and numerous other opportunities to walk hand-in-hand with grieving families.

In 2011, I had a customer/friend who kept telling me I needed to write a blog about life on the farm. I wasn’t sure I had anything worthwhile to say but she kept assuring me I did!  With her little push from behind, I bravely posted my first blog on January 8, 2012.  Five years,  256 blog posts and 90,255 views later, I am hooked and you are stuck with me!

We never know what a word of encouragement will do for someone who had a little hill in front of them to climb or maybe even a mountain. Sometimes the greatest comes from those who thought they couldn’t.  Sometimes an unforeseen opportunity happens for those not looking.  Sometimes your life passion is unknowingly spurred by another. Sometimes you can’t see over the fence because your nose is pressed against the planks.

I believe the hand of God directs our “push”, bringing people into our lives to encourage, support, direct and give us wisdom. We may never know what a kind, encouraging word can do to help another. That push from behind just may be the stabilizing force that keeps someone from skidding off the cliff or careening down the mountainside.

Thank you to all who have and will “push me from behind”.

The Simplicity of Christmas

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Each season my mind focuses on a different aspect of Christmas. Several weeks ago as I was preparing to teach a Sunday School lesson my mind centered on “simplicity”.  Would you believe the next Sunday our pastor focused on the same thought as we started the Advent season.

Jesus was born to simple, ordinary, country folks who were faithfully seeking to follow God. His father was a carpenter and his mother a young peasant maiden approximately fourteen years of age. He walked the hills of Judea as a homeless teacher with a group of ragtag, “chosen” disciples; teaching, healing,  and calling folks to believe that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.  He was loved by a few, but generally misunderstood, doubted, betrayed, mocked, deserted,  and finally condemned to die a horrific criminal’s death.

But, then the extra-ordinary happened. The Son of God arose and became the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Messiah, and Savior. He calls us, simple, ordinary folks, to believe and accept who He is; “The Way, the Truth and the Life”, and to “come” and follow Him.

There is such a tendency to make Christmas glitzy with lights, gifts, trees, glitter and food that we forget the real story of a humble birth in a lowly stable when God became man and dwelt among us so that we can know the Father and live eternally with him.

There is a poem I really like that expresses these thoughts so beautifully.

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village 
The child of a peasant woman 
He grew up in another obscure village 
Where he worked in a carpenter shop 
Until he was thirty when public opinion turned against him

He never wrote a book 
He never held an office 
He never went to college 
He never visited a big city 
He never travelled more than two hundred miles 
From the place where he was born 
He did none of the things 
Usually associated with greatness 
He had no credentials but himself 

He was only thirty three 

His friends ran away 
One of them denied him 
He was turned over to his enemies 
And went through the mockery of a trial 
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves 
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing 
The only property he had on earth 

When he was dead 
He was laid in a borrowed grave 
Through the pity of a friend 

Nineteen centuries have come and gone 
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race 
And the leader of mankind’s progress 
All the armies that have ever marched 
All the navies that have ever sailed 
All the parliaments that have ever sat 
All the kings that ever reigned put together 
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth 
As powerfully as that one solitary life 

Dr. James Allan Francis © 1926.

The Pearly Gates

I was sitting at the table in my sister-in-law’s house last weekend when I glanced out the patio doors and what I saw made me pause and stare. When I exclaimed, “I see the pearly gates,” everyone jumped with anticipation to catch a glimpse!  There they were; beautiful, decorative, dual arches of pearly gates!

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It took us a moment to figure out where the reflection was coming from. The sun was shining on the front door that  has a decorative glass insert at just the right angle to reflect on the patio doors that were across the living room and dining area. It is not a straight line across the room, but somehow all the right reflectors lined up to give us an imagery of pearly gates!

It was neat even if it was a pathetic simulation of “the heavenly pearly gates”.   I have been thinking about those heavenly gates ever since. One day my eyes are going to lock onto the most spectacular gates of pearl imaginable and I suspect I will gasp at the wonder that is before me.

There are many pearly gate jokes with St. Peter as the keeper of the doorway. You have to convince him that you are worthy for him to unlock the gate and let you slip in.  But scripture gives us a different visual.  In Revelations 21 there is a description of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven.  It is an immense and beautiful city with a wall built of jasper and twelve foundations of different gems. There are twelve gates, each made from a single pearl and the street of the city is pure gold like transparent glass. (Revelations 21:21).  This city descends from God, out of heaven, down to the new earth (Revelations 21: 1-2).  Contrary to popular belief, the gates do not bar entrance to the city as they are never shut.  However, these gates can only be entered by those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelations 21:26-27).

Those pearly gates will be a dazzling sight. I visualize Jesus standing there with arms outstretched before the wide open gate as I run and fall into his embrace.

There is so much about heaven we do not know and understand. We catch glimpses in scripture of its beauty and glory. The details are not important, but what is important is to believe in and know Jesus Christ as your redeemer. Jesus is the only way to the Father and heaven. There is no other. Jesus told us plainly, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6).

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Just a few thoughts for further reflection.

To my surprise when I got studying and looking at scripture on the pearly gates I discovered that I had adopted some of the “religious” myth about the gate. There actually is very little scripture about a gate to heaven.

The “Pearly Gates” are associated with the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven to a new earth when the present earth is destroyed. There are twelve gates, one for each of the twelve tribes of Jacob (Revelations 21:12) in the walls of the huge city which is shaped as a cube; three gates on each side.  Scriptures says these gates will not be shut at all by day for there is no night there but only those who names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be able to enter.  (Revelations 21:25-27).

The only other reference to a “gate” is in Matthew 7: 13-14. “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life and there are few who find it.”

To my surprise, I could find no mention of entering a gate to heaven when I die!  People who have had “after life” experiences report seeing a brilliant, intense, bright light and being drawn to it. Most see a beautiful gate with people gathered to welcome them home.  It is beautiful, comforting imagery. Whether or not it is totally true does not matter. We do know heaven is real and beautiful beyond what we can imagine.  Jesus will be there to welcome his loved ones home.

 

 

 

 

My Morning Prayer

I just want to thank you for a good nights rest. But I also realize that many did not sleep well last night because of stress, worry, fear, pain or insomnia.

Thank you for safety through the night. I realize that many experienced danger, injury and harm.

Thank you for peace in our land. I realize many are living in fear and danger and some are hiding or fleeing for their lives.

Thank you for my family. I realize many are living with shattered lives and splintered families. Some may not even know where their family members are.

Thank you for breakfast, lunch and supper today and snacks in between. I realized many will wake up hungry and may not have access to even one meal.

Thank you for our warm house.  I realize many are homeless, living on the streets, or refugees fleeing a war-stricken land. I realize some are going through hard times and can not afford to pay for the basic necessities of life.

Thank you for my health. I realize many are suffering deeply today and dying from broken health.

Thank you for my husband. I realize many marriages are shattered and living in despair.

Thank you for my job. I realize many do not have a job to go to today to earn money for even the basic necessities of life.

Thank you for my church. I realize many do not know the privilege of having a caring church family.

Thank you I can live my faith openly. I realize many in the world are a part of the underground church and live with the daily reality of persecution and death.

Father, I am so thankful. I want to be more grateful and have a generous heart. I do not want to take this privileged life for granted.

 

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